Category Archives: Reading

Gatsby the Greatest

The Best Books of All Time. Classics, Tech, Business and Travel

New Year’s has come and gone. I am always trying to better my life in a variety of ways and New Year’s has always provided a good time to evaluate and adjust my actions. One of the resolutions for this year is to read more books. I don’t read many books because normally I am taking programming classes or watching tech speeches, etc. So I have decided to read a book a month in the New Year to further my learning.

In deciding what to read I initially asked some friends for recommendations. I also decided to search through various best book lists and come up with a list of my own. I came up with the following list using the following methodologies. First I searched Google for “best books of all time” and took all of the results from the first three pages and combined them into one massive list. I assigned a ranking so that books that appeared higher on the list were ranked higher, books that appeared on smaller lists were given a higher weighting, and books that appeared on unranked lists were given an average ranking. Doing something as trivial as this sure makes you appreciate Tim Berners-Lee’s push for the Semantic Web. A bunch of Excel formatting and some basic find and replaces got me the results without too much trouble, although I was tempted to crack out some regex’s to handle this. Overall the rankings for the 100 best books of all time are as follows.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
  5. Ulysses by James Joyce
  6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  8. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  11. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  12. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
  13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  16. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  20. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  21. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  23. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  25. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  26. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  27. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
  28. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  29. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  30. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  31. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  32. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  33. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  34. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  35. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  36. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  37. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  38. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
  39. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  40. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  41. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  42. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  43. Charlotte’s Web by E B White
  44. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  45. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  46. A Passage to India by E M Forster
  47. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  48. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  49. Absalom Absalom! by William Faulkner
  50. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  51. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  52. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  53. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  54. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  55. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  56. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  57. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  58. Native Son by Richard Wright
  59. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  60. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  61. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  62. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  63. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  64. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  65. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  66. Emma by Jane Austen
  67. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  68. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  69. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  70. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  71. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
  72. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  73. The Ambassadors by Henry James
  74. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  75. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  76. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  77. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  78. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  79. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  80. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  81. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Odyssey by Homer
  83. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  84. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  85. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carre
  86. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  87. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  90. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  91. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  92. Tales of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
  93. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  94. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  95. Dune by Frank Herbert
  96. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  97. The Iliad by Homer
  98. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  99. The stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
  100. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This list really represents an average of the top “Best Books of All Time” lists that show up in Google. You will notice there is no prejudice to separating fiction and non-fiction or restriction to books based on appropriate reading age. This is appropriate to me as fiction and non-fiction often have very blurred lines and differentiation between child and adult is sometimes as often blurred. The list has a lot of interesting results and it will be useful in helping me select which books to read. This is a great example of the power of the concept of averages.

Authors that appeared the most in my results are as follows.

  1. William Faulkner
  2. Ernest Hemingway
  3. George Orwell
  4. Charles Dickens
  5. Vladimir Nabokov
  6. James Joyce
  7. Virginia Woolf
  8. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  9. Leo Tolstoy
  10. F Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Joseph Conrad
  12. J K Rowling
  13. Henry James
  14. J R R Tolkien
  15. J D Salinger
  16. Raymond Chandler
  17. John Steinbeck
  18. Agatha Christie
  19. Jane Austen
  20. Toni Morrison
  21. Mark Twain
  22. Joseph Heller
  23. Franz Kafka

I decided to also calculate the top books based on some genres that I am interested in by searching “best programming book of all time,” “best travel book of all time,” etc. in Google and taking the first page of results and summarizing. This led to the following lists.

For travel:

  1. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
  2. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
  3. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
  4. Great Plains by Ian Frazier
  5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  6. The Beach by Alex Garland
  7. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  9. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
  10. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
  11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson
  12. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  13. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  14. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
  15. Coasting by Jonathan Raban
  16. Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  17. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
  18. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  19. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  20. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

For computers and programming:

  1. The Art of Computer Programming by Donald E Knuth
  2. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
  3. Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H Cormen, Charles E Leiserson, Ronald L Rivest and Clifford Stein
  4. Code Complete by Steve McConnell
  5. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P Brooks
  6. The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie
  7. Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, John Brant, William Opdyke and Don Roberts
  8. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson, Gerald J Sussman and Julie Sussman
  9. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides (The Gang of Four)
  10. Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler
  11. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
  12. Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley
  13. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
  14. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
  15. CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
  16. Head First Design Patterns by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates and Kathy Sierra
  17. Rapid Development by Steve McConnell
  18. Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C Feathers
  19. Modern Operating Systems by Andrew S Tanenbaum
  20. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C Martin
  21. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
  22. Test Driven Development: By Example by Kent Beck
  23. Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming by Peter Seibel
  24. The Inmates Are Running The Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
  25. Clean Code by Robert Martin
  26. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
  27. Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover
  28. DOS for Dummies by Dan Gookin
  29. The Road Ahead by Bill Gates
  30. The Unified Modeling Language Reference Manual by Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh and Ivar Jacobson

For business and entrepreneur:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  4. Rework by Jason Fried
  5. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen
  6. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber
  7. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini
  9. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  10. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  11. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
  12. Choose Yourself! by James Altucher
  13. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  14. Mastery by Robert Greene
  15. Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck
  16. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih
  17. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  18. First Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
  19. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  20. Out of the Crisis by W Edwards Deming
  21. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M Goldratt
  22. My Years with General Motors by Alfred P Sloan Jr
  23. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  24. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  25. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  26. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
  27. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
  28. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
  29. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder
  30. The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

For technology and engineering:

  1. To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski
  2. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracey Kidder
  3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  4. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  5. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
  6. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick
  7. The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel C Florman
  8. Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely
  9. The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis
  10. The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution by T R Reid
  11. The Second Machine Age: Work Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson
  12. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 by David McCullough
  13. Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology by James R Chiles
  14. The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems by Henry Petroski
  15. Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture from the Pyramids to the Skyscraper by Mario Salvadori
  16. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman
  17. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson
  18. Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  19. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
  20. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P Brooks Jr

Overall I am pretty happy to have some good reading lists that are fairly unbiased and reflect the popular opinion of the average. Of course I won’t read each book directly in order and I likely will read books outside of these lists, but I will use these lists as tools and pick and choose books that are of interest or of potential benefit to me to read throughout the year.

Once I tackle enough of these books I’ll likely look into poetry, plays, and the best books from many of the world’s cultures that are severely unrepresented in these lists.

I hope everyone has a great new year.