dystopia usa reading list library recommended books classics literature

No man will ever achieve his personal zenith if he hasn’t read broadly from the canon of classic literature. What is called an education in today’s world is but a farce compared to the true education one receives from a lifetime of learning from the masters of the written word. Consider the wisdom in these works as your bulwark against the insanity of our age. I know it is for me.

Here is a sampling of the books that fill my own library. (This is a work in progress, thus it is in no particular order at the moment. I will eventually organize it by genre/topic and add more over time.)

[Please note, I am an affiliate of Barnes and Noble and receive a small commission from any books you purchase through the links on this page. As you can tell from my posts, I’m not a fan of Jeffrey Bezos and his Amazon/Washington Post monopoly. Any of these books you buy will help keep Dystopia, U.S.A. up and running. Many thanks!]

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis

“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who CAN be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”

The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.

Death of the West, Patrick J. Buchanan

“We are two countries, two peoples. An older America is passing away, and a new America is coming into its own. The new Americans who grew up in the 1960s and the years since did not like the old America. They thought it a bigoted, reactionary, repressive, stodgy country. So they kicked the dust from their heels and set out to build a new America, and they have succeeded. To its acolytes the cultural revolution has been a glorious revolution. But to millions, they have replaced the good country we grew up in with a cultural wasteland and a moral sewer that are not worth living in and not worth fighting for—their country, not ours.”

Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes

“Hell is truth seen too late.”

The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Break what must be broken, once for all, that’s all, and take the suffering on oneself.”

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

“All the girls in the world were divided into two classes: one class included all the girls in the world except her, and they had all the usual human feelings and were very ordinary girls; while the other class -herself alone- had no weaknesses and was superior to all humanity.”

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

“Is it the part of the police department to harass me when this city is a flagrant vice capital of the civilized world?” Ignatius bellowed over the crowd in front of the store. “This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians, all of whom are only too well protected by graft. If you have a moment, I shall endeavor to discuss the crime problems with you, but don’t make the mistake of bothering me.”

The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

“They are ordinarily men to whom forms are of paramount importance. Their field of action lies among the external phenomena of life. They possess the vast ability in grasping, and arranging, and appropriating to themselves the big, heavy, solid unrealities, such as gold, landed estate, offices of trust and emolument, and public honors. With these materials, and with deeds of goodly aspect, done in the public eye, an individual of this class builds up, as it were, a tall and stately edifice, which, in the view of other people, and ultimately in his own view, is no other than the man’s character, or the man himself.”

A Passage to India, E.M. Forster

“In Europe life retreats out of the cold, and exquisite fireside myths have resulted—Balder, Persephone—but [in India] the retreat is from the source of life, the treacherous sun, and no poetry adorns it because disillusionment cannot be beautiful. Men yearn for poetry though they may not confess it; they desire that joy shall be graceful and sorrow august and infinity have a form, and India fails to accommodate them.”

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

“Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong–too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness. I take it no fool ever made a bargain for his soul with the devil. The fool is too much of a fool or the devil too much of a devil–I don’t know which. Or you may be such a thunderingly exalted creature as to be altogether deaf and blind to anything but heavenly sights and sounds. Then the earth for you is only a standing place–and whether to be like this is your loss or your gain I won’t pretend to say. But most of us are neither one or the other.”

The Complete Poems of John Donne

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Norton Anthology of English Literature

Norton Anthology of American Literature

An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope

Heav’n from all creatures hides the book of fate,
All but the page prescrib’d, their present state:
From brutes what men, from men what spirits know:
Or who could suffer being here below?
The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed today,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
Pleas’d to the last, he crops the flow’ry food,
And licks the hand just rais’d to shed his blood.
Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv’n,
That each may fill the circle mark’d by Heav’n:
Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore!
What future bliss, he gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Norton Anthology of Poetry

The Vulgate

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, William Butler Yeats

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

The Complete Poems of Percy Shelley

Recommended: Ozymandias, Adonais

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Great Tales of Horror, H.P. Lovecraft

Recommended short stories: The Colour Out of Space, The Dunwich Horror

The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Recommended short stories: The Pit and the Pendulum, The Gold Bug, The Fall of the House of Usher

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Come Into My Trading Room, Alexander Elder

Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins

The Selected Writings of Thomas Aquinas

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Utopia, Thomas More

“Kindness and good nature unite men more effectually and with greater strength than any agreements whatsoever, since thereby the engagements of men’s hearts become stronger than the bond and obligation of words.”

Le Morte D’Arthur, Thomas Malory

The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

“It is the mynd, that maketh good or ill,
That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore:
For some, that hath abundance at his will,
Hath not enough, but wants in greatest store;
And other, that hath litle, askes no more,
But in that litle is both rich and wise.
For wisedome is most riches; fooles therefore
They are, which fortunes doe by vowes deuize,
Sith each vnto himselfe his life may fortunize.”

The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

Bulfinch’s Mythology

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Essays, George Orwell

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

The Ox-Box Incident, Walter Van Tilburg Clark

The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling

Other recommended short stories/poems: If…, Kim, The Man Who Would Be King

Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe

The Dream of the Rood

…And yet, lying there a long while,
I beheld in sorrow the Savior’s tree, 25
until I heard it utter a sound;
that best of woods began to speak words:
“It was so long ago – I remember it still —
that I was felled from the forest’s edge,
ripped up from my roots. Strong enemies seized me there, 30
made me their spectacle, made me bear their criminals;
they bore me on their shoulders and then set me on a hill,
enemies enough fixed me fast. Then I saw the Lord of mankind
hasten eagerly, when he wanted to ascend onto me.
There I dared not bow down or break,

against the Lord’s word, when I saw
the ends of the earth tremble. Easily I might
have felled all those enemies, and yet I stood fast.
Then the young hero made ready — that was God almighty —
strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows, 40
brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.
I trembled when he embraced me, but I dared not bow to the ground,
or fall to the earth’s corners – I had to stand fast.
I was reared as a cross: I raised up the mighty King,
the Lord of heaven; I dared not lie down. 45
They drove dark nails through me; the scars are still visible,
open wounds of hate; I dared not harm any of them.
They mocked us both together; I was all drenched with blood
flowing from that man’s side after he had sent forth his spirit.


The Odyssey, Homer

The Iliad, Homer

The Divine Comedy, Dante Alligheri

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”

The Aeneid, Virgil

One Thousand and One Nights

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan

Paradise Lost, John Milton

“Abashed the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely: and pined his loss”

“Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threat’ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.”

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Silas Marner, George Eliot

Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain

“My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.”

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

City of Thieves, David Benioff

All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

A Conspiracy of Paper, David Liss

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, Giles Martin

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

Recommended: The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Speckled Band, The Final Problem, The Red-Headed League

We Are Doomed, John Derbyshire

The Creature From Jekyll Island, G. Edward Griffin

U.S. Army Survival Manual, FM 21-76



Das Boot

Perhaps the best war movie every made, shown from the perspective of German soldiers in a WWII U-boat. So tense and profound, you will be rooting for the enemy by the end of the film.


Hands down, the greatest samurai movie ever made. Brilliant cinematography and a Tragedy the Greeks and Shakespeare would envy.


The Right Stuff

The Grapes of Wrath

Lawrence of Arabia

The Searchers

The Elephant Man

The Man Who Would Be King

Breaker Morant

Master and Commander


Cool Hand Luke

A Man for All Seasons

The Great Escape

The Iceman Cometh

dystopia usa library recommended reading list
A great library signifies a great man.






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