TPK 038: Must Read Books

This week we discuss our list of must read books. Also, we shit on Matt Damon and The Great Wall.

Brian’s List:

The Talmud

Any serious study on Western Religion requires at least a passing acquaintance with the Talmud, which does not enjoy the same widespread familiarity as the Torah.

The Art Of War by Sun Tsu

I consider this much more philosophy and psychology than strategy. Everyone should read this book, but no one should quote it- only douchebags quote The Art of War.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The book makes you feel uncomfortable, then you’re reading it correctly; the book is supposed to make you squirm (in a moral sense,) so as to challenge your conceptions of “good” and “evil.”

On the Beach by Nevil Shulte

A story about coming to terms with death, and learning to face the end with dignity. Not going to lie, this was a really hard book to read, but worth it.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Every North American Male should read this book when he turns 17, and before he makes any serious life choices.

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

This book gave us Space Marines and creepy bug aliens. Also, a deeply philosophical work of speculative fiction about the nature of civic responsibility and what it means to accept a duty to others over the self.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

A novel about the young wanting to be old, the old wanting to be young, and learning to love where you are, this book is so deeply rewarding. Every line Bradbury wrote is a spell that fills the heart with substance.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A novel about the nature of humanity and how far we’ve come from the rest of the animal kingdom, Lord of the Flies discusses what it means to be a human being in an otherwise savage world.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

This is the high-fantasy novel that defined the high-fantasy genre. This body of work means so much to so many, which is a testament to the ability of Tolkien to write something so universally True (with a capital T) for so many people.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This Victorian horror story still inspires so many people, even to the modern day. It popularized the Vampire, and I consider it the first real work of “body horror;” anyone in Dracula can be corrupted, driven mad, turned to evil, etc. Dracula made horror cool.

Chris’s List:

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R Tolkien

Tolkien laid the foundations of modern fantasy with this trilogy. If you enjoy fantasy, you must read this book.

The Book of the New by Sun Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe is one of the best authors alive today. Wolfe uses an unreliable narrator, which gives a deeper level of complexity to his works that makes them infinitely re-readable.

The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

Another book by Wolfe, this one is a loose sequel to the first novel. Both take place in a future Earth and involve the inhabitant’s attempts to survive.

The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

The master of Cosmic Horror. The Inspiration behind the Alien franchise, as well as The Thing and countless others.

Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis by Robert Rosenthal

I’m serious about this one. Statistics is an essential thing to understand in today’s society and sadly it’s very hard for an author to write an easy to comprehend stats book. Dr. Robert Rosenthal does this. It’s not something for light reading, however.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

A book about a human raised on Mars who has to learn about humanity from the perspective of an outside. What Heinlein did for leadership with Starship Troopers he does for Humanity with Stranger.

The Foundation Cycle by Isaac Asimov

Some light Sci-Fi here, Foundation tells the story of the fall of the Galactic Empire and the attempt to save the galaxy from the ensuing mayhem. Think fall of the Roman Empire in space.

Discworld by Terry Pratchett

The Discworld novels deconstruct modern fantasy (and later science fiction) tropes. Pratchet pokes fun at Tolkien, Rowling, and other fantasy authors in this comedic series about a fantasy world that sits atop a giant turtle floating through space.

Also Sprach Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

A philosophical work not for those looking for a light read. Actually Zarathustra is probably the last Nietzsche work you should read, but it’s certainly his most influential.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Again, this is

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Watchmen by Alan Moore

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Henry V by William Shakespeare

Rick’s List:

The Sun Also Rises By Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s look into the depths of the lost generation, heralding the death of Romanticism and the birth of Modernism, in the very moment it occurs.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

The memoir of Hemingway’s time in Paris, traveling in luminous circles. Published posthumously.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s beat odyssey, written on one long roll of paper.

The Tolkien Legendarium by J. R. R. Tolkien

The greatest modern fantasy epic ever written. So much more than just 1,000 pages of walking.

The Ishmael Trilogy by Daniel Quinn

A telepathic gorilla teaches us what’s wrong with the world. Seriously.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The greatest detective of all time (sorry, Batman fans).

The Lorax by Theodore Geisel (A.K.A. Dr. Suess)

A short book that’s long on meaning, and the meaning is, we need to take care of things.

The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

A fantasy epic story in a story (in a story) of a small town innkeeper who serves cider and makes a mean pie. And sometimes calls down lightning.

The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Everyone dies. But there’s sex first. And zombies. And dragons.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

A story about death… you know, for kids.

Watchmen by Alan Moore

The greatest graphic novel of all time, complete with more blue penis than you can handle.

The Dark Phoenix Saga By Claremont & Byrne

Jean Grey clowns Galactus… and finds redemption.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series By Douglas Adams

The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.


TPK is a weekly pop culture roundtable podcast, by nerds, for nerds. Each Sunday we discuss movies, comic books, anime, video and tabletop games, and more! For more information, please visit our website at:

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Christopher James

Christopher James

The Founder of TPK Media.

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