So, when asked to come up with a list of 11 books every geek should read, at first I ended up with over thirty. There are so many incredible works of literature out there, so many amazing worlds and stories, and if you take only one thing away from this article let it be the idea that one should never stop reading. The stacks of amazing books are endless, and I fear that by limiting this list to 11 (it could not have been any more or I would end up writing a book myself) I have omitted some very deserving novels, but there is a reason each one of those I list has been included. Each one of these books, or series of books, is either something great and groundbreaking within its genre, or a book that carries a subject matter too important not to be read.
Twenty years ago, a geek meant a skinny guy with bad skin who lived in his mother’s basement and played Dungeons and Dragons. Today it means something very different, today I think a geek is someone with an above average intellect who has a taste or interest in things not necessarily popular within the mainstream. Now, interest wise, this can cover a broad range of subject matter, yet for our purposes we are dividing this list into three distinct categories based on a geek’s more stereotypical interests; these are Fantasy (high and Low), Science Fiction, and a third category left for books that should be read by everyone (just good books punctuated with modern philosophy that carry within them an undeniably important message, or timeless classics that have been around for so long for very good reasons). These books are presented and summed up in no particular order and I apologize in advance for the works that have unfortunately been excluded.
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (Trilogy and The Hobbit totals 4 books)
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, (a three-book series consisting of The fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) all written by J.R.R Tolkien, are included here together because there are just too many good books to have The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as separate entries. The Hobbit is a journey witnessed through the eyes of Bilbo Baggins, a little person, known as a Hobbit in the Lands of Middle Earth. The Lord of the rings is an epic adventure undertaken by Bilbo’s nephew and surrounds him with a group of unlikely and colorful companions. These stories are classic High Fantasy and may in fact be the last word in the genre. Tolkien is, amongst many things, responsible for the incarnations of elves, dwarves, and orcs as we know them today.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (series 7 books)
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is comprised of seven books written over the course of two decades and is King’s magnum opus. A chilling sci-fi adventure that spans realities where the protagonist attempts to save not only the world, but all worlds that have ever existed and will ever exist. The steampunk-ish, post-apocalyptic setting is incredibly well realized and flawlessly executed. No other before or since King has attempted this manner of fusion, he melds feudal law and the honor of the knights of old with the code and technology of Americas wild west, producing elite warriors known in the land of Gilead as gunslingers.
The Bachman Books
The Bachman Books is a collection of four short stories written under Stephen King’s pseudoname Richard Bachman. These four stories are Rage, Road Work, The Long Walk, and Running Man. Now, while most of you will only recognize the one title (and as great as the Schwarzenegger movie was, the short story blows it away), the other stories are equally incredible. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the more sinister side of psychology. It is unfortunate that this book is so difficult to find, and this sad fact is often attributed to the startling similarity between the first story in the book, Rage, and the incident at Columbine High School in 1999 (14 years after the publishing of The Bachman Books).
H.P. Lovecraft’s Collected Works
H.P. Lovecraft’s collected works is the next on our list. For those of you who are unfamiliar with H.P Lovecraft, you have most likely heard of his work. Lovecraft is responsible for the invention of the sinister Necronomicon (and its imagined author the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred) and of course the great Chulthulu. Lovecraft is another creator of almost an entire genre, the works of King, Clive Barker, and many others are directly influenced by the mind and works of H.P Lovecraft. He almost exclusively wrote short stories and novellas and was not recognized at all during his lifetime. Despite the creative ignorance of the time his work has lived on and has been given a life all its own. Lovecraft’s stories of extra planar and ancient entities coming to earth from the stars are crafted with a verbose style of writing that pulls you deep into the mind of the protagonist and of the author himself. A single paragraph on Mr. Lovecraft and his collected works is almost insulting, but alas it is all that can be spared, so if you want to read more, please refer to an article written by another one of our esteemed journalists.
The Night Angel Trilogy (Trilogy 3 books)
The Night Angel Trilogy, written by Brent Weeks, is an epic sojourn spanning three novels, The Way of the Shadows, Shadows Edge, and Beyond the Shadows. This dark tale about a master assassin is included because, for High Fantasy, the story is amazingly done and it is rare and noteworthy for its perfectly executed portrayal of the anti-hero.
1984 by George Orwell was published in 1949, and is a terrifying Science Fiction novel depicting a then far-off future of corporate and government control that we shockingly exist in today. This book is very well written and frightening mostly because we see a lot of what were then abhorred ideas, harmlessly (or so we think) integrated into today’s society. Are we not far off from the reality of the dreaded “Thought Police?”
Frank Herbert wrote Dune in 1965. It won several awards shortly after and it has since seen numerous emulations and movie adaptions. Another very original and completely unique world amazing in its detail and in the development of its characters and ideas. It is included on this list for its shear literary greatness as well as its excellent depiction of extraterrestrial dealings and life.
A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones, 5-book series, incomplete)
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is new and unbelievably good. I would venture to say that it is the best done High Fantasy tale that our generation has yet to witness. What he has done with the idea of magic and fantastic creatures is original and thoughtfully crafted. His portrayal of medieval society and courtly intrigue is painted as if he had lived in those times. Perhaps most note worthy is his meticulous character development, which he has many of in his stories, and for many of them we feel an attachment or a kinship that is rare in the literary world. (also see Richard Gallipeau’s analysis of the series).
The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy, or Dante’s Inferno, is our oldest entry and, in part, because of that it deserves special recognition. This work is a true classic written by Dante Alighieri between the years of 1308 and 1321. It depicts the protagonist, Dante, and his guide, the poet Virgil, as they traverse the lands of the Christian afterlife, navigating the lands of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The poetic style of writing is difficult for modern readers to grasp but holds within it a beauty that is today unfortunately lost. Dante’s Inferno (his journey into Hell) gives us many of our modern ideas of demonic torture in the afterlife.
The 48 Laws of Power
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is not just a book for geeks, but one of two books on this list that I think everyone should read. This book gives 48 rules, backed by examples and explanations, regarding social interactions and how to come out of them in control. Many of the tactics in this book seem a bit amoral, and even if the reader does not choose to employ them, it is still good to understand what this book attempts to impart. Geeks especially should fortify themselves against power hungry saboteurs.
The Power of Now
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is the second book that I think should be read by everyone and is pretty close to the polar opposite of the aforementioned 48 Laws of Power. Mr. Tolle, in a very real and practical way, tries to help us understand our place in the universe and our relationships with our self and others. He advocates the recognition of the moment because that is all we have, that is all we will ever have. It’s philosophy has an undeniable truth about it and no matter who or where you are in life this book will benefit you.
The Looking Glass Wars (Trilogy 3 books), Harry Potter series (series 7 books), The Count of Monte Cristo, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ( “Trilogy” 5 books), Fight Club, The Art of War, The Game, Bram stoker’s Dracula, The Watchers , Lord Dunsany’s collected works, Chronicles of Narnia, Future Shock, Neuromancer, Starship Troopers, 2001 A space Odyssey, H.G Wells War of the Worlds, 20,000 leagues under the Sea, I, Robot, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Clockwork Orange)
Image By Jorge Royan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons