The most recommended classic books

Who picked these books? Meet our 2,595 experts.

2,595 authors created a book list connected to classics, and here are their favorite classic books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of classic book?


Book cover of Foundation

Mark Joyner Author Of Simpleology: The Simple Science of Getting What You Want

From my list on self-help books masquerading as sci-fi.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author, inventor, military veteran, (mostly) self-taught scholar, and an entrepreneur. Every internet-connected person interacts with things I invented (the tracking pixel, the ebook, etc) every day, but I'm best known for my books about business and personal development. As I write this, I'm serving as the Founder and CEO of a software platform called "Simpleology." It's designed to solve what I think is one of mankind's greatest threats to survival as a species:  "The Complexity Gap." It's the gap between the amount of information in the world and our ability to navigate it. It solves this by guiding you to focus on what we call "HIME" (high impact, minimal effort).

Mark's book list on self-help books masquerading as sci-fi

Mark Joyner Why did Mark love this book?

While it is best known for being the first book to introduce the concept of a "galactic empire," the real juice comes from the gradual revelation of a profound thesis: Epistemology and Persuasion Science are the most important academic disciplines of all. 

This was the inspiration for my own journey into those two fields and led to my career in Military Intelligence.

While these explorations are ultimately liberating, this liberation does not come without a cost. I found myself truly in the dilemma of Plato's Allegory of the Cave: I had to accept both the obligation to free minds and the social strife that comes with choosing that path.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Foundation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in Isaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction masterpiece, the Foundation series

THE EPIC SAGA THAT INSPIRED THE APPLE TV+ SERIES FOUNDATION, NOW STREAMING • Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings…

Book cover of Stone Soup

Beth Kander Author Of Do Not Eat This Book! Fun with Jewish Foods & Festivals

From my list on picture books for families who love food.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, playwright, nonprofit strategist, and mother to two small children–the list goes on and on, and it's enough to work up an appetite. Since three of my favorite things in the world are 1) my kids, 2) stories, and 3) food, this reading roundup is near and dear to my heart. I wrote my picture book, Do Not Eat This Book!, because I believe food is a delicious entryway for exploring identity, sharing, caring, culture, and more, and the books in this list exemplify the sweet power of a good food-themed picture book.

Beth's book list on picture books for families who love food

Beth Kander Why did Beth love this book?

This Caldecott-winning classic has been a favorite for generations for a reason. When I was a child, not only did my parents read it to me, but our local theatre company also performed the stage version of the story! The power and accessibility of this old French folklore still stand today.

While the story is about making an impossible-sounding soup, it’s really about sharing, caring, and community, and those themes never get old.

By Marcia Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stone Soup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A Caldecott Honor Book with remastered artwork for its 75th anniversary! Clever soldiers outwit greedy townspeople with the creation of a special soup in this cherished classic.

Three soldiers come marching down the road towards a French village. The peasants, seeing them coming, suddenly become very busy, for soldiers are often hungry. All their food is hidden under mattresses or in barns. Then follows a battle of wits, with the soldiers equal to the occasion. Why, of course-even with no food, they can still make a wonderful soup! All they will need is three round stones. But to make a…

Book cover of Pan: From Lieutenant Thomas Glahn's Papers

Stefán Máni Author Of Deathbook

From my list on losing faith in humanity but having a good time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Stefán Máni, the Dark prince of Nordic noir. I was an avid book reader from an early age but I didn’t believe I could become a writer myself one day. I dropped out of school at the age of 17, worked in the fishing industry, and travelled to Europe and the United States. I started writing at the age of 23, published my first book at the age of 26, and my first best-seller at the age of 34; the thriller Black’s Game that became a popular movie in 2012. Since then I've written many best sellers and created the most popular character in Icelandic literature; detective Hordur Grímsson.

Stefán's book list on losing faith in humanity but having a good time

Stefán Máni Why did Stefán love this book?

Knut Hamsun is one the greatest writers of all time, in my opinion.

And yes, I am separating the work from the person and the political views. Hamsun was a strange guy and he wrote mainly about strange guys.

Lieutenant Thomas Glahn is one of them, the protagonist of Pan. Glahn is an ex-soldier, living in a hunting hut near a small harbour town in Norway. Technically, Pan is a love story. But it is not a typical love story. It is so co-dependent and twisted that it literally hurts.

Glahn is at best an idiot, at worst some kind of a sociopath. He thinks he is in love but his “love” is not innocent and pure but ugly and even dirty. It is easy to feel sorry for Glahn, easier to simply hate him.

But the book is so well written and the story so fascinating that the…

By Knut Hamsun, Sverre Lyngstad (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Nobel Prize winner's lyrical and disturbing portrait of love and the dark recesses of the human psyche

A Penguin Classic

A lone hunter accompanied only by his faithful dog, Aesop, Thomas Glahn roams Norway's northernmost wilds. Living out of a rude hut at the edge of a vast forest, Glahn pursues his solitary existence, hunting and fishing, until the strange girl Edvarda comes into his life.
Sverre Lyngstad's superb translation of Hamsun's 1894 novel restores the power and virtuosity of Hamsun's original and includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the…

Book cover of Gilead

Kelly Flanagan Author Of The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell

From my list on making you fall in love with male protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a clinical psychologist, a man, and a human being on his own journey of healing and becoming, I suppose I’m interested in stories with struggling but lovable male protagonists because I’m the struggling male protagonist in my own life story, learning how to fall in love again with myself and my story and the little boy who lives on within me. The courage my clients show in the process of facing their pain and finding something beautiful in it is inspiring to me. I hope my life reflects that courage, too. And I want to write stories that give others hope and inspiration for this kind of healing, as well.  

Kelly's book list on making you fall in love with male protagonists

Kelly Flanagan Why did Kelly love this book?

The Reverend John Ames—an aged Congregationalist minister in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa—is dying of heart failure, while his seven-year-old son is just entering boyhood. As Ames wrestles with generational wounds related to his father and grandfather, he wonders tenderly about the wounds he might be passing on to his own son, both due to his presence and his pending absence. Thanks to Ames, we get to see life and existence through the eyes of the wise and dying—eyes we so rarely get to see through because, by definition, they leave us before we get a chance to look. The result is a luminous view of existence, and an abiding gratitude for having been alive.

By Marilynne Robinson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Gilead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son: 'I told you last night that I might be gone sometime . . . You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's. It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I'm always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after…

Book cover of The Gods Will Have Blood

David Millett Author Of The Cure: Imagine There’s No Religion

From my list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Millett is a digital artist. He is an accomplished author, filmmaker, and producer of paper and eBooks. He loves writing, painting, filmmaking, composing, and performing music.

David's book list on love, hate, greed, passion, and self interest

David Millett Why did David love this book?

This book depicts the violence and devastation of the ‘Reign of Terror’ (a period of extreme violence during the French Revolution) with breathtaking power. It weaves into it a tale that grips, convinces, and profoundly moves the reader. If one is looking to understand human nature and its true depth of depravity, look to no other book.

By Anatole France,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Gods Will Have Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anatole France's work "Les dieux ont soif" translates to "The Gods Will Have Blood" or "The Gods are Athirst." Both translations of the title accurately depict the nature of this novel set during the French Revolution. Young artist Évariste Gamelin is the right-hand man of Jacobin, Marat, and Robespierre and eventually becomes appointed as a juror on the Revolutionary Tribunal during the heinous Reign of Terror. Though Gamelin fully believes in the ideas of revolution and liberty, he uses his position of power to terrorize his friends and family who do not agree with his zealous ideals. Yet his bloodthirsty…

Book cover of Flowers in the Attic

Staci Troilo Author Of Type and Cross

From my list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better.

Why am I passionate about this?

Misery loves company, right? While I never wish ill on someone, I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one going through a loss, slight, or rejection. Family dysfunction novels remind me that the petty problems I get caught up in are nothing compared to what they could be. Sure, fiction frequently elevates these troubles from drama to melodrama, but I still experience relief—even though it may only be in the smallest way—focusing on someone else’s struggles. Sometimes I even find a solution to my own paltry issues. Who wouldn’t want that? And what writer wouldn’t want to help readers in that way?

Staci's book list on dysfunctional family drama to make you feel better

Staci Troilo Why did Staci love this book?

I read this book in high school and it messed. Me. Up. So much so that I remember it in vivid detail to this day and credit it with my desire to write dysfunctional family fiction.

I’d be hard-pressed in real life (thank God) to find a family suffering from issues ranging from incestuous relationships through moral superiority and unforgiving rigidity up to greed and murder… all of which feels like the tip of the iceberg.

Reading the tale of a family who has gone so far off the rails will, if nothing else, make you appreciate the mundane problems your own family has. And isn’t that why we read this genre?

By V.C. Andrews,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Flowers in the Attic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The haunting young adult gothic romance classic that launched Virginia Andrews' incredible best-selling career.

Up in the attic, four secrets are hidden. Four blonde, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive...

Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie have perfect lives - until a tragic accident changes everything. Now they must wait, hidden from view in their grandparents' attic, as their mother tries to figure out what to do next. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the siblings endure unspeakable horrors and face the terrifying realisation that they might not be let out of the attic after…

Book cover of Johnny Got His Gun

Leighton Gray Author Of Dream Daddy

From my list on to completely ruin your day.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to create silly, fun things. This is not the kind of content I consume. If something makes me feel bad, I generally like it; if it is also beautiful, I will like it a lot. It is through the generosity of the Shepherd team that I was allowed to flip a promo for a gay dad comic into a way for me to peer pressure you into consuming media that will make you feel bad. Consider this list an aperitif for the feel-goodness of Dream Daddy, a delicate shot glass of cyanide after a hearty meal. Bon appetit!

Leighton's book list on to completely ruin your day

Leighton Gray Why did Leighton love this book?

War sucks, man. And strangely, there aren’t many books about war! I can’t think of a single one. Really a missed opportunity on the part of the writer community at large. I mean, just think of the movies that could be made on the topic! Hollywood, take notes.

/s, as the kids say. More seriously: this book is claustrophobic on a cellular level. Reading it feels like suffocating in the dark. Extrapolate the ending of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream into an entire book about the horrors of war, and that’s Johnny Got His Gun.

By Dalton Trumbo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Johnny Got His Gun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Trumbo sets this story down almost without pause or punctuation and with a fury accounting to eloquence.”—The New York Times

This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered—not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives. . . . This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome . . . but so is war.

Book cover of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

M.R. Fournet Author Of Brick Dust and Bones

From my list on giving kids beautiful nightmares.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a middle grade horror writer, I attribute my love of everything spooky to my early obsession with reading. Of course, my little brain was twisted already, but I found a perfect home in the monsters and ghouls of the library. These are the five books that inspired me to become a writer who scares children in the best possible way.

M.R.'s book list on giving kids beautiful nightmares

M.R. Fournet Why did M.R. love this book?

Another Newberry Medal winner, this book is unlike the rest because the terror doesn’t come from the supernatural. It’s from the cruelty of mankind and scientific testing on animals.

What I love about this book, and the movie made in the “nineteen hundreds”, is it respected the readers. It told us a frightening story and trusted us to be able to process it. Like all the books on this list, the authors didn’t treat us like kids. They treated us like readers, and that’s the best thing a writer can do for their fans.

By Robert C. O'Brien, Zena Bernstein (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Some extraordinary rats come to the aid of a mouse family in this Newbery Medal Award–winning classic by notable children’s author Robert C. O’Brien.

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a…

Book cover of A Far Cry from Kensington

Mark Beauregard Author Of The Whale: A Love Story

From my list on witty historical novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved satire. In college, I wrote and performed comedy sketches as part of a two-man team, and most of my work features at least some comic elements. For example, my novel The Whale: A Love Story is a serious historical novel about the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne that also offers moments of comedy to honor Melville's comic spirit (Moby-Dick, while ultimately tragic, is a very funny book). The most serious subjects usually contain elements of the absurd, and the books I love find humor in even the gravest situations. 

Mark's book list on witty historical novels

Mark Beauregard Why did Mark love this book?

Muriel Spark is one of the wittiest novelists of the twentieth century, and this is one of her rare forays into historical fiction.

This novel harkens back to the publishing world of 1950s London, where a war widow working as an editor at a struggling publishing house becomes involved in the personal and professional politics of the literary world.

The characters are thinly veiled portrayals of real-life figures in the London publishing scene of the time, and Spark sends up their foibles, petty schemes, and peccadillos to devastating effect.

By Muriel Spark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Far Cry from Kensington as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rich and slim, the celebrated author Nancy Hawkins takes us in hand and leads us back to her threadbare years in postwar London, where she spends her days working for a mad, near-bankrupt publisher ("of very good books") and her nights dispensing advice at her small South Kensington rooming house. Everywhere Mrs. Hawkins finds evil: with aplomb, however, she confidently sets about putting things to order, to terrible effect.

Book cover of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World

Jennifer McKeithen Author Of Atlantis On the Shores of Forever

From my list on Atlantis if you love adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a novelis who's had a lifelong fascination with travel, lost civilizations, aquariums, swashbuckling stories (both true and fictional), dancing, dusty old bookstores and libraries, sangria, and sunny beaches. I grew up in beautiful south Louisiana and my earliest memories were in New Orleans. Living in “America's first melting pot” taught me to appreciate cultures, languages, cuisine, and music from a young age. Ancient and Medieval history and folklore remain major influences on my writing.

Jennifer's book list on Atlantis if you love adventure

Jennifer McKeithen Why did Jennifer love this book?

Though this is a pseudo archaeological work, Donnelly's theories remain the source of many of our modern-day ideas about Atlantis. Written in 1882, at a time when much of the world was still mysterious to Westerners, Donnelly proposed an argument that all cultures and peoples originated from Atlantis, which he claimed was destroyed during the Great Deluge described in the Book of Genesis. Today, in the 21st century, experts have debunked most of his theories. However, many of the questions he raised remain unanswered. Despite its many flaws, it’s an interesting glimpse into Western thought during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

By Ignatius Donnelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Atlantis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This edition of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World contains every vital illustration and table from the original, 1882 edition.

This text represents the sum of Senator Ignatius Donnelly's attempts to prove, through numerous sources, the existence of the lost city of Atlantis beneath the Atlantic Ocean. Numerous pieces of evidence are cited, with Donnelly's central thesis being that there was certain cross-migration between the Europe, North Africa and the American continent via the city whilst it was afloat in ancient times.

To this end, Donnelly demonstrates similarities in the architectural styles, writing, art and cultures of civilisations either side of the…