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Your life canon

We've had a wonderful response to our Life Canon project, which aimed to draw up a list of the 10 essential books we need to help us flourish in the modern world.

Suggestions came flooding in via TwitterFacebook and through our online survey.  The aim of this document is to provide a list of many of the titles recommended by people.

We've split the list below into some basic categories, but the books within them are in no particular order.  We hope you will enjoy exploring other people's recommendations, and we're sure you'll find something in the list to inspire and inform you.

The most popular recommendation from people was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.  We're delighted about this, as it shows how everyone understood exactly where the Life Canon project was coming from - finding books that are accessible and interesting and that give you an overview of a topic to help you put things into perspective - and this is just what Bill Bryson's book does so well.

Other popular titles were The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett and Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson.

Our list of your suggestions is below.

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Your life canon


A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor - JE Gordon

Darwin's Dangerous idea - Daniel Dennett

Unweaving the rainbow - Richard Dawkins

The meme machine - Susan Blackmore

The golden bough - Sir James Frazer

The Emperor’s New Mind - Roger Penrose

The Fractal Geometry of Nature - Benoît Mandelbrot

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness - Bruce Rosenblum, Fred Kutter

Three Steps to the Universe: From the Sun to Black Holes to the Mystery of Dark Matter - David Garfinkle, Richard Garfinkle

A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

Demon Haunted World - Carl Sagan

Pale Blue Dot - Carl Sagan

The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins

The Origin of Our Species - Chris Stringer

Bad Science - Ben Goldacre

The Fabric Of The Cosmos - Brian Greene

Philosophy & Religion

The Discourses - Marcus Aurelius

The Meditations - Plato The Last Days of Socrates - Pierre Hadot

Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis

Why I Am Not A Christian - Bertrand Russell

The Heart of Things - A C Grayling

How Philosophy can save your life - 10 Ideas that matter most - Marietta McCarty

Everyday Zen - Charlotte Joko Beck

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion - David Hume

Varieties of Religious Experience - William James

Dhammapada - The Buddha

The Bhagavad Gita

The fabric of reality - David Deutsch

The Bible

The Tao De Ching

The Little Book of Philosophy - Andre Compte-Sponville

Justice - What's the right Thing to do? - Michael J Sandell

Letters to Lucilius - Seneca

Politics & Economics

The Spirit Level - Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

The Storm - Vince Cable

The Great Unravelling - Paul Krugman


World History of Art - Honour & Fleming

Literature & Poetry

The Complete Works - William Blake

The Horse's Mouth - Joyce Cary

A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe - Selected Poems by Fernando Pessoa

New and Collected Poems (1931-2001) - Czeslaw Milosz

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Songs of Innocence and Experience - William Blake

The Deptford Trilogy - Robertson Davies

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts

View with a Grain of Sand - poems by Wislawa Szymborska

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

The Aleph - Jorge Luis Borges

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Education of Little Tree - Forrest Carter

Flashman and The Redskins - George Macdonald Fraser

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda - Pablo Neruda. Ilan Stavans, Ed.

Molesworth - Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

Personal development

The art of happiness - The Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin

Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception - Daniel Goleman

7 Habits of highly Effective People - Stephen Covey

The 4-Hour Work Week - Timothy Ferris

The Success Principles - Jack Canfield

Living the 80/20 Way - Richard Koch

The Road less Travelled - Scott Peck

Authentic Success - Robert Holden

Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality - Dan Ariely

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now - Gordon Livingstone

The Arbinger Institute - Leadership and Self-Deception - Marshall Rosenberg

Non-violent Communication - David Bohm

Dialogue and The Art of Thinking Together - William Isaacs

The Wisdom of a Broken Heart - Susan Piver

Full Catastrophe Living - Jon Kabat Zinn

Swimming with Piranha makes you Hungry - Colin Turner


The Politics of Experience - R.D.Laing

The Empathic Civilization - The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis - Jeremy Rifkin

If This Is A Man - Primo Levi

The Art of Loving - Erich Fromm

Fear of Freedom - Erich Fromm

Small is Beautiful - EF Schumacher

Critical mass - Philip Ball

Collapse - Jared Diamond

Godel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid - Douglas Hofstadter

Cultural Amnesia - Clive James

McMafia - Misha Glenny

Working - Studs Terkel

The Male Brain - Louann Brizendine

The Open society and Its Enemies - Karl Popper

True and False - David Mamet

Culture of Make Believe - Derrick Jensen

Farewell Promised Land - Richard Dawson and Gray Brechin

A new earth - Eckhart Tolle

Shattered Lives - Camila Batmanghelidjh

500 Ways to Change the World from the Global Ideas Bank

Crazy Busy - Dr. Edward M. Hallowell

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig

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