The Best Books/Authors of All Time

(In my rarely-if-ever humble opinion)

I’ll admit it. Out of all of the areas of entertainment in which I call myself an expert…traditional books aren’t necessarily on the top of the list. Plays? Sure! Books? Not as much. (Although I have read about 115 Books, not to mention 100 Graphic Novels and 20 Theatre Books. So, I’m probably not the least qualified person to make a list like this. Right? Right!)

All that being said, I think it is every Artist’s duty to search for and discover inspiration wherever they can find it, so I make it my business to study books with the same enthusiasm that I would plays, movies, and television shows. Ya never know where your next great idea could come from! (My ten-minute play, Unfinish-, was loosely inspired by a 7-page Batman comic. You’d never know it by watching the play, but that’s what makes the search for inspiration so exciting!)

Hope you enjoy reading this list as much as I enjoyed reading these gems!

Best Overall Series: Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)

All 7 Harry Potter books!

There’s a reason Harry Potter is the global phenomenon that it is. Not only is what J.K. Rowling saying brilliant, but how she says it is just, well, magical. And, somehow, it gets even better the more you re-read it.

Best Individual Book: The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)

The Art of Racing in the Rain book cover!
The Art of Racing in the Rain book cover!

I don’t particularly like dogs, or racing, and this book is all about both. That’s how well-written it is-I can’t help but still love it!

Best Teen Literature: The Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins)

All 4 Hunger Games books!
All 4 Hunger Games books!

Say what you will about the film adaptations (I’m still bitter that they unnecessarily turned Mockingjay into two films), but these books are hard to put down!

Best Prequel: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Suzanne Collins)

I know, I know. I’m kind of cheating by including this separately from The Hunger Games, but this prequel, which came out so many years after the original trilogy ended, is an easy reminder that Collins has still got it!

Best Fantasy: Eragon Series (Christopher Paolini)

All 4 Eragon Books!
All 4 Eragon Books!

Like a PG-13 Game of Thrones. Wild to think Paolini was a teenager when he wrote it!

Best Self-Help: How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

How to Win Friends and Influence People!
How to Win Friends and Influence People!

Once you read this book, you’ll be able to see through every bad salesperson so easily, you’ll have to stop yourself from laughing in their face. This book is the ultimate textbook on manipulating people to do good, and you’ll find yourself thinking about its lessons every single day.

Best Horror: Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

The Monster from Marry Shelley’s iconic Frankenstein book!
The Monster from Marry Shelley’s iconic Frankenstein book!

It’s ALIVVVEEE!!! And awesome. It’s awesome.

Best Mystery/Thriller: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book cover!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo book cover!

A bit dense, and sometimes bites off more than it should chew, but it’s worth the time investment for its stellar plot and character development!

Best Sequel: The Girl Who Played with Fire (Stieg Larsson)

Again, I know I’m cheating by throwing this in as a separate winner. But it further solidifies Lisbeth Salander as the most bad-a$# character ever written.

Best Comedic: SeinLanguage (Jerry Seinfeld)

Jerry Seinfeld, comedian and author!
Jerry Seinfeld, comedian and author!

If you want to read a book that reads like a standup set, look no further. And who better to read standup than from the greatest observational comedian of all time?

Best Holocaust Book: Sarah’s Key (Tatiana De Rosnay)

The book cover for Sarah’s Key!
The book cover for Sarah’s Key!

I still think about certain moments from this haunting book. While technically not based on a specific true story, it is fully plausible based on the atrocities the French government committed on its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust.

Best Memoir: A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball (Dwyane Wade)

The book cover for A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball!
The book cover for A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball!

I may be biased because D-Wade is my favorite athlete, but this is a must-read even if you’re not a Miami Heat fan. Heck, this is a must-read even if you’ve never watched a single basketball game in your life.

Best Medical Book: Fever (Robin Cook)

The book cover for Fever!
The book cover for Fever!

Chilling to see how the players change, but the game often stays the same when it comes to modern medicine and treating patients.

Best Philosophical Book: When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Rabbi Harold Kushner)

Ross, a character from the hit show Friends, lamenting about Bad Things Happening to Good People!
Ross, a character from the hit show Friends, lamenting about Bad Things Happening to Good People!

This book pretty much leaves you with the philosophy that we need to take the good with the bad. And while I find it too easy on the man upstairs, it is extremely well-written and certainly makes you question why the world works the way it does.

Best Legal Drama: A Time to Kill (John Grisham)

The book cover to A Time to Kill!
The book cover to A Time to Kill!

From it’s opening chapter that had my heart palpitating, all the way to the back cover, this book pits what is “right” against what is “legal” in a thought-provoking, disturbing way.

Best Gateway Drug book (to get kids into reading): Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The book cover to Diary of a Wimpy Kid!
The book cover to Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Not really a graphic novel, but not really a traditional novel either. It’s own breed of fun!

Best Overall Graphic Novel: Batman Knightfall

Bane breaking Batman’s back in the cover of Batman: Knightfall
Bane breaking Batman’s back in the cover of Batman: Knightfall

A literal page-turner (I actually had to convince myself to pull away because I’d be late for work if I kept on reading, that’s how difficult it was to put down.) An epic introduction to one of Batman’s most formidable foes, Bane.

Best Batman Graphic Novel: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Batman leaping into the thundering night in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns!
Batman leaping into the thundering night in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns!

Cheating again, are we? Yes. But while Knightfall is the best graphic novel overall, TDKR really puts the novel in Graphic Novel.

Best Superman Graphic Novel: Superman: Red Son

The book cover to Superman: Red Son!
The book cover to Superman: Red Son!

Really cool metaphorical and philosophical discussion on communism, while also being the most cinematic graphic novel I’ve ever read.

Best Justice League Graphic Novel: Justice

The Justice League all lined up for the book cover of Justice!
The Justice League all lined up for the book cover of Justice!

Can’t go wrong when you’ve got Alex Ross illustrating! (Actually, that’s not true, as I’ve read some other graphic novels he’s illustrated that I didn’t love-but his artwork has always been superb!)

Best Thanos Graphic Novel: Thanos Rising

Thanos sitting on his throne on the book cover for Thanos Rising!
Thanos sitting on his throne on the book cover for Thanos Rising!

A fascinating look at the Mad Titan’s origin story!

Best Punisher Graphic Novel: The Punisher The Complete Collection Volume 1

The book cover to The Punisher!
The book cover to The Punisher!

Not the last time one of Garth Ennis’s works will appear on this list. Brutal. Cold-blooded. Just like The Punisher himself.

Best Star Wars Graphic Novel: Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir

The book cover to Star Wars Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
The book cover to Star Wars Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir

Star Wars graphic novels are tough to get right. It’s such a visual franchise, and graphic novels, by nature, stilt the battle scenes into a shot-by-shot frame. It’s often difficult, if not impossible, to get the same level of excitement watching a live lightsaber battle on a page as you get from a screen. But this one is so well-paced that it overcomes that obstacle and makes for a compelling look into everyone’s favorite double-sided lightsaber-wielding bad guy.

Best non-superhero Dramatic Graphic Novel: Maus

The book cover to Maus!
The book cover to Maus!

Beautiful, symbolic, and one of the more unique pieces of Art to come out of the nightmare of the Holocaust.

Best non-superhero Action Graphic Novel: Preacher

The book cover to Preacher!
The book cover to Preacher!

What I think is most intriguing about this series is how perfect it is for the Graphic Novel medium. I simply can’t imagine this specific story being told in any other way. (In fact, I’ve never seen the TV adaptation, but I’m curious to see how they could possibly do it-as this series has a myriad of images that you simply CANNOT show on television.)

Best Overall Theatre Book: Acting Professionally

The book cover to Acting Professionally!
The book cover to Acting Professionally!

This book pulls no punches, which is exactly what any young, aspiring Actor needs.

Best Acting Technique Book: Uta Hagen Respect for Acting/A Challenge for the Actor

The book cover to Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting!
The book cover to Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting!

Hard to find a better pair of books to start building your acting technique around!

Best Directing Book: Notes on Directing

The book cover to Notes on Directing!
The book cover to Notes on Directing!

Excellent. Read this in one sitting. Easy, smart, clear, brilliant.

Best Theatre Memoir: Rewrites/And the Play Goes On

The book cover to Neil Simon’s Rewrites!
The book cover to Neil Simon’s Rewrites!

It should come as no surprise that Neil Simon was as majestic an author as he was a playwright. Should really be required reading for any fan of the theatre, let alone anyone with hopes of becoming a writer!

The Rest of the Pack

These beauties may not be the best in any specific way within their given genres, but they are still some of the best books of all time (in not too particular of an order):

Traditional Books:

Heather Brewer

  1. Vladimir Tod Series

Roald Dahl

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  2. Matilda
  3. The Witches
  4. The BFG

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

  1. Jewish Literacy

Leon Uris

  1. Exodus

Jeffery Deaver

  1. The Bone Collector

H. Jackson Brown Jr.

  1. Live and Learn and Pass it On

Robert Byrne

  1. 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said

Jerry Seinfeld

  1. Halloween

Arthur Miller

  1. Focus

Leo Tolstoy

  1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich

John Boyne

  1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

S.E. Hinton

  1. The Outsiders

Alan Lightman

  1. Good Benito

Stephen King

  1. Needful Things

Hermann Hesse

  1. Siddhartha

Nancy Farmer

  1. House of the Scorpion

Gary Vaynerchuk

  1. #AskGaryVee

Peter Hedges

  1. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

Dav Pilkey

  1. Captain Underpants Series

Jordan Sonnenblick

  1. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

Graphic Novels:

Batman

  1. The Court of Owls
  2. The City of Owls
  3. The Man Who Laughs/Made of Wood
  4. Vampire (wild, very unique take)
  5. Earth One Vol 1
  6. Hush
  7. The Killing Joke
  8. Year One
  9. Batman and the Monster Men: Dark Moon Rising
  10. Detective
  11. The Cult
  12. Black and White Vol 1, 2
  13. White Knight #2
  14. The Black Mirror
  15. Dark Victory (sequel to Long Halloween which I didn’t necessarily recommend but should probably read that before this great one)
  16. Batman Dark Night: A True Batman Story (extremely self-indulgent but interesting and unique)
  17. The War of Jokes and Riddles
  18. Going Sane
  19. Fool’s Errand
  20. Slayride

Superman

  1. Earth One Vol 1

Thanos

  1. Infinity Gauntlet

Star Wars

  1. Darth Maul (Cullen Bunn/Luke Ross)
  2. Legacy Vol 1-Broken

Deadpool

  1. Dead Presidents
  2. Suicide Kings
  3. Headcanon (Wade Wilson’s War, Night of the Living Deadpool, Return of the Living Deadpool)
  4. Corps Vol. 1 (a little silly but pretty good overall)
  5. Despicable Deadpool: Deadpool Kills Cable

Other

  1. The Walking Dead
  2. 300
  3. Kill or Be Killed (Dexter meets Donnie Darko)
  4. Sin City Vol 1 (simple but awesome).
  5. Scott Pilgrim
  6. Red Team Vol 1

Theatre Books:

Bryan Cranston

  1. A Life in Parts

David Mamet

  1. True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
  2. A Practical Handbook for the Actor

Ginny Kopf

  1. The Dialect Handbook

Jon Jory

  1. Tips Ideas for Directors
  2. Tips Ideas for Actors

Angelo Parra

  1. Playwriting for Dummies

Ray Lischner

  1. Shakespeare for Dummies

Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

  1. Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (maybe more geared towards business, but a ton of great quotes and a lot of good stuff about general creativity that can be applied to theatre as well. In fact, I wrote a whole separate Medium article about it that you can read here: https://datz-eddie.medium.com/on-ed-catmulls-creativity-inc-2bbd7aa92d26)

What are you thoughts? What did I miss? What did I get just right? Let me know! And if you liked this, check out check out all my other Best of All Time lists!

And for more things Datz, check out eddiedatz.com!

Note: This is an ongoing list that will continue to be edited as I read more books and find new favorites!

Actor. Comedian. Writer. Director. For all things Datz, check out eddiedatz.com