50 Essential Books Sure to Make You a Better Photographer

  • By Michael Kircher
  • April 4, 2014

When I want to go on an adventure, I read. When I need inspiration, I read. Even if I just want to have a little fun, I read. Reading can be a journey or a master class. It can awaken our desires or move us to tears. No matter your occupation or hobbies, reading informs and enhances it all. What we read is who we are. This is my conviction.

50 Essential Books Sure to Make You a Better Photographer

The following 50 books each, for good or for ill, helped shape the person I am today. The first 10 or so were easy, came right off the top of my head. After that, I slowly scanned the shelves and waited for the strongest memories to hit. 

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
  • Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
  • Empire by Gore Vidal
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • The Sea Wolf by Jack London
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Couples by John Updike
  • Candide by Voltaire
  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
  • Priority by Iselin C. Hermann
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Democracy by Henry Adams
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Europa by Tim Parks
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
  • Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Fermata by Nicholson Baker
  • The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Bunker Hill by Howard Fast
  • The Girl of the Sea of Cortez by Peter Benchley
  • The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kidd
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Guerrillas by V.S. Naipaul
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
  • The Farewell Party by Milan Kundera
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
  • Centennial by James A. Michener
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • On Photography by Susan Sontag
  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  • Angel of Lucifer by William Kircher
  • Beachcombing at Miramar by Richard Bode
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


Michael Kircher’s camera has taken him from Washington, DC, to Paris; from the Pacific Northwest to the Appalachian Mountains; from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean Sea. On an ever-evolving photographic journey, he is equally at home on city streets and backcountry trails. Kircher’s photography and/or photographic essays have appeared in Granta, National Parks, Maryland Life, and burn.


comments powered by Disqus