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20 books you should keep on your shelf to look smart

Whether they’re stories that capture a historic moment or tomes noted for their impactful messages, some books instantly up your literary credibility.

Amazon’s editorial team has helped us put together a list of 20 books that will help you impress anyone in your life.

From biographies of inspiring innovators to stories that have been must-reads for centuries, these are the top 20 books you should display in your bookshelf.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams

Adams' interstellar story begins with Arthur Dent, who travels to space with his friend Ford Prefect, aided with quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Along the way they meet numerous travellers, ranging from a brilliant and depressed robot to a two-headed ex-hippie. This book's message was an inspiration for Elon Musk.

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'The Best and the Brightest' by David Halberstam

'The Best and the Brightest' analyses why America got involved in Vietnam, as well as the various policies, people, and accounts that drove the war.

Through insider anecdotes and vignettes, Halberstam shows readers the ways in which bureaucratic considerations worked in the depths of one of the country's most difficult times.

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'The Corrections' by Jonathan Franzen

While a mother and wife tends to a husband losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, their children face obstacles that range from clinical depression to a dangerous relationship with a married man.

As the mother of the family, Enid, looks to find one last glimpse of hope, she decides to have her family together for a final Christmas at home.

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'The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution' by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson's New York Times bestseller tells the story of the minds behind the computer and the Internet.

By examining the innovators that turned their ideas into a reality, Isaacson tells a riveting history of the digital revolution.

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'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy

In 'War and Peace', three characters come together to tell the story of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.

The tale follows an illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance, a prince leaving his family to fight Napoleon, and a nobleman's daughter who captures the fancy of both men as they face various challenges and incredibly moving circumstances.

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'Infinite Jest' by David Foster Wallace

Wallace's comedy explores notions of what entertainment is and why it has become so dominant in our lives.

From examining how we connect to others through entertainment and what our choices in entertainment say about us, the book is philosophical and humorous, and you'll find yourself thinking about long after you finish reading it.

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'Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood' by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic novel delves into the author's life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

Filled with black-and-white comic strips, the book helps readers learn about the overthrow of the Shah's regime and the tragic consequences of the war with Iraq.

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'Dune' by Frank Herbert

Winner of both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, 'Dune' is set in the future of an empire on the desert planet of Arrakis, where dynasties are controlled by noble houses.

A young boy who is the heir to a noble family embarks on an invigorating journey that combines politics, religion, technology, and human emotion.

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'Letters to a Young Poet' by Rainer Maria Rilke

'Letters to a Young Poet' is a collection of 10 letters Rilke wrote to a student who submitted several verses of a poem for assessment back in 1903.

Not only do the letters reveal themes that would later be an integral part of Rilke's works, but they are filled with invaluable insight for poets and scholars alike.

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'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf

'Mrs. Dalloway' is the book on which the movie 'The Hours' was based. It tells the story of Clarissa Dalloway and her preparations for a party she will be hosting.

Though seemingly simple on the surface, the story is a fascinating exploration of the hidden thoughts and actions that can come about in just one day of a woman's life.

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'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu

'The Art of War' was written over 2,000 years ago, but it's still considered to be one of the most prestigious books on conflict and strategy today.

Its message of how physics, politics, and an understanding of the psychology of conflict can come into play has led to its time-enduring success.

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'Gravity's Rainbow' by Thomas Pynchon

In 'Gravity's Rainbow', the Nazis begin to secretly develop a rocket near the end of World War II.

When it is discovered that a lieutenant working for the Allied Intelligence in London was once the subject of experiments by a current Nazi rocket scientist, his attempt to discover the truth leads him on a frightening journey that blurs the lines between history and paranoia.

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'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Written in 1967, 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' remains a treasured work to this day.

Telling the story of the rise and fall of a mythical town through the history of one family, Márquez beautifully chronicles life, death, and human nature.

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'Beloved' by Toni Morrison

'Beloved' tells the story of Sethe, who was born into slavery and escaped to Ohio with her memories of Sweet Home, a farm where she witnessed terrible events.

Now her new home is haunted by the ghost of her child who passed away, who died nameless and who has only one word written on their tombstone: Beloved.

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'Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead' by Sheryl Sandberg

In 'Lean In', Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg examines the factors that continue to stall women's progression into leadership positions.

Sandberg combines humour with personal stories and data to provide advice on how women can achieve both personal fulfillment and professional achievement.

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'The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition' by M.F.K. Fisher and Joan Reardon

'The Art of Eating' is a collection of essays by M.F.K. Fisher, one of America's most famous food writers.

The collection weaves in five of her original works and includes everything from recipes and culinary advice to what food shortages were like during World War II.

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'Ulysses' by James Joyce

Considered one of the most important works of modernist literature, 'Ulysses' accounts events in the lives of two central characters on a single day in Dublin.

Complex in its makeup, the novel is both a mythical adventure of everyday occurrences and a brilliant picture of how internal psychological processes can work.

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'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon

A father of modern history, Gibbon's classic telling of ancient Roman history spans six different volumes.

Blending poetic prose into his rich historic account, the book's heavy use of sources and methodology became a model for historians to follow.

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'From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life' by Jacques Barzun

Noted for his work in cultural history and criticism, Barzun's account takes readers through discoveries and conclusions of Western culture that date as far back as 1500.

Barzun presents profiles of noted individuals like Mozart and Voltaire, sharing unknown facts about them while revealing the historic successes and failures over a course of 500 years.

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'The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary' by J. A. H. Murray

You should have at least one dictionary in your closet, and this set includes a detailed etymology of the words, including their evolved meanings.

Though the text is small, it comes with a magnifying glass.

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