When I saw “Captain Fantastic” last summer, I was mesmerized by the number of books and other learning materials presented in the background as pieces of the character’s alternative education.

This helped the movie feel extremely lived-in and made me want to expand my educational horizons. Getting home from the movie theater, I immediately searched online for some form of a reading list and tweeted and reddit-ed at writer/director Matt Ross to ask for some form of a list. Even reading the screenplay was limiting given that so many were strictly in the production design.

Seeing a void, I created my own “Unofficial Reading List” to the film as an entry point to becoming a philosopher king. Few films have inspired education so much as this one, and while you won’t find me moving to the Washington State backcountry anytime soon, we could all take a few pages from the Cash family book.

Many thanks to the numerous branches of the LA Public Library, as well as eBay, for making this compilation a reality:

The Unofficial Reading List:


Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy (1975) by Elton John

The Brothers Karamazov (2002) by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1999) by Jared Diamond

The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004) by Brian Greene, Chapter 12: The World on a String


Middlemarch: a study of provincial life (1872)
by George Eliot

“No Fractura Hidráulica” T-Shirt

Marxism in Our Time (1973) by Isaac Deutscher

Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States (1989) by A. Belden Fields


Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium (2005) by Alter Litvin and John Keep

Maoism in Action (1974) by C. L. Chiou

Three “Whys” of the Russian Revolution (1997) by Richard Pipes




Scientific American – The Neuroscience of Habits (June 2014)

Scientific American – A Crisis in Physics? (May 2014)

E-Book – Fascism vs. Capitalism by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. (2013)

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (2005) by Philip Short


Coolidge (2012) by Amity Shales

Lolita (1955) by Vladmir V. Nabokov

National Geographic – Wild Pets: The Debate of Owning Exotic Animals (April 2014)




Grammar – “Unique and other modifiers”

Titanic Soundtrack, “My Heart Will Go On” (1997) by James Horner & Celine Dion

The Hammer and the Cross (1980) by Michael Scott Rohan


Noam Chomsky has written many books and has contributed his views in countless places. Here are the books featured in the video:

The Chomsky Reader (1987) by Noam Chomsky

The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower (2007) by Robert F. Barsky

Because We Say So (2015) by Noam Chomsky




Who Rules the World (2016) by Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky: Class Warfare, Interviews with David Barsamian (1996)

Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (2002)



The Joy of Sex (1972) by Alex Comfort

Nike, Goddess of Victory by Wikipedia

The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus (1994) by Aliki

Killer Instinct – Xbox One (2013)

Maus (1980) by Art Spiegelman



The United States Constitution (Book shown by Kristal Leebrick)

The U.S. Bill of Rights (1789)

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC by The Story of Stuff (2011)

ACLU Poster – Click here to buy


Samadhi: Personal Journeys to Spiritual Truth (2000) by Derek Biermann

Bach – Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould

Yo-Yo Ma – Cello Suites inspired by Bach

Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)



The Pocket Book of Baby & Child Care (1947) by Dr.
Benjamin Spock

The Indian Runner (1991) dir. Sean Penn starring Viggo Mortensen

Buddhism: World Religions (many different publications)

The Holy Bible (many different publications), Matthew 18 verses 15-20


Republic by Plato (380 BCE) – translated by Robin Waterfield (1993)

A cover of Guns N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Appetite for Destruction (1987)

ACLU (2nd time seen in film) – Click here to donate



Jesse Jackson for President, 1988 by Wikipedia

The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest (1965) by Alvin M. Josephy

More context via NPS

Full transcript: Treaty with the Nez Percés, 1855



The Unofficial “Captain Fantastic” Reading List has also been featured on No Film School and First Showing.