Ever since Oprah started stamping her name across the front of books, celebrity book recommendations have been all the rage. I think you’ll agree that the merit of those recommendations depends entirely on the person doing the recommending. If a writer I respect steers his fans toward a particular book, I’ll generally at least add it to my Amazon wishlist for future reference. If, on the other hand, somebody like Snooki suggests I check out this or that bestseller, my interest is probably going to last only slightly longer than the time it takes me to marvel at the fact that she can read.
And while printing the name of noted science advocate and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the cover of a book might not move as many copies as Oprah’s blessing, I’d be a lot moe likely to pay attention to his suggestions. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a Neil deGrasse Tyson Book Club at the moment, so I’ll just have to stick with these eight books he suggests we all owe it to ourselves to read.
The list came in response to a question posed to Tyson by a Reddit user. Specifically, the question was, “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” Shockingly, nothing by John Grisham, Dan Brown, or Nicholas Sparks appears on the list. Here are Tyson’s suggestions, along with his brief explanations of why he picked each one. In his own words, “If you read all of the [below] works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.” They also include links to free eBook copies, so you’ve got no excuse to procrastinate.
- The Bible (eBook) – “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”
- The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”
- On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBook) – “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBook) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBook) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBook) – “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”
- The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook) – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”
- The Prince by Machiavelli (eBook) – “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”