Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

A Reddit.com user posed the question to Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”

Below, you will find the book list offered up by the astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Where possible, we have included links to free versions of the books, all taken from our Free Audio Books and Free eBooks collections. Or you can always download a professionally-narrated book for free from Audible.com. Details here.

If you’re looking for a more extensive list of essential works, don’t miss The Harvard Classics, a 51 volume series that you can now download online.

1.) 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.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBookAudio Book) - “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.”

Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

He has also added  some more thoughts in the comments section below, saying:

Thanks for this ongoing interest in my book suggestions. From some of your reflections, it looks like the intent of the list was not as clear as I thought. The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else. Again, thanks for your collective interest. -NDTyson

Don’t miss anything from Open Culture. Sign up for our Daily Email or RSS Feed. And we’ll send quality culture your way, every day.

H/T goes to Galley Cat

Related Content:

Stephen Colbert Talks Science with Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

50 Famous Academics & Scientists Talk About God

Neil deGrasse Tyson Stars in New Symphony of Science

The Harvard Classics: A Free Digital Collection

725 Free Courses Online



Make knowledge free & open. Share our posts with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms:
Share on TwitterShare via emailShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

by | Permalink | Comments (350) |

Choose a comment platform

Comments (350)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  1. Andy says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 8:29 am

    That may be the worst one-sentence summary of Adam Smith that I have ever seen.

  2. David says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 9:06 am

    Hmmm… NDT says about the Bible, “… it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

    Says to me he read it, but didn’t understand it, or didn’t fully bother to comprehend vast sections of the New Testament. Though many USE the Bible to keep others from thinking, or use it to assist in repressing others’ thoughts, the Bible itself – if read in its entirety – is actually full of morality tales (whether you believe they happened or not) that should cause any sentient human to think more, not less. The biggest problem with it is that authoritarian types use it to effectively increase their own power and subjugate those who are pre-disposed to requiring an authoritarian figure in their lives – not that it, in and of itself, keeps others from thinking for themselves.

    Case in point: I am quite certain that the Big Bang happened, that the universe is 13.7 billions years old, and that our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. I am also a Christian. Theistic evolution explains both for me, precisely because I thought about it myself – not because someone else told me so.

    True enough, others do not see the universe this way – but not because the Bible says as much. It’s because (some) humans twist the Bible’s words and manipulate others to their way of thinking. But manipulation is not limited to (some) Christian leaders; manipulation happens across all societies, religions and political beliefs.

    But don’t blame the Bible for that. Blame humans.

  3. Rocko says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 9:20 am

    I concur with Andy.

  4. EvieKeen says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 9:44 am

    I’ve always been a fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I really think this list (and his summaries)are a very telling representation of his cynical view of the world. I read six out of the eight books listed here in high school, and I think they were definately worthy of the time spent. But they hardly constitute a balanced approach to understanding humanity and the universe in which we live in. Charles Darwin’s work didn’t even allow for feelings of ‘kinship’ between our fellow humans, much less to all other living things. He was a brilliant ,yet bigoted man, who was the scientific father and supporter of eugenics.

  5. Khan says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 9:51 am

    I don’t follow you at all. The Bible is also full of terrible acts against all life. On the one hand you are saying you like the good lessons you can gather, but then you completely ignore the rape, slavery, genocide, and ridiculousness. While you may have a great personal relationship with your god, that is exactly how it should stay. No one person has the same picture, and to the rest of us that have a completely different word view we laugh a little inside when you try to defend something we want nothing to do with. My morals didn’t come from god, nor did they need to be written down. I am sorry that you needed a book to get it right.

  6. Gerry says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 9:56 am

    @David
    I don’t imagine you meant God himself when you speak of “authoritarian types” using the bible “to effectively increase their own power and subjugate those who are pre-disposed to requiring an authoritarian figure in their lives”.

    …assuming for a second that such a being existed.

  7. Neil deGrasse Tyson says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 10:56 am

    Thanks for this ongoing interest in my book suggestions. From some of your reflections, it looks like the intent of the list was not as clear as I thought. The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else. Again, thanks for your collective interest. -NDTyson

  8. Mike de Fleuriot says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 12:00 pm

    It should be noted that the title of this article contains the word “Intelligent”, others are not required.

  9. emily sours says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 12:10 pm

    i love reading about science. but i cannot support telling people to read “on the origin of the species”. it is VERY BORING. of course, there are excellent ideas in there, but i could not read it. instead, i say read “the blind watchmaker”.

  10. Mark Hawker says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 12:26 pm

    “… it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

    That applies to all of the aforementioned one-line summaries, right?

  11. Doro Moody says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 12:46 pm

    I read many of these books when I was too young to do anything but write a paper that addressed a professor’s proposed theme. Most are available free in e-book form, so I suppose I’ll have some reading to do in my time off of work. :)

  12. J Mitchell Robertson says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 12:53 pm

    Books you should be *familiar* with? Yes. Read? Jeez, I dunno. A lot of these are simply unreadable. I mean, even the Church will tell you that the Bible is not *meant* to be read, as a book. More like “referred to.”

  13. John says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 1:46 pm

    Amusing to see the apologists starting early. You can interpret the bible in the best possible way as much as you like, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a very large amount of horrible nonsense throughout its pages. It also doesn’t change the fact, that to NDTs point, you’re ultimately demanded to think a certain way.

  14. ZL 'Kai' Burington says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 2:26 pm

    “He was a brilliant ,yet bigoted man, who was the scientific father and supporter of eugenics.”

    You obviously not only did not understand On the Origin of Species, but you didn’t look into his other works. Charles Darwin was neither a bigot nor a eugenicist. His On the Descent of Man was a long argument showing the essential uselessness of race as category, of the unity of the human species. This was a progressive idea at odds with the general bigotry and racism of 19th century Europe.

  15. Danielle says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 2:33 pm

    Free-thinking intellects don’t bother with the bible. I was excited to see the list and what a disappointment to the see that the bible was first (or there at all).

  16. John Shuey says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 2:35 pm

    I have an incredible amount of respect for Dr. Tyson, but based on his description of “The Wealth of Nations” I have to wonder if he’s ever read the book himself. If on the other hand he has, then he clearly doesn’t understand the difference between self-interest and “greed”.

  17. mark says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 2:47 pm

    1)why you should kill people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    2)how to kill people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    3)scientific justification for killing people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    4) keep the liberals happy while you kill people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    5)to explain to the dead people why they are free.
    6) how to pay for killing people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    7)1001 easy ways to kill people who do not believe the same thing as you.
    8)how to get away with killing people who do not believe the same thing as you.

  18. Andrew Hess says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 3:48 pm

    Read The Art of War to understand why you should read The Bible.

  19. Steven says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 3:51 pm

    “I mean, even the Church will tell you that the Bible is not *meant* to be read, as a book.”

    There may very well be a reason for that, a fair number of atheists have become atheists simply from reading the bible too thoroughly. This has included ex-priests and people who were studying for the priesthood. This also explains why some atheists know more about the bible than most theists.

    And no I wouldn’t use the bible as a moral authority. while there are some good moral points in it, there are also some very bad moral points (such as slavery (Ex 21), mass murder (Deut 20), misogyny (all over both old and new test.), incest(Gen 19:30), child sacrifice (Gen 22), etc.).

  20. Bryan says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 4:04 pm

    “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

    Sort of like this list tries to tell its readers what to think and believe, instead of leaving questions open.

    Better if Mr. Tyson eschewed a list altogether and encouraged readers to pursue their own interests and think for themselves while being skeptical of any claims to authority.

  21. Dan says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 4:04 pm

    Thanks Neil for chiming in and clarifying. Appreciate it! And thanks to others for keeping the conversation friendly yet substantive. I’m one lucky editor.

    Cheers
    Dan

  22. Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith) says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 5:06 pm

    Incredibly poor selection of books. Damaging even.

  23. Rudy Volkmann says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 5:48 pm

    Not sure Gullibles Travels makes the mark (though the justification kind of excuses it), Would like to see “The Only Dance there is,” by Babba Ram Dass; Deamian by Herman Hesse,Cat’s Cradle and Sirens of Titan by Kurt (pre-crazy) Vonnegut; Dune first trilogy and Foundation trilogy on the list.

  24. John says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:00 pm

    Strange article. Seems out of place on this site…

  25. Chris says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:00 pm

    These books are the essential guide to forming a well-rounded 19th century mind.

  26. Matt says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:36 pm

    Great list. Certainly some very influential pieces. Also, if you’re going to read The Prince, you should also take the time to read Anti-Machiavel by Frederick the Great.

  27. watermpi says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:37 pm

    As a physicist myself, I wish scientists would just stick to science, and not society or spirituality. Scientists make poor sociologists and theologians.

  28. mswool says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:39 pm

    guys, guys… these books are FREE that’s why Origin of Species is on there instead of the much more readable “blind watchmaker.” for instance.

  29. John says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:40 pm

    All good and well, except that ‘The Prince’ was meant as satire. Was a decent list up to that point.

  30. Steve D says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 6:50 pm

    I agree with the Bible, not for the reasons Tyson cites, but simply to know what’s in it, so you don’t start spouting ignorant nonsense about what’s in (and not in) it. Ditto the Koran.

    Origin of Species, Wealth of Nations, etc. are historically important, but you’d be far better off reading more contemporary works on evolution or economics.

    The ink was still damp last time I read The Prince, but I remember wondering what all the fuss was. Machiavelli didn’t advocate ruthlessness; indeed he thought just and moderate rule was more effective. What gave him the bad reputation seems to be that he frankly admitted that sometimes rulers had to be ruthless.

  31. John says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 7:15 pm

    While I personally believe the Bible is entirely a creation of man, I still think it’s important to at least be familiar with it. It is the literary source of many archetypes in Western Civilization. Whether you agree with these archetypes or not, you should know where they come from.

    There actually is some very good prose in there too, which I’m sure is part of the reason why it’s so seductive to some. But good prose is good prose — you can still appreciate it for what it is, even if you don’t agree with or believe in it.

  32. Ben J says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 7:23 pm

    mswool is right, which is also the presumable reason that “Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” is not on the list.

  33. Matt says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 7:46 pm

    IF the bible were written in such a way as to be 100% clear to all who ever read it, I would agree with the Christians who defend it. The bible is used to cherry-pick good passages, and is spoon-fed to many who claim its glory etc. from preachers on Sundays who need an excuse to have a community. Without the church/religion people would think more for themselves and many wars would cease to be caused or fought.

  34. David says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 8:10 pm

    Amazing…. Darwin himself said “Such simple instincts as bees making a beehive could be sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.” People cling to Darwin’s teachings as scripture, but then in the same breath call the Christian,’religious fanatics’. So who is, so called ‘blinded’, by their faith?

  35. Don says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 10:04 pm

    Know how to tell when someone is a moron?

    They consider themselves “intelligent”.

    What the fuck kind of question is that…“Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?”

    What? Are you in some kind of club where some books are for you and not others because they are not “intelligent”?

    I bet most of the losers at OWS think they are intelligent. I bet the guy who crapped on the police car thought he was doing a very intelligent thing.

    Get the fuck over yourselves.

  36. neil deAss says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 10:08 pm

    “the wealth of nations” helped to deliver more prosperity to the world than any other book in history. if any book will teach us about human greed, it is “the origin of species”. capitalism is freedom, and this fool would have you enslaved believing otherwise.

  37. Aly says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 12:33 am

    ugh… I shouldn’t have read the comments. I think this is a well thought out list, for what he has stated it to be. “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.” Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. That just about covers it, right? Some of these reading selections just elaborate on those negative aspects whereas Darwin, Newton and Paine’s focused on the positive. He’s saying their theories drove mankind to the point that we are at today, not endorsing them or even agreeing with them. He also didn’t state that the Bible is a ridiculous work of fictitious mythology mostly stolen from other cultures. He simply stated that by making it easier “to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself” this book greatly influenced our current civilization. And if you need examples go to your local high school. Almost every student is assigned a research paper from which they have to draw a conclusion. This used to mean they would research the facts, process the facts, and reach a conclusion based on the facts. Now it means they type the subject into google, change the wording from the wikipedia page slightly so that it resembles their own speech pattern, find a conclusion someone reached at some point, reword it, and turn it in as original work. This is the influence of making it easier to repeat the words of others instead of processing thoughts for ourselves. Now is when I would generally make some long sarcastic speech about the great level of offense I take at Gulliver’s Travels being on the list but as I need to be awake again in three hours, I think I’ll call it a night. And my “intelligent” advice would be: stop taking life so seriously guys. no one gets out alive. That’s an original quote, by me. ;-D

  38. Hector Avalos says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 6:05 am

    Evie should have read what Darwin said in The Descent of Man (1871)

    “The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature.”

  39. Olivia says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 6:20 am

    I’m sorry to see that some of you are choosing to be so obtuse that you didn’t get NDT’s point. It’s sorely disappointing to see such crap under his book list. I’ve read the Bible, am agnostic, and got the point.

  40. Manticore says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 6:45 am

    iBooks doesn’t have ANY Newton :(

  41. Matthew Tanner says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:02 am

    Tyson’s list is crap. Here’s mine:

    “The Emergence of Consciousness” edited by Anthony Freeman

    “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” by Raymond Kurzweil

    “The Norton Anthology of World Literature”

    ‎”War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race” by Edwin Black

  42. CondescendingIntelligentPerson says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:25 am

    amazing how an ‘intelligent’ person thinks that that is why you should read the bible. how wonderfully ignorant.

  43. Penultimate says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:27 am

    For my part, I heartily second this list. There are hundreds of other books I’d also recommend, to contribute to a well-rounded mind; but I think this list is a great start and very strong evidence of a perceptive, deeply engaged person.

    I don’t in general advocate looking at a person’s success as a measure of the quality of their life, but in his case I would make an exception. He is among the scientists accorded with the greatest degree of respect from a wide, general audience. He “teaches with authority,” to borrow a phrase.

    I think that his perspective is worth considering, even if it rubs you the wrong way initially. It can’t hurt you to read the books with his comment in mind, and see if it gives you new insight; if it doesn’t, at least your objections will be better researched.

  44. Tess Elliott says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:39 am

    Wow! As usual the comments are all over the map. I liked the list in general for covering some major areas of what makes us human, how things work, etc. I have read most of them, excepting for Smith and Newton who I have read about. Darwin’s “The Voyage of the Beagle” is also wonderful if “Origin of Species” is too boring. “Gulliver’s Travels” is a masterpiece for sure. Some people will never get it. To Rudy, Kurt Vonnegut was always crazy and proud to admit it & I miss his voice terribly, but his work will not explain how things works. “The Art of War” is required reading for corporate types, and is a style of thinking that is against almost everything I stand for…but a fact of life none of us can escape. Good list. Part of me also wants to recommend a good Survival manual though I am not sure I would want to live if we had an apocalypse in my lifetime.

  45. Dale Cruse says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:45 am

    This one confused me the most:

    “The Art of War by Sun Tsu – ‘to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.’”

    That’s not what I took from that book at all. In fact, that book suggests that outhinking & outmaneuvering your opponent is the surest way to end a battle before it begins. If anything, THAT is raised to an art, not the act of killing people.

  46. Leo Jones says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 8:08 am

    I disagree with deGrasse’s view that the Bible is worth reading because it teaches us about the nature of propaganda. The Bible is valuable because it records what ancient peoples thought about the human experience. In addition, it chronicles, I believe, the development of the concept of the individual. God is vengeful and jealous in the Old Testament, with few direct contacts with individuals. The New Testament tells the story of an individual relationship with, which in later times would lead to the birth of individualism. In this context, the Bible is worth reading.

  47. Shade Ilmaendu says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 10:29 am

    Glad one other person knew that Prince was a satirical novel. :P Seems like most everyone got wayy too hung up over the bible and didnt feel like discussing everything else. Which just kinda proves the point of how influential a book it has been in our history I suppose XD

  48. Beth says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:13 am

    David, seriously. Do you have any idea how to contextually read sentences? To put it plainly, he’s saying that in order to have your own formulated opinion on the Bible, you need to read it. That singular sentence doesn’t blame any person or an inanimate object; he’s just saying read the damn thing instead of going on the word of your peers, the media, religious leaders, or your cat, who knows. Your whole rant is invalid and pointless in the context of this post. At what point in time will humanity not be plagued with dramatic, assuming people.

  49. Beth says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:17 am

    And Leo Jones, EVERYTHING is worth reading. Weren’t you ever taught that you can learn from even the most harrowing experience or the most hateful propaganda? I guess we should probably just bury everything about the Holocaust if we’re following your logic. Or wait, the end of your paragraph contradicts your first sentence, so now I feel confused as to what statement you’re trying to make. :/ From these comments, I can tell one thing…our Education system is in serious need of an overhaul. Ugh, get me out of here.

  50. Hanoch says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:24 am

    Mr. Tyson’s recommendations and related comments are very useful to demonstrate the important point that one can be quite talented in one area (e.g., astrophysics) and be clueless in others (e.g., theology, morality, literature, economics, politics).

  51. lol says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 1:00 pm

    Watch out guys, we’re dealing with a badass over here

  52. PatrickEB says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 3:01 pm

    @EvieKeen December 21, 2011 / 9:44 am should also read. I mean, just read. Also EvieKeen should read White and Gribbin, 1995, specifically page 232. They write than when imposed upon by the well-meaning and enthusiastic Ernst Haeckel, Darwin attempted to dissuade him of his attempts to fuse social theory with natural selection.

    Darwin was less bigoted than most people of the time and did not support throwing the poor and less fortunate to the wolves or identifying that they somehow deserved their situation.

  53. PatrickEB says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 3:03 pm

    @Hector Avalos says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 6:05 am

    Nice one, Hector.

  54. PatrickEB says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 3:19 pm

    @David says . . . | December 21, 2011 / 8:10 pm

    …and yet another misquote. Where do people get these things from? Rather than read the original, they seem to pluck things out of mid-air, or from some reference to them in a book written by someone else who misquotes.

    Seriously people, the one thing you should learn from an education is to check the facts.

    To quote Darwin from ‘The Origin of Species’, page 207:

    “The subject of instinct might have been worked into the previous chapters; but I have thought that it would be more convenient to treat the subject separately, especially as so wonderful an instinct as that of the hive-bee making its cells will probably have occurred to many readers, as a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory. I must premise, that I have nothing to do with the origin of the primary mental powers, any more than I have with that of life itself. We are concerned only with the diversities of instinct and of the other mental qualities of animals within the same class.”

    “…it would be more convenient to treat the subject separately, especially as so wonderful an instinct as that of the hive-bee making its cells will probably have occurred to many readers, as a difficulty sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.”

    He believes that many readers would think that honey bees’ instincts would be a difficultly sufficient to overthrow his theory. So, he decides to develop issue separately.

    He doesn’t write “I” think this is too difficult. He says some readers may think this.

    Now, before people think they must go out and buy the book to read it…it’s free to download and read so go ahead.

  55. PatrickEB says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 3:30 pm

    @Leo Jones says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 8:08 am

    “The Bible is valuable because it records what ancient peoples thought about the human experience.”

    Only some people and then only what some people wrote about others who preceded them…with no notes, no research evidence and purely their person views.

    “In addition, it chronicles, I believe, the development of the concept of the individual.”

    Given a great number of the characters in the Old Testament are written as engaging in discussions with an imaginary super friend, I cannot see how the New Testament creates any sense of ‘individualism’.

    Furthermore, sociological and anthropological research (which is voluminous) would posit the construct of the individual as being a more recent development and, in that, being developed through a struggle with hegemonic, authoritarian religious thinking such as that surrounding Christian churches.

    The history of many theologies is to oppress and restrict thinking and individualism which does not conform to the senior religious leaders views.

    Christianity is just one of those theologies which has had to adapt to the facts as they arise (evolution, astronomy, physics, chemistry) and then change to fit in.

    In fact, religion as a means of understanding has been on a long march of retreat. It has yet to provide any evidence to cause major scientific thinking to change but has itself had to adopt to the advances of scientific thinking.

    The bible is interesting to read as a collection of stories…and to give non-Christians an idea of the myths and stories important to some Christians.

  56. sees says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:00 pm

    @ david – you still think god is “real”. find evidence, or you cannot be in the same realm as science. a.k.a the study of reality. things that aren’t disprovable aren’t useful. science has proved that. common sense will ultimately prevail.

  57. misanthropope says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:49 pm

    _the wealth of nations_ has been seriously mis-characterized here. _the art of war_ has been so badly slandered, that it’s difficult to imagine that mr. Tyson has actually read it.

  58. CB says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 9:01 pm

    I agree with some of the comments about Wealth of Nations. I was very disappointed to hear someone as intelligent as Tyson make such a plain ignorant statement about such a profound book. There are almost a limitless amount of wannabe-rebel pseudo-intellectuals who will make up all sorts of ignorant slander about this book, and Adam Smith. Some will call him a supporter of “free markets” or a “conservative.”

    To those who have read his book, Adam Smith is none of those things. I will take this time to point out that he was in fact quite a moderate man, who was afraid of the inevitability of income inequality and the negative social effects that might have. To this end, he was one of the first to openly speak about “progressive taxation” brackets– where you pay a higher tax rate the more money you earn.

    So no, Neil. Normally I am the biggest fan of yours, but you obviously either failed economics class or just didn’t read Wealth of Nations.

    Also, to those saying “well i guess this means scientists just arent good at economics,” I respond; economics is very much a science. No, I don’t mean “it’s a social science” like sociology or anthropology. Economics relies on statistics to a much greater degree than the natural sciences, and it relies on mathematics just as much if not more than- say- physics. Don’t believe me? Try researching Dynamic/Stochastic General Equilibrium solutions. Makes “rocket science” look like arithmetic.

  59. misanthropope says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 9:46 pm

    CB, complicated equations do not a science make. models containing *predictive power* are what is required, and predictive power is conspicuously lacking in economics.

    mathematical sophistry is how the macro-economist tries to paint himself a more serious person than the other types of theologian.

  60. Badass says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 10:18 pm

    Watch out. We got a bad ass over here.

  61. site says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:12 pm

    thanks for the links!

    just wanna say that a lot of you sound like a bunch of smarty-pants newbs. i’m not naming any names, so if my comment offends you perhaps you would do well to ask yourself if you might be one, and furthermore why are you getting defensive? :D

    knowledge is cool and all, and acquiring it is no doubt the best we can do, but it is transitory and often subjective. the elite thinkers probably talked all their shit about the world being flat with the same swagger you fools exhibit. also, as has been pointed out above, all those great thinkers are dead now, just like all the dumbasses of ancient times.

    p.s. God is real, but He’s no punk that will submit to your microscope. It goes the /other/ way, peacocks!

  62. Adam Keele says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:18 pm

    Some of you are out of control. Just read them. If you have, great. Now go and live YOUR life and try to not ruin it for anyone else.

  63. Mahatma Koate says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 11:20 pm

    How about,”Way It Posed To Be”

  64. ceteco says . . . | December 23, 2011 / 4:59 am

    Dale Cruse says . . . | December 22, 2011 / 7:45 am
    This one confused me the most:

    That’s not what I took from that book at all. In fact, that book suggests that outhinking & outmaneuvering your opponent is the surest way to end a battle before it begins. If anything, THAT is raised to an art, not the act of killing people.

    THE NAME IS WAR FOR GODS SAKE. What its to be confused about? >_>

  65. Mike says . . . | December 23, 2011 / 10:04 am

    Ceteco,
    In traditional Chinese philosophy, the most “artful” thing in war is to avoid it. If that cannot be achieved, then there are certain principles to follow. Dale Cruse’s point was very well-taken. Have you read the book?

  66. J. Boanerges says . . . | December 23, 2011 / 12:47 pm

    Dr. Tyson,
    Thank you so much for your tenacious work at educating the masses. Words cannot express my appreciation for your efforts and achievements in this endeavor, therefore I will not even try, other than saying thank you.

  67. Dennis says . . . | December 23, 2011 / 7:13 pm

    7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

    Hmmm, the Art of War promotes the idea of “winning without fighting” and killing people as a last resort, only when all other options are exhausted. Victory in that manner is considered a victory without honor. It is based off of Taoism. He may be an astrophysicist, but his reading comprehension sure leaves something to be desired.

  68. Brandon says . . . | December 23, 2011 / 10:34 pm

    Folks. He was asked for his opinion. He gave it. Either take his advice or don’t. I’ve read every book on the list and I am glad for it. One does not have to agree to pull lessons from the texts above. To better understand why society is the way it is we need to branch out and learn to get over ourselves. I personally am an Atheist but I read the Bible to know what I don’t believe and why some do.Same for the On the Origin of Species. I did not take his comments as insults but as why he believes society can benefit from reading his picks. Calm down.

  69. Marianne Walker says . . . | December 24, 2011 / 7:33 am

    I personally would rather like to see a list of recent science books such as published by New Scientist (newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2011/12/win-the-10-best-science-books-of-2011.html), Best 2011 Biology Books (popsciencebooks.com/best-biology-books) and Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/12/12/best-science-books-2011). Old books can indeed provide a good perspective on the evolution and status of current affairs, but there have been new more interesting insights since then.

  70. oldestgenxer says . . . | December 24, 2011 / 8:38 am

    I was going to leave a message similar to the others until I scrolled down and read them…my sentiments are more or less realized in them. So, taking another tack: ignoring his commentary, is this a good list? What books would you recommend to people to read? The way it struck me, I feel, for the first time, like making a similar list, and also reading some of these that I have not.

  71. Chris Butterworth says . . . | December 25, 2011 / 6:49 pm

    “4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBook – Audio Book) – ‘to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.’”

    You can learn the same thing by reading many of the above comments.

  72. Ahmet says . . . | December 26, 2011 / 3:49 am

    Why the bible on this list but not Qur’an.. I just wondering, what kind of intelligence is used while getting written this list.. Based on what?? I am not saying the bible should not be on this list, what i am saying is if the Bible on this list the Qur’an definitely should be in this list too. Every people in this world should read the Qur’an at least once in their life even if he/she is not a Muslim..

  73. rc says . . . | December 26, 2011 / 6:27 pm

    So Mr. Tyson doesn’t mind Darwin telling him what to think. He just doesn’t want God telling him what to think.

  74. rc says . . . | December 26, 2011 / 6:34 pm

    Ahmet,I am curious. If you believe that everyone in the world, even non-Muslims, should read the Qur’an, do you think that you and all other non-Christians should read the Bible? Are you willing to do what you would ask of others? Just wondering. To answer your question, the Bible is the only religious text on the list b/c the Christian Bible is commonly accepted throughout the world to be the one true holy text (even tho Mr. Tyson himself doesn’t believe in it, oddly enough).

  75. bck says . . . | December 26, 2011 / 10:21 pm

    How about a book written by a woman?

  76. J. Anthony Carter says . . . | December 27, 2011 / 3:00 pm

    I concur with David… umm, up top!

  77. lnrdspns says . . . | December 27, 2011 / 4:04 pm

    As NdGT implies in a comment of his own, this is a list of books that shaped the Western world. Even if reductive, the list includes some of the most important works for that end, and that is because the WW was pretty much “formed” during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Thus, it is not surprising not to find books by women or the Koran (not because lacking merits). On the contrary, the inclusion of the Bible is dead on. After a cold and dispassionate analysis we have to accept that without the Bible our contemporary world would be very different (whatever that may be). Just to consider (not wanting to defend the Bible): What if Johann Sebastian Bach had not read the Bible? The development of the book’s apparatuses in the Late Middle Ages (footnotes, table of contents, indexes, etc.) is related with the study of the Bible and theological treatises. The book itself, as a reading technology, revolves around the Bible (think St. Jerome). With the exception of Sun Tsu, all of the authors on Tyson’s list have something to do with the Bible.

  78. Fred says . . . | December 28, 2011 / 9:47 am

    I don’t know how someone can call themselves a christian if they haven’t read the bible cover to cover.

    I don’t know how someone that has read the bible cover to cover can still be a christian.

  79. Chris says . . . | December 29, 2011 / 1:58 pm

    I’m truly amazed by how many people missed the point of this list and especially the point of the one-liner comments for each. Especially after the trouble was went to to clarify it.

    The books are listed not as simply some”best of” list, but the top FREE books that influenced our present society (at least the Western part of it).

    The comments are NOT about the meaning of or a judgement of what the value or accuracy of the book is, but what lesson past society took away from it. Hence what effective impact it has had in creating our present world. Regardless of if that agrees with the intended or actual meaning of the text!

    For example, it doesn’t matter that The Prince was satirical, because the message that society took away from it was serious and basically precisely what was said in the comment.

  80. leonarda da da says . . . | December 31, 2011 / 3:06 pm

    the world beyond pluto by stephen marlow
    http://www.manybooks.net/titles/marlowes3282032820.html

  81. Alison says . . . | December 31, 2011 / 6:22 pm

    The only one I’ve managed to read was The Prince, but I read it in Italian so I hope I get extra credit.

    I’ve tried to read the Bible. I bogged down somewhere in the Old Testament. My take-away observations were that (1) it’s no wonder the New Testament is so popular – the old Testament is a story badly in need of a main character and (2) It is a really hard read and most of the people who talk about what the Bible says cannot possibly have read it. Perhaps that’s what he means by realizing it’s easier to believe what you’re told than decide for yourself.

    I’ve tried to read Origin of Species, I know I should read it, but I agree with whoever said it was boring. I’ll keep trying though.

    I do think there is something missing – there should be at least one book from which the reader could learn of the potential for goodness and joy in human creativity. We are not all bad. We have Harry Potter.

  82. Dwayne Litzenberger says . . . | January 1, 2012 / 9:39 am

    “Or you can always download a professionally-narrated book for free from Audible.com”

    No, you can’t “always” do that. Audible.com only works if you’re running Windows or Mac and you don’t mind DRM.

    It’s really bizarre for an “open culture” site to be promoting a platform-locked DRM-only service.

  83. Alan D. James says . . . | January 1, 2012 / 2:58 pm

    I concur with the remarks of Tyson. If you want to understand humanity, warts and all, you have to be a cynic.

    The beauty of being a cynic is that one has more “eureka” moments. There are also those wonderful moments when intrinsic human goodness shine through an individual act, and which make you doubt your cynicism.

  84. xz says . . . | January 1, 2012 / 10:00 pm

    the lord of the rings
    to learn one does not simply walk into mordor

  85. Jay says . . . | January 3, 2012 / 6:08 am

    I think it’s safe to say that this list is presented with tongue planted firmly in cheek, at least I hope it is. I did a big “waaaah!?” when I read the sentence about the Bible but I think he’s saying that this is what people/political leaders/monarchs/etc have used the Bible for throughout history. I was raised to think for myself where religion is concerned and to always be questioning. I would hope a sane, rational man, which I assume he is, wouldn’t take this stance where the Bible is concerned but, as we all known, stranger things have happened and normally rational humans have irrational thoughts where religion is concerned.

  86. Matthew says . . . | January 3, 2012 / 7:40 am

    You can’t have any realistic understanding of the Western tradition without reading Plato.

  87. sb says . . . | January 3, 2012 / 10:09 am

    I’m not an “LOL” using kind of guy, but I literally laughed aloud, alone in my apartment when I read the quote, “To answer your question, the Bible is the only religious text on the list b/c the Christian Bible is commonly accepted throughout the world to be the one true holy text.”
    Hilarious. Thank you, whoever you are, you ridiculous person.

  88. Ammad Khokar says . . . | January 3, 2012 / 4:32 pm

    Despite great intentions, people feel the need to challenge points aside from the overall message of the post and attempt to tear it apart. Read or read about the books. Perhaps they will help you shed this unhealthy desire to defend what isn’t attacked and destroy all that you feel opposes your view. I appreciate the recommendations; all very good reads for insight into our human nature and the world we inhabit.

  89. The Marching Morons says . . . | January 5, 2012 / 3:34 am

    Bible and Intelligent Person are mutually exclusive. Skip.

  90. jay says . . . | January 5, 2012 / 9:16 am

    The Bible “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.” Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hmmm, wouldn’t that also apply to the Koran, the Vedas, and the Talmud, or does Dr. Tyson find the Bible uniquely flawed?

  91. Tyler Jarvis says . . . | January 6, 2012 / 8:53 pm

    First: Machiavelli’s “The Prince” was meant as satire, or so it seems, at least, after reading anything else by him.

    Second: Various commentators have said things along the lines of “Intelligence and the Bible are mutually exclusive” I wish to call anyone who believes that an idiot. I know too many intelligent Christians, some being my friends, to let that go unchallenged. The bible shaped western culture. There is absolutely no way to dispute that. it is quite possible that the internet would not exist without its influence on the sciences and information technology. (What demand for a printing press would there have been without it? What else needed to be mass produced enough that it would have been cost effective?)

    Third: The art of war is a fascinating book, and as has been stated before me I’m sure, is not about how to kill people. It is about how to avoid killing people, or, at worst, to kill as few people as possible. Defeating the enemy without ever fighting him is the point, not slaughtering his soldiers.

    Fourth:Back to the bible; if you want to talk about it then read the damn thing. Know what you are talking about before opening your mouth, I beg you. Same goes for the Koran or any other religious or controversial text.

    Finally, and completely unrelated: Remember that in an infinite universe anything that can happen, will happen. So(assuming an infinite universe)there is a 100% chance that somewhere out there on some alien planet that for some reason looks exactly like our own, intelligent discourse reigns on the internet.

  92. Jim says . . . | January 8, 2012 / 2:03 pm

    uh, this was supposed to be a free book list. Why are so many people recommending books that cost money as alternatives? And what’s with the swearing? It really makes you sound ingnorant (not cool or hip or whatever). And professing your religion beliefs doesn’t add to the conversation, it simply exposes a bias (assuming you know what a bias is…).

  93. Evan says . . . | January 10, 2012 / 5:10 pm

    Not a bad list but the one-line summaries remind me of the same pre-digested crap I was served back when I was in school.

    “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

    Seriously? I can’t honestly believe you read the book (at least not past the title). It had little/nothing to do with actual killing. The Art of War represents the strengths of leveraging strategy, logistics, and the inherent weaknesses of the human psyche to break your opponent for the best possible result.

    “The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities…It is best to win without fighting.”

    I haven’t read the book in almost 10 years (and at the time I only read it as a personal curiosity) and I at least gathered that much.

    I see your ‘bullshit’ and raise you ‘BullShitMan’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lRIQGU2RRk.

  94. Samson says . . . | January 11, 2012 / 9:55 pm

    Like others, I disagree with his assertion of The Art of War. It seems like he didn’t read it or failed to grasp its thesis. Some of the principles in The Art of War are that war should be avoided until it is only resort left, that war should be fought so that it ends quickly, and that battles are best fought by causing the enemy to retreat and avoiding massive, head-on confrontations with enormous casualties. It has very little to do with raising the act of systematic murder to a form of art. If anything, much of the history of the western world was driven by a lack of understanding The Art of War.

  95. loldongs says . . . | January 12, 2012 / 1:45 am

    Wow, that list is terrible.

  96. Alan says . . . | January 12, 2012 / 7:04 am

    I find it shocking how many so-called ‘intelligent’ people refuse to even crack open a Bible to see what it is all about for themselves.

    You’d think they thought they’d maybe catch something.

    I think this list is actually good. I’ve read most of it, and I thought the ideas expressed therein were interesting. I’m not sure the commentators still understand Neil’s justification for the list, but it just goes to show that even among ‘intelligent’ people, there will always be blindness.

    And most people are definitely yahoos.

  97. dp says . . . | January 21, 2012 / 7:07 pm

    I think this list should be renamed: “8 Free Books that Every Intelligent Person will claim to have read but didn’t”

  98. Openshaw says . . . | January 23, 2012 / 4:14 am

    I love the Hayden Planetarium, but this guy needs to get out of there for a while. I could pick any other century out of a hat and give you eight books and a supercilious Cliff Notes synopsis without having to be an astrophysicist. Crap sakes.

  99. Unencumbered Freethinker says . . . | January 26, 2012 / 6:25 pm

    Wow! Reading the comments is almost as enlightening as the suggested books. Personally, I get what the article is about as do some who have left comments. The rest should re-read the article carefully and ‘THINK’ rather than react explosively to a single phrase or comment. Thanks for a great list.

  100. elvisberko says . . . | January 27, 2012 / 5:43 am

    please i want u to sand me books or story book.please send it ghana box number 292 koforidua earsten region ghana

  101. elvisberko says . . . | January 27, 2012 / 5:45 am

    please i need story books to read
    ghana koforidu 292 my box number .please call me on 0247644673.thanku

  102. Jan Fischer says . . . | January 30, 2012 / 2:21 pm

    Let’s see, . . . how many myths are there out there about the Bible? If you live in Western culture, you must read the Bible and understand that it has spiritual power to change people and culture for the better. It is the foundation of America’s view of government, the inherent worth of each person, our monetary system, our education, our philanthropy, scientific study, history, art and music—and you haven’t even read it? It contains the most beautiful prose and intriguing stories and stunning poetry imaginable. It is the basis of our moral code, or ethical code and our legal code. Even though it covers over 3,000 years of history and was written by numerous writers during that period, there is no serious contradiction in fact or in attitude or belief in the entire book. Think that was a coincidence? Think again! This book is written by a higher power; handle with care and read with a serious mind what it contains. Until you do, you cannot claim to be intelligent.

  103. gerdi says . . . | March 8, 2012 / 6:07 am

    “The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

    that would be hitlers no 1 on his list

  104. Liz says . . . | March 8, 2012 / 8:51 am

    Seriously…lighten up people! Free Speech is in our Constitution. This list is only his suggestions, covers a wide variety of subjects, and stays within the boundaries of FREE.

    He doesn’t say they are the ONLY books we should read on the particular subjects, or that we have to believe them.

    Think about this…would it do any HARM if we all read these books? Certainly not. It would give us more knowledge and information in order to better think for ourselves and make informed decisions. Reading ANYTHING is good…NOT reading keeps the mind closed.

  105. michael mumford says . . . | April 28, 2012 / 11:04 am

    How about Plato’s “Republic” or John Locke’s “Black Box”????

  106. Doc says . . . | April 28, 2012 / 11:05 am

    I’m with Aly and Liz….lighten up everyone. He doesn’t demand anyone read them, merely gives his opinion that these works influenced civilization. He doesn’t really even specify whether he means positively or negatively. He doesn’t say that there couldn’t be other books on the list…I can’t see anywhere where he says ‘these are the only books to read’. Everyone else is free to chime in with their thoughts and suggestions. No need to attack Neil and everyone else that doesn’t agree with you – ironic that doing so helps to prove some of the ideas contained in some of these books about how we treat each other and how we act :)
    I have read some of these, some of them I have not. Some I agree with, some I don’t. I did find the ones I have read interesting, at least in part though. As someone else mentioned, almost any reading is good.

  107. Tony Gallagher says . . . | April 28, 2012 / 11:14 am

    I agree with The Art of War, but disagree fervently with his summary of the book, which actually says the best victory is that won without a battle. That summary, and the other books on the list, make me doubt whether the man has actually read any of them.

  108. Rachel L. says . . . | April 28, 2012 / 11:43 am

    “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

    Yikes. It appeared that most of the folks who commented above did not see that statement.

  109. Guillermo Vall says . . . | April 29, 2012 / 9:45 am

    Havent read most of them :P I don’t think these are a balanced list for any intelligent person. It’s true that these books have in great part shaped the world, but just because of that I dont think they’ll give much new, it’s all in society. It’ll be definitielly interesting to see the stems of many of current ideas, specially those that are troublesome. However, I think it’s much more worthy and necessary to read the books that explain why those ideas are wrong and how could we improve on them. For example, I don’t think reading the Bibble will make you “learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself”, I think reading Isaac Asimov, for example, commenting on it would make thinks clearer. Anyway, maybe some day I’ll read them but only if I have time, which I think it’s quite unlikely, at the moment I am happy with the little comments NDT has given to us, they just tell everything we need.

  110. Guillermo Valle says . . . | April 29, 2012 / 9:45 am

    Havent read most of them :P I don’t think these are a balanced list for any intelligent person. It’s true that these books have in great part shaped the world, but just because of that I dont think they’ll give much new, it’s all in society. It’ll be definitielly interesting to see the stems of many of current ideas, specially those that are troublesome. However, I think it’s much more worthy and necessary to read the books that explain why those ideas are wrong and how could we improve on them. For example, I don’t think reading the Bibble will make you “learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself”, I think reading Isaac Asimov, for example, commenting on it would make thinks clearer. Anyway, maybe some day I’ll read them but only if I have time, which I think it’s quite unlikely, at the moment I am happy with the little comments NDT has given to us, they just tell everything we need.

  111. Mike says . . . | April 29, 2012 / 1:51 pm

    1) “The Best That Money Can’t Buy”

  112. Joshua says . . . | May 9, 2012 / 5:06 pm

    I would love to pick at Neil’s brain and have him unpack that statement about his comment “…it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else.” I find it to be a very loaded statement. Just to have that dialogue, even if we walk away disagreeing, would be a very enjoyable experience.

  113. ecoglobe says . . . | May 12, 2012 / 5:53 am

    Seems a pretty outdated list. My most important book is “Overshoot” by Willaim R Catton Junior, especially chapter 11

  114. Bathabile says . . . | May 29, 2012 / 3:03 pm

    I am happy to take this list of books for precisely what Dr. Tyson says it is: “[A] profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

    Note the qualifiers “MOST” and “Western World”.

    I scratch my head when, after Dr. Tyson has been so clear about the list’s specific limitations, folks critique the list for all kinds of other attributes. That one respondent wrote of having read six of the eight books in high school so validates what Dr. Tyson has said about the list. In certain places, these books are widely considered to be constituent elements of one’s formative education.

    Read these books to know who you are as a denizen of the Western world, recognizing that there are other earthbound “worlds” out there that see things differently and refer to a different critical mass of thought. This is beautiful.

  115. Duncan says . . . | June 10, 2012 / 8:43 pm

    I am wholly with Bathabile on this. I cannot help, however, but declare my ROFLMAO attitude toward the majority of respondents here.
    A shame that more individuals will not read and think as opposed to yabber and stink.
    Congratulations, Dr Tyson. You have delivered a sound fundamental reading list to any who propose to understand more about our current civilisation than the popular press would have us believe.
    Arohanui, Duncan

  116. Zach says . . . | June 14, 2012 / 12:48 pm

    I agree completely with Bathabile and Duncan.

    It’s a list of books to be read, not agreed with. I can read the Bible, be enchanted by its poetry, and saddened by its intolerance. I don’t have to like it overall to know that it’s an important and influential work that has and will continue to shape the world in which I live.

  117. John says . . . | June 20, 2012 / 10:30 am

    Wow… the vast majority of you comment makers have obviously never read the Bible nor do you understand what you are reading despite the fact that 80% of it is one syllable words.

    Most laughable are you people who call yourselves “free thinkers”. Yeah right! Your behavior, thoughts and actions, have been scripted into your dna so thoroughly that a simple con on the phone could have you believing they know everything about you.

    You could point to 1,000,000 books to show what has influenced the development of the entire world: Lust – for power, for wealth, for life.

    Best of all: supposed morals without a higher authority of any kind as author and guide.

    Apparently Dr Tyson is your guide now.

    There has never been an objective being. Knowing this, the rest is known.

  118. Mike says . . . | June 20, 2012 / 6:07 pm

    You know we receive an education in the schools from books. All those books that people became educated from twenty-five years ago, are wrong now, and those that are good now, will be wrong again twenty-five years from now. So if they are wrong then, they are also wrong now, and the one who is educated from the wrong books is not educated, he is misled. All books that are written are wrong, the one who is not educated cannot write a book and the one who is educated, is really not educated but he is misled and the one who is misled cannot write a book which is correct.

    The misleading began when our distant ancestors began to teach their descendants. You know they knew nothing but they passed their knowledge of nothing to the coming generations and it went so innocently that nobody noticed it. That is why we are not educated.

    Now I will tell you what education is according to my reasoning. An educated person is one whose senses are refined. We are born as brutes, we remain and die as the same if we do not become polished. But all senses do not take polish. Some are to coarse to take it. The main base of education is one’s “self-respect”. Any one lacking self-respect cannot be educated. The main bases of self-respect is the willingness to learn, to do only the things that are good and right, to believe only in the things that can be proved, to possess appreciation and self control.

    Now, if you lack willingness to learn, you will remain as a brute and if you do things that are not good and right, you will be a low person, and if you believe in things that cannot be proved, any feeble minded person can lead you, and if you lack appreciation, it takes away the incentive for good doing and if you lack self control you will never know the limit.

    So all those lacking these characteristics in their makeup are not educated.

  119. Muspsycho says . . . | June 21, 2012 / 12:03 am

    I stopped reading after the first one said “the Bible”…

  120. guntergrass says . . . | June 21, 2012 / 6:01 am

    Tyson has always been a pompous little twit, never done any original work, just living off the accomplishments of his betters. The afirmative action scientist. His existence proves the failure of Liberal big government.

  121. Levi says . . . | June 23, 2012 / 3:15 pm

    “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”

    “The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world.”

    Fairly straightforward statements. No need to take them out of context.

  122. Ulaan says . . . | June 23, 2012 / 5:28 pm

    guntergrass is, and has always been, a pompous little twit, never done any original work, and lives entirely off of the accomplishments of his betters. He succeeds, in his limited way, by belittling and denigrating others and inflating himself. His existence demonstrates the failure of contraception and his opinion proves that small, infertile minds are incapable of producing anything but an intellectual skunk cabbage–bigoted, arrogant, and stinky.

  123. Andrew says . . . | July 11, 2012 / 11:27 am

    Isn’t it a little redundant, telling people to read books that ‘should be read’, when you state “It’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

  124. Richard Ray says . . . | July 13, 2012 / 11:23 am

    The racist and ignorant comment by guntergrass should really be removed by the webmaster. It’s amazing what spiteful malice can be written by anonymous commenters. Too bad the commenter hasn’t the courage to put his real name and address here just in case, you know, he ever tries to get a real job in the civilized world.

    To rebut one of his malignant points, just in case others may be unaware… Tyson is the author of a number of highly cited scientific works. Among them I’ll list here just one of his early ones: “Bursting Dwarf Galaxies: Implications for Luminosity Function, Space Density, and Cosmological Mass Density”, in the Astrophysical Journal, volume 329, June 1988.

  125. Amanda says . . . | July 14, 2012 / 5:03 pm

    you guys are idiots, especially Andy and David and whoever else agreed with them?! you guys totally missed the whole point of this list!!!! the sentence after each book is OBVIOUSLY not a “one sentence summary” of the books!! ughh. get out of here…

  126. Haseg says . . . | July 28, 2012 / 11:47 pm

    I want to give Tyson the benefit of the doubt and say that he was being sarcastic about his summaries.

  127. Lawless says . . . | July 30, 2012 / 3:23 am

    OMG, the suggestion that an INTELLIGENT person ought to read the Bible is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.

  128. 7LeagueBoots says . . . | August 16, 2012 / 4:49 am

    Wow, so many haters on here and so many people completely missing the point of why these books are suggested.

    One of the key ones in indeed the Bible. No matter if you believe in it or not, a large portion of the US population and a lot of the rest of the world population believes in it and you will never have any real insight into the way those people think unless you read the things they get many of their ideas from. It’s similar to the creationists not ever bothering to read anything about evolution and thus not having any way to understand it.

    As for the comments about the brief summaries of the books, for the most part the summaries are pretty accurate in that they reflect how people have applied the ideas within the pages of those books. In that context the descriptions make sense.

  129. Eileen says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 11:39 am

    NDT, do you ever get frustrated being surrounded by idiots?

  130. Dan Colman says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 11:56 am

    Hey, Just curious, can you tell me which Facebook page promoted our post today?

    Thanks,
    Dan

  131. Nika says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 12:11 pm

    A good list, but I think it is time to consider that there have been many books just as important to human thought which were written by women. Too many male atheists and male scientists overlook contributions made by women because it is outside of their own personal experiences.

  132. David Clothier says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 12:31 pm

    Wow. Religious folk sure are the sensitive type, eh? The truth sometimes hurts. You go Niel! Although I have only read 5 out of the list you gave, I still get your point. I would add to the list “Why People Believe Weird Things” by Michael Shermer.

    Aloha!

  133. David Clothier says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 12:35 pm

    I apologize for mis-spelling your name… I have trouble with words like “thier” “beleive” recieve” too.

  134. kyle says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 1:33 pm

    I love reading the sensitive bible defender’s comments, you are all making Neil’s point. You can make a logical argument about a creator but a personal god of the bible, really? Grow up already, no god anywhere cares about you. Your awesome Neil, thanks for all that you do!

  135. Kyle says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 1:39 pm

    Hey Dan, it was Global Secular Humanist on FB

  136. Brianna says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 1:48 pm

    “The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else.”

    I love how people are still skipping this comment and just going in to their self-righteous arguments against this list of books.

  137. Naisy says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 1:50 pm

    David,

    …if you think the bible is full of moral stories,

    …you haven’t read the entire bible.

    It’s disgusting.

  138. J-Dub says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 2:01 pm

    Important books, yes, but odd reads to recommend. I’m guessing he purposely named books freely available in the public domain.

    If commercially available books are allowed, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (illustrated edition) makes sense of some very esoteric principles of physics and quantum mechanics. It goes on to discuss the implications for mankind. A truly insightful read for someone who’s into cosmology or theoretical physics, or for someone doubting religion and seeking scientific explanations for the big questions of the universe.

  139. Dan Colman says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 2:05 pm

    Thanks Kyle!
    Cheers,
    Dan

  140. Aly says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 3:47 pm

    oh lawd oh lawd he done mentioned the bible… bring on the thumpers and the fundies to march 10,000 strong against the vicious attack on christianity. (don’t worry about the rest, they don’t even read the bible, much less anything else.)
    the atheist pages on facebook keep posting this list, dredging up spiteful masses. I wonder if NDT even reads it anymore. seems like a hateful waste of time, for the most part.
    anyone else notice that every time someone makes some stupid racist trash remark, they can’t spell, they aren’t familiar with basic grammar beyond an 8th grade level, and they just seem all around uneducated? isn’t that ODD?
    ,—–.
    ,’ `.
    : TARDS :
    : ALERT :
    ‘. ! ,’
    `._____,’
    ||
    _,”–. _____
    (/ __ `._|
    ((_/_)\ |
    (____)`.___|
    (___)____.|_____
    || SSt
    _\||/_

  141. Aniee Sarkissian says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 6:06 pm

    It says 8 books that you should read, not the ONLY 8 books you should ever read. People need to stay calm and just keep reading all scholarly material they can get their hands on. Also, get rid of your TV and watch your reading speed increase!

  142. A. Jones says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 7:27 pm

    Dan, I came here from post by FB page “Global Secular Humanist Movement”. I really like NDT’s comments about each book.

  143. Chris says . . . | August 21, 2012 / 9:09 pm

    Dan, “Astrology is Stupid” also promoted this.

  144. Don says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 2:19 am

    Is there no way to delete unintelligent remarks from a story told to intelligent beings? I know all comments would be gone, but then, who would be disadvantaged?

  145. WT Hesson says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 4:19 am

    Mostly I like this because I didn’t know about LibriVox. I don’t agree with the selections – many of them are dull and badly written, there are simply better works even in the same fields. However, it is an interesting list: particularly in that there is nothing pubished past what 1860?

  146. Liz says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 6:50 am

    Have read every one of them…but do not see why the science fiction fanatsy book “the Bible” is listed. it is not a book of fact, most of it are fallacies..and a man’s interpretation of a God. When we stop believing in talking snakes and other fantasies…then true enlightenment can begin.

  147. Matt says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 9:27 am

    Dear Andy,
    I believe it’s one sentence that describes what he thinks is important to walk away with. Not a summary. So Andy, stfu.

  148. Kevin says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 10:03 am

    ‘The one-line comment after each book is not a review but a statement about how the book’s content influenced the behavior of people who shaped the western world. So, for example, it does no good to say what the Bible “really” meant, if its actual influence on human behavior is something else.’ – NDT

    And that ‘influenced behavior’ is on full display by so many commenting here who reacted without understanding the context. NDT nails it (again).

  149. Kay Storms says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 7:00 pm

    I think reading in general is good, but I know a lot of people who’ve read every one of these books…so what? Most of those books have historical significance but push really outdated and skewed world views. Why give them forum over many much better books? Why are these books “intelligent” people should read? Do they make intelligent people more intelligent? If Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to give me a book list on cosmology or aerospace…I would take his expertise in those fields into consideration…but otherwise, why should I adopt his reading preferences?

  150. Natalie says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 7:59 pm

    I have read all but one. And I agree! Excellent list. :)

  151. Seven Dalai Lamas says . . . | August 22, 2012 / 9:01 pm

    At this point, I’m wondering which would take more time.

    Read all 8 books on the list

    Read all the comments on this thread

  152. J Crowley says . . . | August 26, 2012 / 8:14 am

    Wow, never have I seen something so simple and non-polemic upset so many people in so many different ways. I feel like all of you are reading WAY too much into this, and the fact that so many of you with so many conflicting perspectives are so enraged is a good indication that you’re all doing quite a lot of projecting, and making wild assumptions about Mr. Tyson’s intentions.

    An aside:

    As far as the Bible is concerned, for whatever it’s worth: The fact that it contradicts itself in numerous places (see, for instance, where it describes that Judas died by hanging himself in one place, and died by jumping off a ledge in another place) casts doubt on its having been penned by an omnipotent and presumably infallible author.

    And surely, an omnipotent/omniscient being would have the foresight not to give instructions in the Old Testament that would later only end up getting corrected and redacted in the New Testament. When he said nobody should eat pork or wear mixed-fiber clothing, did he just get it wrong the first time?

  153. Ben says . . . | September 3, 2012 / 10:54 am

    I have to say, I love that the Bible is on the list. I often meet intelligent people who were raised in athiest households who really don’t know anything but the very basics when it comes to religion. And considering that Christianity is a massive influence on western society, it seems silly that they are ignorant about it.

  154. jatix says . . . | September 3, 2012 / 12:46 pm

    That is exactly how the bible should be taken. There is no argument against it. Any who try only prove it right…thank you and have a wonderful day.

  155. richard says . . . | September 8, 2012 / 6:03 am

    What a list of unread books. If he has read all these I’m a banana.

  156. David Rothwell says . . . | September 30, 2012 / 3:40 pm

    Am very surprised this list shows very little intelligence in the way of arts, especially since the topic is about books that should be read.

    Where is Shakespeare; Dickens; Freud? No mention at all.

    Very poor choice of reading, albeit one that would entertain am sure would be Isaac Newton, but to be honest all you could learn is what you already know by throwing an object in the air.

  157. William Freeman says . . . | October 6, 2012 / 1:53 pm

    Probably the most boring least enlightening set of books I’ve seen. No doubt that there is information contained within all these books, but the books themselves are so boring, that they would put people to sleep before the learned anything. There are many better books which could easily teach these things and more. Chaucer? Shakespeare? Jung? This list is more likely to bore to death than teach.

  158. Mark says . . . | October 9, 2012 / 3:56 pm

    This is the list of books you should read if you want to understand how brainwashing works.

  159. SAJ says . . . | October 16, 2012 / 9:34 am

    THE PERFECT BOOK FOR THE INTELLIGENT PERSON IS THE HOLY QURAN AND HADITH BOOKS LIKE SAHIH AL BUKHARI

  160. Todd Packer says . . . | October 19, 2012 / 5:39 pm

    I agree with Andy’s assessment – if we can infer anything from this list, it’s this: Mr. Tyson betrays a shallow understanding of many of these works.

    I would be willing to guess that the common theme running through his summaries gives us some insight into his world view; a crusading materialist. As a self-professing atheist myself, I find these types to be tiresome.

  161. Susan W. says . . . | October 23, 2012 / 8:02 am

    I agree with David Rothwell. And not one woman in the bunch. Middlemarch? Emma?

  162. Dan Bonser says . . . | October 30, 2012 / 5:22 am

    In the end, all great books to read, and see through the innuendo to glean insight from what people wrote the books for. As far as the Bible one, it is one everyone should read, so you an get your own insights from it, and know for yourself what they are talking about when people misquote it for their own purposes.

  163. mixmag-greatest.com says . . . | November 2, 2012 / 2:56 pm

    Incrеdible quest there. What оccurred after?
    Gοod luck!

  164. komiska says . . . | November 3, 2012 / 11:59 am

    “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.” ???

    Give me a break

  165. Victor says . . . | November 3, 2012 / 12:51 pm

    Given the idiotic summaries, I bet he hasn’t read most of these books himself.

  166. Julie F. Kadas says . . . | November 3, 2012 / 4:12 pm

    There is no god and there is no gravity…the world and universe function without either being proved (or disproved) – impossible to prove a thing in the negative, I am aware. Yep, I’m a quack if that’s what you need to move forward from this statement. Peace and good discussion to all.

  167. emir says . . . | November 3, 2012 / 8:22 pm

    A brief history of time should be in the list

  168. toot says . . . | November 4, 2012 / 8:56 am

    Chaucer? Shakespeare? Absolutely!
    Jung? meh…
    Masquerading as a scientist, Jung was little more than a closeted Chrstian always trying to sneak the god -figure in through the back door.

    SAJ
    I use the pages of both the Bible and Quran as convenient, disposable door mats.

  169. Erdman West says . . . | November 7, 2012 / 7:05 am

    Neil is an excellent human and well worth following!

  170. Tyler Janzen says . . . | November 12, 2012 / 7:18 pm

    I don’t think there is any purpose in disagreeing with NDT’s list here. Notice that he does not say these are the “ONLY 8 books” that every intelligent person should read. He does, on the other hand, put books on this list that are FREE!!!

    His single sentence summaries serve succinctly his own opinions which are to be valued as the opinions of someone else. Find your own opinions if you want to have a conversation.

  171. baffled says . . . | November 12, 2012 / 7:30 pm

    I think it’s hilarious that people are putting up “better books” by recommending books that aren’t free. Academia considers some books staples of education and intellect because they are still popular despite being over 100 years old. Bothering to recommend a book written 10 years ago is pointless… because after another 100 years passes, will people have even heard of the books our commenters recommend? I guess I’ll check back when I’m 130.

  172. justin wilshire says . . . | November 24, 2012 / 6:44 am

    My list would look like this:

    1.Animal Farm – George Orwell to understand history
    2. Siddhartha – Herman Hesse -to understand yourself
    3.The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (any part will do) – language
    4. On Dialogue -David Bohm – relationship
    5. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – the future and its challenges
    6. Women Who Run with the Wolves – Dr. Estes – the past and the collective consciousness
    7. Education and the Significance of Life – Jiddu Krishnamurti – what is learning
    8. Smiley’s People – John LeCarre – real politics beneath the b.s.

  173. money says . . . | November 27, 2012 / 3:39 pm

    Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers
    and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done
    a outstanding job!
    money

  174. Ma Chuang Wang says . . . | November 28, 2012 / 11:01 am

    Western world? Who cares. The “western world” has gotten us into the mess we are currently in. It is also in the process of disintegrating.

    I’d recommend Confucius, Lao Tze, and Buddhist Sutras for the real answers to universal issues. The west has failed.

  175. Joe says . . . | November 28, 2012 / 1:15 pm

    It’s disturbing the amount of athiest-ic echoed jingles saying “It’s a book of rape and genocide;” which really says no one has bothered to read the bible and study it and only listened to what some stiff-necked miserable atheist had to say. (whom only takes things out of historical and cultural context.)

    1)
    [[[If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he
    must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.
    Deuteronomy 22:28-29.]]]

    “As much as any feminist today must shiver with the mere thought of a woman being sold to her rapist, this is not what it was seen as in those days, at all. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 describes a law suit where the cause of action is not so much the violation itself but the consequences it bears on the victim’s future. Namely, the financial loss she could be expected to suffer by not being able to start a family for her own support. The court rule is an attempt to make the violator pay damage repair by forcing him into a marriage and (most importantly) denying him the right to divorce, which he normally would have had (Deut. 24:1-2). In other words: what we see as adding insult to injury today was actually putting the woman in a very strong legal position back then. She became financially secured in a way she could not have archived by a regular marriage.”
    http://www.onyxbits.de/content/atheist-dont-make-insanely-stupid-argument

    2) In Deuteronomy 21, a r3belious son is stoned to death.

    “An understanding of the full meaning of this passage must revolve around two teachings of the Sages: (a) The death penalty imposed on this youngster is not because of the gravity of any sins he actually performed, but because his behavior makes it clear that he will degenerate into a monstrous human being….(b) So many detailed requirements are derived exegetically from this passage that it is virtually impossible for such a case ever to occur. Indeed, the Sages state that there never was and never will be a capital case involving such a son. If so, many commentators contend, the passage must be understood as an implied primer for parents on how to inculcate values into their children.” (Stone Edition of the Chumash, p. 1047).

    3) [[[When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets: Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her. Deuteronomy 25:11-12]]]

    “You shall cut off her hand: [This verse is not to be understood literally, but rather, it means:] She must pay monetary damages to recompense the victim for the embarrassment he suffered [through her action. The amount she must pay is calculated by the court,] all according to the [social status] of the culprit and the victim (see B.K. 83b). But perhaps [it means that we must actually cut off] her very hand? [The answer is born out from a transmission handed down to our Rabbis, as follows:] Here, it says לֹא תָחוֹס,“do not have pity,” and later, in the case of conspiring witnesses (Deut. 19:21), the same expression, לֹא תָחוֹס, is used. [And our Rabbis taught that these verses have a contextual connection:] Just as there, in the case of the conspiring witnesses, [the literal expressions in the verse refer to] monetary compensation (see Rashi on that verse), so too, here, [the expression “You must cut off her hand” refers to] monetary compensation. — [Sifrei 25:161]”

    Do we call those who follow “an eye for eye; tooth for a tooth evil” for ripping out another’s eye?

    There are so many things taken out of context, such as biblical slavery which was not the same context as the African American slaves 200-some years ago. Which those who were “slaves” biblical chose to be owned. It was to pay off debt, and once it was payed the slave would be set free. Bible “slaves” could own property. Slaves could also *choose* to stay as slaves if they loved their owner. Biblical slavery was for protection of the poor.

  176. Joe says . . . | November 28, 2012 / 1:17 pm

    (were “slaves” biblically* chose)

  177. Tammy says . . . | January 10, 2013 / 8:16 pm

    I cannot believe the ignorance in the comments left on this page. I took NDT’s suggestions as a provision of examples that would expand our consideration of individuality, add to our experiences the perceptions of others and to encourage self-introspection to heighten our awareness and therefore encourage us in HOW to think and not just WHAT to think (NDT) (paraphrasing) …”The Books every “INTELLIGENT” person should read”

  178. casey says . . . | January 20, 2013 / 11:03 pm

    interesting except for #1. There is zero reason to read the Bible. I don’t need fictional morality tales to tell me what’s right and what’s wrong.

  179. Silverback says . . . | January 20, 2013 / 11:47 pm

    The level of butthurt in this thread is staggering.

  180. Ashleigh Yaya says . . . | January 21, 2013 / 9:03 am

    Everyone is different.

  181. Beaugrand says . . . | January 22, 2013 / 12:19 pm

    It’s a good list, as far as it goes, but far from complete. An expanded list would hopefully include Plato and Plutarch, Descartes, perhaps some poetry and some classic fiction. I’d include Shakespeare’s plays and a good bit of Mark Twain (and not just his fiction, either).

    A well-rounded education needs to include a good bit of history, and not just European/North American history; H.G. Wells’ Outline of History was a good read for me, especially the 1946 edition edited by Raymond Postgate; it’s a bit dated now, but I haven’t found a comprehensive, readable replacement.

    We have unprecedented access to free information in the form of e-books and videos via Internet. Self-education has never been so easily obtainable. The ignorance and intolerance of some of the comments are as appalling as they are inexcusable.

  182. leslie says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 6:42 am

    Mr. Tyson, I just wanted to assure you that despite the many comments above from people somehow completely missing your point regarding the summaries of each book that my husband and I understood the first time. Sorry you ended up having to spell it out for people. There is hope! We are huge fans, keep on, keepin’ on my friend.

  183. Valerie says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 7:53 am

    All of you claiming that this book or that book shouldn’t be on the list, think about this: If you don’t read it how can you effectively argue against it? If you don’t know what it says then you cannot contradict those that do know. I have effectively argued with fundamentalists because I know the Bible better than they do. Make no mistake there are those out there that use these 8 books to further their agenda everyday and the intelligent people need to use them as well.

  184. Tracy Edwards. says . . . | January 23, 2013 / 7:27 pm

    This list is a terribly skewed representation of “the West”: there are nonwhite, non male Western thinkers and writers of cultural and scientific import. (By the by? _The Art of War_ isn’t Properly “Western”.) Unless your tongue is planted firmly I would kindly suggest you broaden your list for accuracy.

    Otherwise, this is an excellent site.

    Best wishes,
    Tracy E

  185. Graham Thomas says . . . | January 30, 2013 / 9:25 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I read such complete garbage! The worst article ever!!!

  186. Kyle says . . . | March 4, 2013 / 8:25 pm

    Dr. Tyson, I think we all know by now from your statements that you hate Christians, but I assume and hope you know that the Bible in its entirety isn’t just a Christian creation – the Old Testament was the Jewish Bible first, and Biblical figures are also referred to in the Quaran. However, I doubt if we will see you criticize Jews or Muslims as directly as you do Christians, to do so wouldn’t be politically correct in this age and time. This response is from a Christian who admires your mentor, Dr. Carl Sagan, but you sir, are not Carl Sagan. Dr. Sagan stayed above belittling others for their religious beliefs. Ironically, by implying that Christians can’t think for themselves, you are stereotyping those who don’t hold the same beliefs as you. Maybe your aren’t really the critical thinker you *believe* yourself to be.

  187. Kyle says . . . | March 4, 2013 / 8:28 pm

    Dr. Tyson…Maybe *you* aren’t really the critical thinker you *believe* yourself to be.

  188. Arbër says . . . | March 6, 2013 / 12:14 am

    how about some Krishnamurti? Just an idea and a honest suggestion though, you don’t need to kill me for that…
    http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Ebooks/Jiddu-Krishnamurti-Books/JKrishnamurti_Education_and_the_Significance_of_life.pdf

  189. bobby digital says . . . | March 17, 2013 / 2:19 am

    the Quran in english is the greatest book of them all and it this holy scripture contains 0 errors and 0 contradictions, it states the word days 365 times the word months 12 times muhammad only 4 times jesus 25 times adam 25 times and there is a verse saying that jesus in the site of God is the same as adam but when it says something is not like something it will be off by one. I GUARNTEE YOU MOST OF YOU HAVE ONLY READ BITS AND PIECES OF IT AND HAVE NEVER READ IT ENTIRELY AND IT SHOULD BE #1 ON THIS LIST BECAUSE OF IT’S PERFECTION AND BECAUSE ALMOST NOONE IN THE WESTERN WORLD WOULD EVER BE OPEN MINDED ENOUGH TO SEE WHAT’S IN IT DUE TO TELEVISION AND STEREOTYPES.

  190. Lubomir says . . . | March 29, 2013 / 9:46 am

    and where is the best one – Catch 22 ?

  191. Fyreshard says . . . | March 31, 2013 / 1:31 pm

    For some reason i feel as if a majority of the comments here are rather defensive and close-minded; and to be quite honest, they bore me. I’ve read a few of the books here and can see where the Author of this post could draw his conclusions stating these literary works shaped the accepted social ideas of the western world. Hence, shaping how we act as a society. BUT KEEP IN MIND people; as soon as you turn the subject into wrong vs. right, you’ve already mucked up the entire situation. try to look at things objectively and entertain others ideas; before simply disregarding what another perceives. After all, your 5 senses only allow you to be aware of so much. Therefore, you truly know so little. just a thought.

  192. Doctir Allen Drinkswater VIII says . . . | April 1, 2013 / 2:20 pm

    Dan with the list that tried to grow into a monster. Ha. I liked the list of books that should be read. He should now add “10 more books that should be read, 10 great novels that should be read, and 10 science fiction books that should be read.” I like his presentations simply because he does NOT seem to take himself too seriously and instead thinks about things until he can better understand them. I like this idea!

  193. Juan says . . . | April 12, 2013 / 12:47 am

    If you’re intelligent enough to know the mening of this word, then you might be intelligent enough to know that know body can define how intelligent you are or you’re goning to be by reading this books or not… He might be really smart, but this is just a “top 8 of his favourite common books”…

  194. TeacherSays says . . . | May 24, 2013 / 1:10 pm

    I remember the best advice I received from just about every mentor I’ve had. Heed this: Think before you speak.

  195. Greg Laden says . . . | June 30, 2013 / 12:01 pm

    Recommending “The Bible” is never a good idea. For one thing, there are functionally two of them (old and new) and they are vastly different. Suggesting both is just too much.

    For another thing, the Bible(s) is/are internally infuriatingly redundant. Entire sections are copied over. And, the different sections that are not redundant have vastly different things going on.

    I think it is better to suggest a handful of specific “books”/etc from the old, or the old and new, testaments. Within that, I’d further suggest trimming off some glop. For instance, the first but not second half of Genesis, then Deuteronomy OR numbers, then a glance at Leviticus should do it if for the OT, then one of the gospels for the NT (I don’t care which one).

  196. kathleen says . . . | June 30, 2013 / 2:21 pm

    For those who disregard The Holy Bible, I propose, you have either never read it, or read it with an already closed heart. The battle between human emotion and human rationality is fully explored within the pages of His esteemed book…the dark depths of the soul, and the pull of the light (at times with and at times without rationality). Darkness of spirit loses in the end. I also foreward that if you are a kind, thoughtful, loving soul who cares for others, somewhere down the path, if you, yourself, didn’t explore the Judeo-based religions, you were guided by someone, somewhere in your ancestry who did. I am not talking about religious dogma. The Bible, I believe wasn’t meant to be explored as a set of hard rules for the masses, such as your curls need to be so long, or no fish on Friday, or wear a head-covering in Temple or Church. The reason parts of The Bible are written as mysteries, I believe is because each person will find his or her place with personal exploration and this exploration will take him or her where she or he needs to be. Is there darkness in The Bible? Of course there is. How could it be a reflection of human existance and experience without it? How could a person explore his inner world without acknowledging that there can be or is a dark shadow in the human spirit? I am not defending The Holy Bible. It needs no defense from any human being. The above is only what I believe, and there is no incentive for anyone to believe as I do. You come to His word or you don’t. That’s how it works, and it’s all ok. As long as you find that you love your neighbor as you love yourself, do unto others as you would have others do unto you (Biblical) it isn’t important how you got there, now is it?

  197. ignatz says . . . | June 30, 2013 / 6:43 pm

    Shakespeare? Who the fuck needs Shakespeare?

  198. jonathan says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 1:25 am

    Tyson is a media figure (read: shill) – NOT that bright a guy in my humble opinion. Anything BUT a real ‘scientist’. or free thinker..

  199. kwbarrett says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 5:15 am

    You only have to read 14 of 66 books to follow the chronological narrative of the bible. I’ll list the ones I remember: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Samuel 1 & 2, Kings 1& 2, One book from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, An epistle of paul, probably Corinthians and Revelations. I’m missing three books but if you start with these you’ll have a pretty good Idea of the sequence of events. Then you can deal with all the judges and their personal stories and takes on things.
    BTW, I’m a strong agnostic.

  200. Zante says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 6:37 am

    I am amazed that the simple listing of eight books that Tyson believes are beneficial to those who have the intelligence to be able to read and comprehend them would be the cause for such vitriol among intelligent people. He did not say it was a list of the only eight books one should read; he merely said that these should be included in the reading repertoire of intelligent persons. I see it as no more arrogant that if I, as an English professor, were to make a list of ten novels that all Americans should read. Of course my list would be subjective; any list of this sort is subjective.

  201. Cal Thompson says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 6:48 am

    Reviewing the comments, it seems that many are evaluating the content of the books and their personal take on the value/validity of these books. I believe the purpose here was to call attention to books and authors that have had a major impact on our society and our values. Understanding how we arrived where we are is completely separate from debating the value, or content of the books.

  202. Jack says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 10:34 am

    The only thing that has kept science back has been (organized) religion. Once religion has been eradicated, the human species will rise above such dark aged nonsense and actually get on with creating a better world.

  203. Rich Holmes says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    Don’t take it personally Neil. Even here most people are to stupid to understand your list or the reasoning behind it. This is the ugly truth in an undereducated Nation.

  204. Karl says . . . | July 1, 2013 / 12:36 pm

    Rich made the perfect synopsis, i’m surprised by the quantity of religious fanatic comments i saw in here, there is still a LOT of work to do in education but i think ignorant people will always exist (by choice for themselves)

  205. Britney says . . . | July 26, 2013 / 11:35 am

    I like how all of these comments are disagreeing with his ‘summaries’, even though he already said that they aren’t summaries but how they affected the western world.

  206. Anunnaki Nibiru says . . . | August 14, 2013 / 4:17 am

    Well! Agree with most of the writings but why would any intelligent person would read bible or you just couldn’t resist to have a religious book on the list. There have been plenty on this planet before the bible arrived. Specially like of Gita and ancient Vedas, the oldest possible books.

    For once I would also suggest to read this one as well – http://inthebeginningthebook.com/

  207. G_times says . . . | September 4, 2013 / 11:29 pm

    assuming science has good intentions

  208. rejane florinda says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 4:30 am

    I read only thee of those. I think darwin will be a good choice. As for the bible, if you have an open mind it wont do any harm. It is only dangerous for the ones who literally believe in everything it says. You know, not so intelligent people…

  209. london says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 4:34 am

    Please list valid examples of how organized religion has “kept science back”. Like “the human species” has done so much to “create a better world”.

  210. Frylock says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 8:06 am
  211. DME says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 12:18 pm

    What’s keeping us ALL back is the erroneous notion that science and spirituality are at odds, when in fact the truth lies at the seam where the two meet.

  212. PacificSage says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 3:38 pm

    ….or you can listen to the stories of an intelligent person who grew up on the street. Probably a lot quicker, and less winded to reach enlightenment.

    Yes…….most smart sheltered people can be real dumb.

  213. PacificSage says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 3:40 pm

    You’re kidding…….right??

  214. Kitte Lishuss says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 3:51 pm

    I am assuming you can navigate the Google.

    The persecution and imprisonment of Galileo
    The burning of women herbalists as “witches.”, Gregor Mendel, Kepler, Rene Descart, insisting that schools teach creationism to children alongside evolution… to name just a few. I also recommend the ”
    Influence of a biblical world view on early modern science” section of this wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_religion_and_science

  215. Daryavush says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 6:57 pm

    Niether science nor religion have held back the creation of a better world, it has always been humans who have held it back. Architecture in Greece, the art of the Renaissance, Sufi poetry, and nonviolent arts like Aikido were developed by highly religious people. Ever wonder why the highly religious Shaolin monks, who train in martial combat throughout their lives, live peacefully and are not violent even against the smallest insects? Correct me if I am wrong, but did a group of religious zealots create and used the atom bomb, chemical weapons, biological weapons, tanks, guns, aircraft carriers, jets, etc.? Were the Nazi doctors who experimented on living people priests? What about the Japanese war criminals? Or the Soviets? Or Maoists? What about religious people like MLK and Gandhi? Did they hold the world back or were they held back by secular institutions?

  216. Jake says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 8:46 pm

    Google on “the Dark Ages”, for starters.

  217. Jake says . . . | September 5, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    Everybody.

  218. Tefk says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 11:47 pm

    There is old and new TESTAMENT, not Bible.nYes, apparently you know what you are talking about.

  219. Mack says . . . | September 7, 2013 / 7:01 am

    Which Bible? Douay-Rheims? Douay-Rheims-Challoner? Vulgate of St. Jerome? The King James of 1611? The edited-down texts sold in this country and falsely labeled KJV? The pat-the-bunny NIV? nAny man who speaks of “The Bible” and examines the matter no further is not ready to speak of it at all.

  220. kiah mercer says . . . | September 11, 2013 / 5:13 am

    happy someone spoke up about its significance to human kind and that it isn’t such a bad book to be deterred from.

  221. krisbei says . . . | September 16, 2013 / 8:26 am

    No need to shout. nThere may be good reasons to read the Quran, but logically you should start with the Torah, then the new Testament, the Quran and finally the Book of Mormon. Thibk of it like starting with the Hobbit and finishing with the Silmarillion.

  222. Bodhi says . . . | September 19, 2013 / 4:45 pm

    Zen and Daoism are quite different from your western “religions”. In fact, a few Jesuit priests are Zen masters. Buddhism doesn’t officiate between you and some divine entity. Buddhism (and Daoism) are more Science than Religion. Not that there is anything wrong with Religion. Some of my best friends are religious.

  223. Bodhi says . . . | September 19, 2013 / 4:45 pm

    Zen and Daoism are quite different from your western “religions”. In fact, a few Jesuit priests are Zen masters. Buddhism doesn’t officiate between you and some divine entity. Buddhism (and Daoism) are more Science than Religion. Not that there is anything wrong with Religion. Some of my best friends are religious.

  224. rupertmundy says . . . | September 25, 2013 / 1:18 pm

    Talk about boring…

  225. StigmaII says . . . | October 4, 2013 / 6:31 pm

    The man was asked a question and he responded. Amazing how this simple interaction became the basis for an unnecessary discourse.

  226. Paul Day says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 11:49 am

    Hm. Greg doesn’t *look* like NDT. Weird that no one has asked Greg’s opinion.

  227. Rick Marro says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 11:50 am

    8 great books for THE READER to take from it what they will,,,, Rather than the LEFT WING PROPAGANDIZED views of TYSON. . . It was a chore to get through all 8 of his (sometimes) disgusting satire —— The 8 books are worth reading, but thumbs down for TYSON though.

  228. Ekama says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 11:53 am

    True, but it’s a shame he has so little to recommend in terms of human artistic achievement, preferring to dwell on petty biology and the regrettable aspects of human history.

  229. anothercontrarian says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 11:54 am

    Thanks for recommending a list of great and influential books. nnI’ve sufficiently got over my shock and disappointment at finding that Pluto was just an overpromoted chunk of rock (no better, in fact, than Eris) to wish you a:nnnnVery Happy Birthday!

  230. Ronaldo Maru00edn says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 11:57 am

    And if you want to save time, read Hamlet that brings that “you have to learn” of the indications number 1, 4,5,6,7 and 8 at once.

  231. herocious says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 12:12 pm

    This book is appropriately not on this list: http://www.amazon.com/Austin-Nights-ebook/dp/B004M8S60C.nBut it is free.

  232. Rebecca White says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 12:30 pm

    I’d think a good reason to read the Bible would be to find out for yourself what it says instead of listening to what other people say it says… I agree with you that history rather than the Bible is what you’d study if you want to learn the lesson he talks about.

  233. Rebecca White says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 12:30 pm

    I’d think a good reason to read the Bible would be to find out for yourself what it says instead of listening to what other people say it says… I agree with you that history rather than the Bible is what you’d study if you want to learn the lesson he talks about.

  234. Rebecca White says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 12:33 pm

    You’ve obviously never read it. And you know, Darwinism has been misused in the past to justify capitalism. It was a great sorrow to Darwin, predicting people would abuse his writing that way. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, look up “social Darwinism”

  235. Randy says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    Or been damaged by the misinterpretations of it!

  236. CFK says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 3:05 pm

    Not going to read the entire thread because it smells like butthurt, but I feel it should be mentioned calmly and rationally (if it hasn’t been already) that The Prince was intended as satire and should be taken about as seriously as Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. Which, of course, has no bearing on the actions of people who HAVE taken it seriously throughout history.

  237. MarkB says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 3:37 pm

    What you’re really saying is, “read this first, and use it to color everything else you read, but IT is the most right.” Therefore, I say with the utmost sincerity…Bite Me.

  238. Natalie Bustillos says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 3:55 pm

    THE ALMIGHTY JESUS WARNIN’S US LET NO MAN TEACH YOU I WILL ANNOINT YOU WITH THE TRUTH – THERE SHALL BE DROCTRINES OF DEVILS AND MEN (ONLY FOOLS READ AND BELEIVE THEM)

  239. Chi says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 6:50 pm

    Dude have you read it? I recommend you Revelations (Apocalypse)… It’s just so freaking twisted and weird…

  240. dude says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 8:44 pm

    and the amount of religious vitriol is amazing. did they realize that other books were listed as well?

  241. Jealith says . . . | October 5, 2013 / 10:11 pm

    Thank you for the laugh. You said what I was thinking only better.

  242. ralson says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 4:09 am

    how about the tyranny of words? that important to

  243. ralson says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 4:10 am

    woops typo haha

  244. Michael Harrison says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 5:39 am

    It is two years after the fact, but misinformation is misinformation. Darwin writes in his journal of his time on the Beagle–the very same expedition that led to his famed and lauded scientific discovery–of his experiences of how terrible an institution slavery is. For instance, on April 15th, 1832, he wrote: “During Mr Lennons quarrell with his agent, he threatened to sell at the public auction an illegitimate mulatto child to whom Mr Cowper was much attached: also he nearly put into execution taking all the women & children from their husbands & selling them separately at the market at Rio. u2014 Can two more horrible & flagrant instances be imagined? u2014 & yet I will pledge myself that in humanity & good feeling Mr Lennon is above the common run of men. u2014 How strange & inexplicable is the effect of habit & interest!. u2014 Against such facts how weak are the arguments of those who maintain that slavery is a tolerable evil!”nnEvolution is merely the latest in a long line of scapegoats for human bigotry; for instance, one rationale for slavery was the Bible-inspired notion of the curse of Ham, but I do not see many people decrying the Bible as inherently racist.

  245. lukestoltenberg says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 6:12 am

    The Bible isn’t like Total Recall or RoboCop. All versions are equally the worst version.

  246. denisio50@yahoo.com says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 10:31 am

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Thomas KuhnnToward The One – Pir Vilayat Inayat KhannBeyond the Brain – Stanislav GrofnThe Marriage of Sense And Soul – Ken WilbernDigital Game Based Learning – Marc PrenskynGuns Germs and Steel – Jared DiamondnA Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill BrysonnRadiant Mind – Peter Fenner

  247. Maher Khaldi says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 11:40 am

    what is your list?

  248. Maher Khaldi says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 11:41 am

    good list!

  249. Calreth says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 4:00 pm

    The range of books, including the bible, is great. Too often we’re stuck reading only books we’re comfortable with and reinforcing whatever bias we have.

  250. Sofian says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 5:15 pm

    So happy to see the Bible in there! nn”Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”n(John 14:6 KJV)

  251. chris hupke says . . . | October 6, 2013 / 10:07 pm

    who’s the funny stache? three different times he self-id’s. nlets see he ridicules the Bible, is an advocate of darwin, despises Smith,,(basis for the ideologies of Marx, Hitler, Mao, Stalin) nneducated dunce. brilliant dunce. i might add save your commentary nn

  252. Sam says . . . | October 7, 2013 / 9:52 am

    “Theistic evolution explains both for me, precisely because I thought about it myself” — and you’d have to, because there’s no evidence for it elsewhere.

  253. TheBoyPhelan says . . . | October 7, 2013 / 11:17 am

    Maybe Tyson should read The Wealth of Nations.

  254. yolociraptor says . . . | October 7, 2013 / 11:40 am

    Perfect. The more I think about it, the more brilliant that list is.

  255. testpilot says . . . | October 7, 2013 / 1:23 pm

    so, he’s a smug closet-commie after all… I suspected he might be one long before…

  256. Mat says . . . | October 7, 2013 / 1:31 pm

    “to learn that itu2019s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself”nWhoops, now that he told me that, I’ll have to learn to think something else for myself. :-) I guess it’s okay if he tells me what to think, just so long as it’s not our Lord and Creator Jesus Christ.

  257. Cheryl Taylor says . . . | October 8, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    great resource list aside from the fact that his first choice is The Bible and includes none of the other great(er) theological philosophies and includes it because u201cto learn that itu2019s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.u201d to me that is a terrifying idea to promote and a great reason to NOT practice religion at all.

  258. Guest says . . . | October 10, 2013 / 4:13 pm

    is on my desktop for 4 years every week i should read something from it. very useful book

  259. eric says . . . | October 10, 2013 / 4:16 pm

    The Prince is very important one, i put it on my desktop for 4 years, every week i must open it and read something.

  260. Andres Torres says . . . | October 13, 2013 / 3:31 pm

    It’s a part of our cultural heritage and continues to be a major influence on the lives of many Americans. All that’s reason enough IMO.

  261. subimal22 says . . . | October 15, 2013 / 2:16 am

    That’s all? Only these 8 books an intelligent person should read? Nothing else? How incomplete. List cannot be complete without 1) Alice in the wonderland, 2) Roots, 3) Home and beyond by Tagore and of course 4) Mahabharata …. – http://banglaboi.in

  262. Gibbs says . . . | October 15, 2013 / 7:33 am

    6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBook u2013 Audio Book) – u201cto learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.u201dnn7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook u2013 Audio Book) – u201cto learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.u201dnnnnI find this pairing ironic since “anti-capitalists” (communists, socialists) comprise the most murderous group in human history.

  263. Bob says . . . | October 15, 2013 / 6:15 pm

    Wonderful list

  264. Catholic Lite says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 6:29 am

    By that logic, I must study Zeus and Apollo before rejecting them. And Nammu and Mishdada and Kulla and Tiamat and Shu-pa-e and Amurru…hopefully you get the point. As for me and the Bible, it loses me when the snake starts talking.

  265. mrurrutia says . . . | October 21, 2013 / 10:33 pm

    Intelligent people choose to read books upon the personal interest of gathering knowledge randomly and according to what resonates to the current events of their experience of life, in order to get inspiration to resolve issues creatively. Therefore the simple fact of suggesting that there should be a list of books that intelligent people should read goes against the mere nature of what intelligence and free thought are, for it pretends to limit beneath the boundaries of paradigm what is bound to develop as organically and freely as chaos.

  266. Andy Webber says . . . | October 23, 2013 / 5:43 pm

    Remove all occult, religious and ‘spiritual’ references and you have a half good set of moral philosophies. Removing the the same from The Qu’ran, and you probably get a better set.nBetter still, by far, set your own boundaries, create your own moral code. Don’t let other’s set them for you.

  267. Richard Seese says . . . | November 4, 2013 / 12:34 pm

    I agree with you on that to an extent. These were suggested books and ideas about what’s out there, and how he viewed them as the biggest influence on the western world.Out of all those books, only one peaked my own interest at this present time.

  268. dirtfabricator says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 12:26 am

    I like the people who get mad when other people don’t believe in a book that was not written by god or jesus, written by man, written for man, and written for the most part hundreds of years after jesus may or may not have existed.

  269. fuzzmello says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 7:22 am

    no literature, no women authors, all high-minded isolated paternalism. hmmmm.

  270. Marcus Sherwin says . . . | November 5, 2013 / 9:39 am

    This is an extremely dangerous misconception. You are forgetting about the slave trade and the genocide of indigenous native american people for starters, all done in the name of profit.

  271. Biblescholar says . . . | November 6, 2013 / 9:50 am

    “the Bible itself – if read in its entirety – is actually full of morality tales (whether you believe they happened or not) that should cause any sentient human to think more, not less.”nnnBut you’d only know that by reading it, which is kind of his point.nnnConsider Abraham: God says “kill your son” and he says “sure thing, Lord!” and fetches his knife, at which point God comes back and says “STOP you muppet! What the fuck are you doing?”nnnToo many people still behave like Abraham.

  272. Clydene says . . . | November 6, 2013 / 11:04 am

    Exceptn for the Art of War, the book list is a tad skewed to Western nliterature. If one would expand the list to include the Ramayana that nwould balance some of the list. There again if you add the Ramayana you nshould also add The Mahabharata (a small part is known as the The nBhagavad Gita.), The Iliad and The Odyssey, and if you read the Bible ncover to cover you should read about Mithraism so you can get the virginn birth story that was written before the Bible. Myth is profound elementn is all religion.

  273. YankeeintheBluegrass says . . . | November 6, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    Welcome to the history of Mankind.

  274. Goddes FourWinds says . . . | November 8, 2013 / 7:54 am

    Perhaps, he’s saying that if you read the bible, instead of just the hearing the stories your pastor/priest/minister tells you, you’ll not believe it at all. :)

  275. psfam says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 9:01 pm

    “On the Origin of Species” is dry and dull read Darwin’s tretises on earthworms is more engaging. You would be better served by picking up a modern biology text book and reading it.

  276. derekwashington says . . . | November 15, 2013 / 1:16 pm

    Thank you. My response was going to be so much um less polite.

  277. derekwashington says . . . | November 15, 2013 / 1:17 pm

    YOUR lord etc….

  278. derekwashington says . . . | November 15, 2013 / 1:19 pm

    Lol Bravo

  279. JonnyFlash says . . . | November 15, 2013 / 11:56 pm

    It may be “dry and dull”, and sure, his treatises on earthworms may have a bit more action to them, but the idea is that his ideas at the time were more exciting than the long theories, but the “dry and dull” are what all of the modern biology text books have been able to acquire since then that is exciting.

  280. Timaloha says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 8:35 am

    Good suggestions, but perhaps for a future list? Tyson was addressing Western culture. From the article: “Tyson concludes by saying: u201cIf you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.u201d”

  281. Timaloha says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 8:57 am

    I think you missed then point of Tyson’s inclusion of the Bible in this list.

  282. thehomelessguy says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    As soon as women start writing books that influence the history of mankind in a significant way, then they will be included, I’m certain.

  283. thehomelessguy says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 12:56 pm

    If you read only one book a year… but I’m guessing that this list is more for people who consume books like they consume food – 3 meals a day, every day. A person should never just read what they think interests them – the smartest people read just for the sake of reading.

  284. thehomelessguy says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 1:02 pm

    Funny how so many commenters are missing the point – that these 8 books are listed here, not for what they are, but for what they did.

  285. Alessandro says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 4:46 pm

    It’s a close tie.

  286. McAndrew says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 10:27 pm

    Add Les Miserables, to learn that what is lawful is not always right, and that what is illegal is not always wrong.

  287. McAndrew says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 10:37 pm

    Your caps lock is on.

  288. Barry Kort says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 4:37 am

    See also Carl Sagan’s Undergraduate Reading List as extracted from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova.

  289. CKS says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 6:26 am

    The Art of War, historically, was hardly read in the Western world until the late 20th century. It had virtually no impact on our warfaring ways, and still barely registers. Sure, it gets read by officer cadets, but it is far more popular among the “Executive Class” as a means of rationalizing aggressive marketeering (and thus, missing the point entirely). If you wanted to talk about warfare and the Western world, then Clausewitz is the book of choice by a country mile.nnAlso, there is one book that is quite noticeably missing from Tyson’s list: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. I suspect its omission is purely political in nature, but that’s no excuse. With the exception of Darwin, no book in Western history has been more influential, irrespective of where you stand on the political spectrum.

  290. Captain Scorpio says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 8:49 am

    Right. Tell it to Lysenko.

  291. A. Nuran says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 12:51 pm

    Well, the Bible is a work of fiction.

  292. Polagnostic says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 7:30 pm

    If someone does harm in the name of profit, we should blame people doing the harm, not profit. Economic systems do not enable or prevent enslavement or genocides or holocausts; people do. nnI wonder if Tyson should not have used the word “greed” here. Profit motive and greed are not synonymous. Greed is doing harm to others or being willing to harm others in the pursuit of profit. Consequently, it seems to me that by using the term greed, Tyson is essentially saying that doing harm to people is an innate part of human nature, or a force of nature as he writes. Perhaps he is right about that, but profit motive, capitalism or socialism, or any economic system generally, are not to be blamed for the atrocities referred to in the above comments.

  293. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:17 am

    The list was supposed to be merely what every intelligent person should read. Crappy books that ‘influence the history of mankind’ was not the remit: but there are plenty of books by women that will have influenced human history in various ways.

  294. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:18 am

    The WHOLE history of ‘mankind’, enshrined in a few books…

  295. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:18 am

    Thank you.

  296. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:19 am

    Well not really – otherwise ‘smartest’ people will just read whatever’s closes – the Daily Mail here in the UK, for example, ‘for the sake of reading’… or a box of Lucky Charms.

  297. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:23 am

    My problem was that such a stupid question was asked in the first place. It’s absurdly prescriptive and rhetorical.

  298. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:26 am

    It was the prescriptiveness of the command. It implies these books are THE 8 books ‘intelligent’ people HAVE to read, as if not having read them makes one unintelligent. In itself it poses a dogmatic ideology, trying to reduce the importance of human history to 8 measly books that not many people will have read, let alone cover to cover.

  299. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:28 am

    I admit I do have a lot of problems with some of the pronouncements of Tyson. One thing he is alleged to have said is the nonsensical statement ‘the good thing about science is that it’s true even if you don’t believe in it’. That’s a nonsensical statement (science is a human practice – NOT a natural phenomenon). I’m hoping he didn’t say it – but people seem to think he did. If so – that’s depressing :(

  300. Angela Kennedy says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 6:32 am

    It lost me at the six days to make a universe. But I do take your point. My daughter told me a joke about Eve talking with the serpent, eating the apple, then running to Adam to tell him what had happened etc. First thing Adam does is turn around and said “F*** me a talking snake?”

  301. Marcus Sherwin says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 11:52 am

    I used to agree with you, and honestly there’s no way for me to present all the information I spent months accumulating which changed my mind so I’m not going to try. Profit based systems reward greed above all, and don’t allow ethical people to compete. Sure, you can create laws and regulations to try and fix this, but it’s a herculean task in the face of corporate power, and the compromises we end up with usually just make things worse. Unless humans let go of the idea that competition is the most efficient way to organize and instead embrace collaboration we’re doomed. In this system waste generates profit; the more waste, the higher the GDP. The devastation that these systems create is all around us.

  302. Armando D. says . . . | November 19, 2013 / 6:06 pm

    Itu2018s simply not fair to say that, since women were not allowed to write anything u2018til not so long ago.

  303. Lucho says . . . | November 21, 2013 / 9:22 am

    His judgment of the Bible I think biased. It can be learnt much more than that in that book. Maybe he is a bit leaning unto the “atheists”, but I don’t think so. I think he is also more biased toward reading anglo writers, and not of the other cultures. A good point is that any of those books can be read by anyone with a standard GOOD culture. For even a person like that with hardly read Aristotle, or Marcus Aurelius, or Saint Thomas Aquinas, or Heidegger or Kant, with some benefit: they are to difficult, not for leisure but for “work” reading.

  304. JDS says . . . | November 30, 2013 / 6:10 pm

    Charles Darwin was a flake. The Holy Bible is the most read book of all time. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

  305. antiutopia says . . . | December 4, 2013 / 5:05 pm

    What a dumbass — he misrepresents the experience of reading the Bible and then proceeds to read every other book on the list just the way that he thinks the Bible would be read.nnHow readers relate to a text is a function of the reader, not the text.nnWhat an amazing dumbass.

  306. Raymond says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 3:58 pm

    Agree on Marx, but of course it has the word communist in the title so it has to be a dangerous book that should not be read, but avoided at all costs, amaright?

  307. Allison Stara says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 4:00 pm

    Not one female writer! This isn’t my list.

  308. Martyn Turner says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 4:01 pm

    The bible affected literature more than any other book. For mere intertextuality value one should have some understanding of the bible.

  309. Elise Sheppard says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 4:06 pm

    Tell that to Lady Murasaki, who wrote “Tale of Genji”

  310. Elise Sheppard says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 4:16 pm

    Where do you get your ideas about Mithraism, from the creative brain of Dan Brown? Do your research.

  311. steph. h. says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 4:20 pm

    agree 100% about the bible. so many of the people who are die-hard bible fans haven’t even read it i’ve noticed. i actually tried reading it. only made it to numbers. how anyone could read it and think it’s true, is beyond me. it’s so obviously a projection of the humans at that time it’s unbelievable. i’ve never read twilight, but it’s probably more believable. one positive thing about the bible though, is that Jesus seemed like a good guy and had sage advice.

  312. Bruce Norbeck says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 7:02 pm

    I agree, but I think he’s missing badly by not including Plato’s “The Republic.”

  313. Andrew Lee says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 7:42 pm

    Jesus as a good guy… well yes except isn’t he the one who talks about hell rather a lot.. you know, eternal burning for minor sins…

  314. Paul says . . . | December 20, 2013 / 7:55 pm

    Because that totally makes the list invalid. Maybe he was less concerned with the gender of the writer and more concerned with the content.

  315. Derick Miguel says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 1:13 am

    Well you can recommend what you think or believe to be worth reading written by female writers…

  316. Derick Miguel says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 1:20 am

    Hell is used most often figuratively rather that what most people misunderstood as eternal burning…Sheol is another translation of the original word…

  317. tr60 says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 2:16 am

    Mithraism closely parallels the Christ story and Christian practices, as do other contemporary religions.

  318. wmyl says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 3:06 am

    “[Progress & Poverty by Henry George] is *undoubtedly* the most remarkable and important book of the present century.”
    —Alfred Russel Wallace, 1892

  319. Denver Ray Moore Jr says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 4:37 am

    Neil deGrasse is a dumbass. Enough said.

  320. Carlos Anglada says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 7:54 am

    This would make You a gleaming example of the “have not read but claim to be an expert” mentality that seems to have become prevalent in so many discussions regarding The Bible that are currently taking place in both traditional and social media…

  321. SauronHimself says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 8:08 am

    You’re new here, aren’t you?

  322. SauronHimself says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 8:13 am

    Note how you backed your assertions with zero evidence. Not surprising.

  323. Tutie says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 12:26 pm

    Lighten up folks. He answered a question and listed ten books that “should” be read. And he gave the reason he thought they should be read. He didn’t say the only ten books, or the best ten books, or ten books that best represent history, etc. You don’t have to agree with the list or his reasons, but it is a good list. These are ten great books.

  324. Lee says . . . | December 21, 2013 / 9:05 pm

    Note how you didnu00b4t spot the troll. Not surprising.

  325. veggiedude says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 7:35 am

    The only experience of reading the Bible is one of utter confusion. For instance, the 10th commandment says not to eat a baby goat if it was bathed in its mothers milk! Like, what Christian even cares?

  326. veggiedude says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 7:41 am

    Modern biology books all reference Darwin, so it makes sense to start at the source for a grander understanding.

  327. Florida Roy says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 11:54 am

    I think you have failed to evolve.

  328. Martin Snigg says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 3:16 pm

    The man is a barbarian. What a waste of a life. “Power, the most real of things” is our sage’s advice. I think I’ll go with Jesus when it comes to how to live, who showed once and for all and “it is accomplished” that the libido domandi goes through the Cross or is just another bloody dead end. Merry Christmas

  329. Denver Ray Moore Jr says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 3:20 pm

    Why would you want to know THAT ????

  330. Bob says . . . | December 22, 2013 / 7:13 pm

    Name one

  331. Jim says . . . | December 23, 2013 / 11:26 am

    My main problem isn’t with his list, it’s that he hasn’t given any evidence of having read them himself, or at least of having given them real thought.

  332. Tutie says . . . | December 23, 2013 / 1:38 pm

    We don’t know if he read them or not. That wasn’t the question. He was asked what books he thought should be read.

  333. mimisshi says . . . | December 23, 2013 / 4:15 pm

    Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand

  334. Ashley Marie says . . . | December 24, 2013 / 6:13 am

    Hi, i have actually read the bible from Genesis 1 to the bitter end of Revelations and can honestly say I am a firm believer (and that the bible is nothing like twilight). Not only because I believe that the bible is the word of God but because I have seen the Lord at work in my life as well as in those around me. That being said the bible is also not a book you can just take up and read, its a bit heavy and requires reflection. My suggestion would be to do it over the period of a few months to a year. You can not compare books you have never read it is IGNORANT and shows that you are very CLOSE MINDED..

  335. Elmar17 says . . . | December 24, 2013 / 8:40 am

    He obviously didn’t understand Wealth of Nations.It is not greed to wish to work for one’self to make one’s family’s life better – it is the execution of responsibility. What he should have learned is that regardless of the greed of any one person the nature of market interactions force them to serve others.

  336. Klypto says . . . | December 24, 2013 / 10:19 am

    Why did god take so log to reveal himself to ignorant arabs ? The universe has been proven to be some 14 billion years old. Why did not god make it clear what he wanted instead of dictating a bunch of gibberish to sheep herders in the desert ? If you are open minded you can you imagine that your god does not exist ?

  337. Richard says . . . | December 29, 2013 / 11:41 am

    Apparently most people here are more interested in defending their world view and/or religion than accepting this is a good collection of basic knowledge necessary to understand western thought. A shame really.

  338. Greg Gower says . . . | December 29, 2013 / 12:41 pm

    The reason stated, for reading each of these 8 books, is “to know this or that” Since I find all of these things to be self-evident, does it follow that I am already intelligent and can therefore skip reading them?

  339. Seajay Teaby says . . . | December 29, 2013 / 2:04 pm

    I found this a very interesting list (also the comments). They are a good list of writing that can be read and looked at as the changes to the way we think and how we present ideas. There has been increasing evidence behind the written works. Evidence about how the world works and how the people within it think and explain what happens. As we have increased knowledge of the world and knowledge of the human race, there is evidence we are thinking more and more deeply.

  340. vic says . . . | December 29, 2013 / 5:34 pm

    Someone attempted to hold up the bible as the impetus of ideas for science .Yes of course it is everyone knows that evolution is nonsense and the world and universe was created 6000 or so years ago.Also an influence on law and ethics .Sure it is you get the justice you can afford and if you are rich and connected you can even get away with murder.Ethics?Adjust to suit the spin.Monetary system right greed and avarice is good I got mine you don’t have any to bad die and decrease the welfare rolls.If you read ALL the founding fathers writings you realize they warned long ago about the corrupting self perpetuating influence of banks and corporations and religion when it has undue influence on government.Beside that at least one quarter of them likely more were atheists.

  341. James L Hendricks says . . . | December 30, 2013 / 2:11 pm

    Great site. Do you send regular emails from time to time? May I be placed on your email list?

    Thank You

  342. Bonnie Fox says . . . | December 30, 2013 / 4:09 pm

    Interesting list. Weird list. I am an atheist myself, but with all due respect Tyson seems off about the Bible. The Bible is a very complex text with so many self-contradictory messages, if forces thoughtful readers to think for themselves. I don’t think it was deliberately designed that way — that is simply the (not unpredictable) results of a culture collecting myths, legends, and oral history over time and finally writing it all down. Other than that — the list just seemed arbitrary and almost random — but then I was an English major — and while these are ten good books, they aren’t a definitive list — because there is no such list.

  343. WINNER says . . . | December 31, 2013 / 2:50 am

    The BIBLE was not meant for People over the age of 7 it is an AFRIKAN fairy tale you IDIOTS are STUPID.

  344. Vince says . . . | January 12, 2014 / 4:43 pm

    Saw #1. Stopped reading.

  345. ormash says . . . | January 13, 2014 / 2:01 pm

    He concluded by saying these books will give you keen insight into what drives the “western world.”

  346. ormash says . . . | January 13, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    Thank you Dr.Tyson for your premise, after reading most of the feedback, it is obvious that the intellects were caught up in their intellect and their lights went out.

  347. Leo says . . . | January 15, 2014 / 11:19 am

    Heh, great list, and even better comments. I think people intellect are well displayed by their comments a lot of times!

  348. G says . . . | March 5, 2014 / 3:29 am

    Sorry but the first book you must read is Holy Qur’an If you want to learn how to know and think about every thing and the one how created them.

  349. Kathy says . . . | March 5, 2014 / 5:54 pm

    Seems to me that he is telling us how to think and accept what he sees to be true to him. I’d call him a hypocrite.

  350. RHW says . . . | April 10, 2014 / 12:56 am

    He left out the Koran, which has been the ‘justification’ for untold misery for 1400 years.

    This one book’s injunctions to conquer, dominate, and allow no other thought, explains much of what has happened over a significant proportion of that time, including Europe’s response to 400 years of aggression (the first Crusade).

Add a comment

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Quantcast