Carl Sagan’s Undergrad Reading List: 40 Essential Texts for a Well-Rounded Thinker

Earlier this year, we brought you Neil de Grasse Tyson’s List of 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read. The list generated a lot of buzz and debate. Indeed you, the readers, contributed 133 comments to the post, a record for us. Given your enthusiasm, you might want to check this out — a newly-discovered reading list from the man who mentored Tyson as a youth and laid the foundation for Tyson’s current role as public scientist/intellectual. Yes, we’re talking about Carl Sagan.

Last month, The Library of Congress acquired a collection of Carl Sagan’s papers, which included Sagan’s 1954 reading list from his undergrad days at The University of Chicago. There are some heady scientific texts here, to be sure. But also some great works from the Western philosophical and literary tradition. We’re talking Plato’s Republic, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The Bible, Gide’s The Immoralist, and Huxley’s Young Archimedes. It’s just the kind of texts you’d expect a true humanist like Sagan — let alone a UChicago grad — to be fully immersed in.

If you want to participate in the same intellectual tradition, we suggest visiting our previous post, The Harvard Classics: A Free, Digital Collection, which puts 51 volumes of essential works right at your fingertips.

You can view Sagan’s list in a large format here.

via Brain Pickings

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  • Lincoln says:

    Not enough minorities or womyn!

  • Brian says:

    It’s Carl Sagan’s 1954 Undergrad reading list not Cindy Sherman’s!
    So lighten up Francis, I mean Lincoln!

  • I love how he lists the author of the Bible as anonymous. :)

  • David Quintero says:

    Oh that was a nice catch Michael! :)

  • Fred Kiesche says:

    In many ways it resembles my favorite “classics reading list”. Google Harvard Five Foot Shelf sometime.

  • Fred Kiesche says:

    Oopsie, doodle. Overlooked the bottom part of the posting which MENTIONS the Five Foot Shelf. That’s what happens when you surf the web with insufficient coffee.

  • DanB says:

    This looks like it’s his personal journal of books that he read in a single quarter (late September through mid-December.) It’s extremely impressive, but not at all comprehensive — nor is it intended to be.

  • Bill says:

    It’s good to see that an intellectual, like Sagan would consider reading the bible, even though the author was anonymous to him. Most of them just pick up a phrase from the bible, not knowing the context, just to find fault with it.

  • Drannan Hamby says:

    I notice two of my favorite authors-books, Zemansky and Guggenheim. Would that more people would become familiar with basic thermodynamics-energy as per Zemansky.

  • Iam You says:

    This is amazing I cant believe I just stumbled across this now, thanks for posting!

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