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

tyson intelligent books

A 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 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

Look­ing for free, pro­fes­­sion­al­­ly-read audio books from Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Teach­es Sci­en­tif­ic Think­ing and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion in a New Online Course

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

1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties

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Comments (449)
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  • Andy says:

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

  • David says:

    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.

    • Rebecca White says:

      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.

    • Rebecca White says:

      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.

    • Sam says:

      “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.

    • Biblescholar says:

      “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.

  • Rocko says:

    I con­cur with Andy.

  • EvieKeen says:

    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.

    • Michael Harrison says:

      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.

  • Khan says:

    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.

    • Goddes FourWinds says:

      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. :)

  • Gerry says:

    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.

  • 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

  • Mike de Fleuriot says:

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

  • emily sours says:

    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”.

  • Mark Hawker says:

    “… 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?

  • Doro Moody says:

    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. :)

  • J Mitchell Robertson says:

    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.”

  • John says:

    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.

  • “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.

  • Danielle says:

    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).

  • John Shuey says:

    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”.

  • mark says:

    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.

  • Andrew Hess says:

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

  • Steven says:

    “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.).

  • Bryan says:

    “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.

  • Dan says:

    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.


  • Incred­i­bly poor selec­tion of books. Dam­ag­ing even.

  • Rudy Volkmann says:

    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.

  • John says:

    Strange arti­cle. Seems out of place on this site…

  • Chris says:

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

  • Matt says:

    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.

  • watermpi says:

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

  • mswool says:

    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.

  • John says:

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

  • Steve D says:

    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.

  • John says:

    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.

  • Ben J says:

    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.

  • Matt says:

    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.

  • David says:

    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?

  • Don says:

    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.

  • neil deAss says:

    “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.

    • Rebecca White says:

      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”

  • Aly says:

    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

  • Hector Avalos says:

    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.”

  • Olivia says:

    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.

  • Manticore says:

    iBooks does­n’t have ANY New­ton :(

  • Matthew Tanner says:

    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

  • CondescendingIntelligentPerson says:

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

  • Penultimate says:

    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.

  • Tess Elliott says:

    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.

  • Dale Cruse says:

    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.

  • Leo Jones says:

    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.

  • Shade Ilmaendu says:

    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

  • Beth says:

    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.

  • Beth says:

    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.

  • Hanoch says:

    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).

  • lol says:

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

  • PatrickEB says:

    @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.

  • PatrickEB says:

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

    Nice one, Hec­tor.

  • PatrickEB says:

    @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.

  • PatrickEB says:

    @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.

  • sees says:

    @ 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.

  • misanthropope says:

    _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.

  • CB says:

    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.

  • misanthropope says:

    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.

  • Badass says:

    Watch out. We got a bad ass over here.

  • site says:

    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!

  • Adam Keele says:

    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.

  • Mahatma Koate says:

    How about,“Way It Posed To Be”

  • ceteco says:

    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? >_>

  • Mike says:

    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?

  • J. Boanerges says:

    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.

  • Dennis says:

    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.

  • Marianne Walker says:

    I per­son­al­ly would rather like to see a list of recent sci­ence books such as pub­lished by New Sci­en­tist (, Best 2011 Biol­o­gy Books ( and Brain Pick­ings ( 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.

  • oldestgenxer says:

    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.

  • Chris Butterworth says:

    “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.

  • Ahmet says:

    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..

  • rc says:

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

  • rc says:

    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).

  • bck says:

    How about a book writ­ten by a woman?

  • J. Anthony Carter says:

    I con­cur with David… umm, up top!

  • lnrdspns says:

    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.

  • Fred says:

    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.

  • Chris says:

    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.

  • leonarda da da says:

    the world beyond plu­to by stephen mar­low

  • Alison says:

    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.

  • “Or you can always down­load a pro­fes­sion­al­ly-nar­rat­ed book for free from”

    No, you can’t “always” do that. 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.

  • Alan D. James says:

    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.

  • xz says:

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

  • Jay says:

    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.

  • Matthew says:

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

  • sb says:

    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.

  • Ammad Khokar says:

    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.

  • The Marching Morons says:

    Bible and Intel­li­gent Per­son are mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. Skip.

  • jay says:

    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?

  • Tyler Jarvis says:

    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.

  • Jim says:

    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…).

  • Evan says:

    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’.

  • Samson says:

    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.

  • loldongs says:

    Wow, that list is ter­ri­ble.

  • Alan says:

    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.

  • dp says:

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

  • Openshaw says:

    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.

  • Unencumbered Freethinker says:

    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.

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  • Jan Fischer says:

    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.

  • gerdi says:

    “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

  • Liz says:

    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.

  • michael mumford says:

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

  • Doc says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Rachel L. says:

    “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.

  • Guillermo Vall says:

    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.

  • Guillermo Valle says:

    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.

  • Mike says:

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

  • Joshua says:

    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.

  • ecoglobe says:

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

  • Bathabile says:

    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.

  • Duncan says:

    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

  • Zach says:

    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.

  • John says:

    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.

  • Mike says:

    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.

  • Muspsycho says:

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

  • guntergrass says:

    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.

  • Levi says:

    “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.

  • Ulaan says:

    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.

  • Andrew says:

    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.”

  • Richard Ray says:

    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.

  • Amanda says:

    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…

  • Haseg says:

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

  • Lawless says:

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

  • 7LeagueBoots says:

    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.

  • Eileen says:

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

  • Nika says:

    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.

  • 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.


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

  • kyle says:

    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!

  • Kyle says:

    Hey Dan, it was Glob­al Sec­u­lar Human­ist on FB

  • Brianna says:

    “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.

  • Naisy says:


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

    …you haven’t read the entire bible.

    It’s dis­gust­ing.

  • J-Dub says:

    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.

  • Aly says:

    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

  • Aniee Sarkissian says:

    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!

  • A. Jones says:

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

  • Chris says:

    Dan, “Astrol­o­gy is Stu­pid” also pro­mot­ed this.

  • Don says:

    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?

  • WT Hesson says:

    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?

  • Liz says:

    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.

  • Matt says:

    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.

  • Kevin says:

    ‘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).

  • Kay Storms says:

    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?

  • Natalie says:

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

  • 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

  • J Crowley says:

    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?

  • Ben says:

    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.

  • jatix says:

    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.

  • richard says:

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

  • 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.

  • William Freeman says:

    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.

  • Mark says:

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

  • SAJ says:


  • Susan W. says:

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

  • Dan Bonser says:

    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.

  • Incrеdi­ble quest there. What оccurred after?
    Gοod luck!

  • komiska says:

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

    Give me a break

  • Victor says:

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

  • Julie F. Kadas says:

    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.

  • emir says:

    A brief his­to­ry of time should be in the list

  • toot says:

    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.

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

  • Erdman West says:

    Neil is an excel­lent human and well worth fol­low­ing!

  • Tyler Janzen says:

    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.

  • baffled says:

    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.

  • justin wilshire says:

    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.

  • money says:

    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!

  • Ma Chuang Wang says:

    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.

  • Joe says:

    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.)

    [[[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.”

    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.

  • Joe says:

    (were “slaves” bib­li­cal­ly* chose)

  • Tammy says:

    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”

  • casey says:

    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.

    • Chi says:

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

    • Andres Torres says:

      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.

  • Silverback says:

    The lev­el of but­thurt in this thread is stag­ger­ing.

  • Ashleigh Yaya says:

    Every­one is dif­fer­ent.

  • Beaugrand says:

    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.

  • leslie says:

    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.

  • Valerie says:

    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.

    • Catholic Lite says:

      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.

      • 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?”

  • Tracy Edwards. says:

    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

  • Graham Thomas says:

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

  • Kyle says:

    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.

  • Kyle says:

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

  • Arbër says:

    how about some Krish­na­mur­ti? Just an idea and a hon­est sug­ges­tion though, you don’t need to kill me for that…

  • bobby digital says:

    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.

    • krisbei says:

      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.

  • Lubomir says:

    and where is the best one — Catch 22 ?

  • Fyreshard says:

    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.

  • Doctir Allen Drinkswater VIII says:

    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!

  • Juan says:

    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”…

  • TeacherSays says:

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

  • Greg Laden says:

    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).

  • kathleen says:

    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?

    • kiah mercer says:

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

    • Randy says:

      Or been dam­aged by the mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of it!

    • MarkB says:

      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.

    • Andy Webber says:

      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.

  • ignatz says:

    Shake­speare? Who the fuck needs Shake­speare?

  • jonathan says:

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

    • 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 :(

  • kwbarrett says:

    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.

  • Zante says:

    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.

    • Maher Khaldi says:

      what is your list?

    • 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.

  • Cal Thompson says:

    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.

  • Jack says:

    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.

    • G_times says:

      assum­ing sci­ence has good inten­tions

    • london says:

      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”.

    • DME says:

      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.

    • Daryavush says:

      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?

      • Bodhi says:

        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.

      • Bodhi says:

        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.

    • Captain Scorpio says:

      Right. Tell it to Lysenko.

  • Rich Holmes says:

    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.

  • Karl says:

    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)

  • Britney says:

    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.

  • Anunnaki Nibiru says:

    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 —

  • rejane florinda says:

    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…

  • PacificSage says:

    .…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.

  • Mack says:

    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.

  • StigmaII says:

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

  • Rick Marro says:

    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.

  • Ekama says:

    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.

  • anothercontrarian says:

    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!

  • Ronaldo Maru00edn says:

    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.

  • herocious says:

    This book is appro­pri­ate­ly not on this list: it is free.

  • CFK says:

    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.

  • Natalie Bustillos says:


  • dude says:

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

  • ralson says:

    how about the tyran­ny of words? that impor­tant to

  • says:

    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

  • Calreth says:

    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.

  • Sofian says:

    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)

  • chris hupke says:

    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

  • TheBoyPhelan says:

    Maybe Tyson should read The Wealth of Nations.

  • yolociraptor says:

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

  • testpilot says:

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

  • Mat says:

    “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.

    • derekwashington says:

      YOUR lord etc.…

    • ravissary79 says:

      And inter­est­ing­ly the bible hard­ly ever tells any­one what to think more than any oth­er book. Agree­ing with the bible is rather vol­un­tary. And lots of peo­ple who were com­pelled by medieval social forces to con­vert did­n’t do so after read­ing it… and usu­al­ly nev­er read it. In gen­er­al I won­der if he ever read it with an open mind at all. Pro­ject­ing all that bag­gage on it forces one to miss the point.

  • Cheryl Taylor says:

    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.

  • Guest says:

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

  • eric says:

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

  • subimal22 says:

    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 .… —

  • Gibbs says:

    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.

    • Marcus Sherwin says:

      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.

      • derekwashington says:

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

      • Polagnostic says:

        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.

        • Marcus Sherwin says:

          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.

    • Alessandro says:

      It’s a close tie.

  • Bob says:

    Won­der­ful list

  • mrurrutia says:

    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.

    • Richard Seese says:

      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.

    • thehomelessguy says:

      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.

      • 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.

  • dirtfabricator says:

    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.

    • ravissary79 says:

      I think it has more to do with his mind numb­ing­ly sim­plis­tic take on the book’s impor­tance and influ­ence.

  • fuzzmello says:

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

  • Clydene says:

    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.

    • Timaloha says:

      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”

    • Elise Sheppard says:

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

      • tr60 says:

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

        • ravissary79 says:

          Except that the influ­ence of Mithraism was pal­try, lim­it­ed, and mere­ly makes for sexy scan­dalous com­par­isons. I’ll sec­ond the motion: do your research.

  • psfam says:

    “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.

    • JonnyFlash says:

      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.

    • veggiedude says:

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

  • thehomelessguy says:

    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.

  • McAndrew says:

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

  • CKS says:

    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.

    • Raymond says:

      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?

  • Lucho says:

    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.

  • JDS says:

    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.

  • antiutopia says:

    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.

    • veggiedude says:

      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?

      • ravissary79 says:

        Wow… no it does­n’t. And the rules about eat­ing the calf cooked in its moth­ers milk has a lit­tle some­thing to do with the sym­bol­ism of the fam­i­ly unit and not per­vert­ing it. See­ing as there were many reg­u­la­tions about food and bathing it’s not sur­pris­ing that this would be viewed as inap­pro­pri­ate since the func­tion of such reg­u­la­tions was to imbue all com­mon dai­ly affairs with mean­ing, metaphor and spe­cial care.nIt makes sense in con­text.

  • Allison Stara says:

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

    • Paul says:

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

    • Derick Miguel says:

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

  • Martyn Turner says:

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

  • steph. h. says:

    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.

    • Andrew Lee says:

      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…

      • Derick Miguel says:

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

        • ravissary79 says:

          Whether it’s fig­u­ra­tive or lit­er­al is irrel­e­vant to the point. If no one believed in can­cer from smok­ing and you told peo­ple to stop smok­ing then that must mean you’re a real jerk for fill­ing peo­ple with fear over lung can­cer… warn­ing some­one about some­thing bad, even if fig­u­ra­tive is the very essence of want­i­ng good for them. How this isn’t clear is beyond me.

      • Carlos Anglada says:

        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…

    • Ashley Marie says:

      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..

      • Klypto says:

        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 ?

  • Bruce Norbeck says:

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

  • wmyl says:

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

  • Denver Ray Moore Jr says:

    Neil deGrasse is a dum­b­ass. Enough said.

  • Tutie says:

    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.

    • Jim says:

      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.

      • Tutie says:

        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.

  • Martin Snigg says:

    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

    • gkw says:

      Jesus is a fable. nNot sure how you came to deter­mine NDT is a bar­bar­ian.

      • ravissary79 says:

        Read any book by any respect­ed main­line his­to­ri­an reflect­ing the most up to date schol­ar­ship. Even athe­ist his­to­ri­ans acknowl­edge he was real. Say­ing he was a fable is an igno­rant copout.

        • Terence says:

          What ‘athe­ists and his­to­ri­ans acknowl­edge he was real’? Come on, divulge those non-exis­tent sources!

  • Elmar17 says:

    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.

  • Richard says:

    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.

  • Greg Gower says:

    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?

  • Seajay Teaby says:

    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.

  • James L Hendricks says:

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

    Thank You

  • Bonnie Fox says:

    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.

    • jesse says:

      Crit­i­cal Think­ing allows one to read with their “Think­ing cap”. I think Crit­i­cal Think­ing is some­thing every­one should learn.

  • WINNER says:

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

  • Vince says:

    Saw #1. Stopped read­ing.

    • Jesse says:

      Under­stand­ing the Bible is very impor­tant to under­stand­ing Mod­ern West­ern Cul­ture. If you don’t agree with it fine, but it is still some­thing more than half the world believes, that makes it impor­tant to know.

      • Robert Van Housen says:

        Agreed. Total­ly. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I was raised in a parochial school sys­tem and know way too much about that heavy tome of fic­tion.

  • ormash says:

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

  • ormash says:

    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.

  • Leo says:

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

  • G says:

    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.

  • Kathy says:

    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.

  • RHW says:

    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).

  • Robert Fletcher says:

    Here’s to all who read the post/list of books and did not feel that it was nec­es­sary to make a com­ment — or read all the com­ments.

  • Baron Korf says:

    His under­stand­ing of these books and their effect on West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion shows him to be about on par with a high school fresh­man. What a fool.

    • HollowGolem says:

      Yeah, he’s less of a poly­math than he con­sid­ers him­self.

      Bril­liant in sci­en­tif­ic terms, but not great out­side of that sphere of mas­tery.

      The his­to­ry blurbs in New Cos­mos were as bad, or worse, than the ones in the orig­i­nal, which weren’t stel­lar them­selves, so appar­ent­ly Druyen and Sot­er are sim­i­lar­ly dis­in­ter­est­ed in the com­plex­i­ty of the human­i­ties.

      No men­tion of any­thing by Karl Marx (or Auguste Compte, or any of the oth­er thinkers in a wave that heav­i­ly influ­enced mod­ern aca­d­e­m­ic par­a­digms)? No men­tion of Byron, who rede­fined what a “hero” was in fic­tion and, one could argue, in our per­cep­tion of the real world?

      Admit­ted­ly, I’m not a huge expert on non-West­ern lit­er­a­ture myself, so I would­n’t pre­sume to rec­om­mend any­thing from that canon. So I don’t. I’d ask some­body who’s read it exten­sive­ly.

      Tyson did­n’t. He shot from the hip in mat­ters about which he’s not an expert. He’s not as bad as Dawkins, for instance, in doing that kind of crap, but he still does from time to time, and it’s obnox­ious.


    Very aston­ished that he did­n’t include any book on cos­mol­o­gy, espe­cial­ly by Carl Sagan or (or his own very well writ­ten book on cos­mos); physics by Paul Davies, Stephen Hawk­ings, Pla­to, Aris­to­tle or Osho Rajneesh books. Let us for­get Bud­dha and Lao Tzu, Freud, Carl Jung, Satre and Reich and many oth­ers!

  • Jason Puglionesi says:

    yes spend ages read­ing the unread­able canon of the west, they’ve been done to death no need to spend more time on books that will yield noth­ing unless you already have mean­ing to give them. these are the kind of trea­tis­es that are inac­ces­si­ble to lay­man and only rein­force the prej­u­dices and POV of the reader.…nTheir mean­ing is so con­vo­lut­ed that peo­ple only take what they WANT to take away.

    • rhaphazard says:

      That’s kind of the point of lit­er­a­ture: tak­ing what you want.

      Also, if you real­ly want to read some­thing, you will find the time and moti­va­tion to do it. Speed read­ing helps.

  • Michael says:

    The his­toric­i­ty of Jesus is a well researched field with the 19th cen­tu­ry asser­tion of there not being a Jesus round­ly reject­ed by near­ly every rep­utabil­i­ty schol­ar in the field.

  • Alex says:

    I feel that Das Kap­i­tal would be a bet­ter addi­tion than the Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo. If you want to know why I think that than you should read The Dis­cours­es on Livy by Machi­avel­li a book which is often ignored but in many ways far more rel­e­vant to the time peri­od we live in than The Prince is.

  • Eva Kurilova says:

    The Art of War has noth­ing to do with how killing human beings is an “Art.” It’s as if he has­n’t even cracked the cov­er. The book goes to great lengths to explain how war is a nec­es­sary evil, and how to win as quick­ly, effi­cient­ly, and with tak­ing as few lives (espe­cial­ly civil­ian lives) as pos­si­ble.

  • EyeRoller says:

    Yet anoth­er sausage fest. Intel­li­gence comes in many forms…if only he and his misog­y­nist pal, Seth, could get it through their stiff, slimy, mush­room-shaped heads that inequal­i­ty is a much broad­er issue than space.

  • n says:

    is Neil aware that women write books too?

  • James says:

    Dr. Tyson:

    As you sug­gest peo­ple learn to think for them­selves, it does not fol­low that their opin­ions of the Bible’s influ­ence should be dis­count­ed unless they con­form to your own view of its impact. The dis­missal found in the short sum­maries you offer of var­i­ous books on your sug­ges­tion list is stag­ger­ing even though the for­mat restricts expli­ca­tion. I real­ize Anti-Chris­t­ian sen­ti­ment does not meet the lev­el of judg­ment in our cul­ture as does Anti­semitism, but as the Bible includ­ed the Hebrew Scrip­tures, you seem to include not only the for­mer, but the lat­ter big­otry as well.

    I am for free speech, being a Chris­t­ian, and you are free to offer your curt and offen­sive replies. It is not free speech we sup­port if we silence voic­es for offer­ing things we find dis­agree­able.

    Per­haps we can give a dif­fer­ent rea­son for read­ing the books you sug­gest?

    1. The Bible. Read it because its impact on West­ern Soci­ety and the world is unmatched by any­thing else ever writ­ten, and under­stand­ing of our world is great­ly increased in the read­ing.

    2. The Sys­tem of the World — to hear the great­est physi­cist pro­vide an argu­ment that arose from his Chris­t­ian faith and its doc­trines con­cern­ing God as a Rea­son­able Being who made a rea­son­able world and made humans with the capac­i­ty to use their God-giv­en rea­son to under­stand that order. In short, to real­ize Intel­li­gent Design is com­pat­i­ble with sci­ence, where­as Athe­ism gives no foun­da­tion for New­ton’s claims.

    3. Gul­liv­er’s Trav­els. To learn that peo­ple who get so focused on study­ing one thing in their lives are prone to a myopia, like sci­en­tists study­ing nature who tend to think nature is all there is, and that it is the non-experts who know that their thoughts, feel­ings, minds, and loves are not so eas­i­ly explained away as illu­sions as the myopic Yahoos are bound to inform them from on high.

    The Age of Rea­son. To learn that there is a rela­tion­ship between free­dom and ratio­nal­ism. How­ev­er, ratio­nal­ism can also be used to enslave. And Paine miss­es the fact that Rea­son itself can­not give a Rea­son for Rea­son. That takes faith.

    The Wealth of Nations — To help us see that we do not have cap­i­tal­ism as Smith described it, but a cor­po­ratism that con­sol­i­dates pow­er and elim­i­nates com­pe­ti­tion through our allow­ing busi­ness­es to be in bed with the gov­ern­ment.

    The Art of War — To learn that killing human beings has become an art, and to greater appre­ci­ate the “Just War The­o­ry” that arose from Judeo-Chris­t­ian thinkers about war.

    The Prince — To learn that cer­tain peo­ple will make jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for lying in order to pro­mote them­selves or their cause. For this les­son in our cur­rent age, we can look to the decep­tions of Dr. Tyson in his recent reboot of Cos­mos, where it s implied Bruno was killed for his belief in helio­cen­trism when he was not, and where the fact that Mo Tze, the Chi­nese thinker he touts as a sci­en­tist, was a monothe­ist with a decid­ed­ly Chris­tian­like world­view was con­ve­nient­ly omit­ted. Or that after telling us to go where the facts lead, cause that’s what sci­ence does, offers the mul­ti­verse the­o­ry, for which there is no sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence what­so­ev­er.

    Dr. Tyson is in need of a book list as well, how­ev­er, as he has clear­ly read all the above, how­ev­er poor­ly. Here then is a list for Dr. Tyson:

    1, Where the Con­flict Real­ly Lies–Alvin Planti­nga
    2. The Gen­e­sis of Science–James Han­nam
    3. The Unof­fi­cial Guide to Cos­mos: Fact and Fic­tion in Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Land­mark Sci­ence Series

    4. Ortho­doxy –G. K. Chester­ton (espe­cial­ly the chap­ter called “The Ethics of Elfland” which shows the lim­i­ta­tions of sci­ence.

    5. The Sum­ma Theologica–Thomas Aquinas

    6. Sig­na­ture in the Cell and Dar­win’s Doubt –Stephen C. Mey­er

    7. On the Bible–Walt Whit­man

    8. Lyri­cal Bal­lads — Coleridge and Wordsworth ( as a cure for sci­en­tism’s myopia )

    Whit­man’s essay is short, and not a Chris­t­ian view­point of the Bible, but it shows how sil­ly it is to be so dis­mis­sive of it.

    An open mind, Dr. Tyson. Keep an open mind. You may yet see that all you val­ue is some­thing you owe to that Bible. For there would be no Mod­ern Sci­ence and no Uni­ver­si­ties had not there first been a Jew­ish Scrip­ture and a Jesus Christ.

  • James says:

    Cor­rec­tion: the essay by Whit­man is “The Poet­ry of the Bible.”

  • Teresa Novinger says:

    It is as if his sug­ges­tions are sym­bol­i­cal­ly an apple on a tree that we are sup­posed to leave alone or else pay a penal­ty. Many com­ments here seem to sug­gest that igno­rance is best and that the Bible “should” only be read as a God-inspired/­god-approved text…not sim­ply as a piece of lit­er­a­ture that can inform us about human­i­ty-the beau­ti­ful and the ugly. These books…these ideas that are shared in these works (even cer­tain inter­pre­ta­tions of the Bible) threat­en cer­tain groups that can only main­tain staunch beliefs if oth­ers beliefs or facts are squelched. To lis­ten or read in order to under­stand pat­terns or dif­fer­ent view­points does not mean that you have to change your view­point. Those that crit­i­cize seem to do so out of fear…or they do so because they pre­fer not to take the time because the works are bor­ing. Either way, the appar­ent desire to embrace igno­rance is a death knell for an intel­lec­tu­al­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed and for­ward thinking/moving soci­ety.

  • liz n. says:

    In response to “every­thing should be read”…I don’t know about that. “The Dev­il Wears Pra­da” took up an after­noon that I will nev­er get back. ;)

    To any “must read” list, I would add “The Pow­er of Myth” (Camp­bell and Moy­ers), and “Math­e­mat­ics: The Loss of Cer­tain­ty” (Kline).

  • John Morgan says:

    How can any list of Eng­lish-lan­guage books leave out the fourth most pub­lished work of them all: Gilbert White’s,“The Nat­ur­al His­to­ry of Sel­borne”.

    Don’t tell me some­one with the sci­en­tif­ic cred of N. deG. Tyson has­n’t read it.

  • Catherine says:

    I think a good rea­son for a non-Chris­t­ian to read the Bible would be to under­stand all of the allu­sions and ref­er­ences to it in West­ern art, poet­ry, and lit­er­a­ture.

  • Catherine says:

    And a good rea­son for a Chris­t­ian, too, for that mat­ter!

    My point is there are non-reli­gious rea­sons to read the Bible.

  • Paul says:

    Of course there was a Jesus, he was one of many mes­si­ahs at the time. It’s all that’s been tacked on to this per­son­’s name that is doubt­ful.

  • Jay says:

    eBooks? Audio books? Aw, come on..

  • Damien says:

    Who­ev­er said the Dune books, I would whol­ly rec­om­mend Dune, the orig­i­nal nov­el, as an addi­tion to this list. Dune was total­ly influ­en­tial on me in my younger years, and there are a num­ber of clas­si­cal lessns to be learned from it, but it’s also just a very com­pelling and inter­est­ing tale in its own right. I would put it along­side Lord of the Rings as one of the best works of mod­ern fic­tion.

  • DP says:

    If the sum­maries reflect how peo­ple used them and not the con­tent, then read­ing the books are unlike­ly to reveal how they have been (ab)used.

  • Holly says:

    I am struck by the total absence of women authors on this list. We are, after all only 52% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. We nur­ture, car­ry, and bear chil­dren. We must, there­fore, have absolute­ly noth­ing of import to say about life.

  • Andrzej P. says:

    This list and his com­ments are Exhib­it A in mak­ing the case that you can be intel­li­gent, well-edu­cat­ed, and still be left­ist fanat­ic who has no idea how the world (as opposed to the Uni­verse, in the case) works. What an awful per­son he is.

  • Andrzej P. says:

    This list and his com­ments are Exhib­it A in mak­ing the case that you can be intel­li­gent, well-edu­cat­ed, and still be a left­ist fanat­ic who has no idea how the world (as opposed to the Uni­verse, in the case) works. What an awful per­son he is.

  • Annie says:

    Wow. Out of the vast expans­es of human thought — these?! And he would have come out bet­ter had he not elab­o­rat­ed on his choic­es. How dis­ap­point­ing­ly sopho­moric.

  • glblank says:

    Inter­est­ing that you did­n’t weigh in as to whether the state­ment was true or not.

  • Rolando says:

    I learned to read. I read The Bible. I Learned to live.

  • buck says:

    Yes, it’s eas­i­er to take his one line sum­ma­ry and get pis­sy about it than it is to read and crit­i­cal­ly think for your­self. Which one did you just do?

  • buck says:

  • Hache Rdoriguez says:

    The Bible was writ­ten by humans … ;)

  • James Berry says:

    So, a guy who is an astro­physi­cist with decent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills is teach­ing phi­los­o­phy? Stay in your wheel­house NGT.

  • Al says:

    The big dif­fer­ence is that near­ly every­thing we have found out in sci­ence since Dar­win cor­rob­o­rates his the­o­ries. With the Bible, every­thing we have found out in sci­ence since the renais­sance seems to go com­plete­ly against what is in the Bible minus some his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cies, anthro­po­log­i­cal­ly speak­ing.

  • Al says:

    That was in reply to some­one sor­ry. I thin this list is great, and you cer­tain­ly won’t be dumb­er by read­ing them.

  • BILLIE WYATT says:




  • Hugo Pascal says:

    It bears men­tion­ing that Dr. Tyson lim­it­ed him­self to eight books that were in the pub­lic domain. If one has an Inter­net con­nec­tion, it is pos­si­ble to look at any one of those books for free.

    Acces­si­bil­i­ty is impor­tant. He list­ed books that had sub­stan­tial cul­tur­al influ­ence and are wide­ly and freely avail­able. I don’t doubt they can all be found on the Project Guten­berg web­site.

    As for his selec­tion, it is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his idea of an intel­li­gent per­son. They form a cul­tur­al back­ground because they are clas­sic lit­er­ary works which deal with uni­ver­sal themes: human nature, econ­o­my, life, real­i­ty, pow­er, et cetera. The lit­tle blurbs fol­low­ing them are his rea­son for includ­ing the book in his list.

    Dr. Tyson is not ask­ing you to make the same judg­ments that he made about the works. But at the same time, if you wish to dis­pute his opin­ion, you are free to do so—provided you read the book.

  • George says:

    Here is a list of books I believe that Neil DeGrasse Tyson HIMSELF should have read, before post­ing his list of 8 books that every intel­li­gent per­son on Earth should read. I sus­pect Dr. Tyson’s own list would have been rather dif­fer­ent had he read these books first:

    1.) “Phi­los­o­phy Demyst­fied: Hard Stuff Made Easy.” — “To under­stand that pret­ty much every oth­er field of study (includ­ing physics) attempts to tell you WHAT to think, rather than HOW to think.”

    2.) “Inquiry Con­cern­ing Human Under­stand­ing,” by Philoso­pher David Hume — “To learn that any belief you have now (includ­ing sci­en­tif­ic beliefs) may sim­ply be wrong in the future, and that this pos­si­bil­i­ty can seem­ing­ly nev­er be elim­i­nat­ed, mak­ing the uni­verse gen­uine­ly unknow­able to human sci­ence in any final sense. (The Prob­lem of Induc­tion.)”

    3.) “Dis­course on the Method” by Rene Descartes- “To under­stand that we can­not be cer­tain in any final way that our sens­es are report­ing to us the ACTUAL nature of the world, and that the only thing you can seem­ing­ly be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN of is that you your­self exist, if you are expe­ri­enc­ing your­self think­ing at all (and thus that you can­not even be cer­tain that oth­er peo­ple exist, since you can­not expe­ri­ence their think­ing direct­ly.)”

    4.) “Why Vio­lence Has Declined,” by Psy­chol­o­gist Steven Pinker — “To under­stand that human soci­ety is improv­ing over time, and that human beings are more moral, eth­i­cal, and intel­li­gent than they have ever been before, in the entire his­to­ry of the world — and that this con­sti­tutes the great­est dis­cov­ery in the whole his­to­ry of the human race.”

    5.) “Beyond Good And Evil,” by Philoso­pher Friedrich Niet­zsche — “To under­stand that rea­son gives us no rea­son to believe that rea­son will answer all our ques­tions, or lead to total enlight­en­ment or free­dom, and that any­one who believes that it will is express­ing a RELIGIOUS BELIEF in the pow­er of rea­son — the “wor­ship of rea­son” — which is just as reli­gious as any oth­er kind of reli­gious belief — held with­out absolute proof, or even with­out proof beyond a rea­son­able doubt.”

    6.) “The End of Work,” by Jere­my Rifkin — to under­stand that declin­ing job rates may even­tu­al­ly lead to a work­less world of leisure, based on some very inter­est­ing rea­son­ing about van­ish­ing job mar­kets — where the point is not whether you agree with Rifkin — I per­son­al­ly do not, but I could be wrong — but mere­ly that it is a very dif­fer­ent view of eco­nom­ics, which can give a new per­spec­tive on that par­tic­u­lar field.

    7.) “Forty-Four Juve­nile Thieves: Their Char­ac­ters and Home-Life” by Psy­chol­o­gist John Bowl­by — “to learn about the very pre­cise kinds of parental mis­treat­ments that result in chil­dren devel­op­ing Psy­chot­ic Per­son­al­i­ty Dis­or­der, Nar­cis­sis­tic Per­son­al­i­ty Dis­or­der, and Bor­der­line Per­son­al­i­ty Dis­or­der — the 3 most destruc­tive behav­iour­al dis­or­ders in the entire world, and how peo­ple with these dis­or­ders fre­quent­ly go on to cause hav­oc, heart­break, destruc­tion and (even) war with­in human soci­ety.”

    8.) “Peo­ple of the Lie” — by Psy­chi­a­trist Scott Peck — “To learn how there is now enough psy­cho­log­i­cal evi­dence to regard human evil itself as a men­tal dis­or­der, as psy­cho­log­i­cal ill­ness, even more per­ni­cious than those out­lined by Bowl­by — to learn that evil peo­ple are those who pre­fer to blame oth­ers rather than con­front their own faults and fail­ures, a behav­iour that they car­ry to a very unusu­al degree, who enjoy tear­ing down those with good qual­i­ties ‑like hon­esty, open­ness, and com­pas­sion — which the evil do not have, but des­per­ate­ly wish they did.

  • Jeffrey Shampnois says:

    Amazed how many would be the same on mine. I’d add The Unname­able by Samuel Beck­ett. There’s a small chance you might be inter­est­ed in what I’m think­ing about regard­ing Bohm and Krish­na­mur­ti on my blog (apolo­gies for the self-pro­mo­tion, but those inter­est­ed in Bohm, K, Hux­ley, Hesse, Orwell and oth­ers you list are rare enough to send out a weak life-line)

  • Jeff McNeill says:

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

    Who said any­thing about blam­ing the Bible for any­thing? The Bible is full of all kinds of things, moral­i­ty tales, deprav­i­ty, and every­thing in between. If one con­demns peo­ple who use the bible for one thing and not anoth­er, one has failed to under­stand the utter mish­mash that is “The Bible”. “Twist the Bible’s words” is not what peo­ple have to do, all the words, pre-twist­ed are there.

    > The­is­tic evo­lu­tion explains both for me.

    Not real­ly, that is not an expla­na­tion. An expla­na­tion is a state­ment or account that makes some­thing clear. The­is­tic evo­lu­tion does not make some­thing clear, it makes some­thing obscure. It adds some­thing unex­plain­able, but with­out any rea­son.

    It is clear you haven’t real­ly read the Bible, nor have you real­ly thought about evo­lu­tion.

  • Jeff McNeill says:

    > So, a guy who is an astro­physi­cist with decent com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills is teach­ing phi­los­o­phy? Stay in your wheel­house NGT.

    Do you even know what phi­los­o­phy is?

  • Jeff McNeill says:

    If indeed, each of these books had the end result that *James* sug­gests, the world would be a hell­ish place indeed. Thank­ful­ly there is enor­mous­ly more (and dif­fer­ent) in these books indeed, or we would live with­in a strict “judeo-chris­t­ian” ortho­doxy (what­ev­er that is). What a grind.

  • Anthony Mannucci says:

    And yet, there is some­thing miss­ing here. We need a new reli­gion that takes into account all the knowl­edge that is dis­played in these vol­umes. This new reli­gion should be based on the cur­rent sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-derived ori­gin sto­ry of the human species: big bang through evo­lu­tion. (This sto­ry could change, but for now it’s the best that we have).

    None of the books cit­ed here pro­vide such a per­spec­tive. A reli­gious per­spec­tive is need­ed because of human nature. One can­not avoid some mea­sure of faith in the con­duct of human affairs. Sci­ence does not sup­plant what reli­gion pro­vides.

  • Anthony Mannucci says:

    I’d add some­thing else: none of these books explain why ISIS destroyed the ancient Tem­ple of Baal­shamin in Palmyra. Do these books explain the rise of Nazi Ger­many? The Bible is includ­ed in this list to show that it’s eas­i­er to be told what to think rather than to think for one­self. What explains the pas­sion and activism of those seek­ing to destroy oth­er cul­tures? NGT is an inher­ent­ly ratio­nal human being who expects a ratio­nal world. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a ratio­nal world is not required by, and is in con­flict with, the sci­en­tif­ic gen­e­sis sto­ry that he him­self believes. Human evo­lu­tion was not guid­ed by a ratio­nal hand or a ratio­nal plan. The human nature that exists today is here because it sur­vived very dif­fi­cult and harsh con­di­tions. Human nature is defined by its sur­viv­abil­i­ty, not by its ratio­nal­i­ty.

  • Michael Jackson says:

    Void of any Sri­mad Bha­ga­vatam or Bha­gavad Gita? Igno­rance.

  • Mark says:

    Please save us from the hubris of those who believe they are more intel­li­gent than they are. Per­fect­ly sane peo­ple who drop all rea­son when their mythol­o­gy is chal­lenged bore me.

  • Bud says:

    the list is pret­ty good except for sun tsu, the for­tune cook­ie approach to under­stand­ing war. Replace with Clause­witz to real­ly under­stand the full breadth of thoughts on war. Or, Thucy­dides.

  • Lee says:

    All you mugs piss­ing and moan­ing about the one sen­tence reviews, writ­ing lengthy rea­sons how he is wrong, or how he missed the point.

    You don’t get it.

    Quit try­ing to sound smart. It’s just mak­ing you sound fool­ish.

  • Davin says:

    I’ve nev­er been able to under­stand why every­one insists on cher­ry pick­ing The Bible. If you want “moral lessons” from the bible you first have to scrap 3/4th of it. There are great moral lessons once you ignore the heav­en­ly sanc­tioned geno­cide, slav­ery, and rape.

    I was faith­ful the first time I read The Bible and read it to strength­en that faith. The sec­ond time I tru­ly read it in an effort to tru­ly under­stand and was dis­gust­ed.

  • Bruce Hansen says:

    The Bible IS fic­tion. Do your research.

  • Reagan but not the President says:

    “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.”

    Bri­an, He put togeth­er the most eclec­tic book list imag­in­able… He’s not forc­ing any­one to read them, nor is he telling any­one what to think about the books, only say­ing why he added them to the list. He was asked for a some book rec­om­men­da­tions and he gave them. Stop try­ing to make him out to be a hyp­ocrite because you can’t defend your bible’s non­sense.

  • Shallee says:

    I’d like to see every­one read a book by NDG’s pre­de­ces­sor Carl Sagan “THe Demon-Haunt­ed World”. It dis­cuss­es the role of sci­ence in the world, the dif­fer­ence between sci­ence and pseu­do­science, and crit­i­cal think­ing.

  • Pauline Weldon says:

    Anoth­er man who has not noticed that women also write books. It is vital to include books by women to round out an under­stand­ing of the world.

  • Alexis says:

    Good sug­ges­tion but I would also sug­gest Das Kap­i­tal

  • Commonsensepaulie says:

    The sto­ry of Abra­ham is a les­son in hav­ing faith. If you read it with an open mind you ould have seen it pret­ty Les­ley. Lit­er­al inter­pre­ta­tions of the bible usu­al­ly result in peo­ple mak­ing unin­formed com­men­tary. The­ol­o­gy is as much a study in lin­guisitic sci­ence as any­thing else. Don’t be so impressed with your own intel­li­gence. That goes mr Tyson as well

  • Gene says:

    Wow, most of the com­ments here are hilar­i­ous. NDTyson did­n’t sug­gest read­ing those books because they con­tain pro­found truths, or because they are words to live by. He said read them to “…glean pro­found insight into most of what has dri­ven the his­to­ry of the west­ern world.”

    In oth­er words, read them to under­stand where we are today and how we got here, because those books had a huge influ­ence on the evo­lu­tion of West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.

    All the argu­ment about whether one book or anoth­er is cor­rect or incor­rect, or whether some­one’s inter­pre­ta­tion is right or wrong, is irrel­e­vant. And sug­gest­ing mod­ern books that sup­pos­ed­ly are “more appro­pri­ate” is irrel­e­vant (how could they be rel­e­vant, when they weren’t in exis­tence to influ­ence his­to­ry decades, or cen­turies, ago).

  • Jack says:

    Wish I had a rub­ber stamp with which to reply to about 90% of these com­ments with, “That’s not what he said.” It’s absolute­ly amaz­ing how much inter­pre­ta­tion was heaped onto one sen­tence sum­maries.

  • Craig says:

    Human nature has­n’t changed. 18th cen­tu­ry minds wrote our Con­sti­tu­tion and Bill of Rights.

  • Sam says:

    Total­ly agree. Ter­ri­ble inter­pre­ta­tion.

  • Harriet says:

    Danielle, read more close­ly.
    Gene, your response is spot on.

    That being said, I need to read three of the selec­tions he rec­om­mends. Our cul­ture no longer val­ues edu­ca­tion that does not val­i­date indi­vid­u­al’s reli­gious beliefs or polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy. Not know­ing how we got here is detri­men­tal to democ­ra­cy. Knowl­edge dis­pels super­sti­tion and fear; igno­rance breeds poor deci­sion mak­ing and poor cit­i­zens. Be pre­pared to be sold down the riv­er.

  • John Reuter says:

    John Shuey. It’s “enlight­ened” self-inter­est. Self-inter­est alone is pret­ty much greed, pure and sim­ple.

  • James says:

    I think this falls into that cat­e­go­ry of read­ing but not car­ing enough to try and under­stand.

  • meso says:

    cant read one arti­cle in peace or some reli­gious chris­t­ian or mus­lim is fuck­ing it up with his delu­sion­al crap

  • David G. Jones says:

    They are every­where. They are the Ver­min of the Inter­net.

  • Mdq says:

    The inter­est many com­ments take in bash­ing the Bible is fascinating…as if 12 year old chil­dren are try­ing to set­tle scores and tak­ing spite­ful plea­sure in scorn­ing, but not under­stand­ing the big­ger pic­ture. Wax night and day, if you will, about how you despise Chris­tian­i­ty and Chris­tians, and I will sim­ply mar­vel at your lack of inter­est in his­to­ry, soci­ol­o­gy, the arts and humanities…insisting the Bib­li­cal­ly inspired cul­ture, music, the art, the law, etc means NOTHING is childish…One can­not sim­ply pick up the Bible and read it cov­er to cov­er, as a novel..and the vio­lence the enlight­ened take offense to, as if Jesus, and the New Tes­ta­ment does not exist, demon­strate those most vocif­er­ous­ly neg­a­tive have nev­er read the Bible, and if tak­en up, nev­er under­stood it. Of all the books I have ever read or stud­ied, the Bible took the longest to appre­hend and under­stand the rela­tion­ship of the var­i­ous parts, the rev­e­la­tions and significance…it takes courage, del­i­ca­cy, deter­mi­na­tion, an open mind and will­ing­ness to study the over­all frame­work in addi­tion to research­ing addi­tion­al com­men­taries as help­ful guides. Any­one who has tak­en this care would NOT be so dis­mis­sive but respect the Bible as a won­der­ful work indeed, even if they were Athe­ist, or Agnos­tic. There is a very com­mon fierce­ly fun­da­men­tal school­boy rejec­tion club that has a for­mu­la of kicks, rejec­tions, and accu­sa­tions , as prej­u­diced and nar­row and bloat­ed by juve­nile assump­tions as those they ridicule. It gets bor­ing, but those in the club of rejec­tion use the same argu­ments and are sat­is­fied mak­ing the same points of the same objec­tions. This ortho­doxy is con­vinc­ing that they real­ly have NOT read the Bible! Their do NOT see Jesus in their con­clu­sions, nor account for their tri­al and con­vic­tion of Chris­tian­i­ty because of the Old Tes­ta­ment!

  • S&R says:

    Destroy them all. Stare at a wall.

  • Mary Claire says:

    After #6, read “Who cooked Adam Smith’s din­ner”.

  • Jordan with jokes says:

    I might add one pos­si­ble Alter­nate in there of “Claw­ing one’s own eyes out with a Spoon,” seems fair to at least give peo­ple the option…

  • Deborah says:

    For heav­en’t sake– some­one asked NDT what HE thought peo­ple should read and WHY. Here you have his opin­ion. Rather than acknowl­edg­ing the fact that he advo­cates read­ing books whose mes­sage he does­n’t per­son­al­ly agree with, peo­ple start lec­tur­ing him on what he should think about each book! Does­n’t that prove pre­cise­ly what he is say­ing? I’m a the­ist and I believe in many of the Bible’s teach­ings, but I don’t expect every­one to inter­pret the Bible in the same way, or even like it. Calm down, every­one!

  • Bart says:

    NDT is not against any reli­gion. He empha­sis that not any one reli­gion can have any­thing to do with sci­ence. So there is no rea­son to teach a reli­gion as being based on facts. There not one sci­en­tif­ic fact in any reli­gion. So any­one may believe, what­ev­er reli­gion. But nev­er try to prove it is based on facts. That is just your own doubts, about your own beliefs in your own reli­gion.

  • Dana says:

    I own a copy of OTOOS which was an illus­trat­ed hard­cov­er anniver­sary edi­tion with scans of some of his notes, pho­tos of ani­mal species he stud­ied, etc. Makes it more inter­est­ing.

  • Federico says:

    It seems NDT has com­piled this list, not as a way to gain under­stad­ing of our sur­round­ing uni­verse, but as a way to spread of his own prej­u­dices.

    The Art of War is not about “ele­vat­ing war to an art­form”. It is about strat­e­gy, par­tic­u­lary the kind of strat­e­gy to end a war quick­ly and swift­ly as it is a cost­ly enter­prise for the state (grant­ed, from the likes of it Sun Tzu was like­ly more con­cerned with the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the war, than with the mass mur­der of peo­ple). Still the descrip­tion is inac­cu­rate. The book is read today as a guide to deal with one’s own prob­lems and dif­fi­cul­ties in life and not as guide to wage war.

    Like­wise his selec­tion of the bible seems to have been cho­sen only so he can fol­low it with a dis­mis­sive remark toward chris­tians.

    I’m amazed that his read­ing list does not con­tain Sagan’s Cos­mos or books by Aris­tole and Pla­to which where far more influ­en­ciall in “dri­ving the his­to­ry of the west­ern world” (par­tic­u­lar­ly our cur­rent way of think­ing) than Machi­avel­li.

  • Sandra says:

    HI NDT
    Most­ly white. All male. Hmm­mm. Dis­ap­point­ing.

  • Raalnan Five says:

    One thing is clear from the reviews.
    NDT has a king sized ego.
    I have come across many of his videos, and noth­ing he has ever said has made me think that he is a genius.

    Every thing he says seems to imply that HE thinks he’s a genius.

    I’m not say­ing he’s NOT a genius, but I tend to won­der what it is about him that makes every­one else think that he is, oth­er than the fact that HE seems to think that he is.

    Good book sug­ges­tions, I have read sev­er­al of them, and I appre­ci­ate the fact that they are free.

    I won­der if he has read any of them, or if he’s just com­ment­ing on Cliff Notes.

  • Tim? says:

    NDT did leave out pos­si­bly the most impor­tant and poignant tome craft­ed by the human soul; Crazy From the Heat, by David Lee Roth.

  • C Everett says:

    RE: Your Bible com­ment
    God, The Cre­ator of even sci­en­tists, must be laugh­ing!

  • Kai Harper says:

    I’ve read it a cou­ple of times but I guess most peo­ple don’t have the basic infor­ma­tion about how to use a dic­tio­nary to look up old words and under­stand the mean­ing. But I bet a lot of preach­ers don’t want peo­ple read­ing it. They would rather pull out bits and pieces and tell you what they want you to think it means. It is one crazy piece of lit­er­a­ture.

  • Tony H. says:

    Not sure if any­one will see this giv­en all the angry thumper com­ments but the link to New­ton’s work goes to the Prin­cip­ia not Sys­tem of the World. Thanks for the list.

  • Get A. says:

    If there were a god he or she would be laugh­ing but at your ter­ri­ble gram­mar.

  • Tony H. says:

    Want­ed to edit my pre­vi­ous but can’t find it. I see now that New­ton’s Sys­tems text is includ­ed with the Prin­cip­ia so the link is ok. For what it;s worth, I actu­al­ly read and under­stand the list and would sug­gest that anoth­er list, per­haps of books that would enlight­en read­ers to cur­rent pro­gres­sive under­stand­ing is in order, Cheers~~

  • Monty says:

    This is an old list, but I like how no one noticed that the one line com­ment after the very first book (The Bible) describes exact­ly what this list does. “It’s eas­i­er to be told by oth­ers what to think and believe…” or in this case, read.

  • Brian Mooney says:

    Dar­win and his extend­ed fam­i­ly ‑the Wedge­woods- were ardents oppo­nents of slav­ery, and Dar­win him­self recounts how he crossed swords with Fitzroy, Cap­tain of the HMS Bea­gle, over slav­ery. You are total­ly wrong about his being a big­ot, and you slan­der him. End­ing the slave trade was Dar­win’s “sacred cause.”

    In terms of Eugen­ics, you con­fuse him with his cousin, Fran­cis Gal­ton. You real­ly don’t know much, or any­thing, about Dar­win. Try inform­ing your­self before you spout off ugly, inac­cu­rate, and igno­rant opin­ions about any­one, as you have done here about Daw­in.

  • John Bergstrom says:

    There may be a pas­sage in the Bible that says it’s eas­i­er to be told by oth­ers what to think, than to think for your­self. I don’t remem­ber see­ing it, but there are a lot of sto­ries, and some of them con­tra­dict the lessons of oth­ers.
    Many of the sto­ries are about peo­ple who refuse to fol­low orders, who stand up to those in pow­er, on account of their per­son­al vision. Some of the sto­ries, like that of Job, tell us that it is no use defy­ing the laws of the uni­verse: they weren’t made for us, and we just have to live with them, sort of like the laws of physics. I think that’s what they call the fear of God, which is the begin­ning of wis­dom. But when it comes to defy­ing the laws of human rulers, by all means, go for it!
    Of course, NDT isn’t real­ly talk­ing about read­ing the Bible, he’s talk­ing about being told by author­i­ty fig­ures to take the Bible as God-giv­en lit­er­al truth. He should have tak­en as his exam­ple some kind of cat­e­chism or fun­da­men­tal­ist text­book about the Bible: there are end­less books about the Bible that would make his point. For that mat­ter, there are end­less dog­mat­ic sec­u­lar books that have the same impulse, but I’m not going to try to think of any exam­ples.

  • Steve Gray says:

    yeah that moment shat­tered my image of God because I just don’t grasp how the most holy and good crea­ture in exis­tence could demand his fol­low­er to kills his son..a mind *%&^ is what I expect from devi­ous peo­ple who I asso­ciate noth­ing good with in this life..and that’s what that was…To me moments like that in the old tes­ta­ment shook my sense of belief in it all…jesus act­ed exact­ly like a chris­t­ian would in my mind..I mean I do see the proud God theme that might demand some­thing like with Abraham..the same kind of a God who would make every­one burn in hell for not worhsip­ping and giv­ing cred­it and pay­ing homage to him for being a cre­ator even though we have no tan­gi­ble proof except for a book with what in my opin­ion has con­flict­ing “gods” in the old and new testament..On the top­ic of lessons to be learned and wis­dom to be got­ten I agree whole­heart­ed­ly. Psalms and proverbs are two of my favorite books. Even when I don’t agree it inspires me to thought and that is real­ly what I am look­ing for from this kind of a book..Inspiration to thought..I want some­thing that lights a fire in my mind..ND Tyson men­tions some­thing I real­ly think is impor­tant. Study­ing what influ­enced the behav­ior of peo­ple through­out his­to­ry. There is such a strong les­son in the past and books are like doors into the minds of peo­ple who lived and breathed before we existed..It’s real­ly amaz­ing to think just how pre­cious books real­ly are..well off to check out what is on netflix..have a good night guys…*grin*

  • Wayne Weeks says:

    I would add Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence and Sev­en Habits of High­ly Effect Peo­ple to any must read list.!! Regards

  • Rozconni WestSand says:

    Rebec­ca White: Although it’s 2022vanr the world has under­gone fan­tas­tic changes, I utter­ly agree with your view­point that you must read the Bible and interpret/understand it for your­self. I’ve been doing just that for the past six decades, and can find new mean­ings in select­ed pas­sages, espe­cial­ly when direct­ed by a Log­i­cal schol­ar or the­olo­gian. The dumb­found­ing issue for me is, how few peo­ple today remem­ber any­thing except what they’ve heard,and how many mega-church pas­tors (also online) open ser­mons with 2–3 OT and NT vers­es, then talk for a half-hour about their own view­points and opin­ions. An occa­sion­al shout of Halleul­jah! or Amen! is the sole indi­ca­tion of how far The Word has sunk in. Of course, by now I am preach­ing to the choir…

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