What Books Should Every Intelligent Person Read?: Tell Us Your Picks; We’ll Tell You Ours

intelligent books to read

Back in 2011 we fea­tured astro­physi­cist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s list of the books “every sin­gle intel­li­gent per­son on the plan­et” should read. His picks include 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”); Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (“to learn that cap­i­tal­ism is an econ­o­my of greed, a force of nature unto itself”); and Machi­avel­li’s The Prince (“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”). The list, which has gen­er­at­ed a great deal of inter­est and dis­cus­sion, leads you to think about the very nature of not just what con­sti­tutes essen­tial read­ing, but what defines an “intel­li­gent per­son.” Should every such indi­vid­ual real­ly read any book in par­tic­u­lar? Does it mat­ter if oth­ers already acknowl­edge these books as essen­tial, or can they have gone thus far undis­cov­ered?

Admirably, Tyson man­ages to com­pile his selec­tions of books well-known across the Eng­lish-speak­ing world into a list that, as a whole, some­how avoids dull­ness or pre­dictabil­i­ty. In eschew­ing obscu­ran­tism, he makes the per­haps dar­ing impli­ca­tion that an intel­li­gent per­son must con­nect to a wide­ly shared cul­ture, rather than demon­strat­ing their brain­pow­er by get­ting through vol­ume upon lit­tle-read vol­ume, writ­ten in the most labyrinthine lan­guage, expound­ing on the most abstract sub­ject mat­ter, or grap­pling with the knot­ti­est philo­soph­i­cal prob­lems. This inspires me to high­light five more pieces of read­ing mate­r­i­al, all intel­lec­tu­al­ly stim­u­lat­ing but acces­si­bly writ­ten, all ref­er­enced fre­quent­ly in count­less areas of human endeav­or, and all avail­able in our col­lec­tion of free eBooks:

  • Mar­cus Aure­lius’ Med­i­ta­tions (iPad/iPhone – Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats), because the ideas that “you have pow­er over your mind, not out­side events,” or that “the hap­pi­ness of your life depends upon the qual­i­ty of your thoughts,” or that “every­thing we hear is an opin­ion, not a fact” and “every­thing we see is a per­spec­tive, not the truth” apply as much today as they did in antiq­ui­ty.
  • Miguel de Cer­vantes’ Don Quixote (iPad/iPhone (Vol 1 – Vol 2) – Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats – Read Online), because we could all use a firmer grasp on what we mean when we label some­one “quixot­ic,” a sim­ple descrip­tion that takes its name from a sur­pris­ing­ly com­plex and unex­pect­ed­ly admirable char­ac­ter.
  • James Joyce’s A Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man (iPad/iPhone – Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats – Read Online) because, what­ev­er ideas you may have about Joyce — pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive — if you haven’t yet cracked his first nov­el, I guar­an­tee a read­ing expe­ri­ence unlike any you might expect.
  • Michel de Mon­taigne’s Essays (iPad/iPhone – Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats — Read Online), because not only do his pieces exem­pli­fy (because they prac­ti­cal­ly invent­ed) the strongest short form to cap­ture the paths of human thought, but they feel espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant now in this inter­net-dri­ven “age of the essay.”
  • Alex­is de Toc­queville’s Democ­ra­cy in Amer­i­ca (vol­ume 1: iPad/iPhone – Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats — Read Online; vol­ume 2: iPad/iPhone — Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats — Read Online), because the French­man’s diag­no­sis of the advan­tages and lia­bil­i­ties of this then-young and exper­i­men­tal coun­try still give us much to con­sid­er today, not just in regard to Amer­i­ca, but — now that so many coun­tries have gone demo­c­ra­t­ic, each in their own way — most of the world.

None will have come as news to you, but some it may take you a moment to real­ize that, hey, you nev­er did get around to them in the first place. Take in books like these, and not only will they res­onate rich­ly with every­thing else already knock­ing around your brain — you do read Open Cul­ture, after all — but they’ll let you in on what, exact­ly, all those read­ers and writ­ers around the world and through his­to­ry have meant when they cite them so read­i­ly.

We also invite you to tell us: which books, freely avail­able or oth­er­wise, do you con­sid­er essen­tial read­ing for the intel­li­gent? Have I missed the boat by fail­ing to include Finnegans Wake (Kin­dle For­mat — Read Online), say, or the Trac­ta­tus Logi­co-Philo­soph­i­cus (iPad/iPhone — Kin­dle + Oth­er For­mats — Read Online)? Let loose your own rec­om­men­da­tions and we’ll cre­ate a com­pi­la­tion of your best picks in the com­ings days.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Mr. Beer N. Hockey says:

    William God­win’s “Polit­i­cal Enquiry” to be remind­ed what books inspired us to be: Free.

  • Marit Amons says:

    Alvin Toffler´s books are the Ones to read too. It real­ly gives you the news which has not yet appeared in the news­pa­pers. His books inform you and explains you in log­ic ways the ´how´and ´why´ things deve­l­ope the way they go. There­fore you a bet­ter informed after read­ing his books, in order to make bet­ter deci­sions for your own future. A real MUST so to say !

  • Keith says:

    Just ask Harold Bloom

  • Marijan says:

    “Mar­tin Eden” by Jack Lon­don — for the obvi­ous rea­sons. To be read prefer­ably sev­er­al times dur­ing a life­time.

    “The Man Who Count­ed” by Mal­ba Tahan (pen name of Júlio César de Mel­lo e Souza) — a col­lec­tion of fable-like sto­ries about a benev­o­lent trav­el­er apply­ing math­e­mat­i­cal knowl­edge to solv­ing peo­ple’s every­day prob­lems. Kids would love this, and par­ents might be amazed at how eager may they become to learn maths.

    “The Par­rot’s The­o­rem” by Denis Guedj — you can­not NOT fall in love with math­e­mat­ics after this!

    “The Discoverers/ Creators/ Seek­ers” tril­o­gy by D.J.Boorstin — read­ing them for­ev­er changes the per­cep­tion we have of our own species and civ­i­liza­tion, remov­ing com­mer­cial­ized per­cep­tions.

    “The Amer­i­cans” tril­o­gy by (again) D.J.Boorstin — depict­ing, in a unique and unprece­dent­ed way, how the Land of the Free shaped and turned through­out his­to­ry, remov­ing (again) com­mer­cial­ized per­cep­tions.

  • Jason says:

    Rubaiy­at of Khayyam to learn that skep­ti­cism is an inevitable con­di­tion of human life and one can get rid of it pes­ter­ing your mind with a joy­ous life

  • Angela says:

    The Stranger
    Heart of Dark­ness
    Madame Bovary

    Three books that become more pro­found with sub­se­quent read­ings.

  • Moira says:

    Zen and The Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance ~ Robert Pir­sig : a mod­ern study of the schism between clas­si­cist and roman­ti­cist think­ing.

  • Kenneth says:

    For the sake of bal­ance:
    The Gospel of John
    The Dia­logues of Pla­to
    The Ethics of Aris­to­tle
    The Con­fes­sions of St. Augus­tine
    The Search for the His­tor­i­cal Jesus by Dr. Albert Schweitzer
    Pacem in Ter­ris by Pope John XXIII
    The Dhamma­pa­da — Bud­dhist Scrip­tures
    Das Glasper­len­spiel by H. Hesse
    The poet­ry of W.B. Yeates
    The poet­ry of William Blake

  • Leda Georgiades says:

    Absolute­ly every­thing by Tom Rob­bins

  • Leonardo Santos says:

    The Drunk­ard’s Walk, by Leonard Mlodi­now. It is a very suc­cint and well-writ­ten trea­tise on how ran­dom­ness gov­ern our uni­verse, and what are the tools we use to under­stand it.

  • Alesksi says:

    Jonathan Liv­ingston Seag­ul — R. Bach
    Myth of Sisy­phus and oth­er essays — A. Camus
    Car­los Cas­tane­da — all books:)
    Mos­qui­to — Roma Tearne

  • Jason says:

    Walden would be a bet­ter les­son on cap­i­tal­ism than The Wealth of Nations

  • Tim says:

    Vic­tor Fran­kl’s ‘Man’s Search for Mean­ing’
    C.G. Jung’s ‘Mem­o­ries, Dreams, Reflec­tions’ (actu­al­ly pret­ty much every­thing by Jung)
    ‘A Short His­to­ry of Near­ly Every­thing: Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion’ by Bill Bryson
    ‘The Impor­tance of Liv­ing’ by Lin Yutang

  • David Reilly says:

    Some gr8 busi­ness books:

    Brand Engage­ment — Ian P Buck­ing­ham (potent mix of astute busi­ness and ethics)
    First Break all the Rules — Mar­cus Buck­ing­ham
    True North — George (authen­tic­i­ty)
    The Emp­ty Rain­coat — Charles Handy
    The Prince — Machi­avel­li

  • Jazmin says:

    Lorainne Hans­ber­ry “A Raisin in the Sun”

    bell hooks “Ain’t I a Woman?”

    Ben­jamin Hoff “The Tao of Pooh”

    Edward Said “Ori­en­tal­ism”

  • Nick Williams says:

    The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo — Karl Marx — because few peo­ple actu­al­ly know what he said but think they do because of impact and reper­cus­sions.

    Philo­soph­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions — Lud­wig Wittgen­stein — because his ideas on lan­guage and soci­ety still ring true about on how we inter­act and speak to each oth­er

    Can­dide — Voltaire — it still feeds the inner cyn­ic

    The Repub­lic — Pla­to — ideas of the just soci­ety are still as rel­e­vant today as they were 2.5 thou­sand years ago

    The Prince — Machi­avel­li — because this is what peo­ple are like in pow­er

  • Cassiano Terra Rodrigues says:

    I’ll also per­mit myself to quote 5, only the first of which is freely avail­able:
    1. Lud­wig von Berta­lanffy, Gen­er­al Sys­tem The­o­ry (a the­o­ry that per­haps is the sin­gle most impor­tant one since it was announced, con­sid­er­ing its influ­ence over so many areas);
    2. Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Cap­i­tal (I believe it’s kind of self-explana­to­ry why);
    3. Pla­to, The Repub­lic (Idem);
    4. Augus­tine, De Libero Arbi­trio (birth cer­tifi­cate of the most impor­tant con­cept of free­dom in West­ern thought);
    5. Wal­ter Ben­jamin, The work of art in the age of its tech­ni­cal repro­ducibil­i­ty (ok, not a book, but essen­tial to an under­stand­ing of cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­na from the XXth cen­tu­ry on).
    of course, lists are lists, and as based on impres­sions, are very weak. But it’s fun any­way :) thanks!

  • Cassiano Terra Rodrigues says:

    In the pre­vi­ous mes­sage, I meant only the first is NOT freely avail­able: Berta­lanffy’s Gen­er­al Sys­tem The­o­ry is still under copy­right as far as I know.

  • hb says:

    Love on the Dole
    Down and Out in Paris and Lon­don
    In Search of Lost Time (1–7)
    Diary of a Nobody
    Post Office
    Don Quixote
    The Great Gats­by
    King Rat
    The Princess Bride

  • Annah says:

    What about some­thing writ­ten by a woman?

  • Mike says:

    Bill Bryson, “A Short His­to­ry of Near­ly Every­thing”

  • Andrew Miesem says:

    Umber­to Eco “Focault’s Pen­du­lum”
    Nor­ton Juster “The Phan­tom Toll­booth”
    Philip K Dick “The Man in the High Cas­tle”

  • Antoine says:

    René Descartes “Dis­cours de la méth­ode”

  • hb says:

    Meta­physics as a Guide to Morals

  • Katerz1 says:

    Octavia But­ler’s “Para­ble of the Sow­er” — SO time­ly right now! — and “The Spar­row” by Mary Doria Rus­sell.

  • Mike Walker says:

    All list­ed so far are great. Here are some fun ones:

    84 Char­ing Cross Road ~ Hanff (Do you love to read? You’ll fall in love with this book if you do)

    Desert Soli­taire ~ Abbey (Wis­dom, plain and sim­ple. Ancient and nat­ur­al.)

    Atlas Shrugged ~ Rand (If any book can teach one how to grow up, this one can.)
    The Ter­ror ~ Sim­mons (You’d be sur­prised how good this is)

    Divine Com­e­dy ~ Aligheiri (One could spend one’s entire life read­ing and study­ing this book and its three parts)

    Any­thing by Sylvia Plath (So wicked­ly deep her pain tears at your very soul. )

    The list goes on and on.….

  • Roy Niles says:

    The Way of All Flesh, Samuel But­ler
    Ulysses, James Joyce
    The Art of War, Sun Tzu
    The Pearl, John Stein­beck
    For Whom The Bell Tolls, Hem­ing­way

  • Jennifer says:

    Nor­bert Elias “The Estab­lished and The Out­siders”

  • marcelo soriano says:

    The list is long, but I would­n’t miss these five.
    Crime and Pun­ish­ment — Fiodor Dos­toievs­ki
    Moby Dick — Her­man Melville
    Light in August — William Faulkn­er
    The Alienist — Macha­do de Assis
    Mal­one Dies — Samuel Beck­ett

  • Michael Bevers says:

    Should not the title read some­thing like what every intel­li­gent Eng­lish speak­ing per­son should read.….these lists are west­ern cen­tric but still fun lists

  • David Maloney says:

    One more to add to this already great list:

    John Uri Lloyd — Eti­dorh­pa, or, the End of the Earth: the Strange His­to­ry of a Mys­te­ri­ous Being and the Account of a Remark­able Jour­ney (1895)

  • Randy says:

    An intel­li­gent per­son should read at least one book that is banned where they live. Which one does­n’t real­ly mat­ter.

  • sfemet says:

    My absolute, must-have, car­ry around in my heart book is “F*ck It: The Ulti­mate Spir­i­tu­al Way” by John C. Parkin. A half seri­ous self-help book that has helped me many, many times. It’s fun­ny, irrev­er­ent and com­plete­ly true. (Kin­dle edi­tion, audio­book & paper­back)

    I have brainpickings.org in my RSS feed (along­side open­cul­ture), they have reviews of all man­ner of excel­lent books.

  • sherm pridham says:

    Invis­i­ble Man ‑Elli­son
    Walden ‑Thore­au
    Zor­ba the Greek-Katzan­za­kas
    Call it Sleep- Roth, Hen­ry
    Rain­tree Coun­ty — Lock­ridge
    Moby Dick-Melville
    King Lear-Shake­speare
    Prometheus Unbound-Shel­ley
    Great Expec­ta­tions-Dick­ens

  • Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejér says:

    Read about Ger­many in the 1930s to see how a thought can turn and over­turn a soci­ety; read about the rise of Stal­in to see how a per­son with­out scru­ples lead­ing the admin­is­tra­tive back­bone owns the sys­tem; read “Sure­ly You’re Jok­ing, Mr. Feyn­man”, the Richard Feyn­man biog­ra­phy, to learn about com­bin­ing knowl­edge, curios­i­ty and cre­ativ­i­ty; read Cos­mos by Sagan to under­stand your size in it all — no more and no less — and the nature of exam­i­na­tion and explo­ration; read Fathers and Sons by Tur­ge­niev to feel what hap­pens between gen­er­a­tions.
    And final­ly, learn about sta­tis­ti­cal infer­ence. It will help you every day of your life to pre­vent you from get­ting screwed or at least to know when you are.

  • Heather Knight says:

    Not Want­ed on the Voy­age — Tim­o­thy Find­ley
    Galore — Michael Crum­mey

  • Anthony says:

    Neu­ro­mancer by William Gib­son to under­stand the dif­fer­ence between cyber­space and the Inter­net; while not being sat­is­fied until the Inter­net resem­bles cyber­space.

  • Alexis Alvarez says:

    There are way too many books, but these are essen­tial: Just about any­thing by George Eliot (but espe­cial­ly Mid­dle­march) or Hen­ry James for their insight into the human heart and psy­che. Her­man Hes­se’s Sid­dhartha and Mau­ra O’Hal­lo­ran’s Pure Heart, Enlight­ened Mind for great exam­ples of a spir­i­tu­al quest and enlight­en­ment.

  • Melissa says:

    Fahren­heit 451 / Ray Brad­bury.

    1984 / George Orwell.

  • Arik Sternberg says:

    Crypto­nom­i­con — Neal Stephen­son
    Diplo­ma­cy — Hen­ry Kissinger

  • Lauren Lindquist says:

    The Foun­tain­head — Ayn Rand

    Atlas Shrugged — Ayn Rand

  • Flex says:

    Unbear­able light­ness of being
    And any Kun­dera writ­ten in Czech.
    If on a win­ter’s night
    And all oth­ers by Calvi­no.

  • Whitaker Lim says:

    The Water Mar­gin and Romance of the Three King­doms: because to under­stand Chi­na you need to under­stand it foun­da­tion­al myths.

  • Guru says:

    Why is this list even being cre­at­ed? It seems like an attempt to cre­ate an objec­tive list from sub­jec­tive sources. Read­ing the books list­ed here will not make one intel­li­gent.
    I would that an intel­li­gent per­son should read every book that he/she can on what­ev­er top­ic that inter­ests him/her.
    Are we say­ing that the books not in this list should NOT be read by intel­li­gent peo­ple?

  • Anbu says:

    The Thirukkur­al-1330 rhyming cou­plets on life, large­ly relevent — writ­ten more than 2000 years ago

  • Lisa says:

    ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It’s part trav­el adven­ture, part phi­los­o­phy and pro­found­ly beau­ti­ful in its entire­ty.

  • Sultan says:

    With­out sep­a­rat­ing books as for intel­li­gent and unin­tel­li­gent peo­ple, I rec­om­mend these:

    Chi­ma­man­da Ngozi Adichie’s all books

    Crime and Pun­ish­ment

    Sure­ly You’re Jok­ing, Mr. Feyn­man

  • Ken says:

    Three books (no par­tic­u­lar order):

    - Huck Finn
    — The Wis­dom of Inse­cu­ri­ty, by Alan Watts
    — Lan­guage in Thought and Action, by S.I. Hayakawa

  • maria says:

    Joseph Con­rad “Heart of Dark­ness”

  • Mariecor says:

    (1) Plutarch — The Lives of the Noble Gre­cians and Romans
    (2) Jonathan Swift — Gul­liv­er’s Trav­els
    (3) Gib­bon — The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    (4) Immanuel Kant — his com­plete works
    (5) Charles Dar­win — his com­plete works
    (6) William Shake­speare — his com­plete works
    (7) William James — (a) The Prin­ci­ples of Psy­chol­o­gy, and (b) Prag­ma­tism
    (8) Charles Dick­ens — his com­plete works
    (9) Kaf­ka — his com­plete works
    (10) Peter Sen­ge — The Fifth Dis­ci­pline
    (11) David McCul­lough — Tru­man
    (12) Carl von Clause­witz — On War
    (13) Coram — Boyd: The Fight­er Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
    (14) John Le Carre — The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

  • Simon says:

    3 Books, not par­tic­u­lar order:
    The Rest is Noise (Ross)
    Godel, Esch­er and Bach: An Eter­nal Gold­en Braid (Hof­s­tadter)
    Par­adise Lost (Mil­ton)

  • Tina says:

    The Mas­ter and Mar­gari­ta
    Of Human Bondage
    Divine Com­e­dy

  • Sandra M says:

    A book that changed my view of his­to­ry is THE AFRICAN ORIGIN OF CIVILZATION: Myth or Real­i­ty by Cheikh Anta Diop.

  • Reuel says:

    Razors Edge — Maugh­am
    Pow­er and the Glo­ry — Greene
    Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov — Dos­toyevsky
    Pensees — Pas­cal
    Gulag Arch­i­pel­ago — Solzhen­it­syn
    Fear and Trem­bling — Kierkegaard

  • Julie says:

    Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz

    She begins the book with a quote by Moliere:
    “It infu­ri­ates me to be wrong when I know I’m right.”

    It’s a very pow­er­ful mes­sage to learn that you could be wrong, even if you are absolute­ly pos­i­tive­ly sure you are right. It changes your life to under­stand that. It changes your rela­tion­ships. It changes EVERYTHING.

    (There­fore, it made my “must read” list, although it’s not a clas­sic.… Love these oth­er sug­ges­tions as well.)

  • JoElizo says:

    “Things Fall Apart” by Chin­ua Achebe because it shows the neg­a­tive effects of West­ern impe­ri­al­ism on oth­er cul­tures.
    “The Unfet­tered Mind” by Takuan Sōhō because it shows the root of our down­fall is often our­selves.
    “Moby Dick” by Her­man Melville — because of des­tiny or some­thing …
    “Great Expec­ta­tions” by Charles Dick­ens because it proves the assump­tions we make based on lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion in our grasp are often wrong.“A Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude” by Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez because it points out the human expe­ri­ence over the pas­sage of time, and Mar­quez’ imagery.
    “Like for Water for Choco­late” by Lau­ra Esquiv­el for the mag­i­cal real­ism, pas­sion­ate love sto­ry.
    “The Things They Car­ried” by Tim O’Brien because of the last­ing hor­rors of war.
    “The Secret Gar­den” by Frances Hodg­son Bur­nett because it val­ues soli­tude and sacred places.
    “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller because it illus­trates the con­tra­dic­tion between the ele­gant advan­tages and the frus­trat­ing con­se­quences of bureau­cra­cy.

  • HeroAdAbsurdum says:

    The Tri­al (and every­thing else he ever wrote) by Kaf­ka

    Notes From Under­ground is my favorite book by Dos­toyevsky, but again, every­thing he ever wrote.

    The Stranger and Myth of Sis­aphys by Camus if you haven’t time to read every­thing he ever wrote as well.

    My per­son­al favorite Philip K Dick book is Man in the High Cas­tle and think every­one should read it. I’d rec­om­mend pret­ty much every­thing by him too, but I know some peo­ple might not love VALIS and that is under­stand­able.

    Every­thing ever writ­ten by Jorge Luis Borges

    Every­thing ever writ­ten by Nabakov, although my per­son­al favorite is Invi­ta­tion to a Behead­ing.

    Let’s see…

    Invis­i­ble Man
    Being And Noth­ing­ness
    Left Hand of Dark­ness
    The Ili­ad.
    ‎Don Quixote

    My mem­o­ry isn’t great, so I know I’ll leave out a lot of stuff. More recent fic­tion like A Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude, The Road and House of Leaves should be men­tioned.

  • David says:

    Most any­thing by Jarad Dia­mond. “Col­lapse” is my favorite.

  • HeroAdAbsurdum says:

    *Myth of Sisy­phus

    (that mis­spelling is a tes­ta­ment to my aging mind. Yikes!)

    No edit but­ton?

  • Alumno deVerum says:

    These are for the intel­li­gent per­son who is not well read in the sci­ences but wants to have a basic famil­iar­i­ty with them

    Under­stand­ing Physics by Isaac Asi­mov. It’s a lit­tle dat­ed but still sol­id

    Math­e­mat­ics For The Non­math­e­mati­cian by Mor­ris Kline. Also very easy to grasp and very enlight­en­ing

    Your Inner Fish by Neil Shu­bin. One of the best books on evo­lu­tion I’ve read in a while

  • Morgan says:

    Off the top of my head, these were good reads:

    ‘On the Short­ness of Life’ (Seneca)

    ‘Finite and Infi­nite Games’ (James Carse)

    ‘Tragedy and Hope: His­to­ry of the World in Our Time’ (Car­roll Quigley)

    ‘Body Elec­tric’ (Robert O. Beck­er)

    ‘Pat­tern Lan­guage’ (Christo­pher Alexan­der)

    ‘Under­ground Histroy of Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tion’ (John Gat­to)

  • Scott Christ says:

    The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov-Dos­toyevsky
    The Count of Monte Cristo-Dumas

  • Pamela.and.Rose says:

    “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Robert Hein­lein) has a com­pre­hen­sive yet pop­u­lar par­a­digm for reli­gion’s being both ubiq­ui­tous and dan­ger­ous;
    “Slaugh­ter­house Five” (Kurt Von­negut) pro­vides a view of real­i­ty through minds exposed direct­ly to and shaped by aer­i­al war­fare; “The Hand­maids Tale” (Mar­garet Atwood) fore­tells a log­i­cal out­come in a not-too-dis­tant future of unspo­ken bases of men’s fear and hatred of women; “The Pil­grim’s Progress” (John Bun­yan) paves the unborn usa’s path of a fan­ci­ful and fun­da­men­tal jour­ney of Chris­t­ian moral­i­ty applied as gov­ern­ment before the Con­sti­tu­tion sep­a­rat­ed Church and State; “East of Eden” depicts hypocrisy of evil and sin as the usa’s inher­i­tance; “The Grapes of Wrath,” (John Stein­beck) account of how the wages of usa sin are paid and who pays them and how noth­ing’s changed in feu­dal­ism

  • Droy says:

    What­ev­er your inter­ests, read all you can on them, THAT will make you intel­li­gent.

  • Edward says:

    I agree with most of the sug­ges­tions already giv­en and would say them again, but want to add a few I think deserve con­sid­er­a­tion too. And, as an aside, those of you whin­ing about the list and whether it can/should be made, and whether there’s any rea­son to think these books and not oth­ers will make peo­ple intel­li­gent, and whether there are enough books writ­ten by les­bians in swahili or some­thing, and who do we think we are pre­scrib­ing read­ing to each other.…just relax. It’s just a fun exer­cise the point of which is sim­ply to tell oth­er read­ers about books that touched us and to maybe hear about one we can go read and be touched by in turn. Geez. I also have noth­ing against either les­bians or swahili speak­ers, some of whom are ter­rif­ic writ­ers I’m sure, so just relax about that too.

    That said:

    The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck
    One Flew Over The Cuck­oo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
    Essays, R.W.Emerson
    The Geneal­o­gy of Morals, F. Niet­zsche

  • asma siddiqi says:

    Pierre Bour­dieu’s “Dis­tinc­tion: A Social Cri­tique of the Judge­ment of Taste.” He was a mod­ern day soci­ol­o­gist and his work pro­vides under­ly­ing caus­es of var­i­ous con­tem­po­rary socio-eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­na.

  • Mike says:

    The Adven­tures of Augie March by Saul Bel­low.
    The Gold­en Notebook—Doris Less­ing, who’s smart, tough and fair, or my favourite by her The Chil­dren of Vio­lence (the Martha series).
    Lolita—Nabokov’s play with lan­guage will leave you in a dolor­ous haze. a ter­rif­ic take on mid-20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca.
    Dis­grace, by J.M. Coet­zee

  • Sara Gray says:

    The Island by Aldous Hux­ley

    I’m Sor­ry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph

    Song of Solomon by Toni Mor­ri­son

    Gone with the Wind by Mar­garet Mitchell

    Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance by Robert M. Pir­sig

    The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones

    Orange is the New Black by Piper Ker­man

    Where Water Comes Togeth­er with Oth­er Water by Ray­mond Carv­er

    For­ev­er by Judy Blume

    The Win­ter of Our Dis­con­tent by John Stein­beck

    Roll of Thun­der, Hear My Cry by Mil­dred D. Tay­lor

    Just Kids by Pat­ti Smith

  • Katie temple says:

    Infi­nite jest by dfw

  • Harold says:

    Ulysses by Joyce
    Ham­let (or any play) by Shake­speare
    To the Light­house by Woolf
    The Sound and the Fury by Faulkn­er
    Par­adise Lost by Mil­ton
    Don Quixote by Cer­vantes
    The Social Con­tract by Rousseau
    The Aeneid by Vir­gil (in the orig­i­nal Latin, please, learn the entire lan­guage for this epic poem)
    The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tol­stoy
    The Can­ter­bury Tales by Chaucer
    A Dol­l’s House by Ibsen (Fem­i­nists, this is one of the great­est works on fem­i­nism writ­ten by a man)

  • Greg V. says:

    1.Siddartha by Her­mann Hesse, A mans jour­ney through life and the attain­ment of the enlight­ened
    2.The Repub­lic by Pla­to, The cre­ation of a just soci­ety
    3.The Analects of Con­fu­cius, A prac­ti­cal guide to life which has influ­enced bil­lions
    4.Discipline & Pun­ish by Fou­cault, Under­stand­ing the evo­lu­tion of mech­a­nisms of pow­er
    5.Answer to Job by C.G. Jung, A Psy­cho­log­i­cal look into the ques­tion of evil, also any oth­ers from Jung
    6.The Cap­i­tal by Marx & Engels, the name explains it
    7.One Dimen­sion­al Man by Mar­cuse, advanced cap­i­tal­ist expose
    8.The Stranger by Camus, A look into the Absurd
    9.Thus Spoke Zarathus­tra by Niet­zsche, The “mad­man” comes down from his moun­tain to edu­cate the mass­es
    10.Discourses on Livy by Machi­avel­li, The Prince looks to the ruler but Dis­cours­es looks to the Repub­lic
    11. There are many more that have not been ref­er­enced but this is a decent start.

  • Annie says:

    Upon read­ing the title I was going to add my own long list, but then I’ve read the body of the arti­cle and the rec­om­men­da­tions in the com­ments and there is one title I strong­ly sug­gest every­one read: “Intel­lec­tu­als” by Paul John­son.

  • Marsha says:

    Have you read through this list and thought “I would­n’t like that?” Per­haps you missed read­ing the one book that would tell you “try it! You may like it!” Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

  • Liam says:

    Brave New World by Hux­ley needs to be added. The Island gets a men­tion above.


    Jour­ney to the end of the night by Celine
    Dublin­ers by Joyce
    West of Rome by Fante
    Pulp by Bukows­ki
    Every­thing Beck­ett ever wrote.

    And of course that epic work by Marx, Grou­cho and Me.

  • Ethel says:

    What books should intel­li­gent peo­ple read is one of the most insult­ing, igno­rant, state­ments I have ever read.

  • Claudia White says:

    I am a teacher who knows that with peo­ple’s read­ing and com­pre­hen­sion lev­els are dif­fer­ent (not men­tion­ing taste), so I think that any­one who reads any­thing is intel­li­gent already.

  • Simon says:

    Utopia — Thomas Moore
    I read it the first time when I was 15 and it opened my eyes like only Catch­er in the Rye opens 15 year old boys’ eyes.

    The Gulag Arch­i­pel­ago — Alexan­dr Solz­jen­it­syn

    I agree, it’s not a fun, relax­ing or sat­is­fy­ing read. But it’s the only book I ever had to stop read­ing on a train because I was cry­ing.

    Win­nie-the-Pooh — A. A. Milne
    Because it’s prob­a­bly the best book ever writ­ten.

  • judy crowder says:

    The bible It is the only one you need to read. It has His­to­ry, Geog. mys­trey , past present and it tell you future.

  • Jo Ko says:

    Can­ter­bury Tails, in it’s orig­nal form, I read it in my 20’s and boy was it hard, for a per­son who’d nev­er fin­ished high school. How­ev­er, I did and loved it. It was on MY per­son­al list of books I should read, and stood out, still does.

    Sec­ond is To Kill a Mock­ing Bird, I read it every year from when I was about 13 to well into my 20’s and I got some­thing dif­fer­ent out of it every time!

  • Bob Chambers says:

    I would add the Age of Civ­i­liza­tion by Will­Du­rant (all 11 volumes_ and the recent­ly released “Find­ing Your­self in the Town of Genius­es” with its 39+ incred­i­ble videos

  • Seve says:

    A Move­able Feast is so inter­est­ing.

  • Mike JT Melnyk says:

    “The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire” by Gibben.

  • Bill Gye says:

    I would def­i­nite­ly add “Sapi­ens” by Yuval Harari and also his more recent “Homo Deux”. The first book has received high­ly pos­i­tive acco­lades from many includ­ing Barack Oba­ma and Bill Gates. Thes sec­ond book, though retract­ing some of the steps of the first is as viable pre­dic­tion of humankinds future as you will find out in these in our cur­rent “noos­phere” (cf. Teil­hard de Chardin).

  • jon m says:

    Gre­go­ry Bate­son Steps to an ecol­o­gy of mind. Almost a course in think­ing in terms of sys­tems.

    Any decent maths or physics text­books, because you can­not do much with­out this under­stand­ing.

    Kropotkin Mutu­al Aid — because it points to the truth that humans coop­er­ate as well as com­pete if free — as does the rest of nature.

    Prob­a­bly the major works of Aris­to­tle and Pla­to, because that is where West­ern Phi­los­o­phy is born.

    Annalects and Tao de Ching because that is where Chi­nese phi­los­o­phy is born, and they are good cor­rec­tives to the West­ern philoso­phers, and A and P are good cor­rec­tives to them

    I’d add Shake­spear for poet­ry, dra­ma and prac­ti­cal wis­dom.

    Of course nobody will be able to read any of them in the future.

  • originalbleak says:

    1. The Bible (NAS)

    2. The Nag Ham­ma­di Scrip­tures: The Revised and Updat­ed Trans­la­tion of Sacred Gnos­tic Texts Com­plete in One Vol­ume

    3. The Kybalion: A Study of The Her­met­ic Phi­los­o­phy of Ancient Egypt and Greece

    4. Mary’s Mosa­ic: The CIA Con­spir­a­cy to Mur­der John F. Kennedy, Mary Pin­chot Mey­er, and Their Vision for World Peace by Peter Jan­ney

    5. The 12th Plan­et by Zecharia Sitchin

    6. Chem­trails, HAARP, and the Full Spec­trum Dom­i­nance of Plan­et Earth by Elana Free­land

    7. Dark Alliance by Gary Webb

    8. Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruc­tion of Cam­bo­dia by William Shaw­cross

    9. Anoth­er Nine­teen: Inves­ti­gat­ing Legit­i­mate 9/11 Sus­pects by Kevin Ryan

    10. The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov by Fyo­dor Dos­toyevsky

  • Steven H Wasson says:

    God Speaks by Meher Baba

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