In a reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) a few years ago, arch nemesis of Pluto, Neil deGrasse Tyson answered the question, “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet?” Thank you, ElCracker, for question.
Tyson’s answer ambitiously tries to track the development of Western thought. He describes his list as follows: “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.” Are you ready to glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the Western world? Or do you just want to see what the science guy likes to read? Either way, here are the books Tyson wants every intelligent person on planet to read, along with notes on why they’re on the list. All words are Tyson’s.
1. 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
2. The System of the World by Isaac Newton
to learn that the universe is a knowable place
3. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth
4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos
5. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
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
to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself
7. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art
8. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
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
Well, I have not read a single one of those. I guess I am not an intelligent person on planet, so I am very sorry for wasting your time.
In reality, though, this is a spirited list of recommendations. Thought clearly went into it, which is good since people tend to trust the things Neil deGrasse Tyson says. Even if he does ruin every cool sci-fi movie ever.
Side note, Bookstr’s own Sarah Hill got to chat with Tyson on BoldTV! Check out their discussion here.
Feature Image Via Return of Kings