Back in 2011, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the host of the revamped Cosmos, completed a Reddit Ask Me Anything. In-between sharing his thoughts on time travel (not happening, kids, sorry), where in space he’d travel (far enough away to look back at the dinosaurs roaming Earth), and who he really is (just someone who is in love with the Universe), the science communicator explained which books he thought should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet.
Here’s his list:
- 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.”
- The System of the World by Isaac Newton, “to learn that the Universe is a knowable place.”
- On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”
- The Art of War by Sun Tsu, “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”
- The Prince by 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.”
According to Tyson: “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 list went pretty viral, with science enthusiasts and thinkers everywhere aiming to complete the list. But since then, Tyson has also spoken to the New York Times Sunday Book Review about some additional literary recommendations. And when it comes to book that have had the most impact on him, he lists One, Two, Three… Infinity by George Gamow and Edward Kasner and James Newman’s Mathematics and the Imagination as seminal during his childhood. Via ScienceAlert.