Ten Books Everyone Should Read

I was asked to provide a list of ten books that everyone should read. (Not a list of “my ten favorite books” or “the ten best books ever written”… that’s hopeless.)

I didn’t put as much time into it as I’d like to, since the author is on a deadline, but here’s what I came up with. What’s your list?

A Step Farther Out by Jerry Pournelle. Straightforward discussions of how technology can help us solve energy crises, cope with environmental disasters, and thrive both on Earth and in space. Almost thirty years old, long out of print, but used copies are readily available.

Radical Evolution by Joel Garreau. What happens when we use technology now on the drawing boards to transform ourselves? What does it mean to be human?

The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg. A well-documented and readable examination of many claims of the environmental movement. The mathematical reasoning — as opposed to the philosophical or emotional underpinnings of many environmentalists — is critical to understanding the real state of the world.

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler. An excellent historical overview that’s easily accessible to Christians, Jews, Muslims, or those of any faith. Helps us understand that the current problems in the Middle East didn’t start in the 20th century.

Alias Shakespeare by Joseph Sobran. A completely convincing argument that, whoever wrote the works of Shakespeare, it wasn’t the man from Stratford-upon-Avon… and it convinced me, at least, that Edward de Vere was the likely author.

Truman by David McCullough. An excellent biography of one of the three great presidents of the 20th century (the others being Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan).

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman. An entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking autobiography by the Nobel Prize laureate. Includes his time on the Manhattan Project during World War Two.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. A brilliant novel that chronicles the construction of a (fictional) cathedral in medieval England. Great characterization and detailed historical research by a highly-skilled writer.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. Arguably the best book by the inarguable best science fiction author of all time.

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. I’m continually amazed at how many college graduates can’t write a coherent well-edited page of text.


  1. An excellent list.

    I’ve read two of these: Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (which gets a recommendation from me as well; it’s well-written, humorous, and filled with awesome anecdotes from one of the greatest scientists that has ever lived) and The Elements of Style (which I think is a must-read for everyone; it was required reading in my high school, and it’s a shame that the book doesn’t have as wide a reach as I think it deserves).



    P.S. I am not sure if you’ve read it, but I think you might like Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us. It is written as a though experiment, exploring what would happen to the world (our buildings, machinery, art, etc.) if humans suddenly disappeared. I definitely recommend reading it.

  2. I’m thinking at least one E.B. White story should be added to this list to remind us how magical and innocent and beautiful childhood can be.

  3. Thanks for the list, some very interesting ones on there that I’d never heard about!

  4. Excellent collection, though half of the books are not Kindle available yet 🙁

  5. Alex Salazar says

    What are your thoughts on Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany or Clay Christensen’s Innovators Solution?

  6. Have you read “Longitude” by Dava Sobel? It’s a fascinating retelling of the invention of the reliable ocean going clock. It is vaguely reminiscent of the X Prize, only set 250 odd years earlier.

    I also loved “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing, which tells the story of Shackleton’s incredibly voyage. I think it was truly one of the most awesome (as in awe inspiring) books I have ever read. Just a truly incredible experience.

    Out of your list I’ve only read “The Pillars of the Earth”, which I would also highly recommend as one of those awe inspiring books.