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.