09 December 2011

Recommended Reading

I cannot overestimate the importance of books in my journey from credulity and Pentecostalism to skepticism and humanism, nor their role in my continued growth as a humanist, in understanding the world and human society more fully. Books are not idle entertainment: they can change our lives. I've thought for some time that I'd like to develop a list of the books that I have most profoundly helped me these last five years. This list is subject to change (addition, pruning, etc) in the future, and is organized roughly by genre.

Science and Skepticism
Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind, V.S. Ramachandran
Universe on a T-Shirt, Dan Falk
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan
Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins
Our Inner Ape, Frans de Waal
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Darwin's Ghost, Steve Jones
Evolution for Everyone, David Sloan Wilson

Society
Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler
The Age of Absurdity, Michael Foley
In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honoré.  I'm reluctant to include this on the list because it is uncritical of homeopathy, but the section on medicine is only one in an otherwise strong book.
American Mania: When More Isn't Enough, Peter Whybrow
The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels

History
A People's History of America, Howard Zinn
Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
African Exodus, Christopher Stringer
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann
Theories for Everything: An Illustrated History of Science, various authors.
Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, Joseph and Frances Gies
The History of Science (On the Shoulders of Giants)  series by Ray Spangenburg and Diane Kit Moser.

Philosophy
The Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton
Red Emma Speaks, Emma Goldman (edited by Alix Kates Shulman)
To Have or to Be?, Erich Fromm
The Art of Living, Sharon Lebell (interpretation of Epictetus' Handbook)
The Emperor's Handbook, translation of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.
A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B. Irvine
The Art of Happiness and Ethics for a New Millenium, the Dalai Lama
Dhammapada, Max Müller, annotated by Jack Macguire
The Humanist Anthology, Margaret Knight


Other
Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Volume I: The Old Testament; Isaac Asimov
The Zinn Reader, Howard Zinn
The Assault on Reason, Al Gore.
The Prophet and Sand and Foam, Kahlil Gibran
A Life of Her Own, Emile Carles.
God's Problem, Bart Ehrman

5 comments:

Trish said...

Thank you for posting such a comprehensive list! I will be looking some of these up. May I also suggest The Age of Empathy by Frans de Waal?

smellincoffee said...

Oh, I'm eager to read more of de Waal! :)

dbackdad said...

Love the list. I'd also recommend Diamond's Collapse.

smellincoffee said...

Ah, yes...I read that back in 2008. Good book, but I tried to restrict this list to those books which, in the words of Kakfa, "woke me up with a blow to the head".

Have you read Diamond's "The Third Chimpanzee"?

dbackdad said...

I have not, but I do own the book (and Guns, Germs, and Steel ...). So many books ... so little time. :-)