Ten Smart Books

This is one of those pass-along things on Facebook, where you tell something about yourself to your friends. I liked doing this one so much I thought I’d post it here as well. The idea is to come up with the 10 books that have stuck with you the most—not necessarily the best, but the ones that had the most effect on your life. Here’s mine, with links:

  1. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne. Although it wasn’t written as a self-help book, it’s probably the best self-help book ever written! Browne gives you a practical, logical, no-nonsense approach for everything from relationships to taking on obligations. Read it and take charge of your own life!
  2. Cosmos by Carl Sagan. The classic PBS series made such an impression on my 12-year-old mind when it first aired. This being the days before VCRs (or at least before we had a VCR), this book, written as a companion to the series, helped me not only relive the series but grow and develop my mental skills. Carl Sagan was truly a master at both astronomy and writing.
  3. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. A masterful work of science fiction with so much food for the mind that I’ve read it again and again, from teenage years into adulthood.
  4. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer. I must admit I had no idea who Dr. Shermer was when I first read this book, but I was so taken with it I just had to read more from him.
  5. Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression by Mary J. Ruwart. Imagine being taken on a journey to a place so enlightening your life will never be the same. Now imagine that every single step of that journey is based on logic and rational inquiry. That is precisely what this book does as Dr. Ruwart shows, almost to a scientific certainty, that aggression in all its forms—even when unseen—causes the harm we see throughout society. (The first edition is available for free here.)
  6. The Mask of Nostradamus: The Prophecies of the World’s Most Famous Seer by James Randi. By all rights, this should be his book Flim-Flam!, but the truth is I only read that after I was a confirmed skeptic. The Nostradamus book got me on my way. I’d never heard of James Randi, and I was researching Nostradamus for a paper I was writing in college. I came across this book, completely rewrote the paper as a result, and my approach to research and learning has never been the same since.
  7. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury. As one of the Uncle Eric books, it’s intended for children, but great for adults, too. Probably the best introduction to economics (at least, its most important aspects) that I know of.
  8. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. Although his science books The Origin Of Species and The Descent of Man rightfully have their place as two of history’s most important books, this earlier book detailing his years on the HMS Beagle tells an inspiring story of Darwin’s love for all humanity and how he was truly a man ahead of his time.
  9. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. Written in the 1940s but still just as relevant today, this one simple lesson is not only a good lesson for economics, but for everyday life as well.
  10. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Poirot rocks. That’s just all there is to it. Christie had a genuine talent for making improbable stories very real, with very real characters, and this masterpiece of hers has to be the best mystery novel ever written. Even if you’re not into mysteries, even if the identity of the murderer has been spoiled for you, this book is still a wonderful treat for the little grey cells.

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