Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Intelligence-Priming Reading List

Neil de Grasse Tyson answered a recent post on Reddit that asked which books the whole world should read. Openculture.com printed his list here.

Tyson’s reading list is as follows:

1.) The Bible (eBook) - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBookAudio Book) - “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.”

I like the list a lot, but I think the commentary could use some tweaking. The Bible, for example, is far too complicated a work of literature to be summarily dismissed as a mind control tool, even though he’s right in observing that’s how it gets used more often than not.

The Wealth of Nations, for another instance, is a more fully  developed continuation of Smith’s earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which deals much more fundamentally with the ethical and moral construction of modern industrial commerce than the later book does, which is one reason it’s less widely studied in business schools.

Similarly, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War as a primer in how to defeat an opponent in any contest of power. Its principles apply to the political and commercial realms as well as to the battlefield.

Lastly, The Prince is widely thought of as an instruction manual for achieving and maintaining power, but there’s a school of thought that says Niccolo Machiavelli intended it to be a sarcastic screed against the machinations of the great houses of Europe.

Anyway, Paine, Darwin, and Newton are the three on this list I still need to actually read over a weekend. How about you?

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