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Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read? 796

dpu writes "Part of my New Year's resolution is to encourage reading as a hobby in those around me — especially my friends' children (ages 2 to 22), but my wife and I as well. There is a lot of 'classic' literature out there I'm familiar with, and will be promoting to the short masses here (Fahrenheit 451, To Kill A Mockingbird, In The Heat of the Night, Huckleberry Finn, Cryptonomicon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, A Wrinkle In Time, When Rabbit Howls, etc.), but I know many of you are much better read than I am. What recommendations would you make? What are the books that everyone should read? I don't care if it's been banned by schools, burned by communists, or illuminated by 15th century monks. If you think everyone around you should read it, I'd love to know about it."
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Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read?

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  • Popular:
    Stranger in a Strange Land
    Ender's Game
    Slaughterhouse Five
    The Hobbit

    Among the less well-known in the genre, but (imho) equally deserving:
    Consider Phlebas
    Steel Beach
    The Peace War

    • by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:30PM (#45840145)

      Posted too quickly and should have said why...

      Stranger in a Strange Land - really stretches your mind. What is religion? What is humanity? Little questions like that.

      Ender's Game - A great morality play; and a very exciting read.

      Slaughterhouse Five - (or really anything and everything by Vonnegut. The guy is a great master, and every one of his books will open your mind.)

      The Hobbit - Okay, not Sci Fi, but a great book on greed. Pure and simple. Or perhaps not so simple.

      Aristoi - A deep look into a future of plenty, where society needs rigid controls to prevent a nano tech disaster. Also great insights into mind-computer interfaces and where they can lead.

      Consider Phlebas - A different take on a future of plenty, where society is so advanced, the artificial intelligences we have developed treat us like their pets.

      Steel Beach - Yet another take on a future of plenty, more near-term, and about the angst it can engender.

      The Peace War - Just read it.

    • The Worthing Saga: I like Ender's Game, but The Worthing Saga is definitely the best of Card's work (if little-known). A great story about the meaning of pain and choice. If you read and liked The Giver in grade school, it was essentially a ripoff of The Worthing Saga, with different dressing.
      • Yea, Card comes off as a lot more Mormon in this book than most his others, but despite the somewhat heavy-handed moral delivery its a really enlightening and thought-provoking epic. I'd definitely say that I'd have to agree with you that of all his works this one will give just about any reader the most perspective on humanity.

  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:23PM (#45840051)

    0. THE BIBLE
    1. Homer’s Iliad
    2. Homer’s Odyssey
    3. Exodus & Ecclesiastes & The Psalms
    4. Virgil’s Aeneid
    5. Socrates’ Apology
    6. The Book of Matthew & Jefferson’s Bible
    7. Plato’s Repulic
    8. Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic
    9. Aristotle’s Poetics
    10. Dante’s Inferno
    11. The Declaration of Independence
    12. The Constitution
    13. John Milton’s Paradise Lost
    14. Shakespeare’s Hamlet
    15. Newton’s Principia
    16. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments
    17. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
    18. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn (& all of his work)
    19. Shakespeare’s Hamlet
    20. Ludwig von Mises’ A Theory of Money and Credit
    21. F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom
    22. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
    23. Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity
    24. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth
    25. Ron Paul’s Revolution & End the Fed
    26. THE BIBLE

    • I was going to put the Bible in there, but then you should include several versions, and several other such works as well. The Gita, Qabalah, Koran.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:32PM (#45840173)

      Here are a few that are mentioned because of importance, or don't first come to mind.

      1: The Bible (because good or bad, it influences our society.
      2: The Koran (similar to #1)
      3: 1984
      4: Brave New World
      5: The Magna Carta
      6: Dale C. Carson's "Arrest-Proof Yourself". This is an important book in the US to learn and understand. People may not agree with it, but it is how things function.
      7: Applied Cryptography
      8: Atlas Shrugged (one should sometimes read stuff just to show the errors in thought to boost critical thinking.)
      9: Communist Manifesto (same as #8)
      10: Wealth of Nations (same as #8 and #9)

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:50PM (#45840389) Journal

        8: Atlas Shrugged (one should sometimes read stuff just to show the errors in thought to boost critical thinking.) 9: Communist Manifesto (same as #8) 10: Wealth of Nations (same as #8 and #9)

        I'd recommend those to any young person. Not just to show errors, but also to be exposed to ideas that one rarely encounters in the classroom (YYMV per country). This can help to translate "deep down feelings" into a set of core values, which helps one to think critically about ones own convictions.

        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:02PM (#45840495)
          I think John Rogers sums it up well: There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Informative)

            by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:52PM (#45840891)
            I can't comment on "Atlas Shrugged", although I often see it mentioned as justification for some horrible nonsense being posted.

            I did download and listen to Ayn Rand's "Anthem" however, and what a piece of shit it is. Unbelievable characters, including a totally unbelievable protagonist, escaping from a totally unbelievable post-whatever society. I had the vague impression that the author was trying to tell the reader something, but that whatever that message was, it had nothing to do with any sane world.
            • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by CrudPuppy ( 33870 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:16PM (#45841075) Homepage

              First, I don't see why Ayn is expected to not create fantastical characters in a work of fiction. Nobody would read it if it were just a mirror image of society.

              Next, the book was not meant to be just a story that entertains. She felt very strongly about certain ideals since she transitioned from Communism to Capitalism, and she writes at the very edge of the continuum. You read it, you analyze it, you adopt the ideals that make sense to you and reject those that don't. Not sure why this concept is so foreign nowadays. I don't share her atheism, but I certainly share her ideals on capitalism.

              I found the book very entertaining and highly thought-provoking. It's the only book I have read since university where I have taken copious notes whilst reading it.

              • > I don't share her atheism, but I certainly share her ideals on capitalism.

                In other words, you share her atheism. Else that, or you share her God.


              • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by IICV ( 652597 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @02:02AM (#45843315)

                First, I don't see why Ayn is expected to not create fantastical characters in a work of fiction. Nobody would read it if it were just a mirror image of society.

                Do you really not see the difference between Frodo Baggins and Dagny Taggart? Frodo is a fantastical character - he's a short-statured member of a race of hairy-footed little men who live in hills, have eleventy-first birthday parties and possess a strange resistance to magic. But despite all this, he's understandable as a person: he hopes and struggles, he gives up and sometimes he wins. The actions he takes are ones we could see ourselves taking, if we happened to be in his fantastical situation and under the stresses he's under.

                Dagny Taggart is a fantastical caricature - she's a human, but not as we know it Jim. Everything she ever wanted sort of just happened to her, and she just does random insane shit because that's what the author needs her to do in order to move the plot along. It's really hard for an actual human being to identify with her, because she's the barest sketch of one.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:04PM (#45840511)

        1: The Bible (because good or bad, it influences our society.

        The Bible doesn't influence our society because of what it says, but because of what people that haven't read it think it says. Reading the bible can also be detrimental to your religious faith. But a big benefit is that with a thorough knowledge of the bible, you can really annoy any missionaries that knock on your door. I think I have managed to get on some sort of black list, because I have noticed several groups of clean cut bible carrying young men visit my neighbors but skip my house.

        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:48PM (#45841911) Journal

          Of course you are right. I see precious little evidence that the Bible has influenced society much at all, except to give people stuff to fight about. Part 1 is about making sure your enemy is smote and placed beneath you and don't eat pork or have buttsex and Part 2 is all about, "forget Part 1".

          And as soon as some Christian leader starts to actually take the Christ stuff seriously, like Pope Francis, all the Christians start getting mad at him for being a commie. Go figure.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by runningduck ( 810975 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:28PM (#45840685)

        I understand how the "errors" comment relates to #8 & #9, but how does it relate to #10? Have you read the Wealth of Nations? What errors did you find? I suspect that you have been exposed Adam Smith's work via someone else's filter and interpretation.

        Unlike Atlas Shrugged and The Communist Manifesto, The Wealth of Nations does not take a position and is consistantly observational throughout the book based on data of the time. Although Adam Smith is often noted as the father of capitalism, he is first and foremost a philosopher. It is clear throughout his works that he does not always agree with what he observes, but lays out the facts regardless. Most people latch onto the observations regarding self-interest in The Wealth of Nations and extrapolate it to mean that "greed is good" when in fact Smith is more focused on the notion that people have to do what is best for themselves and their families. A reading of his earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, expands upon his observations and helps balance the nuanced conflicts within each of us and society as a whole.

      • by Pollux ( 102520 ) <{ge.ten.atadet} {ta} {reteps}> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:13PM (#45841047) Journal

        I've tried reading the Koran. So far, I've parsed the first eight Sura.

        Even being a Christian and having significant historical knowledge of the Bible and its history, the Koran is still very, very difficult to understand for a westerner not familiar with the history of the Koran. There are significant direct references to Biblical, Arab, and Islamist events that are frequently made and referenced throughout its passages. Even more difficult are the indirect references. Many messages and commands require background knowledge in order to construct what is being said. If you want to study the Koran, you are best off taking a university course on it, or at least going to some community and/or Islamist center where the instructor knows and understands the material.

        I found the Old Testament far more entertaining. Granted, all the lineages were a bit dry, and detailed blueprints of the Arc of the Covenant just don't help me day-to-day, ya know, but heck, collecting foreskins for a king to wed his daughter [], that stuff's just good as gold!

  • The Bible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:23PM (#45840053)

    Start with the Gospel of John and then Romans.

    • Re:The Bible (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RelaxedTension ( 914174 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:47PM (#45840345)
      Good pick!

      The Bible has has intrigue, death on a massive scale, hypocrisy, and damnation, the makings of a great work of fiction. And that's just the parts the character god plays, never mind the other players that come and go. As you move through the stories, you get a sense of the ruthlessness of all involved (especially the writers) to stop at nothing in their attempts to control those around them through fear and intimidation. Thrilling!

      On the minus side they forgot to do a continuity check after the constant re-writes that were done century after century to "update" it to current "standards". This leads to a fair amount of contradictions the subplots, such as what a person can and cannot do to anger the main character (spoiler: He gets mad at pretty much anything that has to do with personal pleasure, or things that don't involve group chanting and prostrating).

      It is an epic read though, and if you can stick with it you are certain to come away with a greater appreciation of those afflicted with mental illness.
      • Re:The Bible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:01PM (#45840475)

        You cannot understand a lot of the modern Western society's norms, customs and even laws, never mind art, music, architecture and so much more without being familiar with the stories of the Bible. It is a matter of basic education about the society you live in which, thank God, was not created by militant atheists like some others I could mention.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tsingi ( 870990 )

          created by militant atheists

          You mean the atheists runing around killing abortion doctors on the command of no god whatsoever, or the atheists blowing themselves up in the name of no higher order?

          Or do you mean that the bad things that were not done in the name of a god are the fault of all people that don't believe in gods?

          There is no such thing as atheist dogma, so there is nothing for militant atheists to be militant about. There are non-religious dogmas, such as Stalinism. Please explain how all atheists are responsible for, o

    • by PPH ( 736903 )
      And then read "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". The Bible will then become clear for what it is.
  • by thegameiam ( 671961 ) <thegameiam AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:24PM (#45840057) Homepage

    But really, make sure The Bible is on the list. Actually having read it opens up a tremendous world of understanding of other art and literature, regardless of one's religion.

    • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:50PM (#45840387) Journal

      The Dictionary. All other books are generated from this one.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:59PM (#45840459)

      Yeah, despite being an atheist I'm quite glad my high school included some pertinent excerpts from the Bible in the European literature class (which led to some controversy with some parents). If you're reading European literature prior to the 20th century, you miss large amounts of context and a ton of allusions that the author would've considered obvious to readers of the day, if you aren't familiar with some of the basic figures and stories in the Bible.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )

      Seriously, this is something that can be read when the attention span is longer and there is more context for the naughty bits. No one wants boring lists of who begat whom and who tried to kill whom. The incest and polygamy and slavery will appeal to many the undeveloped mind, but again, is this what kids should be exposed to?

      If you want to indoctrinate a kid into the religious cult, use Little Pilgrims Progress. It is short, sweet, and makes everyone seems like loser. It is more effective at c

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:24PM (#45840067) Journal
    The Iliad and The Odyssey. Canterbury Tales. Moby Dick. Oedipus trilogy. Beowulf. Rubaiyat.
  • The manual (Score:5, Funny)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:26PM (#45840085) Homepage

    Just for once, read the f'ing manual.

  • Best author of all time, hands down. Reading her books is like watching a movie.

  • Cryptonomicon? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:26PM (#45840091) Homepage Journal

    Sure, if you think that reading should be an exercise in excruciating drudgery.
    That book bored me to tears, resulting in my finally giving up and throwing it in the trash.

  • GEB (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:28PM (#45840105)

    GÃdel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid []

    Godel, Escher, Bach is not a simple read. The ideas are complex and the logic subtle. But it is a completely satisfying book, and reading it is one of those rare experiences when you leave feeling smarter than when you started.

    its true, though I felt like a complete simpleton after reading it - its an awesome piece of writing. Its not something to read casually though, you're gonna have to think, a lot.

  • Orwell (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hellebore ( 993500 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:28PM (#45840113)
    Animal Farm
  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:29PM (#45840129) Journal
    Just as relevent now.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:42PM (#45840809)

      A Brave New World describes the current world much better than 1984 ever could. 1984 and Animal Farm are about Stalinism and control through fear. A Brave New World is about control through entertainment. The first is much easier to convince people to fight against; the latter is, apparently, impossible.

  • Just have a couple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dugancent ( 2616577 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:30PM (#45840139)

    Michael Pollan - The Omnivore's Dilemma
    Christopher McDougall - Born to Run

  • Whenever you see bugger read it as formic - ROFLMAO
  • Instead of specific books, I usually recommend to people looking for reading material that they read the entire output of certain authors: Orwell, Sinclair, van Tilburg Clark, Shute, Faulkner, Dos Passos, Francis, O'Hara, Doctorow, and some others.

    Oddly, some of my favorite single works come from writers whose other books which I either can't get past the first chapter or don't pick up because of the subject. For instance, Gravity's Rainbow is in my top five all time, but Pynchon's other books never enga
  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 )
    What you listed: Fahrenheit 451, To Kill A Mockingbird, In The Heat of the Night, Huckleberry Finn, Cryptonomicon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, A Wrinkle In Time, When Rabbit Howls

    All good stuff here. I'd add on the Bible, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (or On the Road), Animal Farm, Brave New World, 1984.

    I'd also add some books *not* to read: Catcher in the Rye, Girl of the Limberlost

    If someone recommend CitR to you, you can question their taste

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:45PM (#45840315) Journal

      If someone tells you it changed their life, I'd just stop talking to them.

      If someone told me any book changed their life, I'd start talking to them to find out more. If anything, such an event always makes for great conversation.

    • by jddj ( 1085169 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:48PM (#45840361) Journal

      Sorry, I think Catcher in the Rye is worth the read. Not life-changing, but yeah, read it - worthwhile.

      ++On The Road - awesome book - might supplement it with some third-party history of the beats.

      Recommend Dune in the Science Fiction realm. Take the series as far as you wanna - but at least Dune.

      Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug is essential for the web developer, and I think "Simple and Beautiful" by Giles Colburne a close second. Maybe top it with "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman - you'll never look at a door handle the same way again.

      Recommend for ANY coder Kernigan and Ritchie "The C Programming Language" - such a brief tome, and a comprehensive document on how to write in the language that rocked the world. Would be a good read for any tech writer, as well.

      Whatever they say about Steven Ambrose (and they say a WHOLE lot...accusations of plagarism, f.e.), "Undaunted Courage" presents the Lewis and Clark expedition in Technicolor - if only they could teach with books of this quality.

      If you're gonna read any Stephen King, gotta read The Stand, for the sweep of it.

  • The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz Miguel, easy read, very inspiring, if you're open to this kind of thing. For me it made a difference in my life, especially the second one - don't take anything personally. Just reading the agreements is not enough, read the book because it explains why. Reading the book is still not enough however.... You need to practise this to make it effective. Then read the book again because it has more layers than you realise the first time.

    Another interesting read: Don't Shoot the Do

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:37PM (#45840225)

    Rather than thinking about books, I would think about authors. Mark Twain, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Friederich Nietzsche, Feodor Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Voltaire, Edgar Alan Poe, Pablo Neruda, etc.

  • Watership Down (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reliable Windmill ( 2932227 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:37PM (#45840231)
    by Richard Adams. I truly believe it helps people build empathy, and sympathize with animals and understand how frail and exposed they really are.
  • In Order:

    Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein
    The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand
    Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx
    Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
    Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
    The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
    Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
    Mein Kampf - Adolf Hitler
    Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank
    Godel, Escher, and Bach - Douglas Hofstadter

    This should give anyone a good look into the way humanity works, and you can truly look past any libertarian, communist, or religious. Lots of thinking and perspectiv
  • by danpbrowning ( 149453 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:39PM (#45840249)

    "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoyevsky. Characters and conflict that will really come alive in your mind.

    "Foundation" by Asimov. Start of a really good sci-fi series. I read the entire book as if computers were described in the story all along, only to realize after I was done that he wrote the book before computers were even invented. Whoa!

    "Israel" by Martin Gilbert. A fact-based history starting in late 19th century using Arabic sources that will make you shudder to realize how many lies are believed about the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict as well as the sheer magnitude of the current level of anti-Israeli propaganda (i.e. "news").

    "Band of Brothers" by Stephen Ambrose. A great portrait of American heroes from The Greatest Generation. Better than the TV miniseries.

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:40PM (#45840253)

    "Put aside the Ranger, and become who you were born to be."

    "It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end⦠because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing... this shadow. Even darkness must pass."

    "I don't know how to say it, but after last night I feel different. I seem to see ahead, in a kind of way. I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't right to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want - I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me."

    You want your kids to have a positive outlook, be confident in their ability to solve challenges, read them good, hero fiction.

    • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:07PM (#45840993)

      >You want your kids to have a positive outlook, be confident in their ability to solve challenges, read them good, hero fiction.

      I agree, emphaisi on the good. And I think it's worth pointing out something somewhat unusual about The LotR and The Hobbit that make them particularly good- there's absolutely nothing special about the hero. He's just an ordinary guy who rises to the demands of extraordinary circumstances. No super powers, no magical birthright, no (pseudo-) divine messenger. Granted, the ring does bestow a powerful advantage, but one that comes at such a high cost (at least in LotR) that it's rarely invoked.

      Superhero stories, from Beowulf to Superman, let children dream of being one of the Chosen Ones empowered to do great things. "Everyman" heroes show kids that you don't necessarily need magic powers or great deeds - sometimes a great hero is simply doing what must be done even though they'd much rather be comfortable at home. You tell me which is more likely to inspire a man do something heroic like betraying his government for the sake of his people.

  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:41PM (#45840269) []

    How to be People Smart by Les Giblin.
    This book greatly contributed to my retirement at age 51.

    The advice on only giving yourself 1 no per 9 yes's will completely change the way you interact with others in a highly positive way.

    The rest is equally good. Very basic. Very obvious. But few know or practice anything except knowing the most important word in any language.

    Dale Carnegie's book's on dealing with worry are also extremely useful.

  • None (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:42PM (#45840277)

    How about if we all read different books? Then we'll have lots of different ideas to discuss. It'll be like we're thinking individually instead of just following along with the group.

  • The Bible - As Canadian Northrop Frye said, this is the basic code for understanding Western Civilization, its laws cultures and ethics.
    Shakespeare - Not only are his works very funny, but they're really good stories.
    Code of the Woosters - PG Wodehouse at his best
    The Joy of Cooking - Get a 1950s version before all of the processed food came in.
    The Complete Editions of National Lampoon and Playboy - If you want to understand me.

    • I second the Bible. Even if you don't want to believe in a God who loves you so much he died for you, it helps you understand those who do. My favorite books other than that are The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
  • by Cronopios ( 313338 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:43PM (#45840285) Homepage Journal

    A Confederacy of Dunces
    Dharma Bums
    Lord of the Flies
    On the Road
    The Golden Notebook
    The Grapes of Wrath
    The Razor's Edge
    A Clockwork Orange
    Brave New World
    Player Piano
    Slaughterhouse Five
    The Diamond Age
    The Dispossessed
    The Island
    The Stand ...

  • by morcego ( 260031 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:43PM (#45840289) will provide you with several recommendation reads, as well as several book clubs.

    As for book clubs, if you are into SF/F, you might want to check Sword and Laser (, which is both a book club and a podcast.

    As far as book lists, check this one: []

  • Each branch of the military has a reading list that is very good. Usually they are put out by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For those of you that get your military knowledge from television, reading some of the books on these lists will help you gain a understanding of how the military works and lives.
  • Just kidding. That said, it's definitely worth reading "A Loeb Classical Library Reader" - it's a subset of the Library and gives a great introduction to Classical Greek & Roman thought.
  • When thou retrievest the book from its cradle, you must recite the words, 'Klaatu Barada Nikto'.
  • A decade isn't very long in book years, so I'd recommend browsing through the top list from BBC's 2003 survey The Big Read [].


  • I've been using the web site and iPhone app goodreads []. While not perfect, it is a nice way to keep track of what you've read, want to read, and see what others are reading. Better integration with Audible would be nice.
  • His statements about race relations sound fresher than anything you will ever hear today. If listening to discussions about race tends to give you a headache, try to read as much (non-fiction) James Baldwin as you can. You may still get a headache, but at least you finally get to hear it straight. And it may lead you to reading his (and others) important fiction books.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:48PM (#45840363) Homepage

    The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems - Galileo
    1984 - Orwell
    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid - Hofstadter
    The Foundation Trilogy - Asimov
    Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus - Shelly

  • = Best Science book I've ever read, very approachably written and very funny.

    There are other important ones mentioned here already, I'd add Crime and Punishment, Walt Kelly's Pogo comics, Larsen's Far Side comics, Hesse's Siddhartha, and Huckleberry Finn.

  • without doubt: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress []

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:56PM (#45840433) Homepage

    This book is more irreverent and more subversive than Mark Twain. And it is very funny and an entertaining read. It's especially good if you happen to be feeling annoyed at your parents.

    He said: "Oh, don't talk about rewards. Look at Milton, who only got â5 for 'Paradise Lost.'
    "And a great deal too much," I rejoined promptly. "I would have given him twice as much myself not to have written it at all."

    Surely nature might find some less irritating way of carrying on business if she would give her mind to it. Why should the generations overlap one another at all? Why cannot we be buried as eggs in neat little cells with ten or twenty thousand pounds each wrapped round us in Bank of England notes, and wake up, as the sphex wasp does, to find that its papa and mamma have not only left ample provision at its elbow, but have been eaten by sparrows some weeks before it began to live consciously on its own account?

    All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it- and they do enjoy it as much as man and other circumstances will allow. He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most; God will take care that we do not enjoy it any more than is good for us.

    Never learn anything until you find you have been made uncomfortable for a good long while by not knowing it; when you find that you have occasion for this or that knowledge, or foresee that you will have occasion for it shortly, the sooner you learn it the better, but till then spend your time in growing bone and muscle; these will be much more useful to you than Latin and Greek, nor will you ever be able to make them if you do not do so now, whereas Latin and Greek can be acquired at any time by those who want them.

    Nothing is well done nor worth doing unless, take it all round, it has come pretty easily.

    Tennyson has said that more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of, but he has wisely refrained from saying whether they are good things or bad things. It might perhaps be as well if the world were to dream of, or even become wide awake to, some of the things that are being wrought by prayer.

    And, best of all:

    [Mendelssohn] wrote "I then went to the Tribune [a room in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence]. This room is so delightfully small you can traverse it in fifteen paces, yet it contains a world of art. I again sought out my favourite arm chair which stands under the statue of the 'Slave whetting his knife' (L'Arrotino), and taking possession of it I enjoyed myself for a couple of hours..." I wonder how many chalks Mendelssohn gave himself for having sat two hours on that chair. I wonder how often he looked at his watch to see if his two hours were up. I wonder how often he told himself that he was quite as big a gun, if the truth were known, as any of the men whose works he saw before him, how often he wondered whether any of the visitors were recognizing him and admiring him for sitting such a long time in the same chair, and how often he was vexed at seeing them pass him by and take no notice of him. But perhaps if the truth were known his two hours was not quite two hours.

  • Here's a few generally pratical books that I genuinely believe anyone can find some value in:
    Boy Scout Handbook -- Great source of info for anything outdoors related including basic first aid, how to tie knots, survial skills, etc.
    How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie -- A series of insights on how to effectively deal with people.
    The Way to Cook by Julia Child -- Julia considered this book her magnum opus; it teaches you how to cook almost anything you can imagine.

  • I would add:
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Time Enough For Love by Heinlein, Neuromancer trilogy by Gibson, Snow Crash by Stephenson and anything by Asimov, Benford and Clarke.
  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:19PM (#45840621)

    As I read a lot of books, I've heard this question asked a couple of times before, so I've thought about it for a while and come to the conclusion that there's not really one book everyone should read. People are different, and they take different things from what they read. There are few books I've enjoyed as much as The Name of the Rose, but I also understand that that's because I love both Sherlock Holmes and the debate over realism/nominalism concerning universals in the middle ages -- I wouldn't recommend it to anyone in my immediate family, because I know they would probably die of boredom before even finishing the introduction. They wouldn't get why the revelation at the end is so great, any of the philosophy, or even the Burgos-Borges link. The Name of the Rose's embeddedness in several different contexts contribute hugely to why I think it's such a good book, but if you lack those contexts it's really nothing more than an entropically extravagant piece of firewood. So perhaps "books I enjoyed" is not the right interpretation of "books everyone should read".

    So perhaps non-fiction then. I'd love it if more people looked at the world scientifically, and there are definitely books that can teach you to do that. However, you can't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. You can make The Demon-Haunted World required reading, but you can't make someone actually think about what it says. Thinking is something you have to do by yourself, and if you don't want to think about something being forced to read a book isn't going to make you. So perhaps "books I think people should think like, or at least about" is not a proper interpretation of "books everyone should read" either.

    What book someone should read depends on what they're interested in, what they already know, and what they've already read. If they like sci-fi they should read The Cyberiad, Neuromancer, Ted Chiang's short stories. If they like fantasy and have already read LotR, they should read Bridge of Birds and Perdido Street Station, to see what else can be done in that genre. If they like horror they should read Poe and Lovecraft. If they like thinking just because they should read Borges.

    For every reader there's a book that they should read, but there's no book that everyone should read.

  • by TheloniousToady ( 3343045 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:27PM (#45840677)

    Here's one that may not exactly be literature but certainly is a classic: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. Among secular books, this is one that can truly change your life. You can read the free condensed version [] if you must, but instead, I recommend you skip that and get the actual book, which is available at your local public library. Read it, understand it, live it.

    Basically, social skills are essential to success in nearly any sphere of life, and if you're truly a nerd, you may be lacking in that department. Even if you do have some basic social skills, the book will help you improve them and, most importantly, will help you really understand where you've been going wrong. Winning friends and influencing people isn't all that complicated, but it may not be obvious to nerds like you and me.

    For example, one simple prescription from the book that most folks could benefit from is, "Become genuinely interested in other people." What's so mysterious about that? But how many of us know someone who wants you to be interested in them, but doesn't show any interest in you? (I seem to be surrounded by them.) With that little bit of wisdom, though, you can either become more likeable to people by showing an interest in them, or you can understand why you don't much like someone who's self-absorbed - if you don't already.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:34PM (#45840739) Homepage Journal

    I care more about *how much* and *how often* you read, than *what* you read. If you read more than 50 books a year that tells me a lot more about you than the titles you read. I think everyone should read at least 20 books a year, with two or three genres of fiction and non-fiction represented. Once we get to that point, THEN we can argue what titles should be in the "canon".

    This is not the middle ages, where a gentleman could return from university with a library of fifty or so books that'd do him for the rest of his life. There's just too much information in the world and entering the world to rely exclusively on a canonical list of titles. It's more important to be a habitual knowledge seeker who can take pleasure in reading.

    And we need some kind of antidote to the 24 hour news cycle, in which the more people read or watch the less informed they become. That antidote is books, in large quantities.

  • by DrEasy ( 559739 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:57PM (#45840925) Journal
    I like fiction that makes me think:

    Fictions - Borges
    I, Robot - Asimov
    Never Let Me Go - Ishiguro
  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:07PM (#45841001)

    Many fine books (especially in fiction) are offered above, so I thought I'd take a different approach to the question. The following ten books are, in my view, fundamental for anyone who wishes a broad education. That being said, I didn't pick these from some list of "classics." Each of these books have challenged me and have changed my life, even those I vehemently disagree with. They chiefly address that most important question: How we shall live a good life? These are worth reading, which is to say they're worth reading more than once. It's a bit of a mélange, but I wanted to limit myself to only ten works.

    1. Plato, Republic (add Phaedo and Phaedrus if you like that)
    2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
    3. Confucius, The Analects
    4. Cicero, On Duties (esp. Book III)
    5. Plotinus, Enneads (I.6)
    6. Dorotheos of Gaza, Discourses (esp. "On Renunciation" and "On Refusal to Judge our Neighbor")
    7. Augustine, The Confessions
    8. Marx, Communist Manifesto
    9. Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum
    10. Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle

  • 42 (Score:5, Informative)

    by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:46PM (#45841893)

    I cant belive i didnt find "Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy" here. It has answers for everything.

  • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:07PM (#45842411) Journal

    This [] should be required reading for everyone of junior high/high school age. It's basically a brief introduction to statistics, focusing on all the ways they are often misused. It's short, funny, and permanently changed the way I view news and politics. Once you know this stuff, you'll see examples everywhere, especially when partisans have an ax to grind. E.g., years ago I saw a group's study that purported to "prove" that California's taxes and regulations had no negative effects on businesses. Further investigation revealed that they studied only existing California businesses, not businesses that had closed down, or moved out of state, or never got off the ground. Um, sample bias?

  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:38PM (#45842621)

    The Authoritarians by Bob Altermeyer. A psychological researcher spends a lifetime following up the thread left by researchers like Stanley Milgram's (Obedience to Authority) and lays out once and for all the who, why and how of the authoritarian personality type.
    They're always with us, but at this point in time in America, they're clearly at the helm so this is a very relevant - and riveting- book.

    If you want to know why people who listen to Limbaugh and Hannity are the way they are and why they're never going to change and why reasoning and evidence is totally irrelevant to the 30% of Americans who fit this profile, then this does more than argue some likely hypothesis; it proves the author's point through the application of the scientific method . Fascinating just for the reveal of his methodology, to see how a scientist even approaches something as amorphous as "authoritarian personality type. This book actually changed my life.

    And here it is for free: []

  • by davesag ( 140186 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @04:34AM (#45843809) Homepage

    Here's a short list of 32 book's I've read that really affected how I look at the world (with links to Goodreads):

    0) The Dancers at the End of Time [] Trilogy by Michael Moorcock - A literary dandy of a series. Short, sweet, funny and eternally optimistic. Stays with you.
    1) The Illuminatus! Trilogy [] By Robert Shae and Robert Anton Wilson. - Truly hilarious - the literary equivalent of taking LSD. Once you've read it you'll never see the world in the same way again. This book invented the Illuminati conspiracy myth as we know it today.
    2, 3, 4, 5) Hyperion / The Fall of Hyperion / Endymion, The Rise of Endymion [] by Dan Simmons - Heavy, difficult, big-idea science fiction / space opera set in a deeply religious future. The end made me cry. (Also check out Drood [] by Simmons. It's creepy and great.)
    6) Solaris [] by Stanislaw Lem - a moving and beautiful critique of the scientific process - also made me cry. (read any Lem you come across, it's all great)
    7) Gravity's Rainbow [] by Thomas Pynchon- a monster of a book - took me 3 years to read - but worth every bit of it. Affects how you perceive the world. (Also worth reading the companion [] so you can see what you missed the first time around)
    8) Accelerando [] by Charles Stross - Truly a book for our times. Read any Stross, it's all pretty good.
    9) The Master and Margarita [] by Mikhail Bulgakov - funny, trippy satire of the soviet era and religion.
    10) The Sacred Book of the Werewolf [] - Funny, especially if you've read The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov but ultimately this is a book about the nature of perception and reality.
    11, 12, 13) American Tabloid / The Cold Six Thousand / Blood's a Rover [] - James Ellroy. - Shocking, funny, tense, amazing. You'll never look at US politics in the same way again. Very few sentences longer than about 4 sentences unless it's dialogue, newspaper extracts or wiretap transcripts.
    14, 15, 16) The Baroque Cycle [] by Neil Stephenson - Terrific fun nerd core historical adventure that reveals the history of money and science. Then go read all of Stephenson's other books, especially Cryptonomicon [], Snow Crash [], The Diamond Age [] and Anathem [].
    17) The Gulag Archipelago [] by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - scary because it's true and increasingly relevant. You'll look twice at train carriages after reading this.
    18) Any / all of the Culture books [] by Iain M Banks, but especially Surface Detail [].
    19 and 20) The Commonwealth Saga [] by Peter F Hamilton - pure fun space opera.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"