OK. I’m back after a couple of days of camping with the kids and getting my minivan fixed. Let’s get right back to the countdown.


In 14th place we have Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson.  If you’ve ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what you were looking at, this is a great book to have.  This book is, by far, the best book for an introduction to astronomy.  Mr. Dickinson covers all the important topics and the photos used in this book are spectacular.  There is a thorough discussion of the various type of observation equipment, descriptions of the most famous stars and constellations, some great seasonal star charts, and more essential information.

However, the part of this book that puts it on this list is a section that does an amazing job of showing just how large the universe is in comparison to our planet.  He starts with a picture of the Earth filling the frame of a picture in the first step.  With each successive step the picture is further from the Earth such that the sides represent 10 times the length of the sides of the previous step.  This process is followed until the picture is showing the bounds of the known universe.  This is the single best description of the scope and size of the universe I’ve seen that makes it perfectly understandable.  Even if you don’t buy the book, you should read this chapter to get a good idea of your place in the universe.


In 13th place we have Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch.  Actually, this is now a series of 9 books.  I read the first three and found them very interesting.  If you believe the premise that Mr. Walsch has been getting information from God and writing it down into books, there’s some very interesting concepts here.  Personally, I believe that something is going on here.  How much of the information is direct from “God” is open for debate.  Of course, considering my understanding of us all being God, I guess everything written by anyone is at some level direct from God.  As you can see if you read the Wiki article about the books, many of the ideas about God in these books are in close alignment with my own.  These books started me down the path to the understanding of God and the universe that I believe now.  I guess you could say I’m the rational side to Mr. Walsch’s emotional side.  That’s one key difference between us.  I still recommend these books to the believers reading this blog.  The belief “challenged” will not find these books helpful in the least.


The next entry is another series of books.  I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  Ten years ago, these books would have been firmly up into the top ten.  Now they’re coming in 12th place.  For many years this series was the single best example of fantasy and world creation ever accomplished.  It is still a singularly classic achievement.  I’ve read these books more times than I can remember.  For a while, during high school and college, I probably read them about once a year.  These books did much of form my ideas and concepts of good and evil and the understanding that we can never give up or surrender when our lives and way of life are being threatened.  The only reason these books have lost some of their influence on me is probably mainly due to familiarity.  However, there are also two more recent fantasy authors who I now have to place higher on my list and both will be in my top ten.  Please don’t let my preference for these other authors take away from Professor Tolkien’s masterpiece.  Without his work, neither of the more recent fantasy series coming up would exist.


My last “runner up” book comes in at number 11.  That’s Give Me a Break by John Stossel.  Mr. Stossel actually has two books out and they are both well worth reading.  Mr. Stossel is a libertarian and in many respects that’s where my politicial outlook lies as well.  These books explore many of the areas that government regulation actually makes worse than if they just did nothing.  They also discuss many areas where the media are driving unreasonable fears in the public and ways in which the free market should be used as the best way to fairly distribute resources.  These books will make you laugh at the ridiculous, but also get angry and disturbed by the lies we hear every day.

I believe Mr. Stossel is the single best reporter on Network TV today.  If I see a show that he’s done I will always sit and watch it.  He’s one of the few honest reporters who is more concerned with the facts he can find than the political outlook he’s trying to project.  Yes, he has a perspective that he wants people to agree with, but his perspective is informed by facts, not by the way he’d like things to be.  This is apparent by the “conversion” of his perspective from a pro-government intervention one to the libertarian view he now holds.  I’m actually shocked that ABC News has not only kept him employed, but has increased his visibility over the years.  I guess I have to give ABC credit for allowing an alternative view point to thrive.  In any case, John Stossel’s books are worth reading.

That’s all the runners up.  Next post starts into my top ten books.  This is where the real fun begins.