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Blue Lion's Lair

Hunting for Answers and Devouring the Issues

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Tag: top ten books

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.

OK.  So when I conceived doing a top ten books everyone should read article, I thought I could stop it at 10 books.  As I kept looking back at the books that have influenced my thinking, the list kept growing.  I kept finding books I wanted to recommend to everyone.  As it stands, the list is now up to 18 books.  So, I’m going to make this a Top 18 Books Everyone Should Read Article.  Well…..actually, it’s a lot more books than that.  Some of the entries are series of books.  I’ll have a final book count at the end.

So without further ado, here is the list starting from spot number 18.


In 18th place we have the Story of Philosophy by Will Durant.  This is a great introduction to the field of philosophy.  It starts out with the ancient Greek philosophers and winds its way through history and describes the lives and philosophic works of the major philosophers.  I very much enjoyed the first part of this book starting with Plato, Aristotle and the other Greeks.  I have to admit though, that once I got to Schopenhauer, Kant and some of the more “modern” philosophers, I started to lose interest and find the whole subject depressing.  The lack of morality and any meaningful existence that is discussed did not answer the questions I was looking for.

However, since the creation of Wikipedia, you can probably find much of the philosophic  information from the book there.  The book does a better job describing these men’s stories than Wiki.  For these reasons, I have this book at the end of my list, but I still recommend it to fill in your knowledge of this subject.


In 17th place we have Chaos, by James Gleick. I read an earlier edition of this book some years ago, when Chaos Theory was brand new and no one had heard of it, much less understood it.  The search of patterns in what previously had been thought to be completely random is extremely interesting and although we see it all around us, it takes a fairly large amount of computing power to crunch the numbers and repetitions involved.  This book was brought back into my memory by a recent Nova special on PBS called Hunting the Hidden Dimension.  This fascinating look into fractal mathamatics, Mandelbrot, and applications in nature brought me right back to reading this book.  Cool stuff for people interesting in how the world works “behind the curtains”.


In 16th place we have Hyperspace, by Michio Kaku.  This book is full of mind bending stuff.  However, this book provided me with the first description of higher dimensions that made sense to me.  If you ever see Kaku on TV, he has a great way of explaining things.  This book has been somewhat superseded for me by two books by my other favorite cosmologist, one of which is in my top ten.  However, Kaku’s description moving from a two dimensional world to a three dimensional world as an analogy for 4th dimensional space/time first got me interested in the subject and started the juices flowing in my brain on the dimensions of time and space.


Next up in 15th place is an odd sort of self-help book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  Many successful individuals have used the concepts in this book to reach their goals.  The main thrust of this book is that your brain is a fantastic goal reaching and problem solving machine.  You need to provide your mind with an accurate self image and set positive goals for your future.  Your brain will figure it out if you let it.  Basically, if you want to change who you are, change your mind.  Those who know me will recognize one small way I use what I’ve learned in this book.  I often find myself having an aphasia event, where I can’t remember the word I want to use or the name of someone I want to talk about.  I usually work around this by finding a synonym or trying to describe who the person is.  I know, however, that if I stop thinking about the word or name and let my mind work on it in the background, the answer will pop into my head in fairly short order.

Next time we’ll do number 14-11.  The books get better as we go deeper into the list.  What won’t change is the eclectic selection.  I’m nothing if not eclectic.