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"Books That Will Make Me Smarter"

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
A High School kid told me that ze wanted to read:

Dr. Zhivago
Essays by Joan Didion
The Power Broker
Umberto Ecco
Swann's Way
Ayn Rand
War and Peace
Pushkin
Dead Souls (Gogol)
Lolita
Don Quixote
Catch-22
Toni Morrison
Joyce Carol Oates

so that ze would be smarter (ze is currently in the middle of Crime and Punishment and then moving on to War & Peace. I gather the list came from zir head and is sort of a "books literate people have read" list.

Apart from the futility of the task and the oddity of the list already compiled, what books would you suggest? My approach would be not to focus on "books literate people have read" which is near endless, but rather choose books that would be mind expanding and introduce new ways of thinking. So apart from the various Dialogues, I would suggest something like Taleb's Black Swan and Hofstader's Godel, Escher, Bach. Especially since the kid is already pretty well read in the humanities from what I can tell.
post #2 of 15
Some good comics. Seriously, people who only read "important" books are clueless assholes. Being well rounded means exactly that, not just slavish genuflection towards the classics.

Something about economics and finance. Again, if you want to be well rounded having a foundation in monetary theory is pretty relevant.

The Federalist Papers.
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Federalist Papers are good but were probably covered in school. Comics are fine but I don't think I was asked for a comprehensive list of everything ze should read. Otherwise, the newspaper would also be pretty high up there.
post #4 of 15
Ender's Game
Art of War
Nietzche's Genealogy of Morality
Freakonomics
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Freakonomics is a great suggestion.
I read Ender's Game and liked it, but I would put the Foundation Trilogy or Dune ahead of it in the SF category.
Haven't read the other two but thing Art of War might be a great choice as well. Not sure I want to recommend Philosophy other than for reasoning.
post #6 of 15
The World Atlas of Wine (Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson)
The Riverside Shakespeare
The Goal by Goldratt
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
Agree with the Dune recommendation
post #7 of 15
When I was about 22, someone recommended I read, "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler, the former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Since I was a cocky little douchebag at the time, I scoffed to myself and said, "I already know how to read."

This turned out to be one of the most stupid and life-limiting things I ever did as a young man. I finally read it 15 years later and was blown away.

Read this book before you read any other book. At the end of it is a list of the best writings of Western society, which is Adler's answer to your original question.

Read this book. Don't make the same mistake I did!

Jim
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
HA! Excellent idea. I have it at home, too.
post #9 of 15
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
You know what has been well received, surprisingly? The Black Swan.
post #11 of 15
Isn't Black Swan some sort of pop culture econ book? Like a long tail but written by a smarter person.

Tell the person to read Anna Karenina instead of war and peace and some other classic like the red and the black.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuuma View Post

Isn't Black Swan some sort of pop culture econ book? Like a long tail but written by a smarter person.

Tell the person to read Anna Karenina instead of war and peace and some other classic like the red and the black.

It's rather silly when people offer opinions about books they haven't read.
post #13 of 15
I dunno...I have lots of opinions about the twilight books.

Personally, I'd suggest "I Will Teach You To Be Rich". A good college graduation gift (HS might be a little early...although the info would be useful to late college students as well) if you figure they would actually read it. Not every piece of advice needs to be followed, and some of it seems like a no brainer...but it covers the sort of personal finance knowledge that will be extremely beneficial for a 22 year old applying for their first real job, rather than trying to figure it out when they are 28. Written in a way that's approachable by a youth, rather than some dry book that requires someone to say "oh shit, I have no idea what to do, better force myself to read this". It's never going to tell you "You need to keep a strict budget and not go to starbucks".
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrcampbe View Post

When I was about 22, someone recommended I read, "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler, the former editor-in-chief of Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Since I was a cocky little douchebag at the time, I scoffed to myself and said, "I already know how to read."

This turned out to be one of the most stupid and life-limiting things I ever did as a young man. I finally read it 15 years later and was blown away.

Read this book before you read any other book. At the end of it is a list of the best writings of Western society, which is Adler's answer to your original question.

Read this book. Don't make the same mistake I did!

Jim

Whenever I teach sr secondary courses I have them read this at the beginning of the semester. There are a few like this. The Lively Art of Writing by Lucille Vaughn Payne is up there as well, as is I Say/They Say by Gerald Graff.

If you teach someone how to learn, the rest generally takes care of itself.
post #15 of 15

A list of books won't help if you do not make reading a habit. I lost good 3-5 years of my life because I did not read—one of the biggest regrets in my life.

 

As for the general guidelines, I suggest focusing on the items that aim to dramatically broaden your horizons. Read books that were banned, read authors whose points of view you may not like and indulge into history and economics. Subjects such as the American, the Russin and the French revolutions are a must. And, of course, anything related to your field of work. 

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