Yesterday was Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 55th birthday, an astrophysicist, director of the Hayden Planetarium, and popularizer of science. Nearly two years ago, during one of his Ask Me Anything’s on reddit, deGrasse Tyson answered one of the questions posed there by a fellow redditor asking “Which books should be read by every single intelligent person on the planet?” . In reply, the scientist gave his personal top 8 books, followed by a short commentary for each book, so I thought, even though this list may be old and some of you know it already,  to share it again. Each book in the list can be downloaded for free – the links come courtesy of the ever awesome Open Culture. Happy birthday, Neil!


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 (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

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

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBook – Audio 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 (eBook – Audio Book) – “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

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

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBook – Audio 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.”

Tyson concludes by saying: “If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world.”