Books are the refrigerators and freezers of ideas; keeping good ones fresh and bad ones in a stable rotten state.  For myself, I hate to read, but love to have read.  Others, however, entertain a more generous view of the role of books in our culture.  Bacon noted: “We see then, how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power, or the hands.  For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite places, temples, castles, cities have been decayed and demolished?”  Francis Bacon:  Advancement of Learning.  Disraeli was more succinct.  “A book may be as great a thing as a battle.” Benjamin Disraeli:  Memoir of Isaac Disraeli

            In my lifetime, it is quite possible that new books will largely disappear from the cultural landscape as tasty internet morsels become the prevailing standard for our national attention deficit disorder.  A book, however, like a spouse, demands a greater commitment, and returns a greater enrichment as its reward.  We will be long forgotten by the time the book has shared its destiny with the pen and typewriter.


Advice on Books and Reading

1.  Read at least one non-fiction book per year, all your life, and don’t read more than one book per week (not counting books required for school).  Read in diverse areas, rather than merely where your interests lie.

2.  When reading non-fiction, read slowly, carefully, and analyze the logic and arguments to see how they fit with your prior knowledge of your own sense of logic.  The value of an idea is not elevated by virtue of being in print.  (Likewise, the value of the spoken word is not augmented by stentorian tones or eloquence.) 

 3.  Read the following books, beginning to end, before your 21st birthday:

            Calories & Carbohydrates  (Barbra Kraus)

            Family Legal Guide  (Reader’s Digest)

            Foundation  (Isaac Asimov)

            The Gods Themselves  (Isaac Asimov)

            Webster’s New World Dictionary

            The Dragons of Eden  (Carl Sagan)

            Bartlet’s Familiar Quotations  (John Bartlet)

            Siddartha  (Herman Hesse)

            On Becoming A Person  (Carl Rogers)

            On the Genealogy of Morals  (Friedrich Nietzche)

            How To Solve It  (G. Polya)

            A New Guide to Rational Living  (Ellis & Harper)

            For Yourself  (Loni Barbach)

            Civilization and its Discontents  (Sigmund Freud)

            The Joy of Sex  (Alex Comfort)

            Man’s Search for Meaning  (Viktor Frankle)

            The Human Body  (Isaac Asimov)

            Our Bodies, Our Selves  (Boston Women’s Health Book


            Poor Richard’s Almanac  (Benjamin Franklin)

            Nicomakian Ethics  (Aristotle)

            The Teachings of Buddha (Society for the Promotion of Buddhism)

            The Christian Bible

            The Koran

            Guns, Germs, and Steel, The fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)

            The Universe and Dr. Einstein (Lincoln Barnet)

            Gilbert’s Law Summaries (Contracts)

            Capitalism and Freedom (Milton Friedman)