Recommended Reading

My wife and I keep a lot of the books we read, and have accumulated quite a few. But I have a special shelf on which I keep a few of my most special books. This means that these books have had a profound influence on my thinking, they have content I think all people should be aware of, and I often return to consider their ideas. Anyway, here's a list of the books on my "special shelf". They are listed in the order I think would be good to read them...

The State of Humanity
Edited by Julian Lincoln Simon. Blackwell Publishers.
This book isn't actually on my bookshelf anymore because I've lost it! But I hope to get it back one day. It provides a lot of measurable information and does a great job of revealing a lot of myths we have about how dire our situation is as a species on this planet.

The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature
by Heinz R. Pagels. Bantam Books.
This was my first exposure to the mind-boggling world of quantum mechanics and its profound effects on how we conceive the universe. It's not overly complicated with formulas and keeps the explanation on a conceptual level for non-scientists.

Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order & Chaos
by Mitchell M. Waldrop. Simon & Schuster.
This book completely changed the way I look at the universe. It answers so many questions that are addressed in so many other areas than just what this book covers. I can't recommend this one enough.

A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
by Gerald M. Edelman & Giulio Tononi. Basic Books.
I can't say how often I'm in conversations with people about the mind, who make claims about what we "don't know" about brain function and consciousness. They would be surprised to see just how much we do know about it, and this is a great read for such.

Plato Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems
by Lou Marinoff, Ph.D. HarperCollins.
This book invigorated my impression of philosophy's role in modern life, and affected the manner I approach all of my philosophical writing since.

The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius
by Mark Forstater. HarperCollins.
Marcus Aurelius' Meditations can be a little daunting for beginners, and this book really gets to the essence of the Roman Emperor's stoic outlook. It explains stoicism and the role of philosophy as a life, and then follows up with a distillation of his Meditations.

Socrates' Cafe: A Fresh Taste of Philosophy
by Christopher Phillips. W.W. Norton & Co.
Phillips tells of hosting philosophy sessions (Socrates' Cafe) in coffee houses and other public places with all sorts of people in the community who participate equally. The sessions are sometimes enlightening, funny, personal, and life-affecting. A good example of what philosophy should be up to these days.

The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of the Original Good News
by James M. Robinson. HarperCollins.
Good information about Jesus' original teachings and where/how all of the other mythos got added to it. Also features a brief reconstruction of the lost Gospel Q.

Christianity Without God
by Lloyd Geering. Polebridge Press.
Geering makes the case for a nontheistic evolution of Christianity. Lots of good bits on the history of Christianity here too.

Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism
by Paul Kurtz. Prometheus Press.
For once at least, a humanist writer takes a break from ciritcizing religion long enough to talk about what humanists believe. A refreshing and practical take on rational ethics.

The Courage to Become: The Virtues of Humanism
by Paul Kurtz. Prometheus Press.
A good follow up to Forbidden Fruit, Kurtz provides a great outline of decent ethical behavior. Definitely a worthy read but, as with Forbidden Fruit, I wish he had gone further into providing the logical backbone on which these ethics/virtues rest.

Evolution and the Myth of Creationism
by Tim M. Berra. Stanford University Press.
A concise explanation of common misunderstandings about evolution and important facts that refute creationist claims.

Ethics for the New Millennium
by the Dalai Lama. Riverhead Books.
A wonderful treatise on principles of basic human decency, supported by sensible, practical, and clear thinking.

A New Stoicism
by Lawrence C. Becker. Princeton University Press.
A nice effort to bring Stoicism up to date for today. Some wonderful points and thoughts in many areas, although a little overly-technical for my tastes in others.

Star Wars and Philosophy
by Kevin S. Decker & Jason T. Eberl. Open Court Publishing.
An entertaining & informative explanation of the various real-world philosophies and philosophic issues that can be found in the Star Wars saga. New insights on the story for fans as well.

The Dharma of Star Wars
by Matthew Bortolin. Wisdom Publications.
Very informative and interesting for folks who already know their Star Wars, but want a simple introduction to Buddhist ideas which uses examples from the films to illustrate its points.

The Final Superstition: A Critical Evaluation of the Judeo-Christian Legacy
by Joseph L. Daleiden. Prometheus Books.
A harsh critique of the alleged logic and ethics supporting modern Christianity. Right on its points and important information for non-Christian freethinkers, but not the best approach for interacting with Christians.

The following are books that I wouldn't say had a "profound" influence on me, because I had already learned the basics of their content long before. Nor are they, in particular, must-reads - but their content may be. But they (or similar books) are good references to have handy. So, these too are on my special book shelf...

Relativity, The Special and the General Theory: A Clear Explanation That Anyone Can Understand
by Albert Einstein. Authorized Translation by Robert W. Lawson. Crown Publishers.

by Marcus Aurelius. Walter J. Black, Classics Club.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible
Oxford Press.

The Holy Bible, King James Version
Broadman Press.

Cliffs Notes on Old Testament
by Charles H. Patterson, Ph.D. Cliffs Notes, Inc.

Cliffs Notes on New Testament
by Charles H. Patterson, Ph.D. Cliffs Notes, Inc.

A History of the World's Religions, 11th Edition
by David S. Noss, Prentice Hall.

Plato: Collected Dialogues
Edited by Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns. Princeton University Press.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution
Edited by Steve Jones, Robert Martin, and David Pilbeam. Cambridge University Press.