Reading List & Recommendations

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. As well as being an avid reader, Tyson has penned nearly 17 books of his own.

Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not. — Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Age of Reason
by Thomas Paine
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: This collection chronicles the fiction and non fiction classics by the greatest writers the world has ever known. The inclusion of both popular as well as overlooked pieces is pivotal to providing a broad and representative collection of classic works. In the words of Tyson: “To learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

The Almagast: Introduction to the Mathematics of the Heavens
by Claudius Ptolemy
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: The Almagest is by far the greatest work of astronomy from ancient times. In a massive series of thirteen books, Ptolemy shows how every detail of the motions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars can be expressed using geometrical models that can be used to compute celestial positions with remarkable accuracy. In the words of Tyson: “The crowning achievement of a geocentric universe. Of course, the whole concept was wrong, but it was interestingly wrong.”

The Art of War
by Sun Tzu
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been a vastly influential treatise on military strategy in the east from the time of China’s Warring States Period (403-221 BC) onward. Though its first translation into a European language was only in 1782, the book’s significance was quickly recognized and even such towering figures of Western history as Napoleon and General Douglas MacArthur have claimed it a source of inspiration. In the words of Tyson: “To learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art..”

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Print | Audiobook

In Summary:  First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. In the words of Tyson: “I can’t do that. I’m sorry. I’ll never be a novelist.”

Gulliver’s Travels
by Jonathon Swift
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: From the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, a great classic recounting the 4 remarkable journeys of ship’s surgeon Lemuel Gulliver. For children it remains an enchanting fantasy; for adults, a witty parody of political life in Swift’s time and a scathing send-up of manners and morals in 18th-century England. In the words of Tyson: “To learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

Holy Bible
by —
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: is a collection of religious texts or scriptures. In the words of Tyson: “To learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

How to Lie with Statistics
by Darrell Huff 
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: From distorted graphs and biased samples to misleading averages, there are countless statistical dodges that lend cover to anyone with an ax to grind or a product to sell. With abundant examples and illustrations, Darrell Huff’s lively and engaging primer clarifies the basic principles of statistics and explains how they’re used to present information in honest and not-so-honest ways. In the words of Tyson: “A cute little tiny book that tells you all the things who people who want to fool you into thinking something that’s true, that’s not, and how they manipulate statistics in order to accomplish this.”

The Origin of Species
by Charles Darwin 
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: Few other books have created such a lasting storm of controversy as The Origin of Species. Darwin’s theory that species derive from other species by a gradual evolutionary process and that the average level of each species is heightened by the “survival of the fittest” stirred up popular debate to fever pitch. Its acceptance revolutionized the course of science. In the words of Tyson: “To learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

The Prince
by Niccolò Machiavelli
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: Classic guide to acquiring and maintaining political power is refreshing in its directness, yet often disturbing in its cold practicality. Starkly relevant to the political upheavals of the 20th century, this calculating prescription for power remains today, nearly 500 years after it was written, a timely and startling lesson in the practice of autocratic rule that continues to be much read and studied by students, scholars and general readers. In the words of Tyson: “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.”

The Principia
by Isaac Newton
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. This great work supplied the momentum for the Scientific Revolution and dominated physics for over 200 years. In the words of Tyson: “To learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

The System of the World
by Isaac Newton
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: In his monumental 1687 work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, known familiarly as the Principia, Isaac Newton laid out in mathematical terms the principles of time, force, and motion that have guided the development of modern physical science. In the words of Tyson: “We owe modern civilization to this towering genius of science.”

The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith
Print | Audiobook

In Summary: This seminal work on political economy and the foundation of the modern market economy was originally published in 1776. Rich in historical background and acute observations of the 18th-century scene, Adam Smith’s masterpiece of economic analysis is also an insightful work of political philosophy. Its revolutionary concepts, including the notion that self-interest stimulates the healthiest economic conditions for all, remain influential with politicians and economists alike. In the words of Tyson: “To learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”