Here is what happened when I asked twenty-seven thousand people “What is page for page the book with the most wisdom you’ve ever read?”
My thinking was, and still is, that you need to filter what you read. Reading, I mean really reading, is not simple. It’s time consuming. So aside from finding time and remembering what you read, you want to make sure you’re reading the right things. There are a few approaches to this filtering.
One is to employ the Lindy Effect. But another approach that I use personally is, and this is really going to sound simple, to ask smart people what they’re reading, what they learned from, or, in this case, what book has the most page-per-page wisdom.
The results are often surprising and I usually find one or two books that I’ve never heard of that offer a lot of value.
In no particular order, here is what twitter had to say:
Seeking Wisdom, by Peter Bevelin
This is number 8 on the list of books that changed my life. It is also the book I give away most often, sending innumerable copies around the globe.
Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
This is one of the best-selling science books of all time. I’ve never read it, so I ordered it after reading the blurb: “retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness, exploring such topics as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern science.”
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
A book that a lot of people, myself included, talk about but have never read. It’s time to change that.
Do the Work!, by Steven Pressfield
I liked Pressfield’s, The War of Art enough to pick this manifesto arguing that ideas are not enough, you actually have to do the work.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
I’ve picked this book up at least 3 different times in my life and stopped reading it for one reason or another. Considered a cult classic by many, I haven’t found the right time to read it … yet.
The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell
First published in 1930, this book attempts to “diagnose the myriad causes of unhappiness in modern life and chart a path out of the seemingly inescapable malaise.” The book remains as relevant today as ever, and in this edition Daniel Dennett, who showed us how to how to criticize with kindness, re-introduces Russell’s wisdom to a new generation of readers and thinkers calling the work “a prototype of the flood of self-help books that have more recently been published, few of them as well worth reading today as Russell’s little book.”
This is Water by David Foster Wallace
This is one of the best things you will ever read (and hopefully periodically re-read). I wholeheartedly agree with this selection.
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
Another of the books that changed my life and also one of the books that I gave away at the Re:Think Innovation workshop. Translation matters enormously with this book, get this one.
Letters from a Stoic, Seneca
Love love love. As relevant today as it was when it was written.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
The person who recommended this book said “you can’t throw away any one page of this book.” You can read a quick overview of the book, but I’d recommend digging in.
Dr Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
I agree. Don’t write it off because it’s a kids’ book. I love this book.
An Intimate History of Humanity, by Theodore Zeldin
I’d never heard of this work exploring the evolution of emotions before. Time magazine called it “An intellectually dazzling view of our past and future.”
The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck
I’d never heard of this book (seriously) either and it’s sold 7 million copies. A book to “help us explore the very nature of loving relationships and lead us toward a new serenity and fullness of life.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
“For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!”