Books people must read

This is like the “recommend a good book” threads. But more authoritarian.

What book should any intelligent thoughtful person (ie any SDer right?) have read?


Not that that isn’t an interesting question too. But I mean recent books.

What’s something recent you think people need to read?

I thought of this because various threads here made me think of:

“Guns, Germs and Steel”- A very interesting consideration of the varied and sometimes rather mundane origins of human society. It’s the idea that the origin of human culture is varied and possibly mundane (this plant grew here, this animal was not dometicated there) that makes this a worthwhile book.

And “Stealing Jesus”- Written by a Christain who apparently likes fundumentalism even less than I do. It’s given me a new appreciation of Christianity and a renewed contempt for Pat Robertson.

That what I thought of off the top of my head. What else?

All the President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein. Not because it’s a pretty exciting and well-written adventure story in it’s own right, but because it’s a true, eyewitness account of a watershed event in modern American history. You’ll never see the U.S. government quite the same way after reading it.

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger. A uniquely American story, just like the book listed above. It captures a specific time(late 1980’s) and place(Odessa, Texas) about as well as such things could possible be done. It’s about the 1989 football team and season of Permian High School in Odessa. By the time you’re done reading it you feel like you’ve lived with the main characters and truly understand their lives. It’s poignant because it too is a true story. And the tragedy it contains is even more sad, because it is real.

“The Truth Machine” by James L. Halperin
It’s about a genious who grew up and changed the world with his invention of a machine which could detect if a person was lying. Although this may seem like a strange plot, It is done amazingly, and the author manages to mix in predictions as to the future and how the average person’s life will be affected by technology.
If you’ve read this one, then read “The First Immortal” by the same author, it goes over, in a similar Novel format the future of cryogenics and disease prevention, and the possibility of being virtually immortal.

Both of them are great books (although prefer the truth machine, just because i’m not really interested in living forever).

If any of you out there have read them, please e-mail me, 'cause i’d like to hear what you think (

Godel Escher Bach. The Mathematical Experience. The Age of Spiritual Machines.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy.

Collected works of Douglas Adams :smiley:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

By Stephen Chbosky. Just finished this one, a quick read. Story of a teenaged boy going through his first year of High School, finding friends, reading books, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex. The book is a series of letters that he writes anonymously to someone who is only known as a good listener.

I’m not usually a big fan of the “coming of age” stories but this one caught me.

Eeek!! If this is the book I’m thinking of, I was actually going to post a question here asking if anyone had read it. You see, I have a bad habit of getting books from the library, reading them, returning them, then forgetting the name of the book or the author and not being able to find it again. I loved this book!! Correct me if I’m wrong, but the man who invents this machine has a moral dilemma in that he stole part of the code that made it work from a competing software firm…and someone tries to blackmail him and he kills the blackmailer? He’s then forced to code the truth machine to be 100% accurate except when being used on the creator?

<doing dance of joy and writing it down for her next trip to the library>

Orson Scott Card’s Ender books: Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind.

Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco

I have to mention Towing Jehovah, just because someone else mentioned Stealing Jesus - these are great titles

Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon

Frank Herbert’s Dune books

Have you read Ender’s Shadow yet? I believe that it just recently came out in paperback…I finished it about a week ago. Fantastic. :slight_smile:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden

The Little Prince, Antoine de St. Exupery

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Day

Where the Heart Is, Billie Letts

White Oleander, Janet Fitch

Beach Music, Pat Conroy

Between Angels, Stephen Dunn, particularly “Tenderness,” “The Guardian Angel,” and “Loneliness”

All of these books have meant a lot to me over the past six years. In every one, the characters are so lovingly writtent that I couldn’t help getting drawn into their lives.

Happy reading! :slight_smile:

I promise to preview. I promise to preview. I promise to preview.

Everytime I do that I feel like Bart Simpson.

“The Princess Bride” by William Golding. A great movie, so a lot of people don’t even bother reading. I had to pester my wife to read it, but she was glad I bugged her about it.

“Who prospers?” by Lawrence Harrison. Proposes the theory that ‘people’ who succeed, are determined by the cultures that they come from. Cultures in temperate zones are more effective, because they have to learn to plan for winter. Whether you agree with his theories or not, very thought provoking

All of the above, plus Shadow of the Hegemon (only out in hardback right now).

And ** The Code Book **, can’t remember the author. Basically a history of secret code right up to the present day, with lots of interesting stuff about how the Allies cracked Enigma during WWII.

For the history buff:

“A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan (1989). Deals with Vietnam War.

For the travel buff (or lover of the open road). Anyone of the three (all personal favorites):

“Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck
“Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon
“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig (although it’s more than just a travel book).

The Women’s Room by Marilyn French
A History of God by Karen Armstrong
Toward A New Psychology of Women by Jean Baker Miller
Ethics For The New Millennium by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

Just to metion the ones I have read,or reread, recently that made a great impact.

Thanks for the reminder about Ender’s Shadow. Haven’t seen Shadow of the Hegemon yet - that is definitely on my read soon list!

The Code Book reminded me of Neil Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which many people think is indispensable (those who read fiction, anyway). But I liked Snow Crash better.

See now, that’s why I tried to start a thread about half-remembered books (movies, lyrics etc.) that somebody else here might know the name of. It went nowhere but I still think it’s a good idea.

(And before it died I got the name of that aliens-in-a- jungle-and they-commicate-with-their-eyes-and-at-the-end-there’s-a-cocoon-or-something book I was looking for. I’d dance with joy but it’s out of print.)

“The Parable of the Sower” & “The Parable of the Talents” by Octavia E. Butler.

Lizard, I think Friday Night Lights is a superb book!

I’d put in a vote for “And The Band Played On.” An interesting look at how politics, money, egos, and big science play a much bigger role than one expects in what we as a society think are “important” medical problems.

Eponymous, Cranky: I bow before you. Reading the subject of this thread I had already chosen ‘Bright Shining Lie’ and ‘…And the Band Played On’ as the two most important recent books to offer. I commend your excellent choices.

Though sadly not many novels make it across my desk here’s a killer: The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas. A neurotic opera singer in the twenties, treated by Freud, becomes involved in the holocaust. This book commanded a second reading, and a third. There are images that are permanently emblazoned in my psyche. It won’t conk you in the head, it may be hard to penetrate some of the prose, but prepare to be whisked from safety forever.

I broke a personal rule for Shadow of the Hegemon and bought it in hardback just because I was so desperate to read it. And there are two more books planned in the series (tentatively titled “Shadow of Death” and “Shadow of the Giant”) that I’ll probably do the same for. When Card is really on his game he’s fantastic.

Stephenson is a new favorite. I’d personally rank Cryptonomicon as his best, but it’s hard to argue with Snow Crash. Hopefully he can keep up this level of quality for a long time to come!