books that give a new perspective on the world

By far the most influential on me was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Also, oddly, Weis and Hickman’s The Death Gate Cycle, a fantasy series (look, I was in seventh grade, okay?).

And just for a dissenting opinion on Guns, Germs and Steel, I thought that while the ideas were fascinating, Jared Diamond’s writing absolutely sucked. YMMV, of course.

Catch 22, by Joseph Heller. Outrageously funny and possibly life-changing at the same time.

The Grapes of Wrath, by Steinbeck. Possibly a bit too long, but if you stick with it till the end, it’s one of the most amazing literary experiences ever.

Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein. I don’t agree with it at all, but the philosophy is so shockingly different from anything that you hear in America today that it’s well worth reading.

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking. The best science book ever, though it’s a bit dated now.

The Bible. I’m quite surprsied that no one else has mentioned this one.

I’m glad that someone mentioned Stranger in a Strange Land. It poses some very interesting questions, and presents an interesting look at humanity and faith. The perspective of the outsider makes it very interesting indeed, and it makes you wonder if what we do really makes sense after all.

Another Heinlein book, Farnham’s Freehold is another bizarre look at a future society where black people have come to be dominate over white people. It is very disturbing, but rather thought provoking… I’m honestly not sure how Heinlein pulled this one off. It’s twisted even for him.

Farenheit 451

Dummy I don’t remember the author, but it is about a boy who befriends a retarded boy, and slowly comes to see more of his world. It’s another very odd, highly disturbing story… and I read this in fifth grade! :eek: Does anybody know what book I’m referring to? I think it’s out of print.

I’d like to add The Dragons of Eden and Brocas Brain to the must-read Carl Sagan books.

A little more narrow in scope than many of the books mentioned but I remember being impressed when I read The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf. It’s not an anti-European attack but it does describe a major historical event from a non-western perspective that most people aren’t familiar with. On a similar note, The Russian Version of the Second World War describes the war from a non-American (and non-British) viewpoint. Both books give you an insight in to how much bias can exist even in a factual historical account by the author’s choices of what to include and omit.


Autobiography of Malcom X - really made me think. Even if u dont like thinking this is a good book:D

Bible - Been said but needs to be said again

and if your of a scientific nature i would recommend watching the newer episoded of the Outer Limits…not a book but sum of them will make u think…same with the Twilight Zone

Here is a partial list of books that I’d recommend that will make you think about how you view the world and its occupants (and I know, there are many repeats of what’s been already listed, but they deserve the repeated recommendations)…

First, the fiction …
Flowers for Algernon (Keyes) How could I not list this first?
Slaughterhouse Five (Vonnegut)
The Trial (Kafka)
1984 (Orwell)
The Sparrow (Russell)

Then the non-fiction, in no particular order…
Guns, Germs, and Steel (Diamond)
Metamagical Themas (Hofstadter)
Demon Haunted World (Sagan)
Punished by Rewards (Kohn)
Ishmael (Quinn)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Pirsig)

Slight correction… Ishmael is really fiction… but… well, read it and you’ll understand the ambiguity.

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. Not easy reading, but it will give you a new perspective on some things.

Oh man, how could I forget GEB? That was a truly amazing work, if a little difficult to follow when he got heavy into his typographical number theory.

I almost decided to put all three (GEB, Mind’s I, Metamagical Themas) on my list, but forced myself to pick the one that I thought is probably most accessible to a wide audience. I concur with erislover that GEB is an amazing work.