Recommend one book in your field

By “your field,” I mean your main area of intellectual interest, however you want to define it – your profession, your college major, your current passion, whatever.

So, whatever your field is – what one book would you recommend to someone if you wanted to communicate the incredible coolness that is your field? Assume that the person is coming into the field cold, so you don’t necessarily want to pick the book that summarizes the current cool cutting-edge theory, replete with arcane jargon. But also assume the person asking is an intelligent person, so you don’t necessarily need to pick something with wide margins and lots and lots of pics, either.

I was chatting with MidnightRadio last night when I came up with this question, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I would recommend for sociology of religion. (Damn, I’ve been out of the field for a long freakin’ time.) Back when I was teaching, I’d use Peter Berger’s Sacred Canopy in Intro to Religion – and spend a couple of weeks translating his ideas into a form undergrads could wrap their minds around. Very, very cool stuff, but not necessarily super accessible.

So maybe a case study of some sort? Hm… I’m still working on my answer. What’s yours?

Well, for writing, I have two suggestions:

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. One of the best guides ever on how to write publishable prose.

**Science Fiction Writers Workshop I: A Guide to Fiction Mechanics** by Barry B. Longyear. It’s out of print, but you should be able to find a used copy. A beginner’s guide to writing SF, written when Longyear had just broken in as a short story writer (he was a major success, selling a bunch of stories all at once and winning awards for his “Enemy Mine”), so he still remembered what it was like to be starting out.

Recommend one book in your field
I keep mine in a bookcase.

Bruce Eckel’s Thinking in Java - a Java programming book that is available for free (by the author) online. I’m now pretty handy with Java and rarely have to go to the reference books but when I do, this is the first one I pull up.

Actually, I think people in my field (philosophy) are perhaps the worst at recommending a good philosophy book, since any book that is accessible to a general audience (such as Sophie’s World) is probably a book the philosopher hasn’t read. But there was a thread not too long ago about philosophy books that were good, and this one came up several times.

My field is Optics. There are a lot of good books in the field, but one accessible to everyone is M. Minnaert’s The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air It’s not too technical for the layman, and it shows the range and variety of weird optical effects that are there to see, but are probably overlooked by most people, with a not-too-intrusive explanation of it all.
The Moon Illusion
Ther Dome of the Sky

and so on…
The book has almost always been in print since it first came out. Dover published it for a long time, but I think someone else is doing it now.

My religious interest- THE ORTHODOX WAY by Father Timothy Ware and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis

My political interest- ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand

My horror-media interest- DANCE MACABRE by Stephen King

My paranormal interest- MYSTERIES OF TIME AND SPACE by Brad Steiger

I’m an environmental scientist, so you’d have to read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

John Conway’s “On Numbers and Games”.

One of my areas of interest is Christianity, and for that, I recommend Kahlil Gibran’s Jesus the Son of Man. In fact, the entire text is available online:

For my profession in illustration: Pretty much anything by Flesk Publications, especially “Franklin Booth: Painter with a Pen” .

For my dinosaur love: The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs

The single best book about stagecraft is a treasure trove of useful information:

Backstage Handbook by Paul Carter

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Piper and in the interests of equal time The War Against the Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers (as recently seen on The Daily Show). I’m in school psych, but those books are more child/adolescent psych. They are very readable, that is little techinal language.

Passion: Delights and Shadows, by Ted Kooser

Job: The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Marley

Occupation: All In My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache, by Paula Kamen

I suppose I could do with this book, too.

That should have been Christopher Morley.

Painting With Light by John Alton.

The Word: An Associated Press Guide to Good Newswriting by Rene J. Cappon.

Bloggers and others could learn from this book. It made me a concise reporter, as well as honed my observational skills. My copy is about 20 years old; I haven’t seen the current version. I’d assume it’s just as well-written.

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil.

Of all of the books I own and/or have read, this one seems to me to be the most comprehensive. Aptly named.

For gardening: Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer.

The Complete Joy Of Homebrewing. :smiley: