Thought provoking books?

I’m still kinda new to the straight dope board, but I have an important question…

my fiance decided to pre-order the new harry potter book from
since I was on my laptop when she got home, we looked up the stuff and decided to order a couple other books also…Mostly because I haven’t read a good book for a few weeks (as I finished my last one)

So here it is, I’m looking for a good, thought-provoking book…any ideas?
The last book I read was great, it was called “Buddhism, Plain and Simple” and I’ve looked at a couple books by the Dali Llama (spell?) so if anything is in that vein, feel free to suggest it, but I am open to anything…


If you like fiction, Herman Hesse’s *Narcissus and Goldmund * affected me profoundly when I first read it. Also good is Hesse’s Siddhartha, which is a fictional account of the life of the Buddha.

Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything provoked my little thoughts so much I could only read it in spurts, but it was very well written and fascinating.

Oddly I have been transfixed by (of all things) The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Keynes. How did one guy get so smart? I got it for free from some site, the copyright has expired.

How about Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer?

Dopers are voracious readers. If you want book suggestions on any subject, here is the place to find it.

Welcome to the Boards!

Oh, but the most useful book in any home is The Oxford Companion to Food. Sometimes you just have to know what penguin tastes like and there is only one authoritative source.

Really, get a copy.

The One I’m reading now is

The Disappearence of the Universe by Gary Renard
based somewhat A Course in Miracles, it really rattles the cage of traditional Christian theology. God didn’t create the Universe we did, etc.

I also enjoyed
**Jesus and Buddha; the parallel sayings ** by Jack Kornfield
compares the teachings of Buddha and Jesus concerning day to day life, side by side and finds them to be amazingly similar.

**How Can I Help ** by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman
a well written commentary on the nature of helping with short true stories as examples.

The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer he pulls material from a lot of sources to help us focus our awareness on the Intention behind our choices.


The Prophet.

Changed my life.

An interesting novel using Buddhism as a backdrop would be “Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny. It might not change your life but it is a damned well told story.

Everything ever written by Robert Heinlein. Ditto Larry Niven. Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination”. Frederick Pohl’s “Gateway” series. John Varley’s “Steel Beach”.

Thinkers, every one.

[sub]Can you tell I like Science Fiction?[/sub]

[li]Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter – This is nothing less than a book about intelligence, free will, and thought. It is a book that will change how you think about mind, logic, and your own being.[/li][li]A History of Pi by Petr Beckmann – This is a book about math history that is really about the history of rational thought and intellectual freedom. It is engaging and it really has character, not to mention containing information difficult to find elsewhere.[/li][li]The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer – If you only own one compilation of short science fiction, this is the one to own. I have been collecting SF in magazines and anthologies for my whole life and I’ve never come across one as essential as this one.[/li][li]Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison – Does that name ring any bells? If it doesn’t, you need this book. If it does, you want this book whether you know it or not. It is the perfect companion to The Ascent of Wonder.[/li][li]From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun – This book summarizes in a single volume the history of Western culture from its birth in 1500 to the present. It is ambitious and successful.[/li][li]Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach – Everything you never imagined asking about the sights along the way of all flesh. It opens with “The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken.” and goes on to detail the lifestyles of the dead and active with undeniable style and humor.[/li][/ul]

Zelazny is who I immediately thought of when I saw the title of this thread. “Lord of Light” and “Donnerjack” in particular. As an adult, I find Zelazny’s writing style a bit lacking. His perspectives on the world still fascinate me, though. His stuff is also very easy to read.

If you’re looking for deeper stuff which will change the way you look at the world fundamentally, go with “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. No one reads that book and sees the world the same way afterwards. It is possibly the most insightful book written in the last fifty years.

Welcome to the boards! If there’s one thing Dopers almost as much as a good book, it’s recommending good books to others. Here’s a current thread that might be of interest.

While I’m here – I’ll second Guns, Germs, and Steel (which I recently nominated for “nonfiction book read by the most Dopers”). If you’re reading Hesse, my personal fave is Magister Ludi.

All non-fiction books are by nature thought-provoking. Some are more provocative than others.

I would eschew philosophy and religion. They are mostly navel-gazing. History and science give you a better basis for thought. Try “A Distant Mirror” by Barbara Tuchman. It’ll put all the Cinderella crap about the mMiddle Ages in perspective.

Robert Fulghum’s books of essays are very well written, thought provoking, and often funny.

Wow. Not too biased.

City of God by E.L. Doctorow. Here’s a bit of the review from Amazon: “You want ambition? E.L. Doctorow’s City of God starts off not merely with a bang but with the big bang itself, that “great expansive flowering, a silent flash into being in a second or two of the entire outrushing universe.” It doesn’t, to be sure, remain on this cosmic plane throughout. There’s a mystery here, along with a romance, a chilling Holocaust narrative, and a deep-focus portrait of fin-de-siècle Manhattan–not to mention cameo appearances by that Holy Trinity of contemporary mythmaking: Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Frank Sinatra. But while the author of Ragtime and Billy Bathgate is no slacker when it comes to entertainment, he has more in mind this time around. Even the title, with its Augustinian overtones, tips us off to the author’s preoccupation with belief, human consciousness, and “our wrecked romance with God.””


American Pastoral by Philip Roth. This book is so well-written that it nearly takes your breath away. The man is a genius. It’s a novel, but is so emotionally real that you forget it was created in Roth’s mind.

Whether you agree with the politics/philosophy/religion/preference in bagels/whatever of these folks, their writings will make you think:

BIAS by Bernard Goldberg

Dereliction of Duty by Robert Patterson

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

Slander by Ann Coulter

Pretty much anything by Isaac Asimov, but two of his really good ones are Chronology of Science and Discovery and Chronology of the World .

On a lighter note:

Any of the Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz

Mission by Patrick tilley. Out of print but well worth getting anyway.

The Jesus Scroll by Donovan Joyce. Also out of print - I’d look at Half Price Books and others first, but again, well worth the hunt.

I’ve read various works of philosophy and religion, and I do have a bias, and I feel I have come by it honestly. Philosophy is marginally more useful than religion, which isn’t saying much since religious is practically worthless. Reading about them is mostly useful for understanding how others think. YMMV.

Evil Captor: I think philosophy is useful in that it is the theoretical basis for law and morality. That is, the philosophy is there whether or not it is stated, but if it is stated people can debate issues at the heart of the matter instead of beating around the bush with peripheral arguments.

I am not religious so I will not comment on what I think about religion.