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7 books to read before you die according to Neil deGrasse Tyson

photo: NASA HQ PHOTO
American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson about books he recommends to read before you die
Buy on amazon The Bible
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Buy on amazon “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
While Paine's writings may be esoteric for modern times, fans such as the Infidels swear that this is one of the the best books ever written. Paine himself is as famous for his time in a French prison, and his work with Samuel Adams, as he is for this treatise against organized religion as a tyrannical fraud. His early declaration of his own mind as the only necessary church sets the tone for the work, which focuses on every man's right to make up his own mind, and not have it made up for him by others. Paine is very logical and persuasive in his wish to see a religious, as well as a political, revolution in the United States.
Buy on amazon "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

Called everything from “ruthless” to “masterpiece” over its checkered publishing career, civil servant Machiavelli's posthumous work can be bundled on a reading list with the Art of War for true insight on how to build power and decimate enemies. (Perhaps this is also why Donald Trump has added “The Prince” to his reading list of books leading to success.) Though the advice was meant for the Medici ruling family in Italy, the principles can still hold true, or at least shed a light on how to weave through the murky waters of politics.
Buy on amazon "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu
- Neil deGrasse Tyson

Sun Tzu's ancient work began on book lists as a necessity of military strategy, and has become a necessary addition to business book lists as well. The US Marine Corp and intelligence units still recommend this work on their book lists. It emphasizes excellence, the strategic use of deception, and the psychological nature of winning a war before battle begins. Those wanting a leadership book won't be disappointed by Tzu's insights into the “wise general”, and those wanting a treatise on business tactics can also make great use of tips on strategy, and appearing to be what you're not.
Buy on amazon “The System of the World” by Isaac Newton
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Though it's easier to find someone who knows Newton's three famous laws of motion than one who has read through his book (also titled 'Principia'), that doesn't mean that this classic work on science isn't worth reading. He borrowed from other science giants such as Johannes Kepler, and the multi-talented Galileo Galilei. However, his understanding of gravitational pull and the motion of the planets is truly amazing, especially when you consider that he worked out the revolution of the starry spheres via mathematical formulas, well before any photos were taken of these planets – and before gravity was universally accepted.
Buy on amazon “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Though some of the theories are a bit dated, Darwin's pinnacle of writing has garnered him many book recommendations – in his own century and beyond. Legal battles have raged over Darwin's explanation of the wide-reaching implications of natural selection, and many species' struggle for mere survival. Much is written (and lamented) about the sequence of fossils and various imperfections in the records of geology, and there are many insights on the variety of species and their adaptations. This is certainly one of the best books to read for those wanting a clear look at the origins of modern evolutionary theory, including Darwin's compilation of others' research along with his own, and the complex nature of the human eye.
Buy on amazon “Gulliver's Travels” by Jonathan Swift
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
The first story, by the morose Lemuel Gulliver, is the most well-known. The fierce but tiny Lilliputians are determined not to be over-awed by their captive's size, but his use in battle against the nefarious Blefuscu people (who crack eggs the wrong way) is overshadowed by Gulliver's social crimes against the Lilliputians' castle. His next sailing trip to the Brobdingnag giants also ends badly, after he's made a national curiosity. The Laputa researchers seem to have genius for experimentation but no common sense, like Gulliver, who becomes captain of a crew who mutinies against him. Gulliver then studies the wise horses (Houyhnhnms) who rule over human slaves (Yahoos), and draws conclusions about England's colonies. Reading this novel is fun, on the cynical side.
Buy on amazon "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
If John Maynard Keynes is the father of the modern system of commerce, Smith is the father of American free trade economics. Those wishing to see a return to gold and silver as the monetary standard should definitely be reading this book, along with those who believe that tariffs and governmental restrictions keeps any nation's GNP from booming. There are affirmations of industrial-age wisdom (chop up production into small and repeatable parts), the nature of scarcity in wealth-building, and the advantages of competition without the restraint of either monopolies or slavery-inducing taxes. Freedom, opines Smith, lies with a people who restrain governmental work to building national defense and order, infrastructure, and the promotion of education.
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