What is Worth Reading?

16 July 2014

[TODO: translate to Chinese, related to What is Worth Writing]

[related writings: What is Worth Reading?, Notes on Translations of Ancient Literature, Lessons in Research of a Past Time, The Kinds of Literature and the Extraction of Ideas]

I’ve read less books than most elementary school children in my lifetime. I was never able to extract as much value per time with enjoyment factored in in books compared to other mediums, and empericism. Wikipedia was enough. Much recently, I listened to an audiobook of Great Ideas in Philosophy provided by the Great Courses; That was successful. After that, I figured out I had huge gaps in my knowledge, and proceeded to create a list of things I felt could be worth reading (or listening) to.


– For philosophy
For the organization of knowledge
For learning how to communicate using human language
ethics– ethical treatises by Aristotle, various essays by Bertrand Russell
politics – The Republic, Politics, The Prince (and other works), and something more modern
– thought-provoking philosophical writings – Philosophical Investigations
– Use audiobooks to consume slowly while simultaneously doing something

Natural Sciences:
– For knowledge of science
For understanding how research works
– prefer large historical or trans-discipline pieces that are up to date – Gödel, Escher, Bach; Thinking, Fast and Slow; A Brief[er] History in Time, Big History from The Great Courses, etc. These books compete with online lectures.

– Biographies of great people:
— For knowledge
— For fun, for experience (possibly my favorite reading material, possibly because it’s most humane; The same reason applies to coming-of-age films)
— Use Wikipedia
— Many of the online lectures cover biographies, to allow more insight on their decisions
— A single book with multiple biographies is best, to ease the comparison of lives

– Essays by great essayists, and possibly the short writings of other great writers
— Experience good writing to help develop one’s own writing style
For knowledge, and fun (same reasons as biographies of great people)

– Language books

[the following was added two years later]
– History
To understand how the world came to be, especially useful to see how cultures have developed
— Similar to biographies, a single book with multiple histories of societies is best, to ease the comparison of societies
— Can use Wikipedia

certain kinds of non-fiction literature:
– anthology
— Similar to a single book with multiple biographies or multiple histories, a single book with multiple writings is a much better experience than any single book
— Similar to History, to see how cultures have developed
— history of philosophical writings
— history of essays
— history of literature
— all of these should be encompass the world, not just the West

For ideas
Penguin Great Ideas series
— Readers for knowledge categories: The Media Studies Reader, etc.

– For art
– Contemporary masterpieces, including comics, especially those of Nobel Prize winners in
Literature. Although, I would likely choose other mediums over this, and empiricism over all all art

[the following was added two years later]
– Magical Realism
for thought-provocation
— Calvino, Borges, etc.

– Philosophical Fiction
for thought-provocation

– Travel Literature
For fun, for experience (similar to reading biographies)
— Travel Journals
— for experience and fun
— Travel Guides
— for history
— Travel Fiction
— for experience and fun


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