Thought Provoking Books

by Stephen Mills on October 31, 2010


Here is a selection of thought provoking books I’ve read in the last few weeks.  These are not “practical” books in the sense that they give you a formula for how to do something better, but they are more philosophical in nature. Big picture, philosophical ideas are important and to the degree that they educate you and help you understand the world around you, they are critical to your long-term intellectual growth.  I give an enthusiastic thumbs up to all of these books.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

This brilliant book makes a case for a science of values that is almost unheard of nowadays.  The only other writer of any note that has promoted this idea was Ayn Rand in the 40’s and 50’s (at least the only one I know of).  This is a very thoughtful and well written work.  Harris argues very persuasively for his point of view.  Sam Harris is no friend of religion and while this book is not about religion, he devotes a whole chapter to attacking religious morality – be forewarned.

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

When I read the jacket cover of this book I thought I wouldn’t like it.  The reason I bought it was because of a recommendation; I’m sure glad I did.  The topic is the evolution of technology and I found it to be deeply original and provocative.  With chapters like “The Unabomber Was Right” and “The Amish Hackers” you know the read is going to be a bit of a different ride.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Of all the books included in this article, Steven Johnson’s comes the closest to being practical.  There is a lot of wisdom in his pages and I found it to be fairly profound and useful.  It certainly made me think.

The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction by Rebecca Costa

This is the best book with a strange title I’ve ever read.  I picked it up on a hunch and consider it an amazing find.  12 of 12 people who have reviewed it on Amazon have given it a 5 star rating and that includes me.  This is another book that does not regurgitate the same old ideas.  It’s a refreshingly new way to think about the complex problems facing the world today.

I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton

This book was a very interesting look at how we likely will interact with media in the future and is a very optimistic view of what technology is bringing to our world.

These last two books are thought provoking in a different way.  They are true stories that make you think about our natural world and our place in it.

Naked in Eden: My Adventure and Awakening in the Australian Rainforest by Robin Easton

This book is definitely different.  Robin seems totally at home in the rain forest dreaming and talking to trees and animals.  It’s a look at nature from a perspective that’s unique and wonderful.  Robin is a captivating story teller and you should check it out.

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston

I love trees and this is the story of the world’s biggest trees and the people who found them.  It was a compelling and wonderful read.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Nea | Self Improvement Saga October 31, 2010 at 10:10 pm

I haven’t read any of the books on your list, but I’ve honed in on the one by Rebecca Costa. It sounds awesome and I’m ordering it on Amazon. Thanks for the suggestion.
Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog post ..Buddhist Quotes and Sayings by Thich Nhat Hanh


Henway November 1, 2010 at 8:52 am

I heard good things about “What Technology Wants”.. will pick that up the next time I’m buying books.

I’d also recommend:
– The Selfish Gene (what our genes want is not equal to what we want)
Henway´s last blog post ..Medifast success stories


Mario Olckers November 1, 2010 at 9:50 am

Nice selection of book recommendations, thank you. Regarding your comment about science and values and Ayn Rand, one other person who address this very seriously is Arthur Jackson, whose book, SCIENCE OF ETHICS: A User’s Guide For Modern Humans is online at

Disclaimer: I have no connection or interest with this website, other than an appreciation and sharing of an important and vital resource


Kathleen November 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

It would be nice to get the time to read books. I can not remember the last time I read anything just because I wanted to. I will keep this list of books and if I get a chance to read these will be my first choice.


Stuart November 14, 2010 at 4:53 am

Some good books there Stephen, I’ll jot them down and have a look. Thanks for the post, keep shining 🙂


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