When i left the home of my youth, a single shelf for my books would have extended seventy feet. My busiest year was the age of fourteen, when i read some 115 books (not including my oft-ignored schoolwork). The author who turned me into a reader was edgar rice burroughs - at thirteen, my first burroughs made it imperative that i read everything he wrote. I stopped when i came to the final tarzan novel, saving it for my deathbed. A handful of others (shaw, o'neill, chekov, stoppard, vonnegut) have triggered the same consuming desire.Here are the books i know, that every human ought read. The final version of this list will no doubt have more titles - a book on genetics, one about touch (a primer for which is chapters 4-8 of morris' "Intimate Behavior"), something on mythology and archetypes, perhaps several on sociology and psychology, and some i probably can't even begin to conceive. These books may turn your perceptions inside out, and put you back on the path of humanity.
THE CARTOON HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE, by larry gonick
A brilliant book, and precisely what it claims to be. Gonick is a cartoonist with Harvard degrees who injects huge helpings of humor and science into his books (all of which should be required school reading). He self-deprecatingly declares that he's only trying to save the world. My kinda homo sapiens.
THE NAKED APE, by desmond morris
There are one or two sections desmond might update, but the single hardest thing for any person to do is to step outside oneself. No book ever achieved that so brilliantly, in terms of the entire human species, as this.
SEX AT DAWN, by christopher ryan and cacilda jetha'
A deconstruction and negation of the competition-based narrative of human sexuality (women selling their sexual exclusivity to one male in exchange for resources and security, with men driven by the need to insure the paternity of their offspring). Replacing that is the mode that was likely humanity's state for at least 98% of our history, that of multiple partners and radical sharing in all elements of society. It corrects the one gaping flaw in the works of morris.
ANIMAL RIGHTS, HUMAN RIGHTS, by david nibert
If you and a child about to be marooned on a desert isle could grab only two books, take this and "Sex at Dawn". No others pull the veil off humanity so precisely and concisely. This one tackles the past ten thousand years, and how our species has gone so incomprehensibly astray since the advent of agriculture and private property. See http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2013/10/animal-rights-human-rights.html, and also his follow-up, "Animal Oppression & Human Violence" (http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2016/06/animal-oppression-human-violence.html), which fleshes out his points in terms of the apocalyptic, holocaustic disaster that is global corporate capitalism.
THE WATCHMAN'S RATTLE, by rebecca d. costa
An investigation into why every advanced human society in recorded history has collapsed, and how we're on the same path. Costa addresses the stages of collapse, and the five supermemes (ways of thinking or being) which are killing this world. She shows how, for the first time ever, humans are capable of avoiding that fate. In general and specific ways, she shows how it will happen.
THE SECOND SEX, by simone de beauvoir
As lucretia mott said, "The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of woman, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source". Jean-paul and albert may have had richer imaginations, but neither came close to writing anything so towering.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X, by alex haley
The understanding of racism starts here.
A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, by howard zinn
The history of the world's preeminent military superpower told not from the standpoint of rich white men, but that of women/native indians/poor white men/blacks/chicanos. Zinn challenges you to wonder what might happen if the U.S.A. became the world's first humanitarian superpower.
JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN, by daulton trumbo
Strictly an appeal to anti-war emotion, but few books may ever lacerate your spirit so unshakably.
gOD IS NOT GREAT: HOW RELIGION POISONS EVERYTHING, by christopher hitchens
This book makes me cry...that i didn't write it first.
THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN, by marilyn french
A deconstruction of how the establishment reacted to women's liberation in the second half of the twentieth century. Less sweeping than simone, but more analytical.
EATING ANIMALS, by jonathan saffran foer
One of the more compelling arguments against eating other animals, written by a meat-eater facing parenthood. There's not much on health risks or historical perspective, but the cruelty that makes the Holocaust look like Club Med, plus the ecological apocalypse of factory farms, are well-covered.
HARMFUL TO MINORS: THE PERILS OF PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM SEX, by judith levine
Stunningly brilliant and nearly-suppressed.
AIN'T NOBODY'S BUSINESS IF YOU DO: THE ABSURDITY OF CONSENSUAL CRIMES IN OUR FREE COUNTRY, by peter mcwilliams
A towering achievement, and possibly the most laterally exhaustingly-researched book i've ever read. Not just staggeringly important, but brilliantly written.
Also considered: WALDEN, LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME, BRAVE NEW WORLD REVISITED, THE MISMEASURE OF WOMAN, LETTERS FROM THE EARTH, THE LORAX