I am occasionally asked to recommend books – good books – for those who are pursuing certain areas of study or who are interested in developing certain sets of capabilities. I try to always provide a thoughtful answer. There are certain “go to” books I routinely recommend to help others improve their speaking or writing skills, or learn more about history, or economics, or science, or philosophy, or theology, for example. And, of course, I have my favorites in the areas of systems engineering, systems architecture, complexity, chaos, and artificial intelligence.
But I am now considering a hypothetical problem: What books would I recommend, not simply to develop a skill or learn more about a particular subject, but to begin the process of developing a rational framework for the better understanding of everything? Let us say that I must limit myself to a handful of books currently on my shelves – for I might otherwise point one toward a Great Books curriculum – and these books should be, in a sense, first books, not ultimate books, that are nonetheless sufficiently engaging intellectually to introduce you to lines of thought that might ultimately lead you to pursue studies at a yet higher level. And, the goal is that, upon completing the recommended books, you might truly say “this has made a difference in my way of looking at the world; I now see some things in new and important ways.”
What would I recommend?
1. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
2. Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman
3. The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek
4. The Abolition of Man: How Education Develops Man’s Sense of Morality by C. S. Lewis
That is where I would begin.