Steven Pinker’s 10 Favorite Books

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Bookseller One Grand Books has asked celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is the list of cognitive scientist and author Steven Pinker.

“One, Two, Three, Infinity,” by George Gamow
$13, One Grand Books

A delightful introduction to number theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity, higher dimensions, and other mathematical and scientific topics. I read it as a young adult, but it’s informative for old adults too.

“The Blind Watchmaker,” by Richard Dawkins
$19, One Grand Books

Perhaps the best display of expository scientific prose of the 20th century. It gave me the idea to try my hand at the genre in “The Language Instinct.”

“The Evolution of Human Sexuality,” by Donald Symons
$63, One Grand Books

The founding document of evolutionary psychology, filled with insights about sex and the sexes, and more relevant than ever with #MeToo. A major inspiration for the discussions of evolution and sexuality in my own “How the Mind Works.”

“The Nurture Assumption,” by Judith Rich Harris
$19, One Grand Books

A grandmother from New Jersey uses genetics, ethnography, and child psychology to refute the dogma that parents shape their children’s intelligence and personality. A major influence on my own book “The Blank Slate.”

“36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction,” by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
$28, One Grand Books

A moving, hilarious, and intellectually deep novel about religion and atheism. Disclosure: I like this author’s fiction so much that I married her.

“Enemies: A Love Story,” by Isaac Bashevis Singer
$16, One Grand Books

Perhaps my favorite contemporary novel by someone I’m not married to. It’s about a Holocaust survivor who ends up with three wives. Every scene is a gold mine of insight about human nature.

“Atrocities,” by Matthew White
$20, One Grand Books

This chronicle of history’s hundred deadliest wars and massacres, including death tolls, is a good way to settle bets (who was worse, Genghis Khan or Hitler?), brush up on your history, and be stunned by the cruelty and stupidity of our species. It was a useful source when I wrote “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”

“Clear and Simple as the Truth,” by Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner
$34, One Grand Books

Perhaps the best analysis of writing style, and a major inspiration for my own “The Sense of Style.”

“The Beginning of Infinity,” by David Deutsch
$20, One Grand Books

This 21st-century statement of the ideals of the Enlightenment offers fresh insight on a vast number of topics, including the workings of human cognition, the ways of science, and the drivers of progress. A major inspiration for “Enlightenment Now.”

“Whole Earth Discipline,” by Stewart Brand
$18, One Grand Books

No, the environment is not hopelessly despoiled and depauperate, says eco-modernist Stewart Brand. Children of the 1970s will appreciate the title, an allusion to Brand’s groundbreaking “Whole Earth Catalog,” which merged technology with the counterculture and encouraged global consciousness with the breathtaking Earthrise photograph on the cover.

Steven Pinker’s 10 Favorite Books