“Throughout his life Einstein was a man of the book, to a much higher degree than other scientists. The remarkably diverse collection of volumes in his library grew constantly. If we look only at the German-language books published before 1910 that survived Einstein’s Princeton household, the list includes much of the cannon of the time: Boltzmann, Buchner, Friedrich Hebbel, the works of Heine in two editions, Helmholtz, von Humboldt, the many books of Kant, Gotthold Lessing, Mach, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. But what looms largest are the collected works of Johann von Goethe in a thirty-six volume edition and another of twelve volumes, plus two volumes on his Optics, the exchange of letters between Goethe and Schiller, and a separate volume of Faust.”Galison, Peter, Holton, Gerald J., and Schweber, Silvan S. (2008). Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture (ch. 1: Who Was Einstein? Why is He Still so Alive?, pgs 3-15; quote: pg. 10). Princeton University Press.
A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (1945)
‘A precious book….a work that is in the highest degree pedagogical which stands above the conflicts of parties and opinion’ – Albert Einstein
People’s Books on Natural Science by Bernstein, Aaron
Number: The Language of Science by Tobias Dantzig (first published 1930)
Number is an eloquent, accessible tour de force that reveals how the concept of number evolved from prehistoric times through the twentieth century. Tobias Dantzig shows that the development of math—from the invention of counting to the discovery of infinity—is a profoundly human story that progressed by “trying and erring, by groping and stumbling.” He shows how commerce, war, and religion led to advances in math, and he recounts the stories of individuals whose breakthroughs expanded the concept of number and created the mathematics that we know today.
A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume | 688 pages | 3.91 / 9,285
One of the most significant works of Western philosophy, Hume’s Treatise was published in 1739-40, before he was thirty years old. A pinnacle of English empiricism, it is a comprehensive attempt to apply scientific methods of observation to a study of human nature, and a vigorous attack upon the principles of traditional metaphysical thought. With masterly eloquence, Hume denies the immortality of the soul and the reality of space; considers the manner in which we form concepts of identity, cause and effect; and speculates upon the nature of freedom, virtue and emotion. Opposed both to metaphysics and to rationalism, Hume’s philosophy of informed scepticism sees man not as a religious creation, nor as a machine, but as a creature dominated by sentiment, passion and appetite.
Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza | 208 pages | 4 / 10,034
A profoundly beautiful and uniquely insightful description of the universe, Benedict de Spinoza’s Ethics is one of the masterpieces of Enlightenment-era philosophy. Published shortly after his death, the Ethics is undoubtedly Spinoza’s greatest work – an elegant, fully cohesive cosmology derived from first principles, providing a coherent picture of reality, and a guide to the meaning of an ethical life. Following a logical step-by-step format, it defines in turn the nature of God, the mind, the emotions, human bondage to the emotions, and the power of understanding – moving from a consideration of the eternal, to speculate upon humanity’s place in the natural order, the nature of freedom and the path to attainable happiness. A powerful work of elegant simplicity, the Ethics is a brilliantly insightful consideration of the possibility of redemption through intense thought and philosophical reflection.
Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant | 784 pages | 3.92 / 22,425
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant laid out a framework upon which the whole of modern philosophy is based. It presents a profound and challenging investigation into the nature of human reason, its knowledge and illusions. Reason, Kant argues, is the seat of certain concepts that precede experience and make it possible, but we are not therefore entitled to draw conclusions about the natural world from these concepts. The Critique brings together the two opposing schools of philosophy: rationalism, which grounds all our knowledge in reason, and empiricism, which traces all our knowledge to experience. Kant’s transcendental idealism indicates a third way that goes far beyond these alternatives.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy | 848 pages | 4.02 / 479,678
Anna Karenina is one of the most loved and memorable heroines of literature. Her overwhelming charm dominates a novel of unparalleled richness and density.
Tolstoy considered this book to be his first real attempt at a novel form, and it addresses the very nature of society at all levels,- of destiny, death, human relationships and the irreconcilable contradictions of existence. It ends tragically, and there is much that evokes despair, yet set beside this is an abounding joy in life’s many ephemeral pleasures, and a profusion of comic relief.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky | 796 pages | 4.3 / 180,598
The Brothers Karamasov is a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of erotic rivalry in a series of triangular love affairs involving the “”wicked and sentimental”” Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons–the impulsive and sensual Dmitri; the coldly rational Ivan; and the healthy, red-cheeked young novice Alyosha. Through the gripping events of their story, Dostoevsky portrays the whole of Russian life, is social and spiritual striving, in what was both the golden age and a tragic turning point in Russian culture.
inventiveness of Dostoevsky’s prose, preserving the multiple voices, the humor, and the surprising modernity of the original. It is an achievement worthy of Dostoevsky’s last and greatest novel.
A System of Logic : Ratiocinative and Inductive by John Stuart Mill | 980 pages | 4.07 / 80
John Stuart Mill’s ‘System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive’ was a ground-breaking and highly influential work of philosophy, first published in 1843. Mill espoused the empiricist view of political and social philosophy, and formulated the five principles of inductive reasoning that are now known as Mill’s Methods.
Isis Unveiled : Secrets of the Ancient Wisdom Tradition, Madame Blavatsky’s First Work by H. P. Blavatsky | 291 pages | 3.97 / 617
Isis Unveiled created a sensation when it was first published in 1877. The first major work by the young Russian noblewoman who founded The Theosophical Society, its 1200 pages explored “”the mysteries of ancient and modern science and theology.”” This new abridgment by Theosophical scholar Michael Gomes breathes fresh life into this classic of Western esoteric thinking. With its central themes highlighted and its style modernized for today’s readers, Isis Unveiled is revealed as a fascinating exploration of the universal truths of the Ancient Wisdom Tradition by one of the most remarkable women of modern times.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra | 1040 pages | 3.85 / 161,199
Don Quixote is the epic tale of the man from La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza. Their picaresque adventures in the world of seventeenth-century Spain form the basis of one of the great treasures of Western literature.
Science and Hypothesis
by Jules Henri Poincare | 271 pages | 3.99 / 148 ratings
Here is Poincaré’s famous discussion of creative psychology as it is
revealed in the physical sciences. Explaining how such basic concepts as
number and magnitude, space and force were developed, the great French
mathematician refutes the skeptical position that modern scientific method
and its results are wholly factitious. The places of rigorous logic and
The Grammar of Science by Karl Pearson
The Grammar of Science, originally published in 1892, was considered an essential read by budding young scientists like Albert Einstein. Pearson’s work contributed to Einstein’s greatest discoveries by introducing him to the ideas of relativity of motion, equivalence between matter and energy, and the concept of antimatter. Pearson opens his book with a definition and discussion of science itself, detailing what is required for inquiries to be scientific in nature. He then moves on to discuss space and time, motion, matter, and the future of scientific progress. Professionals and students alike will be fascinated by Pearson’s insight into the nature of reality. British professor KARL PEARSON (1857-1936) worked at University College in London. He invented mathematical statistics and formed the Department of Applied Statistics at the University of London. He wrote many books and papers, including a biography of Francis Galton, a proponent of eugenics, and studies on evolution.
Analyse der Empfindungen (Analysis of Sensations) by Ernst Mach (1886)
Insisting that sensation constitutes the data for all science, physical and psychological, Mach articulated an early form of scientific positivism that provided Külpe and Titchener with an epistemological framework for their emerging views. Conceiving of space and time not as Kantian categories but as the immediate data of experience, Mach also helped lay the groundwork for the gestaltists’ later recognition of the phenomenal status of extension and duration.
None by B Kovner (Language Yiddis) 74 pages
A dramatic portrait of the spirit of sacrifice that carried India through the years of the struggle for independence, this evocative memoir of an unusual childhood ends with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.