Learning from Great Books

Reading is one of the most important skills for rational learning. Most of humanity’s best ideas are in writing, especially in books. But learning from those books is trickier than it appears. Most people fail when they try to learn great ideas from books, and don’t recognize that they failed. But if you asked them if they understand the material about as well as the author, they’d know the answer is “no”. Ask yourself that question regarding some books you’ve read.

This is a guide to help people access the wisdom of our best authors regarding ideas relevant to everyone in every field. Your goal ought to be at least to understand the ideas correctly so that you can use them in your life, just like the original authors, or you could even try to make progress and know more than past authors. You should aim to become at least 80% as wise as the thinkers you’re learning from, if not matching them or better. What’s pretty typical is understanding a third or less, which is retrogression. No scientist would settle for understanding a third of what scientists knew in past generations. It’s just as absurd to be behind past generations – and satisfied – regarding rationality and critical thinking as it is with science.

How many fans of Karl Popper (or Ayn Rand, Eli Goldratt, etc.) can honestly claim that they believe they understand the ideas 80% as well as Popper did? How many are 80% caught up to Popper, let alone making progress in the field of rational thinking?

This guide has two main parts. First, it talks about how to get better at reading. Second, it recommends books to learn from.


Reading comes in stages:

  1. Learn to read.
  2. Make reading a part of your life. Find some books you like to read. Get used to regularly spending time reading and enjoying it.
  3. Use reading to improve your life. Read important books and understand their ideas.

Most people succeed at (1) in childhood. (2) is uncommon but some people do it. Some people try (3), but it usually doesn’t work out very well. Most people trying (3) haven’t succeeded at (2) yet, so (3) is unrealistic for them.

Thinkers like Popper, Goldratt and Rand mastered stages 1-3. They’re really, really good at this stuff. It’s easy, fun and natural for them because they’re so skilled at it and learned how to do it easily, enjoy it, and do it on autopilot. That is one of the many solid foundations which contributed to their success at more advanced stuff.

Although most people can read, most aren’t very good at grammar. I studied grammar and wrote an article teaching the key, useful concepts (there are some major principles – contrary to reputation, grammar isn’t just a bunch of picky details).

If you want to move on to stage (3), it helps to first be really good at stages (1) and especially (2) first. Don’t just read 1-3 books per month, 10 months a year, indefinitely. That’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s more than most people read. But it isn’t ambitious (and if you aren’t ambitious, forget about stage (3)). If you highly value reading, you can do more.

Consider: Do you usually read at least a few hours every week? Have you ever read 12 hours in one day? Have you ever stayed up way past your bedtime to keep reading? Have you read 40 hours in a week? Have you read 500 books? Have you read two full books in one day before? Have you read 25 books in a month before? Have you read 25 books in your life that are over 1,000 pages? Have you ever read a 1,000+ page book in 5 days? 4 days? 3 days? 2 days? 1 day? Have you read a wide variety of genres and authors? Fiction and non-fiction? Books published in a variety of time periods? Some translations and foreign books? And liked all of the above and are confident you could do it again successfully? Do you miss reading if you don’t read a book for a few weeks?

Have you used the library much? Paid for many books? Know how to find ebooks to download? Are you good at reading paper books? Are you good at reading ebooks? Have you practiced and learned any types of speed reading or skimming? Are you a reasonably fast reader? Have you ever timed yourself? Do you read around 200 words per minute (wpm)? 300? 400? 500? What is your max speed and what’s comfortable? Can you speed up for easy material and slow down when it needs more attention? Are you self-aware about how much you’re understanding what you read? Do you know when to go back a page and reread? If you’re missing lots of what you read, can you refocus yourself by choice or do you have to stop reading and hope you focus more tomorrow? Can you still read while tired or distracted? Can you sometimes get “lost” in a book and ignore the outside world? Do you recognize when you’re bored and should skip ahead or only read a specific part or just stop reading the book?

Have you looked up 500 different words in the dictionary? Have you looked up a word, then looked up a word from its definition, then looked up a word from that definition? Have you compared definitions from three different dictionaries? Do you have opinions about which dictionaries are better or worse for looking up what kinds of info? Have you paused reading, done a web search to understand something better, and then continued reading? Have you read books that you found in the footnotes of other books?

Those are all things you could accomplish, in stage (2), before moving on to much harder goals like learning great ideas from great thinkers. Doing most of the above sets you up to be in a better position to learn from stage (3) books.

These reading related skills are some of the things that great thinkers are usually great at that you might not know about. Skills like these are mostly used behind the scenes.

It’s similar to how you should master typing before you write a book. Typing should be really easy and habitual, not distracting, so you can focus on what you’re writing about. You don’t want to split your focus between typing and figuring out what your book should say. Similarly, you should master reading before expecting to read and understand important books with uncommon knowledge. You don’t want to split your focus between reading itself and understanding the books.

If you’ve read 500 pages in one sitting, then reading 50 pages isn’t a big deal anymore. It’s only 10% of your max. You’ve done more than 50 pages many times without even trying. It’s like you’re a great sprinter but right now you’re just jogging a couple miles like you’ve done many times for a warmup. The concept here is you should normally do things way below your maximum capacity. That makes them easier and more enjoyable with lower stress and fewer mistakes. If you could read 100 pages right now, reading 20 wouldn’t be too hard. If you could run 10 miles right now, running 2 wouldn’t be too hard.

Most people can read but they don’t read a lot. To them, reading a book is a hassle. It takes a long time and it’s more work and less fun than YouTube or Netflix. They prefer podcasts and videos over reading. And they have habits for how they live, which are hard to change, and the habits don’t involve reading many books if any. If you’re in a situation which is anything like that, focus on stage (2) before stage (3). You aren’t ready to jump into stage (3). Try to get to the point that you’ve read many books and reading a whole book in a day sometimes isn’t a big deal.

Those are some of the general principles about how to think about reading. If you want to learn about the greatest ideas ever written down, you need to recognize that’s something most people fail at. To have a good chance to succeed, you’ll need an organized plan that’s got some improvements over what people typically do. That means breaking the problem down into many little pieces, each of which is more manageable. Aiming for mastery of reading, instead of just being literate, is one of the important places that you can have higher standards and do better.

What to Read in Stage 2

Try everything you can think of and see what you like, including fiction. Fiction is generally better to start with because people find it more fun and easy. There are so many books out there that I couldn’t decide which you should read. But a lot of people don’t know where to start, so I give a couple suggestions that you could try. Below are my two favorite fiction authors from two of my favorite genres (just counting regular fiction that isn’t especially intellectual).

Old books are generally harder to read. Try books from 1945 and later. Try fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, romance, erotica, mystery/detective, Western (cowboys), plays, etc. Fans fics are fine too. Avoid “great literature” at first because it’s often long, unfun, and hard to read. Some “great literature” is actually good and some isn’t, and it’s way easier to judge for yourself when you have more experience reading and more books to compare to, including ones you liked and disliked. Lots of people read “great literature”, hate it, and think the problem is just that all books are boring because they don’t have experience with good, fun books. Or some people think all books are either fun and shallow or important and boring, which is the kind of attitude that prevents learning much.

FYI, you can practice reading with Harry Potter, Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey if you want to. They shouldn’t be the only thing you read, but they’re fine to start with, and then you can read other things and compare. Don’t discount some books by reputation. I personally enjoyed reading Harry Potter and I think a lot of the popularity is because Rowling is actually a good writer who did a skillful job making the books easy to read, which is a genuinely good thing.

Short story collections with one story per author are a particularly good thing to try because you’ll read a variety of different styles and can find authors you like, and because each story is shorter and easier to finish. In general you should start with short stories, then short books, and then gradually increase the max length you read (while still reading shorter things too, forever).

Science Fiction: Robert Heinlein

Heinlein is my pick for the best sci-fi adventure author (not science-focused sci-fi, which he doesn’t write, and which Greg Egan is good for). He has a good attitude to life and has American values.

Go to his bibliography on Wikipedia. Every single book in the Early Heinlein section is good, and I particularly recommend the juveniles which are all pretty short (and have a lower number of words per page). I don’t like some of his later books, but I do like The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (398 pages). I also like most of Heinlein’s short stories.

Unsure where to begin? Start with one of his several short story collections. Some of my favorites books are Between Planets (288 pages), The Star Beast (240 pages), Citizen of the Galaxy (272 pages) and The Puppet Masters (~368 pages) and The Man Who Sold the Moon (~100 pages, an especially long short story). I suggest reading Starship Troopers (290 pages) if you’ve seen the movie because the book is good and it’s interesting to compare the book with the movie.

Fantasy: Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson is my pick for the best fantasy author. He’s known for developing original magic systems and finishing the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died. Here are what I think his best books are:

Mistborn First Trilogy (2064 pages total)
The books are The Final Empire (676 pages), The Well of Ascension (815 pages), and The Hero of Ages (573 pages). The first book is pretty self-contained, with a strong ending, so you’re not committed to reading the whole trilogy.

Elantris (657 pages)
This single book packs in a lot of plot. (Fantasy commonly comes in long series: at least trilogies and there are often five or more books in a series.)

Warbreaker (669 pages)
Another good single book.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (The first five books’ page counts are 328, 337, 340, 306, 304.)
This series has short, funny books and is written for a younger audience. They have fewer words per page than typical books. Sanderson has written several young adult books too.

The Stormlight Archive (The first three books’ page counts are 1137, 1088, 1220.)
This is Sanderson’s most epic series. It will be 10 books, all long. Sanderson learned from, and improved on, prior works like The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. I like A Song of Ice and Fire (the books that Game of Thrones is based on, which are far better than the TV show) but I like Stormlight Archive more.

What to Read in Stage 3

Most people fail at stage 3 (reading important books to learn good ideas and improve their life). Why? Here are the top two causes:

  1. Skipping stage 2 (skipping making reading part of their life).
  2. Reading bad books.

There are a lot of books for stage 3 which claim to offer important, useful knowledge. There are many books that teach rational thinking, science, psychology, economics, political philosophy, history and much more, and which try to educate you to understand the world so you can make good decisions in your life. But most of them have bad ideas and also are written badly.

I’ve covered stage 2 above. Next I’ll be giving advice about which books are actually good to read in stage 3. Some books have to be the ones with the best ideas that anyone has ever written down, and those are well worth finding and learning from. I’ve searched a ton and will share my suggestions.

My suggestions disagree with mainstream opinion. Conventional wisdom has different factions that disagree with each other about what books are any good, so there’s always going to be controversy and disagreement about what to read. But, FYI, what I recommend is less standard. You should look at some more mainstream stuff too and compare and judge for yourself, but I won’t make recommendations for that (look for some recommendations from people who agree with what they’re recommending).

My recommendations focus on the earlier part of stage 3, which is where most failures happen. I’m not going for a complete list of everything good. I prioritize books that are more accessible (easier to get value from) when those exist.

If you particularly like an author, read more of their stuff! Every author has more available. If you don’t like something, or you’re not understanding it, don’t read it (now). Reading something without being interested, or without following what it says well, isn’t educational. Don’t get stuck. Try to find something that’s easier for you to have success with now and get value from in the short term.

Advice: Only read forwards, prefaces and introductions if they’re by the author of the book, but ignore them if they’re by anyone else. Also if they seem at all boring or irrelevant, skip them until after you finish the book, then give them a second try after, and if it’s still not working just don’t read it.

Topics Covered

When you go to a store and buy an iPhone, or another product, what makes that possible?

  • The capitalist economic system in which businesses create new products with the aim of better satisfying the consumers in order to earn profits. These businesses also hire software engineers, mine metal and other raw materials, transport and assemble components, provide services like hair cuts and doctor’s appointments, and so on.
  • The scientists who invented the computer chips, cellular modems, satellites, metal alloys, hardened glass, and many other technologies used by iPhones.
  • The political system which provides law, order and peace, including protecting property rights, enforcing contracts, and resolving disputes in court.
  • The rational thinking that enables men to be reasonable and effective, and which is necessary to all of the above.

Reason, economics, science and political philosophy all play a major role in everyone’s life. You can’t, don’t and wouldn’t want to avoid them. You should know how they work. You should understand the world you live in so you can better deal with it. My reading recommendations reflect this.

My own work focuses most on reason, which is the most generically important field. I’ve developed new ideas in epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge, learning and how to think).

My reading suggestions focus on especially good things to read. When I don’t know a book that stands out, I don’t cover an area. It’d be good to read some summary overviews of history, but I don’t recommend particular ones. An educated person should have a rough idea of what happened in the World Wars, the Cold War, ancient Greece and Rome, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and so on. And should learn some basic concepts from science and technology (I only recommend stuff for philosophy of science and scientific method). And should read some philosophy overview covering Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Hume, Kant, etc. I don’t provide specific recommendations for everything. Being able to find and judge books is part of the skill people need to learn. A tip for non-fiction books is to try stuff written from 1900-1960. Older stuff is too outdated but a lot of newer stuff has some major, modern flaws which started getting worse in the 60s and are really bad today in most fields.

I also focus my recommendations on controversial areas where I think most people are wrong, so there’s an especially large opportunity for improvement. Science and history are relatively reasonable fields where you can read some mainstream overview books and they’ll probably be halfway decent. There are disagreements and different schools of thought but those fields aren’t nearly as divided as philosophy, economics and political philosophy. Also common sense and general knowledge, which lay people believe, is much worse for philosophy, economics and political philosophy than for science or history, so again there’s a lot more to gain from corrections.

FYI, there are many other topics that educated people should learn, like basic financial management (like budgeting and investing), which is available e.g. in I Will Teach You to Be Rich. I won’t be covering all of life. If you learn to think well, you can use that skill to figure out what else you should learn about and how to learn it. I’m only covering general purpose, timeless knowledge, not details about how to live in society today.

Reading Order

Read based on ease and interest. You can mostly read in any order. Try Hazlitt before Mises. If you have a hostile attitude towards capitalism, read philosophy first so you don’t get triggered. (If you merely disagree with capitalism but are curious to find out about why some thinkers favor it, reading Mises is fine.) If you’re a big fan of induction, don’t start with Popper; that would just make your life harder.

You don’t have to finish one author before reading something from another. I suggest mixing the Fallible Ideas articles in throughout, along with books, not reading it all in a row.

Fallible Ideas Articles

These are by me, Elliot Temple. They aren’t books (though some have been gathered into a Fallible Ideas Articles ebook). While books and journals were the dominant format for serious writing in the past, now lots of serious writing is online, which is fine, too. The articles are shorter than books which has both upsides and downsides. A lot of good philosophy books are collections of articles, so it’s basically the same as those.

Note: Posts on curi.us have discussion below them. Skim it for every post you read, then read comments that look good to you. There are lots of valuable ideas there (and plenty of less valuable ideas too; it’s public so quality isn’t consistent).

Note: Posts and comments on curi.us often contain links. You should click on lots of links and quickly look at the linked page to see what it is, then decide whether you want to start reading it. Clicking-and-glancing is cheap. Starting reading is cheap if you’ll stop at any point. Many people avoid clicking links because they get stuck reading whatever they click instead of using their judgment. But that means they actually try to use judgment before clicking when they have far less information about what’s at the link, which results in avoiding most links. It should be cheap, easy and noncommittal to click a link and cheap and easy to leave it. Consciously remind yourself of this and practice it. Sometimes you’ll save webpages for later; instead of leaving tabs open or trying to remember, use a software tool like Pocket, Instapaper or Reading List.

Philosophy Books

These four thinkers have contributed ideas that helped me build my epistemology. They’re who I mostly build on.

Eliyahu Goldratt

Goldratt wrote novels explaining how to use his ideas to run businesses better. He did consulting for businesses. His goal in life was to teach people to think better. He’s very easy to read compared to a typical philosopher.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement (376 pages)
Goldratt’s most famous novel explains bottlenecks (aka constraints) and how they affect optimizing a factory. The same method of making improvements works outside of business too.

It’s Not Luck (290 pages)
Business novel which introduces a conflict resolution method.

The Choice (240 pages)
Goldratt’s most philosophical book.

Critical Chain (246 pages)
Business novel that explains project management, including project buffers.

Isn’t It Obvious? (232 pages)
This business novel deals with supply chains. Optional.

David Deutsch

I no longer recommend reading David Deutsch. I discovered that he wrote many misquotes. I also realized that his books were worse than I thought. They don’t explain ideas in enough depth, which I didn’t see clearly because I filled in the missing information by having conversations with David. I’m leaving this section here for the record. I don’t like to delete information, but I retract it.

David Deutsch, a physicist, helped develop Karl Popper’s epistemology. He wrote two books and I advise reading the first one, The Fabric of Reality, before the other one.

The Fabric of Reality (404 pages)
Read this before The Beginning of Infinity. Read chapters 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8 (126 pages). The rest are interesting but optional. They cover topics like science and computation. The chapters I particularly recommend are about epistemology, including evolution.

The Beginning of Infinity (498 pages)
Read the whole book unless it’s not working well. Some chapters are reasonably independent and could be skipped pretty easily, like 7 (artificial intelligence), 8 (infinity and math) or 11 (physics). The best ideas in the book are about epistemology, including evolution.

Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand was a great philosopher who dealt with moral and political philosophy as well as epistemology and reason.

Philosophy: Who Needs It (247 pages)
Read the chapters Philosophy: Who Needs It  (11 pages), Philosophical Detection (11 pages) and An Untitled Letter (18 pages). The other chapters are optional. The first two chapters in this book are a great introduction to philosophy and would work well as the very first thing you read in stage 3.

The Virtue of Selfishness (173 pages)
Read all the chapters by Ayn Rand except chapter 1. The rest are optional.

Atlas Shrugged (1188 pages)
This is the best book ever written, but it’s long, opinionated, and not focused on epistemology. Being opinionated is good, but it’s hard for some people to understand and like the book. Read chapter 1 and see how you like it. If it resonates with you, keep reading, but if not then set it aside. The rest after chapter 1 is optional. (You can always try again in a few years when you’re wiser.)

The Fountainhead (752 pages)
This is the second best book, but see my comments on Atlas Shrugged. Read chapter 1 but the rest is optional.

Return of the Primitive (306 pages)
This book is optional but I particularly like The Comprachicos (48 pages) and The “Inexplicable Personal Alchemy” (11 pages).

For the New Intellectual (198 pages)
Optional book. But give this book a try if you don’t read past chapter 1 of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

If you particularly like Objectivism, read more Rand and read Understanding Objectivism (395 pages) by Leonard Peikoff.

Karl Popper

Karl Popper made huge breakthroughs in epistemology, particularly by refuting induction and providing an alternative: we learn by an evolutionary process of unjustified guesses and criticism. The key to the growth of knowledge is error correction.

The quality of Popper’s ideas varies more than most authors, from great to poor, so use my guide for which parts of which books to read. Popper wrote a ton, but the guide cuts the number of pages way down (to 541). Read the Popper’s Best section (245 pages), and if you like it then read Popper’s Second Best (296 pages) too.

Popper is the author where I think it’s most important to read specific selections instead of reading everything, so I provide a bunch of details about how to do that.

Popper’s Best (245 pages)

Realism and the Aim of Science
Part 1, Chapter 1, Sections 1-4 (60 pages)

Objective Knowledge
Chapter: Conjectural Knowledge: My Solution to the Problem of Induction (31 pages)

Chapter 2, Section 34: Summary: A Critical Philosophy of Common Sense (3 pages)

Appendix: The Bucket and the Searchlight (22 pages)

Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
Introduction: On the Sources of Knowledge and of Ignorance (37 pages)

Chapter: Back to the Presocratics (41 pages)

The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Volume 2
Part 3, Chapter 3, Sections 13-14: My Solution of Hume’s Problem of Induction, The Psychological and Pragmatic Problems of Induction (14 pages)

The World of Parmenides: Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment
Introduction: Aristotle’s invention of induction and the eclipse of Presocratic cosmology (5 pages)

The Myth of the Framework
Chapter: The Myth of the Framework (32 pages)

Popper’s Second Best (296 pages)

All Life Is Problem Solving
Chapter: On the Theory of Democracy (6 pages)

The World of Parmenides: Essays on the Presocratic Enlightenment
Chapter: The Unknown Xenophanes (35 pages)

Chapter 2, Addendum 2: Some Principles For A New Professional Ethics Based On Xenophanes’ Theory Of Truth (4 pages)

Chapter: Concluding Remarks On Support And Countersupport (9 pages)

The Myth of the Framework
Chapter: The Rationality of Scientific Revolutions (32 pages)

In Search of a Better World
Chapter: On the So-called Sources of Knowledge (8 pages)

Objective Knowledge
Chapter: Epistemology Without a Knowing Subject (47 pages)

Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge
Chapter: Science: Conjectures and Refutations (44 pages)

Chapter: The Nature of Philosophical Problems and their Roots in Science (43 pages)

Chapter: Three Views Concerning Human Knowledge (31 pages)

Chapter: Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition (22 pages)

Chapter: Utopia and Violence (12 pages)

The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Volume 2
Part 3, Chapter 1, Section 2: The Popper Legend (3 pages)

Economics and Political Philosophy

All educated persons should know the basics of economics and political philosophy, just as they should be familiar with the main ideas of science. They should know something about freedom, tyranny, capitalism, slavery, business, trade, government, etc. If you try it and you’re just not very interested – if you only care about e.g. philosophy and science, but you basically never read political articles or newspapers, express political opinions, or watch the news – then you could skip most of these and still understand philosophy well. But if you have a positive or negative opinion of Trump or Obama, or any other major political figures or movements (e.g. opinions about taxes, government, laws, crime, the environment, global warming, overpopulation, feminism, transsexuality, green energy, abortion, gay rights, racism, or animal rights/welfare), then you shouldn’t skip this material. This material gives you the background knowledge and principles to think effectively about current political controversies.

FYI: Mises and Hazlitt books are free downloads from the Mises.org website.

Henry Hazlitt

Hazlitt was a journalist and economist. He’s good at communicating to the general public.

Time Will Run Back (386 pages)
This novel develops and explains capitalism, step by step, starting from communism.

Economics in One Lesson (205 pages)
This book popularized the broken window fallacy. It talks about seen and unseen costs and consequences.

Thinking as a Science (260 pages)
This is a short, highly readable philosophy book about how to think.

Man vs. The Welfare State (236 pages)
Optional. If you’d like to try another Hazlitt book, read this one next.

George Reisman

Reisman is an economist who studied with both Mises and Rand.

The Toxicity of Environmentalism (24 pages)
This is one of Reisman’s many short $1 Kindle ebooks. Browse his ebook titles at that link and try some others with topics that interest you. I’m not listing specific books because they’re all about equally good, so you should read the book titles and then pick some yourself.

Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics  (1100 pages)
This is Reisman’s masterpiece and life’s work. It’s long and optional. It’s the best way to study and learn economics in detail. It’s also good for looking up economics topics rather than reading the book straight through.

Ludwig von Mises

Mises was the best economist and a great political philosopher.

Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition  (225 pages)
Read through part 2 of this book (Liberal Economic Policy). Parts 1-2 are 104 pages. Parts 3-5 are optional because they’re less important and dated.

Bureaucracy (135 pages)
Learn how and why government agencies are different than businesses.

Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War (304 pages)
This book explains the Nazis. Optional but it’s more generally relevant than you may expect.

The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (122 pages)
Learn about why people dislike capitalism. Optional.

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (90 pages)
This is the essay which refuted socialism in 1920. It’s still great and relevant. Optional.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (600 pages)
Learn what’s wrong with socialism. Optional because it’s longer and harder.

Human Action (952 pages)
Optional. This long treatise is generally considered Mises’ best book. It’s known for being great, but also being long and hard. Feel free to look up specific topics in it, and read relevant sections, instead of reading it straight through.

Thomas Szasz

Szasz wrote about psychiatry and its clashes with liberty. Szasz wrote over 30 books and hundreds of academic papers. He has books on specific topics like schizophrenia, suicide, and drugs, which you should read if they’re relevant to you personally. Below I’ve selected some of his more general books. Although this topic plays a major role in society and everyone should be aware of it, you may want to stop after one or two books if you don’t find it personally relevant.

I believe there are a lot of awful ideas floating around “rational” subcultures about psychology and psychiatry. Basically most of the common ideas in these fields are so bad they’re really harmful and destructive. And all the “scientific studies” and “psychology research” are basically junk science which should be ignored.

If you or someone you care about is taking any sort of psychiatric drugs, you should read a lot of Szasz (many more books than I list here) and also other authors like Peter Breggin and Wayne Ramsay who have great anti-psychiatry material especially for the drugs. Basically the drugs do brain damage (mostly temporary, especially at first, but some permanent), by design, and no one should ever take them. (And yes, these authors do have medical credentials.)

If you or someone you care about sees a therapist, you should read lots of Szasz. It’s very important e.g. not to mix up life problems with medical problems. Therapists basically offer conventional views on how to live, sometimes dressed up as much more related to health and medicine than it actually is. They are really a type of philosopher. The best way to deal with your problems is to get better at rational thinking so you can do more effective problem solving yourself. That’s something reading authors like Goldratt, Rand, Popper and I can help with.

Before reading a Szasz book, read his six paragraph manifesto.

Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society’s Unwanted (288 pages)
Psychiatry violates liberty to control people who are unwanted by themselves or others. Psychiatry especially serves the government and the powerful.

Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (414 pages)
Historically, psychiatry developed to control deviants, not to help its “patients”.

The Medicalization of Everyday Life  (232 pages)
Seeking the prestige and authority of science, psychiatry falsely claims that many life problems are medical issues.

The Meaning of Mind: Language, Morality, and Neuroscience (208 pages)
Modern “neuroscience” is full of errors due to bad philosophy. Optional.

The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct (372 pages)
Szasz’s most famous book is one of his earlier, harder and longer books. It presents some of his big ideas about the concept of “mental illness” being myth not science. Optional.

Want more to read? Check out everything else by these authors.

Want more? Try the Fallible Ideas book list and What to Read?.

Want still more? You can ask for suggestions. The places to ask me and my associates are the Curiosity website (blog/forum hybrid), the Fallible Ideas Google Group (email), or my Discord chatroom.