Autodidacticism, noun: The ability (and inclination) to teach oneself whatever one wishes or needs to learn.

For years, when asked at conferences or on podcasts where I get my ideas or how I know the strange things that I know, I’ve frequently dissembled with quips like “I’m easily bored” or “I read a lot” or “I have a congenital inability to leave things alone.” All of these are true. And, while they’re not the whole truth and a fuller treatment of how-to-teach-yourself-anything is in the works, I thought I’d lead here with a bit of a reading list, which I may expand and re-order periodically. Here, for what it’s worth, is a set of books that can help you begin to come to grips with the fundamental interconnectedness of all things (apologies to Douglas Adams) and the structure of the universe.

Chaos, Evolution, and Neurobiology
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennet
Antifragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb
The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein (from the collection The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag)
Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran, Ph.D. and Sandra Blakeslee
The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley
Sperm Wars: The Evolutionary Logic of Love and Lust by Robert Baker
The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

History, Economics, and Geopolitics
The Day the Universe Changed by James Burke
Connections by James Burke
The Great Leveler by Walter Scheidel
The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan
The Absent Superpower by Peter Zeihan
The Story of Civilization by Will and Arial Durant
History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
1491 by Charles C. Mann
1493 by Charles C. Mann
Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw
The Tower and the Square by Naill Ferguson
The United States of Paranoia by Jesse Walker
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
The End of Power by Moises Naim
The Gulag Archipeligo by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Night by Ellie Wisel

Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
The Meaning of Quantum Theory by Jim Baggott

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Bed of Proctustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
A Theory of Justice by John Rawles
Beyond Good and Evil by Frederich Nietzsche
Ethics by Aristotle
A Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith
Two Treatises of Government by John Locke
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Art of Thinking
Logic by Aristotle
De Bono’s Thinking Course by Edward de Bono
Twilight of the Idols by Frederich Nietzsche

Social Manipulation and Strategy
The Art of War by Sun Tsu
The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Non-Zero by Robert Wright

The Arts and Religion
Poetics by Aristotle
Maps of Meaning by Jordan Peterson
A Postscript to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
World Religions by Huston Smith
Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl Jung
Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung
The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazier
The Birth of Tragedy by Frederich Nietzsche
Thus Spake Zarathustra by Frederich Nietzsche
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides

Satires of Juvenal
The Golden Ass by Apuleius
The Dialogues of Seneca
Hamlet, MacBeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Richard III, and Henry V by Shakespeare
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman
I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves
The Frogs by Aristophanes
Justine by Marquis de Sade
120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
The Odyssey and The Illiad by Homer
The Anead by Virgil
The Bible (King James Version)
The Quran
The Upanishads
The Rig Veda
Oedipus Rex by Sophacles