Reader Recommendations

The list of 50 books has generated quite a few suggestions for additions and replacements.  Because these suggestions also point to books that may be useful for thinking about the future, we will keep an updated list of those suggestions along with the comments of the reader making the suggestion.  If you feel particularly strongly about one or more of the suggestions or have further suggestions to add, please feel free to send your thoughts to lempert@rand.org.

In addition, we will maintain a list of the suggested books that appear most promising as replacements on the list of 50. The most promising books will each be reviewed and a decision will be made about whether a given book should replace one of the books on the list of 50.  In selecting books for the "Most Promising" list, additional weight will be given to those suggested books that also recommend which book on the list they should replace.

Finally, we will maintain a list of books that have been reviewed and notes about the decision on whether or not to place a reviewed book on the list of 50.

Most Promising

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement — 2005

Ramez Naam (ISBN 0767918436)

Suggested to replace: Kurzweil, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever ("Wild Cards")

Reader comment: "...probably the best overview of human potential enhancing technologies without the hyperbole of Ray Kurzweil (Fantistic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever). [Naam] deserves a place in the technology section.”

2005 State of the Future — 2005

Jerome C. Glenn and Theodore J. Gordon (ISBN 0972205144)

Suggested to replace: One of the HDR reports ("Human Development")

Reader comment: " I strongly recommend this book..."

Previously Listed Books

No god but God — 2005

Reza Aslan

This excellent book on the future of Islam was replaced by Karen Armstrong´s book “The Battle for God” that deals with religious fundamentalism in Islam as well as in Christianity and Judaism.

Other Recommendations

Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead — 2002

Paul Raskin, et al. (ISBN 0971241813)

Reader comment: “This essay forms the backbone of a positive vision of the future, which has been further elaborated in 2006 paper series, Frontiers of the Great Transition. It is worth reading for anyone who takes the contradictions of capitalist expansion and environmental degradation seriously, and who would like a framework for a hopeful path to a sustainable future.”

The Arthashastra — 300 BCE

Vishnagupta Kautilya (ISBN 0140446036)

Suggested to replace: one of the books in "The Past"

Reader comment: "...he spelled out the methods of statecraft, economics, law, war, etc., that he recommended, and that he had used to make Chandragupta Maurya emperor of India. Illustrates to modern readers how much has changed in 2300 years, and how much has not."

109 Ideas for Virtual Learning: How Open Content Will Help Close the Digital Divide — 2006

Judy Breck (ISBN 1578862809)

Reader comment: "...is about the future of education, which I did not find on your list and propose as a major factor in the human condition. The new networked connectivity of knowledge and our species resulting from the anticipated ubiquitous use of the Internet will give us global literacy and a knowledge commons where everyone learns from the same page. 109 Ideas is an attempt to explain this radically new and hopeful future for learning."

9/11 – The Ultimate Truth

Laura Knight-Jadczyk (no ISBN)

Reader comment: “The world was forced to make a choice after 9/11 and it was the wrong choice for the wrong reasons and it will ultimately lead to the collapse of the world as we know it for reasons outlined in this book.”

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk — 1998

Peter L. Bernstein (ISBN 0471295639)

Reader comment: "A highly readable backgrounder that shows how probabilities and joint stock companies made possible long-distance sea voyages and world trade; Internet trade and globalization require similar innovations."

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature — 2003

Steven Pinker (ISBN 0142003344)

Reader comment:< "I believe that cognitive neuroscience is going to be very important in the future.  No one book stands out, but Pinker's book clears a lot of cobwebs."

The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary — 2001

Eric S. Raymond (ISBN 0596001088)

Reader comment: "Many eyes bring bugs to light, many hands fix them, open source lets users check for them, and lack of centralization avoids monopoly."

Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Centuries (vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life; vol. 2: The Wheels of Commerce; vol. 3: The Perspective of the World) — 1992

Fernand Braudel (ISBNs 0-520-08114-5, 0-520-08115-3, 0-520-08116-1)

Reader comment: "Three volumes of very detailed examination of the same [Baroque] period, at three levels: daily life, markets, and global capitalism."

Conquests and Cultures: An International History — 1998

Thomas Sowell (ISBN 0465013996)

Suggested to replace: Jared Diamond, Guns Germs and Steel ("The Past")

Reader comment: "Similar themes, more depth of research."

Dying to Live: The 21st Century Church — 1999

Thomas Hohstadt (ISBN 0967294401)

Reader comment: "…puts emphasis on the following:

  1. The shift to an oral culture
  2. The implications of technology
  3. The language of the future (virtual reality and the role of metaphor)
  4. Faith and quantum, string, and chaos theories
  5. Singularity and the church"

The Economy of Cities — 1970

Jane Jacobs (ISBN 039470584X)

Reader comment: "It made me reexamine my 'common knowledge' about how development happens for cities in particular, but I think it applies to countries and companies also."

Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software — 2002

Steven Johnson (ISBN 0684868768)

Reader comment: "More detail on how things connect in non-hierarchical ways and new behaviors emerge."

Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power — 2003

Niall Ferguson (ISBN 0465023282)

Reader comment: "How the world worked during the previous empire. It would be good to avoid some of the same mistakes and to learn from some of the successes."

The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100: Europe, America, and the Third World — 2004

Robert Fogel (ISBN 0521004888)

Suggested to replace: "one of the economics books"

Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? — 2005

Philip Tetlock (ISBN 0691123020)

Suggested to replace: Herman Kahn, The Year 2000 ("Thinking About the Future in the Past")

Reader comment: "...a good bet."

The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and Your Life — 2004

Thomas W. Malone (ISBN 1591391253)

Reader comment: "What all this [i.e., Raymond, Gladwell, and Johnson's books] means for business."

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means

Albert-László Barabási (ISBN 0452284392)

Reader comment: "The new network science based on the 1998 discovery of small world networks by Steven Stogatz and Duncan Watts is key to understanding the digital future and belongs on your list. A very good book on that is Barabasi's Linked."

The Principles of Scientific Management — 1998

Frederick Winslow Taylor (ISBN 0486299880)

Reader comment: "The old way of Western over-determined management."

The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive — 2005

Laura Knight-Jadczyk (ISBN 0976504103)

Reader comment: “It combines threads of history, myth, alchemy, legend and science to reveal some of the deeper layers of life on earth.”

Reader comment: “The author has researched facts and history and put together the true story behind mankind, and how it's been kept from us, and what to do if we are to survive what's coming in the future.”

The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology — 2005

Ray Kurzweil (ISBN 0670033847)

Suggested to replace: Kurzweil, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever ("Wild Cards")

Reader comment: "Same author, further developments on his thinking. Most of the future-prediction content is the same, but without the somewhat outside his field alternative medical advice and regime of 250 pills a day that few readers can afford anyway."

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution — 2003

Howard Reingold (ISBN 0738208612)

Reader comment: "...introduces the emergent powers of dynamic networks of human connectivity."

The Sun, The Genome, and The Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolutions — 1999

Freeman J. Dyson (ISBN 0195129423)

Suggested to replace: one of the Amory Lovins books ("Energy" or "Environment")

Reader comment:  "...deals with energy and environment (as well as technology, human development, and social equity)."

The Third Wave — 1984

Alvin Toffler (ISBN: 0553246984)

Reader comment: "...presents the ideas from Toffler's Future Shock in a more developed form."

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor — 1999

David S. Landes (ISBN 0393318885)

Reader comment: "If Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel is the 'nature' argument, Landes is the 'nurture' argument (which personally I find more compelling). The two complement each other well and together paint a rich picture of human societal development."

When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome — 2000

Richard E. Rubenstein (ISBN 0156013150)

Reader comment: "In case after reading [Karen] Armstrong's book you still think Islam has any corner on fundamentalism or that it and [the] controversy over church and state or politics self-demolished by breach of hospitality are new phenomena, try this one about the fourth century A.D. struggles among Arius, Athanasius, the Emperor Constantine, and many others for the soul of a new religion."

Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences — 1997

Edward Tenner (ISBN 0679747567)

Reader comment: "...a look at the unforeseen effects and inherent inefficiencies of technological advancement. It is a nice complement to Amory Lovins."

World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability — 2004

Amy Chua (ISBN 0385721862)

Reader comment: "...incredibly important with respect to democracy and its prospective future, but doesn't really resemble anything on the list. I'd toss Diamond's Collapse for it, since the list has lots of ecology books but little on how democracies fail or succeed.”

The World, the Flesh and the Devil — 1929

J. D. Bernal (ISBN 2531940081)

Reader comment: "It's old, it's outdated, but people should look at this one. Bernal manages to throw off more ideas per page, in a compact fashion, than most people manage in hundreds of pages. This book had an impact on people ranging from Arthur C. Clarke to Olaf Stapledon to Freeman Dyson to Gerard K. O'Neil."