Five books for a high-school dropout?

Here’s an interesting question a friend of mine posted to Facebook:

If you could only choose five books to give to a high school drop-out to get them through the rest of their life, what books would they be and why?

Two assumptions:
1) The person is competent enough to absorb the information.

2) The person won’t go on to get their GED or attend college. They’ll only have the information in these books on which to go.

Here are my answers:

1) The Bible, New Revised Standard Version: Actually reading the Bible might inoculate them against religious leaders who announce “the government should do X because it’s in the Bible.” And the NRSV is probably the most accurate translation into English.

2) Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works: best book on the mind ever written. For serious.

3) Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World: Not very in-depth, but still good for teaching basic skepticism.

4) Any good collection of George Orwell’s essays: His novels are great, but unless you can see the real-world applications on your own, you’re probably better off with his non-fiction where he can explain it himself.

5) A good book on math. Not sure which one, though

Runner-up: some kind of good book on practical applications of psychology, probably Richard Wiseman’s 59 Seconds. But I wouldn’t rank it higher priority than these five. Except maybe the math book, if there isn’t a sufficiently good math book out there to put on the list. I kind of cheated by saying “a good book on math,” even though I haven’t read any book of the sort I have in mind, I’m just assuming one is out there.

What are your answers?

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