The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
By Edward GibbonThis work traces the very gradual decline of civilization in such detail over so many centuries as to give the reader a superior perspective from which to observe the events which shaped our culture. One can easily transport oneself above the modern fray and see the similarities as well as dissimilarities that are always around us.
This is a telescope. The perspective is cool, aloof and intellectual. Herodotus is a veritable comedian by comparison.
You will learn the meaning of the word "pusillanimous" (but not why this word exists).
The Gulag Archepelago
By Alexandr SolzhenitzenThis work encompasses the entire collapse of Russia into one of the bloodiest dictatorships in history. The author dispassionately dissects what amounts to his own corpse.
Unlike Gibbon, this is not telescopic. Rather, you are there in the midst of the carnage. If you want to know what the worst is like just go there. Read the thing. All of it. It is all but palpably sickening but also occasionally uplifting when you see how a few people react to incredible circumstances.
You will discover the true meaning of the word intellectual, (not the Hollywood definition), when you sit in the freezing cold with engineers who are being subjected to "terminal labor" and talk about the future of science.
If you read this, you will fight to the death to prevent anything similar when and if you see it coming (with the full knowledge that that state would be preferable).
By Ayn RandThis is your microscope. Intellectual entrails laid bare by, undoubtedly, the most intelligent womon who ever lived.
Everybody you ever disliked or admired is here at least in parts. Assemble them at your leisure. I have read this particular work about ten times (and it takes about ten days to read it). I have always enjoyed it. You will see right away why this woman was and still is "reviled without cause" (in this case the idea truely applies).
It is also a mirror. Hold someone up to it , yourself included. See if it's "Who's the fairest one of all?" or "The Portrait of Dorian Gray".
I have to add Acharya S's two books to my list of suggested reading:
The Christ Conspiracy
Suns of God
As well as, William L. Shirer's
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich