Suggested Books and Videos

The following recommended books provide a basic foundation for reading for a philosophy grounded in scientific naturalism and human-centered, rational ethics. Whatever we label ourselves, atheist, freethinker, Humanist, etc, ethical naturalism provides a common thread of what we do believe. In gathering this list, MAAF collaborated with several PhDs and leaders in the movement and tried to follow the guidelines below. There are many scholars MAAF has yet to contact and many books MAAF excluded from the list, but I hope the guidelines below explain how the list was put together.

Books are tagged in categories of [I] Inspiration, self-help; [E] Ethics; [Comm] Community, politics, family; [Psych] Psychology; [Phys] Physics, Cosmology; [R&P] Religion, History, Philosophy; [F] Fiction
And 15 books are currently [**] Featured: Infernova, Climbing Mount Improbable, Breaking The Spell, Good Without God, The Moral Landscape, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Portable Atheist, The Black Cloud, The Atheist's Way, Parenting Beyond Belief, Common Sense, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, Why People Believe Weird Things, The Humanist Bible, and The New Atheism

And newly-added in 2015: Creating Change Through Humanism, Roy Speckhardt, [**][I][E][Comm][R&P]

The list has been prepared according to the following guidelines:

  • Books that celebrate human-centered, rational ethics. We serve the nation to defend the Constitution and spread American values of liberty and personal responsibility. We seek books that explain the humanistic foundation for those values.
  • Books that explain the value of our scientific world view and how science can provide the best possible understanding of the vast and awesome universe we live in. Finding wonder and humility in science adds to the simple truths that we find.
  • Books that provide an analysis of religion that is not openly hostile. This concession to our teammates is appropriate in the military context. Just as many collaborative and respectful evangelicals curb their urge to spread the faith, so can we take some of our more scathing criticisms to other venues.
  • Content should not just declare a final conclusion, but should provide foundational history and methods of rational inquiry that help individuals draw their own ethical and true conclusions.
  • As a general rule, these should be acceptable to chaplains to make available in that these books should be more respectful to other religious viewpoints and cultures than some of the more intolerant verses of some scriptures.
  • Determination is made by the core themes communicated and primary tone of the work rather than by the title of the book or public perceptions of the content.
  • There is some consideration for the inclusion of great authors who have many works; rather than including all works, some otherwise qualified books may be left out if the author is already listed one or more times.
  • Understanding the limitations of time and opportunity for scholarship within the military, this list is intended to be short and limited to a few of the best and most recent titles in any given topic area; this criterion alone will exclude many fantastic works.
  • This list is 'living' and subject to additions or deletions based on feedback about current or potential candidate books and their fit with the guidelines above.
  • Suggestions and objections are welcome and may be phrased as such, "How could you include book x when you exclude book y" or "I'm not sure if you read book x but the following are some passages that violate your guidelines."
  • Lists Referenced (including much more comprehensive lists that may or may not be preferred in the military context) external lists include much more comprehensive topics and perspectives that may or may not be preferred in the military context
    • Christopher Hitchens Recommended Books
    • Secular Web featured books
    • top sellers by subject (Philosophy, Religion, Science)
  • Web assistance to put this into a sortable/searchable table through SQL/PhP/javascript would be appreciated. Source data is available. Contact MAAF
  • last update 10 May 2011
  • The Infernova, S. A. Alenthony, [**][E][Comm][R&P][F]
  • Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Isaac Asimov, [R&P]
  • Meditations by/ed, Marcus Aurelius, [I][E][Comm]
  • Sense and Goodness Without God, Richard Carrier, [E][Comm][Psych][R&P]
  • Climbing Mount Improbable, Richard Dawkins, [**][E][R&P]
  • Breaking The Spell, Daniel C. Dennett, [**][E][Psych][R&P]
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, [Comm][R&P]
  • The World As I See It, Albert Einstein, [I][R&P]
  • Humanist Bible, AC Grayling, [I][E][Psych][Phys][R&P]
  • Good Without God, Greg Epstein, [**][I][E][Comm][R&P]
  • Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics, Richard P. Feynman, [Phys]
  • Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, Michelle Goldberg, [Comm][R&P]
  • Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould, [E][Comm]
  • The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris, [**][E][R&P]
  • The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking, [Phys]
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein, [**][I][E][Comm][Psych][R&P][F]
  • The Portable Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, [**][I][E][Comm][Psych][Phys][R&P]
  • The Oxford Companion to Philosophy New Edition, Ted Honderich, [I][E][Comm]
  • The Black Cloud, Fred Hoyle, [**][Phys][F]
  • Principal Writings on Religion, David Hume, [E][Comm][F]
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, [I][E][Comm][R&P]
  • Best of Robert Ingersoll: Selections from His Writings and Speeches, Robert G. Ingersoll, [I][E][Comm][R&P]
  • Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, Susan Jacoby, [Comm][R&P]
  • The Will to Believe, Human Immortality, William James, [Psych][R&P]
  • The Jeffersonian Bible, Thomas Jefferson, [E][R&P]
  • Outgrowing God, Alan Jeskin, [I][E][Psych][R&P]
  • The Atheist Debater's Handbook, B. C. Johnson, [R&P]
  • Affirmations, Paul Kurtz, [I][E][Comm]
  • The Atheist's Way, Eric Maisel, [**][I][E][Comm]
  • Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion, Dale McGowan, [**][Comm]
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton, [R&P][F]
  • Humanism as the Next Step, Lloyd Morain, [I][E][Comm]
  • Becoming More Fully Human, Bill Murry, [**][I][E][Comm]
  • The Holy Bible: King James Version, Thomas Nelson, [R&P]
  • How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, Sherwin B. Nuland, [E][Comm]
  • The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine, [E][Comm][R&P]
  • Common Sense, Thomas Paine, [**][I][E][Comm]
  • The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Karl Popper, [Phys][R&P]
  • The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts, Robert M. Price, [R&P]
  • His Dark Materials, 3 books, Philip Pullman, [R&P][F]
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, [E][R&P][F]
  • Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions, James Randi, [I][Psych]
  • The God Virus, Darrel Ray, [Psych][R&P]
  • The Qur'an Translation, Sayed A. A. Razwy, [R&P]
  • Why I am not a Christian, Bertrand Russell, [I][E][R&P]
  • The Satanic Verses: A Novel, Salman Rushdie, [R&P][F]
  • The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan, [Psych][Phys]
  • The Varieties Of Scientific Experience, Carl Sagan, [**][I][Phys][R&P]
  • The Mystery of Consciousness, John R. Searle, [Psych]
  • Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer, [**][Psych][R&P]
  • The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, [I][E]
  • Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible, Karel van der Toorn, [R&P]
  • Creating Change Through Humanism, Roy Speckhardt, [**][I][E][Comm][R&P]
  • Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, Neil deGrasse Tyson, [Phys]
  • Zen at War (2nd Edition), Brian Daizen Victoria, [E][R&P]
  • Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire, [E][R&P]
  • Why I Am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq, [E][R&P]
  • On Certainty, Ludwig Wittgenstein, [Psych][R&P]
  • The Moral Animal, Robert Wright, [E][Psych]
  • God Is Not One, Stephen Prothero, [R&P]
  • C Street, Jeff Sharlet, [Comm][R&P]
  • The New Atheism, Victor Stenger, [**][I][E][Comm]
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau, [I][Comm][F]
  • Society Without God, Phil Zuckerman, [Comm][R&P]

Also consider these suggestions by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in response to a Reddit question about what books every intelligent person should read:

  1. The Bible (eBook) - "to learn that it's easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself."
  2. The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) - "to learn that the universe is a knowable place."
  3. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth."
  4. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos."
  5. The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world."
  6. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself."
  7. The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art."
  8. The Prince by Machiavelli (eBook - Audio Book) - "to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it."

Tyson concludes by saying: "If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world."