The reading list: 3. How do we choose the books?
I touched on this problem in an earlier post about Best Books. We want to find the very best books on a particular topic. Ideally we need to find people who are widely read in a subject and can answer a question like “If I’m going to read three books about religion, what are they?” There is no single correct answer to such a question.
If we couldn’t find experts in every field there might be other ways of compiling lists of books. It may simply involve a lot of research to find what books are widely read and recommended. Or maybe there’s a way of compiling the reading lists for university courses and finding which books are the most popular for each subject (this is almost a website in itself…).
A related question is what level of education the books should be pitched at. Previously I linked to John Baez’s How to Learn Math and Physics page which includes a lot of recommended books. I studied maths until I was 18 but that was twenty years ago and it sounds like even the most introductory texts there would be hard going.
Maybe a good rule of thumb would be that books should be accessible to someone who’s educated to the equivalent of degree level but in a completely unrelated subject. Someone who’s ready to learn, has general intelligence, but hasn’t studied the subject in hand since they were in their mid-teens (which might be a long time ago).
Any thoughts on any of this, related to this or earlier posts, are more than welcome.