Book Reader If I were to read a book a week for my entire adult lifetime, and I lived an ordinary lifetime, when I was all done, I would have read maybe a few thousand books—no more. ... But that's only a 10th of a percent or so of the total number of books in the [New York Public] library.  The trick is to know which books to read.
– Carl Sagan, “Cosmos”, Episode 11: “The Persistence of Memory”

Robert's “Supertruth” Books:

Supertruth Books Defined

Let's suppose that you want to buy a book to read. You go to the bookstore, scan through some of the offerings, and narrow the selection down to two choices. Both books are very entertaining and enjoyable—equally so. Both are equally understandable. Both are equal in price. However, only one of them reveals anything significant about our lives or the world around us. Which would you buy?

I first encountered the word “supertruth” in an excellent book entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” The supertruth concept calls forth the idea that, while the universe contains many truths, some truths are more important than others. For example, the fact that a certain brand of toothpaste has been shown to prevent tooth decay is a useful truth. But of much greater importance is the fact that human beings are tribal mammals, a truth that accounts for a great many far-ranging features of our lives—group affiliation, territoriality, competition, cooperation, social hierarchies, the need for leaders, and much more.

My goal in creating a supertruth book list is to recommend to fellow seekers a short list of books containing the highest content of supertruth that I can possibly find.

In addition to literary genres like Mysteries, Biographies, Drama, Poetry, etc., perhaps one more category can be added: “Supertruth.” A century from now, will people walk into a library and find a bookshelf bearing that label? I doubt it. Unfortunately, publishers would be tempted to claim supertruth status for all of their books the way auto manufacturers claim quality in all their cars, or furniture makers claiming that all their chairs are very comfortable, etc. Nevertheless, appraising the supertruth content of a book is important, but it's something we have to do ourselves.

In addition to the supertruth criterion, I want to recommend books that are entertaining, enjoyable, readily understandable, optimistic, and generally reader-friendly. These books do not require superhuman intelligence or an advanced degree to comprehend, but that doesn't detract from their value. I can understand them. You can, too. Fortunately many, perhaps most, supertruths can be expressed in ordinary language. We can understand what they tell us without having to fully understand the methods used to arrive at them, which can be very complicated indeed.

Don't expect any of these books to contain THE ANSWER. None of them will enable us to walk on water or anything of the sort. They are not meant to be taken terribly seriously. On the other hand, they do merit some measure of our attention. These books can be expected to increase our understanding of how the world works in some significant ways while, at the same time, keeping us interested and entertained. A point that can be made here is that we don't need to escape from reality in order to achieve the benefits commonly and mistakenly associated with escape--to relax, to have peace of mind, to be entertained, etc. Quite the contrary. These books show us the way, and there are far fewer negative side effects when compared to escape in its many manifestations.

These books are vehicles specially designed to navigate very unusual terrain—vehicles specially designed to explore worlds of truth and beauty. Like passengers in a luxury railway car, we traverse the landscape effortlessly, admiring the sweeping vistas. At the same time, we remember with thanks that we glide comfortably over tracks laid down by the strenuous effort, courage, and personal sacrifice of many dedicated people.

The Ultimate Supertruth

I hope to say much more about the ultimate supertruth in the future but, for now, I would make two observations. We know that truths about “The Big Picture” can be very valuable and interesting, but (1) where did the picture itself come from? As we become absorbed in the issues and concerns of our daily lives, we tend to forget that no one really knows what all of this is. When you think about it, the situation is more than a little weird and actually quite astounding. A profound and exciting mystery. Also, (2) there is a certain over-specificity in the universe that seems odd. Am I really supposed to believe that when the universe started up 12 or so billion years ago, the city of Trenton was inevitably destined to be the capital of New Jersey, for example, or that a ship named Titanic would sink in the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg? It seems rather implausible.

In any case, we accept reality as a “given,” and we live out our lives with no explanation for why it exists in the first place. That knowledge, the explanation for existence itself would be, I think, the greatest supertruth of all time. I think that, in the future, scientists may make some amazing discoveries on this subject, possibly involving the meaning of quantum mechanics, possibly The Many Worlds Interpretation of it, which seems to be very popular right now.

In the meantime, best wishes, and enjoy.