Eduardo Castaneda/Library of Congress

Get inspired by Carl Sagan's ambitious college reading list

The ultimate holiday to-do list.

FIONA MACDONALD
25 NOV 2016
 

Carl Sagan was one of the greatest minds of his generation, who managed to inspire a whole new generation of science lovers with his books and the seminal 1980s TV series Cosmos.

The astrophysicist passed away almost 20 years ago, but his legacy lives on - last year, Neil deGrasse Tyson won over a whole new audience when he hosted a remake of Cosmos. And now we can all get inspired once more by Sagan's ambitious college reading list.

 

Back in 1954, Sagan was a 20-year-old studying at the University of Chicago, and he sketched up a handwritten list of all the books he was planning to read outside of study - either wholly or in part - or for his course.

Luckily that list of more than 40 titles - including The Bible, lots of philosophy, and Shakespeare - has now been released to the public, thanks to the Library of Congress' Carl Sagan Archive.

You can see it the original list below:

Carl-Sagans-Reading-ListLibrary of Congress

Notably, the list also contains what appears to be the first volume of Star Science Fiction Stories (1953), which included stories by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke.

Sagan went on to write his own science-fiction novel, Contact, which was made into a film starring Jodie Foster in 1997.

 

Henry Horowitz over on Reddit has helpfully transcribed the list, with links to all the books we can still access today.

"Here is a transcript I made of his 1954 reading list along with links to the books he was reading and the authors," Horowitz wrote on Reddit.

"I've omitted the textbook authors, since they were rather uninteresting, and I cannot find some of the items (e.g. "Several Scientific Americans") so they have also been omitted."

You can see the full list, updated and hyperlinked by Open Culture:

In whole:

In part:

Course readings:

That's a pretty ambitious list for a 20-year-old.

But if that's not impressive enough, a decade earlier, Sagan had already sketched out his ideas for humanity's future in space, which you can see below:

sagan-drawingLibrary of Congress

Well, we know what we're doing these holidays now, because if this reading list is good enough for Sagan, it's definitely good enough for us.

And if you want a slightly less lengthy less to tackle, here are the eight books that Sagan's successor deGrasse Tyson thinks everyone should read.

How many have you read?

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