Reading with... Neil deGrasse Tyson

photo: Rob Kim Getty

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the host of the popular podcast and National Geographic Channel Emmy-nominated TV show StarTalk and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which aired internationally on the National Geographic Channel. He earned his B.A. in physics from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia University. He is the first Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium. He's the author of 10 books, including Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. Tyson's most recent book is StarTalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond (National Geographic Books, September 13, 2016), a companion book to his late-night TV talk show and podcast of the same name. Tyson lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

On your nightstand now:

Letter to a Disciple by Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Middle school: Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner and James Newman. This book transformed mathematics from a subject in school to an exploration of the mind.

Early childhood: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. In adulthood I would discover that every word in the book has only one syllable, except for one repeating word, which has three: "anywhere."

Your top five authors:

Nonfiction: Jonathan Swift, Galileo, Richard Dawkins.
Fiction: Shakespeare, Michael Crichton.

Book you've faked reading:

The Odyssey by Homer, in high school English class.

Book you've bought for the cover:

1706 Holy Bible. A fine leather, gilded binding.

Book you hid from your parents:

Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman.

Favorite lines from a book:

From Shakespeare's Twelfth Night:

HELENA: Monsieur Parolles, you were born under a charitable star.
PAROLLES: Under Mars, I.
HELENA: I especially think, under Mars.
PAROLLES: Why under Mars?
HELENA: The wars have so kept you under that you must needs be born under Mars.
PAROLLES: When he was predominant.
HELENA: When he was retrograde, I think, rather.
PAROLLES: Why think you so?
HELENA: You go so much backward when you fight.

Book that changed your life:

One Two Three... Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science by George Gamow, read in ninth grade. It transformed the physics of the universe into an intellectual playground of delight, and thenceforth, studying to become a scientist was no longer a task but a celebration.

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