The Top 5 Books To Be Seen Reading

Reading is a lot like sex. The more you do it the better you get.

In some ways though, reading is better. For instance, you can do it all the time and not worry about diseases, you can read one book on Monday and a different one on Tuesday without the book from Monday smashing your car’s windshield with a baseball bat, you don’t get put on a list for teaching it to children, and if you spend the majority of your time in college doing it you actually increase your likelihood of passing your classes. It’s a rewarding, safe alternative. Just sayin.

However, reading is also like sex in that even when you are not doing it, you still want people to think you are. People who read a lot tend to be more successful both in their personal and professional lives. Former U.S. Labor Department Secretary Elaine L. Chao is on record saying “business people who read at least seven business books a year earn over 230% more than people reading just one book a year.” That’s a pretty bold statistic in favor of this whole reading thing.

What’s that you say? I’m too busy to read? I’m in 18 hours of classes and have two jobs? Well never fear because even if you aren’t reading your seven books a year you can at least make people think you are. Which is just as good right?

So to help you in your deception, I’ve compiled a short list of books you can carry around with you, leave conspicuously in your car, or even open up when you’re on the bus and hide your phone while you text your friends about that crazy party last Saturday.


The Art of War – Sun Tzu


This ancient Chinese text is pretty much the definitive work on military strategy. Written in the 6th century BC, its ideas are still relevant to this day. It contains thirteen chapters each dealing with a specific aspect of warfare such as Laying Plans, Terrain, and The Use of Spies. The book is recommended reading for U.S. Military Intelligence personnel and required reading CIA officers.

What It Says About You

When people see you reading this, or bookmarked halfway through in your back seat, they will think only one thing: You’re going places. They’ve seen Wall Street. They know you’re not reading this because you have a passing interest in ancient warfare. You’re preparing yourself for the cutthroat environment of business executives, a battlefield in its own right. You’re gleaning every bit of information you can to obliterate your competition and spearhead your rise to success.

Keep in mind, the effect of this book is doubled when you are seen reading this book and wearing a suit. Go get ’em tiger.


The Social Contract – Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Published in 1762 by French philosopher Rousseau in the midst of the Enlightenment, this book served as inspiration for both intellectual revolution and political revolution. In a time when many still touted the divine right of kings, the notion that “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” was radical. Rousseau’s outline of political and social society was controversial at the time and remains so today. However, there is no denying its profound nature and impact on the minds of the time.

What It Says About You

When people see this sitting beside your Macbook Pro at the nearest Starbucks, they’ll think “Wow that guy is deep”. It shows you’ve gone beyond Coexist bumper stickers and Tea Parties and are genuinely seeking to understand today’s political turmoil by turning to the roots of our political philosophy. Perhaps you are even developing ideas of your own instead of blindly accepting what you are told through your preferred news outlet. It’s a novel concept I know.

You can add to this effect by complimenting The Social Contract with other well known political texts from history. I will suggest keeping away from Mein Kampf though. That might paint an entirely different picture.


The Histories – Tacitus


Tacitus is one of the most famous historians from the Roman Empire. He lived from AD 56 to AD 117 and produced some of the most well known works of the period. The Histories and The Annals are the two works he receives the most recognition for. The Annals is a history of the Roman Empire from the time of Augustus Caesar to the reign of four emperors and was written using secondary sources since most of the events occurred before Tacitus was born. The Histories however span from the reign of four emperors to the death of Domitian and utilize primary sources and first hand accounts.

What It Says About You

You’re a nerd. There’s no way around it. But hey all books are for nerds right? You just have to make sure you come off as the right kind of nerd. So I suggest only breaking this out for special occasions, like when you’re at the gym or chilling on the beach showing off your six pack abs. Tell people history is a hobby of yours and it will come off as a little quirk that makes you seem more well rounded. This is all about image control. If you think you’re in danger of coming off as a tool, bring this along to show your accessible side.

Do-It-Yourself Project: Buy a hardcover copy and hollow out a roughly Smirnoff shaped hole using an exacto knife. Now you can use Tacitus when Icing your bros!


A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking


Stephen Hawking is that really smart science guy that recently pissed some people off by saying God didn’t create the universe. A Brief History of Time was his first popular science book, published in 1988. It became a bestseller in England for four straight year and covers heady topics such as the Big Bang and black holes.

What It Says About You

When the opposite sex sees you reading this they will be so overwhelmed by the girth of your intellect that they will be throwing themselves at you in hopes of having your genius babies. Let me tell you, Stephen Hawking is a vastly underutilized wingman. In fact, if you go to, you can buy A Brief History of Time prepackaged with condoms (it’s called the Big Bang Gift Set). Just bring this bad boy with you to the nearest bar and open it to any chapter. You’ll have company in no time.

If I may suggest, Chapter 10 titled “Wormholes and Time Travel” makes the perfect ice breaker.


War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy


War and Peace is generally considered to be Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s crowning achievement. The book is almost always in the conversation for the greatest novel of all time. It is notable for its realism, large cast of characters, and for being really, really long.

What It Says About You

Honestly, I don’t know how this made it on the list. No one is going to believe you’re reading War and Peace. It’s an historical fact that no one has ever actually read the book. Anyone who says the have will undoubtedly fall under one of the following categories: A) Lying B) Leo Tolstoy’s reanimated corpse C) Lying about being Leo Tolstoy’s reanimated corpse. None of those options really indicate a fun person to be around.

So yeah, my bad with this one. Just stick with the first four books and you’ll be good.

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2 Comments on "The Top 5 Books To Be Seen Reading"

  1. Yvonne
    13/10/2010 at 9:03 am Permalink

    Great start to the blogging world. Very interesting choice of books. You might update your Tolstoy selection to another very “wordy” piece of literature; not really a book but just as unread– An Act: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    It adds the effect of having been voted on by Congress despite having not been read. I am not sure how carrying it around or leaving it dog-eared on your car seat will affect your fellow citizens though.

    Just a thought!

  2. Jen
    19/10/2010 at 11:00 am Permalink

    Robby this is great!! Love the comment on War and Peace haha.

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