Yes, we allllll know. Valentine’s Day is coming. And all the sites, all the bloggers, are coming out with their essential gift guide. Those guides all include things like gourmet chocolate, lingerie, and sweet sweet flowers. Basically, all sorts of romantic sweet nothings to tell your significant other you love them.  An though there’s nothing wrong with that per se, I’m here to tell you: SCREW ALL THAT!

Carl Sagan writes:

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchilren’s time – when the United State is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. 

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds of less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance…The plain lesson is that study and learning – not just of science, but of anything – are avoidable, even undesirable.”

Sound familiar? Yeah, we’re living in it. We’re getting dumber and more reliant on news that is not fact checked and not sourced. Can we say pizzagate everyone? Don’t be like that. Use that most important muscle of yours, the brain. It’s also the greatest erogenous zone you have. This year, tell him, or her, that what you love most is their smart ass brain.

We are living in a time when we’re deluded into thinking that we need more stuff, that we aren’t good enough, and we delude ourselves with the idea that entertainment and consumerism is the thing to do. We’re amazing. Do you know what your brain is capable of?? It’s capable of the most marvelous of feats – from complex logical thinking to all sorts of sexy playtime.  It all comes from the same place. But if you don’t use it, if you intentionally ignore it, or if you don’t challenge yourself or your assumptions, you’ll become one of the sheep. You’ll become that person who can’t think and blindly follows. And guess what? That shit ain’t sexy. If only because blind sheep aren’t creative….and well, creativity goes a long way, if you get what I’m saying.

So here’s my guide to books.  Here’s what I’ve loved reading, and what I recommend, in no particular order:

  1. The Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan
  2. Superintelligence, Nick Bostrom
  3. Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari
  4. Death by Black Hole, Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  5. The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker
  6. Zen and the Art of Falling in Love, Brenda Shoshanna
  7. Sex at Dawn, Cacilda Jetha and Christopher Ryan
  8. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
  9. Telling Lies, Paul Ekman
  10. The Social Animal, Elliot Aronson
  11. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  12. Sick in the Head, Judd Apatow
  13. The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson
  14. Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond
  15. Just Kids, Patti Smith
  16. Life, Keith Richards
  17. A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
  18. The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

By no means is this an exhaustive list. These are just some of the books that I’ve really enjoyed and learned from this year. This is a jumping off point. Something to whet your whistle. You decide where to go from there.

So forget all the chocolate and lingerie, grab some vino, a great book, and then get naked. Because the sexiest part of your body is your brain. Use it or lose it, baby!
Smart is sexy.