A True Master, Sagan Was
It has been, as of today, 10 years since the death of Carl Sagan. To commemorate this event there is a Blog-a-thon being done by a bunch of folks who are WAY better writers and scientists than I currently am. Go check that out if you feel the urge.
I do, however, want to pipe up and say that the first book I read that really opened my eyes and perspective about the awe-inspiring power of science was The Demon-Haunted World. Before that book, science was just math and physics and forumlas - you know, stuff at which I sucked.
What that book taught me was that science has general concepts that everyone can grasp, regardless of formal training, that make the world and universe sensible. It made everything comfortable even within the framework of uncertainty. That book led me to many many others from Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy to Marcia Bartusiak's Einstein's Unfinished Symphony, from Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker to James Randi's Flim Flam!. All have continued to shape my vision of how the world works, how people work, and as Michael Shermer says, why people believe weird things.
The thing that Sagan did better than most was sympathize with those who were credulous. He didn't talk down or patronize, he explained. Patiently and passionately, he brought the logic and beauty of science over people in a wave of inarguable points and safety. People were not stupid, not morons, for not believing what we know to be true - they were just human.
People like me have to keep that in mind because as an old martial arts instructor told me once, the most annoying person is one who has learned just enough to think they know it all. A true master is confident enough not to display what he knows at the slightest provocation, but waits for the best time to make the most effective use of what he knows.
Sagan was a master ninja of astrophysics and he is still missed, even by punks like me.