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Ask HN: What books are you reading?
36 points by noobie on Sept 5, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments
I am starting I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter, hoping it will help me rediscover the concepts of Godel, Escher, Bach .


"Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol", which I talked about in a thread recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10146846

Before that, it was "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II". I decided to read it because I saw a kinda not great movie about the period immediately after surrender, and I realized it was something I knew almost nothing about. It's good, but relatively academic; I cared about how the Japanese publishing industry and their literature changed over the time period, but not that much. It is worth it, though, as I knew very little about Japan in this period. Something that drives this home is that for Japan, "the war" for the Japanese people essentially lasted from 1931 (when Japan invaded Manchuria) to 1952 (when the US occupation of Japan ended) - I had never thought of it that way before.

The Martian - Andy Weir

I'm not an avid reader, but the way this book was written (mostly journal style) and the humor just pulled me in. Glad I'm almost done reading it before the movie comes out and spoils anything.

None, I am sad and ashamed to say. I have read one book in the last 20 years. Before we had kids I read a lot, mainly fantasy. After the kids were born, well, your time is really not your own until they are finished with high school and on their own.

That time is coming up pretty soon for me... in a couple more years. So I'll watch this thread closely and pick out my 'updated' reading list.

Just finished Guns, Germs and Steel by Jarod Diamond. A bit longer than it needed to be for my purposes but he covers the material in some depth, I'd definitely recommend it.

Prior to that I'd read Psycho Vertical by Andy Kirk Patrick which I would very strongly recommend, I don't think you need to be into climbing to enjoy it.

I think I'm about to start reading What the doormouse said by John Markoff or finish reading Technical revolutions and financial capital by Carlota Perez. I think I'll leave the latter and restart it when I've more brain time to spend on it.

Currently reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (http://hpmor.com/). It's an alternate Harry Potter story where Harry is a genius scientist and rationalist. Hilarious and well worth a read.

The author, Eliezer Yudkowsky, sometimes posts here: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=Eliezer

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Really enjoying it. Interesting how certain times can shape the perspective of the roles of society, companies and government.

Before that I read the entire Game of Thrones series. Not really worth the time invested if you ask me, but it was fun nonetheless. Might be one of those few books where watching their TV version is more enjoyable (disclosure: haven't watched the series).

On the technical side, I'm trying to read Google's papers once in a while. Good mixture of theoretical background with practical approaches.

Just finished atlas shrugged. It got a little long, but for the 1st 80% of it I was pretty engrossed by the plot line, themes and all aside. I enjoyed it

Why the downvotes? I'm curious on how I could improve.

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire by Wallace and Erickson - because it came out in 1993 it is interesting to read what they saw as the MS empire back then. I am taking a while to read it because every time they mention a name I have to go look that person up online to see what has happen in the 20+ years since the book came out. It is very interesting to see who has went on to notoriety and who has been forgotten. For example, they devote 2 pages to this guy named Gabe Newell...

Bill Bryson - A short history of nearly everything

Excellent popular science intro to, well, nearly everything.

Daniel Kahneman - Thinking, fast and slow

Absolute recommendation. Is changing my perspective on myself and the world with every chapter.

I adore "A Short History of Nearly Everything". I have re-read it more times than I can count, by just picking it up, flipping to a random page, and reading from there. All of his books are good, but that book has a special appeal for anyone who appreciates science.

If you are liking "Thinking, fast and slow", you should check "Descartes' Error" by António Damásio (USC neurologist).

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking [0]. This is surprisingly full of citations and references.

Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb [1]. Stock fantasy at its best.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke [2]. Been stuck at halfway for too long, it gets boring in places.

[0]: http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/d...

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/Assassins-Quest-Farseer-Trilogy-Book/d...

[2]: http://www.amazon.com/Rendezvous-Rama-Arthur-C-Clarke-ebook/...

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. I need to implement a superset of lisp so I figured why not go to the basics. It has been a very fun read so far. Was particularly happy to see the chapter that starts with a quote from On Human Understanding.

Godel, Escher, Bach was one of the things that inspired me to study math in college. These days I'm just trying to do more reading and less mindless web surfing, to see if it helps me think better. Right now: Sherlock Holmes.

The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger, contains a revelatory research upon nature of human consciousness, makes me question about what existing AIs do wrong, and what is exactly the human intellect, feeling and emotion.

Oops sorry for the mistaken down vote!

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I just finished up Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari -- which, while not groundbreaking, was supremely interesting and readable. If you like Aziz's standup, it's basically him playing sociologist for 200 pages.

Right now I'm going back and forth between Black Hat Python (because I owe it to myself to at least learn a little bit of this stuff) and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Carver. Two totally separate ends of the spectrum, but they're both great.

"REAMDE: A novel" by Neal Stephenson, which I am not enjoying much, to be honest :)

I did not enjoy it either. Actually I ditched it about 2/3rds of the way when I realized it will never get better.

I unofficially abandoned "Quicksilver" about halfway through. I thought I was the only geek who wasn't enamored with his writing.

I liked "snow crash" and "the diamond age", but found "cryptonomicon" hard to get through, even though it's super popular among geeks. I think even if I ever get to the end of this one, I won't be reading anything from him for a while though.

Zodiac is pretty good. Interface is fun.

I found Reamde frustrating: there were a bunch of different good interesting ideas and plots and they just get dropped to pick up something else, and I wasn't at all interested in the something else.

"A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn.

Very "propagandistic" and politically charged, but that's something the author promptly assumes. Quite interesting (especially for an european) in the way it explains the origins of the american ethos ("land of the free") and how said ethos can be interpreted as a subversive political tactic to further the interests of a selected few.

Exposing myths is generally received as subversive.

I meant the "ethos"; the author goes a long way in exploring how the "freedom" and national pride ideals were a nice fit - and argument - to promote politics such as war efforts (and the associated "big spendings" which converged to the same pockets).

I've just discovered Greg Egan, so I've read Diaspora, Quarantine, and I just finished Distress. I'm working on Axiomatic, which is a collection of his short stories. His characters are a little flat and his endings feel a little odd, but I love the worldbuilding and the ideas.

I'm having trouble finding other people who've read him and want to talk about his books, though.

Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson

and Halloween,

An anthology of ten stories with a supernatural element that originally appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

It discusses what happened in the 2012 Benghazi attack from the perspective of the CIA contractors who were there.

A People's History of the United States and A Twist of the Wrist II (no - it's not what you think :-)

Finally bought Pragmatic Programmer and Code Complete so I'm perusing through those in between my school work/reading.

Also got Rapid Development for 5 dollars, but haven't started on that. Haven't really read any software engineering books like these before, but enjoying them so far.

I'm reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams and I'm about to start The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

I'm also reading again Comme un roman by Danil Pennac, a beautiful essay about the joys of reading.

Stuff Matters - Mark Miodownik

This is a really casual Material Science book. It's sub-title is "Exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world." I am about a quarter of the way through and am really enjoying it. I really knew nothing about materials, this book served as a fun/interesting introduction to modern materials. The first chapter (my favorite thus far) was about metals. It goes into how different types of alloys are created and into sword making; what makes a good blade vs a brittle blade that will fall apart in combat(hint: it has to do with the amount of carbon in the blade. Too much and it is brittle. You want about 1% in the entire blade.)

The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Picked this up after recently finishing The Selfish Gene, as I remembered what a thrilling read Crime and Punishment was.

Dostoyevsky is funny, thought-provoking and anxiety-inducing as ever. Unlike some other authors, he rarely makes characters whose viewpoints he disagrees with into cheap caricatures with bad arguments. He is intellectually honest and provides unprecedented (at least for its time) psychological insight into his complex characters.

I have always been sad to finish Dostoyevsky's books, but as the Penguin Classics version is around 1000 pages long, it will hopefully take a bit longer this time around.

It's a long list, because I'm guilty of interleaving my reading of dozens (or more) of books at at time. My Goodreads "currently reading" shelf has about 25 books in it. :-(

But of the ones I'm really actively reading right now, and plan to finish soon:

1. Surfaces and Essences: Analogy As The Fuel And Fire Of Thinking - Douglas Hofstader and Emmanuel Sander

2. The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

3. The Balanced Scorecard - David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan

Also, books that I don't really think of in terms of "reading" so much as "working through":

4. Learning R - Richard Cotton

5. Practical Common Lisp - Peter Seibel

Just finished the recent Ta-Nehisi Coates "Between the World and Me" and Toni Morrison's "Sula". Currently, I'm nearly finished with "The Feast of the Goat" by Mario Vargas Llosa.

How did you like Between the World and Me? I haven't read it yet, but it's on my list and I really enjoy TNC's writing.

Permutation City by Greg Egan

A 1994 science fiction novel that explores many concepts, including quantum ontology, via various philosophical aspects of artificial life and simulated reality.


I was impressed that the book begin with a description of the concept of Fovea Rendering that is all the rage now with Virtual Reality.


Eric Clapton: The Autobiography.

I'm a huge Clapton fan so I'm finding it a really interesting read. He talks a lot about people who influenced/inspired him so it's also given me a wealth of new listening material.

Finished «The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger» by Marc Levinson and started Think Complexity By Allen B. Downey (O'Reilly series)

I just finished "In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters" by Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman. An interesting look at the marketing mistakes of the early hardware and software companies.

I just started "Slipping The Cable" by Bill Schweigart, a novel about a Coast Guard junior office running afoul of his CO. The author's up coming book is set in the neighborhood where I grew up, so I thought I'd read his first novel.

Nearly finished reading The Sticking Point Solution: 9 Ways to Move Your Business from Stagnation to Stunning Growth In Tough Economic Times, by Jay Abrahams.

An unusually thought provoking read for a business book, highly recommended. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6515635-the-sticking-poin...

Generative Art, a Practical Guide Using Processing by Matt Pearson, and Learning Three.js, The JavaScript 3D Library for WebGL by Jos Dirksen

Saltwater Buddha- Great book which teaches some buddhist concepts through the lens of a young surfers comig of age story. Really good stuff

I am finishing up the magic 2.0 series (fun, fantasy, goes well with RPO and the like) and about to start Dune next I think.

I'm reading A Game of Thrones because I realized the only books I'd read in years were technical. It's a nice break.

Just finished:

— Roadside Picnic, by the Strugatsky brothers. The very thematic Soviet sci-fi behind STALKER.

— The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem. A brilliant collection of short stories on language, philosophy, futurism.


— Nexus, by Ramez Naam (book 1 of 3). Nanobots meet augmented reality, transhumanism. Good.

— Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut. Hilarious stuff.

— Poe's collected works.


— The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu. I have my hopes high.

Aniara by Harry Martinson, an epic scifi poem (perhaps the only example of that genre?) written in 1956.

Re-reading Steel Beach by John Varley. A sort of post-singularity romp from 1992.

Politics And The Occult, by Gary Lachman. Much what it sounds like, a history of occult movements in politics.

The Lunar Men, by Jenny Uglow. Non-fiction about the Lunar Society, a science club in 18th century England.

Machines of Loving Grace by John Markoff.

The cover says the book is a "sweeping history of the complicated and evolving relationships between humans and computer" and it is just that. A literate and thoughtful history with an eye towards the future.

In between books right now, but...

Next one:

Genocide of One - Takano

Previous three:

Malice - Keigo Higashino

The Devotion of Suspect X - Keigo Higashino

Salvation of A Saint - Keigo Higashino

I dont wish to interrupt the discussion, but am genuinely curious as to how you make time for reading ? Do you read as a daily ritual ? or do you block time for reading ? Weekends maybe ?

How do you fit reading while running a family ?

I find if I've an interesting enough book I'll choose to read that after my daughter is in bed rather than watch TV, or I'll read in bed at night. I'll admit though that for long stretches of the year I don;t read anything, going on holiday can often be an excuse to start a new book. Having a long commute to work used to help but I've been working from home this year so the amount of reading I do has dropped significantly.

I just get them on Audible and listen to them on my drive to work. Although I do miss marking passages and taking notes on a "real" book. The bookmark feature just doesn't cut it.

Both. Reading in bed gives me an hour or so. Weekends give me ~10 hours or so. Holidays give me a ton of time. Then there are audiobooks and commute.

If you are a family man then I assume weekends take their own turns..! Unplanned shoppings, outings, guests etc..

Sometimes i feel a sabbatical would be ideal.. But then very few companies are open to the concept!

David Mitchell's first book. Was also reading 'Knockemstiff' but I decided 3/4 of the way through that I should read something less bleak.+1 for everything @sshine mentioned.

Godel, Escher and Bach

The elements of statistical learning

The murders of the Rue Morge (Poe stories mix)

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, not sure why, but I have this tingling feeling that it holds some hints and tidbits about Chinese culture and history.

The Art Of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

More autobiography and less advice than I was expecting, but very interesting, and extremely engaging.

The witcher series, done with 4 of the 7 books.

The Death of the West, by Patrick J. Buchanan. Looking at the Western Europe I thought that it is the time for such books.

Just finished, in the following order:

- Blindsight

- Echopraxia

- Colonel

by Peter Watts. Though I should've read the 'Colonel' before 'Echopraxia' in the hindsight.

G.K Chesterton, All Things Considered

Light, but full of pragmatism.

"Kafka on the shore" by Haruki Murakami.

Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins, awesome stuff

Sevenenves - Neal Stephenson


Tai-Pan by James Clavell (of Shogun fame).

It's about the founding of Hong Kong after the first Opium War. History, Morale, Politics, Ambition, Money, Power and Love viewed through 2 different cultures. I discovered it after listening to Shogun (I read it a few years back) and was happy as a little kid when I discovered there are more books to read. It does not disappoint so far.

"King Rat" is on my stack. I read "Shogun", and I'm curious about "King Rat" because he was a Japanese POW, and "King Rat" is his first novel, and that's what it's about.

I read both in the 70s, in the Navy. They're both fascinating. You get to do a lot of reading on a deployed ship.

King Rat was a pretty good movie too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Rat_%28film%29

Just finished reading this myself and would highly recommend it. Both Shogun and Tai Pan were thoroughly enjoyable reads. Deeply woven plots with rich characters and historical intrigue.

I highly recommend all of his Asian series. They're fantastic.

Profiles of the Future by Arthur C Clarke. 3º Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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