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Ask HN: What book have you given as a gift?
360 points by schappim on Aug 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 514 comments
What book have you found so amazing that you have given it as a gift? This could be a tech book, biz, self help or other book.

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas. I'd read thousands of books, novels, and other literature and never had an answer to "your favorite book?" and thought I just wasn't meant to ever have one... Until I read it. Since then, I've bought copies solely to have on hand to gift to people I actually care about.

To drive home the point of just how much I loved this book, I went on to learn French just so I could read it in the original print.

Make sure it's the full, unabridged edition (1200 or 1400 pages), though!

(Just to throw in a nonfiction title as well, Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is a great gift for scientifically-inclined minds (esp younger ones) looking for a first foray into the world of nonfiction, wittily-written and well-narrated.)

That's fascinating. Could you explain what made you love the book so much?

Dumas originally wrote The Count as a weekly story for the newspaper. Hence, each chapter ended as a cliffhanger enticing the reader to wait and then buy next week's issue. I works like a charm. One of the best I ever read.

I've read it in a nearly uninterrupted reading binge of 3 days and 2 nights. In fact, in my recollection there's a cliffhanger at the bottom of each odd page :)

> I went on to learn French just so I could read it in the original print.

That is one of my mom's favorite books! Can you please elaborate about the process of getting there/how much practice it took to get you towards the point where you could enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo in its native French?

Right now, I am studying Spanish and my reading comprehension in Spanish is low. It is not enough to understand something like 'The Little Prince' (in Spanish) to enjoy it.

YMMV, but I've noticed that you can actually read books in foreign languages quite enjoyably without a perfect grasp of the language. If the book grips you, words or even paragraphs you don't understand stop to matter. Sometimes it will take a couple of pages of "oh shit, I don't know what this is saying at all" before you get into it, though. (Reading it on an e-reader for the instant dictionary does help, of course.)

One of the interesting things about Monte Cristo and actually about a lot of 19th century French literature is that there's very little archaic French in there, and I found it easier to read (though still not easy!) than many modern novels that use French street slang / argot.

I am not OP, but I've been studying French for 7 years in school before I read Monte Cristo in French, and it was still a very challenging read - to the point of being more work than pleasure. It is full of old grammatical forms and full of passé simple, much harder to read than contemporary novels let alone Le Petit Prince.

I used Harry Potter as my first Spanish book :) I recommend it!

I'll second the Harry Potter books -- I've been reading the Sorcerer's Stone (electronically) in Portuguese after working through Duolingo. It's nice because I am familiar with the story and there's loads of new vocabulary, which I look up (after guessing) by switching to a translation app.

If you're on iOS, the built-in dictionary app will give you Spanish->English.

What translation app do you use (unless it's the built-in one)?

Yes! Rereading a (good) book you've already read is an excellent learning technique. (Mine was Dune.) Your foreknowledge provides plenty of context, something which is often lacking in more artificial exercises.

If you stick with Spanish and really learn its grammar inside and out you'll have a much easier time with French later on. Their vocabularies are very similar and the differences in grammar are minimal for the most part.

YES! My favorite book! Make sure to get the unabridged version in particular the Robin Buss translation. Love introducing people to this great work of literature.


Didn't expect to see Dantès appear in this thread, but I love it too and am, coincidentally, rereading it right now, in the Buss. So fun, so satisfying.

Thank you, you have inspired me to finally get and read this book.

I read a lot of Science Fiction for fun. These are a few of my favorites that I've given to other people:

1. Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. When I think of epic hard science fiction, the Xeelee Sequence books spring to mind. With a story line that spans millions of years (and a few dozen books), this collection of short stories is a good introduction to one of the best and most underrated sci-fi series out there. Baxter's Manifold trilogy (Manifold: Space, Manifold: Time and Manifold: Origin) are also fantastic.

2. Foundation by Isaac Asimov. The whole Foundation series is wonderful, but this book is a landmark of sci-fi that should be on any fan's bookcase.

3. The Martian by Andy Weir. This book is what I've been giving the last couple years to people who don't think they like sci-fi. Everyone I've given it to has loved it.

4. Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Another hard sci-fi staple. The rest of the Rama books he "co-wrote" with Gentry Lee are decent but become more space opera than hard sci-fi. I enjoyed them but many sci-fi fans find them polarizing.

5. Silver Tower by Dale Brown. More of a military thriller than sci-fi (Flight of the Old Dog is another favorite of mine by him) and terribly dated by modern standards (it was written when the Soviet Union was still a thing). But it's the first "adult" sci-fi book I ever read as a kid, so it'll always have a special place for me.

EDIT: Another one:

6. Coyote by Allen Steele. I love stories like this one: primitive, longshot interstellar exploration and primitive, first generation colonization. Especially for desperate reasons. The first two Coyote books were good, but I just can't get into any of the subsequent ones.

+1 to Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. It is absolutely phenomenal "hard sci-fi" with coherent science and a very cool story.

They were going to make a film adaptation of this book, with Morgan Freeman as a main actor and everything. The scope of the scenes in the story however were so large that even with Intel Corp with technology onboard, they couldn't make them. Maybe nowadays it would be easier to make.


On (6) Coyote: I read it a while back (4-5 years), and don't remember much, but I really enjoyed the first two books as well. "The Madwoman of Shuttlefield", a chapter from the first book in the series which was published independently in Asimov's is one of my all time favorite short stories of all time.

Foundation is a great story, but am I the only one who thought the prose to be absolutely awful?

By the standards of the pulpy SF magazines Foundation was published in, Asimov was a pretty brilliant prose stylist. He's a little clunky by literary standards, but that's a pretty high bar. The man could tell a story, though. And he had more ideas than ten other SF authors put together.

I was learning English with this series, and as a kid and I really appreciated the simple and clear language of Asimov.

Those are all great. I've also given Dune, the Forever War, and The Stars my Destination.

I used to give Dune to my teenage relatives and it usually turned them into avid readers; they would thank me later. I noticed that it doesn't hold the interests of the recent teenagers in the family; it is hard to get them to start and even harder to get them to finish. I think competition from the internet, youtube and cellphone is just too strong. That is horrible because developing a passion for reading helps lot in highschool/college/life. I've offered to pay them $100 and they still won't read it!

I read a lot when I was a young teenager (pre-internet, and didn't have a TV, so I went through around a book a day). Much of it was SciFi.

I never found Dune all that great.

Dune is very close to a revenge fantasy. I read it for the first time a year or two ago and was not particularly impressed.

I read most of the Dune books back when I was a teenager, and despite being a usually voracious reader I found them very hard to get into. Worth the effort, mind you, but it's definitely a series which requires some investment.

This is very close to how I feel about Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. I read them because many of my friends who were also sci-fi readers raved about them.

I enjoyed Red Mars but I really had to slog through Green Mars and Blue Mars. Red Mars was fun and interesting, but I could have done without a few hundred pages of Sax Russell talking about plants in Green Mars.

I think worldbuilding books take a certain level of investment, even among voracious readers.

I recently read Dune (again). In my opinion, it hasn't held up well with the times.

I enjoyed the first Dune book, solely on the amount of world building in the book. But I never read any of the others other than the 3rd one, as Herbert seemed to get a bit long in the tooth with all the grandiose plans involving the god emperor after a bit.

+1 for The Martian - fantastic book!

The Martian is a great gateway for casual readers into sci-fi. One person I gave The Martian to loved it so much the next week they asked me for another recommendation. I recommended John Scalzi's Old Man's War.

He's now reading the Foundation series.

I loved it so much that I still haven't seen the film. I don't want the book spoilt. :(

(and I'm a life long sci-fi reader!)

Yeah, after reading the book, I didn't like the movie.

I, robot would probably be easier to get into than foundation :)

also "stranger in a strange land" by Heinlein makes for a great gift

Time Enough For Love was my favorite Heinlein book.

...and then of course you end up with To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

Heinlein, both during his early sane and latter mad years, was an utter genius story-teller.

I don't have any friends who haven't read it who would appreciate it, but Clifford Stoll's The Cuckoo's Egg is both a highly entertaining thriller, a fascinating look at how computer security was, and is, viewed, and a highly personal story about a man trying to figure it all out. It's very funny, entirely true, and taught me a lot.

Oddly, a lot of people hated the various more personal aspects of the book, as you see Cliff's friends, and his life as a whole. While that's valid, calling it a flaw in the book is, I think, inaccurate. The book as much a story a story about Cliff as the shadowy hacker on the other side of the wires, and that's a big part of its charm, IMHO.

Ghost in the Wires, and Exploding the Phone are also good, and true stories.

I thought I recognised the name... turns out Cliff is the guy from the Numberphile videos who loves klein bottles. He is such an enjoyment to watch.


Oh dear I have no idea how and why I just spent 2 hours watching videos about Klein bottles and Mobius strips. Fascinating.

The TV adaptation of the novel, The KGB, The Computer, and Me, will be right up your alley then.

I read that one and Catch Me If You Can as a young teen both really captured my imagination, something about the thrill of the hunt intersecting with lives in modern society that I could recognize. I'd recommend both for that age group, and older of course.

I am just on the final few pages of The Cuckoo's Egg, and was planning on finishing it tonight. I too would say that it is a fantastically written page-turner, and it has taught me a lot about the old-school networking scene.

How do the other two books you mentioned compare?

Ghost in the Wires compares favorably, also being a personal memoir, although from the other side of hacking.

Exploding the Phone takes an ousider's perspective, having been written by a relative outsider, and the information having been gathered from interviews with those involved. However, I would say it's better than Ghost in the Wires, being a better told story overall. It's also pretty much the definitive history of the phone phreaking scene, AFAICT. Phil Lapsley put a lot of work into getting his interviews, and reading up on the tech. Read it, if only so that you'll stop believing people when they tell you how awesome John Draper is.

I found The Cuckoo's Egg second-hand for 50c. Easily the greatest enjoyment:price ratio of anything I own. Exploding the Phone is also phreaking awesome. I devoured that book over the space of a few hours.

Yeah, The cuckoo's egg would be the greatest price:enjoyment ratio, but then I bought Half-Life, Blud Shift, Opposing Force, Day of Defeat, Counterstrike, Riccochet, and TF Classic for $5. And I got the cuckoo's egg for $7...

That's a really good book, indeed. Cliff in the book is much less annoying than Cliff in real life, though. I didn't expect him to be such a conservative anti-technology person. A good example is this[1] newspaper article of his. At times, he just seems like a typical attention-seeking contrarian.

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/clifford-stoll-why-web-wont-be-nirva...

He wrote some other books about that. Most of the points he gives are pretty reasonable (tech isn't a panacea, tech for its own sake in an professional/educational environment is bad, PowerPoint is the devil (that's actually true)), but I still wouldn't invite him over for dinner.

+1 for Ghost in the Wires! It reads as a thriller, and the amount of social engineering in it was amazing.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is one I've given adults. For kids, every year a local group called Book Harvest does a thing with Barnes & Noble where if you go in a B&N store, you can donate a book straight to Book Harvest which gives books to disadvantaged kids. For them, I usually grab a few books like A Wrinkle in Time or some Choose Your Own Adventure books or something.

I also semi-frequently buy (by accident) a second copy of a book that I already own. Usually instead of returning those to the store, I keep them and just give them to somebody as a gift, where the "who" depends on what the book is.

I'm still looking for the discontinued Dutch version of Atlas Shrugged (also Ayn Rand for those who don't know) to give to people around me (many don't regularly read in English). It changed me, I think it can do wonders for insecure people that tend to efface themselves for "the good of the group" and that may be less happy than they could be because of it. Also it may very well provide people with unbalanced marriages the motivation to speak up and teach them that lesson that if someone loves you, you can make them happy by stating what you want and doing it (together). I often tell people to read it, hardly anybodies does.

I find the ideas in the Fountainhead equally powerful. Find something that you love, do it the way you love to do it, stay true to yourself. I don't understand how Ayn Rand always seems to trigger down votes here.

One of my biggest issues with Rand outside of the ethics espoused is that her writing has no faith in the reader to get the message without it being constantly reiterated over and over and over. For probably the worst example just look at Atlas Shrugged where after 300-400 pages of the same message a thrown against a handful of strawmen you get 60 +/- monologue pages that are all the same idea wrapped in a different parable.

I don't understand how Ayn Rand always seems to trigger down votes here.

Me either, but I'm used to it. Whatever. The downvoters are probably the people who thought Ellsworth Toohey was the hero in The Fountainhead.

Actually, its because Rand readers tend to have mentalities like yours - "Anyone who doesn't agree with me just doesn't get it because they don't recognize how supremely intelligent I am".

You aren't the first and you won't be the last Rand fanboy with this attitude. :)

Anyone who doesn't agree with me just doesn't get it because they don't recognize how supremely intelligent I am

Where in the world did you get the idea that I think anything remotely like that??? Nothing could be further from the truth. But downvoting a post simply for mentioning Rand or one of her works? To me that's very clearly just ideological bias, which is what I was referring to above.

Haha, are you serious? You said:

"Whatever. The downvoters are probably the people who thought Ellsworth Toohey was the hero in The Fountainhead."

You just look at your downvotes and you make some pretty ridiculous assumptions about the people who disagree with you - that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot who didn't understand who the hero of the book was.

If you expect to be taken seriously in discourse, you would do well to be mindful of how you present your views.

You just look at your downvotes and you make some pretty ridiculous assumptions about the people who disagree with you - that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot who didn't understand who the hero of the book was.

I'm not making an assumption that anybody is an idiot. What I am doing is suggesting a measure of ideological bias on the behalf of those people... that is, the people who see Toohey as the hero of the story because they share that ideological outlook. Of course I might be wrong to say that, but I'm not calling anyone's intelligence into question, or comparing it to my own.

If you expect to be taken seriously in discourse, you would do well to be mindful of how you present your views.

Of course, that's pretty much a tautology. That said, there are times when one doesn't care whether the others take you seriously or not.

The only reason I can see that you've been downvoted is your mention of The Fountainhead. Come on, people, you may not like the book or its author, but let's be civil. This is a perfectly fine comment.

This is the sort of thread that hits me right in the wallet.

Here are some books I've given as gifts recently:

* The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm, Lewis Dartnell[1]

* The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb[2]

* Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse[3]

* The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris and Steven Hayes[4]

* Code, Charles Petzold[5]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Knowledge-Rebuild-Civilization-Afterm...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Improbable-Robustness-Frag...

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Siddhartha-Hermann-Hesse/dp/161382378...

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Happiness-Trap-Struggling-Start-Livin...

[5] https://www.amazon.com/Code-Language-Computer-Hardware-Softw...

The Black Swan is on my list too.

Is it really that good?

I've started it a few times. Nassim Nicholas Taleb seems to make sure never to use one word when ten could possibly be used, especially if some of them about himself.

Yep, I haven't been able to finish the book either, and what I've read didn't stand up to all the hype.

Taleb's Antifragile I did, unfortunately, finish, and it's way, way worse.

Now that I think about it, both books have a similar pattern: the first dozen or so pages present an interesting idea, which does give you a fresh and useful mental model in understanding the world. The rest of the book, unfortunately, meanders off into superficial redundant applications of it and pounding into the reader's head how anti-establishment Taleb is.

No, it is not. The idea behind the book is as sound as it is simple: shoehorning normal distributions in places where they shouldn't go just to make problems tractable will end in disaster due to an excess of fat tails in the real world.

However, Taleb has been pontificating on that single idea for fifteen years now and has parlayed twenty pages worth of ideas into three books, a collapsed hedge fund and numerous academic positions.

Skim the first three chapters of any of his three books, and you will have learnt all there is to learn from him.

While I can't disagree too much with my sibling comments, I do believe that the shift in mental model is worth the criticisms.

It's a shame his style, wordiness and pretension sometimes gets in the way of communicating a really significant and fundamental concept that I believe everyone should incorporate into their world view.

I thought fooled by randomness was much better. Higher information density.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I've given it to just about everyone I've known who seriously wanted to be a writer, journalist, etc. as well as some folks who just wanted to write better. It's a small, beautiful, book about writing better. This is the book I've gifted the most.

Several scifi books have also been gifted to friends, mostly Asimov (both the Foundation and Robots series), Herbert's Dune, and Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama.

Also, gifted a copy of Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad, which is my favorite book about my favorite bands (and the American punk scene of the early 80s). The recipient was too young to remember the scene from that era, but was open to understanding why "punk" isn't so much a style of music, but an ethos.

Every book I've gifted is because I really love the book, and really like the person I'm giving it to.

With Strunk & White I think you should ignore their advice which is often confused or nonsensical and just imitate their prose which is delightful. This review explains it better than I could: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/2549...

I tend to think of Strunk and White like training wheels: eventually you should take them off and break the rules (as George Orwell said in his similarly-maligned "Politics and the English Language", "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous") in pursuit of clear, beautiful prose, but for a beginner the rules can be a lifeline. If nothing else, their constraints provide a new writer a framework on which to hang their thoughts, and force them to think carefully about how their prose is constructed. The experience of thinking about one's writing structurally, and how that structure can be used for stylistic effect, is something that I suspect does not come naturally to new writers, and it's what I found most valuable about Strunk and White when I was taught it in high school.

I also, someday, would love to try my hand at teaching writing style using Freddie de Boer's technique:


But being a CS professor I doubt I'll have that opportunity any time soon :)

Is there a more correct book that is similarly concise and similarly well-written? I would love to read it, if so.

Edit: I found this blog post that lists some alternatives http://thewritingresource.net/2011/09/22/forget-everything-s...

About half of the titles are punny or plays on words, which I'm somewhat suspicious of (even though I like puns). And, all are at least twice the size of Strunk and White. I understand that some subjects are bigger than a ~100 page book can cover, but despite having spent a lot of my life writing (and having published a book), I've never been able to plod through a big grammar book. I can read Elements of Style in an afternoon without feeling like it's a chore. As noted in some of the reviews, if it's wrong it's not worth even that much effort. But, I never thought it was predominantly wrong or predominantly misleading. And, it usually reminds me about one or more of my negative writing habits, and I correct it for a while until I forget again.

Pinker's https://www.amazon.com/Sense-Style-Thinking-Persons-Writing/... is longer but still focused and very good.

The Elements of Style was fine for me as a first peek into the subject in junior high; it's just as a kind of bible that it's overrated.

+1 for Sense of Style. I found Elements of Style to be very strict. The grammatical rules were portrayed as black/white so you are either correct in its use or you are wrong. I also felt that the guidelines somewhat do not apply to contemporary modes of communication for example email, IM, a casual note. Sense of style was very forgiving in grammar. The focus was on getting the message communicated. This, has helped me immensely as somebody who learned English as secondary language in school. Haven't had chance to gift it but highly recommended.

I'm not sure if this is "correct" but "Eats, shoots & leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation"[1] is a fun read on an adjacent topic. It too gets berated by some but I enjoyed it and learned a thing or two.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Tolerance-Punctuat...

I've read that, as well. Enjoyed it, but never think of it when I'm trying to name a great book for aspiring writers, and it really only covers an area (punctuation) that I don't find terribly challenging. I've been searching and reading reviews ever since reading omaranto's comment, and the market segment seems to be entirely cornered by Elements of Style. There's simply nothing in the same category, in terms of size, that is anywhere near as well-regarded as Elements. Even a book called How to Write Short is nearly three times as long.

I've (tried to) read many bigger books about style, usage, and grammar, of course, but I really would like a book I can plow through just before I sit down to write something large. Like, the day before NaNoWriMo starts, or before I embark on an editing pass of my company's documentation, just read it all in one sitting as a refresher on how to write clearly and effectively. I've always used Strunk and White for this purpose. I don't want to be a grammar scholar, I just want to write better and more clearly, and I think a lot of folks are in that position; which likely explains the enduring popularity of Strunk and White, despite its critics.

You can check "Economist style guide"[1]

1. http://www.economist.com/styleguide/introduction

On Writing Well by William Zinsser was a great book on writing. Though it's a bit more conceptual than Strunk and White.

I was looking to see if someone had suggested On Writing Well! I agree that it is an excellent resource, especially for those who are already familiar with basic grammar rules and are interested in improving their style.

On Writing Well is entertaining on top of being instructive and informative. Very short read too. Every should get a copy.


That was wonderful, thank you :-)

I have large portions of that book memorized thanks to the Journalism courses I took in college.

"Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise."

The most: Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. Think I've bought almost a dozen copies over the years. Although that book wasn't really a gift, more a loan I never got back.


Lord of the Rings - I gave this to the guard who detained me in Russia. I thought it was the best revenge.

The life changing magic of tidying - to my partner. We're both messy. I've read it, she hasn't... neither of us have changed.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami to the friend who lent me Wind up Bird Chronicle all those years ago and started me on the path.

Searched the page for Ender's Game, I've always really enjoyed that book. I never had to read it for school but an older friend of mine did and told me to read it. I did and then a few years later was able to use it for a "pick your own book" report in school. I was always embarrassed to lend out my copy as it had writing in the margins that I had to do for school so I just bought it and gave it away whenever I was going to lend it. Really great book and this reminds me I still need to read the rest of the Ender series, I read all of the Bean/Shadow story line but somehow never got around to the continuation of the Ender line.

Just so you know, the Ender line is very different from Ender's Game and the Shadow series. A lot of people are incredibly disappointed that they're not just like the first book in the series - but I think they're excellent books none-the-less.

> I still need to read the rest of the Ender series, I read all of the Bean/Shadow story line but somehow never got around to the continuation of the Ender line.

They go in a very different direction. The Bean/Shadow books are still military fiction, and the Ender ones are... not. I do recommend reading them, but just don't go into them expecting anything similar.

This is what has kept me from reading them, I greatly enjoy military fiction (especially when you add sci-fi into the mix, I semi-recently read the whole Honor Harrington series and loved it).

1Q84 is probably my favourite Murakamai book so far.

I love fact it took the entire first book to get 'weird'. It just teeters on the edge before dropping right off the cliff.

Enders Game was on my list of books I've given to people too. I've lost how many copies of bought, but at least 10.

Funnily enough, same here with Ender's Game (not as many copies though)

Make an effort to pirate Ender's Game versus spending money on it; the author is a notorious bigot who uses his money to destroy equal human rights.

If you're interested in reading someone's books without paying for them, I propose there are several decent alternatives:

1. Do the legal thing and go down to the local library, even at some inconvenience to yourself.

2. Drop the smug sense of moral superiority.

3. Stick up for your moral superiority by making a sacrifice by depriving yourself of the pleasure.

It doesn't make a whit of difference in the economy, but it's the right thing to do for your principles. I'll be over here celebrating having a diversity of viewpoints in literature, so git off my lawn.

Another point to tack onto this: The value of the work itself is well worth paying for, even if it has hidden costs to it, like when we drive cars or buy things made in sweatshops. His books are beautiful, and were influential to me when I was younger, particularly Speaker for the Dead. If one bigot helps to inspire tolerance and introspection in millions of people, then he'll have done far more harm than good, no matter how he spends the money.

I was actually shocked to find out about his personal views years after reading his books. Perhaps he needs to give Speaker a read himself.

> 1. Do the legal thing and go down to the local library, even at some inconvenience to yourself.

How the fuck is that any different than my torrenting the epub and reading it on my iPad?

The exact same words, read by the exact same person, for the exact same amount of value transferred between the exact same people.

Stop it with this meaningless worship of the fiction of intellectual property.

PS: Downloading content for which you lack a license is not illegal.

Stop acting like you have some sort of right to access content that you don't own or have not acquired though methods that the author has authorized.

To answer your question regarding library ... libraries have a limited number of copies (versus the unlimited digital pirated copies) thus still creating a supply a demand market that may have some people decide to simply purchase if there is a long wait list for a popular title.

>PS: Downloading content for which you lack a license is not illegal.

That depends on where you live ... however morally it's wrong no matter where you are.

>Stop it with this meaningless worship of the fiction of intellectual property.

Those who create works have the option of controlling the licensing ... same as with software, hey can open source, close source, public source etc... the point is they have the choice... if you can't respect the decisions of those who license under licenses you don't personally agree with how can you expect anyone to respect works licensed under licenses that you do approve of.

The idea of the possession of a given sequence of bits as illegal and requiring a licence to permit is fundamentally absurd.

I have a right to copy any bits I choose. What those bits represent is immaterial.

I don't believe there is any difference, and have stated as much. But principles are supposed to be the things you seriously inconvenience yourself to defend, not the things you use as a convenient excuse to make things more convenient.

I mean, if you just said "property is theft!" as a justification when you lifted peoples' wallets, it'd seem a bit like "situational ethics". When you have an intellectual beef with someone while pirating their intellectual output in the form of literature, though, that's really going the extra mile. It may not be complete hypocrisy, but it sure has a lot of the appearance thereof.

I don't believe in or support copyright or Orson Scott Card's commercial success in any line of business.

> How the fuck is that any different than my torrenting the epub and reading it on my iPad?

In England authors get a (tiny) fee when their books are borrowed from a library.

Is that not the case in the US?


The authors get paid by the library, when they lend you a book (at least here in Denmark). So it is not the same.

It's baffling that the same man who wrote the stories I loved can stand up and with a straight face tell everyone that gays aren't like us, and that gay marriage is destroying civilization.

He literally said that, at a reading I attended. After telling us about the power of stories and humanity, he veered into that as a total non-sequitur.

It's almost like the quality of art and the artist's character are not related...

This is what I tell people when they start telling me that they refuse to read his work, or pay for his work, etc.

But it's not like he's a painter; he tells stories of empathy, of understanding, of togetherness, of bridging chasms of understanding. He came up with the Hierarchy of Foreignness - he wrote stories of people emphasizing with insect hives, of aliens that have nothing in common with us, of people who suffer for others with no reward.

And yet, he can simultaneously see the other side of the Necker cube where two men kissing is somehow going to bring down America.

It's just... uncanny.

Do you ever wonder if he's just... I dunno, trolling us? Or performing some strange social experiment he'll write about at the end of his life?

I just don't understand how a man who wrote a book with such a thorough understanding of empathy can display so little of it in life.

I think it's useful to ignore the personal life of artists and just take the work at face value.

Surely a great many people who have accomplished amazing things are also deeply flawed (even reprehensible) humans.

I like to think of it the other way round --- look how good his books are despite some of his frankly appalling opinions.

That said, and while I like _Ender's Game_ a great deal and think it's an excellent book, I did find an analysis once about how fundamentally it's about how fear and violence are the only appropriate actions when faced with the unknown; Ender may be sorry for what he did afterwards... but that's afterwards. Unfortunately there are so many half-baked essays about the book online I've been unable to find this again.

Do go and read Haldeman's _The Forever War_ as a counter to it, though. (It's also an excellent book.)

I've read The Forever War, and it was good.

Have you read the sequels? The Speaker for the Dead branch of the sequels; Ender goes on to do more than just feel sorry for the Formics, and other intelligences that humanity discovers. Arguably, he more than makes amends for the mistakes he and the rest of humanity make.

> gay marriage is destroying civilization.

That's silly of him. Even if you're a fan of family-values theory, he's got cause-and-effect backwards here. Widespread acceptance of gay marriage is simply the ultimate realization in these times of the sexual revolution that firmly took hold in the nation in the 1960s; if something is "destroying civilization", it's that larger cultural shift.

It's not baffling. The same anti-gay, pro-genocide themes are present throughout most of Card's novels and short stories.

Examples please.

Calling Ender's Game pro-genocide is a riot, but I guess if you didn't read the next 3 novels where Ender is trying to atone for his unwitting participation through an allegory on the book of Mormon, it works. There's Pastwatch which is so pro-genocide that it has a future civilization go back in time to inoculate the Americas against European diseases, and they successfully Westernize their technology just enough to make colonization moot. If I recall correctly in the Alvin Maker series, the main character sympathizes with the Native American population under pressure from alternate-history Colonial America. Let's see, what else...

There's that allegory on the Book of Mormon - the pure allegory, the Homecoming one, meh, might be worth scrutinizing the last bits when they actually get to their little promised land and there's fractious conflict? Betting no one really reads that stuff outside of Utah, though - I certainly can't believe I bothered. (It was a slow summer that year and my standards may have been low.) Anyway, moving on... I skipped most of the horror except for the Sleeping Beauty novel...

Oh! There's also the Songmaster stuff in which - in 1980! - had a homosexual main character who (while ultimately a tragic character) was treated with such human dignity and respect that Card had to fend off scathing criticism from his own church (and others') for doing so.

Orson Scott Card is like Atticus Finch and we're all reading Go Set A Watchman. If all we can find for either of these characters today is hate and loathing and calls to pirate books, what kind of a future are we really setting ourselves up for?

> Card had to fend off scathing criticism from his own church (and others')

This actually supports my hunch that Card has been pressured to make a public pronouncement of homophobic values, since the messages in the Ender series are largely subversive and pacifistic.

I'm not too familiar with the Book of Mormon, so any detail you care to share about the allegory would be appreciated.

Ultra-abridged version: The prophet sees a new, better way of living, gathers a few people to himself, gets rejected by society at large, and ultimately they wander off to the wasteland to found a city which will be a beacon to humanity by showcasing a more enlightened way of living.

That's the Homecoming series plot (complete with the voice of a guardian spirit / computer system that only a chosen few hear), the (extended) Ender's Game endgame, the Alvin Maker endgame, the Wyrms endgame, and you can see deep dark shadows of it in Pastwatch and Treason, among others. Oh, and you can see clearly that the unfinished series that Lovelock is going that way to boot.

It's not a bad tale, but the variety's a trifle lacking.

"Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams"[1]. Even if you're not in a management track, it's a great read to learn and better understand how to structure teams for a happy, productive and successful path.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Peopleware-Productive-Projects-Teams-...

Edit: add Amazon link.

Fiction, because it is so funny:

* Good Omens, by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman [1]

I wish Pratchett and Gaiman had written more books together.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060853980?ref_=sr_1_1&pld...

I gave this to one son when he was about 18, along with a pretty much complete set of Discworld: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/discworld-reading-order/. These were collected over many years, so a bit of a wrench. The best of which might be: "Wyrd Sisters" (Shakespeare), or "The Truth" (Newspapers). He can make fun of pretty much anything, while still showing it great affection.

Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" is a great book for reading to younger kids. Weird, creepy, but strangely uplifting, even if it does begin with a triple murder. I can't remember which kid took that.

I bought Robert Silverberg's "Nightwings" in the 80s and read it several times. I was going to give away but couldn't find it, so I had to buy a new copy and read it again first. This seems to anticipate a lot that followed, from genetic modification to drastic climate change, but it is essentially about a character trying to cope in a mad world.

I recently read the graphic novel version of Graveyard Book. Would highly recommend that as well, it is quite well done.

I also give this book as a gift often. It started when I'd lend it out and never get it back, which, on reflection, I found I was actually fine with. So I found a UK 1st Edition, signed by both authors, which I'm never lending to anyone, and buy whatever copy is to hand for people as I feel moved to.

I've also done this a couple times with Joe Haldeman's The Forever War.

Rich dad poor dad. It's not the most professional book on the topics, sure. But the content is written in a very accessible manner and I give it to young friends that are about to throw away their life because they were never exposed to any other mindset but "underclass".

It is really shocking to me, that bright young people (with a bachelors degree) choose to go for a crappy paid hamsterwheel job, barely make ends meet, feel miserable at work, begin drinking/TV to cope with these frustrations and complain all day.

A few years ago I discovered that it isnt a choice for them at all. Many can't even imagine that life can could be any different than this suffering. Once you're trapped in the hamsterwheel a few years, your life is basically wasted and you're a slave to the paycheck forever. But being exposed to very basic lessons like kiosaki's early on can spark just enough curiosity to break out. Just invest a little time in yourself aside of work goes a long way to improve life situations over time. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, not a lottery ticket.

Going entrepreneur isn't even required, but just getting paid adequately for something you actually like doing, and the confidence by being quite good at it, does work wonders to improve your daily quality of life. You just have to "get" some basic ideas and invest a little effort in yourself.

It's worth noting that this is a work of fiction.


Rich Dad Poor Dad is a great gift for those who are beginning their careers. It influenced my thinking and motivated me in many important ways. Today-- 13 years since my first reading -- I realize that what I'm doing today (4 years into entrepreneurship) is based on beliefs that took root during that first year out of university that I studied texts such as Rich Dad Poor Dad. Other texts included Tom Peters's books (The Brand You, Re-Imagine!), The Magic of Thinking Big, and The Millionaire Next Door.

"I Will Teach You To Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi (http://amzn.to/2aF1vjF). It's a fantastic, easy read that takes you step-by-step into automating your finances and making smart decisions toward not necessarily being rich, but being richer and having some financial security on a month to month basis.

Every once in awhile, I'll have a conversation with friends about finances, and they'll complain about how much work it is to manage money, and I'll go home and order them this book. It's an easy $10 gift, and they've all told me it changed the way they approach finances. Good stuff. Cannot recommend it enough.

How much of this book applies in a non-US context? Is it worth reading anyway?

I don't know how finances work in the rest of the world, but at least the half that deals with bank accounts, savings, and automating your finances should still be applicable. There's a sizable chunk that has to do with stocks and retirement stuff that may not be applicable to you, but the rest of it should be!

Ramit doesn't mess around.

"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany" by William L. Shirer. It's a classic history book of our century which, despite its title, primarily focuses on Hitler's raise to power in the early 30s and the long, painful and ultimately futile international attempts at avoiding WW2 in the late 30s.

It's a book I wish everyone would read, particularly everyone in a public office and the media. It's a shame that comparing politicians and their actions to Hitler has became a cliche everyone now is quick to ignore. Meanwhile there's plenty of stuff happening in the world straight from the Nazi playbook of the 30s.

"It's a shame that comparing politicians and their actions to Hitler has became a cliche everyone now is quick to ignore."

The trouble is that whenever person Y puts person X and Hitler in the same sentence, there will be news headlines that say, "Y compares X to Hitler". At that point it looks like Y suggested X would do something on the level of the Holocaust. If Y really just meant that X and Hitler provoked distrust of minorities, that nuanced message will get lost. Examples:




Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich is a good accompaniment, too.

There's a new trilogy by Richard J. Evans about the same subject. I have them sitting on my bookshelf but have yet to read them.

Apparently Shirer's book has drawn some criticism because he was a journalist and not a historian whereas Evans is a historian.


This is true, however I think its safe to say that most of his work was from primary sources, he kept extensive journals during the period and was also lucky enough to talk to several generals of OKW and get access to their journals. Not to mention that he also gained access to the Nuremberg trial records and German records (very well documented) after the war. Well worth the read.

wow. thought I'd be the only one to cite that here on HN, and I just did over in my own top-level comment, along with Hackers.

and agreed, it's particularly relevant today in helping to think about Trump and whether it's wise for Americans to vote him into power



How do you separate what is true from what is he biased about?

fair point, thanks for downvotes :) But do lookup the documents where Hitler clearly states that he forbids any violence against the jews. The real monsters were Goebbels, Goring and Himmler.

I give Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to High School graduates. It's a good book for that time in a person's life.

+1, but gave it to a someone who was quitting his job and about to take on an entirely new career

"How to read a book" should be the first book gift you ever give. It changed my life. https://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Book-Intelligent-Touchstone/...

i play a game where i have duplicate copies of some books to give to anyone interested who has yet to have heard of one

here's a incomprehensive list in alphabetical order:

a people's history of the united states; howard zinn

a rebours; joris-karl huysmans

alcestis; euripides

apology; plato

belaya staya; anna akhmatova

die verwandlung; franz kafka

elements; euclid

epic of gilgamesh; unknown

ficciones; jorge luis borges

fractals: form, chance and dimension; benoit mandelbrot

fragments; sappho

gospels of mary and judas; unknown

i ching; unknown

la vida es sueno; pedro calderon de la barca

leaves of grass; walt whitman

letters of vincent van gogh

meghaduta; kalidasa

my life; isadora duncan

nightwood; djuna barnes

oku no hosomichi; basho

one piece; eiichiro oda

poems; emily dickinson

relativity: the special and general theory; albert einstein

saga; fiona staples and brian k vaughan

the brothers karamazov; fyodor dostoyevsky, translated by constance garnett

the first third; neal cassady

the power of pi; stickman lagrou graves

the secret life of salvador dali; dali

the way of a pilgrim; unknown

twelth night; william shakespeare

thing explainer; randall munroe

ulysses; james joyce

women, race, and class; angela davis

if you want a quick description of any i enjoy talking about them, and i appreciate suggestions

Someone stole a A People's History of The United States from me at a party I hosted, and I don't mind at all. Hope they read it or gave it to someone who would.

one of the wildest first read throughs you will ever experience

especially if you come from an us educational upbringing where songs about oceans being blue(o) are historical place holders stead primary sources

the elucidation is immediate.. zinn's first paragraph has an excerpt from christopher columbus' log:

They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

fuck you chris

if you like zinn check out angela davis, her ability as a historian to find substantial sources is incredible

(o) http://www.teachingheart.net/columbus.htm

"Did Christopher Columbus ever make this statement?"


That book a strange ability to receive credit for ideas and sources that are not in it, which disturbs me but is a testament to its power to generate new memories and views of history in the minds of its readers.

a rebours is sick.

sick like, 'against the grain is dope yo'

or sick like, 'the decadence on display in against the grain is revolting'

I've given Alan Watts The Book to at least five people I thought could use it. Four of them never mentioned it again. I'm marrying the fifth next month.

heh. I tried to get my friends into Jiddu Krishnamurthi but unfortunately people in the west seem to have a pavlovian revulsion to eastern 'guru's from the east nowadays.

There seems to be some sort of strange obsession with applying the scientific method to psychological issues. Bunch of my friends started meditating because it is 'scientifically proven' to make them happy, make them rich, make them have good sex or whatever . Nevermind that all those "studies" are pure nonsense[1]. But people will buy anything with the stamp of science on it, they are not joking when they claim 'I believe in science not god' .

Congratulations on your wedding and for finding a compatible partner. That's really great!!

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19123875

I am glad to see somebody mentioning Jiddu Krishnamurti here. He is the most underrated and forgotten person, mainly due to his own insistence, but he made a tremendous difference to some lives. I've come across his books almost twenty years ago, I haven't read any of his books in years now, but his teachings(insights he shared, because he wouldn't like to be called a teacher ) are so well ingrained that I am reminded of them every day.

Similar to the OP of this thread, I didn't marry a person who said he finds his teachings dry :), I am now happily married to my spouse for twelve years who humbly says it is too difficult to really understand Jiddu.

Fantastic book! I got my copy from my grandmother and have given away multiple copies since.

My favorite concepts from "The Book" are the Wiggles and the Net, exploring the idea that so many modern pressures and stresses are human created and are therefore open to change.

His live lectures, recorded in the 1960s, are great as well. Audible carries various collections: http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_search_c4_1_16_1_srAuth?...


"A short history of nearly everything" by Bill Bryson. The best science book I've ever read, recommended for anyone.

Bryson has a wonderful way of dealing with academic subjects that most would find boring and making them both interesting and approachable. I recommend this book as well.

Eric Fromm's The Art of Loving.

It's my grandmas favorite non-fiction and she's read over 1000 books. She gave it to me and it sat on my shelf for months because the title wasn't appealing and I'm not a big book reader. Since I read it, I've now bought a second version of this book and give it to friends to read.

It's a technical write-up about Love in the general sense. Fromm pitches the idea that love is an art rather than a feeling.

I highly recommend the read. This book discusses the topic in a serious and insightful way.

I have given away ~20 "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson over the years.

It is a great little book, which deals with how we handle change in our lives (work and other) and how we sometimes fail to see, when it is time to move on.

My favorite one-sentence takeaway from the book is the question: "What would you do, if you were not afraid?" - which has helped me make hard decisions many times over the years.


The reviews on goodreads[1] are hilarious. Ordered it right away, though I mostly don't read books that I order, so...

1. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4894.Who_Moved_My_Cheese_

In my previous life, MD of company I worked for gave a copy of Who Moved My Cheese to all 300+ employees. Great read.

"Ishmael, An Adventure of Mind and Spirit" by Daniel Quinn. The book that created and destroyed the Turner Tomorrow Foundation Fellowship Award. It will make you examine some of the most profound myths at the center of our civilization and how those myths will determine our destiny, for better or for worse. It's a book that changed the way I think fundamentally. I will never be the same because of it.

Curious about that "created and destroyed" bit.

I found this at NY Times:


I think Quinn's win and the controversy Styron stirred up afterward shut down the award. After all, there were 2500 manuscripts to start with. Quinn's next novel, The Story of B addressed some of the criticism Styron (and others) had. I think it might be even better than Ishmael because of it.

Also the book that inspired the name Animals as Leaders.

This has been my most recommended book lately.

I'm surprised there aren't more philosophy-oriented books mentioned here. I think they make great gifts.

Many of my friends are straight out of university, and it's a period where most people seem to start asking existential questions. The two books which have affected me greatly (and which I regularly give as gifts) are:

* Meditations by Marcus Aurelius * Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

The Selfish Gene - fundamental world-view shaker

I'll second this. The book provides some fundamental ideas, sort of first principles, that anyone can use to prove to themselves the workings of evolution, and perhaps the inevitability.

Another is CODE, by Petzold. It explains computers from the ground (literally) up. After reading this, one can go buy some magnets, relays, and wire and proceed to build a rudimentary computer.

I think The Extended Phenotype is a better choice. It contains the central insight of The Selfish Gene, and then adds a lot on top of it.

I've never read that one - I'll add it to my list!

Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I pay it forward.

Stopped smoking six years ago and haven't had the desire to start again since. it feels great.

I actually played the nintendo DS adaptation of the book, which was also available on ios for a while.

it turned all the points the book was trying to make into a series of minigames that really illustrated the principles beautifully.

Yes that's a great book. I am still amazed how well it worked for me. I was a chain smoker smoking 40 cigs a day, and then I read the book and poof! I stopped for good.

I second this! I've recommended this to countless people. Did you guys find that a lot of people are really skeptical that a book can have such an impact? It certainly worked wonders for me as well.

I was skeptical at first too. But man, was I wrong! I have recommended it to about four or five friends so far. Only one read it till the end. And it didn't work so well on him, even though he reduced smoking. Did the book work on your friends who read it completely?

I have one other friend (the only one of them all to actually read) and it was just as effective for him as it was me. I'm now trying to get my sister to read it. The hard part seems to be getting people to pick it up and stick it through.

Best of luck getting your sis to quit :-)

thank you :)

Quick question, how did the book influence you to stop smoking?

Not OP, but I stopped thanks to this book (the French translation) as well.

It does not try to make smokers feel guilty or use the usual rethoric of addict = weak. What really make it click for me was its deconstruction of the addiction mechanism. After reading the book, when I wanted a cigarette I knew exactly why, and I was convinced the feeling would fade quickly and subsequent occurrences would get milder as well.


It's been a while since I read it, but didn't this book have a section in it about how you shouldn't lend people your own copy, but buy a fresh one?

I've given out a few copies of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them. So far, the recipients have done well after reading it. It really clued them into the hidden meaning behind common corporate-speak.


The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Player_of_Games

I've been scrolling through all the comments, seeing if someone mentioned the late great Mr Banks. His Culture books are almost perfect hard sci-fi in my opinion, and his contemporary collection contain some amazing books (The Wasp Factory, and The Bridge immediately come to mind).

A Friend lent me this and I never gave it back (Sorry Tony!) The first chapter was so hard going I didnt read it for two years then wham! What an awesome book, sex, violence, deception, robots and starships with a bloody good ending to boot, definitely in my top five novels of any genre.

I'm a fan of Iain M. Banks and have gifted this one. It reminds me a lot of Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.

It's still my favorite book on business, a short easy read filled with anecdotes from his time running CD Baby. The situations are ones I keep encountering myself running a small business, and the way the stories are written makes them highly memorable & applicable. If I can't decide between opportunities, I remember "Hell Yeah! or No." If I'm working on fraud screening, I remember "Don't Punish Everyone For One Person's Mistake". When working on an MVP and feel it isn't big enough, I'm reminded of "Start Now. No Funding Needed." And it has my favorite twist ending in business.

It's the first book I've specifically bought multiple copies of to give away, including to clients.

Douglas Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach

FWIW, I received this book as a gift. It's a fantastic book, but I probably wouldn't give it to someone studying or practicing programming or computer science today. For a high schooler with a budding interest, or for people who like to ponder math, science, philosophy and CS but haven't studied CS directly, it'd be a great gift. For a college or post college CS major, GEB spends so much of its time explaining topics that are now well known and well covered in class that the delight of discovery in the book is a bit lost and wasn't as exciting to read as it could have been if I'd read it earlier.

The book is pretty old, yes, and many of the topics are not uptodate any more (I just cannot believe how fast genetic research has developed in the last 20 years and the Internet was not even there when the book was written). But then - GEB never was a book for the classroom to teach computer science. The original intention, as confirmed by the author in the preface of a german anniversary edition of GEB in 2015, was to provide a graspable access to Gödels proof for a general audience. The project then escalated from an intended essay to the epic work it is.

I read it at the age of 19, multiple times, and for me it was the ultimate primer for everything: whatever you deal with, take it apart, change the context in which you are looking at it, look from the distance, look close and from all sides, extract patterns and apply them somewhere else, combine, prescind, generalize, play, be curious about each and everything and then - while reading the book, and on other occasions in life - enjoy brief moments of epiphany. And for this purpose - to open the mind for another perception of everything - GEB is timeless.

I gave it as a gift to a colleague at work, with whom I regularly ended up in funny, crazy scientific discourses. And I keep two shrink-wrapped copies from 1989 for each of my two kids - if I am gone and the kids ever want to know how I perceived the world, they just have to break the seal and read.

GEB is not about learning something that can be covered in class; it is about achieving enlightenment.

A nice book to pair with GEB is /From Frege to Godel: A Source Book in Mathematical Logic/. Certainly also better for someone who might find GEB a bit too idiosyncratic.

And, of course, if you want to simply read the proof, there's Nagel's /Gödel's Proof/.

I tried to read this book but never quite understood it. What's it really about?

It's about the thing it's about.

Maybe you should add "spoiler alert"? ;)

Nah. if you haven't read GEB, your brain won't evaluate the previous statement correctly, and you won't gain any information.

Neurolinguistic hacking! (it works, just ask Stephenson)(JOKE)

Yeah, right, I know, your comment was hilarious! I was adding joke to joke, but I guess I failed, someone else even downvoted my bad joke. Did my smiley make it feel snarky?

Look, I don't know. I didn't down you.

At its base, it's an exploration of how a conscious mind can arise from unconscious matter. For anyone who's attempted to read the thing and never quite gotten what Hofstadter's on about, the central theme is encapsulated in the dialogue ... Ant Fugue, with the emergence of the character Aunt Hillary from her component ants, who don't directly participate in "her" consciousness. Literally everything else is a long explanation -- from various angles -- of how, given sufficient complexity, the rules don't adequately describe the system, and the system need not be aware of the rules that give it rise. The mathematics, computer science, music, art and "spirituality" are all frames of reference for exploring and (to a limited extent) proving the central thesis: consciousness is an emergent phenomenon.

Thinking about thinking.

Recursion, formal languages, math, the general structure of things.

I've given a copy of 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb', Rhodes, and lent a copy that didn't come back. The gift recipient has urged the book on various managers, as the book has much to teach of scientific and technical management, as well as much, much more.

Along the same lines, I'd recommend 'The Rickover Effect'.

"Freakonomics" by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Great book about how and why people respond to incentives. A lot of good examples told through fascinating stories supported by data.

Don't shoot the dog, by Karen Pryor, about operand conditioning, the effects of positive and negative reinforcement. This is a fun book, and very informative.

Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman is amazing.

I was going to say the same thing. "What Do You Care What Other People Think", another Feynman book, is also pretty good.

I've always loved the book, I recently gave it to a co-worker with somewhat Feynman-like qualities. He reciprocated with 'The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century', Salsburg.

I've literally just bought someone "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami. It was the first Murakami book I read, and I've read plenty since. Wonderful.

I read Murakami books not because they are entirely entertaining WHILE I'm reading them, but because the dream-like memory of the experience sticks in your mind for years.

Wow, you aren't kidding. After reading your comment I tried to recall Wind-Up Bird, and got the same sensation.

This exactly. Even his non surrealist books are haunting and oppressive. Wonderful fiction.

Hyperion by Dan Simmonds. It, and the follow-up Fall of Hyperion, are by far and away my favourite sci-fi books.

Given them to 5+ people over the years and every one has loved them.

I was gifted my copy, and have gifted 3 copies to others now. Pay it forward :)

I found each of these invaluable at different points in my life. YMMV

Biz - the Personal MBA - Josh Kaufman - http://amzn.to/2aFsj3c

Org - the Fifth Discipline - Peter Senge - http://amzn.to/2aNpbQz

SciFi - Perdido Street Station - China Mieville - http://amzn.to/2aNoWFn

Parenting - The Continuum Concept - Jean Liedloff - http://amzn.to/2aZEAAL

The software-related books I've given most often are Gerald Weinberg's 'Becoming a Technical Leader', Brook's 'Mythical Man Month', Demarco and Lister's 'Peopleware', Hunt and Thomas 'The Pragmatic Programmer', and Mconnell's 'Code Complete'.

I always have copies of George Orwell's "Animal Farm" to give out. As I get older, I love seeing younger people flip out when they read it and see how applicable it is in modern life.

Great book, one of the few I enjoyed the first time around reading it. I had to read it for school and I strongly believe that required reading for school has a way of ruining a book for children. There have been a handful of required books that I re-read when I got older and enjoyed immensely more (and found more applicable).

Can confirm that as a younger generation representative. Read it like five times already. I liked it more than 1984 and I have two copies of it in my book shelf (English version, and translated to my local language).

Having read at least one history book about the Soviet Union, I'd recommend you not waste your time with Animal Farm and read an actual history book instead. The plot is basically ripped from Russian history, as it was intended to be a critique of Stalinism.

My taste for Orwell's two most read, Animal Farm and 1984 was especially dulled after I read his non-fiction masterpiece Homage To Catalonia which is a harrowing lesson in realpolitik and the socialist infighting of the 1930's.


1984 and Animal Farm aren't important for their historical allegories but their statements about the nature of society, and are just as poignant when applied to today's society as they were about the Soviet Union.

Homage To Catalonia is a wonderful book. I would also highly recommend checking out Down and Out in Paris and London and Burmese Days (two works of fiction loosely based on events from his real life experiences).

Gift? Not quite, but I enthusiastically offer my copies of Simon Singh's books up for loan when anyone sounds vaguely interested. "The Code Book" is a great history of cryptography and "Fermat's Last Theorem" is a good history of the problem and its eventual solution.


I actually just finished "Fermat's Last Enigma" after reading "The Code Book" 2 years ago.

He's an excellent author who begins all of his books with the premise that the lay person will be reading it. He even makes this explicit in Fermat's Last Enigma.

He gives the reader an amazing depth of knowledge by gradually building on very simple examples and explanations which still can intrigued someone with deep technical knowledge.

Coming into "Fermat's Last Enigma", I had two years of higher level math, number theory, discrete math, and linear algebra. I still learned so much about Mathematics, the progress of the field, and proofs of simple things like Pythagorean triples.

Singh is the best scientific writer, truly.

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

It opened the doors to the remote lifestyle for me and led me to switch to careers to tech (due to the abundance of remote opportunities) and to embrace a new kind of lifestyle.


What career field did you transition from?

I was a talent buyer for the live music industry - booking bands for a music venue. Involved being physically at the space a few times a week.

And here I am trying to transition going from tech into music (as a musician though - we'll see how it goes). Any words of wisdom from your side of the music bench?

You can definitely do both! I still perform music as well. I went from performer -> music industry pro -> programmer. Making money as a performer was definitely the toughest. But it pairs well w/ tech work if you can do your job during the day and play at night. If you're trying to make it in rock music, you'll be disgusted at how little has to do w/ how good you are or how good your music is. It's very much who you know and how well you can promote yourself. If you're trying to make it in jazz/classical it's more of a meritocracy so just practice a lot and you'll get gigs. Good luck!

Books I found so amazing that I actually bought copies and given them as a gift (in some cases to multiple people):

* Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier--eye opening list of vegetables that come back year after year

* The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz. Somewhat presumptuously, I bought multiple copies and sent them to some of my friends/acquaintances that were CEOs.

* Climate Wars, by Gwynne Dyer. This mix of fiction and non fiction really brought the climate change crisis to my attention.

My personal favourite that I've given as a gift is Thomas Glover's Pocket Ref [0]. Its easily the most useful thing you can buy for anyone in engineering, fabrication or just generally a tinkerer. I've loved my copy since I was given it as a kid.

[0] - https://www.amazon.com/Pocket-Ref-4th-Thomas-Glover/dp/18850...

It's tough finding books that don't send a message to the receiver. I particularly remember a colleague expressing disappointment at whichever secret Santa gave him The Fountainhead at the office Christmas party (he was pretty left wing).

The four I remember gifting were Asimov's entire Foundation series, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, The Phantom Major by Virginia Cowles and See you in November by Peter Stiff.

HA, I gave Atlas Shrugged to my boss and told her it was because she really reminded me of Dagny Taggart -- she was really happy about it, as far as I can tell

A couple years ago a friend gave me 'It Starts With Food' and after reading it I bought it for at least a half-dozen of my friends. It was truly life changing for me and my approach to food and health. Within a couple weeks I went from having hypertension/pre-hypertension to normal blood pressure and over the course of 6 months or so I lost 40 lbs. Changing my diet to 'whole' foods redefined for me what hunger was. My daily diet had been one of going from one sugar high to the next. What I interpreted as hunger and a big appetite were in fact cravings for sugar.

Admittedly, it may be a bit below the reading level for the average user here but I can't recommend this book enough. Especially for those of us that sit in front of a computer all day. Take a look at the reviews at Amazon which are numerous and nearly unanimous. Do yourself a favour and give it read.


Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds.

Set in a mediaeval China that never existed (but should have), it's the story of how village peasant Number Ten Ox and the ancient sage Master Li (who has a slight flaw in his character) go on a quest to save the children of his village from a plague which can count... and the other quest which they find themselves part of.

On the way you'll learn how to make a fortune with a goat, how not to cook porcupine, the best way to move rocks using only a corpse, why you should always be polite to ginseng, and the true meaning of courage. You'll meet ghosts, monsters, and gods --- and they're typically less bizarre than the human cast, which contains such jewels as the Ancestress, Miser Shen, the Old Man of the Mountain, Lotus Cloud and of course, the inimitable Ma the Grub and Pawnbroker Fang...

It's by parts hilarious, touching, gripping, and there are parts that will make you cry from sheer beauty. Read this book.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I learned a lot from that novel

Like what?

"The Defining Decade" by Meg Jay to anyone in their twenties.

Shameless plug -I posted a summary here: https://rkirti.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/learnings-from-the-d...

Motivating the Middle [0] by T.J. Sullivan

It's a relatively short book and it's focus is on college fraternities (which is what I was in when I first read it). I bought about 20 copies and handed them out after reading it. While it has nothing to do with software development I have found it's core message to be applicable to working on a team. The core message is you can normally divide your organization up into 3 categories, these will not necessarily be equal in size. These categories are the highly motivated "top" go-getters who will do everything they can to help further the org, the "middle" who with the right motivation can work just as hard and be just as driven as the first group, and the "bottom" who rarely make more than minimum effort if that and are extremely unlikely to go out of their way for the greater good of the org. The book suggests to more or less ignore the bottom and spend your energy on "motivating the middle" to use them to their greatest potential. It says that spending your time on the bottom is a fruitless endeavor and will only result in alienating the middle people who are somewhat on the fence.

Now this applies much more to a community-run (in this case student-run) organization where letting someone go is often off the table (in greek life removing a brother/sister can be a much bigger challenge than one might assume). I do not bring any of this up to debate the pros and cons of greek like of which there are many (you can talk to me privately if you wish to do that), but just to bring some clarity to what I'm trying to say.

Often as an employee not in a managerial role you are in a similar situation and while I'd be a lier if I said I always applied this logic but I do try to always remember that being annoyed/angry with under-performers is, in all honesty, a zero-sum game. It's best to focus on what I can do to make the place I work better and work to bring the "middle" to want the same.

It's probably not the best book to bring up here but it's really the only book I'd ever bought for more than 1 person (and the only one that I didn't by for purely entertainment/enjoyment reasons, I've gifted fiction books on a number of occasions).

[0] https://smile.amazon.com/Motivating-Middle-Fighting-College-...

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt https://mises.org/library/economics-one-lesson

It's focus is to get people thinking about 2nd and 3rd order effects. It's very simple and well written.

Replay by Ken Grimwood.


It's ground hog day, but on a lifetime scale. The search for happiness and what it means to be happy.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett + lots of the Discworld novels (also by Terry Pratchett).

The latter have become one of the basic building blocks of my life.


Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0321934113/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_1Y6P...

"Calvin and Hobbes: there is treasure everywhere"

This book was amazing.

I gave Stafford Beer's "Think Before You Think" [1] as a gift because I didn't seem to understand any of the book, so I gave it to someone smarter than me in the hope she would eventually explain it to me. I've forgotten to follow up on that.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Think-Before-You-Complexity-Knowledge...

(Edit: I just looked at the Amazon page and realized the book seems to cost about $200 used -- can that be true...?! I think I paid $30 for it. Maybe I should have kept it.)

Antifragile by Taleb

The Black Swan by Taleb

Thinking Fast & Slow by Kahneman

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Diamond

The World According To Monsanto by Robin

The Organized Mind by Levitin

The Vital Question by Lane

Life Ascending by Lane

Chasing the Scream by Hari

Anything By Gladwell.

_The Book With No Pictures_ by BJ Novak. It's a great book for friends with kids under 6 or so. You can see the author reading the beginning here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cREyQJO9EPs

I've given probably 10 copies to family and friends with kids and it's been universally liked.


I tend to either give "The Belgeriad" or "Mistborn" as a gift to people who want to get into Fantasy.

I think when Rothfuss releases his final Kingkiller Chronicle book it might be my new intro series :)

Why did you have to remind me about Kingkiller Chronicle :(

Also Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings (fantasy and same author as Mistborn). The audio books are really good.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Alexander Osterwalder's Business Model Generation [0]

[0] http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/book

I buy books that catch my interest when I'm travelling and then give them to people I meet who I think will appreciate them. I'm so tired of giving books to family that then never read them. Anyway, books I've given recently (last 3 months):

The Dominant Man: The Pecking Order of Human Society https://www.amazon.com/dominant-man-pecking-order-society/dp...

__ Completely changed my perspective on social interaction. I've been trying to get people to read this but the title sounds very non-pc. Got it for 1AUD on a second hand book table somewhere, it's very dry though and mostly just presents evidence without drawing conclusions.

Cat's Craddle - Kurt Vonnegut __ I love the word Karass. Lots of travelers like this book.

When Nietzsche wept __ Amazing book, the amount of strategy in their conversations is amazing and the book is just high quality. Best to know some stuff about Nietzsche and that era before you read it though.

Teach us to sit still - Tim Parks __ Not something you'd give to anyone but if the person is a little intrigued by meditation then this book will probably get them to start doing it.

Why the West Rules for Now: The patterns of history and what they reveal about the future __ I had learned the history of certain periods in certain locations but this book brought it all together into a cohesive narrative. Highly recommended if you want to start inquiring into history but don't know where to start.

Carlos Castaneda's series on learning shamanism __ I dunno what to think of this. I can believe that the guy actually experienced what he's writing, it's just too much to make up imo. Anyway I'd recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy, religion or meditation because it's just such a radically different perspective on how to live life and the meaning of enlightenment.


I also have a long list of books that I've seen recommended here or recommendations from people I've met all over the world that I use for inspiration when I need to give gifts for Christmas or something but I haven't read them yet so I won't mention them here.

Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome. It's historical fiction, set in Rome a few years before Julius Caesar was born. I began reading it to see what I could learn about how war was waged by the romans and was absolutely dazed by the political and social intricacies exposed.

One of the most welcome gifts I've ever bought. One friend told me he had rediscovered the pleasure of reading; another read the full Masters of Rome series shortly after. Really good feedback.

Terry Pratchett's Night Watch is also one of my favorites to give. Although when asked if it is the first of a series people tend to be somewhat surprised by the answer: I send them a graph spanning all the Discworld books[1]. Night Watch is in no way the first but I've found it to be a good starter and the order is not that important in Pratchett's books.

Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. Already mentioned by someone. Some translations have an incredibly lyrical prose, but you've got to be careful with the one you buy.

[1] http://images6.fanpop.com/image/photos/38700000/The-Discworl...

Fiction: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is beautifully written and I've recommended it to many people. I've gotten lost in Carlos' worlds over and over again, and the cemetery of forgotten books is mesmerizing.

Humor: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I've recommended this to many friends who needed a good laugh. I don't remember another book that made me laugh so hard that I dropped the book.

Non-fiction: this one's a tough one because many good books are mentioned already, but two that I really enjoyed and have recommended in the last year are: Boyd by Robert Coram and How the Other Half Banks by Mehrsa Baradaran. Boyd tells the story about a brilliant but petulant air force pilot who rewrote the guidelines of US military aviation. How the Other Half Banks is an eye opening account of how broken our banking system is and the history of how we got to where we are.

Business: again, a lot of good books are mentioned already, but two I've enjoyed are Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg and Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. Both are fascinating books that'll leave you thinking about how to improve your own game.


Bonus: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a tremendous piece. It's a short read but a must read!

Atlas Shrugged

Just kidding. I did give a friend The Go Programming Language by Donovan & Kernighan, though

Fiction: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny.

Non-Fiction: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Technical: The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Richie

I'd forgotten, but back in the day I gave several people the Science Fiction Bookclub omnibus edition of the first five Amber books. Seems like you could always find them in used bookstores...

This Saturday as a birthday present for a 14 year old friend of mine, who haven't been reading so much lately:

* Persepolis, first version

* Dark Angel, by David Klass

I've just started reading "Flowers for Algernon", I guess this can also be a good birthday present. I think gifting books is something very difficult, in my experience I never wanted to get books for present.

Bradbury: Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band Is Playing & Leviathan '99

Gleick: The Information

Michener: The Source

Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire (all of them, digital)

I gifted all books of A Song of Ice and Fire (hard coopies) to a friend. The sad part is he hasn't read them yet, even though he loves books and he loves the show

Just read The Source. What an epic whirlwind of historical fiction. Good call.

I read it in high school and I still remember how enchanting it was some fifteen years on. What a great look through historical epochs. I need to put it on my short list to reread.

I read it before and during a trip to Israel. Changed the way I saw everything.

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