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Ask HN: Interesting (Non software) books?
118 points by froo on March 29, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 182 comments
I was wondering what books people could recommend that would be relevant to the HN community and aren't related to software?

Don't miss sivers's great list: http://sivers.org/book

As for mine,

Science Fiction (I like these authors so I'd recommend most of their books -- listing which ones I think are a good 'starter novel' for them):

  Charles Stross: Halting State
  Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon The Deep
  Iain M. Banks: Culture novels, start with Player of Games
  David Louis Edelman: Jump 225 Trilogy
  Daniel Suarez: Daemon and Freedom(tm)
  John Scalzi: Old Man's War series
  Dan Simmons: Hyperion

  The Talent Code
  Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
  Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

  Amusing Ourselves To Death (highly recommended)
  The Science of Fear
  The Black Swan
  Tokyo Vice
  Racing The Beam (Atari history, very cool)
  books by Daniel Pink
  Guns, Germs, and Steel
  The Prize by Daniel Yergin

Anything by Gaiman or China Mieville, pretty much.

EDIT: links to previews (legally) available online

Charles Stross's Accelerando (entire book): http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelera...

David Louis Edelman's Infoquake (1st 7 chapters): http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/jump225/infoquake/

Good stuff in the SciFi section there! The culture novels in particular are great! My favorite Culture novel so far is 'Use of Weapons'...

Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid http://www.amazon.com/Godel-Escher-Bach-Eternal-Golden/dp/04...

It's taken me 6 months to get through 1/3 of the book.

You will not be wasting your time poking around the great stuff in http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/index.html

One of my favorites is Caesar's The Gallic Wars, because it's so amazing that we have his very own account: http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/gallic.html

Josephus' account of The Jewish Wars is amazing.

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations is a must-read: http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html

It's amazing how many good historical works are out of copyright and free. I got an Amazon Kindle as a gift, and it's been really wonderful for me.

If you like Roman history, you've got to check out Gibbons' History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It's just a masterpiece. I flip through my copy of Meditations from time to time (actually, now I look at it on my Kindle, but I used to flip through my paper copy) and just pick out random quotes. A great work. "It is not the thing itself that disturbs a man, but the man's perception of and reaction to the thing. The thing may not be able to be changed, but a man's perception and reaction may be changed." I'm butchering that quote, but it's incredibly meaningful to me, and I try to reflect on it when things seem to be going wrong or I get inconvenienced.

While talking about classics, there's a lot of good philosophy out of copyright. Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra aren't perfect works and I disagree with a fair bit of it, but there's some absolute jewels in them too.

Lately I've been looking for a decent electronic copy of Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents and Kierkegaard's Either/Or, but I've been having a hard time finding copies that are decently formatted and readable.

Also, got any other recommendations Staunch? I'm going to get Gallic Wars, and it seems like you and I have similar taste if you have other recommendations.

Second for Meditations. I'm slowly reading it, reflecting on the passages. Seems like the way to read it.

It's a bit like an ancient Roman Twitter account.

Along these lines, Herodotus is a blast, and Polybius very much worth reading.

Herman Hesse - The Glass Bead Games (though I would hazard to say any of his famous five are worth reading - haven't got round to them all myself yet, though)

I read The Glass Bead Games after I happened across Timothy Leary's "The Politics of Ecstasy" (a good read but not great - his ignorance/arrogance get's in the way all too often). The thing that switched me onto HH was TLs insistance that the man had achieved enlightenment: I figured that was not to be missed!

HH won the Nobel Proze for literature shortly after it's publication, and I cannot overstate the majesty of this book - it is simply awe inspiring. Easy to read, with a persuasive storyline that seduces the reader into an abominably utopian world of intellectual rule (Epistocracy?).

I won't ruin it for any readers. The basic thrust of the tale is the student becoming the master in a world where the highest grand masters (of "the game") are revered with something approaching religious zeal.

It changed me. Fundamentally. Before reading it I was naive and starry eyed about what education could achieve, now I'm more aware than ever that humanity, educated or not, is still just a many faced beast. All these trappings of wealth, power, and intellect are just reigns temporarily thrown around this rampaging behemoth.

It's not so much an epiphany of despair or futility, strangely it is somehow quite the opposite. It's a realease. I can't quite explain it. It's something that sends me into wild flights of lyrical rhetoric about the nature of humanity and my own part in it. I don't think there is anything better that you can ask from a book.

Books about Richard Feynman, or essays, etc. by him. "Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman!" in particular. I guess, this is unfair, as eventually he did get into software/hardware, but....

"Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman!" can be found here: http://www.gorgorat.com/

Agreed, and look up some Youtube videos while you're at it. This man understood science and the world with fantastic insight.

I strongly recommend _QED_ by richard feynman.

I'll repost my suggestion from the last "great reads" thread on HN.


The Bet by Anton Chekhov

You can read it here: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Bet.shtml

It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. It's so fantastically misanthropic, I cannot recommend it enough.

The polemic against society at the end is just epic.

I read this story in high school and several years later I had a strong urge to read it again. I couldn't remember the title or the author, so I paid someone $10 on Google Answers to identify it. Highly recommended.

Thank you! That was very enjotable

I'm a big fan of Sci-Fi because I feel it makes people think about what they want the future to be, as well as avoiding the re-hashing of historical and current events that many fiction books set in the present do. With that in mind a list of great books to read:

  The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson
  Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
  Gridlinked - Neal Asher
  Neuromancer - William Gibson
  The Reality Dysfunction - Peter F. Hamilton
  The Dreaming Void - Peter F. Hamilton
  Fallen Dragon - Peter F. Hamilton
  Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan
  Market Forces - Richard Morgan
  Blindsight - Peter Watts
  The Electric Church - Jeff Somers
  Tunnel in the Sky - Robert A. Heinlein
  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein
  1984 - George Orwell

I also liked most of those. I'm just reading Blindsight, wonderful.

The only one I hated was "Market forces" by Morgan. It felt like reading "The Pilgrim's Progress", but with Chomsky as Jesus -- a little bit too heavy handed in political propaganda. For that kind of stuff done in a fascinating way, check Ken MacLeod's "The Stone Canal" and following.

(Asher got a little too much of Space Opera for me, in the end.)

For sf, I'd add Greg Egan (Stross has been mentioned multiple times).

I'd also like to recommend the worst author I used to buy books in hardcover from -- Robert L Forward. The guy couldn't have written a believable character to save his life, but he had some cool physics ideas. RIP.

For fantasy, which I didn't see mentioned, I'd add Scott Lynch, most stuff by Jack Vance, the black company series (Glen Cook), Joe Abercrombie and Vlad Taltos (Brust).

Dawkins' Selfish Gene has been mentioned. Steven Pinker was interesting.

Edit: Re Schoeder, I've heard good things but not read anything yet. Thanks for advice and kick to start.

Strongly agree on Greg Egan. "Schild's Ladder" is one of the best 'hard' SF novels I've ever read!

I can see how you'd feel that way about Market Forces. Personally what I liked most in that book was the way the main character developed/changed over the course of the story. That being said I would consider it on the 'lighter' end of the SF spectrum, but I still think it's an interesting exploration of a society taken to the extreme.

I was probably extra angry because I bought it in hard covers instead of waiting. :-)

Greg Egan writes fantastic stuff.

Another really good book is Ventus by Karl Schroeder. It's phenomenally entertaining and has some really interesting ideas in it.

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape Brian Hayes


This book is a "how it works" guide to the infrastructure of modernity: the power grid, mining, steel production, etc. Great photographs & readable text. I read it cover to cover and was enriched thereby.

I don't know what you mean by "related to software". I'm going to take a narrow definition that you mean related to the process of writing, designing, tracking, etc. So something like Information Rules on the economic theory of pricing software products is OK. Or a classic on managing software developers like Peopleware is OK.

Some other general business books I like include The Innovator's Dilemma, The Innovator's Solution and First, Break all the Rules. A non-software specific design book I highly recommend is The Design of Everyday Things. Even though it is geared towards manufacturing related industries, I'm also very fond of Winning at New Products.

If you haven't already you should learn more about negotiation. Even if your only negotiation is negotiating a new job every several years, reading a book on it is very worthwhile. If you can negotiate yourself an extra $1000 bonus, once, the book has paid for itself with interest. The two books I recommend there are Start with No and Bargaining for Advantage. I'd recommend the first if you need a general purpose bargaining strategy and aren't experienced. I'd recommend the second if you're an experienced bargainer who is looking to improve.

A few years back I read The Prince by Machiavelli. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

For general interest for anyone who likes math I strongly recommend The Mathematical Experience by Davis and Hersch. My summary of it is that Godel, Escher, Bach is the book that non-mathematicians have on their coffee table book, while The Mathematical Experience is the one that mathematicians have.

Lots of people gave sci-fi recommends for you. To those I'll add Peter Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction series and Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan series. Furthermore if you haven't seen it yet, go to an IMAX and see Hubble 3D. If you ever dreamed of space, you need to see it. Really.

For random science fact, I like Jared Diamond. I like virtually everything by Stephen J. Gould. I recently re-read Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and still love that.

I could list more, but that's enough for the moment.

I would second Reality Dysfunction. The series is very well written, and takes some interesting ideas on technology, genetics and human modification and pushes them through to interesting endpoints. Well thumbed copies are on my bookshelf.

The Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz -- a conquistador who traveled with the Cortes expedition to Mexico City to overthrow King Montezuma. Incredible, true story written by someone who has actually there. An unknown land; the clash of two cultures; the clash of two religions; temples to angry gods; hoardes of gold in hidden rooms; human sacrifices; alliances; mutinies; enslavement; first description of Tenochtitlan, the city on the lake; the destruction of Tenochtitlan; and more.

You probably won’t find it under that name though. The title in Spanish is La Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de la Nueva España, or in English, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain.

It’s especially fun to compare it to the accounts written by historians in Spain who had never been to New Spain, and didn’t know anything about anything.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I am reading that right now, as recommended by I don't know how many people and I have to say that while it started out interesting, I find it increasingly more boring with every page. Which annoys me because it seems that everybody else gets something out of this book that I am simply not.

you are trying too hard. finish the book first. Go back and read sections that pricked your interest or you found absurd (or whatever).

I just cannot understand why people here like that book so much. Maybe it's because of my eastern background and because I drank too much spiritual koolaid when I was younger, but that book is full of the same old eastern mysticism wrapped up in language that probably appeals to philosophical "hackers". I mean, how can you like stuff where the protagonist is being so self-righteous and condescending to a 10-year old?

Can someone summarize this book? I've heard about it a bunch of times, but I don't know what it is about.

The scientific process can be formalized, even taught to a machine, however the hypothesis-generation step is a human, artistic, creative process.

This book is about reconciling this, and thus reconciling rationality, art, and religion with one another, though the religious part isn't touched on all that much. The author goes on to suggest an idea that "quality" is the fundamental force in the universe. As an example of this idea-application in practice, the author says to open the Tao Te Ching and replace "the way"(etc..) with "quality", and then see how much it makes sense.

While insightful, it really is a bit silly. But don't let that get you down on the book -- the book is well worth your time to read. The material is really very interesting. I am certain you will love it.

Thanks very much. I will.

Yes. I think I must have heard this recommended over 10 times but I've never made any effort to get a copy because I'm not interested in motorcycle maintenance. Is that a legitimate reason not to read it?

i'm trying to come up with the right analogy to explain why it isn't and coming up short. if you can imagine a book, work of art, whatever, that explains something other than its obvious subject matter obliquely yet simply & elegantly, this is that sort of book. perhaps analogous to reading some lisp or haskell code that solves a problem you don't care about at all...but realizing that the algorithms were beautiful, appropriate, concise, and powerful despite that? motorcycle maintenance is just a path, metaphor, example used in exploring different outlooks on life (i'd say, the hacker ethic versus the walmart ethic; DIY versus throwaway one-size fits all.)

i am also uninterested in motorized transport in general, but have read that book three times and it is the only book i've ever read twice in a row.

Just finished reading Lila, the sequel.

Describes a very interesting conceptual framework, with a division between intellect, biology and society.

Highly recommended.

This is not a good source of information. The author repudiates the key themes in the sequel.

I think that the book is obviously not true in the sense of being a true/false sort of book. For example, it does not offer a good argument for its views.

However, I think the Chautauqua theme is enlightening. For me, the book was a "mind-shaper", if you'll allow me such a term. It didn't convince me, but what it taught me was tangential to what the book was actually saying.

I guess another way of saying it is that, for me, the journey taught me something very valuable, whereas the destination was a bit silly.

* Daniel Quinn - Beyond Civilization (an easy read about what's wrong with today's society, why, and how to fix it. Not political, rather what you can do yourself. It was a real eye-opener to me)

* Jared Diamond - Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Jared Diamond is a geographer who writes about societies and civilizations, and how they tackle changing conditions)

* Herfried Münkler - Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States (Münkler writes about different historical and contemporary empires and hegemonies, why they did what they did, and why they failed early or managed to stay for centuries. Very non-political and matter-of-factly)

* Ursula K. LeGuin - The Word for World is Forest, The Earthsea Saga (Science Fiction/Fantasy, LeGuin is pretty different from most sci-fi-writers. Earthsea is pretty standard magicians/dragons-fantasy, though)

* Ryszard Kapuściński - Travels with Herodotus (Kapuściński was a Polish journalist who traveled a lot. Here, he tries to walk in Herodotus' foot-steps. Basically, a modern day Herodotus)

* Jules Verne - All of his books are worth reading. Visionary and engaging.

A few that I've read recently and liked:

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Mostly about cognitive biases. Helps you think better by knowing your shortcomings.

Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand

About protecting the environment, but with interesting takes on nuclear power, GMOs, cities and slums, etc.

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

Made me re-think a lot of things about food. Despite the "pop-science" title, this is a well researched book that looks at countless studies from the past 150 years.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheier by Martin Sherwin and Kai Bird

A biography of Robert Oppenheimer. Fascinating man.

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

A must read. Evolutionary psychology.

Richard Dawkins' "Selfish Gene" and "God Delusion" are excellent reads.

The Selfish Gene was probably the most important book I ever read. It fundamentally changed my understanding of the world.

There are a number of problems with the God Delusion. The attitude its abhorrent, some of the arguments are bad, and its too long. Not worth it, IMO. There must be better pro-atheism books out there.

I don't agree that the arguments in the God Delusion are too bad. He does take some real liberties with Aquinas, but all the scholarly dressing you apply to Aquinas doesn't really improve the arguments. Dawkins deals with them too hastily, but even if Dawkins was an Aquinas scholar and applied the principle of charity to the arguments, they'd still be unconvincing arguments. The God Delusion is a popular book, not a scholarly refutation of all arguments for the existence of God.

If you want to read scholarly refutations of arguments for the existence of God, as well as read some arguments put forward explicitly for the non-existence of God, then you have to turn elsewhere: Michael Martin's "Atheism: A Philosophical Justification", Robin Le Podevin's "Arguing for Atheism" and Nick Everett's "The Non-Existence Of God". Another good book from an agnostic rather than atheist perspective is Anthony Kenny's "The God of the Philosophers". A slightly easier read is Julian Baggini's "Atheism: A Very Short Introduction" which is okay. I have some reservations with it, but it covers most of the important arguments and has some stuff about ethics and living the good life and all that happy-clappy stuff too.

As for stuff that isn't concerned with the philosophical arguments? I found Onfray's "In Defence of Atheism" a pretty good read - it is polemical, but is well-written. Nietzsche is always good to read so long as you don't - you know - become a damn goth or whatever after reading it or try and commit genocide or something. Russell's "Why I Am Not A Christian" and the much less read compilation "Russell on Religion" (not widely available outside academia as far as I'm aware) - Russell is a good writer and says some very refreshing things like:

<blockquote>Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.</blockquote>

Agree completely. The God Delusion suffers from sloppy reasoning, and intellectually dishonest arguments. I'm an Atheist, and I found myself disagreeing over and over with arguments Dawkins made despite the fact that his conclusions align with my view of the world.

There must be better pro-atheism books out there.

Perhaps the newer

The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason


God Is Not Great for example.

'Selfish Gene' was very influential for me. It was interesting to observe mine and others behaviour through this theory.

"How to Read a Book", by Mortimer J. Adler.

This book was very important for me, as it gave me a new way of approaching both books and almost everything in life. It also gives a rather thorough collection of the most important books of western culture, ordered by authors then dates.

If you ever wanted to know how to read more effectively, this book is it. It teaches you how to mark up a book in such a way that you'll be able to remember what you need from it after a few minutes of review. I highly recommend it. My life would have been much poorer without having read it.

Can everyone commenting on this thread also add 2 lines on -

1) What the book is about 2) Why do you recommend it?

I just finished 'A song of ice and fire' series by George R.R. Martin and it's an amazing read.

I've really enjoyed this series, even with the fear of it being left unfinished. Martin's characters remind me of the characters of Glen Cook's writing - also some kick-ass dark fantasy. Check out his Dread Empire series: http://www.amazon.com/Dread-Empire-Glen-Cook/lm/R1423C8TEEUL...

Also along this line of epic fantasy are the Malazan Empire books by Steven Erikson - http://www.amazon.com/Gardens-Moon-Malazan-Book-Fallen/dp/07...

"finished" the part published so far, that is. Many are doubting that Martin will be able to finish it, given his pace and the huge scope of the story. But I second the recommendation, read it anyway!

Upvoted...and here's my summary, since it's not on the OP:

The adventures of a two-dimensional creature into the lands of the single-dimension and the three-dimension (and more). Also, on his efforts to evangelize his visions.

When I first read this over ten years ago, I was surprised to learn that the book itself had been published in the 19th century. It was my first true realization that people just as "smart" as us modern folk have existed for quite a while.

In the same spirit, by A.K. Dewdney : The Planiverse.

Ficciones, by Borges

Very imaginative short stories bordering on the philosophical, some of them hilarious.

Seconding Jorge Luis Borges! Even before Godel, Escher, Bach! Although Borges is pre-computer era, and is long part of the literary Canon, I think the tone of so many of his stories make a lot more sense from the perspective of the Internet era. If Google were an author, I think it would be Borges more so than any other writer.

Borges constantly wove themes of what is too much knowledge, how are we ensnared and consumed by it, and ultimately how are beauty & wonder itself contained in that paradoxical process from which all things flow.

Here are some books that are a mix of psychology and economics that I think are especially suited for HN:

Behavioral Economics:

  Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely
  Nudge - Richard Thaler
  Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard - Chip and Dan Heath

  The Black Swan: Impact of the Highly Improbable - Nassim Taleb
  Fooled by Randomness - Nassim Taleb
  Drunkard's Walk - Leonard Mlodinow

  Opening Skinner's Box - Lauren Slater

  The Education of a Coach - David Halberstam

Another good Behavioral Economics book: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman I liked it a lot better than Predictably Irrational.

Hayek's Challenge by Caldwell - http://www.amazon.com/Hayeks-Challenge-Intellectual-Biograph...

I wrote a review on Amazon that you can read there for more details, but in short: this book describes the themes that interested Hayek, their historical context, and how attitudes to them evolved.

I consider myself "left wing" and Hayek is no great hero of mine (when I read the book I was barely aware of him - I think he is more famous in the USA than Europe), but that doesn't stop this being one of my favourite books. The range covered is huge, the historical background of the times is fascinating, and Hayek is a much more complex thinker than you might imagine from the way he is treated in current popular culture.

Vaguely related, "Machine Dreams" by Mirowski is another absorbing, thought-provoking book on the history of Economics (simplifying hugely - the influence of the cold war on the rise of "free market economics"). The style can be a little frustrating, but it's worth the effort. http://www.amazon.com/Machine-Dreams-Economics-Becomes-Scien...

If you're talented and get frustrated with stupid people, you have to read "Musashi" by Eiji Yoshikawa. I mean, you have to.

Musashi was one of the greatest (maybe the greatest) swordsman of all time. He invented a Japanese longblade/shortblade mixed style of swordsmanship, at one point fighting himself out of an ambush when he was attacked by over 30 men. He was undefeated in over 60 duels, including defeating arguably the second best swordsman in Japan at the time while fighting with a wooden oar he carved into a rough swordlike shape.

Here's Musashi's Wikipedia page:


The book by Eiji Yoshikawa is historical fiction - it's period accurate and follows all of Musashi's most well known story. It fills in some other details we don't know of Musashi's life - how he might have trained, some minor scuffles with bandits of the day, and it added a love story.

The book is exceptional. Musashi has immense amounts of raw talent, but is in conflict with himself in the world, arrogant, keeps getting into problems and trouble until he comes to more mastery and wisdom. Seriously, I read a lot, and this is hands-down my favorite book of all time. It's a hell of an enjoyable read, really pleasant and beautiful, fun and adventurous, but also filled with deep wisdom. It's a great swashbuckling story, but also teaches you about thinking critically, tactics, strategy, training, tradeoffs, and so on. Just a masterpiece. Easily the most influential book of my life.

No affiliate link:


Whilst on subject, I'll also recommend Husain Haddawy's translation of Arabian Nights, which is uproariously funny and also contains a lot of wisdom, and "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber, which I consider the Bible of small business. I buy a copy of E-Myth and make anyone I'm going to partner with read it before I'll do business with them.

Arabian Nights:




Edit: Wow, that's quite a few upvotes pretty quickly. If you pick a copy of one of these and enjoy it, feel free to shoot me an email if you want to chat about it. These books have been huge for my life, and not enough people read, so I don't get to talk books as much as I'd like. Also, people with similar tastes feel free to make recommendations either commenting here or by email. Lurkers too! I'm always looking for great books.

Will you post an affiliate link?

If you recommend a good book to me, I'd like you to get a kickback.

How do others feel about affiliate links? I've created an Ask HN on the topic: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1227196

Interesting thought. I just posted "Suggest to HN: A Hacker News Amazon Affiliate Link" -


Basically, I don't recommend enough books to bother with an affiliate link, but if someone on the HN/YCombinator team would register a link, I'd voluntarily add it to my recommendations. It is a bit wasteful to leave the potential affiliate commission on the table when it could go to something valuable. People can discuss in that thread.

And Paul, if you're reading this, what's your take? I figure a bit of extra resources in the way of free books couldn't hurt, and it might add up. I reckon a lot of the community would be happy to give back that way.

I don't mind this suggestion at all. If the recommendation is germane to the topic and helps increase my choices and understanding, better to let someone make some money of Amazon.

On another note. Could the author of the parent (froo) put together a shared Google Doc of all recommended books that didn't get negative total points?

Opening lines of Musashi:

Takezo lay among the corpses. There were thousands of them. "The whole world's gone crazy," he thought dimly. "A man might as well be a dead leaf, floating in the autumn breeze."

I have to add that people should also read The Book of Five Rings that was written by Musashi. I can't count the number of times I have bought and given away this book. Especially the translation done by Thomas Cleary. Cleary adds another text into the mix "The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War" by Yagyu Munenori, a contemporary of Musashi, but from a very different circle, so you get a nice contrast, and I believe it shows you how simplicity wins(5 rings). But both are excellent reads.

I must say you really sold the Musashi book to me. Definitely going to buy it next time I buy books. Thanks.

> I must say you really sold the Musashi book to me. Definitely going to buy it next time I buy books. Thanks.

You're going to love it :) I damn near never guarantee someone is going to love a book, but I figure almost anyone here would. Everyone, literally everyone I'd recommended or gifted a copy of Musashi too is crazy about the book.

At the risk of getting way ahead of myself, Taiko by the same author is quite good too, but larger in scope - more characters, more history, a bit more work but still a good story. If you really like Japan or Yoshikawa's writing style, check that out afterwards. But for now, you're in good hands with Musashi. Feel free to drop me an email if you've got thoughts as you're reading, my email is in my profile.

On a related note, there was recently a documentary-ish show on (History Channel|Discovery|other similar channel) about Musashi Miyamoto, titled "Samurai."

I'm definitely picking up the Yoshikawa book though. Thanks for the recommendation.

I've enjoyed all the fictionalized accounts, but I think that if you want to learn from Musashi, you should read him directly. That's the Go Rin no Sho aka The Book of Five Rings. Nekopa has recommended the Cleary translation. I will recommend Hidy Ochiai's version, A Way to Victory: The Annotated Book of Five Rings. The annotations and analysis (after each book) really help get a sense of Musashi. Some points that stood out to me, considering that I'd read several other translations before:

His absolute priority on winning. It's not that his style is the best way to win, it's that his style is based around winning. The whole point of the book is winning! You always have to win, by any means necessary. It's very bald; the text is peppered with bits like

A tenet of my teaching is that one must win regardless of the length of the sword one uses, so I do not dictate the length of the sword. The ultimate objective of my style is to be prepared to win, no matter what weapons are involved.

and somewhat disconcertingly,

When applying martial strategy to the world of leadership, it is important that you make the acquaintance of people of good character; that you become a good leader to others; that you conduct yourself in a correct manner; that you govern people well; that you take good care of others; that you follow and maintain the laws and customs of the land for the sake of order; and that you never take second place to anyone in whatever you engage.

It's also noted that while Musashi did take on well-known opponents, especially Sasaki Kojiro, he also never dueled with several other extremely famous samurai in the same period. Ochiai notes that it is entirely consistent with his strategy to not fight if you think you will not win.

Directness and simplicity: As I sit down here to begin writing this book, I do not intend to use any archaic words from the scriptures of Buddhism or Confucianism, nor will I depend on the examples of various writings of old war chronicles and battle tactics. Musashi also considers the idea of dividing techniques into basic and advanced stupid, although he concedes that you should teach what's easiest for a beginner first, depending on the person.

Humility: However, after the age of thirty, I started to reflect on my experiences and began to wonder whether or not my victories were attributable to my natural ability, sheer luck, or the inferior techniques of those whom I had defeated, rather than my true understanding of the principle of martial strategy.

Once I became enlightened by the true meaning of martial strategy, I ceased to have any real interest or desire in the worldly affairs.

Strangely individualistic: Ochiai writes, "It’s true that Musashi intended to teach his readers to be victorious in one-to-one combat as well as in war involving armies. But if you read the book carefully, with an open mind and sincere attitude, it becomes clear that Musashi’s teaching goes far beyond that. His philosophy can be summarized as ji-riki; the power of each individual that emanates from within oneself. Musashi believed that ji-riki must be cultivated and empowered through constant effort and training. With correct understanding, his messages become concrete and personal, directly relating to the problems of living – to the human being who struggles and strives for individual achievement."

Spirit of discovery: It is not enough that you read what is written here, you must train as hard as if you were the one who developed the doctrine, instead of being the one who had it given to you. Train constantly as if you were the source of the discovery of the Way. Avoid mere imitation or learning without sincerity.

Yes, the Go Rin no Sho is excellent. This is my favorite quote from it:

"The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy's cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him."

> If you're talented and get frustrated with stupid people, you have to read "Musashi" by Eiji Yoshikawa. I mean, you have to.

you might also find the 3 mushashi set of movies by Hiroshi-Inagaki pretty nice. i certainly enjoy them a lot...

Toshirô-Mifune plays samurai roles with elan

Musashi has been adapted into a manga ("Vagabond") and a movie trilogy (the "Samurai" trilogy) for the time-challenged.

Before anything, read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. Then try the Salmon of Doubt by him. Salmon of Doubt is a must, but it's made more accessible by reading Adams' fictional works first.

Great read, but I'm not sure I can honestly put an entertaining read above everything else.

If you are reading Hitchhiker's, the "best books" of the "trilogy" are the 1st, 5th, and 4th. The 2nd and 3rd are relatively weak, but the 4th and 5th will make substantially less sense without them. The readers can decide what to do with this knowledge.

There's a list at stackoverflow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/38210

Pale Fire, by Nabokov. A story of insane obsession, which I'm sure many HN readers could relate to...

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski has been compared to Pale Fire. I've read House of Leaves, and though it's textbook-sized (about as large as GED), when I got into it I finished it within the week. Definitely find one in print, it's just absolutely engaging.

I enjoyed it, but if you want epic Nabokov, check out ADA. It's a HUGE book, but very rewarding if you have the patience.

As much as I enjoyed both Pale Fire and Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, I cannot, in good conscience, let these be the only Nabokov books to be mentioned here. Having read all his nonfiction and his autobiography over the past three years, I must warn against starting with either of these, two of his most difficult, novels.

You see, Nabokov toys with his readers - he leaves puzzles throughout his books; he writes in defiance of literary criticism (part of his impetus in Pale Fire); he foreshadows with a trail of anagrams. To throw someone in media res of two of his most complex tales (perhaps only surpassed by Lolita and The Gift), might give a premature distaste for Nabokov's heady style.

What I would personally recommend for someone new to Nabokov would be any of Despair, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, or Transparent Things.

If you like Nabokov, you may also want to try:

Rushdie, Salman - The Satanic Verses

Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49


Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

AMZN blurb: You have heard about how a musician loses herself in her music, how a painter becomes one with the process of painting. In work, sport, conversation or hobby, you have experienced, yourself, the suspension of time, the freedom of complete absorption in activity. This is "flow," an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding--an experience that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates is one of the most enjoyable and valuable experiences a person can have. The exhaustive case studies, controlled experiments and innumerable references to historical figures, philosophers and scientists through the ages prove Csikszentmihalyi's point that flow is a singularly productive and desirable state. But the implications for its application to society are what make the book revolutionary.

His other book, Creativity, is far more relevant to HN. It is a set of interviews with creative people, exploring how their creative capacities developed.


I don't get it, am I the only hacker that ever has problems with relationships?

I've done more than my fair share of stumbling (including one divorce) and at the age of 32 only now do I feel like I am "getting it".

Nonetheless, I'd recommend the book _Conscious Loving_ by Gay and Kaithlyn Hendricks.

Instead of the superficialities preached by the Venus books, etc they get to the heart of the matter by having us examine ourselves for personal projects, secrets that we are hiding and other subconscious developments that lay at the root of our psyche. We our worlds truly are in our head and our relationships are manifestations of those thoughts. I finally found a book that helps me peal back those layers and helped me figure out why I had been fucking up over so many years...

For the same reasons, if you want to understand why relationships are hard and what is really going on between people,

The Mystery Method by Mystery - About half is a real down-to-the bits theory of love and attraction. The other half is advice about how to pick up dates at bars. I only wanted the first part, but both are fascinating. After reading this, it's like the veil was lifted and I could see the fnords.

The Game by Neil Strauss - The story of field research into practical romance by a great writer and a peek at the author of the first book above. The author masters seductive romance and discovers that it is not the same as love. In the end, though, he needed the first to have a chance at the second.

Once you accept that love and romance are hard and not free, these two books are a start at finding and building a quality relationship. Of course, you'll have to ignore that they market themselves as manuals on how to avoid one.

Here is what comes to my mind a my all favorite books:

  * no exit - jean-paul sartre
  * brave new world - adolous huxley
  * 1984 - george orwell
  * foucault's pendolum - umberto eco
  * l'etranger - albert camus
  * 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - jules vernes

Two scifi books about turning rationality into a religion: Anathem and Altered Carbon

My all-time scifi list started out in a reddit comment: http://akkartik.name/blog/2006-06-02-08-13-58-soc

Oops, I meant A million open doors, not Altered Carbon. Both good books.

At the risk of being yelled at: The Geek Atlas (http://geekatlas.com/)

You might be interested in _War and Peace and War_, a theory of history focusing on social capital as a driving force, and in _The Fourth Turning_ -- which looks at changes over four-generation intervals, and which, written in 1997, made some surprisingly good predictions about the 2000s (the Aughts?).

Both of these are in the tradition of Oswald Spengler's _Decline of the West_ and Arnold Toynbee's _A Study of History_; I'd recommend the abridged version of the latter, and I'd observe that if you can make it all the way through either of these you have more stamina than I do...

  The History of Sexuality - Michel Foucault
  Discipline and Punish - Michel Foucault
  The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America - Daniel J. Boorstin
These books make you look at society in a much more critical manner. The first two are difficult reads, but none the less good and referenced quite a bit in the humanities.

  The Perennial Philosophy - Aldous Huxley
Huxley ties up all the different religious views quite nicely into a core set which is common to all of them. I'd advise reading Huxley and God before reading this though.

A lot of the classics mentioned can be found for free in .txt, .html, or ePub via Project Gutenberg.


My favorite non-software books (I've mentioned these a few times around HN before):

* Atlas Shrugged (also good: The Fountainhead) by Ayn Rand

* Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

* Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Freedman

* The Plague by Albert Camus

Human Smoke


Churchill, Hitler, and "the unnecessary war": how Britain lost its empire and the West lost the world


Both books are iconoclastic looks at how WWII came to be, and whether it was truly a "just" war. The second is by Pat Buchanan, but neither book is crazy or racist. Both are extremely well-researched and documented. Pat Buchanan's book is explicitly in response to the "just war" trope which was used to justify the US occupation of Iraq, but I think I see the same motivation in Human Smoke.

The most interesting single tidbit I learned from the two books was that Roosevelt was an anti-semite:


(I looked that vignette up in Morgenthau's memoirs. The story he tells there was meant to justify to the younger Morgenthau Roosevelt's policy of restricting emigration to the US by Jewish refugees.)

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

One of the few books that I think really everybody should read.

One of his other books, In Defense of Food, might almost be a better recommendation to read first. If they like that, go for the novel version - The Omnivore's Dilemma.

My favourite read of the last few years was The Tyrannicide Brief.

I moved house 15000 km recently and this was one of the few books that came along (the others are in storage). Most of the other ones are mentioned in other comments.

From the New Yorker review:

In 1649, after Oliver Cromwell and his army had taken King Charles I prisoner, they had to decide what to do with him. The easiest option, according to a contemporary, was assassination, "for which there were hands ready enough to be employed." Instead, a lawyer named John Cooke was given the brief to prosecute him. (Other lawyers left town to dodge the job.) At the time, there was no language for what Charles was charged with: as king, he was the law, so prosecuting him seemed a logical absurdity. Robertson, a lawyer involved in the prosecutions of Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein, credits Cooke with helping to make those proceedings possible; he "made tyranny a crime." But Cooke himself was executed after the monarchy was restored. His heart and genitals were fed to stray dogs, and his head, at King Charles II's direction, was displayed at the entrance to Westminster Hall.

I very much wish I would have read the below books in (or pre) high school. I'm not sure if they have the same effect on everyone, but for me they were huge in redefining elements of my life that needed to be fixed/unlearned/enhanced.

All related to having a passion for learning and life in general:

"Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin

"Mastery" by George Leonard

"A Mathematician's Lament" by Paul Lockhart

"Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" by Richard Feynman

"Money Ball" by Michael Lewis is great. It's about evaluating talent in new ways to exploit market inefficiencies in baseball.

When I recommend books I make a coffee shop recommendation and an airport recommendation. Both books are excellent, but the coffee shop book requires slower reader and more mental effort to get the benefit.

Coffee shop:

Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers. The book follows to parallel stories: one of a company that invents virtual reality and another of a teacher that gets taken hostage by terrorists. It's an incredible book and the reason why I decided to study computer science.



Moving Mars by Greg Bear. Mars is a colony of Earth and the book follows a struggle for Martian independence. Also an incredible book.


The Stranger (L’Étranger) by Albert Camus is an excellent novel. I'm sure many HNers can relate to the main character.

Plato - The Republic

George Orwell - 1984

- David Marr: "Vision"

The foundations of computational neroscience - and lots of practial demonstrations of how your eyes and brain work.

- Daniel Dennett "Consciousness Explained"

How the mind works?

- J.E Gordon: "The new Science of Strog Materials" & " Structures, or why things don't fall down."

How is 'stuff' strong/hard?

- Steve Grand: "Creation" & "Growing up with Lucy"

The programmer behind the game 'Creatures' and his adventures in artificial life.

- Joseph Campbell: "The Hero with a Thousand Faces"

Never look at Star Wars in the same way again.

- David Deutch: "The Fabric of Reality"

Many worlds or mad as a box of frogs?

- Richard Leakey & Roger Lewin: "The Sixth Extinction"

We're doomed - maybe

- Braitenberg: "Vehicles"

Emergent behaviour from simple rules

- Ian Wilmut, Keith Cambell & Colin Tudge: "The Second Creation"

How Dolly the Sheep was made. Takes you through the background such that you can read & understand their paper which appears at the end.

- John Brunner: "The Shockwaver Rider"

Snowcrash - hah! - 1975 and this dude got it already.

Other general authors:

Martin Gardner, Greg Egan (lots of free stuff on his site).

Snow Crash was published in 1992, not in 1975. Still, this dude got it already.

Edit: Sorry, it's probably just a formatting problem and you were referring to The Shockwave Rider.

The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century by Thomas P. M. Barnett.

It's like The World is Flat on steroids. It's probably even more pro free trade. It's the most optimistic look at world affairs I've ever seen. The idea is that trade ties countries together and makes them stop fighting.

The War of Art - Stephen Pressfield - how to overcome yourself

Gates of Fire - same as above, the story of the stand at Thermopylae

Agincourt & 3 part series Archer's tale - Bernard Cornwell - accounts of medievil warfare

StrengthsFinder 2.0 - Tom Rath - take a test and discover your strengths/things you love to do, focus on on doing those

Stephen Pressfield is fantastic. Besides "Gates of Fire," I've read "The Afghan Campaign" and "The Virtues of War," two novels about Alexander The Great. Very highly recommended.

The Tao of Pooh, a book I read 10 years ago and just recently picked up again. Fantastic read.


Taoism in general is something I'm going to dive more into.

Awesome. I loved this book. Easy read. Enjoyable.

Anathem by Neil Stephenson (Fiction)

Snowcrash and Cryptonomicon, too. Or pretty much anything Neil Stephenson writes.

Christopher Logue's War Music http://www.amazon.com/War-Music-Account-Books-Homers/dp/0226... It's the beginnings of a modern retelling of Homer's Iliad. If you like it there are two other short books (All Day Permanent Red and Homer Cold Calls).

Don't be scared off by it being poetry. It is easily understandable and has an economy and elegance of phrasing that I have yet to see elsewhere.

I've always thought that poetry and coding have a lot in common. A focus on structure, economy, and elegance as well as working with the language to best effect.

With NUMMI closing down any day now, "The Machine that Changed the World" by Womack, et al (1990) is almost as relevant now as it was then. The book describes the management and product development techniques used in the Japanese-owned auto industry and how they contrast(ed) with those employed by US-owned auto companies. Many of the ideas have been employed in healthcare and software development in the intervening two decades.

I can't speak to the relevance of any specific work of fiction to any HN'er but the one writing this comment, but "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison and "Tender is the Night" by F. Scott Fitzgerald are two novels that stand out to me as being particularly good.

King Warrior Magician Lover, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gilette. It is a deeply insightful book about the path to a mature masculine psyche written by a highly respected Jungian psychologist (Moore) and a mythologist and counselor (Gilette).

I recently finished reading this book and their four subsequent volumes, each of which goes into great detail about the four archetypes. Reading them has given me much stimulus for thought and personal growth.


Elsewhere in the thread, I posted some recommendations on books on philosophy of religion from a non-theistic perspective. I guess I should probably list some books on philosophy generally.

1. Bertrand Russell - The Problems of Philosophy

A good introduction to the basic things which philosophers in the Anglo-American/analytic tradition worry about in logic, metaphysics and epistemology (primarily epistemology): induction, a priori knowledge, anti-sceptical arguments, and universals.

2. Hans-Georg Gadamer - Truth and Method

You know about the 'Continental' philosophers, right? All those wacky guys like Derrida. They are all a bit suspicious, right? Like, Heidegger was a Nazi, and Foucault spreads HIV. Yeah, gossip is great. A lot of this type of philosophy seems like bunkum - Alan Sokal showed that, right? Lots of waffly French dudes talking out of their ass, abusing science to basically support their political ideology. Gadamer isn't like that. He sets out to try and answer the question "how do we understand texts?" and rather than saying something goofy like "we just make up what we understand about texts" or that we deconstruct them by subjecting them to our ideological whims, ripping the book apart to suit whatever the passing fancy is. No, Gadamer tries to explicate how the reading of a book is more of a process that starts with pre-judgement - 'prejudice' in Gadamer's words. Such prejudice is natural and actually quite desirable. You do judge a book by the cover. To understand a book as a whole, you need to understand all the components which make it up. But to understand any bit of the book, you need to understand how it fits into the wider contest of the book. This 'hermeneutic cycle' is daunting, but the only thing you can do is jump on board.

3. Saul Kripke - Naming and Necessity

Kripke's book is on a slightly strange topic: how we use names. But how he deals with this is an interesting problem is a model of clarity and philosophical excellence. It has also been very influential - the way Kripke solves the problem with names led to other philosophers producing many so-called causal accounts of all sorts of things.

I'd post some more, but I've got to get the hell out of my hotel room and go to a philosophy conference...

God's Debris. Available in pdf here:


Its written by Scott Adams, the guy who does Dilbert, but its completely different from Dilbert. Its basically an exploration of one theory about where the universe comes from, the nature of god, etc... A thought experiment in conversation form, if you will.

I like it because it brings up some neat ideas that may not be obvious.

Side Note: He gets some of the science wrong in the book, so if you do read it, make sure you fact check any science before you believe it.

PIHKAL- the autobiographical account by the bay area chemist who invented MMDA. Incredible story of invention and scientific exploration. It also contains the most authentic love story I have ever read.

I can recommend Zamonia series by Walter Moers:

   The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear
   Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures
   The City of Dreaming Books
Awesome fantasy books.

"How Buildings Learn: What happens after they're built" by Stewart Brand (ok, it's about systems and software arch)

"Walt Disney: Triumph of the American Imagination" by Neal Gabler (This is awesome because the 1st third is about his multiple failures)

Any David Macaulay book (breathtaking deconstruction construction)

Any book on child crafts and games, vintage better. (The writing is superb and a lot of activities are excellent)

Any book on network marketing (I'm not involved but have been pitched many times. The talk about funnels for recruiting is realistic).

The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers: a love story that touches on music, genetics, history, art... lots of themes that HN readers might appreciate.

I recently enjoyed "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art". As the title promises, it's a great look into the economics of contemporary art - what forces determine the ridiculous prices you hear about.


Guns, Germs and Steel - It will change the way you think about the course of human development and the forces of history.

The Innovator's Dilemma can be summed up in two paragraphs but is still worth reading - it explains why giant companies fail to keep innovating.

Stumbling upon happiness - how people's perception of what makes them happy has little basis in what actually makes them happy - and why.

Lately I'm into reading Biographies of Entrepreneurs.

Reserved "Founders at work" at the library, but currently reading "Match King" the biography of Ivar Kreuger. After failing a bunch of times, he figured it out: put on a show and pretend you're successful then other people buy in. Problem is he took that too far.

Surprisingly, good to read as an entrepreneur, both inspirational AND _cautionary_.

Oh, lots! I wish you'd narrow down to some categories you're interested in.

A few example i enjoyed: The State of Africa, Martin Meredith The Code Book, Simon Singh Pity the Nation, Robert Fisk The Great War for Civilization, Robert Fisk Alan Turing: The Enigma, Andrew Hodges Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch Fermat's Engima, Simon Singh

Lots more....

I just finished and enjoyed:

The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein

The four pillars consisting of investment theory, history, psychology and business. I ascribe to the indexing model of investing and this book helped crystallize my view point as well as provide an interesting overview of investment history.

Plus I'll throw in one of my favorite, bloody gems of a book:

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Road was also another excellent book by Cormac McCarthy. I'm not sure about his other books but this one was a really easy read.

The Border Series (All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, etc) is riddled with inaccessible scene description (non-stop landscape lexicon) and bouts of Spanish, only barely detracting from each story's general awe-inspiring quality.

No Country For Old Men is more accessible and I'd definitely recommend it. The Road is also a must.

Einstein's Dreams. Written by a physicist. A great fiction on the nature of how time could be. My favorite example from the book is about how one scenario says that time slows as we go up the mountains and most people stay there to preserve their youth and when they go down to the foothills, they go there for work!

I have found "The Goal" by Eliyahu Goldratt to be very insightful. It is written in a novel like format, with the purpose of teaching a certain way of attacking problems.


The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank is an excellent book about startup engineering.

Risk: the science and politics of fear. By dan Gardner

I've recommended, and reviewed, it here before. Basically it is a pop-science look at how humans react and view fear. Brilliant read with lots of good referecing to scientific papers etc.

It was almost as revelatory to me as the selfish gene.

I like this science book about the elements so much I wrote a blog post about it:


I'm a huge fan of classic literature. It's a much different perspective of society and isn't necessarily written for ease-of-consumption.

The Count of Monte Cristo Time Machine or Invisible Man Frankenstein

One of my personal favorites which you won't be able to put down: Dracula

Getting Things Done and Making It All Work. Very down-to-Earth, techie-friendly productivity system. It reduces the whole life-balancing act to a schedule, a handful of lists, and simple algorithms. It also scales down well, in my experience.

Some influential and interesting books on how humanity interacts with technology (and vice-versa):

  * The Technological Society, Jacques Ellul
  * Tools for Conviviality, Ivan Illich
  * Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford

I've been reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. Really enjoying it:

* The Lost City of Z

* http://www.amazon.com/Lost-City-Deadly-Obsession-Amazon/dp/0...

I think that if you want a deep, and very enjoyable read you should try Isaac Asimov's Foundation saga. It's so complex and presents a network all of Asimov's many ideas all collected under one store. Very insightful.


Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter.

Not only did I by it, but I read it, and enjoyed it too!

- Paddy.

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. A really interesting analysis of modern narrative structure rooted in mythology. It'll appeal to HN readers; it's an analytical way of breaking down every story ever told.

A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson

A Briefer History of Time - Stephen Hawking

A great way to get into history is Thomas Cahill's "Pillars of History" series. Start with "How the Irish Saved Civilization" and if you like it, carry on with the rest of the series.

Moby Dick is one of my all time favorite classics. Should appeal to engineers and entrepreneurs as well as being a great read. The form is very unlike other classics of its period.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely: http://www.predictablyirrational.com/

Interesting book on why people act irrationally.

Predictably Irrational is just a "popular" summarized version of work in this area of psychology. If you like it, consider looking at some of the work by Daniel Kahneman:


Cory Doctorow's collection of stories called "Overclocked" was a nice distraction. Check it out if you get a chance. I believe it's actually out there on his site for free.

Walden 2, by B.F. Skinner.

It's like an instruction manual for a utopian society, in novel form. This book set my mind on fire with crazy and inspiring ideas about how society could be...

Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

One of the few books I've read 3 or more times. An important discussion about determinining what is important in life, and what is just the details.

Some recent engaging reads:

* Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational

* Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

* Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

* Jeb Brugman, Welcome to the Urban Revolution

* Richard Florida, Who's Your City?

It's a bit of a ridiculous question isn't it? Relevant in what way? Even if you narrow it down to business and technology the scope is just far too broad.

Not necessarily. I've run out of books to read, so I figured I'd crowdsource for new points to start from, go beyond my current scope.

I figure there are lots of books people can recommend here that are relevant to my interests, so why not ask?

If you'd like to understand a little bit about how our brain might process and understand numbers, get "The Number Sense" by Stanislas Dehaene

If you're feeling really introspective, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and Demian by Hermann Hesse.

+1 to Snow Crash

Snow Crash is amazing. But it definitely IS related to software :)

A few books I have in queue;

The Wealth of Nations - Adam Smith

Rework - 37 Signals

Ogilvy on Advertising / Confessions of an Advertising Man - David Ogilvy

I've read Rework, I felt it was entirely a rehash of Getting Real.

In fact, while reading it I would swear I read a lot of the passages in it were added in wholesale from Getting Real.

I was experiencing some serious Deja Vu while reading it. More power to 37signals for being able to sell me something I've already essentially read.


Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series.

A very enjoyable description of the pinnacle of pre-Industrial technology.


"The Logic of Failure" by Dietrich Dorner

This is a particularly good book that ought to be spread around more.

"Real Fast Food" by Nigel Slater.

Yes, it's a cookbook. Bloody good one, though, and you've gotta eat.

Think & Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill

Taiko - Eiji Yoshikawa

Alexander of Macedon - Peter Green

and +1 for Staunch's choice:

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

The Complete Stories (of) Franz Kafka, The Corrections by Jonathen Franzen

On Writing, Stephen King

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds - I like the process and form

Accelerando, Saturns Children, Dreams of Perpetual Motion

The Prince of Nothing series of books by R. Scott Bakker

The Art of War is definitely worth at least one read.

I recommend The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker.

50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology

The Teenage Liberation Handbook

david foster wallace: oblivion

If you're willing to put in at least a month of hard labor, DFW's Infinite Jest is worth the read.

And if you're not you could read his essay collections -

"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" the title essay of which is now available on the internet and is a terrific introduction to the late great American author (http://www.amazon.com/Supposedly-Fun-Thing-Never-Again/dp/03...)

"Consider the Lobster" (http://www.amazon.com/Consider-Lobster-David-Foster-Wallace/...)

Some of the few pieces of physical literature I actually own and chase back every time I lend them to someone.

this is possibly my all-time favorite book. i just thought "oblivion" itself was more appropriate this thread.

if you are into fantasy the mistborn series is awesomeness redefined :)

The Innovator's Dilemma

- How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/06... - Beethoven As I Knew Him by Anton Felix Schindler http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-As-I-Knew-Him/dp/0486292320 - Soul Of A New Machine (It's about hardware!) and Mountains Beyond Mountains, both by Tracy Kidder - Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer

Recent reads I'd recommend...

Seth Godin's Linchpin

Viral Loops by Adam L. Penenberg

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