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Hacker News Books is a service that aggregates all links to books on Amazon, Safaribooks and O’Reilly found in comments on Hacker News. It does that on a weekly basis, calculates a rank based on how often each book is mentioned and the karma of the users. So books mentioned several times by different people, having high karma will make it to the top. I’ve processed about two years worth of comments (you can also see the whole yearly list, which is pretty long - up to 1000 books). I was expecting to see way more tech books but in fact the topics are really diverse like startup, management, parenting, mindfulness, etc. especially when the links don’t come from a long discussion about functional programming for example.

I’ve added a newsletter in case people want to keep up-to-date and I plan to maintain the service as I’ve found some unique books while I was coding the website. There is also search that searches only the submitted books, so this is another good way to browse the collections. Currently there is a newsletter popup, which may be annoying to some users, please click away if that is the case. I will rework it to be less intrusive.

Any recommendations and feedback are welcome. Disclaimer: For amazon links there are referrals, the other links don't have those.

Here are the first few things that came to my mind:

- I want this & will use it, it's a great idea!

- I didn't understand the rankings based on visiting the site, I assumed it was number of mentions, but so far after some browsing, I've only seen a single comment listed under any book. Is karma used only as a tie breaker, or can a high karma with low mentions rise above a book with high mentions?

- I'd love to see a top 10 monthly or yearly. Weekly is just so much volume. And it looks like weekly lists usually top out with a single mention? I want to see which books get many mentions, whatever time window that takes. Also I can't read a book a week, so I don't shop for books weekly. This means I'm afraid with a weekly list I'd probably miss all the good stuff.

- The signup popup came up too quickly. I see other people complaining about it and saying remove it. But I would probably have signed up if I understood what I was getting. Seeing it before I even have a chance to see the value or understand who and what this is made me dismiss it immediately. But I'd gladly give my email address to get a monthly email with a top 10 list, and speaking personally it'd help me to have a sense for whether this is strictly a side project, or you'll be doing some marketing. The aggressive popup w/ little info just makes it feel like I'm getting trapped into something and I try to escape, when your intent may have been 100% to generously give people a no-nag opt-in reminder.

Thanks for the heads up!

- The rankings use karma and number of mentions, which for a week basically bring books by top karma users to the top. The actual formula is:

  book_entry['rank'] = (avg_karma_count * avg_karma + book_entry['karma'] * book_entry['karma_count']) / (book_entry['karma_count'] + avg_karma_count)
- I plan to make Top 10 monthly or yearly, just wanted to see if people would like the idea at all. Seems like people like it. As a side remark I also did http://hnbuzz.com/ where you can filter, segment HN posts daily, weekly, monthly etc. It is not about books though.

- Yep the signup seems too aggressive, it will get changed :) After I clicked it away the first time it didn't bother me anymore while coding the website so I got carried away and left it as is. But it is also a learning experience to see what people think about those.

The project is totally side project, I actually do that often - build something I like to have and use a new tech to do it to learn. Drop me a mail if you want to know more.

The tech that actually made my life much easier was Docker. Using docker-compose to manage the tech stack (redis, elastic, apache, flask), docker-machine to abstract away where docker is running, docker-haproxy to be able to run multiple services on the same instance with virtual hosts, sane deployment with docker versioning, etc. etc.

I would love to use this when it runs on data from a longer time period.

What's the new tech you used for it?

itd be nice if mentions had a bigger weight in this

> - I'd love to see a top 10 monthly or yearly. Weekly is just so much volume. And it looks like weekly lists usually top out with a single mention? I want to see which books get many mentions, whatever time window that takes. Also I can't read a book a week, so I don't shop for books weekly. This means I'm afraid with a weekly list I'd probably miss all the good stuff.

Second this. Additionally, an "all time" list would be nice. Seems to be a great way to pick out the "timeless" books.

I really agree with your third point and I too would love to see different ranking options. A week to week basis is too much volume to weed out books I'm not interested in.

Nice project.

The modal dialog to subscribe to the mailing list is annoying; why is every site doing this now.

I too usually don't put a link to Amazon when mentioning a book, but maybe I should.

Because it works. General e-commerce practice. The value of an email address is incredibly high. It's a very strong signal of interest and allows a business to reach out to you with new product offerings, receive feedback etc. Without it, you're just a session on the site and not much else and doesn't lead to much actionable data.

I understand the value of an email address; I dispute the fact that it "works". Maybe it helps collect more email addresses than before, but the cost is bugging the hell out of every single visitor: is it worth it?

In my books it's an instant reason to not visit any website that does it. I also feel that the people who do give out their email address within the first 15 seconds of visiting a website are probably not likely to use their real e-mail address, or likely to unsubscribe just as quickly as they gave it out.

I was considering learning Swift and getting into iOS development, but it appears I was mistaken as to the current fashionable trends in technology and startup culture.

I'll be picking up that Palm OS guide as soon as I can find a copy in print somewhere, thanks!

Clearly Palm OS is making a comeback!

I think the idea of this is great, but I suspect it'll become far more useful given larger aggregate ranges. Last week, last month, last six months - etc. As it stands, many books (like the Palm OS one) may only get mentioned once by someone with a lot of karma - which leads to another issue, since the algorithm is known it's now open to abuse by the HN karma-rich.

I guess it's time for tptacek or some other high-karma user to write a book and start mentioning their book in the HN comments a lot. They would quickly rise to the top of your list and hopefully rake in some money ;)

Playing with the site search, I thought the site was broken because it did not return results for a book that I know I mentioned. That is, until I read this comment.

I will often mention books without posting an Amazon/etc. link figuring that anyone interested can bing with Duck Duck Google to find it. Other times, I will link to the author/publisher page.

Anyway, there's a natural language processing cum machine learning project in their somewhere. One interesting possibility it would open up is surfacing books in electronic form that pass across Hacker News as links to PDF's, eBooks, and HTML.

Good luck.

Yes, I think my tendency to always provide links has skewed the lists.

At least 12 of the books in the top 100 for 2015 are from my posts.

Hmm...my tendencies to use my local public library and buy books used might be why I don't often link to Amazon.

Maybe that's why I didn't immediately recognize any of the books on the list as being mentioned regularly on Hacker News. There were some (but not many) that I recognized, but I don't remember them being mentioned.

Very cool! It seems that you weight karma a lot. In 2016 3rd book is about fractals (I'm sure its great) but probably only because its recommended by user with 110k karma ;) On the other-hand its a great idea to find less popular gems. Perhaps you can consider both options?

Not sure if this was already mentioned but IMO it would be really helpful if a taxonomy could be added to it, so it would be easier to find related books with a certain subject. (e.g. 'economy', 'data science' or 'distributed physics'). It would also open up the possibility of faceted search (e.g. all books on 'data science' with the 'python' programming language).

Other than that this already looks pretty useful :)

Also, as someone actively reducing the amount of email newsletters they receive, I'm wondering if you plan to offer an alternate format, like an RSS feed.

+1 for RSS

I closed the page as soon as the popup happened and reset my scroll index back to the top of the page. Bad UX there.

The page isn't that long so scrolling down again isn't that much of a hassle anyway. Have some tolerance for these projects instead of going into pitchfork mode.

I don't care about the scrolling, but showing a popup like that is pretty user-hostile, and it's hard not to want to return the favor.

Nice site! Personally, I'd like to have the option to view by category. Maybe you could just pull this from Amazon or manually curate your own topics.

Yes, on the todo list. Still have a day job to do, but it will come soon. Thanks for the feedback!

Can you elaborate on the ranking methodology eg is it:

    sum([u.karma for u in users_who_mentioned])
Or something more complicated?

  book_entry['rank'] = (avg_karma_count * avg_karma + book_entry['karma'] * book_entry['karma_count']) / (book_entry['karma_count'] + avg_karma_count)
Where avg_karma_count and avg_karma are the weekly values.

Nice site; I would have loved to see monthly and yearly lists too.

There are yearly lists, although that's a bit harder to find.

Here's 2015: http://hackernewsbooks.com/year/2015


Thank you.

same - would love top books by month/year.

> aggregates all links to books on Amazon, Safaribooks and O’Reilly found in comments on Hacker News.

So just commercial books then? Plenty of excellent books are linked directly from HN, books with their entire contents online.

No recommendations, just feedback; this is really great! Thanks.

would love (a) different filtering (not only week), (b) see some tags, (c) maybe pull amazon ratings, and (d) the count of mentions on HN

some (mostly technical) books are commonly mentioned in shorthand (eg. k&r and gof).

how are those accounted for?

Be up front here and add that the site is monetized with affiliate links.

Edit: you don't have to mention that in the site, but mention it in your description above.

Maybe you should the same in your HN profile.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I think it's fair. The title ought to be a ShowHN title and should include a mention that his site is monetized via affiliate links.

This posting, as it was (before he added the disclaimer in his description of the site in this thread), was basically the same as posts to blogs that are not much more than thinly veiled sales pages.

I don't post/advertise my profile page link, people visit it on their own without me asking them to [check it out] (just like I don't expect him to tell people on his site that they are affiliate links).

Edit: It appears the mods updated the title to be a ShowHN. Thank you Mods.

Just did, thx.

Now in a month, do blog post on how much the affiliate links made for you, like patio11 user to do with bcc. I'm sure lots of folks would like to know.

In fact track the monthly revenue for a year and do monthly updates.

That would be cool if OP decided to write it, but the tone you used here comes off as demanding which seems odd to me.

You're right. I should have prefaced my comment with, "I'd highly suggest that you" and end with "then you would be able to keep your site active and in the mind of HN users periodically." I would suggest he does the write ups on "hidden" pages on his domain and just link to them from his future posts regarding them. Much like patio11 use to do (he'd write up the revenue/expense update on a blog page on his own domain and then he or someone else, finding it interesting and useful, would submit the link to HN).

Someone had just posted some snarky comment about "Winning Through Intimidation" listed in my profile as a must read so they implied my standard operating procedure must demanding and aggressive. I tried responding to their comment but they apparently deleted it before I could hit submit on my reply. So here is what I was going to say:

"Winning Through Intimidation" is not about what you think it is. It's actually a fascinating story about a fellow in [commercial] real estate from the 70's? and the things he learned. Somethings include "marketing" and projection and how he went about getting big deals done. One thing I found fascinating, and perhaps where the title came from, was after he got burned a few times he started thinking "If the seller has a lawyer and the buyer has a lawyer (to get through the paper work and finalize the deal) in the room (to which he wasn't in) then maybe he, the broker, should have a lawyer in the room too since he too was a party to the transaction but didn't have fair representation. So he started hiring his own lawyer to sit with the other lawyers to hash things out and soon learned that the buyer and seller lawyers didn't seem so work so hard to find a way to remove him from the transaction and not pay his fees.

I have to admit, when I read your previous comment, I looked at your profile, saw the book recommendation and had the same assumption. Thanks for explaining - I'm actually ordering the book now.

Another great idea he had and did was buying a private jet. After he explained the benefits it became obvious that the expense was more than worth it.

I guess I could just read the book, but can you expand on the lesson implied by "the buyer and seller lawyers didn't seem so work so hard to find a way to remove him from the transaction"?

Excerpts from Chapter 5:

As closings go, this was as good as it gets, because all three parties involved-the buyer, the seller, and the real estate agent-were working hard to accomplish the same objective. Then, as we progressed toward a closing, I observed a phenomenon I was later to discover occurs prior to most real estate closings. My professor [1] "sharpened his pencil" (his words) and continued to find one cost after another that he either had not previously considered or hadn't known about.


The closer we got to the closing, the more my professor sharpened his pencil. Being a Type Number Three [2], he was very nice about it and never came right out and said that he did not intend to pay my fee. He just mumbled a lot of negatives, and the more figuring he did, the more he mumbled-and the more concerned I became.

In fact, my concern became so great that I dared to ask myself a question that only an inexperienced reptile [3] like me would dare ask: "If the buyer and seller in a real estate deal are represented by attorneys as a closing, why shouldn't the real estate agent also be represented by an attorney?"


After all, didn't I have a vested interest in the deal, too? Nonetheless, ... I thought ... my professor would take it as an insult to his integrity and probably use it as an excuse not to pay me at anything at all. In a sense, I was being intimidated by my own thoughts.

Finally the big day arrived-my first real estate closing. I talked to my professor just a couple hours before the closing ... he said he felt terrible about it, but, after adding up all the figures, there was no way he could spare even $100 out of the proceeds of the closing, let alone $6,500.


I then made a bold decision. I scurried over to the office of an attorney friend of mine, showed him the document my professor had signed, described the conversation I had just had with him, and explained that the closing was about to take place. The attorney and I then went over to my professor's office and found that all the parties involved were in the process of preparing for the closing.

Whereupon my attorney sat down with the other two lawyers, and the THREE of them went through the mechanics of finalizing the deal. Although I didn't understand the principle at the time, what I had going for me at that closing was the unwritten, universally accepted understanding among all attorneys that I subsequently dubbed the Universal Attorney-to-Attorney Respect Rule. It's kind of analogous to "honor among thieves." ...


P.S. I got my $6,500 fee-at the closing.


First, not only did I not have a written agreement with my professor, I didn't even have a clear verbal agreement. Our understanding was vague, at best. all I had done was volunteer to try to "solve the financial problems in Cincinnati" and if "successful" (which also was not defined), I was supposed to be "paid handsomely in return." In other words, there was no agreement, written or verbal, that morally obligated me to present my professor with offers to buy out his interest in the property. I was strictly on my own, and my fiduciary responsibility was to myself.


In addition to learning how a Type Number Three [2] operates, I received a bonus in this deal in that I got an answer to my naive question, "Why shouldn't a real estate agent also be represented by an attorney at a closing?" Firsthand experience had emphatically given me the answer: "He should!"

Regardless of the business you're in, never allow yourself to be intimidated into believing that you aren't entitled to the same rights as the so-called principals in a deal. I say so-called because, from your standpoint, you ARE a principal. If you have a vested interest in a deal, you have a right to protect that interest, regardless of the size of your stake relative to the other players' shares. Just don't expect the other principals to agree with your viewpoint. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

[1] he refers to the people he learned a lot and got an expensive education from as his professors... these would be either the buyer but more often the seller

[2] Type Number Three, who, like Type Number Two, assures you that he's not interested in your chips. Unlike Type Number Two, however, he sincerely means what he says. But that's where the difference ends. Due to any one of a number of reasons-ranging from his own bungling to his amoral standards for rationalizing what's right and wrong-he, like Types Number one and Two, still ends up trying to grab your chips. Which means that his supposed good intentions are irrelevant to the final outcome.

[3] he refers to himself as a reptile like a tortoise.. he's "slow", but slow and steady wins the race

EDIT: What is missing above is the setup. How he went about trying to obtain the deal and "setting" the buyers offer price. He opened himself up to be easily squeezed and excluded from the deal. Luckily he had the seller sign a "letter of understanding" as things started unfolding that mentioned his fee so that his lawyer could at least retain it and keep the deal on the rails.

I don't have a problem with the affiliate links. If I buy one of these books, should all the money I spend go to Bezos & Co., or should a small portion go toward the person who took the time and effort to compile the weekly list of books?

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