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Ask HN: What book did you read in 2016 that was so good you gifted it to others?
39 points by 3stripe on Nov 17, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments

I can second "Deep Work by Cal Newport" the man gives some great insights and actionable advice on how to consistently get into the zone as a programmer and produce great work.

I've gifted it twice already.

I also recommend it. Given two copies to people this year.

Sounds childish, but because a lot of people seem to be losing wonder and imagination: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


In programming there is the concept of "technical taste".It applies to cookbooks too:

Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop.


This is a fantastic cookbook if you are interested in cooking Chinese food and a great reason to become interested if you are not. The author is a fine thoughtful writer and has really good taste and recipe judgement. The result is an intriguing collection of simple but good to amazing recipes with almost no duds. I've made over 60 of the recipes this year and almost all were a success. I love food and cooking and have over 70 cookbooks but this one has given me the most pleasure.

Neither are new books, but this year I both read and subsequently gifted

* 1491 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1491:_New_Revelations_of_the_A...

* Stranger in a Strange Land (the "Original, Uncut version") https://www.amazon.com/Stranger-Strange-Land-Robert-Heinlein...

1491 is about the societies in the Americas prior to European contact. And if anyone knows of any books on the topic that have been written since then (and thus are even more up-to-date with the current state of the field), I'm very, very interested.

Stranger in a Strange Land is just... excellent. I really appreciate Heinlein and I like his world view. Though I've never read the traditional "cut" version, I've talked with people who have read both and I'm sold on the unabridged version. As an aside, if you enjoy Heinlein, then I also recommend reading "For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs." It was Heinlein's first book, but was never published (until recently, of course). It's not polished, but it is very interesting to see how he had already formed in the 1930s a lot of the ideas that would dominate his writing for the rest of his career. A good and enjoyable read.


1491 is fantastic. Have you read the sequel, 1493? It's thoroughly enjoyable as well.

The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

An incredible look into the lives of the working poor and what it actually means to try and get out of poverty in America. It's a beautiful book. http://thenewpress.com/books/moral-underground

Daemon and Freedom by Danial Suarez

Some amazing insights in AI, Augmented Reality, and a distributed manufacturing society.

Daemon really needs some more recognition. It's one of the most interesting and most real sci-fi books I've read in a long time.

"Infinite Jest," whose 20th anniversary of publication was celebrated this year.

I also gifted this one this year. And also apologized to the person I gave it to...

Did you get the version with the new cover?

No, I just re-read my original hardcover from '96.

Two books:

- John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education"

- Carroll Quigley's "Tragedy and Hope"

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

The Cuckoo's Egg.

I always say this if I can, but I reread it again, and it's still great.

For those of you who don't know, it's a story about chasing down a hacker at the dawn of the computing era (mid 80s, AFAIK). It's riveting, and absolutely true.

+1. It's a page turner.


* "The Elements Of Computing Systems", by Nisan and Schocken

Accompanies www.nand2tetris.org and leads you through implementing logic gates, a CPU, Assembler, right up to a functional computer, with the help of simulator software on a PC. Fascinating, but requires 100-200 hours to complete all the exercises.

* "The Rosie Project", by Graeme Simsion

Easy to read novel about a man searching for a wife, as recommended on Bill Gates' blog

* "Island Of The Lost", by Joan Druett

A true story of survival after being shipwrecked on a remote island

* "River Town", by Peter Hessler

The experiences of an English teacher who spent two years working in China

Oh, that's easy: Code, by Charles Petzold [1]. One of the best book I ever read, that teach you about how computers work. The best thing is that it doesn't starts with any assumption and it gets you from the very basic - how a CPU works, how memory works - to fairly complex things (how video graphics work, how color video works and so on).

[1]: http://amzn.to/2g6Lcfo

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal.

Fundamentally about being agile, adaptable, transparent, collaborative and decentralised. You could say it's about digital transformation but on a military scale. An excellent companion to some other books mentioned here, such as Deep Work (this book is a constructive counterpoint in many ways), Extreme Ownership, and Ego is the Enemy.



A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink

totally off topic, but what ever happened to "gave"

My guess is that gave just implies transfer of something, but gifted specifically implies giving something as a gift.

Bingo. I asked a longer version of this question on Twitter but it was > 80 chars.

Books I've give away this year:

- "In the Garden of Beasts", Erik Larson: An excellent history of diplomatic relations between the US and Germany leading up to WWII.

- "Dune", Frank Herbert: Most of you are probably familiar with this book.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Great founder story

When Breathe Becomes Air Story about the meaning of life. Not sure how anyone can go through this and not cry. (First book I've ever cried reading)

Haven't gifted these yet but both Chaos Monkeys and Sprint should see action next month.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

What were your takeaways from the book?

Also, Citizen of the Galaxy and Double Star are really good reads in the same sort of vein of political-minded science fiction.

How different we may seem to others. When they talk about earth they are talking as if we talk about other strange lands.

"Did you know..." applies to everyone, no matter how far they are.

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. It changed my outlook on life.

All works of Carl Jung, great writings, I love them.

"Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius

Linchpin - Seth Godin

Pitch Anything - Oren Klaff

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray

Big Magic

GO for NO


Please stop posting like this.


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