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Ask HN: Which book have you re-read recently?
198 points by samblr on Feb 4, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 213 comments

1984, followed directly by Brave New World. Our world resembles a lot from each of these books. Much like in 1984, we have devices and companies constantly monitoring us (iOS, Android, Facebook, etc.), we have “news programs” and websites seemingly modeled after the “two minutes hate”, and we clearly have some Ministry of Truth-like misinformation getting spread around while accurate information gets lost or ignored. Much like in Brave New World, we have soma-like drugs, distractions and trivialities occupying people while they accept the world as it is and even shy away from wanting to change things. Really, we live in a world that blends together much of what was described in 1984 and Brave New World. Neither book predicted the future accurately, but together the picture these books painted is pretty damn accurate, and disturbing.

>Much like in Brave New World, we have soma-like drugs, distractions and trivialities occupying people while they accept the world as it is and even shy away from wanting to change things.

Now hold on. There are millions of people in the streets demonstrating on a regular basis these days. How many have to be trying to change things before we stop labeling them all distracted, sleeping, over-amused sheeple?

"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us."

— Neil Postman (Author of Amusing Ourselves to Death)

I first learned about Neil Postman in the last year from Alan Kay's reading list. I've found myself wishing he were still alive to champion his ideas today - they seem just as relevant in the era of Facebook as they did in the era of television.


Both you and pdog have made interesting observations, I suppose, but as I said, neither book described our reality accurately. Our reality is far more complicated. As you point out, millions have protested, but tens of millions haven’t. As pdog remarked, the world in 1984 might be described as a totalitarian hellscape, in part, but parts of our world can also be described as such; pdog needs to look outside his locale, I’m afraid. Our world really is like a combination of those two books, even if your neighborhoods aren’t. We haven’t matched the world portrayed in either book, obviously, but it feels to me like were transitioning to a world a lot like a combination of those books. Let’s review things in a decade or two and see what comes to be.

>As you point out, millions have protested, but tens of millions haven’t.

On both an absolute and per-capita level, those millions are actually record highs. These are historically large demonstrations. I'd have to check where I read this, but IIRC about 3% of a country's total population is typically the amount you need demonstrating in order to overthrow a government.

We're possibly looking at a revolution in progress, and all you guys can say is, "Why aren't there more of them?"?

I think it's important to note that the majority of these protests are happening in large urban cities on the coasts that overwhelming did not vote for Trump. There are no large protests in the Middle of the country.

I'd also like to see the source for he 3% number that leads to overthrow.

> "you guys"

I don't know what group you're imagining me to be a part of, but you have no idea who I am, clearly. That's fine.

Fair enough. I retract any implied criticism. You keep organizing!

>>How many have to be trying to change things before we stop labeling them all distracted, sleeping, over-amused sheeple?

3.5 percent, according to research.


Well, that's roughly how much of the population you need to mount an ultimately successful revolutionary movement. And we're 1/3 of the way there already.

Also, if I had to venture a guess for why things have been improving, it's that modern economies rely on very fine, highly-skilled divisions of labor. If you're a marketing manager, you probably don't really understand how software goes together. This makes it very difficult to point a gun at a programmer and force them to work.

This means that in order to climb the ladder of value-added production, you need to keep your social organization nonviolent, and possibly even increasingly peaceful. You need everyone to cooperate, and when they cease to do so, even nonviolently, you start losing all that value you can't extract at gunpoint.

> Our world resembles a lot from each of these books. Much like in 1984, we have devices and companies constantly monitoring us (iOS, Android, Facebook, etc.), we have “news programs” and websites seemingly modeled after the “two minutes hate”, and we clearly have some Ministry of Truth-like misinformation getting spread around while accurate information gets lost or ignored.

Is this a joke? Having recently reread Orwell's 1984, you can't seriously believe our society resembles Oceania in the slightest. The world may have some problems today, but the world in 1984 is war-torn, totaliarian hellscape from which no one can escape.

It certainly feels like we've always been at war with R̶u̶s̶s̶i̶a̶ the Middle East.

I've been doing the exact same in the last few weeks in the opposite order.

I remember reading these as a young teen and liking the stories, but thinking the concepts were so far from ever being possible.

This was the age where the brutality stories of my grandparents surviving WWII started sinking in.

I was convinced mankind would never ever allow anything to happen again that could lead to what happened in the late 30s.

Mankind has a historically short memory (unless stories are elevated to religious levels). Witness the recent Holocaust Remembrance statement from the White House.

Short mention of a new book related to 1984: 2084 the end of the world http://www.europaeditions.com/book/9781609453664/2084-the-en...

Haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting

>we have soma-like drugs

Having not read the book. Anyone know if that soma is based on vedic soma[1], seems like it.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soma_(drink)#Vedic_soma

From what I can see, Vedic Soma makes someone immortal and invulnerable.

Huxley's soma is some kind of narcotic haalucinogen. This is a list of quotes from the book that include the word "soma" in them, and it should give you an idea of the drug's effects and the characters' attitudes toward it: https://www.huxley.net/soma/somaquote.html

>From what I can see, Vedic Soma makes someone immortal and invulnerable.

Rig veda describes Soma is a hallucinogenic used for intoxication.

1. Intoxication, though not addiction, is a central theme of the Veda, since the sacrificial offering of the hallucinogenic juice of the soma plant was an element of several important Vedic rituals. The poets who “saw” the poems were inspired both by their meditations and by drinking the soma juice. The poems draw upon a corpus of myths about a fiery plant that a bird brings down from heaven; soma is born in the mountains or in heaven, where it is closely guarded; an eagle brings soma to earth (4.26-7) or to Indra (4.18.13), or the eagle carries Indra to heaven to bring the somabo

2. we have seen a Vedic poem (10.119) in which someone exhilarated (or stoned) on soma says that the drinks have carried him up and away, “Like horses bolting with a chariot.”


Doniger, Wendy (2009-02-24). The Hindus: An Alternative History (p. 122).

That's interesting. Thank you for the clarification.

* The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley. [0]

So famous it became a bit of a cliche. I read it years ago and it didn't make any sense to me. But now that I've been studying Buddhism and practicing meditation for a while I picked it up again and I found it nothing short of brilliant, packed with interesting insights on philosophy, the arts, theology, the history of mysticism and the quest for the meaning of life. I know it sounds trite, but I simply wasn't ready for it the first time.

* The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. [1]

I read this 10 years ago. It touched my heart back then and it did it again this time. It's one of the few works of fiction that changed, a little or a lot, the way I think about love, relationships, loneliness and happiness.

I can't wait to re-read it a third time, in 10 years.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5128.The_Doors_of_Percep...

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9717.The_Unbearable_Ligh...

Island by Huxley is also a fantastic book with great social commentary on the west vs. an idealistic society. It's interesting to see, for example, his early take on preventative vs curative medicine in "modern" society, or how education needs to be reformed. One of my all time favourites.

I wonder how much of Huxley's work is influenced by his friendship with Jiddu Krishnamurthi.

I am only marginally familiar with K's work but have no knowledge of Huxley's . Would be curious if someone who has read both can comment about the similarities/influences between the two.

The Unbearable Lightness..... is my favorite and the only fiction I have read. Never knew a fiction could be so full of emotions.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

“A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skilful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well, - this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection and of sociality as a whole.”

That's a wonderful quote echoing some of my thoughts regarding the post-work economy. Does one need to read the entire "Hainish series" to enjoy this book? Or can I just jump right in?

They're not really a series --- just a shared setting that gives her an excuse to have curious but almost human aliens visit strange worlds populated by almost humans. In fact, the Ekumen barely get a cameo in _Dispossed_.

Read it; it's really good, and works well as a pair with _The Left Hand of Darkness_.

Oh, yeah --- the Old Hainish were Not Nice People.

Small Gods.


It's the 13th book of Terry Pratchett's superb Discworld series, but it's the perfect entry point for anyone who hasn't read any of them because it doesn't require any exterior context, and it's pure Pratchett in his prime.

I honestly can't recommend it, and the rest of the series, highly enough. If you haven't experienced Pratchett's work then I implore you, beg you, to get a copy of this book today.

Say I read this entry in the series. If I end up liking it, would you recommend that I then go back and start from the beginning?

Ah, well, this is a bit of a contentious question in the Discworld community, with no clear correct answer.

Discworld has a number of major story arcs which are generally able to be read separately although they often overlap, and so some people prefer to follow one of the many Reading Guides out there to determine which books to read and when.

But a lot of us disagree and say that you should go to the very first book, The Colour of Magic, start there, and read the whole series in order, because it lets you experience Pratchett as he evolves from a pretty good writer into one of the best fantasy authors of all time. Plus you get to experience the Discworld itself evolving, as the Disc is broadly an allegory of Earth in the 1700s / 1800s with many of the same technological progressions.

It's important to note, though, that the first few books in the series can be tough to get through if you don't already have an appreciation for what's coming, and some readers are put off by them, but please, please don't give up, you have no idea what you're missing right now.

God, I envy you so much. If I had three wishes, I would genuinely spend the third one on forgetting the Discworld series just so I could once again experience the joy of reading it for the first time.

We have a winner, folks! I'll order the first book this week and take it from there. I've read quite a bit of sci-fi and I can appreciate good world building, so I won't be giving up that easily. Thanks for the advice.

Fantastic, I'm so excited for you!

I would also highly recommend reading The Annotated Pratchett[1], which provides insight into the many fascinating real-world events, objects, people, myths, legends, and more that Pratchett subtly (or not so subtly in some cases) referenced in his work.

Don't get ahead of yourself of course, wait until you've finished reading the entire book before you read its corresponding APF entry so as to avoid spoilers :)

[1] https://www.lspace.org/books/apf/

There are suggested reading order guides.

I think it doesn't matter a great deal, the plot of each individual book is usually pretty freestanding, so it's a question of whether you want to watch the characters develop chronologically or not.

Some of the Discworld series, like Small Gods, can be read stand alone with out problems, but I think it's a good idea to read the first book of a main character first. Rincewind, the incompetent wizard, starts with the first book in the series, "The Colour of Magic". My favourite, Sam Vimes, is introduced in the book "Guards! Guards!"

Have you read the graphic novel?

Oh absolutely! I own at least one copy, and usually multiple copies, of everything Pratchett ever published, ranging from a first edition of The Carpet People through to all of the Discworld Collector's Library hardbacks that have been produced so far, and even all of his collaborative works like The Long Earth series and Good Omens et al.

Collecting Pratchett's books is probably the nearest thing I have to a drug addiction.

Probably my favorite novel. And, unfortunately, more relevant than ever.

A quote: If the entire world were to become a police state obsessed with recovering old secrets, then vast resources might be thrown at the problem of factoring large composite numbers.

Daemon - AI, AR (or MR), 3D printing, crowdsourcing, this book brings them and more together in a facinating manner. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6665847-daemon

and the second in the series http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8488830-freedom

Just finished Daemon and about to start Freedom. Great read, and it's amazing how quickly it ramps up near the end! I hadn't been hooked to a book like that since "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and "Dune"

I just re-started this one recently too. If you enjoy those, check out one of Suarez's other: Influx.

It's not a sequel but has some common threads.

I have read Daemon, Freedom and Kill Decision so far. A thing I noticed with Suarez' books is that they very much remind me of the two books of Dan Brown that I've read, yet not having to cringe hard at every scene that involves technology makes them infinitely more readable to me. The settings and plot with both are ludicrous at times, but yet Suarez manages to put some interesting ideas in. I got a similar vibe off of Stephenson's Snow Crash.

By the way: I'm not the only one for whom Sobel's bio screamed "John Carmack" from the first page he's mentioned, am I?

Ah, the stupidity of publishers! The paperback version is cheaper than the Kindle version, ensuring that I won't buy either. :(

Deep Work by Cal Newport. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25744928-deep-work

Eye opening reading for everyone who works in IT, science or any industry that requires long chunks of deep attention.

+1 for Deep Work, especially in this easily distracted world (get off Twitter and do deep work instead).

On my first run through this book and I already want to re-read it again. It has had an amazing effect on helping me re-focus on my work and re-familiarize myself with the value of deep focus / work.

Great book - highly recommend it.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life


I can not recommend enough Mark Manson work. Also, if you are into stoicism, you may love Ryan Holiday books too.

I actually just started reading this book last week. So far it is a really good read.

For those put off by the title, Felix Dennis is/was a billionaire and makes a point of differentiating himself from people becoming wealthy giving advice about how to become wealthy.

He dropped out of high-school and bummed cigarettes and crashed at friends, apparently. He talks about several lessons and how he remained associated with several people who've helped him when he was "nothing". The case of a banker who agreed to open a bank account for him despite being broke out of sympathy/pity.

Dennis likes to write poetry and some of the passages are intense and tear worthy (van Gogh passage). The style is to the point, tells it as it is (He doesn't hesitate to state that his employees are not likely to become wealthy working for him and that he encourages them to fly on their own. He also talks about the less flattering aspects of doing business and says that even between friends, they were on good terms because none of them depended on the venture to survive. He also says never to give shares of your company to anyone and to remain in control).

In his subsequent book, 88, he states that people didn't get that "How to Get Rich" was a cautionary tale about what it takes to become wealthy, which is obvious from many passages in the book. [One of which is when he says he'd rather have stopped at £30 million and wrote poetry while young, instead of pursuing becoming rich at an old age).

It's a worthy read in style and content.

Dennis is buying forests the Government can't take care of in a philanthropic effort to save them.

You write as if he is alive, he died over 2 years ago.

I forgot. The information is still relevant, I hope.

He kind of trashes Steve Jobs in the book basically predicting Steve's hubris will lead to the downfall of Apple. Quote:

But with Steve Jobs, Apple will always attempt to mould the universe to fit Steve's vision of Apple, and will pay the price again and again and again

Feels like he wrote this just before the IPhone. Another excerpt:

Without Jobs, Apple could never have risen from obscurity to become a world-class brand. But with Steve Jobs, Apple will always attempt to mould the universe to fit Steve's vision of Apple, and will pay the price again and again and again. 'Lesser' companies and men will filch their ideas, connect,connect, connect, and beat Apple at its own game. Steve Jobs is not a monster. He is an all-American maverick and a world-class marketing genius. But until a man or woman as powerful as he is arrives at Apple (over his dead body), who is determined to break the cycle he has indulged in for so many years, Apple will remain merely an icon of awe. It will not become a company of the size that truly could (and should) 'bury' monsters like IBM.

Not quite Nostradamus there but give him credit for trying.

The title is a little off-putting, but this guy was the most straight-shooting billionaire out there on what getting rich requires.

This interview gives a flavor of the style:


The Audible version of this is excellent, one of my favorite Audible purchases. The narration reminds me of British comedies and sets the right tone for the book.

I must be blind, do you have a link to the audible version? I can't seem to find it in the audible store search.

It'll be some US/UK rights nonsense.

In the UK: http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Business/How-to-Get-Rich-Audiobo...

I separate my books into levels. Level 0 are the books that I reread steadily over the years (also the ones that I pack in my suitcase when I'm moving as opposed to shipping), so I'll just post that list here, in no particular order: 'Good Poems' edited by Garrison Keiller; 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen; 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen; Fitzgerald's translation of 'The Rubaiyat'; Ford Madox Ford's 'Parade's End'; Hafiz, 'The Gift'; Modesitt, 'Gravity Dreams'; Heinlein, 'Time Enough for Love'; Bulgakov, 'Master and Margarita'; 'Ovid in Love' (Guy Lee's translation of the Amores).

I've been revisiting a lot of Le Guin's novellas ('The Found and the Lost' is a great collection) and Borges's stories since the election. They have been a source of great comfort.

I find that I don't reread nonfiction. I'll reference something I remember in it, but I can't think of a work of nonfiction I've reread in the past few years.

> Heinlein, 'Time Enough for Love'

Not within the last year, but I've probably re-read that between five and ten times. I think I first read it as a teenager in the early 70s, or in the Navy in the late 70s.

Siddhartha - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2500

3rd time; learned something knew every time.

Excellent book. The first time I started reading it, I couldn't grasp it and stopped after a few pages. But then picked it up again in 2015 and read it in one sitting. It's a wonderful little book. To be honest, I don't think I can sum up how it felt but it was liberating. I remember keeping the book on my chest and getting lost in thoughts about what the purpose of life is. It was really deep, I was on a totally different plane with my thought process. I read it again last year on a flight but couldn't finish it and it didn't evoke the same emotions but it has a very special place in my heart.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard. This is a hilariously clever play so packed with verbal and physical humor that you almost have to read it aloud to yourself and move about your own living room to fully digest it. It explores the sensation that supposedly random events are somehow orchestrated into a purposeful coherence by an unseen force (Stoppard? Shakespeare?) More than one character has an existential crisis involving, though not explicitly invoking, the fourth wall. And the commentary on death is quite thoughtful and thought-provoking.

This was made into a movie a while back as well. It really liked it.

Most notably, Blood Meridian. It had probably been more than fifteen years since I last reread it. What was unusual was that as soon as I reread it, I turned around and reread it again.

[edit] Among programming books: How to Design Programs...I've got a print copy. There's a lot of sophistication and relevant experience behind its programming fundamentals content (e.g. tests and documentation before (2002) tests and documentation became the new black).

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seveneves

One of the few books, that when I'm finished, I just want to turn it over a start again.

Covers a wide range of important and relevant topics in technology, biology/genetics, ethics. My only problem is it is too short! Could easily have been a triology like the Baroque Cycle (another favorite) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Baroque_Cycle

Seveneves was the book that reminded me why I really enjoyed Stephenson's writing.

The last part of seveneves is horrible. I refused to finish it.

It very clearly was set up to be the first of a series.

Except by all accounts it wasn't and there are no plans to continue it.

by all accounts

Oh really? Please share one such account. Because this is a statement from Stephenson himself:

There’s nothing currently in the works. A lot depends on what happens in the next few months, how people respond to the book, if there’s any interest in doing media adaptations

That's pretty clear it depends on how well it sells, whether film rights get bought and how that goes, etc.

> There’s nothing currently in the works.

That seems clear enough.

"Set up to be part of a series" and "Nothing currently in the works" are not mutually exclusive. It's not uncommon for the decision to invest in a sequel to hinge on sales.

Have you read the book? There's no way someone could read this book and not think, "Yeah, the author clearly purposefully left room for this to be a very large series."

I thought as much myself but shortly after finishing it I went looking through interviews and there was one from Neal Stephenson where he explicitly stated that he had no intention of doing a sequel when he was writing it, hence my initial statement. Due to the minimal information we have on the last few chapters it seemed like it was created intentionally but the author said otherwise.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Really, anything by Gibson is worth reading multiple times, simply for the great writing style. Pattern Recognition also does something special: have you really ever /thought/ about brands and advertising? Lots of commentary on culture, memetic fashion, and what it means.

Recursion by Tony Ballantyne is a book that I didn't actually like all that much, but reread anyways. It covers a lot of topics I love (global AIs, Von Neumann Machines, tulpas, trusting trust, and a totalitarian utopia). The plot leaves a lot to be desired, but the concepts are worth it.

Pattern recognition was great. William Gibson can make some very compelling characters.

I loved Pattern Recognition. As someone who also has an aversion to logos and branding, I immediately connected with Case.

Man's search for meaning by Victor Frank


Re-listened many times the audio version. He reads it himself in a nice consumable speed.

Yeah! Thanks! I am going to reread it now.

The Diamond Age

Even more than Star Trek, this novel caused me to think about a post-scarcity world. If we could have anything and everything, what should we do with it?


>If we could have anything and everything, what should we do with it?

Really? I always thought of The Diamond Age as being about class conflict and social hierarchy in a partially post-scarcity world.

Yea, there'd be less scarcity in that one if it weren't for all the DRM. Possibly a lot more anarchy though. I think the agrarian-nanotech society that Dr X wants would be hard to establish and harder to maintain.

Excellent book about nanotechnology, which is something we don't really seem to hear about much anymore. I remember when it was going to be "the next big thing".

It's something that has arrived gradually without much fanfare as there don't seem to have been any qualitative leaps forward so far.

I wanted some light relief so I started re-reading Charles Stross' Laundry files, starting with The Atrocity Archives.


There are 7 books in the series now, and hopefully I'll finish the re-read not too long before the next one comes out!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I'm on at least my third reading and imagine I'll read it again.

Also re-listened to Getting Things Done by David Allen. This could also be any number of times.

Sort-of related, currently re-watching Westworld. I burned through ten episodes in two sittings first time around and wanted to properly appreciate it this time at a more leisurely pace.

Nassim Taleb's Antifragile. First read it when it came out in 2012, and I was still unmarried and unemployed. Interesting to re-read it now that I'm married and have been working for 4+ years.

The book I recently reread was Fooled by Randomness. Working in the finance industry, that book changed my life.

I've read a few of Taleb's other books. He seems to have a few brilliant points with lots of supporting materials and rants. Can you summarize the new insights you got after being married/employed?

I wouldn't say there are any new insights per se; I'm maybe just more intimately acquainted with them. Ie when I first read it, most of the descriptions about things like how a paycheck influences your thinking/behavior were just intellectual ideas for me, but having had a mortgage + paycheck for 4 years I've come to personally witness how it's 'domesticated' me in a way, made me more fragile, however you want to describe it

+1 for Antifragile. Very interesting ideas, even though his writing style is a bit overbearing (lots of rants and personal attacks). I found it interesting to think about how the ideas in the book apply and relate to software development: https://henrikwarne.com/2014/06/08/antifragility-and-softwar...

Godel, Escher, Bach.

But I'm not fully re-reading it, because the first time I only got to one third of it.

So, until I get to that first third, I'm re-reading, and after that, it is all new.

I'm looking forward to starting GEB a third time. It is by far my favorite book I've never finished.

"How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie. Timeless wisdom that is good to be reminded of regularly.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Bill Gates famously said that anyone who finished TAOCP should send him their resume, but to me, anyone who has read and done all the SICP exercises would be a good hire, and it is a far more achievable task.

I had been programming for about 10 years or so when I read it and did all the exercises. It seriously leveled-up my abilities, in my opinion.

That's a book I reread in sections without ever having read it in its entirety. It's among the books I can open up when I want something to read and be satisfied reading five to thirty pages because any rereading provides a new experience ...that's what makes rereading a good book interesting (or maybe what makes a good book): it is a different book because of how I have changed.

Hats off to you. Most don't even complete this once, you have re-read it. It will be great if you can tell what made you re-read this one?

A recurring interest in recursive programming to break out of an iterative lifestyle.

Neil Strauss' Emergency and Peter Heller's The Dog Stars.

I read the piece in the New Yorker about rich tech guys and their bug out plans for the apocalypse (including Reddit's Alex Ohanian).

I love Strauss' journey from survivalist to community volunteer. It changed the way I think about preparedness.

Heller's book is one of only a few that I find myself thinking about all the time. I'm a sucker for any book with a dog in it though, so that might color my opinion.

You might also like "The Knowledge" by Dr Lewis Dartnell.

Looks pretty interesting. Thanks for the recommendation.

If you like dogs, you should read "The Art of Driving in the Rain" it's a surprisingly good novel.

Oh jeez, that looks good. Added to my wishlist. I really wish I either had more time to read or could read faster.

Too late for an edit, it should be the art of racing in the rain.

Just started re-reading the Baroque cycle and plan to follow with Cryptonomicon. Re-reading really reveals a lot that was a bit of a mystery the first time.

I noticed the same thing.

The second time through I was much better able to keep the characters straight.

The Fountainhead. Makes me a better person Everytime.

Agreed. In fact, I think it's about time I should start a re-read of The Fountainhead myself. It's been a few years since I've read it.

Just frustrates me I can't have an awesome house designed by an amazing architect!

I've read two books recently:

* Contact by Carl Sagan

I had previously seen the movie. The book (or rather the movie) takes a bit of a departure. The backgrounds on all the different characters as well as the political parts weren't that interesting to me. But overall the book was great.

* We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse) by Dennis Taylor

I'd suggest listening to it on Audiobook. Excellent read. Makes me want to buy the book and read through it again. I can't wait until the next one comes out in (March?)

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Contact-Carl-Sagan/dp/0671004107/ref=...

[1] https://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Legion-Bob-Bobiverse/dp/168068...

Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Whenever I feel short of compassion, this books helps me gain some senses and completely change the way I look at the world - literally everytime.

The Martian

I love it. It's about doing the impossible, one step at a time

The attention to technical detail in this book is awesome. Mentioning the priority inversion bug on the lander made me smile.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer. Many arguments about why and how are answered in that

"This is Berlin", Shirer's collection of transcripts of his CBS radio broadcasts from the Nazi capital 1938-40 is excellent.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. The Guards is my favorite arc in Discworld and Samuel Vimes is my favorite character among all the fiction I've read.

Excession - Iain M Banks. Going through the whole Culture series again.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

I understood a lot more of the jokes this time through, I think I was in Elementary school the last time I read it :)

Took me two reads to realize that the magical word people didn't understand, described as "reflected sound of underground spirits", was economics.

That moment of realization; d'oh!

Hah, yea, same here. He almost explains it in the book, but not quite.

Heh .. my fav book in the discworld series is Going Postal, and its sequel. I highly recommend them.

State of the Art by Iain M Banks

Consider Phlebas is one of the few books I have read more than once. The Culture series is unparalleled. Surface Detail is probably my pick for #1, as Consider Phlebas isn't really set within the Culture proper, so stands in its own category in a sense.

Maybe you can advise me. I read Consider Phlebas, and I didn't like it at all. I rarely like war fiction.

Is Phlebas typical of the whole Culture series, or are the other books a different kind of story?

Thank you.

Banks often used conflict as a plot device, but (from memory) only Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons include much actual warfare.

You could try The Player of Games (my personal favourite) or The Hydrogen Sonata, which has a fairly peaceful storyline. And The State of the Art - a collection of short SF stories - is very good too.

I read this every year

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


Great book!

Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I highly recommend it. Takes only 4-5 hours cover to cover

In the last several weeks, I read all of the Harry Potter series. Because I wanted to fall into another world, where I knew things would end well. And I've been re-reading Laurie King's Mary Russell series, because I want to be surrounded by smart people.

In fact I'm doing a lot of re-reading. The world is full of so much uncertainty, these days, that I can't even cope with not knowing how a book ends.

I'm currently reading Neuromancer again. Still doesn't feel dated.

Feels the opposite too me. It shows it's been written in the 80's. Would "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." make sense to young people nowadays?

Or the "3 megabytes of hot ram" :)

Still a good story though.

The Arabs: A History


I just reread _On Writing Well_ by William Zinsser -- a book with a lot of great advice for writing non-fiction (creative mostly, but also technical and business writing).

It's a little dated, but a lot of what he says is timeless.

About a year ago I reread Faulkner's _As I Lay Dying_ which is one of my favorite books. I can't explain why, but I think about it often.

Ready Player One.

Though the recent second time was as an audio book on a long car trip.


Reading this book is a nice way to step into another universe for a while.

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1303.The_48_Laws_of_Powe... Recommend for techies struggling to "play the game"

Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks

I'm in love with Rethinking Innateness. I'm posting half in the hope someone suggests an up to date version, but it's brilliant and fascinating itself. It was prescribed when I was studying my CS MSc and I've read it three times now.

I got initially into computers because I would press something on the keyboard and knew there was a sequence of commands that directed the graphics card to output something – I needed to understand that. Now, as I assume applies to so many people here, my curiosity has expanded to human development, this books is _the bridge_ between CS and psychology.


Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome

I consider this timeless humour, because it gets me to laugh out loud in public. People get startled by this. Also, I read episodes from the book to my 7 year old, who loves it. Occasionally, I need to explain a very dry joke, but some I leave for him to discover later.

“I can't sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can't help it.” This kind of humor on a book from 1889 is just unbelievable, I have to read this. Thank you for the recommendation.

Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up


Goldmine of information about practical things you have to deal with when starting HW startup.

All the content of the book + extra chapters are available in forum format and you can read it here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/701900/schiit-happened-the-story-of...

I re-read 'The Hobbit', which made me marvel again at such a delightful, thoughtful story, the world and characters that Tolkien wrought, and the morals of self-discovery and self-sacrifice... and sad for what the movie(s) could have been instead of what they were.

I re-read it two years ago, and was blown away by how good it was. A really good read!

I am re-reading "Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury, it made a strong impression on me four or five years ago, with its pessimistic yet poetic view of the Mars colonization. My new boss is an annoying Mars colonization enthusiast so I'm counterbalancing.

Peopleware — Productive Projects and Teams


The Hard thing About Hard Things, but Ben Horowitz. Before that was The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. I've been on a business book kick lately, but currently took a break and am reading Amy Schumer's book for kicks.

The Dune series. The Lord of the Rings. All the Amber books, by Zelazny. Pretty much the same books I read every year or two.

I'm going to start re-reading the Steven Brust Vlad-series, in the near future. Mostly to anticipate his forthcoming novel.

People Over Profit. Really enjoyed it both times.


* Steven Levy – Crypto

* Stephen King – 11/22/63

* Michael R Underwood – Geekomancy series

11/22/63 in particular is hard to put down, King doesn't need the supernatural to create a thrilling story.

Permutation City. Immediately before that, I had read Ready Player One, and felt I needed something rich in nutrients to balance out the refined sugar high.

Cryptonomicon, very dense almost requires a second reading to fully understand how everything ties together.

Considering it was written in 1999 still feels very contemporary.

House of Leaves. I read it in college and thought it was okay, but I had some ideas about the world I think I was trying to project on it, and I didn't really "get it." Some stuff happened in my life recently, and for some reason I remembered it and felt compelled to re-read. I'm glad I did. I felt like I understood and identified with it a great deal more.


I loved that book more than the original. I think they should make it a movie.

How do you continue learning more types of stuff that the book teaches you?

Check out http://lesswrong.com/

Also, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote a book called Rationality: From AI to Zombies.


If you want to jump right in, you can start with The Martial Art of Rationality, here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gn/the_martial_art_of_rationality/

There were several books mentioned in HPMoR that seem like good recommendations. I know for a fact that Feynman's Lectures on Physics is superb. See http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/ for the texts.

For an alternative experience, having read the book several times, I just finished the HPMOR podcast (audiobook):


Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale, the best novel I read last year. Alternate history: Rome invades Cahokia.

No affiliate link: https://www.amazon.com/Clash-Eagles-Trilogy-Book/dp/11018853...

Edit: corrected author's name

The Renaissance by Will Durant, part of his The Story of Civilization series. I was inspired to review the Renaissance by last year's Burning Man theme, especially a collection of Renaissance inspired art by an Israeli photographer.

I'm kind of in a perpetual re-read of Pierce's Types and Programming Languages.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. For motivation

"Kingmaker", by Christian Cantrell[0]. I needed a dose of anti-plutocrat in my daily brain food and his novel was a fun near-future fix.

[0] http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17687575-kingmaker

The first 5 books of the Honor Harrington series, I'm on the 6th now and planning on re-reading all 13 the whole thing.


The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O'Brian. I needed a bit of quality, mindless fun after 2016.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Homo Deus - A Brief Bistory of Tomorrow

Rereading my way through the two Dune 'trilogies' now. Currently in the middle of God Emperor.

This time through it's been shocking to me to see such parallels between the politics, policies, and consequences there of and the world today.

There's a lot to think about in Dune.

Two books by Simon Singh:

The Code Book

Big Bang

He has an amazing ability to go really deep into what he's explaining. No hand waving over the details. And yet, it's so very readable.

Unfortunately that wasn't true with his other book - Fermat's Theorem - probably because the subject matter was too complex?

I just re-read Righteous Indignation by Andrew Breitbart -- Fascinating in retrospect as it accurately describes so much about the emergence of new media and what manifested itself in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti


For a moment I thought you were going to say "The First and Last Men" - but then I realized I'd mis-remembered the title:


This is an excellent sci-fi exploration of possible future, especially given the year in which it was written. I've not re-read it since I've only finished it a few months ago, but it was an excellent read.

I read this many times as a teenager after finding this on a railway platform in India. Changed my life. Good to see it here.

The Dictator's Handbook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1610391845

Fascinatingly relevant right now.

>Fascinatingly relevant right now.

How so?

The guy who we liked expanded executive power and now the guy who we don't like inherited it.

The book talks a lot about the differences between getting to power and holding power. It also talks about the differences between democracies, dictatorships etc.

The Alchemist

Zero to One. If I had to highlight the most important parts of the book, I would end up highlighting the whole book. :S

"The Encounter", a National Geographic photographer's meeting with a tribe of telepathic Amazon Indians.

I've been re-reading the aeneid and the summa theologica. And as for tech, mostly RFCs and wikipedia articles.

The Cuckoo's Egg. Plus ca change.

Not books as such, but I have re-read a fair number of Shakespeare's plays since about Christmas.

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov

The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man's Fear -- great fantasy books by Patrick Rothfuss.

I just finished reading these for the first time and am disappointed to learn that the 3rd book was at the finished manuscript stage 4 years ago, but still no 3rd book :[

The Elements of Style --- well, parts of it. However, I mainly read it for pleasure.

I re-read Fahrenheit 451 recently. I had read it only once when I was young.

Good call, I read it long ago when I was growing up, cover to cover in one sitting having picked it up from my Dad's bookshelf with no real idea of what it was about. I really should reread it and see how I feel about it as an adult.

Matilda by Roald Dahl.

0 to 1: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

"Flash Boys" - Michael Lewis

The art of multiprocessor programming

"Master Switch" by Tim Wu

The Prince by Machiavelli

Zero to One (audio book)

The Machine That Changed The World

Good Prose


Three books I tend to re-read every 3-8 years are: Farmer in the Sky[1], The Chrysalids[2] and Dune[3][4]. Read them as a teenager and thirty years later still re-read.

Others I’ve re-read recently are:

* Camouflage [5]

* The Green And the Gray [6]

* The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August [7]

* The Martian [8]

* I Am Not A Serial Killer series [9]

I plan to re-read in the near future:

* Touch [10]

* The Hollow City [11]

* Pulling Up Stakes [12]

Yes, I read a lot. [13]


[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50851.Farmer_in_the_Sky

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/826845.The_Chrysalids

[3] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1000049.Dune

[4] Only the first book in the series. Really disliked all the rest. Last couple of times I’ve listened to the Audible audiobook version which is excellent.

[5] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21607.Camouflage

[6] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/216455.The_Green_And_the...

[7] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18295861-the-first-fifte...

[8] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18007564-the-martian

[9] https://www.goodreads.com/series/49883-john-cleaver

[10] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23561543-touch

[11] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13034956-the-hollow-city

[12] https://www.goodreads.com/series/94696-pulling-up-stakes

[13] http://www.michevan.id.au/content/reading-habits-of-2015/

Snow Crash

"Hamilton" by Lin Manuel Miranda. This is the story of how the play came to be after his first white house performance.

Here is a short post I wrote a few days back:

Hamilton is an absolutely fantastic musical. An amazing history : probably the most interesting story of a founding-father. It has got everything : rags-to-riches, heroism, fighting, betrayal, sex scandal, .. you name it. The musical is based off of Ron Chernow's door-stop sized biography. Lin Manuel Miranda adapted it to a Broadway play. And if you are like most, you will end up becoming a huge fan of Miranda. The musical won a Pulitzer as well as a lot of Tony's including the best musical. What a beautiful way to tell the story of a founding father with Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B and a bunch of other genres. Mind blown!

If you can get a ticket to the musical, consider yourself lucky and go watch it. I haven't. So ended up doing all the other reading / listening before the musical finale. :)

I got so interested in this that I have now listened to the musical (many times), read all the coverage of it in NY Times (published as a book) and also the book that Miranda himself wrote about the genesis of the show and watched a dozen videos of Lin on youtube.

Here's Lin's first presentation of this idea in a poetry recital at the White House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNFf7nMIGnE

The entire musical is available on many streaming services and on youtube too.

The book by Lin Manuel Miranda : Hamilton : https://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Revolution-Lin-Manuel-Mirand...

This is the book that covers all articles on NY Times: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01FWP73AM/

A few cool Lin videos:

SNL Monologue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsupmN90wBk

Freestyle rapping in the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w31jboLYcH4

Freestyle with Ellen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqhKeIr6Zbc&t=201s

Ron Chernow's book: https://www.amazon.com/Alexander-Hamilton-Ron-Chernow-ebook/...

[yet to read this massive tome -> saving it up as the finale].

"Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire" (1992)



Mostly re-read the parts of the book that talk about the 80s (the creation of the PC, DOS, Windows, the PC clones, Microsoft and Intel outsmarting IBM, Microsoft bullying the rest of the industry, etc.).

I've not read 'Hard Drive', but I've re-read 'Gates' by Manes and Andrews, and can recommend it.

Well, ditto. I can recommend 'Hard Drive' just by its sheer writing/research quality. Apparently the book came out of a series of articles in "The Seattle Times", back when newspapers employed quality writers/researchers.

It gave me

a) a whole new understanding of the computer hardware/ecosystem I grew up with

b) a re-newed insight into why Gates was a horrible, horrible monopolist who held back software development for the world quite a bit. My best guess is by about 5 years. (And that estimate is actually quite generous towards Mr. Gates.)

I don't think you'd be surprised in the large by anything in 'Gates', though there may be a story here or there that 'Hard Drive' didn't present, and vice versa. I'll make a point to read 'Hard Drive' as well, I find the perspective helpful.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Just because I needed a bit of fun fiction to break up all the non-fiction. And because it (perhaps accidentally) says something interesting about the gods of a land of immigrants and future-philes.

Wage Labour and Capital by Marx.

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