Getting a solid grounding in how life can arise without, well, magic, shifted my thinking quite a bit. At a low level, life has no inherent meaning, so it's whatever we make of it. For many this is probably obvious, but if you grew up in a rather fundamentalist religious environment, it's quite the change!
I think most atheists would agree with that statement and would want a benevolent God to exist.
"[Religious belief] is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you - who must, indeed, subject you - to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life - I say, of your life - before you're born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you're dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate? I've been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president, Kim Jong-Il is only head of the party and head of the army. He's not head of the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-Sung. It's a necrocracy, a thanatocracy. It's one short of a trinity I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting and utter and absolute and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved. But at least you can fucking die and leave North Korea!?"
I like to say “if a god made me, it made me unable to believe in it”, which is certainly an interesting thought exercise, but not exactly inspiring.
Did you invent this term just for the comment?
Yet sadly 90% of the population still misunderstand/poorly understand evolution by natural selection. They seem to think it's progressive, or some mysterious force of nature that produces "better" animals over time.
More commonly what I see is that people aren't 100% intellectually honest when they get into it. They don't apply the same rigor to their religious beliefs as they do others. Or they sort of re-interpret or cherry pick themselves around their scriptures to avoid awkward parts. Or they start stepping back and making less powerful claims than their religion traditionally did.
Sometimes they step all the way back into "well what if God is just the laws of physics?". At that point I don't think it's much of a technical discussion and more like, hey, if this comforts someone, and it's not making them make bad decisions (like hurting others based on this belief), well I'm not gonna waste my personal energy arguing.
I mean, so long they aren't arguing that the creator of all spacetime and beyond, of infinite knowledge and capability, cares how we dress or who we sleep with ... eh, fine whatever. Now, people selling water claiming it can cure cancer, that's another story ;).
Did God create Man or did he create the laws of natural selection that created Man?
I'm not making an argument in any way shape or form for a divine creation to the universe. I'm just trying to point out that you're making claims you can't possibly support with evidence and sounding as if you're certain of them in the way that people are certain about evidence backed claims. in other words, you're speaking from dogma not from knowledge.
It's a masterpiece.
"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman - essentially a book about "bugs" in our minds that lead us to bad decisions,
"The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald Norman - changes the way you look at human-made things, makes you better appreciate examples of design that take functionality into account.
Great book, textbook-ish, but reshaped how I look at people and problems
- Douglas Hofstadter's GEB: An Eternal Golden Braid
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
- Ursula K. LeGuin's The Word for World is Forest
- Propaganda by Edward Bernays
- Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
- Empires: The Logic of World Domination from Ancient Rome to the United States by Herfried Münkler
- Smedley D. Butler's War is a Racket (more of an exposé)
- In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell (ditto)
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
"Neuromancer" I wouldn't say that would be in my list of "fundamentally" changed the way I think, it's a good story with a cool narrative style but in the sci-fi genre I'd put "Childhood's End" way before "Neuromancer" in changing the way I think.
Or perhaps this: "I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf [...] Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot!"
I loved it, and I thank him constantly for reminding me of what it is to be born free.
"13 hijos!? y todos vivos??" ("13 children?? and all living??" [one mother])
"Unos mas vivos que otros, pero todos comen." (A play on words, where I failed to add the right marks, but: "Some more lively [same word as living] than others, but they all eat.") And they all (but one who died in childhood) had happy families of their own, spread across North America. I'm a grandchild of that one.
The book itself is largely dull, overwritten, and characters are afflicted with "Ayn Rand Syndrome" - where the protagonists are always perfect and the world around them is fundamentally flawed and can only be fixed with free market capitalism. It's like "Joss Whedon Syndrome" without the smarm.
BUT, I did glean an appreciation for following a path of one's own creation, committing to your goals even as the world sets out to discourage you and undermine your work at every twist and turn. It was quite inspiring and invigorating to read this book in my late teenage years.
But then again, I have recently found the same theme to be more accurately and entertainingly portrayed in a Japanese anime: Gurren Lagann
Except Trigger went on to make a fascinating story about clothing and the power it has had for all of history (Kill La Kill), while Ayn Rand made an even more unreadable whinefest where every person in government is solely on a spectrum between incompetent and evil, and the only solution is to give up, take your ball, and go home. (Atlas Shrugged - somewhat undermining the point of The Fountainhead in the first place).
Another anime that really surprised me with its depth and sophistication was Puella Magi Madoka Magica. KyuBey still gives me nightmares just thinking about it.
One the surface it may seem like a dumb giang robot action-fest. But it has profound messages about fear, determination and legacy.
Particularly, the process of abandoning it forced me into a clearer view of my personal value system. That in turn has made me a better person: it is hard to have integrity if one doesn't understand what they believe.
Its difficult to take a book seriously with such caricatured and poorly written characters. I've seen better writing in comic books.
His thoughts on religion and interpretation of religion as propaganda and how we've framed our taker society very much influenced my young mind.
- 1491 and 1493 by Charles C. Mann
The way we look at the new world and how vastly different standard teachings and what actually happened are.
- A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine
Put to words what I already mostly practise, it identified my issues I had with buddhism.
- A Dictators Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
An interesting flip on politics, it made me stop worrying so much about the here-and-now of it, and quelled my anger with the (further?) realisation that it is a game. If we want to fix what's happening we need to fix the rules, not the players.
N.N. Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness" fundamentally changed the way I look at the world in seeing so much of what people ascribe to skill or errors, just to randomness or bad luck.
Could you elaborate a bit on this? What issues did it identify?
There's nothing wrong with the way buddhism says to withdraw, it's just one of the reasons I don't fully jive with it—then again, you don't exactly have to love it or lump it, you can pick and choose for sure. It's just an observation.
- Blindsight and Echopraxia by Peter Watts
- The Tao Te Ching
- The Gateless Gate (Koun Yamada translation/editing)
- The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World) by Neal Stephenson
- The Invisibles by Grant Morrison
- Incerto (Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, Antifragile, The Bed of Procrustes) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Iron John by Robert Bly
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- The Character of Physical Law by Richard P. Feynman
- Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
- 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Pharmakon by Dale Pendell
- The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
- Greek Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- The Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual by Gary Gygax et al
- Introduction to Algorithms by Charles E. Leiserson, Clifford Stein, Ronald Rivest, and Thomas H. Cormen
1. a presentation of many archetypal themes, characters, monsters, gods, and demons pulling from a wide variety of sources and mythologies that I had not previously been exposed to. this was horizon expanding. encouragement to go out and actually learn about the source cultures that the D&D material was inspired by.
2. a fascinating system for dealing with moral and ethical judgments. the "alignment system" with its two orthogonal axes of Good<->Evil and Law<-->Chaos, and the interesting distinction between various kinds of neutrality (apathetic/passive vs. actively balanced, for example).
3. introducing me to the premise that play and socialization are primarily _creative_ and _imaginative_ activities. being raised on a diet of television and video games made this part particularly important as a counter-balance to all the passive entertainment that was being done to me.
what is your position on adult use of marijuana in states where it has not been legalized?
as a followup, what is your position with respect to state vs. federal law disagreeing with each other in states that have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana?
This book changed the way I approach problems in my personal and professional life. It has helped me to reflect on any given thought and understand where the thought comes from and where is could be leading me. It's been really enlightening to reflect on my own cognition through the tools and examples of Yudkowsky's book. It's long and dense, but is by far the best book I've read in the last few years.
 Available for free in all formats at http://www.hpmor.com/
Also, now that I think of it: Asimov's robot and Foundation books (to a lesser degree), and videos by Milton Friedman (years ago).
(FLOSS, fast personal knowledge organizer for touch typists: http://onemodel.org )
[edits: added Asimov & Friedman.]
I gather that some ideas for the Foundation series came from Asimov's reading about the Roman empire. And I admire his sheer abilities in writing both so prolifically and enjoyably.
(Edit: I could have mentioned in my original post about books: The Little Schemer (Friedman et al) and another, fat, textbook on Scheme (also Friedman et al; he was the professor) changed, somewhat, how I thought about programming.)
So, not sure whether it's an amazing book (it was to me when I was 12), but it definitely set in motion a life-long love of science fiction books.
The Poisonwood Bible - turned me into a (troubled) atheist and (untroubled) feminist.
My favorite book in 2013 (http://codingfearlessly.com/year-2013). After reading it, I accepted my introversion and learned how to better use it, view it as a strength instead of weakness.
This book gave me insight on who I am and why am I like this. It didn't change any of my behaviors.
One simple example: as an introvert, I would get tired at parties or gatherings of bigger groups.
Before 'Quiet', I would try leave unnoticed (slightly embarrassed from leaving so early). Or I would stay and feel increasingly worse.
Now I'm better aware of what's going on inside me. I feel more confident and leave. Or I find a quiet corner, read a book on my iPhone for 20 minutes, and get back to the group.
* The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander - changed how I think about American racism from an abstract concept to reality. Should be required reading.
* The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - the book I've read more than any other, a beautiful parable about finding one's place in the world.
* Ishmael by Daniel Quinn - although it has many flaws, this book was very effective in making me question some basic assumptions about human behavior.
* House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - I can't exactly pin down what changed in me, but this book shook me in a way that no other book ever has. In the right situations reading this book can be like meditation.
It's written by a holocaust survivor who was also a psychologist - totally changed my philosophy on what matters in life.
Manufacturing Consent/Necessary Illusions by Noam Chomsky(Possibly even more relevant today than it's ever been)
The Selfish Gene/The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins
The Republic by Plato
The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions by Kuhn
- What has government done to our money? by Murray Rothbard
- For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard
- The Law by Frederick Bastiat
The world is a rotten place thanks to politicians, and at the same time the world is a beautiful place in spite of politicians.
Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
Dune by Frank Herbert
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
V. by Thomas Pynchon
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Pretty much everything by JL Borges
Right go Jeeves by Wodehouse
Lila by Pirsig (If you've read ZMM and left Lila unread you've left a lot on the table)
The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutch
Antifragile by Taleb
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Yudkowski. Particularly Chapter 39.
The two Political Order and Political Decay books by Fukuyama
Life's Ratchet - Hoffman
He investigates the question of why is it the case that we see so much intra- and inter-species cooperation -- how does it arise if we start from the premise that we are genetically engineered solely to care about our own well being?
This book is utterly fascinating on many dimensions, but it is a tremendous look at how to think about a problem so creatively and poke at it in ingenious ways to get amazing insight. Also notable is the fact that his paper (which preceded the book), is one of the most cited papers in academia and is highly influential, yet you won't see anything higher than basic arithmetic in the entire book, and really everything he does is accessible to a normal high-schooler!
Both offer some pretty significant challenges to one's notion of self.
I find in these conversations people say a book changed their life but they have trouble naming any concrete examples of how it did so. So in that vein, the techniques in Non Violent Communication changed a particular breakup I went through for the better by making it clearer to me what the other person's feelings were, radically changed the outcome of a fight I was having with a friend (from what would normally be yelling at each other to a deep tear-filled tenderness), and has otherwise changed how I listen and express myself with my romantic partners. This book is amazing.
Random variables and the associated
probability theory and conditional
probability theory are surprisingly
relevant, especially now with computing,
in the real world. That the set of real
valued random variables X such that E[X^2]
is finite forms a Hilbert space, e.g., is
complete, is astounding. So is the
martingale convergence theorem.
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving.
Heavily about how what people do is in
response to the anxiety they feel from the
realization that alone they are vulnerable
to the hostile forces of nature and
The Book: on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are - Alan Watts
The Limits to Growth - Donella Meadows
Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
One of the most influential books on meditation I've ever read. Quote from the Dalai Lama about it: "This book has the capacity to change lives."
"Prices and Production and other Works" which is a compilation of F.A Hayek's work by Joseph Salerno. It contains a lot of great criticisms of Keynes theories during the 30s. I used to really think I could understand mainstream economics, but Hayek totally demolished it in my mind and I can't have productive discussions with academically trained economists anymore because I have to start over from first principles with them.
"The Edge Effect" by Eric Braverman was a great book for understanding my mind. I got a lot out of it and it changed my understanding of my personal psychology.
You might've seen CGPGrey's video based on it, the rules for rulers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs
The easy way to think decisions is with the rational actor model. "The United States didn't sign the TPP agreement because..." "Apple removed the headphone jack because..." When the reality of large organizations is that decisions are made in the interaction of many people suborganizations. Allison and Zelikow are political scientists who massively advanced academic understanding of organization decision making... to illustrate their theories, they did original research into the Cuban missile crisis using it as an example of various models. Very accessible. It changed the way I think about how companies, governments, and the world works.
"Infinite Jest" - David Foster Wallace
It changed my life. This book taught me empathy and the truth in ordinary things... It's brilliant and amazing and worth making your way through 1000+ pages. RIP DFW.
More an essay, but profoundly impactful.
Manufacturing Consent made me anti-authoritarian
Feeling Good by David Burns made me less pessimistic
One of the minor themes is the relationship between morality and society. I read it as a teenager, and it made me think about the issue in a way I'd never done before.
* Adolous Huxley: Brave New World.
Similar reason as for the Triffids. If this is a dystopia then what, exactly, is wrong with it? To answer that you need to first define what society is for, and to do that you need to confront deep questions about what humanity is for.
* Desmond Morris: The Naked Ape
* Robert Axelrod: The Evolution of Co-operation
* Matt Ridley: Nature Via Nurture
These three changed the way I think about human nature.
* Douglas Adams: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
There were all these ideas in my head that I didn't have words for, and suddenly here was someone making jokes about them.
* James Burke: Connections
A book as well as a TV series. History suddenly became interesting, as well as making a lot more sense.
As someone who seems themselves as a technologist (all this stuff we're working on will eventually work out for the best, warts be damned), this story was an existential-crisis-inducing wake-up call.
Basically, what happens if tech progresses to the point that humanity becomes a species of bored gods?
This is a trope that I've grown to really enjoy, and one that doesn't get played with near as much as it should. The next closest thing I can think of is the movie Zardoz, but that one is so abstruse that it turns people off unless they really think about it.
If you go check it out, keep in mind the story gets rather grotesque in places. Imagine what depravity people would get into if death were impossible, and you're on the right track.
Mind and Nature by Gregory Bateson. Bateson was mentioned in the other book, and by the professor who assigned it. This is his most comprehensive piece of work (really his only comprehensive work -- pretty much everything else is topical papers, collaborations, interviews, etc.). It introduces systems/cybernetic thinking in an accessible and applicable way, such that they become relevant in basically any context.
Various books by Tony Buzan ( memory, speed reading, mind mapping ) and six thinking hats (and others) by edward de bono really got me to see our minds are very versatile and, like our bodies, can be pushed in prodded to do lots of things
Puzzling through many philosophy books has probably given me some my more dramatic changes in the way I see the world. But not one in specific, each provided little "ah hah!"s
All of Calvin and Hobbes
The art of war,book of 5 rings, and the prince, all made it clear that strategy and winning are quite different from the sanitized western middle class life I was brought up in.
It made me realize everything is about Control and today we are living the era of the Control of Culture.
The subject so fascinated me I've started to write about back in 2006 and still writing today.
Describes the economy in thermodynamic terms, as a materials processing machine, in contrast with neoclassical models of abstract "factors of production". Does a deep dive on examining what technological progress is and how it happens. I don't agree with everything in it but the perspective is unique and highly thought provoking.
- Meetings with Remarkable Men (Gurdjieff)
- Courage to Stand Alone (UG Krishnamurti)
If that's too frivolous for you, Rationality: From AI to Zombies is the textbook format of all this information, from the same author.
- V for Vendetta - Alan Moore/David Lloyd
- Heat: How we can stop the planet burning - George Monbiot
These are the books that quite literally changed my world view and interpretation of our place/purpose in it.
I first read it in history class in high school and have gone back and reread a few times since then, when society and politics began making me nervous. It's really fascinating to read about day-to-day things from a hundred years ago and find out just how little things have really changed.
Being and Event by Alain Badiou (translated by Oliver Feltham).
After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux (translated by Ray Brassier).
Spring and All by William Carlos Williams.
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. An allegory about how our modern jobs are changing.
Mindset by Carol Dweck. About the belief of fixed mindset vs a growth or learning mindset, and the effects of both.
The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin. How our industrial (conformity) economy has evolved into a connection (post-industrial) economy, and what it takes to survive in this new world.
Are people who go to liquidation auctions bad?
I'd throw in Ramit Sethi's writing as well in shifting me from trying to "cut" as much expense but rather to grow the profit side of my work.
I encourage people to read it. It's perspective changing. I know its a fictional novel but it made me realize that other countries have their own version of the American dream.
Austin, who is now on the faculty of Harvard Business School, wrote this seminal book on measurement dysfunction and how incentives in the information age drive misbehavior while he was an IT executive with Ford Motor Co. Europe. This very readable book was derived from his dissertation in operations research at CMU. It completely changed my world view, and continues to do so.
Maybe not fundamentally changed the way I think about the world, but the way I think about myself and others regarding my and their fulfillment in life.
It inspired me on many levels, that I had to write down my personal notes and lessons learned. 
-  https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-deep-work-flow/
Abundance. Problems of economic scarcity are really about access. Technology can solve those problems, and we're getting close to solving a lot of the biggest ones.
Borderless Economics. Immigration has a lot of huge benefits. But really, it's the best humanitarian tool advanced countries have.
Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman
-I found it for $2 at a STRAND Bookstore wilst out for a stroll in the city. Best $2 spent on a book, EVAR.
@a tme whn I didn't know how to explain the utter crystallization of something fascinating but grand, though obtruse happening in my innards, this book shone light on alot of what I was waking up to, hence - Awakening!
The Phenomenon of Science: A Cybernetic Approach to Human Evolution by Valentin Turchin
Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians
History, Guilt & Habit by Owen Barfield
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Dawn by Octavia Butler
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
After reading this book, I started living with a lot more gratitude for everyday things that I'd previously been taking for granted.
That might sound like a cliché, but frankly -- reading visceral accounts of decent folks having to eat leaves and grass in order to survive?
Yea, that changes the way you think about the world.
All changed my thinking about things for different reason, but shared the common theme of making me think more about every idea I have.
* On Managing Yourself http://amzn.com/1422157997
* The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams http://amzn.com/0887308589
* The Peter Principle by by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull http://amzn.com/0062092065
* How to Manage Your Boss by Christopher Hegarty http://amzn.com/034531817X
* Time Management by Veronica Hurst http://amzn.com/1537560700
* The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey http://amzn.com/1451639619
* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo http://amzn.com/1607747308
* The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle http://amzn.com/0553328255
* Alistair MacLean's best novels:
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After a strange, 15-year journey, I eventually understood one of Peter Kreeft's proofs for the existence of God, "There is the music of Bach, therefore God exists." ;)
2. e-Myth Revisited - changed how I view and run business.
Changed the way I look at economic development and government's involvement in it. To make country's economy grow, it's not enough to just take the laissez-faire approach.
Read in that order, the books explain much of what is going on in our society and lives. This has enabled me to to analyse my own, and others, actions and motives.
This is the book that suddenly hit me like a lightning. Give it a try if you haven't. It will fundamentally change the way you plan and execute things, from short-term immediate stuffs to your ultimate dreams.
Codemasters - Game Genie NES Codebook
Aldous Huxley - Collected Essays
Guy Debord - Society of the Spectacle
Antonie de Saint-Exupery - The Little Prince
Entrylevel infosec stuff.
But, really put the mindset that if you ask for something in a specific way, you'll always get it.
It's not the request, it's how you form the request.
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Red Storm Rising - Tom Clancy
Representations by Jerry Fodor
A number of essays published by Chomsky over the years (a recent, small compilation book called What Kind of Creatures Are We? is a handy start).
The Revenge of Geography - Robert D. Kaplan
Prisoner's Dilemma - William Poundstone
The Master Algorithm - Pedro Domingos
Zero-Sum Future - Gideon Rachman
The End of History and the Last Man - Francis Fukuyama
Entanglement - Amir Aczel
- The Shock Doctrine by N. Klein
- The Anarchist Banker by F. Pessoa
- Collapse by J. Diamond
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by D. Kahneman
- a few books by Noam Chomsky
EDIT: nearly forgot:
- Brave New World by A. Huxley
Hall was an anthropologist attached the the University of New Mexico. He and his research partner, linguist Norman Trager, were doing research in comparative culture. Hall discovered they would need to provide a comprehensive theory of culture to define what they were comparing and make it possible to do meaningful comparisons.
The results of that effort are documented in Hall's books _The Silent Language_, _The Hidden Dimension_, and _Beyond Culture_.
Culture is normally thought of as "Everything we know and do", but Hall demonstrated it was broader and deeperl Like the proverbial iceberg, 90% of culture takes place on an unconscious level, handled by reflex. We aren't aware may things we do are done by reflex, unless we find ourselves in a culture that does things differently.
As an example, you are at a gathering of some sort. (What sort doesn't matter.) It's not crowded, and there's room to spread out comfortably. You are talking to someone you just met. How far apart are you standing? Why that distance instead of nearer or farther away?
If you live in the US, the answer to "how close are you standing?" is "about 3 feet". The dominant culture here derives from northern Europe, where that is the correct social distance to maintain with folks who aren't family or close friends. No one ever explicitly tells you "Thou shalt stand three feet away from strangers and folks you don't know really well!" You absorb it by osmosis beginning in early childhood, by observing and mimicking what you see the adults do. By the time you are old enough to be out on your own, it's embedded reflex you do without thinking.
Now plunk yourself down in a culture with a different notion of correct social distance, like Greece, where the default is about a foot and a half, and watch the fun. Someone from our culture will think the Greeks are "pushy" and "in your face". The Greeks will think we are cold and standoffish. Each side is simply attempting to maintain the social distance correct for their culture.
Many things fell into place when I read Hall, and my notions about why various things occur changed radically. A lot of current international problems can be considered clashes between cultures with differing underlying elements. Religion, political structure, and economic system are overlays on top of underlying cultural patterns, and differences in the overlays may mask the deeper underlying issues.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn
The Apology of Socrates, Plato
The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
The Best Interface is No Interface, Golden Krishna
Was quite young when I read this and it was maybe my first (or at least strongest) exposure to satire.
Edit: Also, David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
I didn't understand the importance of conservation efforts until reading this book.
It presents a clear vision of a society without government
Best American history book I've read.
What is Life?
special mention: David Pearce's archipelago of paradise engineering manifesto-websitelets
How to Win Friends and Influence People. Crucial Conversations. 5 Love Languages. The Way of the Superior Man.
I'm 37 and I'm a stereotypical geeky, low-social-capability guy. Coasted through life on being smart, to the exclusion of much else. I'd get pedantic and into pointless arguments, but justify it because I was right -- sorta being a dick though not intentionally, just emergent behavior. I did poorly on romantic relationships despite being married a decade. I'd stumble around conversations awkwardly or interject stupid facts and just overall sucked at the personal side of life.
Learning to talk to people, to deal with people, learning the give and take of conversations and to try to be interested in people -- this has completely changed my life. It works in business, it works in personal relationships. People that I'd usually mock (think homeopathic hippy type folks), the kind of folks that'd usually dismiss me, they have actually said glowing things about me to other people, and I now have friendships with such folks. Even with guy friends: I'm constantly surprised how powerful a simple "How are you doing?" or "Did you get home OK?" -- just small displays of interest, really can strengthen relationships.
The last book I mention, The Way of the Superior Man, I hesitate. Some of it is a bit silly. And it comes off VERY macho/chauvinistic. In fact, the first time I looked at it I tossed it in disgust. But damn, it'd have saved me so much grief. There are feminine/masculine differences (as personalities, not just sex or gender.) Just basic stuff like "held and heard": you don't need to try to solve her every problem, just listen and support her in what she does -- stuff as an engineer I wouldn't do at work and that bled over into personal life. Not attacking people when they say silly things... I've had a girl tell my family I'm the kindest guy she's ever dated. They all went silent and looked back and forth "... him?" 3 years ago I could never, ever, have imagined anyone saying that about me in any situation, let alone romantically. When people blow up and want to fight with me, I recognize the words don't really matter and it's just emotion and try to respond to that. Even my ex has ended up apologizing after yelling at me and saying I'm a good guy - another timeline I never thought I'd be in.
And I know, this sounds like manipulation. But the bizarre thing is that after you set out to be like this and try to care, you actually end up caring and it's totally sincere. Life isn't C, being "lenient" on people and trying to think about them instead of picking at the specifics of what they said won't get you into trouble.
[This might be relationships 101, but I know a lot of guys in a similar social situation and a few of them tried the same approaches and are way happier too. So maybe this will help someone.]
No need for throwaway - awesome selection