A palpable sense of mystery is maintained from start to finish, but it arguably does better than any other book in the Bible at giving a deep look into the person of Jesus as he was seen and believed in by the early church. Additionally, there is a subtle sense of humor as the gospel author clearly enjoyed language and word plays and describes multiple misunderstandings that occur because of the ambiguity of language.
Probably more than any other book, this book has shaped me on a personal level.
(If you're going to read it, I highly recommend a modern translation such as the ESV, NKJV, or HCSB.)
Follow this up with some key works in the field, such as Gould's early critique of naive adaptationism,
The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme.
Also consider different perspectives such as the those described in following books, which take, respectively, drift- and mutation-first approaches to evolution:
The Origins of Genome Architecture, M Lynch; and
Mutation-Driven Evolution, M Nei.
Above all, know that evolution is far more complex, subtle (and interesting) than The Selfish Gene would have you believe.
I'm sure you're not one of them, but nevertheless they are quite common, well-educated and intelligent though they often are.
The Spandrels paper I referenced above explains in detail, and is a good starting point:
Here's a more modern critique, which I posted here a few weeks ago:
I actually really like Pirsig's ideas about quality and balancing analytical and emotional worldviews, but the writing style drives me nuts and feels like I'm grading a weak Philosophy 101 essay.
Maybe in 20 years I'll give it another shot and finally see why the book is considered a classic.
Terrible philosophical reasoning, yet plenty of relevance, and an interesting person, no question.
1) Design of Everyday Things
by Dan Norman
This book ruined my life. I highly recommend it. Every engineer, manager and designer should read this. Maybe every human. I think of this book every time I try to pull a push door, every time I reach the bottom floor of a stairwell and notice the design that might save my life one day, and every time I try to struggle to operate a television or a microwave.
2) Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini
This book helped me understand myself and everyone else. For example, I now understand why I double down on dumb ideas. I also catch a lot more marketing and sales tricks.
Edit: Sorry, just now realized that I broke the 1-book rule, but it's probably too late to correct this and it's really hard to choose between these two anyway.
I also like The Soul of a New Machine, The Prince, The Art of War and On Human Nature.
Me too. Fascinating read. I still remember the part where one of them compares their work to the pinball game - where the reward for winning is that you get to play again.
I'd been teetering on the fence with this book for about a year, but I think you just sold me on it (haha!)
Any idea whether it's worth an extra ~$7 for the (I gather) textbookified version of Influence subtitled "Science and Practice", 5th edition, versus the Revised Edition of the more mass-market "The Psychology of Persuasion"?
GEB got me wondering about a lot of things, and showed me how hard science and engineering and art can coexist. It's not a perfect book -- frankly, I find it rather dull reading now -- but it was an eye-opener when I was just starting out.
I was quite young last I read it. Perhaps it's time to see if I still feel that way.
1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolic_artificial_intelligen... i.e. AI that isn't machine learning
Stoicism helped me build the ability to care about the things in my power to change, and not stress about things that aren't. Very useful in any job or personal situation that includes a lot of ambient stress.
"To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a speck of semen tomorrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time conformably to nature, and end your journey in content, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it and thanking the tree on which it grew."
It makes me appreciate everything so much more and I feel like a fool for worrying over little things.
"Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts." P59
"Awaken; return to yourself. Now, no longer asleep, knowing they were only dreams, clear-headed again, treat everything around as a dream." P76
"It's normal to feel pain in your hands and feet, if your using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal - if he's living a normal human life. And if it's normal, how can it be bad?" P76
"You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they'll still go on doing it." P102
"Leave other people's mistakes where they lie." P122
If you like randomly leafing through Meditations, I've made a site that would be right up your alley
1. Be impeccable with your word. You can read this as "don't swear", but it's not about that. It is about the constant and continuing things we say to ourselves that make us feel bad. We don't even know we do this. And it's not about big things, it's about the thousands of small reprimands we give ourselves that hold us back living our life.
2. Don't take anything personally. When someone else says something to you, good or bad, it shows how they feel. What they say is about them, what they think is important, what is relevant for them. It's not about you. This doesn't mean that you can ignore it, but it shines another light on things other people say about you, or about others to you. This applies to "good things" as well. If someone gives you a compliment, it tells something about them. And of course it works as well for the things you say or do - they tell something about you.
3. Don't make assumptions. Don't think you know what other people think, or that you know why they do the things they do.
4. Do your best. You can't always live your life following rules. Do your best, and if you break a rule, bad luck, next time better! That means that you can forgive yourself. And it means that you should not give up after a big fuck up. Or a small fuck up, or many fuck ups. You can start over again at any moment.
The book is much better at explaining. It's about 60 pages, worth the effort.
For example, re 1. :
> Every human is a magician, and we can either put a spell on someone with our word or we can release someone from a spell. We cast spells all the time with our opinions. An example: I see a friend and give him an opinion that just popped into my mind. I say, "Hmmm! I see that kind of color in your face in people who are going to get cancer." If he listens to the word, and if he agrees, he will have cancer in less than one year. That is the power of the word.
The example he gives here is very simple and direct with cause and effect. It's too simple, but shows the principle. That's what this is about.
I have to keep reminded myself to apply the rules, but very sound advice.
I'd say this is a must read for just about anyone.
OTOH, both my kids are on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum and there are several auties that recommend it as really useful in helping them with inter-personal interaction. So there you go.
He puts into words concepts of life so close to us yet so foreign sounding that makes us rethink everything in our lives.
When you ask people "What is the opposite of fragile", they usually answer robust, which Taleb proves to be incorrect by introducing a new concept, the Antifragilty. It entangles so many things in economic, academic, science, finances and other systems with several tales from the past revisited with a new lens.
Here is the section:
“Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth. ”
What I didn't realize at the time was that Lewis was pushing his theistic argument: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma
I don't think that detracts from it, however.
This kind of reasoning is typical of apologists in my experience; it sounds right, but it doesn't hold up to scrunity.
This issues is of course there are of course more than 3 options. If she had been deceived intentionally than none of the given three examples apply. Further, it assumes you can verify that she was 'telling lies' or 'insane' as an abstract property of her which is another mistake.
That said, I can see why someone might find it a useful introduction to logic.
There aren't more than three option present, but you're more correct that you may not have enough information to deduct which option is a proper representation of the true fact.
There's no real issue with the logic, outside of arguing that making a conclusive decision here is perhaps premature. That's situational though.
What someone observes, what someone thinks they observed, what they remember, what they say happened, and what actually happened are generally all different things.
The book was written by a psychologist who survived the Holocaust camps. The paragraph that always sticks with me goes something like "for sure, the best amongst us never left the camps - they (the guards) would need to pick (kill) a dozen people, and the best wouldn't let it be their friends or family, even if it meant their own death."
"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way."
This is also the reason why "Shawshank redemption" is my favorite movie. Very similar concepts.
We know the "rich", people who spent $10M on a Yacht as a parking space for their 1M private jet which they use as a cellar for their $10k wines.
And we think millionaires are like that but on a smaller scale. ACTUALLY... most folks who have $1M liquid are hard working, cheap, frugal (still cutting coupons from ads). The reason why this book is so good is not only because it shatters the perception about how millionaires live, but if you take the description of their lifestyles as a lesson, it will make you manage your money better.
Most people in the US have tons of debt, don't have $500 to use for an unplanned spending. Probably this forum full of well-paid high-tech professionals less so, but still, the principles are all the same. In fact, there are parts of the book talking about how big earners also spend big (and fast), so it's a good reminder of how not spending money is as good as earning it, and also usually easier to do.
Once I accepted this everything became a lot more fun, arguments about politics/religion etc are enjoyable as you realise that no one is fundamentally right.
Also, the explanation of fractional reserve banking and how debt came to be a thing was like the matrix being revealed.
Good book, highly recommend it.
Nobody has ever captured the nature of power on an individual level to the depth and breadth that Caro did on this book. (except perhaps his epic treatment of Lyndon Johnson)
Over something like 1,100 pages you get to track the career of an aspiring reformer as he transitions to skilled and trusted government official, to someone who manages to grow to the point that he is more powerful than the Governor and Mayor of New York during NY's economic peak -- despite never having been elected to anything. Then you get to witness his decline and ultimate fall.
This is probably the best biography ever written. It may take you six months to read, but its time well spent.
Lately I've been reading Foucault and I find that many pieces of The Power Broker are incredible examples of Foucault's post-modern/post-structuralist theory of power: power relations as a sort-of amorphous "lines of force" that move between people through society, occasionally emergent as structural domination/power, rather than as some sort of antagonistic relationship between rulers and ruled. This conception of power makes sense when you consider Moses operating at an intersection between (and attempting to leverage) many different "fields" of powers: government politicians, wealthy private estates, union high-ups, the news media, etc.
I can't provide a specific link but something only 70s/80s kids will understand is when I was about five and I finished reading every Tom Swift book ever written (as of that decade, anyway) I spent most of a week reading an entire single volume encyclopedia, trying to figure out how it all works together, or not. Before wikipedia, before "multimedia cdrom" encyclopedia, there were multi volume collections and large single volume collections. I'll push the limit and claim reading an encyclopedia entry about Kant or Impressionism or Bach or the american civil war isn't technical in the sense of "programming C" is technical. I admit there were technical articles in the book. It was weird reading a 60s liberal arts article about computers when I had an early TRS-80 home computer on my dad's desk.
I still have the Tom Swifts in my office.
I have since read, enjoyed, and been influenced by both.
Neither are properly regarded as "non-technology," but I think from your point 2 it's clear that you are just looking to exclude training manual type texts.
Hitchhiker's in particular imparts a lot of great advice for creativity in technical fields, and software in particular, but does it using a fictionalized world with comedic logical oddities.
Another book I'll add, which has some of these properties, is "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins (although take note that this book is highly erotic and explicit).
In particular the Watch sub-series.
I grew up reading them from the late 80's on-wards and I actually can't separate my worldview from them anymore, his outlook on life became my outlook on life.
Hope, Cynicism, politics, mortality (Death is a literal character), practicality and absurdity all feature in the series strongly.
Some of my favourite quotes
> Logic is a wonderful thing but doesn't always beat actual thought. (The Last Continent).
> Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up. (Thief of Time).
> I believe in freedom, Mr. Lipwig. Not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based. (Lord Vetinari - Going Postal).
> What sort of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.
> Technically, the city of Ankh-Morpork is a Tyranny, which is not always the same thing as a monarchy, and in fact even the post of Tyrant has been somewhat redefined by the incumbent, Lord Vetinari, as the only form of democracy that works. Everyone is entitled to vote, unless disqualified by reason of age or not being Lord Vetinari.
And yet it does work. This has annoyed a number of people who feel, somehow, that it should not, and who want a monarch instead, thus replacing a man who has achieved his position by cunning, a deep understanding of the realities of the human psyche, breathtaking diplomacy, a certain prowess with the stiletto dagger, and, all agree, a mind like a perfectly balanced circular saw, with a man who has got there by being born…
A third proposition, that the city be governed by a choice of respectable members of the community who would promise not to give themselves airs or betray the public trust at every turn, was instantly the subject of music-hall jokes all over the city.
I so wish that Sir Terry could be here now, helping us to make sense of what is happening with some silly little stories.
It's a history of macro trends in violence - wars, homicide, rape, etc. The burden of violence in the modern world is much, much lower than it was historically, even fairly recently.
The book catches a lot of flak from people who reject the claim that the future will automatically be more peaceful than the past. I think this is poor criticism because that's not what the book says; it is explicitly a descriptive history and not predictive.
I love this book because it presents remarkable evidence from multiple fields that the world has gotten profoundly better (at least, regarding violence). The realization that the world can improve and has improved is...liberating? Surprisingly many people don't believe this, though I expect on HN belief in progress is not uncommon.
Having such evidence that the world has improved so much is powerful motivation to try to continue - you know it's possible. It's the antidote to incorrect zero-sum thinking, which is not just damaging but also wrong. And perhaps it's a moral call to action: our grandparents' and parents' generations left us a world which is much more peaceful than the one they were born into. Do we not owe future generations the same gift?
Just see and be humbled by the staggering, staggering losses of Soviet Russia in relation to other allies or Nazi Germany during ww2.
The book is simple mind blowing. It seems as if the entire history of homo sapiens which we learned in school was wrong. There was no slow progression, homo Sapiens and Neanderthals existed in the same time as did many ither species like homo erectus, but the perished before Sapiens.
It seems that our ability to form fictional entities (like money, state, society, country, religion etc) made us superior to other species. It seems that the basic ability to gossip helped us beat other species!
Completely mind blowing.
I just started reading it and am through the first 100 pages. Was reading it last night when I hit upon : US Declaration of Independence document is an imagined reality - a myth. It talks about equality of all men ( was hoping to read word human there but anyway ). And then he goes onto blow away the fact how all men are not equal - biologically - evolutionary and so on.
I do not necessarily agree with a lot of things he says but the book is a riveting read and does questions some of fundamental assumptions we have made.
I can't wait to discover what the book has to offer next. It is very thought provoking.
Coming to a serious note: yes, the book opened my eyes, all this concept of nationality, money, everything is imaginary. Just a few days ago, I was writing something on HN and it was downvoted for some reason, I thought to myself, "so what if my imaginary internet points reduced by one".
The other day, I read this. Woha, money, countries, everything is imaginary!! The ability to gossip and form bonds on imaginary things saved up from other human species.
We say our ancestors were technologically weak, so how are there edificies like machu pichu, pyramids of Egypt etc
This section is one of my favorites, about things he learned in a halfway home: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/966304-if-by-the-virtue-of-...
As someone who never wanted to read negotiation books because I was worried I would try to "win" all the time, I can't tell you how much this book changed my way of thinking. It's affected how I deal with my kids, how I seek resolution in confrontations, and how I listen to people in general.
For anyone with empathy as a strong facet of your personality, I highly recommend reading this book. It's also a fun read, with each chapter's lesson following the events of a hostage negotiation that the author took part in as his role at the FBI.
There were many other books that influenced me, but the concept of a "Fair Witness" stuck with me - specifically, the idea that one should be aware of what is known versus what is inferred.
> Fair Witnesses are prohibited from drawing conclusions about what they observe. As a demonstration, Harshaw asks Anne to describe the color of a house in the distance. She responds, "It's white on this side". Harshaw explains that she would not assume knowledge of the color of the other sides of the house without being able to see them. Furthermore, after observing another side of the house would not then assume that any previously seen side was still the same color as last reported, even if only minutes before.
1. Why assume it is a house at all and not a facade?
2. Why assume that your eyes are not defective as to color?
3. Why assume your memory of the word "color" and "white" are correct?
4. Why assume that you heard the question properly?
5. How do you know the meanings of words haven't changed since you learned them many years ago?
In real life, this is neatly addressed by Ayn Rand:
"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."
Because when I was young and I tried reading it I realized that even though millions and millions of perfectly functioning adults believe in something, it might be absolutely wrong or based on basically nothing.
As one human race, we can all come together, try very hard, regardless of class or race or creed or sex, in earnest support of one another, and can collectively make terrible decisions like Daylight Savings Time.
With proper attribution, I think this statement would be worthy of framing and public display. Keep that in mind in case you get famous :)
Even as a confident Christian, there are many people who profess to be Christians but who have a very different understanding of what that means than I.
To me, being a Christian is about having faith in Christ's divinity and the truthfulness of His message, and striving to live my life as is asked of me. I often fail, but I persist.
To others this seemingly cannot be the case, because they attribute words, actions, and attitudes to Christ and to God that serve only themselves and are at odds with scripture.
“Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”
Some might call it a business book. It focuses primarily on teaching readers to use "systems thinking" to turn companies into learning organizations that respond and adapt to change. That's useful advice to those in management positions, but I have to be honest and confess that the chapter on personal mastery changed my life in a big way. It put into words something that I had been thinking and feeling for a long time: namely, that we have the power to change the systems that influence us.
It totally turned my life around, no I didn't get a ton of money but it completely shifted my mentality, changed the way I saw the world, opened my eyes.
The strongest lesson the book had on me was that it made me realize that a man if he is willing can change his life, change what he doesn't like about his life and make it right. I just finished high-school when a family friend gave the book to me.
I learned about goals, how to set goals, it gave me the audacity to dream big, I learned that the man can influence the mind which influences matter.
I just started learning to code at the time, fast-forward seven years later, a kid from a humble background living in the lower-middle-class Africa who couldn't afford a laptop had no access to stable electricity and could not even afford to pay for internet connection, is now a Software Engineer in a big Co. in Europe.
With all those challenges and even more faced by a poor African, I was able to scale through, motivation and drive that was ignited over 8 years ago still burning strong.
I only read the rest of the series years later, but Douglas Adams' humour had a (very) lasting impression on me, and inspired me to write (and communicate, to this day) using a similar kind of humor and lateral thinking - because if you're not having _some_ fun, then you're not really accomplishing anything...
A book I revisit every few years. It's taught me to be honest with myself even if the social norms aren't in alignment with I'm doing.
It's also gave me a deeper understanding of my fellow man and why some are fine with handouts from others.
It's also where I learned the $ symbol is made from the U and S from United States.
I certainly wouldn't promote objectivist an-cap policy writ large, but there are truthful elements in both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I specifically like how Ayn Rand draws a link between collectivism and racism, which was truthful in the era she was writing in. A rare perspective.
Objectivism and Anarcho-Capitalism are distinctly different, though they share much.
Objectivism accepts that a government is necessary, and places in it the legitimate use of force.
Anarcho-Capitalism holds that government is not necessary, and that no individual or organization may legitimately initiate force against another.
You can also see http://www.shmoop.com/atlas-shrugged/dollar-signs-symbol.htm... which discuesses this.
"The dollar sign? [It stands] for a great deal. It stands on the vest of every fat, piglike figure in every cartoon, for the purpose of denoting a crook.... It stands – as the money of a free country – for achievement, for success, for ability, for man's creative power – and, precisely for these reasons, it is used as a brand of infamy....It stands for the United States."
> It's taught me to be honest with myself even if the social norms aren't in alignment with I'm doing.
The restlessness and questioning (epitomized when he leaves Buddha) that results in a fascinating journey of self-discovery and openness to experiences has been inspirational.
I have re-read this book constantly since purchasing it well over 10 years ago. The chapters on facing resistance and how to deal with it constantly resonate with me when working on my own projects.
The book is about the patterns that drive human history, both the written history that we know and the vast period of prehistory which we have a pretty good idea about these days due to genetics and linguistics. A recurring pattern has been people moving around, displacing less fortunate people. Further, Diamond looks for root causes to explain why some tribes or nations would gain an edge over their neigbours, and a lot of the explanation is ultimately found in technology and animal farming.
Before I read "Guns, Germs, and Steel", I had been under the impression that the world was a fairly static and ecologically stable place until the European age of discovery started uprooting everything. In reality it was nothing like that. Almost every strip of land is inhabited be people whose ancestors fought off other people, and cultures expanding beyond ecological sustainability and suddenly collapsing is a common event.
Runner-up: anything by Hunter S Thompson
Great sci-fi, but also cast science and technology in a way that made me realize it could enable or destroy civilization.
Introduced me to the concept that we can approach modeling and predicting human behavior with mathematics.
Very instrumental in pushing me towards hard sciences and computer modeling.
Anyway, I have to return some videotapes.
I worked through the whole book, tore it to shreds. Bought another copy recently (English notation, please). I was in a bookstore the other night (Moe's) and saw Botvinnik's Gruenfeld book and I just had to look up his notes on the Botvinnik v Fischer game. It was exactly as Fischer quoted it in his side by side commentary; I remembered it from memory. Botvinnik mentions a student of his, Kasparov, finding a new analysis.
Fischer went nuts, completely racist conspiratorial Alex Jones nuts. But MSMG has a clarity of thought that will always be his hallmark. The brutal objectivity. If only he'd applied it to himself.
I suppose this book gave me an appreciation of really low level thinking and how far you can go. Yes, the computer era hasn't been completely kind to Fischer. But that's like comparing Haswell to the 6600. I use Haswell but I still learned things from the 6600.
Well, that and 1984.
I read it over 20 years ago. I've been a vegetarian/vegan ever since. There were probably other things I read or saw that contributed to the decision, but that was, I think, the primary catalyst.
I turned vegetarian in the mid-nineties because my first girlfriend was vegetarian. It coincided with media focusing on unnecessarily long animal transports in the EU, and I quickly realized I didn't want to take any part in factory farming. My wife turned vegetarian after meeting me, and we're both vegan since 2007. I joke that vegetarianism and veganism is transferred from partner to partner. Both our kids have been vegan their whole lives.
I came in contact with Singer's ideas in articles, and was both put off by the utilitarian ideas as I couldn't see them coexist with ideas of inviolable human and animal rights, and also that he used mentally disabled children as an example of the absurdity of using mental capacity as a measure of whether you can be used to make food and clothes. I agree, of course, that you shouldn't use human children or animals, it was just that the examples and arguments didn't speak to me at all.
Do you remember what it was by Singer that spoke to you?
I spent a lot of years being a natural rights libertarian, but when it comes down to it, I can't figure out where "rights" derive from. What's the first principle that says anyone has a "right" to anything? That's not to say I don't believe in civil rights as a just cause, or that human rights should be upheld, I just think they are a construct of sentient beings...not endowed by a creator or by nature. Utilitarianism has some reasonable answers on the question of rights, among other things.
I understand the discomfort people feel in comparing humans to animals, but I found it challenging in a good way. I've always had serious doubts about the arguments people make about humans being unique; I haven't believed in a soul since I was a child. So, Singer's arguments, even the uncomfortable ones, weren't such a huge leap.
I am biased though, I've met the man and we really didn't like one another, our values were far too opposed when we met. From my brief exposure, in life he seemed to be a mandarin who played the academic system expertly for his own benefit, with a public persona crafted to help with that. His private and public opinions could diverge to a staggering degree, but at least he did sometimes share some of his private opinions with youngsters, even if he wouldn't own them in any other context. A conscious hypocrite, I give him that.
I found this book (or a very similar collection of Emerson's works) bound in a small red hardcover the fall of my freshman year at a catholic high school. The essays "Self-Reliance" and the "Divinity School Address" were both important. "Self-Reliance" provided fuel to sit in a room of antique x86 parts to follow the blueprint that ESR's "Hacker Howto" laid out (install and learn FreeBSD; learn Python, Perl, C, Lisp; write software). "Divinity School Address" started me away from Catholicism.
He's an architect/philosopher who coined the term "design patterns". Beautiful book, got me thinking very hard about how to create artifacts and environments that make the people who interact with them happy.
The gap between the house I want and what I will find is not based on fine materials and craftsmanship - but a simple, non-standard layout that is specific to my lifestyle.
This is the book that tied together lot of things that I was wondering about previously and it opened up few doors into new mazes of research that I'm still trying to traverse.
Also, started reading books that he suggested:
Edit: Added Wilson's suggested reading list
And then there are the appendices, which eventually pointed me towards... yeah. "New mazes of research" is a good way to put it for the HN audience.
I'm quite to keen to try The Illuminatus Trillogy as well. His writing style is funny to me, in a similar way that Douglas Adams' is.
The main character Siddhartha experiences many different lives in search of true enlightenment. The book is so well written and way certain things are described are incredible.
Sagan at his most passionate awesome best.
But consider Primo Levi's Periodic Table even if only for the flash of insight regarding onions.
Ever after reading it I see onions everywhere but most people seem unable to see them even after I point them out.
There is an HN comment on the subject: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9746723
BTW, I'm talking about the politic ones. I've studied him in computer science and physicology, but just saw interviews and read articles about politics.
What did I learn from it? Possibly this:
"The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on"
Always have had a profound impact on how I view and understand things.
Read it with an open mind like a child and see the wonders.
Back in college I had that spinning around in my head along with a computer science foundations course (automata, computability, complexity, Turing completeness) and a bunch of AI/AL light reading that was already rather dated. Kitzmiller v. Dover was being covered all over Slashdot and here I was looking at all these examples from the 80s of complex emergent behaviour evolving from simple rules applied to randomness and then simulated over time in computers.
Something clicked in my head and everything made as much sense as it needed to. Life, the Universe, everything. I started to think of the sciences as being just a continuum of studies that describe behaviour at increasingly higher levels of abstraction: math -> physics -> chemistry -> biology -> psychology -> sociology.
Computers made life without specific reason or meaning demonstrable.
Camus made life without specific reason or meaning acceptable.
Before I read it, I thought capitalism was the only way to organize people and resources on a broad scale. I couldn't imagine anything else working particularly well, and I thought anarchists were people who want to break things and cause chaos.
The Disposessed showed me how anarcho-syndicalism actually works, and gave me a framework for understanding its benefits and challenges and why it hasn't taken off broadly yet. My whole life is more or less oriented around those ideas now.
My tennis coach gave me his copy, from the mid 80s, which was tattered and had clearly been read many, many times.
It taught me so much about life, and how to be successful.
My tennis coach was also my life coach when I reflect back on those days. He grew up in south central LA, rode his bike to the closest tennis courts and sometimes as far as Beverly Hills. He'd wait outside the courts until someone came along and ask if he could play.
He turned that into a full ride scholarship for tennis, became a senior level member of a huge telecom and then left to coach tennis to give back to the sport that gave him so much. He credited this book for teaching him how to focus on the important elements in life and most of all, the grit required to succeed.
Anyways, it's a great read. I haven't read the revised edition but I'm sure it's just as compelling.
I'm surprised it isn't mentioned more in "must-read" lists.
It's a deep dive in understanding and empathizing with another human being, and reflecting and finding the things one is grateful for in their own life.
His continual evolution was nothing short of amazing. While the book is awesome, I appreciated him more when I listened to him directly.
This is also a great book: https://www.amazon.com/Malcolm-X-Reinvention-Manning-Marable...
It essentially makes him more human, exposing his flaws which you rarely hear about.
Miami's airport, Autumn 1983, a shave head Krishna pushes a copy into my hand on the concourse. Says he wants me to have it. Then asks for money. Here's a five. Most people give twenty. Still have the book. Still cheap.
Began my intellectual interest in religion. I've come to think of religion as just another way of explaining the world alongside storytelling and science.
 : as it is (abridged edition)
I don't think I'd be who I am now without having read those books.
But, perhaps more importantly it taught me by example how to make a good argument that can be rooted in multiple deep disciplines but accessible to the masses.
It's a humourous and insightful look at evolution and the stupidity that us men sometimes exhibit.
This just may be my imagined takeaway. But..
There's a theme around creativity existing on, let's call it a plane, and this plane is accessible to anyone. I've yet to think much on if this plane (or, perhaps way of thinking) is the same for everyone or actually shared in some way.
This idea massively shaped my understanding, or feelings towards, the brain, and the immense ability for our own brains to limit or enhance our potential.
This was a very literary way for me to form the advice that could be boiled down to: "think positively"
Also, I would have answered the question with "Hardboiled Wonderland and The End of the World", except that, by the time I read it, I was already so much on the same page in my thinking, that it didn't have a huge impact on me... but if I hadn't already been thinking as I do, I'm sure it would have been immensely impactful.
tldr; our bodies are just a side effect of the gene's greater plan
In the spirit of all things books, I've compiled the answers into a list (You were expecting someone to do this, weren't you?)
Since, I've done this manually, this is what I've included.
1. Have only included the first level comments and the books mentioned in them.
This means the comments that said, if you liked this, you'll also like this aren't included.
2. Have included books from comments that have provided good answers to the 'why'.
Haven't included just book mentions without explanations of why that has been the most influential book.
Which book is mentioned most?
Haven't counted, but I think it is Selfish Gene and the Bhagwat Gita!
And here is the list --> You guys can go ahead and add these to your reading list.
This book is an amazing breakdown of the shipping container and the impact that seemingly insignificant details can have on the world. But more importantly for me were the examples of non-automated labor required to move cargo in the past. It demonstrated the sheer amount of human effort that is poured into profitable tasks. It made me consider some of the tasks/projects I decided never to bother with out of laziness and think about what it would take in terms of tools and resources/manpower to actually get those tasks done. Instead of thinking about whether I wanted to do some task, I began thinking about whether the outcome was desirable regardless of the work required, and if it was, I thought about what it would take to get it done. If I had to list a second book it woul be "The Age of Intelligent Machines" by Kurzweil
This book deals with lot of experiments on human decisioning and explains how impulsive and irrational our decisions can be
2-Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers. This book makes "Crossing the chasm" a simplistic introduction for laggards
3-The Art of War by Sun Tzu
4-If Nature Is the Answer, What Was the Question? By Jorge Wagensberg
5-Sacred hoops by Phil Jackson
6-Fear from freedom by Erich Fromm
7-Michelangelo biography of a genious
8-Blindness by Jose Saramago
9-On writing by Stephen King
A close second might be The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. That might actually have been first on my list, had I read it when I was younger. But I only first read it about 8 years ago.
I've taken much from Dune (see the name) but also Clark's books. Comics and the bible have also helped me understand much of US pop culture in a way that i wouldn't without. Realizing the religious overtones in the marvel movies, or the STD metaphor in HarryPotter, is great fun.
Helped me wrestle and come to rest with many conflicting thoughts and ideas that were ultimately attributed to my lack of knowledge in those. I highly recommend reading in a modern translation like ESV.
There is some hacking, and a strange battle against people wanting to believe their own truth (does that ring a bell?). Extremely contemporaneous, alas...
Eknath has a deep understanding of Indian spirituality, in first 75 or so pages he explains it beautifully. He also explains how Bhagwad Gita is a map of how to live a life. These teaching can be applied even today to live a good life without too much stress.
“But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.”
“To understand all is to forgive all.”
“... To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.”
“Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days - such as that day - when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour.”
And finally: "beware charm!"
The takeaway that's quickest to explain is that the best things in life are priceless. You might be surprised how few $ you can happily live on.
The text gives advice on both how to behave on a personal level and how to lead (and therefore what to expect from a good leader). It promotes the idea that ambition leads to strife and conflict and that the path to happiness is to be content with what you have. It also promotes the abandonment of pride and ego: Do your work and walk away, do not concern yourself with getting credit for what's been achieved. Be like water and flow around problems instead of butting your head against them. Be malleable, do your thing, and don't worry about what others are doing around you.
When it comes to how to lead, it says you should micro manage, and that the best leader is invisible. They make the group members think that they achieved it all themselves.
A lot of the things go against the current climate of ambition, greed, and always being visible in social media. How can you increase your salary without taking credit for all the good things you do? How can you be productive, and show others how productive you are, if you abandon ambition and are content? I still find that it calms me to think about the ideas, and that it feels like someone has my back when I don't want to become the center of attention. I just want to do my work and my hobbies, being happy with what I have, and not trying to maximize my salary or social standing.
It might not actually be my first choice, but this one of the few on my short list that no one else has mentioned.
I read it in my mid teens (not too long after we stopped playing Rambo in the back yard) and it profoundly affected the way I view war, violence, and suffering. I've only read it the once (almost 25 years ago), and I hardly remember the story at all, but I vividly remember the feeling that it gave me.
Somehow Rick & Morty really reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut. Similarly dark sense of humour about our meaninglessness in a vast, chaotic universe.
Wonderful book - I just finished reading the first section (the Sword in the Stone) out loud to my daughter, and I hope as she gets older, she will read the rest on her own.
Nominally about rock climbing, but really a study of the ego, why we invest so much effort in protecting it, and how little we get for that investment.
It's supposedly fantasy, but it contains some of the best (fun and insightful) examinations of political systems, economics, religion, the environment, military culture and more. If it sounds like everything, it's because it is :)
My favorite work of art in any medium.
PS. It's a series (and a long one at that).
Physics, Religion, Philosophy, Life, all rolled up into seeing the world through a child's eyes.
By far the best self-improvement book I've read. About discipline, love, growth and religion, and grace. I don't consider myself to be religious, but it's made me apply traditional values and spiritual growth from religion to help me become a better person.
The End of Faith. Definitely don't agree with all of this, but if you're at all on the fence about religion this book has the potential to be very influential.
If that's disqualified, I'd go with something like Lewis and Allison's "The Cheating of America" or just about anything by David Cay Johnston. Knowing who really pays and who really profits from government, and how, can really shine an interesting light on what might otherwise by inexplicable behavior from our so-called leaders.
I was emotionally disconnected from people and myself from ~10~33 years old via information addiction (compulsively doing everything up to the "doing" parts of creation).
My disconnect kept me from learning how to communicate my empathy to others, as well as kept me from fully considering/respecting their needs. Around a year ago, I broke through denial over sexual trauma I experienced as a child and was able to largely come to peace with it in 12 hours thanks to the principles and practices of NVC. That was huge and only the start of the book's impact on me.
Essentially, this book has been teaching me how to human for the past year. I've read it 5 times and may read it again this week. I'm willing to send a used copy from Amazon to anyone who can't afford a copy and thinks they could benefit from it. My contact info is in my profile for those who wish to take me up on the offer. Here are more ways the book has changed my life.
- It taught me how to emphatically connect. The communication framework it teaches is simple, yet highly structured. It was perfect for my systematic way of thinking.
- I gained a new understanding of fundamental human needs and how they relate to emotions we experience.
- I began practicing it with a friend, who I fell in love with through our mutual ability to connect and was briefly engaged to them last year.
-I've introduced the book to my family and the entire dynamic has changed dramatically. Passive aggressive and/or codependent behaviors are slowly starting to shift.
- The book inspired me to practice abandoning my judgments. All of them. After a few weeks of this, I realized I was enjoying foods I used to hate. And then I started enjoying music I used to hate. And then children became adorable instead of obnoxious.
- I've always known something was wrong with the US justice system, but had no idea how to fix it. I learned about restorative justice through the book and my entire worldview has shifted as a result. I'm now slowly developing ideas for how to shift systems in that direction.
- I developed a model for how humans work I use to program my brain in very intentional ways. NVC principles serve as optimization techniques in it.
- An example of one such optimization was so profound it's worth noting by itself. I realized I can view every moment as meeting some needs of mine. The shittiest of moments can specifically meet a combination of 4 needs: learning to better meet my needs, learning to better empathize with others, gratitude for both of those things, and gratitude for the opportunity to learn. I began processing the world this way on New Year's Eve and it's changed practically everything I do. My reality is not at all what it once was and I love it.
- I have a concern about creating a programming language for human brains and giving it to the world. Specifically, I'm worried about people using it to exploit others. If I don't abandon my worry, I'll first encode NVC practices in it and release it as a sort of mental antivirus.
- In preparing to test an hypothesis my model generated about gender identity, I accidentally spawned a seemingly conscious second voice in my head. NVC is incredibly helpful when it comes to us communicating with each other.
I think NVC is on of the most important books that exists and should be taught in all schools, at all levels. Most of what we do is communication, and this is how to do it in a way that connects with people.
I listen to the 8 hour lecture on youtube a couple of times a year and have read the book easily a dozen times.