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"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. While it's also a tale of travel and self-exploration (the rediscovery of identity after a nervous breakdown and shock therapy), mostly the book is about thinking. I was a different person after identifying with the narrator who also lived in the mind, and asked questions about basic concepts like 'quality', or qualia of events, objects, roles, and the subjective/objective values they embody or we impart on them. A watershed book for me.



Interesting suggestion! I really cannot stand this book, but I appreciate all of the things you've gleaned from it and I'm glad it's had a positive impact on people.

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.


I completely agree. There was a fair amount of arrogance in his arguments and I found him constructing straw arguments fairly often. The part where I lost complete interest in the book was when he was discussing whether the 0s and 1s in computers exist -- there was no attempt to see binary as a symbol of a certain state.


I thought the first third of the book was absolutely fantastic. But then it quickly decayed into philosophical drivel, IMO. Perhaps I'm not wise enough to understand the end of the book but I truly thought it was garbage and believe this is one of the most overrated books of all time. Anybody else feel this way?


Read it 20 years ago, and again this winter. Like you the first part of the book had me thinking, this is genius, but then the rest of the way it seemed to devolve into meaningless drivel.

Maybe in 20 years I'll give it another shot and finally see why the book is considered a classic.


I agree with you, I started the book and I thought, "Why do people hate this? This is a joy." But, then it decayed into drivel, as you said. A shame. I think they could cut 100 pages and it would be a bit better.


Yeah, I read the book years ago but wasn't mature enough to appreciate the its value. But as I've gained in years and as my children have grown older I've thought a lot about quality and its significance. I'll be revisiting the book in the near future.


I wonder if The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander would be similarly interesting. It's not trying to be a novel, but explores similar concepts.


I've never read that... I'll have to check it out.


Design Patterns (in software) are supposed to be derived or inspired (not the actual patterns, but the idea of patterns) by that book, BTW, or by Alexanders other thoughts or writings.


This book blew my mind when I first read it in highschool. I've had a few pivotal experiences in my life which have shaped who I am and how I think. Reading this book was one of them.


Do grab the CBC Ideas interview with Pirsig, as a podcast. Actually, this excerpts that original Ideas interview: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-motorcycle-is-yourself-1.2...

Terrible philosophical reasoning, yet plenty of relevance, and an interesting person, no question.


Good call! I was literally thinking about rereading that book this morning on the way to work.




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