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Ask HN: What book is considered the bible of your field/industry?
93 points by machtesh on Apr 18, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

Security Engineering - A guide to building dependable distributed systems http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/book.html

It is hilarious and informative! Described in more detail here: https://hackernoon.com/how-to-become-a-hacker-e0530a355cad

Thanks for the link.

Op, excellent question.

The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Knuth is probably the closest to an actual bible for computer scientists - hardly anybody's read it all the way through, people quote bits of it out of context for their own ends and it mostly sits on shelves looking impressive while gathering dust.

The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks for tech management.

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy for advertising/marketing industry.

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software by the "Gang of Four" for OOP software engineering.

TAoCP is called "the Bible of computer science" because the number of people who claim to have read it is much greater than the number who actually have ;)

From somebody that has actually read the first 3 of TAoCP, it isn't worth it. Don't get me wrong, it was fun and it gives some bragging rights, but I can count on one hand the number of times I'd actually have had use of the knowledge.

I've used them to look up some details when needed though.

Would you share some of the topics or details that you have found useful?

You might appreciate "Knuth 3:16": http://www.larry.denenberg.com/Knuth-3-16/

The C Programming Language -- Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie.

Comprehensive, concise, and beautifully written.


The Art of electronics by Hill & Horowitz for electronics


I took the class at Harvard created by the authors of this. As they pointed out, it's not a textbook, it's a reference book. So it's very hard to learn electronics by reading it.

Maybe I'm odd, but I've always felt like I learn better from a well organized reference book than most textbooks. In particular for programming languages or hardware references, it's like having a map to the entire area, instead of a textbook trying to walk someone down a path, maybe too fast, or too slow.

Any opinion on the companion volume the same authors created last year, Learning the Art of Electronics: A Hands-On Lab Course?

Haven't read it, but: the class was amazing and difficult. There was an older lab notes companion book we used, but mostly it was "Professor draws a circuit, explains it via a metaphor, along with a rule of thumb or two... now go build a thing". Like learning a foreign language through total immersion.

So I can't speak to this particular book, but I can say that there's a (a) decent chance it's quite good and (b) expect to do a lot of work if you want to really understand this stuff.

Yes, certainly has a great reference of circuitry but absolutely not pedagogical. That dull grey hardbound cover shudders.

Godel Escher Bach is fairly bible-ish if you ask me

Another set of books I consider to be "one" bible are Edward Tufte's (1) The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, (2) Envisioning Information, (3) Visual Explanations and (4) Beautiful Evidence.

Don Norman - The Design of Everyday Things

This is exactly the kind of book I had in mind when I posted the question. It's scary how often I think about it, especially when going through doors.

The Elements of Statistical Learning, by Hastie, Tibshirani and Friedman, for everything on Machine Learning and Statistics. Available for free online: https://statweb.stanford.edu/~tibs/ElemStatLearn/

The Toyota Way. Yet despite repackaging upon repackaging of ideas in the book, sagely picked up in the book itself as if repackaged being ineffective, many corporate environments can beat the drum but not walk the walk, especially in long-term people-related aspects.

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills is the de facto reference book for most serious mountaineers

In Security ( or more precisely in Cryptography ) - Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier


This is old, and widely recommended against (e.g. https://sockpuppet.org/blog/2013/07/22/applied-practical-cry..., if you trust tptacek.)

It's still a good reference manual for 90's crypto, and very useful if you want to know what mistakes to expect when reviewing crypto code; but you really shouldn't read the book as a handbook unless you have enough knowledge to spot the many, many parts that will lead you astray. (tptacek's page, linked earlier, has a bit of an overview.)

Yes I know even Bruce has accepted this[0]. But, it is still Bible for Crypto. you will not find that much resources and ref. link in any other crypto book than this.

[0]. https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/11/free_cryptogr...

I will skip the tech stuff and go with a top hobby:

Advanced Marathoning, 2nd Edition - Pete Pfitzinger, Scott Douglas

It's heavier on the biology and human kinetics in a way that I don't need a bachelors in a hard science to understand and is quite well known now to serious runners. I read it every year as a motivator and to reinforce the importance of training smart.

When I studied cello performance in college, my professor would joke that the 40 David Popper etudes were my new bible. However, I think a copy of Bach's six cello suites is a better match.

In my work in math education, there are many possibilities, but I think Polya's "How to Solve It" is a strong contender.

The Art of Computer Game Design by Chris Crawford was the first book on the theory computer and video games. It's got quite a few ideas in there that are still relevant today.

But I don't think it's comprehensive or constantly referenced by those in the industry (it's almost forgotten about by modern designers, I bet). I think a closer fit to a 'bible of the field' would be The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. Lots of good information about what to think about, and you can even buy a deck of tarot-sized cards that has a compiled list of all the questions the book invites you to raise when thinking about your game on them.

I'm still waiting for something similar that focuses more on board game design specifically, but a lot of the Book of Lenses can be applied to board games as well.

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst


Not the Bible in its typical sense, but Crockfords "JavaScript: The Good Parts". It's like the Bible in that I seem to learn something new on every read through, and it's fairly quick to do so

On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen by Harold McGee

This a thousand times. It especially resonates with a geek outside of the field, as it explains all the mysterious science that is completely overstepped by every other source.

Cookbooks on the other hand are prescriptive - they direct you to do this, don't ask why. Don't deviate ... unless you can get away with it, in which case go ahead.

For pianists, I think many would agree with Hans von Bülow when he called Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier the "The Old Testament" and Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas the "The New Testament".


Not exactly a field/industry, but in the Commodore 64 demoscene it would be the "VIC Article", which is a nickname for "The MOS 6567/6569 video controller (VIC-II)" by Christian Bauer:


Ten Books of Architecture which, for better or worse and perhaps suggestive of the level scientific basis for contemporary architectural practice, was written contemporaneously with many of the events later described in the Christian Bible...though from a practical standpoint of running a firm, The Prince might be more apropos.

For work:

Principles of Digital Audio, by Ken Pohlmann

For play:

Handbook of Model Rocketry, by G. Harry Stine.

(p.s. if anyone has any suggestions for the field of imaging, I'd love to hear them as I don't know of a good imaging "bible".)

The Great Book of BASE - BASE Jumping, written by Matt Gerdes

SMAD - "Space Mission Analysis and Design". The latest edition is "Space Mission Engineering - The New SMAD".

The Pragmatic Programmer. I'm on mobile, so just Google for it.

This book is amazing and still holds up today, for the most part.

For application security I'd say:

Web Application Hackers Handbook 2nd Edition and The Art of Software Security Assessment

Physical Chemistry by Peter Atkins

Quantitative finance: Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives by John Hull

Modern Physics by Paul Tipler and the Feynman lectures by Richard Feynman.

ummm no. I can name many Bibles in physics and neither of those are in the set.

I agree. Feynman lectures aren't in anyway comprehensive or bible-like, but they're nonetheless very fun. As for Tipler, I'd stay far away from it haha (take it as an example of how badly a physics textbook can be written).

As for bible-like/comprehensive (I don't know if anyone has written such a thing in such a vast subject), but many consider the Landau/Lifshitz "Course in Theoretical Physics" series to be an elegant summary of important results in physics. Check out the Chicago Undergraduate Physics Bibliography if you're interested in what books to study to become a physicist.

There is a series by Walter Greiner... english translations are also available.

the greiner books are great - especially the qft book

Please name them.

gravitation by wheeler misner thorne, qm by sakurai, mechanics by goldstein, e&m by jackson, qft by peskin and shroeder, etc.

The Sound Reinforcement Handbook — Gary Davis and Ralph Jones

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