One for me is this article on the "Design Document" by Rex Parker of StreetSmartinc.com
Discovering Lisp was a big one. This was in 1983, when the default
programming language was Pascal. Lisp seemed (and in retrospect
was) startlingly better. There was no one single book or quotation,
but I remember how excited I was to get my hands on a photocopy
of the InterLisp manual.
Kenneth Clark's documentary series Civilisation (and the accompanying
book) impressed me a lot. In fact, it was clearly the model for
Connections. I've never read anything else better about art. His ideas
are extremely subversive, but few get it because he usually speaks
in code. And he
had access to stuff like no one else ever will again.
I also learned a lot from his book The Nude.
One of the biggest influences on my ideas about startups was an
essay by TJ Rogers, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. I don't
remember the title, but it cut through the usual corporate bullshit
like a knife. For me the important thing was not just what he said,
but that one could even be that candid.
Of all the books I've read in the last 5 years or so, Hardy's A
Mathematician's Apology is probably the one that stuck most in my
YouTube links to the first episode of the series "Connections 1" (from 1978):
The rest are on YouTube also, as well as bittorent:
Depending on whether or not you think paying ~$500 for them would serve "to promote the progress of science and useful arts", you might be legally obliged to buy them on Amazon.
One interesting thing about the relevancy of the essay is the potential change in the aesthetics of mathematics in wake of the proof of the Four Color Theorem. Personally, I have to believe that some day someone will find a proof that has all the elegance mathematicians are looking for.
"We do not want many ‘variations’ in the proof of a
mathematical theorem: ‘enumeration of cases’, indeed, is one of the duller forms of mathematical argument. A mathematical proof should resemble a simple and clear-cut constellation, not a scattered cluster in the Milky Way."
If you consider his constant foil in Chess, it's fun to think that perhaps he'd see some degree of beauty in computer algorithms that solve the many enumerations of chess in far more "general" and "surprising" ways.
"The Fountainhead" - gave me the gift of self-confidence
"The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution" - helps me understand where I come from and where I fit in the Biosphere
"The Use of Knowledge in Society" - This, along with other pieces on economics and capitalist anarchism, gave me an appreciation for distributed non-hierarchical systems. (http://www.econlib.org/Library/Essays/hykKnw1.html)
Paul Graham's stuff - Got me to the point where I'm quitting my job in two weeks.
I read a ton of fantasy, sci fi, and historical fiction growing up. I'm sure that has something to do with my grand imagination, distaste for authority, and idealism.
If you lack motivation to work on advanced software, this should put you right back on track. It is... Asimovesquely inspiring.
I believe this encapsulates the dangers of perfectionism, the importance of iterating, and the reason we should risk failure. And I find the concept difficult to apply in some aspects of my life.
I believe as you progress down a particular route in life your mind's pattern recognition will find meaning in particular quotes, books because you are trying to. And by extension, you will meet like-minded people the more committed you are. Like buying a new car and suddenly seeing it everywhere. Until we have immersive VR, I believe that some experiences must be learned first-hand - and emotionally.
Helps to get through times when things are completely sour.
No Contest & Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn
Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
PG's essays & ITConversations interviews
The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto
The Singularity is Near by Kurzweil
This graph: http://alexkrupp.com/picture_library/plot.jpg
Dee Hock's essay on leadership
A handful of blog posts by Mark Cuban
All Marketers are Liars & Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin. All of the books that Seth recommends are also worth reading.
Bruce Schneier's interview on ITConversations
Magic Ink, an essay by Bret Victor
War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
The Cluetrain Manifesto (the book)
I'm sure there's a lot more, but that's what comes to mind right now.
I was particularly struck by this quote:
"I really don't know what I was looking for when I got back from the war, but it seemed as though all I could see was a lot of bright young men in grey flannel suits rushing around New York in a frantic parade to nowhere. They seemed to me to be pursuing neither ideals nor happiness -- they were pursuing a routine. For a long while I thought I was on the side lines watching the parade, and it was quite a shock to glance down and see that I too was wearing a grey flannel suit."
But not for the standard reasons of food safety or socialism
To get a real taste of how regular people lived and struggled back then. That was the life my great-grandparents and grandparents escaped so that I could have a real life.
So whenever I "think" things are tough, I just slow down and imagine that it's Packingtown, Chicago in 1906. Things suddenly seem a whole lot brighter now.
Here and now is a special time and place. Let's not any one of us squandor it.
The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0884270610). Most real-world systems have a single constraint that limit the system's ability to achieve goal units. The best way to improve the system is to (0) define the system's owners and their goal for the system, (1) identify the constraint (2) improve the situation at the constraint in a way that does not require significant investment; (3) if the improvement resulting from the previous is not sufficient, decide how to improve the constraint in a way that does require significant investment; (4) subordinate everything else in the system to the decision arrived at in the previous step; (5) start over at step 1.
The Game, by Neil Strauss (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060554738)
from a little center started in lates 60's, in india, now there are hundreds of centers around the world.. when i got to mexico in late 2005, there was one center, now there are three.. the system is growing.. people tend to pay after they get the goods, because it feels good and right..
The Sanyasin - Satprem. I walked the streets of Chennai not knowing what the hell was happening, while reading this. Magical, mystic..anyone who has ever held any spiritual notions should read this...
Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantikakis, what can I say..every word has drilled through me!
Ka by Roberto Calasso, this made me confront my own culture and religion like no other.
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.
Godel, Escher & Bach - Douglas Hofstadter. Barely made it to 4th chapter but that alone has shattered opinions I held about my style of thinking.
And Sri Aurobindo...almost everything that he has written touches me like no other. It was like coming home after being in exile. Not that I understand anything but...
And of course Don Box's talk on DDJ about the origins of .NET!
I'll also mention Ayn Rand as someone who wrote inspiringly about the entrepreneur as a (potentially) heroic figure, but hasten to add that her sociology of looters and movers is way too simplistic to ground some of her views on ethics.
John Stuart Mill's "Utilitarianism" was my first assigned reading in a political philosophy class, and remains my favorite.
Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals prompted me to question whether the values I had always held were really all that valuable.
Eleanor Rosch's work on basic categories and prototype theory (without which Lakoff's Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things--not to mention Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous--would likely not have been written) is fantastic, debunking empirically the Aristotelian theory of categories as being defined by necessary and sufficient conditions (they can be, where we intentionally define them to be from a top-down point of view, as in geometry, but bottom-up the construction of categories is much looser and based on family resemblances with one or several prototypes serving as the central point of comparison: hence, when I say "bird" you're more likely to think of a bluebird-type bird than a penguin or an ostrich). Knowing this does a lot to help loosen up your understanding of things, which can become rigidified by traditional mathematical, scientific, and analytic philosophical education.
Several others worth mentioning, but I've got to get back to work!
(somewhat cliched but) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Also since I was trying to write a Ph.D. thesis, it was just a revelation to see that MIT accepted something interesting and readable for his thesis.
Myers-Brigs Model for Personality
"Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steve Blank
John Boyd's OODA Loop as a model for competitive decision making
Decision Analysis techniques: in particular decision trees, expected value of perfect information, and good decision bad outcome
BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) concept for negotiation planning
"Secrets of Consulting" by Gerald M. Weinberg
"Bionomics" by Michael Rothschild
SimCity computer game
Analysis of Competing Hypotheses methodology
wiki (social process) model for small team collaborative document development
community of practice model for knowledge management
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein (in particular TANSTAAFL)
activation energy, catalyst, and phase change concepts from physics/chemistry
Amplify Positive Deviance model from Jerry Sternin (Save the Children)
"The Empowered Manager" by Peter Block, in particular his trust vs. agreement matrix
"Crossing the Chasm" & "Inside the Tornado" by Geoffrey Moore
"Maneuver Warfare Handbook" by William Lind
"Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" by Daniel Amen
"Micromotives and Macrobehavior" by Thomas Schelling
Appreciative Inquiry Techniques
I started reading this and was amazed. It's written for organizations but it rings true when read as applying to an individual as well.
Lila: An Inquiry into Morals - Robert M. Pirsig
The Open Society and its Enemies - Karl. R. Popper
The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks
Pale Blue Dot - Carl Sagan
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." from "The Road not Taken" by Robert Frost
My Mom teaching me to code in 6th grade.
PG & Joel Spolsky, the Alchemist, the Little Prince.
the games exposed me to sun tzu art of war
local book about python and unix - i used python around 2004 and beat the courses assignments ('beating the avg' reminds me of those days) ... later pg's great hacker on slashdot and then lisp - settled with newlisp now
iBookG4 exposed me to unix, designs, hardwares and most importantly, woz and jobs ... later my ibook was broken. I am very happy with OpenBSD now
chemistry (and later internet recipes): now i bath using soda ash and citric acid at very low conc - eliminate the need to restore soap and shampoo (great time and $ saving for me) ... i also make my own fertilizer for aquarium use
among other things:
open source, MIT+BSD license
statistics, design of experiments, bayes, simulation
wikipedia and generic drugs
low calorie for longevity
vegetarian dog, vegan, glycemic index
pg essays esp how to make wealth and the other road ahead
Wild animals are beautiful because they have hard lives
"The less confident you are, the more serious you have to act."
perhaps these things teach me that having great control at raw level (source code, chemical, generic drug etc) gives me power to go vertically (own hardware, os, language) as well as horizontally (own tweaks, foss libraries) without much dependencies
In a similar vein, the writing and blog of Scott Adams:
The vast majority of it is humor, and the inspiring pieces are subtle, but they're like a honey bunch of oats in your cereal (except more rare (and with better metaphors than this)).
Star Trek, the original series
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. The first science fiction story I read, which lead to all the others.
The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner. That's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll, with wonderful annotations by Martin Gardner.
The "Organon" books by Aristotle
_Introduction to Logic_, H. W. B. Joseph
_An Invitation to Formal Reasoning_, Fred Sommers & George Englebretsen
"It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ Yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/ Of what is found there." - William Carlos Williams
Godel, Escher, Back, book; Douglas R. Hofstadter
This is an undergrad teacher who has had the most influence on me: