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Ask HN: What books are you currently reading?
41 points by zatkin on July 26, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments


- The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's Freedom to Putin's War

- The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries

Both excellent and pair really well. Add in "Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible" and you've got some decent insight into modern Russia, I think.

Just finished:

- Left of Boom: How a Young CIA Case Officer Penetrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda

Interesting to read. Author is rather sure of himself, but I guess that helped him be successful. Also interesting to see what the CIA redacted, since they left all the redactions in place in the book and used classical music in the audio book to represent them. Kind of sloppily redacted at times, with the redacted country or entity clearly referenced a sentence or two later. And then there's strange things redacted, like the language of bootleg DVDs that are purchased in SE Afghanistan. It's Farsi, for the record.

- The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age

If you're interested in kind of an overview of the cyber (yes, I hate the word too) space, from the perspective of nation states and the impact of their actions, this is a good read.

A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson).

It's a cursory overview of all of history (title) from the dawn of time to the evolution of humans. It seems to be only slightly dated in some information, but really interesting to learn how the knowledge we assume is true today came to fruition over time.

Before that,

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed (Ben R. Rich)

Such an awesome book about not only the engineering feats achieved by Lockheed Martin during the Cold War Era, but the incredible ability to keep developments secret from the mostly everyone. If you want to know more about the purpose of Area51, check it out.

SkunkWorks was a fantastic read! The aviation history was great and I also really liked seeing how they accomplished so much with a small team.

I read a short history of nearly everything earlier this year. It was quite insightful!

Right now: The Poet by Michael Connelly. Very interesting crime novel.

Before that: Best served cold by Joe Abercrombie. A great fantasy novel, the fourth after the First Law trilogy. I recommend it to fantasy lovers! It is standalone but I recommend reading The First Law first to have more info about characters and the universe of this novel.

I'm reading a few. The Power Broker (really good, but really long). The dictators handbook (good, but repetitive). Deep thinking (easy and enjoyable if you're interested in AI). Investment Science (very good if you're interested in math finance).

Deep Thinking really sounds fun! I agree, The Dictator's Handbook is really good, but sometimes really repetitive and it takes a bit of dedication to finish it.

As for my current one, I'm really enjoying Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others.

Investment Science - is that the one by David Luenberger? Green cover?

Yes! It actually has a bunch of really deep math hiding in plan sight (they have a chapter where they reinvent RL but call it dynamic portfolio optimization, and when they axiomize risk they are really talking about special measures)

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds: really creative world-building in a galactic society and an engaging, twisting plotine.

The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor: this is on my shelf long-term as it's quite dense but it's apparently one of the best works on the Spanish revolution.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: unique intersection of themes with American immigration, industrialisation and gender all packed into one. Fitting themes for the politics of today though the book already seems slightly dated when it comes to gender politics.

Anarchosyndicalism: Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker. This is to compliment my interest in the Spanish civil war and the history of unionism/syndicalism.

* "The history of western philosophy" by Bertrand Russell. A fun read so far (~100 pages). Russell is not afraid to tell the reader that he really dislikes Plato, and thinks he destroyed western philosophy.

* SICP (Structure and interpretation of computer programs). Learning Scheme for fun now with this book. I'm only in chapter 2 so far, but it is really fun

* "Gödel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hoefstadter. The story in one line: he have a theory that consciousness aries from "strange loops". Along the way he talks about fractals, programming, patterns in music and in pictures,...

* "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevskij. Fun read.

Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics is a nice book to read after SICP if you like torturing your brain with extremely thorough material written by and for geniuses that want to master something everybody think he knows bu he really doesn't.

"The Idiot" - was one of the most interesting books I've read.

I like how you read philosophy + computer science

'The Woman in the Dunes' by Kobo Abe: Sometimes called the Japanese Kafka. Looks at a Japanese salaryman who is imprisoned in the bottom of a sand pit with a woman he does not know and is forced to remove the sand in order to protect a nearby village. Creepy and ripe for symbolic analysis.

Before that:

'Kolyma: The Arctic Death Camps' by Robert Conquest. A nice, short overview of the Kolyma Region with a special focus on the especially brutal years of 1937-1938. Has some great eyewitness accounts as well as some semi-rigorous historical analysis (as well as appendices of camps, administrative regions at c.)

"The Woman in the Dunes" is an excellent film as well.

'Salems Lot by Stephen King. Just got done with his memoir/writing guide "On Writing" and it's given me a new appreciation for his style. Currently going back and reading the books of his that I missed in middle school.

The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. First book I'm reading on a Kindle, so not yet sure how that will effect my perception of the novel (it is helpful for footnotes I've found). Absolutely fresh SciFi is rare these days so it's wonderful so far.

I am reading the Dark Tower series. I have been meaning to read it for a long time, and with the upcoming movie I figured I should read it before someone spoils it for me :)

I'm jealous of you. Wish I could read it again for the first time.

Yeah, I am having a pretty great time right now.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

I see quite a few people reading this on my commute. How do you find it so far?

* Angel by Jason Calacanis about angel investing. (http://amzn.to/2eOqkyn)

* Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris (http://amzn.to/2uYv9LH)

* Softwar about Larry Ellison (http://amzn.to/2uYHHmf)

* Wild ride about Uber (http://amzn.to/2eOqrdh)

* Social Intelligence: the new science of human relationships (http://amzn.to/2uYGueV)

* Rereading - Letters to shareholders by Warren Buffett (http://amzn.to/2h3xFe0)

How are you liking Tools of Titans? Any good take-aways?

Empire of Cotton. It's a story about the development of the international cotton trade, which was the specific environment within which many of the state and capitalist institutions we now live with were originally developed. It's a whirlwind of history about international relations, domestic relations, labor, and the development of the wage system. Slightly pedantic, but an eye-opening read.

The Name Of The Wind. I bought this because it was the #1 selling book in Borderlands Books last month (I always swing by that bookstore when I'm in San Francisco). Entertaining read, good world-building.

Linux: What Every Superuser Should Know. A No Starch Press book about Linux. It weaves a rich tapestry out of disparate knowledge I already had.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Edited biographical anecdotes based on taped conversations. If you've enjoyed any of his videos, it's hard to read and not hear his voice telling the stories. I'm about a quarter the way through and am enjoying it so far.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

The 4-Hour Body - Tim Ferriss - Lot's of anecdotes from Ferriss' own experiments.

S. - by J.J. Abrams - Layers upon layers. Unlike anything I've read before and a true Abrams experience. Check it out if you haven't heard of it!

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software - Charles Petzold - Fascinating PopSci book on the origins of Computers and Code. Each chapter seems to build on the knowledge you've built from previous chapters. Interesting read for the programmer/computer engineer and VERY approachable.

How is Code? I am curious to know

Kids books:

Currently reading The Saga of Eric the Viking by Terry Jones. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Saga-Erik-Viking-Puffin-Books/dp/01...

In the queue Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/014198600X/

"Wireshark Network Analysis: The Official Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Study Guide"

Either I'm more of a nerd than I thought, or this is actually pretty well written. I'm really enjoying it.

Wireshark is a fantastic tool. If you do any web development also be sure to check out Charles Proxy, it's like Wireshark for HTTP.

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn http://amzn.com/0345536932. 2 weeks into the book and 8-week course of MBSR on my own with it's companion meditation and yoga app, https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jkz-series1/id700402554. So far liking the book.

If Our Bodies Could Talk by James Hamblin. There was a passage from his book hosted on The Atlantic that got to the front page of HN. It went over a crash course on sleep.

The book only has a small passage on the topic. Instead, the book goes over random topics from STDs to popping zits with the same depth that his sleep article followed. I started reading it, but gave the audiobook version a try. The author makes the book even better and would recommend that form instead.

Mahabharata - Extremely interesting ethics in my opinion, also the cosmology is so inconsistent and interesting.

A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All: The Future Belongs to Work That Is Meaningful - Charles Hugh Smith

This one is a must read already and I'm only a few chapters in. His arguments are good enough and perfect is the enemy of good. Wish this book was more popular.

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance per the recommendations of a lot of HN'ers.

Have to say, having a pretty difficult time following it.

Agreed. I was really excited to read it because I like both Zen and motorcycles, but I found it really dull and didn't get much out of it.

- How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architecture ~~ Carol Davidson Cragoe

It's a quick crash course to historical architecture, teaching how to recognize the different parts from different time periods and why they where made this way.

- The Three Musketeers ~~ Alexandre Dumas

An old classic, funny and give an interesting overview of France in the XVIIe

The Nix by Nathan Hill. It's excellent.

Review: http://www.npr.org/2016/08/31/490101821/the-nix-is-a-vicious...

Aliens: The World's Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life edited by Jim Al-Khalili. It's a nice overview of various topics including the origins of life on earth. I think I'll look for some of the books and studies mentioned by various authors as follow up.

I'm simultaneously traveling through On Becoming A Person by Carl Rogers and my psyche. Wonderful read, and furthers some of the ideas I've picked up in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and a couple other books I've read over the past year...

The Guns of August - Can't say I really recommend it, read The Sleepwalkers instead. Barely talks about Austria-Hungary which was a disappointment.

Astrobiology - A Very Short Introduciton - Good so far but I haven't gotten very far in yet.

Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold - some of the books are great, some not so much, and one is like a Harlequin novel in space - not what I was aiming for. Finishing them for completeness, but after 10 or 11 or so, they become boring and mediocre.

I figure this is a bit of an usual selection for HN, but here's the top of my in-progress list:

Moral Boundaries -- Joan Tronso

Known and Strange Things -- Teju Cole

The Feeling of What Happens -- Antonio Damasio

The Promise of Hope: New and Selected Poems -- Kofi Awoonor

And I just started Neil Gaiman's "Sandman".

The Uplift War - David Brin

I had enjoyed Sundiver and Startide Rising from the same series quite a bit, but I have to be honest, this one is trying my patience. I like the whole uplift concept, but I'm finding the writing in this one a bit clumsy.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future -- Ashlee Vance (ISBN: 978-0062301239)

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World -- Gary Vaynerchuk (ISBN: 978-0062273062)

Whats Jab about?

_The Book of Laughter and Forgetting_ by _Milan Kundera_.

I am taking a break from reading business/self-help/startup related books to read fiction. Milan Kundera is one of my favourite authors.

Spin/Axis/Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson. The first one (Spin) has fantastic ideas, fast pace, and lovable characters. I found Axis fairly boring. Just started with Vortex.

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft

Science fiction and thrilling horror. Unique style. I recommend At The Mountains Of Madness. This man knows how to keep up suspense.

Dune - Frank Herbert

- The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master - Andrew Hunt, David Thomas

- The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan

ReWork by by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Three at the moment:

- Dies the Fire (S. M. Stirling)

- The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Alex Haley)

- Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea (Tim McGrath)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I'm reading this right now as well. The last time I read it I was still in grade school, and it started my love of science fiction.

Same! I'm re-reading it as I started playing https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/567823005/nemos-war-sec...

Love that book.

The Age of Jihad by Patrick Cockburn.

The brutal, heart-breaking history of the last 20 years of the Middle East. Field journalism at its best.

Stories of Your Life and Others (Ted Chiang)

1. Infinite Jest

2. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic

3. Garner's Modern English Usage

Oh my god Infinite Jest reassured me I wasn't crazy for hating the self-loathing I associate with weed. And in such a funny way. I swear re-reading a chapter or scene in that book is like a real-life dream sequence; I can't help but dissociating. I still didn't understand so much of it after I "finished" it, but that didn't stop me from pulling the same shit I do--jumping over chapters until it's interesting--with his other work, "The Pale King". You will not be disappointed by the candidness and "raw"-ness of the pale king, either. I almost wanted to applaud some parts of it--a familiar reflex for you, too, I'm sure.

In a way, I'm sad that I'm reaching the end of Infinite Jest...it's been such an enriching experience for me. Thanks for letting me know, I'm anxiously awaiting it. :)

"Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American City", by Matthew Desmond

Ian Morris: Why the West Rules - for now Richard Baldwin - The Great Convergence

-The Young Derrida and French Philosophy, 1945-1968, by Edward Baring.

- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life

- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

We Have No Idea by Daniel Whiteson and Jorge Cham (of PHD comics)

"How to Be a Stoic" by Massimo Pigliucci.

So far it's really good.

I've just recently become fascinated with Stoicism after reading the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck!

I've since read through Meditations, Letters from a Stoic and The Art of Living, and am really enjoying The Daily Stoic every morning before work. r/stoicism is also great.

Do you have any other books/resources you recommend on the subject?

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Grande Sertão Veredas

- Essentialism by Greg McKeown

- The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

Watched a few great presentations by Greg McKeown. Very interesting, I think! Check out this one from when he gave a talk at Google:


thank you very much!

Stock Market Wizards by Jack Schwager

Game of thrones - a storm of swords.

The Art of Thinking Clearly

Take the Stairs - Rory Vaden

I typically have several books in progress. I'll read a chapter from whichever one I'm in the mood for when I have some time for reading. Currently in progress:

"A Book of Abstract Algebra: Second Edition" by Charles C. Pinter [1].

"How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking" by Jordan Ellenberg [2].

"Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond [3].

"Introduction to Analytic Number Theory" by Tom M. Apostol [4].

"Algorithmic Puzzles" by Levitin and Levitin [7].

I've also got a 46 books in my Safari Library queue, although only about half a dozen are actually in the in progress state.

In addition to the above, I'm about 3 years behind on Analog, the science fiction magazine. Those are all on my Kindle and I'm slowly trying to catch up.

Recently finished:

"Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" by Joshua Foer [5].

Probably going to pick up soon:

"The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far" by Lawrence M. Krauss [6]. Flipped through it at a bookstore and there were some very interesting things in it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Book-Abstract-Algebra-Second-Mathemat...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00G3L6JQ4/

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Guns-Germs-Steel-Fates-Societies/dp/0...

[4] https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Analytic-Number-Theory-A...

[5] https://www.amazon.com/Moonwalking-Einstein-Science-Remember...

[6] https://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Story-Ever-Told-So-Far-ebook...

[7] https://www.amazon.com/Algorithmic-Puzzles-Anany-Levitin/dp/...

Courage by Osho.

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