Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Summer Reading List (ycombinator.com)
470 points by craigcannon on Aug 3, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 271 comments

I know this is a technical site, but for all of these I always get a little sad with how few fictional books are listed on these types of posts. Going over it, seems like there's just one, "The Nix" (may be more where I just missed them).

I like seeing fictional books since I can relate to the people writing them. If I enjoyed some of the fictional books that people talk about, then I'll go along with their non-fiction recommendations. Also, reading fiction shouldn't be treated like time wasted! I see that comment a lot by people who only read the non-fiction books, but I highly disagree with that thought. For another comment I guess.

One way to do that is to have different sections, one for fiction and one non-fiction. I'd love to see that here.

On that note, I've actually experienced that here, with some of the book recommendation threads, finding comments with books I also like and then reading the others. Always fun to talk to people who read the same as you.

Thanks – I'm the one that picked The Nix for the list (I work for YC on their admissions team).

One reason I picked it is that is indeed a great book that I have been recommending plenty to friends.

Another is that I do think it's incredibly important to be able to enjoy and indulge and make time for fiction, especially when you work in tech. It's too easy to "read for facts / information / theory" and forget the joy that good writing can bring.

It took me some reflection to realize I heavily bias towards non-fiction unless I make an effort. But when I do get the chance to read a great novel, it tends to affect me more than reading non-fiction.

The world needs more literature, poetry, and art, so I also like supporting authors who ship that product too :)

(FWIW, the book probably isn't for everyone, but I think reading great literature is – give it a shot if you haven't in a while!)

Have you considered Snow Crash, then? It would have been on top of my list.

Blond Sight by Peter Watts. Available in CC license on his website rifters.com

There are a lot of fiction books that will make you think differently more than non-fiction.

> Blond Sight

Blindsight* ... I was trying to CTRL+F for "Blond" and couldn't fint it =). Finally found the link here: http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

And downloaded it. Thanks.

Outch yes, it was early this morning, on my phone. Sorry :(

I'm interested in your argument to why fiction is not time "wasted"! Would you mind discussing? I have thought about this a lot and personally only read non-fiction, but am always interested in other viewpoints.

I am not the original thread author, but I would postulate that it first depends on what each individual considers time wasted vs time well spent.

Many consider a relaxing, entertaining read to be worthwhile after a hard week of work in its own right.

For those who need a more "tangible" return on reading, though, many fiction books, intentionally or not, introduce ideas, philosophies, thoughts and perspective. Some explore political systems, others philosophies, others social/economic constructs, yet others interpersonal relationships, etc. From that perspective, one can learn from many fiction books, exercise one's mental muscles, gain new perspectives, and even take actionable insight.

I'm not saying Danielle Steel or Sydney Sheldon are necessarily likely candidates for bringing lifestyle change; but I have personally found many fiction (particularly SF in my case) books to have played a large part in influencing my perspective on the world and people within it, impact my likes and priorities, and so on.

I don't agree with ideas in Starship Troopers but found them challenging my own worldview. Arthur Clarke put Sri Lanka / Ceylon on my bucket list, made me interested in astronomy AND computer science. Neuromancer instigated my trip to Japan and visit to Tokyo, where I very much experienced the night-time vista through Case's eyes. A lot of Tom Clancy (I know... I know;) renewed my interest in flying and geopolitics, and I've happily used the word "nekulturny" in my daily usage since. Karl May's doubly-fictional accounts of American West and Arabian Peninsula added them to my own imagination. Tau Zero, Childhood's end, and Children of men made me realize how much I empathized with success and continuation of species more than Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" or Dawkins' "Selfish Gene" ever did. And so on...

My $0.01 CAD :)

Do you consider time experiencing any art to be wasted?

I find it to: enhance empathy; expose me to new ideas and perspectives (both of background and state of mind); improve my writing; allow me to experience the beautiful and the sublime, which I'd count as among the least-wasteful uses of time; act as a kind of therapy by letting me see that my struggles both great and mundane are, without exception, not only my own; generally aid self reflection, understanding, and improvement.

Granted few or none of these things may result if we're talking about trash fiction, which isn't better than any other time-waster one may choose (TV, say—though both are fine if one's goal is simply entertainment). The above is what The Good Stuff does, by definition—achieving most or all of those things is overwhelmingly why those works are considered great.

[EDIT] I'd add that even mediocre fiction can be a great source of inspiration and ideas, while also being entertaining.

> Granted few or none of these things may result if we're talking about trash fiction, which isn't better than any other time-waster one may choose (TV, say—though both are fine if one's goal is simply entertainment).

I think there's an argument for reading as entertainment, regardless of quality, as a form of non-productive entertainment that is less harmful than other forms of entertainment. I've taken to switching off my devices at night and just reading books (fiction and non-fiction) before bed.

I would say my attention span has benefited greatly from this, as has my sleep (from not staring into blue lights late into the night).

Of course reading fiction isn't the only activity that this could apply to. Just the one we happen to be talking about.

> I think there's an argument for reading as entertainment, regardless of quality, as a form of non-productive entertainment that is less harmful than other forms of entertainment. I've taken to switching off my devices at night and just reading books (fiction and non-fiction) before bed.

That's a good point. I was over-broad in my post—the form by which one experiences otherwise low-nutrient entertainment can have its own benefits. Reading even so-so fiction's not the same as watching so-so TV or compulsively refreshing online news aggregators, for example.

Just curious, how long is your average nightly reading period? I'm thinking of taking up a similar habit but not sure how long to allot. Also I'm a little worried about going over-time, especially when reading fiction!

Probably about a half hour minimum, sometimes going for hours, depends on when I turn the computer off. I have a pretty flexible waking time as I work remotely but I've never totally lost track of time doing it.

> (from not staring into blue lights late into the night) f.lux solves this problem.

Fiction is a petri dish for all of those ideas you're consuming in non-fiction books.

Have you ever had an idea that you thought could change the world? Write a short story about it. When you are really forced to create different viewpoints in your head, put those viewpoints into characters, and then have those characters come into conflict with one another, you're subjecting your idea to scrutiny that costs nothing more than a few bytes in word processor and a few hours of time.

In that way, I think a lot of non-fiction is time wasted. I think more non-fiction writers should be fiction writers.

You're making a compelling argument for writing fiction - but not for reading it.

Reading is the 10 hour version of the above multi-year exercise - as all books are. Instead of deriving Newton's laws, you read what Newton spent a lifetime to come up with. Instead of deriving the implications of a situation where sentient alien races can communicate between stars, read about the solution arrived at when they spent years thinking about. Sure, it's not as technically difficult (nor probably rewarding) as synthesizing the ideas themselves, but still valuable to ingest - especially given the investment/reward ratio.

As a scientist, authors like William Gibson, Borges, Bradbury, Ramez Naam, Asimov, Clarke, Richard Morgan, etc. have provided me with rapid access to very real and useful perspectives inaccessible in non-fiction form. Such stories are long-form versions of Einstein's 'gedanken' [1] - thought experiments such as those he relied on to conceive of relativity.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_experiment

There's a caveat though: through just reading, it's easy to fall into the illusion that you learned anything. Maybe for some this is enough, but I'd wager that for vast majority of people (myself included), to internalize some idea even on the most basic level, you have to do something along the lines of:

- rehearse it after a time, or

- try to derive it by yourself (applies to e.g. math and physics), or

- explain in your own words (whether by teaching someone, or just writing a blog post), or

- code a working demo of it

Basically, you have to apply the idea somehow to actually learn it.

I agree, but I don't think there's a difference whether the initial idea is consumed as fiction or non-fiction.

And it's certainly true that writers of hard-to-grasp ideas often use both - fictional examples in non-fiction books, historical examples and exposition in fiction books.

It exposes me to viewpoints, warnings, or subjects I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

For example, I've never given time to reading about gene editing, but after reading Change Agent I've been reading about gene editing and Crispr. I also have some minor understanding of the dangers and benefits of where that could take civilization.

I hadn't thought about what would happen in doomsday scenarios, like a large virus outbreak or an EMP blast, but Holding Their Own and One Second After exposed me to that.

Reading Seveneves exposed me to space travel and Lagrange points, I had no idea about these otherwise.

Authors like John Fante are great story tellers and he's such a joy to read instead of watching a tv series.

Change Agent is great. I read it after finishing The Windup Girl, which is a book someone on HN recommended to me.

I do second The Windup Girl - in particular, I liked the exploration of technologies in a society so energy constrained, that the Joule becomes pretty much the most important resource.

If anyone has any biotech fiction recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

I have no idea if this is valid, but it is often said that people who read a lot more fiction tend to have more of a certain type of empathy.

Not all types of empathy. I think the idea is that when they see someone behave in a negative manner, they are more likely to conjure up a scenario in their mind where that behavior makes sense.

I remember one communications workshop I took where one of the lessons was: "When someone acts poorly or irrationally, try to ask yourself: Why would a reasonable person ever behave this way?" If you can come up with a scenario, then you don't automatically attribute negative qualities to the other (irrational, jerk, etc).

The claim is people who read a lot of fiction are much better at this. Anecdotally, I often find I'm better at this than most around me - even people who I view as much more intelligent. Often gets me in trouble, as well (e.g. my refusal to blanket condemn Wall Street professionals after the 2008 crisis (the key word being "blanket")).

Until recently, I would get quite frustrated with those who were quick to judge in situations where I could come up with (reasonable) scenarios vindicating the person, and could clearly see the person judging had not ruled those out. But in the last year or so, people have sent me signals that this is hard for the average person to do and I'm much better than most.

And the advice I keep hearing on how you can develop that skill is "Read more fiction".

Anyway, my 2 cents. Would love to see if this is backed by anything rigorous.

Not the parent but this article discusses benefits: https://open.buffer.com/reading-fiction/

They discuss benefits in: 1. Increasing empathy 2. Decreasing stress 3. Sleep 4. Relationships 5. Memory 6. Inclusivity 7. Vocabulary 8. Creativity 9. Pleasure

I guess I have two thoughts. The first concerns what is "wasted" time? If fiction is enjoyable, why is that waste of time? You might say you should use your time to gain new skills or hone your old. But to what end? If all your time is spent on non-fiction, when are you truly enjoying yourself? (Unless of course you truly enjoy non-fiction more than fiction). Life is short and nobody will remember you in 10000 years from now, why not enjoy the time you have?

The other is the hidden benefits of fiction. You'll be exposed to different world views than your own, different social constructs and different time periods which can shape how you see events. It's possible to live your life, in very different ways, in fast forward with fiction hundreds of times. You can gain new ideas, new creative energy or it may help you relax and recharge energy for when you don't want to "waste" your time.

I held the same belief as you a few years ago - I only wanted to read something if it was going to increase my technical skills.

But there's certain works, literary classics, which started to fascinate me - because these books changed the world. Nowadays, it's technology that changes viewpoints - but there are parallels between good technology and good storytelling.

I also see certain classic films being just as important. Watch all of 'easy rider' and see how it affects you, moves you emotionally.

I still read mostly technical documents, but reading some of the classics can expand your viewpoints. I reread 1984 and brave new world last year for example - I'd read them in high school but clearly didn't appreciate them back then. Just being able to discuss those books with others who have read them have opened up some amazing conversations.

Depends on the kind of fiction, and what you're trying to get, I guess.

Personally, I see lot of value in science fiction books. They're good at exploring impact of technological changes on people (both on individual and societal level), and they can also be very inspiring. Also, the less such work is about people and their relationship, the more I like it - what I look for in science fiction is ideas and inspirations, not the boring interpersonal drama our lives are so full of already.

Speaking for myself, I tend to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books. Generally, fiction books are story-driven (any sci-fi/fantasy/general fiction) and center around relationships between characters overlaid with some other topics. This means any good fiction is a setting custom built to examine specific aspects of humanity or some aspect of the world we live in or could live in. Any reasonably 'good' fiction is an exploration of highs and lows and challenges and redemptions, and I believe that these lead us to be better able to understand our fellow humans, and allow us to better think about and imagine the situations we might face in our lives or re-examine experiences we've had.

Sometimes the pleasure of reading fiction is simply to be entertained. Look at the popularity of TV and film - can you imagine never watching a fictional story again?

Teachers always tell their pupils to read often and to read widely. Why? Because the more you expose yourself to a wide range of writing styles the greater the chance it will help improve your own writing (regardless of whether you write fiction or non-fiction).

Fiction arguably lets the writer compose sentences with more freedom and creative licence than the non-fiction writer. The more you read, the more likely that some of that will rub off in your own writing or influence the rhythm of your own writing.

Could I ask you to begin with stating why you think it is "wasted"? That seems like a very odd viewpoint to take. If nothing else, entertainment has value in itself.

Depends how you count "wasted", but time to relax is important.


Three fiction recommendations:

* The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

* The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

* Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

Three non-fiction recommendations:

* Art is Work by Milton Glaser

* Pragmatic Thinking And Learning by Andy Hunt

* The First And Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti

I loved The Nix. There were chapters that left me physically stunned after reading them. It's as massive a creative achievement as anything I encountered in recent years.

Leaving the worlds of business and technology to study messy human relationships can only help to increase empathy in our industry.

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman is also fiction and one of the best books I have ever read. I read it over 20 years ago and some of the stories in it still flash in my mind.

Definitely going to re-read it. It is a fast read.

Seconded. I love this book. I was surprised to see it on the list because I expected them to all be recently published.

I'm actually glad. Everytime I talk with people about books I'm saddened by how little non-fiction people read, they only want to read fun novels.

I love fiction, especially fantasy and sci-fi. Reading just fiction or reading just non-fiction are both a pity, you are missing out on great experiences.

I am under the impression that fiction has won, so seeing non-fiction win around here feels good to me. May be my impression is mistaken? May be that's just where I live?

Completely agree with you on not considering fiction as time wasted. I know great thinkers like Elon Musk (and even Mark Zuckerberg) read Sci-fi fictions. In my opinion, Sci-fi fiction books open our minds to not put a hard-limit on implementations of scientific ideas and endeavors. Allowing us to expand our horizon to possibilities which we otherwise would have thought as 'not feasible'.

Eh, I keep those circles separate. Programmers usually don't discuss or care about literature in my experience. Like any hobby, just gotta find the people that do.

Self-fulfilling prophecy. If we shut down the conversation about literature when it starts, then yes we'll never discuss it ;)

I'm always pleased to see posts on literature show up on the HN[0], but often disappointed to see so few comments. But enough people are up-voting them that they do regularly appear on the front page, so there's clearly enough interest around here.

[0] e.g. see https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=nybooks.com and https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=lrb.co.uk

Self-fulfilling prophecy indeed, and also very self-limiting. Personally, I got some of the best fiction recommendations from people here on HN, and I'm very thankful for them.

I returned "The Nix" to Powell's ca. pg. 200 or so when I realized that I really hated it, and I can slog through just about anything.

Having seen these lists in the past, I was actually happy to see at least 1 fiction book (there are actually two).

There are 3 novels on the list out of 18 books and one blog.

Even the nonfiction strikes me as a bit narrow in interest.

Kind of amazed there are so few political books in here...There's a book on backpain but not on the descent into tyranny...

If I may recommend a book that really will make most people change their perspectives it's "The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy"

Rarely have I read a book which made me think about a subject I thought I had a pretty good understanding of completely different. And if that is not enough it's probably one of the few books which doesn't have a moral/ethical agenda but merely seeks to inform about how the crisis happened (and what money really is)

For me it's one now on my list of books about important fundamentals in this world.


What other books do you consider as important fundamentals?

Obviously these lists are subjective but a couple of examples would be:

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (Evolution)

MindStorms by Seymore Papert (Education)

Structure of Scientific Revolution by Thomas Kuhn (Scientific Method/ Philosophy)

Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter (Formal Systems)

The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen (Entrepreneurship)

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Peter F Druckert (Entrepreneurship but most likely because I had a quite crazy experience while reading it)

They are all books written by what I consider careful thinkers i.e. people who are able to avoid confusing what they want the world to be with what they actually observe.

They don't have to be right and can be highly subjective as long as their premise is clear and they are aware of it.

I took a philosophy of science course in college and still never got what it was that Kuhn was saying. My memory is the professor spent many lectures telling us what he was not saying, but I never figured out what he was saying beyond a "science goes through fads" simplistic interpretation. Is there a good short overview of it?

My take from this book is that:

- scientific knowledge is embedded in some intellectual ether made of underlying hypotheses often not explicitly stated called paradigms

- paradigms follow a Darwinian evolutionary process, i.e. better paradigms evolve out of not-so-good previous paradigms

- paradigm replacements start with an epistemological crisis , i.e. facts that the current paradigms don't explain well enough.

Hope it helps !

Great summary but also important to note that Kuhn didn't believe (unlike Popper) that science moved towards some final destination or explanation. Instead he saw each paradigm as optimal for what it was trying to express.

Yeah, I think I was struggling with this aspect. I recall my professor saying something like "it's not that general relativity is correct and newtonian mechanics was wrong, it's that when a general relativist says 'mass' they are talking about something different than when a Newtonianist says 'mass' - after all, you have to measure mass differently in those two things, they behave differently, etc. It's more that general relativity doesn't say anything at all about Newtonian mass." But I never bought that (even if they were talking about different things, it seems like they were trying to talk about the same thing), so I figure I'm missing something from Kuhn's argument.

Think about it like this.

If you believed the world is flat you can still get from one village to the next one and you wouldn't fall of the earth. It's true enough for what it is trying to accomplish. If you want to navigate longer and longer distances or go to the moon however this believe will meet it's limits.

The primary thing people struggle with in general with science and philosophy of science is actually more fundamental in other parts of life to which is Truth.

Popper thought science helped us approach the some objective Truth. Kuhn realized (and I agree) that truth is always depending on the context in which it's defined.

We don't need truth we just need useful.

Personally, I learned to think of scientific ideas along two axis - precision and usefulness. To reuse your professor's example, in so far as you accept that Einstein and Newton were really talking about the same concept of "mass", general relativity is much more precise than newtonian mechanics - but newtonian mechanics is much more useful than relativity, is the sense that it's precise enough for 99.9% of applications (including sending spaceships around the Solar System) while also being significantly easier to use.

Thanks! I would also consider "A brief history of time" and "Wealth of nations" to be part of fundamentals.

Agree both great books.

Ha-Joon Chang has very approachable books about capitalism and economics.

* Twenty-Three Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism [1]

* Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism [2]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Things-They-Dont-About-Capitalism/dp/...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Bad-Samaritans-Secret-History-Capital...

Sapiens is a very preachy, low-on-citations work... the Goodreads reviews are interestingly divided ("Dude it changed my whole world!" to "This is not a serious work."), but the early sections on pre historical humans are still interesting to read, and seemed mostly correct from what I remember from my college anthropology class.

Any recommendations for a book about the same subject matter, but more on the academic side?

Why the West Rules for Now - broad coverage of human history, starting with pre-human hominids. Loosely guided by looking for an account of why in 20th century so much power was concentrated in the West compared to the East, but that guiding question only comes up occasionally. It's mostly a plain history book.

I've also heard Our Kind recommended for this kind of thing, but I haven't read it myself.

I read Our Kind over a decade ago, and thought it was a very good book at the time, but its central thesis, that culture dominates biology, is overstated. I haven't read Why the West Rules for Now, but just looking at its wiki page, it looks to be a complete rehash of Guns, Germs and Steel? The title made me think of The West and the Rest, excellent book: https://www.amazon.ca/Civilization-West-Rest-Niall-Ferguson/...

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond offers an interesting and academically quite solid perspective.

It was an interesting book, lots of good points that contributed to the west's success. But, it's certainly not without its critics. He gives almost no credit to human agency.


Interesting discussion there, thanks for linking!

RE "He gives almost no credit to human agency", I wonder what's the current state of that discussion. My current belief (as always, subject to change) is in technological determinism - i.e. available technology level shapes the "parameter space" of social and economical structures, and individual agency is a secondary factor. This seems to match my knowledge of history and history of science, as well as observations of current social dynamics. I'm not a scholar in the area though, so I don't know what's the best criticism of that view.

Highly recommend, Ideas: A History by Peter Watson.

Has a little less about historical events and more on the ideas that shaped humanity. The part on early human development is also fascinating.


My opinion of Sapiens is the same as well - very broad strokes. I feel Sapiens is heavily promoted because of ease in which the content flows? - maybe that's the selling point of the book?

> Sapiens is a very preachy

Agreed, I also liked most of the book, but some chapters it seemed like the author was pushing a political agenda.

So I really like the description of "The Righteous Mind" WHY is it $2.50 more to get the Kindle version then to have a paperback book shipped to my home!

Kindle Version - $11.99

Paperback (Prime) - $9.32


Maybe they're not selling and they want to clear the stock. Also, if you have prime are you factoring in the shipping costs you've already pre-paid for?

Still one of the best books I've read, period. Can't recommend it highly enough.

I'm about one third of the way through, but I was turned off by him dismissing Kant and Bentham's moral theories because they are autistic ("diagnosed" on the basis of circumstantial evidence).

I see the value of bringing systematizing vs empathizing in the picture, but you can do that without character-assassinating them. It was really bizarre to read him bring up their autism, then insist he didn't commit Ad Hominem, then continue on as if he had invalidated Kant's view (without actually making any substantive argument).

So much of modern philosophy seems like the task of obfuscating an illogical argument with unrelated logical ones until the reader forgets and assumed the original argument must have been proved logically.

I believe it was Apollo Robbins who said one of the brainjacks he uses is the "A, B, C, 7" pattern, where people with distracted attention tend to leap to assuming the next object is like the former ones.

>So much of modern philosophy seems like the task of obfuscating an illogical argument with unrelated logical ones until the reader forgets and assumed the original argument must have been proved logically.

Can you give an example of this?

Other than parent's gripe, nothing modern comes to mind as I haven't read modern philosophy since college (for reasons mentioned). But I'd cite some of Aquinas' work as evidence of incredibly logically stout edifaces built on top of a single suspect assumption.

I had forgotten about that... it did rub me the wrong way as well. Generally speaking, I am a fan of Kantian philosophy.

That being said, it didn't really detract from the overall messages of the book. Just a strange one-off.

As a person who has a son named Soren in honor of Kierkegaard YEAH! Kant was and is still the enemy of thought for individualism.

Could you expand a bit on this comment?

I'm sorry. Soren Kierkegaard's philosophy a big response against Hegel and German rationalist which Kant fell into that school. People like to think that SK had a debt to Kant, but in no way would ever acknowledge it if he did. Personally I imagine SK hated Kant's philosophy and thought it was incomplete and was apart of the "Speculative Rationalist" that he despised. So I am one of the few who also feels that Kant's concussions were incomplete.

Aside from the publisher's reasons for setting those prices, some people value an ebook above a physical book, myself included. Regardless of the ebook price, there are few physical books I'd want to own at any price.

If you log off, then the price will be 9.08 for the Kindle Version. Very weird.

I got this book on Audible. It was narrated by the author, who did the best job of narrating a non-fiction book of the books I've listened to.

Am I the only one who would actually prefer these Amazon links to be affiliate links?

Affiliate links make me feel like I'm paying back the curator(s) for the awesome recommendations I'm thankful for. However minor that might be.

Do people feel like recommendations would be biased if the links were affiliate links?

I donate all my smile bucks to the Youth Competitive Programming Circle.

For YC? Eh I wouldn't really care. But if they set up affiliate links for EFF or Tor then that'd be a nice touch.

I'd be more than happy if the proceeds went to ACLU or Watsi or one of the YC non-profits

Why does everything has to revolve around money ? What's wrong with showing some appreciation and sharing some knowledge when your turn comes ?

Well, in this case if you were going to share anyway, why not send some of that money to somewhere other than Jeff Bezos' pockets, be it yourself or a charity?

Yes! I completely feel this way when it's someone at all 'reasonable' (ie not a spammer).

People seem to be really passionate about this topic, but they might as well try to convince me to hate the color orange. The arguments make zero sense to me. Affiliate links don't affect me one way or the other.

I just created a list with a reminder for next time I'm at my local bookstore.

Every time I see Sarno's book recommended, it's always controversial, with the "woo-woo" camp and the "it worked for me so I don't care" camp, though I think the people-who-I-respect-who-recommend-this ratio is way higher than most crank books, so it's interesting in that regard. Thoughts? (I haven't read it)

It always surprises me that people find the concept of the brain being connected to the body to be "woo-woo". The objections are very unscientific. Biology is incredibly complex, and our understanding of it is very shallow, yet people scornfully dismiss the idea that the brain could in any way cause sensation in the body. I think the key to their misunderstanding is the tendency to imagine the brain as a completely separate thing, like the driver of an automobile, rather than a deeply integrated and intertwined system, which science shows it to be.

Phantom limb syndrome is in many ways similar -- do these same people consider that "woo-woo"?

My one issue with Sarno is that he's a little light on detail in terms of what exactly I need to do to get rid of the pain. For that, I've found this organization/program to be helpful: http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/pages/overcomingpain/

> It always surprises me that people find the concept of the brain being connected to the body to be "woo-woo"

I don't think it's an objection to psychosomatic phenomena as much as just skepticism towards Sarno's work specifically, lack of support from other MDs, lack of strong peer reviewed evidence, etc.


IMHO we're fairly likely to eventually find that what he calls TMS is an early precursor / catch-all to a larger class of health issues (like "cancer"), and as we find better ways to classify, distinguish and diagnose these, we're also going to be able to run better studies and come up with more specific treatments that satisfy the medical community's standards of proof.

Would you have been likely to recommend this book if your pain didn't resolve after trying it? I'm skeptical of this specific theory of how the mind and body are interacting to cause pain and what he thinks is the proper way to treat it. First of all, on the back cover a 2-6 week period is given. A lot of back pain resolves itself within this time frame so without a proper study done there is no telling how many of his "success" stories are just back pain taking it's usual course. He relies a lot on testimonials. That is never a good proof of a treatment's efficacy. Why not do a proper study and not push the treatment until the results are in? We see this a lot in the medical field where some doctor has convinced themselves they have found the key to treating something yet never actually bothers to do a proper study of it. I can understand that, studies are expensive and it's much easier to live in the world where you think you are helping people and the self-selecting testimonials reinforce this. On the flip side I see a lot of people who are convinced that some "alternative" therapy works for them simply because they tried it and got some relief but are convinced others are BS because it didn't "work" for them. The problem here isn't people not believing in the mind-body connection.

Edit: there may be some slight truth to why his treatment seems to work for some in that if you can mentally reframe your pain you are more likely to get better but that nugget seems to be buried in the fluff of his TMS theory: (https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/chronic-pain-a-disease-in-i...)

Speaking only for myself: I consider it woo-woo because there's no real set of steps which makes it repeatable for a majority of people. What works for one person works for one person, but it's sold like it works for everybody.

I've heard of folks who are capable of meditating their way through a root canal. Should we stop offering Novocain to patients? Should we start actively discouraging dental patients from getting Novocain?

To me (dons flameproof suit), it's a lot like Homeopathy - another attempt to sell the placebo effect.

I'm in the "it worked for me so I don't care camp".

I can't believe people think it's woo-woo or anti-scientific, though, after reading it. Sarno's thesis is basically "we haven't found a physical cause for most chronic pain conditions, so why not the brain?".

Anxiety sufferers can fool themselves into thinking they're having a heart attack and hyperventilate. Why is it crazy or anti-scientific to think that the same can cause other symptoms?

> "we haven't found a physical cause for most chronic pain conditions, so why not the brain?"

That makes more sense than I was expecting. In particular, pain must be felt in the brain. That is, my body can be suffering some trauma, but if the nerve signals don't make it to the brain, or the brain doesn't interpret them as pain, then I don't feel pain. (This is true of third-degree burns - they don't hurt very much, because the nerves got destroyed, so you don't feel how bad the burn is.)

But if the body isn't under (known) trauma, but the patient is experiencing pain, maybe the brain is a reasonable place to look...

I tried to read it. If you don't have much patience for being preached antiscientific garbage, you won't get through it. I'm not saying that it can't work, or that there isn't some usable knowledge in there, but just that it's based off of idiocy.

Slightly off topic, but how many books do you all read a month? I have a hard time getting past 1 a month.

Audiobooks are a great way to increase your book intake considerably. "Reading" while washing dishes, other house chores and commuting can easily get you through 2-3 extra books a month (depending on the length of the commute :)

Especially now that (more often than not) you can attach Audible books to your Kindle books for a fairly trivial price, and whispersync for voice means you can hop back and forth between reading and listening. Now, any time I'm using my eyes and hands, but not my ears and mind, I'm listening to books--increased my reading rate by a lot.

I've listened to 2 or 3 Audiobooks and nearly every one of them (short of Wheaton reading his own "Just A Geek") was unbearable to listen to. I don't know what the percentage of readers interject their own "emphasis" outside of just reading the words, but it's too many for my tastes.

I don't want a robot to read the book, but I also don't want the reader adding "color" by reading some characters with different voices (or - as i've heard in some cases - multiple readers each "in character").

Is this common?

The reader(s) can really make or break a book.

James Marsters reads the Dresden Files books and he is amazing. It really is a performance by a good actor and (IMHO) adds to the book. He does use "voices" for different characters and it works really well. Most other readers will try to do this has well. It can be hit or miss.

A really good ensemble book is World War Z by Max Brooks. The cast is incredible (Alan Alda, Martin Scorsese, Simon Pegg, and more)

I just finished listening to "am I being too subtle" by and read by Sam Zell. Initially I was slightly put off by the authors raspy Chicago tones but by the end it really felt like the author had been telling his stories to you personally with the colour and character that one would pick up in person and I was glad to have heard this telling rather than as you say a 'robot'

E-book readers like Kindle are another neat trick. In my case, it increased the amount of reading sixfold, because it's just so convenient to read on an e-book reader during commute, waiting in queues, or just going down the street.

Benefits of an e-book reader over a phone or a tablet include a better screen for reading, and it being a dedicated device that doesn't distract you with notifications or the ability to start browsing random shit on the Internet.

This, so much this. I don't mind a day full of chores or yardwork if I've got a good book to listen to.

Especially when you realize that you can listen to a lot of books at 1.5x - 2x speed, with very little loss of comprehension.

> 1.5x - 2x speed

Since I mostly read non-fiction I find 1.5 a bit too fast if I want to really comprehend stuff without hitting replay all the time, so I just hear all books at 1.25 and it works well for me.

> when you realize that you can listen to a lot of books at 1.5x - 2x speed, with very little loss of comprehension.

Is it enjoyable, though?

Yea it can be. But really depends on both the book and the reader. And what you're trying to get out of it.

Some readers are excruciatingly slow, so 1.25 just makes them sound normal. Other readers speed along, so 1x is like 1.5x on other books.

Some books need to be played at 1x if you're gonna follow the intricacies. Others with neither dense logical argument or thick, nuanced soul, like bestseller nonfictions where you have a sequence of little stories to illustrate "what studies have shown", can profitably be listened to quite fast, especially when also allaying their boringness with a Geometry Wars or Kingdom Rush addiction. (You might say, why read them then? Personally: as an excuse to play Kingdom Rush.)

If I'm not too into a part I'll even go faster than 2x to pick up the gist unto it catches my interest again.

Really, it's just like normal reading. Any displined reader has different speeds depending on the how much time the material is worth (Adler's How to Read a Book gives a nice model).

Sure, if you can maintain comprehension. It's a combination of 1) most audiobooks are narrated very slowly so that people have no trouble comprehending them, and 2) audio speedup algorithms have gotten really good.

Yes, and all the more enjoyable knowing I can fit more reading in at such a clip.

I've also noticed that the ability to comprehend spoken words can be trained; I started off at 1.25x speed and have gradually built up to 2x. Now when I listen to audio at 1x, it is just so slo-o-o-w. Anecdata, but I don't think my comprehension or enjoyment have gone down as I increase speed.

This is probably just me, but whenever I start a book at 1x, it sounds okay, if a bit slow. Then I increase speed to ~1.5x for a while, and, when I listen on 1x again, it seems unnaturally slow, to the point where I wonder if audiobook producers slow the recording down a bit on purpose, just to make it clearer.

However, the fact that I usually notice it after listening on 1.5x makes me think that it's really an illusion. Does anyone have any "insider" info on this?

Yep. 1.5x isn't that big of boost, especially since some of the readers of books seem to be really fond of their own voices.

I read about 1-2 books per week... but I also have a 45 minute commute by train each way, so I get a solid 90 minutes of reading in. I'm also a fairly fast reader, though, and I love to read more than just about anything, so maybe that contributes.

I also have a 10-15 minute walk in the commute for podcasts, which, combined with walking the dog and running, gives me about an hour of listening in. I haven't listened to any audiobooks in the last few years, but it's definitely an option for if I suddenly lost my commute or had to drive myself (and thus couldn't read).

I was the same way until I realized reading fiction before bed helps me sleep better. Turns off the mental to do list. Now I'm at 3/month fiction.

For non-fiction, I need to be stuck on a plane or have a clear weekend morning.

I regret starting the routine of reading before bed. I think I've conditioned myself to sleep anytime I read something more than a couple of paragraphs long.

Oh man, I always read before going to bed, and now I read a bit after lunch but I must take a break after 20 pages and take a small nap. I never thought before that reading might be a trigger for me to sleep.

This is one of those regrets where you aren't losing anything either way - one outcome was that you now have a surefire way of falling asleep.

If it had worked, you'd have a surefire way of massaging your brain with good content. Win-win either way, imho.

For me (not parent) I only nod off if it's fiction and I'm laying down.

I like reading fiction before bed, but the end result is me forming a makeshift blanket cave for 3 hours while my partner snoozes. :o

I started this year the 52 book a year challenge, one book a week. I'm actually at 29 books this year (one behind because I read Les Misérables) and I must say it's very rewarding. You just need to take a bit of time every day on some not essential task (tv, facebook etc..) and replace it by reading. I read 1h a day and it's enought to read a book a week.

1) Keep a book open on your work machine (pdf, epub, .txt in a terminal with "less", whatever) and every time you would read HN or FB or Twitter any other time wasting Internet BS, read some of the book instead. DO NOT let yourself do anything else when you want/need a distraction. It has to be the book, or else you keep working. Physical book might work too though it might be a little weird, depending on your work environment—maybe put paper over the cover if it's especially not-related-to-work looking. I don't know, I haven't tried this.

2) There is no step two.

I have to say, that definitively wouldn't work for me. I take breaks when I need to de-focus from the problem and let my mind work on it unattended, so I can't do anything mentally demanding during them.

I read(listen) 4-5 books a month without dedicating time to this activity. I almost exclusively listen through Audible during my commute(biking). I've "read" over 100+ books in the past 2 years and I find it very refreshing. Although, coupled to listening, I highly recommend taking short notes after every listening session to better sediment the content.

I read 2-10 books a week, depending on what else is going on in my life.

Conditions allowing that:

- I nearly always read on my phone.

- I can read on my commute.

- I read before going to sleep.

- I read quickly.

My dad reads about the same level as you do. My wife reads about the same speed as she speaks. I am probably half the speed as my father at my peak. I have found out that my dad really isn't a details person. Sadly I am more of a global view first then details and I have to process stuff into that global view all the time. Being a Theological student in grad school I would have about 2,000 to 12,000 pages of reading per class. UGH took me forever to learn how to up my speed and my retention.

Frankly I began to slow down over the past few years and not worry about how fast I'm reading and I enjoy and retain a lot more.

How long is your commute?

A little less than an hour total, unless the T has a fit.

Can I ask how fast your read? (words or characters/minute)

It used to be a huge concern for me as well. I realized that the more I read, the faster I read. So if you are worried about reading speed, don't. Just read, and it will get better. With no extra effort from me, my reading speed increased by at least 50% since I started reading books seriously.

I'm not really worried about how fast I am, I'm just curious how fast I am in comparison with others. (I am fast enough for my needs)

Somewhere around 400, 450 words per minute for fiction and non-technical non-fiction.

Near continuous 56 hour weeks at work (structural steel workshop) has me at under 1 a month the past couple years.

I used to read a lot more books ... but over the past couple years I've achieved intermediate levels of rock climbing and skiing a built a mobile coffee trailer, so there's that.

Uhhh I feel accomplished if I get through 3 a year

I have read 4-6/month basically consistently for the past 3 years - I don't believe in audiobooks because you don't retain the same amount of information as you do from read words. I live in NYC and read about 2 hours a day

> I don't believe in audiobooks because you don't retain the same amount of information as you do from read words.

Huh, I'm the opposite, but I think it depends on the subject matter and how much you're reading. I have read about 70+ fantasy and science fiction audiobooks in the last year, but only each one once, and remember most details of all the books. Some characters from some series I've no doubt forgot their names, but soon as I listen to passage from the series my memory is brought back and I remember the details.

Non-fiction on the other hand I don't do too well with audio books. e.g. listening to an audio book on programming is never going to happen for me.

> you don't retain the same amount of information as you do from read words

I think I'm the opposite. When I was in school I was able to learn things much faster by attending the lecture compared to reading on my own.

im a die-hard believeer in spaced repetition - i use it for everything (languages, books, code, etc.) it's basically impossible to use for audiobooks.

my bet is if you test yourself on a book you listened to two years ago you will not remember 99% of it, and if you read it it's probably more like 95% percent of it.

then again, everyone's mind is different, so maybe you retain voice more than audio

I have been using spaced repetition for the last 11 years to remember things, and I totally love it. I don't really like reading books, I prefer to listen to them. My solution for not being able to make flashcards while I'm reading a book is to listen to the audio book, when I hear a passage that I want to recall or think about, I write it down in a note taking app on my phone (I just use the default Notes app on my iphone), and then review my notes every couple of days and make flashcards of the stuff contained in notes.

1-2 a week when the mood strikes. Last year, the goal was to read 52 books - fell well short at a shade under 40 but it brought back my reading mojo. I'm back for round two in 2017.


One work book (read before work or weekends) and one self help book (read before sleep). Each highlighted, and then a second pass to type the highlights into a document, and a third pass to organize the document into a summary with key ideas broken down with quotes. And about 7h/wk of podcasts while jogging.

Since moving to NYC and not driving to work, probably 2-4, a mix of technical and fiction. I'm actually reading them, not listening to them. Before that, in NC and Florida, maybe one book every two or three months. Usually I read a technical book, then a novel to keep things interesting for me.

Try to build a habit of reading so many pages before going to bed each night.

Start off with something easy like 10 pages per night.

Then increase in increments of 10 pages every week or so.

By the time you're reading 50 pages per night or more, you'll be working through quite a few books per month.

Books are a bad way to measure - varying length and all. I read ~100,000 words a week.

How do you know how many words you read?

If you know your average reading speed and you know how long time you read every week it's a simple calculation: `speed*time = distance`.

I read primarily fiction but a bad year for me is around a 100. So 8 or 9 per month. More realistically I tend to binge so the number is never consistent. I might do 15-20 in a couple of weeks and then not read again for a month.

I'm in the same camp. It's hard for me to focus on an audiobook, even though I listen to plenty of podcasts and am able to focus quite easily on those. I really do want to read more, it's just finding the time ):

Depends on what I'm reading. Pop sci or detective novels take me days but a thousand-page history book or epic will take more like a month. And there is a lot in between and on both sides of those examples.

I wanted to finish 100 books in 2017, already on 75th.

I'm curious, how much do you actually get out of each book? Even at my pace of 1-2 a month I'm barely able to retain anything. I can't imagine reading ~8 a month and being able to remember what the book was actually about.

8/mth really isn't that much. If you go to grad school for history or something you have to learn to crush whole libraries. It's a developed skill like any other, hard but achievable. Personally I closely read one dense, rich book a month or so, then alongside that another dozen or two with varying levels of thoroughness. For example, I spent about two afternoons on Happy City, but it took me several months for just Vol 1 of Schopenhauer's Parerga and Paralipomena.

Personally I've found over the years that this balance between reading a very small number of books closely and a whole lot casually has worked well and has led each set to complement the other.

I'd not worry about "retaining" in the sense of being able to mouth all sorts of facts and figures and arguments and story details several weeks later. Sometimes this stuff is important, but for me anyway I only "retain" in this sense when I take the further step of taking notes after finishing a chapter, etc. Most books aren't worth that IMO given you can just pull them off the shelf when you need to look something up. But books can affect you in other dimensions, especially in slowly enlarging your perspective in ways you hardly even notice.

(But I mean, if you literally couldn't talk -at all- for a few minutes about a book you read last month, that's a different story!)

I started doing it in 2016, so while I seem to come up with various facts that I read from the books in conversations when something related to what I have read comes up, I don't know how much of each book I actually remember. To test this, I am planning to re-read some of the books from 2016 when I am done with my 2017 list.

> re-read

Love this idea! I'm going to try that too. Very soon, I'll be quitting my day job and should have a bunch free time which is currently taken up with busywork. Time to re-read and get more out of my books.

I read science fiction and fantasy voraciously. I tend to binge read, but I probably average 4 books a month.

I probably average about three 40hr fiction audiobooks a month (@1.5x speed).

1 every two months or so.

I'd like to recommend these lists of short reviews of books neuroscientist Christof Koch has (recently) read: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/koch/books-i-read.html https://alleninstitute.org/what-we-do/brain-science/about/te...

They are a captivating mixture of science, scientific theory, cognitive science, AI, science fiction and the like and quite an interesting inspiration for future books to read.

Do they ever choose any radical literature to test their beliefs? Kropotkin's The Conquest of Bread would be a good choice.

Thanks for the recommendation. Found a Kindle version on sale for $1.19.


I'm pretty sure it's out of copyright!

https://blog.ycombinator.com/yc-summer-reading/ is the link to last year's. Anyone else sites would make their URLs consistent? It's always pleasant when you can go to the URL and change the 2017->2016 and it takes you where you want to go.

For a far better reading list, longform.org + mailchimp put out a great one this year: http://readthissummer.com/

Some thought-provoking stuff in that one.

If you struggle to get diverse voices inside your field, maybe you should read from diverse voices outside your field. I understand it is hard and I also gravitate towards comfortable reading, usually meaning from people that look like me. This is the problem. Start being accountable to yourself about it.

2 of 19 the books in the list are by female authors (both recommended by women). Looking for some good books from women? Check out these:


* Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach

* The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

* Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, Angela Davis

* Rising Strong, Brené Brown

* Cleopatra, Stacy Shiff

* The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander


* Anything by Ursula Le Guin

* Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

* Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer

* Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine

... so many more

...Or they just asked a number of people to recommend a favored book, and this is the list that they got.

Why does everything have to be about diversity?

Perhaps because virtue signalling has never been more popular?

In an industry where we all earn well, have similar qualities of life, similar careers, etc. virtue signalling (often wherever possible) appears to have become the perceived fertile soil for differentiating yourself, and "elevating" yourself.

I think it's more a sign of the times.

I mean, when the President broadcasts to the world that transgender people can no longer serve in the U.S. armed forces, it only deepens the systemic bias. Why is it then selfish to showcase that they are able to write good books too?

Because diversity of thought is important. You're missing a lot if you only read books by people with similar views and experiences. For example, if you're a white man and you ask all your white male friends for book recommendations, you're going to end up with a pretty homogeneous list.

Boy, you sure don't think highly of my friends.

Diversity of THOUGHT is important, but how is that directly correlated to skin color?

People with different skin color have vastly different life experiences which leads to diversity of thought.

And why would the people making this list have to provide that diversity? Either they want to on their own, without anyone telling them, or the reader of the list can go looking for it themselves. Note, I'm in favor of all kinds of diversity, but I disagree when people start telling other (groups of) people what they should do.

Ancillary Justice is an excellent book, and the choice to make the main character not really understand gender and use female pronouns for everyone really makes it obvious how much we normally assume people to be male in the absence of other info.

Not by a female author, but on the topic of diversity, another one I'd recommend is Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. The author is a queer trans man. This book and Ancillary Justice are the 2 best books I read in 2016.

I can second the Ninefox Gambit. It's a strange science fantasy (like Star Wars) which revolves around using mathematics and calendars to drive exotic machinery and technology.

I'll be honest, I found Ancillary Justice a little boring since the characters aren't very complex. It's interesting in that it's from an A.I.'s perspective involving many simultaneous inputs (multiple sensors, people, etc).

Also, I have to give the obligatory fiction recommendation for Red Rising. That trilogy is like the roman empire in space, but the characters are what really make it.

For pretty _amazing_ sci fi that I just stumbled on, NK Jemisin is amazing. Her Broken Earth series is not only tremendously gripping, original, and epic in scope, but it also does a fantastic job of portraying a world with predominantly non-white characters without being on the nose or ham-handed about it.

(incidentally, when I picked up the book I had no idea what race or gender the author was, I was just looking for Hugo Award winners)

I adore NK Jemisin so much, the awards are all so deserved! It was particularly nice that she won the Hugo in the midst of all the drama, too.

Another author I want to throw out there, is Liu Cixin - his novel The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo for Best Novel the year prior. Not a woman, but scifi from a vastly different cultural/racial angle than a lot of us are accustomed to, I would imagine.

Loved Three-Body Problem!

+1 on the Ancillary trilogy. Will check out the rest of your list.

Another one I really liked: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. Very interesting writing style (it's not about Japan).

I couldn't get through "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". There's probably one or two semi-interesting points I took away from the part I got through, but something about the way it was written made it way too difficult for me to get through, far more difficult than was worth it in my opinion.

Agreed on all points. There are too many to list, but I'm currently reading Arundhati Roy's "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" and would recommend it to everyone.

Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman if you are interested in WWI.

So, I have nothing against what you've listed here, this is great stuff. What I find interesting for me personally is that it never once crosses my mind who the author is or what their skin color is or anything like that when I'm looking at a book. I just have no idea (and perhaps no interest really, unless it's something I'm REALLY into).

Anyway, it's cool that you're listing these. I'm particularly interested in The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.

Me either, and that's exactly the issue. Look at any top books list and it is mostly white males. Either men have an easier time getting published or men are inherently better writers. I believe the former is the case. By seeking out female writers and other diverse voices we can start to tip the balance.

Historically, men were the only ones that had the opportunity to write, so any books from older centuries are going to be by men. But that doesn't have to be the case now.

ps. Love Jane Jacobs! After you read that, if you are interested, you may want to check out The Power Broker to see the other side. It is one of my top nonfiction books. (warning, white male author ;)).

Isn't the content of the book more important than the author? Jane Austen and Frederick Douglass are widely read because of what they wrote, not their gender or race. Most ancient authors were male, but not many would fit the modern profile of racial privilege.

No, the content between the covers is essentially irrelevant in the mind of the OP.

They're asking us to judge a book strictly by its cover, and to reject it should it not meet their strict criteria of having not been written by a white person or most especially not a white man.

It is 2017, after all.

I agree on The Power Broker; it is kind of amazing and changed my view of New York City. To summarize, Robert Moses leveraged a parks commission position to reshape New York City how he wanted it: from bridges and expressways and urban renewal to the Lincoln Center and United Nations buildings. The first key point is how to leverage a minor position into dictatorial power. The second key point is that New York City didn't just end up how it is; many of its good and bad characteristics (including many racial issues) are because Robert Moses made it that way. However, I can't really recommend reading the book since it is very, very long - longer than Infinite Jest.

And yes, Jane Jacobs' "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" is definitely a must-read if you're interested in urban areas.

Why do we have to have balance?

„...I BELIEVE the former is the case...“

There is no point to your argument if it is just a hunch.

I was being facetious.

Women are better writers.

'Healing back pain' is an interesting entry to the list. I just recalled my friend lent me this book and a reminder to now read it. Anyone who has read this book can share their thoughts?

I had back pain for three years, which I attributed to sitting for long hours. I had seen a doctor, multiple physical therapists, a chiropractor, and massage therapist ... all of whom provided temporary relief at best.

Upon reading 'Healing Back Pain', I came to understand that it wasn't the sitting but rather built up stress and anxieties causing the pain.

Within 1 week of reading, my back felt 80% better. Within one month, 95%. Several months later, I'm now pain-free.

My girlfriend also experiences anxiety at times and had back pain that would come and go. She read the book and it cured her back, as well.

Admittedly, I found it very strange how effective this book was. I approached it hesitantly, but it has had profound results. Check the reviews on Amazon for further support.

This book has had a great impact on my quality of life and I highly suggest it to anyone experiencing not just back pain, but any physical ailment that might be tied to stress, anxiety, tension, etc.

I haven't read the book, know nothing about it, but few people I know ~~have~~ (edit: actually they read his earlier book: Mind Over Back Pain)

One person who I trust said that once he reached certain page, his chronic back pain disappeared (just by reading the book). Apparently he is not alone. Maybe for some people chronic back pain is just fearing back pain and having tensing up or something.

I'm still very skeptical, but if the author is not selling anything except the book, maybe reading it is not so bad thing.

No experience but I heard about Dr Sarno and the book from Howard Stern, who swears by him.

Here's a recent segment from the Howard Stern show if you want to hear a bit


Pretty cool to see Sheck Exley on this list. He's a pioneer of cave diving, which has a lot of great (and terrifying) lessons about safety, risk, and human factors for programmers to steal.

Also worthwhile for programmers who read the book to remember that Sheck died diving a cave, so even the experts get it wrong with catastrophic consequences.

I always thought that Into Thin Air was a good metaphor for development. Most people die on the way down. They summit but then don't leave themselves enough daylight.

No opinion on "The Man Who Knew" but kind of bummed that it will now beat "The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan" in autocompletion.

Also a pretty ironic title considering Greenspan did not see the major finanical crisis of his time and instead pushed for continued de-regulation. There are some Frontline stories about this: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/

I cannot take the list seriously because of that.

I really don't understand why people respect Greenspan. His excuse for not having regulations was that he thought companies wont make mistakes so there is no need to regulate them.

Probably only briefly. Ramanujan was a genius who deserves to be studied. Greenspan's hagiography will be soon forgotten.

+1 for the Ramanujan book!

These are safe books. Where's Marx's "A Critique of Political Economy"?

Maybe they are familiar with it and don't think it is worth anything.

I wish there were also a reading list for technical books/textbooks.

I'm currently reading Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce by Anthony Reid. It's well written history, and the topic has some interesting aspects.

The view of Europe from 20 thousand kilometres is quite insightful. The big patterns stand out, as power shifts from the Spanish to the Dutch and then to the British. The different things that those people are trying to achieve in Asia neatly summarise the different things that they might have valued at home.

It's also interesting to see a long term situation where land is abundant, and labor is the scarce resource. Women get liberated (or so Reid claims). Battles are fought in order to take the other army from its land, not the land from the army. Labour productivity is so high, and construction materials so easily available; 3 days after an event like Hurricane Katrina, the city has been rebuilt and life is back to normal.

I haven't read Behave by Robert Sapolsky, but I did read 'A Primate's Memoir' a while back and it was fantastic. A memoir of his time in Africa studying baboons, well written and entertaining. One of those books that I was sad to finish. You can learn a lot about human behavior and society by studying baboons.

Two books I've read this summer that would fit on this list are This will make you smarter from edge.org, and Waking Up by Sam Harris. The first is a collection of the essays from edge.org about what everyone should have in their cognitive toolkit [1]. Consider it a list of a) the many ways one can go wrong when trying to think scientifically, and b) some of the many concepts to consider when trying to solve a problem or understand something. Waking Up was good from the point of view of understanding the science behind 'the self' and meditation. I've started meditating because of this book, and it's a useful guide for avoiding the, shall I say, less rational aspects that are out there.

[1] https://www.edge.org/responses/what-scientific-concept-would...

I do recommend Behave. Robert Sapolsky is terrific writer. Though, I found it quite funny how in each chapter Sapolsky starts by describing usually story, criticising how it is wrong and too simplistic, elaborating on complexities involved, but at the end of chapter can't resist giving one sentence blurb summary himself - which is of course almost equally simplistic.

I would add "The Three Body Problem" and following two books in its trilogy to the list. Sci-fi series by Liu Cixin. Won the Hugo award and is recommended by Obama and Zuck. I felt so small after reading that one :)

I believe all of them have won either a Hugo or Nebula.

Does anyone have recommendations for summer reading for teaching assistants to undergraduates? I want to become more engaged with current pedagogy techniques.

HomoDeus is really most excellent continuation of already epic Sapiens.

If you didn't read any of those, they are long but well worth the time.

Totally agree. It's in the very similar tone to the Sapiens. Reading is entertaining and light. I really like how he approached the topic. Although, the part about the religions was a little bit too long IMO.

Any other suggestions about similar books where author is wondering what might happen next? I'm mostly interested in the tech part of it. Recently, I started reading Superinteligennce by Nick Bostrom. So far it's very good.

One of the most intriguing lists I have ever read was this one:


I still have a few books left to read but most of these are amazing books.

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio García Martínez

Read this recently. Thought it was pretty good.

Powerhouse is an incredible book. The author does a great job of weaving in interviews as well as narration to paint a good story of how CAA came to power. I highly recommend Powerhouse as well as his other books, Live From New York (about SNL) and These Guys Have All The Fun (about ESPN).

compiled in a Goodreads list (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/114264.YC_s_2017_Summer_...) like you were going to actually read those ;)

It looks like an interesting list. Anyone else remember the Global Business Network (GBN) book club, with Stewart Brand? It was a great resource for so many years. Sadly, it seems to have dropped off the internet with the demise of GBN.

Here's a list of the books from the glory days.


The book club had nice reviews of each of these books.

17 books by guys. 2 books by women. Both recommended by women.

Looking for diversity? More than one book list in the world. I started following susanjfowler.com and her reading club after the uber interviews came out

If you haven't read Infinite Jest, you should. I admit it isn't for everyone, but it's definitely worth suffering for.

Summer is almost over. Just a nit-pick. I'd like to add to this list "The Master Algorithm" by Pedro Domingos

Recently read and highly recommended: - Platform Revolution - The Economic Singularity - Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Nexus was an awesome read, haven't started book 2, but it's free for Kindle & Prime users

I'd love a good HN summer fiction reading list, particularly with a sci-fi focus

1. Neal Stephenson, "Snow Crash"

2. Daniel Suarez, "Kill Decision"

3. Stel Pavlou, "Decipher"

Summer is nearly over BTW.

true but people take most time off in August

money and technology, self-help, and the arc of humanity. wish programmers would read things that challenge their views rather than just reaffirm –_–

it would be good to know why each book is worth reading.

I'd consider Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection to be fiction as well. Too long, shouldn't read: if you believe, your back pain will go away. I'm surprised to see the anti-scientific pseudoscience promoted.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14922985 and marked it off-topic.

There is a drug so powerful that every drug other drug is tested against it: the placebo.

If this book saves just one HN reader from opioid addiction then I am glad it made the list.

What if people try it instead of a scientifically supported treatment and then it doesn't work and they give up and get addicted to opioids when a real method would've worked for them?

Don't get me wrong I think the placebo effect is a very useful tool but best to combine it with other methods that work for many back conditions, such as yoga routines that strengthen the back muscles. Of course what works depends on your particular condition which is why anyone with severe back pain should see a medical professional to get advice for their specific problem.

Actually there is pretty limited support that placebo actually works on anything but subjective measured outcomes.

Like pain?

Back pain is mostly subjectively measured outcome, and many types of back pain respond very well to placebo.

I would not call it "anti-scientific pseudoscience," but the author does openly admit that the science behind why his techniques work is still fuzzy. It's a field that needs more research and understanding.

Regardless, the book is very effective for many individuals, myself included. I highly recommend it to anyone dealing with back pain.

I haven't checked out Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection but if you want another book that I think speaks from a similar angle, and that I know has a scientific grounding, check out A Guide to Better Movement by Todd Hargrove[1].

The crux of some recent research into pain can be summarized in a few points:

* Sometimes you'll hear patients talk about pain and look at their area of pain and find nothing in their bones/muscles/etc that would indicate they should experience pain, and sometimes you'll look at other patients and their bones/muscles/etc and find they should experience pain but they don't.

* If you have three cups of water–two of them warm, the middle one cold–and stick a finger in each cup, your finger that is in the middle, cold cup will actually feel a hot, burning sensation. Try it yourself. Pain can be misleading and not indicative of actual danger.

* Similarly, ever play a sport and not feel an injury until the next day? (I'm not talking about soreness.) This indicates that pain can be silenced, and that underlying physical damage doesn't immediately and directly cause a sensation of pain.

The mind-body connection in essence is this: your body is the territory, and your mind is the map. Your map of the territory can become out of sync with the way the territory actually is. The body is incredibly adaptable, if you teach your body to feel pain, it will, if you teach your body to move freely, it will. This doesn't mean, if you're feeling pain, go and do crazy things and hump the dragon so to speak. It does mean: approach the dragon. Lean into the pain. Allow yourself to feel pain. Recognize the pain and listen to it and learn more about where the flare-up line exists in your body. Constantly strive to elevate where the flare-up line is, mindfully and with good vibes. :)

Increasingly we're moving away from a past where physical pain is stigmatized.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Better-Movement-Science-Practic...

For another example, VS Ramachandran has shown that some people who have lost a limb experience significant pain in a phantom limb. And the pain can over time be significantly reduced and even eliminated with mental exercises.

With that in mind, I don't think it's anti-scientific to think there may be legitimacy to other mind-centered approaches to pain relief.

Yep great example, didn't remember to mention that too.

To expand on your point for others about mental exercises: if you experience pain, say, in your leg during a squat, if you mentally visualize doing a squat, and imagine doing it while not feeling pain, and practice doing that visualization, that will help you feel less pain when you actually get around to doing a squat.

Another way I've heard people treat phantom limb is by getting a tall standing mirror, so that their other limb in the mirror looks like their missing limb. And then they will move their limb and that will help treat the pain they feel in their phantom limb.

Thanks! I actually did pick up Sarnos book after many recommendations. I didn't throw it out because I think it was completely invalid, but rather because it had a completely invalid basis. I'm glad to hear similar ideas are addressed elsewhere and if my pain comes back, I'll pick that up.

I'm not familiar with the book, but behavioural therapy has acutally been shown to be useful for managing back pain.

Since the cover of the book shows a nicely muscled back I searched the book for squat, deadlift or barbell and found nothing. I'm not sure how you're going to get from back pain to that back without solid exercise. However, I can tell you from personal experience that a solid diet of squats, deadlifts and barbell rows has pretty much solved any back pain problems I ever had with the exception of soreness after lifting. My posture is significantly better. And I don't have that back. Yet.

Is it really anti-scientific?

Plus, as they say, "if it works, it ain't stupid"

Reading Sarno's book cured my RSI and my friend's RSI as well. If it works, it's not stupid.

Well, if it's placebo and it works anyway then what's wrong with that?

> I believe the former is the case.

I'm just curious why you hold that belief? I don't have an opinion either way, but I'm curious if that is an informed belief.

I agree that it was a problem even more recently than a century ago. It was probably a problem as recently as 10 years ago. However, in 2017, it's not hard to be published. You can even self-publish.

Unless the topic is related to the author's identity (i.e. it's about gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.), I don't see why someone should care about the identity of an author.

Take "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" on your list. Why does the gender of the author matter for such a topic? Books are written by individuals not demographics.

This is a genuine question and not an attempt to troll. I don't understand why gender or any other identity needs to be a concern aspects where it is orthogonal/unrelated.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14923781 and marked it off-topic.


I have posted it twice to HN, and it was essentially ignored, but it provides good evidence that women writers have a much harder time getting published simply because they are female.

I don't disagree that this is a problem that should be solved, but it doesn't answer my question. Why should I, as a reader, just try to find quality interesting content care about the identity of the author. Authors are just individuals to me. Unless their experience by virtue of their identity is relevant to the subject matter at hand, why should use identity in deciding what to read instead of just relying on subject matter and positive reviews and recommendations?

Why should I, as a reader, just try to find quality interesting content care about the identity of the author.

Sorry, it seems really obvious to me and I have heard it said before, so didn't feel I needed to spell it out: Female authors must be better than most to have any shot at getting published. So, women authors who do get published tend to be better authors than most male authors.

You aren't required to care. Whether or not you care is on you, but if you want quality writing, there is evidence that due to the fact that women are discriminated against, IF they manage to get published, their writing will be of unusually high quality.


FWIW, the essay I linked to was written by a woman. By your logic, you're morally obligated to read it.

I didn't make a moral argument anywhere. You asked "Why should I, as a reader, just try to find quality interesting content care about the identity of the author." And I suggested there is evidence that women authors need to be better to have any hope of getting published at all.

As I noted above, you have no obligation whatsoever to care about the author's identity. I was merely answering your question very literally and in good faith. But, your many remarks here strongly suggest it wasn't actually a good faith question and you trying to do this "gotcha" just makes it clear that your real intent is to completely piss on the idea that anyone should do anything for "moral" reasons (a la supporting diversity).

But, I wasn't making a moral argument.


The full original statement involves plenty of qualifiers:

Sorry, it seems really obvious to me and I have heard it said before, so didn't feel I needed to spell it out: Female authors must be better than most to have any shot at getting published.

"it seems obvious to me" and "I have heard it said before" etc. You very much look like you are trolling me at this point. So, I think I am done because, wow, I feel like I need a shower for having made the mistake of trying to engage you in good faith.

Hey, I'm not taking sides, but just want to say don't be discouraged! Discussing over the internet lacks certain dimensions that face-to-face discussions have. It's hard to sense the tone and full intention of the other party, and thus harder for each side to re-calibrate what they are about to say. Therefore I always have high threshold for miscommunication over the internet.

Because when you become aware that an injustice exists you should consciously try to do something about it? One of the easiest ways to do something about it is by buying and supporting work by female authors.

And of course a writer's identity will play a role in the work that they produce. No one is writing Toni Morrison besides Toni Morrison, and a Fanon essay is a Fanon essay because he experienced being black in France and Algeria.

I'm sorry, I don't buy books to solve injustice. I buy them to be informed or entertained.

Why stop at choosing books by gender? If it's irrelevant to the subject matter being written on, should I buy books based on someone's nationality? Their religion? Their race? Their sexual orientation?

Citing examples of authors where the subject matter is relevant to their identity is not a counter-argument to the point I'm making. I'm in agreement that only Toni Morrison can write about Toni Morrison's identity-related experiences and only Fanon can write about Fanon's identity-related experiences. However, if Fanon and Toni were to both write a book on something like the 2008 banking crisis, I would expect the their lived identity-related experiences to be largely irrelevant to the final product each produces.

This reduction of individuals to their identity is dehumanizing.

You don't think a person of color writing about the subprime mortgage crisis would write a different book than a white banker that worked at Bear Stearns? A crisis in which black and Latino applicants were almost 2.5 times more likely to be given a subprime rate in comparison to white applicants? [1]

No one is reducing individuals to their race or gender identity, but unless we're talking about pure science and mathematics books it is a show of ignorance to argue that lived experience has no bearing on the work of the author.


The inherent racism in your example notwithstanding, the two examples you chose aren't even comparable. You didn't say "a person of color" and "a white person". You said "a person of color" and a "white banker that worked at Bear Sterns". That's pure apples and oranges.

The relevant lived experience is being a banker at Bear Stearns, not the race of that banker. Also, how do I know the person of color isn't also a banker at Bear Sterns. I worked in Wall Street years ago, and yes, I had co-workers that were people of color.

Would you please stop? This is long past tediously off topic.

Identity of the author matters because a writer's work is informed by their experience in the world. As a white male, I will view & experience the world differently from Jane Jacobs. Even in a book about facts, a person's relation to those facts reflects their lived experience.

This is especially important in fiction books where you are immersed in the experience of main characters. If the authors identity mirrors yours, then the experience of the main character will not build my understanding of how other people live. At this point, you are reading only for entertainment (which is fine, but you must acknowledge and accept that).

Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, are stories. They present information in a narrative. That narrative will be determined by who writes it and how they've lived their life.

I don't disagree with what you wrote, but it's like you didn't even bother to read and parse what I wrote before you responded:

> Unless the topic is related to the author's identity (i.e. it's about gender, race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.), I don't see why someone should care about the identity of an author.

There are hundreds of thousands of non-fiction topics where the identity of the author is irrelevant (or at least one of the least relevant factors impacting the authors work). Why should I care in those cases?

> Why should I care in those cases?

I thought the GP answered your question succinctly as follows:

>> Even in a book about facts, a person's relation to those facts reflects their lived experience.

Why should I elevate one of their lived experiences (their gender in this case) over all of their other lived experiences? For many topics, experiences attributable to one's gender is all but irrelevant relative to experiences not attributable to gender.

Why not their age? nationality? place of birth? race? sexual orientation? height? native language? myers-briggs personality type? etc., etc.,

I didn't single out gender. All of those other factors are attributes of lived experience. However, restricting yourself to a confined set of those accumulated attributes is likely to yield a restricted view of the world.

Yes, good point! Those are all important as well. I did not intend in my comment to emphasize a binary identity for authors. Seek out books by authors from any lived experience dissimilar from yours to maximize your grasp of our world.

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact