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Ask HN: What are your favorite books of all time, and why?
123 points by pydox on Nov 5, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss I am not a fantasy fan in general, but this is my favorite story of all time. The story within a story within a story, characters, world just about perfect.

Daemon - Daniel Suarez So little of the SciFi I read is memorable. This book explores SO many topics in memorable ways that I am blown away.

I liked Name of the Wind because it's a perfect counterpoint to Lord of The Rings, in a way.

LOTR reads like a classical history book, sometimes literally. Everything is true, everything is tied together. The narrator disappears for omniscience.

Name of the Wind is an obvious post-modern slant with an unreliable narrator. The story Kvothe himself tells obviously makes him seem like a superhero and Rothfuss manages to (whether intentional or not) tell a story about a story that doesn't all add up. I can't say it's my favorite book. But, reading it against LOTR was fascinating.

Kvothe being awesome at everything irritated me, it actually went over my head that he might be an unreliable narrator...

I liked Name of the Wind for the most part but some of the characters were flatter than pancakes. That bad guy student (Ambrose?) has no motivation beyond just being a deliberate antagonist

> That bad guy student (Ambrose?) has no motivation beyond just being a deliberate antagonist

Ambrose is a bully. You've never met a bully?

"The researchers found that children who bullied were often motivated by a desire to increase their popularity and that they chose generally unpopular victims to avoid losing social status... Bullies tend to be aware of the social hierarchy within the class and are seeking the admiration of specific people." [0]

Amrbose (unknowingly) thwarts Kvothes QUEST as part of a petty prank to put him in his place. Kvothe fights back. Once that antagonistic relationship is established, it gets out of hand and there is plenty of motivation to keep it going.

[0] https://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20100325/what-motivates...

Every bully has a back story. Or should have.

The lead character of the TV series "Doc Martin" is totally unsympathetic as the series unfolds.

Then, a few episodes in, you meet his parents.

Never seen it, worth a watch? I do like Martin Clunes

Absolutely, but you MUST watch from the beginning, in sequence, as the characters are developed and backstories unfold. Clunes does a brilliant job of being a total jerk.

At first.

It's far more than your typical fish-out-of-water setup.

I would like to hear what your favorite book is.

I've always had a soft spot for Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Here's what I wrote about it:

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy.

Worth reading for the landscape descriptions alone, McCarthy transforms the American west into a hellscape of inhuman violence, savagery, and evil; and yet, it's a beautiful descent into madness.

His character of the Judge is as captivating as he is horrifying. Some choice quotes from him:

> "Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent."

> "War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god."

> "Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test. A man falling dead in a duel is not thought thereby to be proven in error as to his views. His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view."

> "The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I'd have them all in zoos."

> "All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage."

Just be prepared for McCarthy's writing style if you decide to read him. He uses long sentences for effect; the long sentences where words seem to tumble over one another in an endless rush evokes movement and the distant horizon of the open desert as well as traditional oral ways of storytelling. His diction is also...archaic.

I don't know if it's one of my favorite books, but Daemon is really fun.

Unlike a lot of scifi it doesn't shy away from getting deep into technical details. But unlike most writers he doesn't get tech concepts wrong or use jagon in awkward, non-standard ways. It's obvious that computer tech is is native to him.

Indeed, so many things in that book point to the future I would like to see. I loved eSpace, and the Shamanistic interface, and the cooperation.

Name of the Wind is mine, also. The magic system is amazing and blew my mind when I first read it.

The sequel to Daemon was even better imo... Freedom TM

Sequel was great!

Meditations - Marcus Aurelius - A Roman emperor's private thoughts to himself. He was a philosopher and practiced stoicism. He had everything a human could want, money, women, power and yet he reminded himself daily how fleeting it all was. How easily a man can be swayed from his purpose. How not to look down on others. It's my all time favorite book for keeping life in perspective.

The Road Less Traveled - M. Scott Peck - When I was struggling with depression and not feeling worth anything and generally a piece of shit someone pointed this book out to me. It talks about how no one can shoulder your psychology burdens for you and fix them. You have to take the work on full force and fix yourself. You may have suffered wounds in your childhood and be playing them out in your adulthood. It's all subconscious behavior.

The Game - Neil Strauss - I was struggling to understand women and relationships. This book fundamentally changed the way I understood myself and relationships with other people. Another great book for understanding that external forces can't bring you the happiness or fill the void you're hoping for.

The Art of electronics. Learned more from that than I did doing an EE degree at university. It gets used to this day even though I bought this copy in 1995. I have the latest edition arriving today.

Amen. AoE, a desk drawer packed with assorted components and a couple of veroboards basically got me through university.

Heck, I even got called to an EE professor's office after a circuit design exam - was told a couple of my answers clearly showed I had spent more time studying AoE than the curriculum. "So - we're going to have to give you a mediocre grade, but no worries, you'll do brilliantly in industry; I'd be happy to write you a recommendation to that effect."

He actually did; it is framed and proudly displayed on my office wall.

Haha similar. I had my own lab of skip dived kit in halls. I got told my lab assignment looked like something out of AoE. Couldn’t complain because it worked and had a cheaper BOM than they expected.

I don't know. I'm doing an EE degree at the moment (second year) and AoE isn't that helpful from my view to understand the theoretical side. It'll tell me what an op-amp bandwidth is and the significance of 3dB but it won't tell me why it's that way, or go into why there is a decay at 20dB/decade. It's been more helpful on the practical side of building circuits rather than their analysis, but I don't know if that's the point or not.

You’ll find when you get into industry that a big chunk of the theoretical side is discarded and most of the job runs on intuition and knowing the gotchas and gluing bits of data sheets together then writing software. That’s what the book covers.

Occasionally you’ll need to dig deep into it and particularly if you do RF stuff but that’s about it.

I was disappointed for about six months when I landed my first position at a defence contractor when I found out their senior analogue design engineer had a circuit crib book and most of the designs were sourced or bodged from that and then adjusted on a breadboard. I was simply amazed at how informal it was. The stuff worked, was in budget and performed well. Surprisingly mathematical and theoretical knowledge was rarely discussed.

The signal processing and software guys did all the legwork really.

Me, I ended up writing engineer ERP systems to replace paper and then jumped into the software market.

Now I play around with things and I’ve built a lot of stuff without even firing up a calculator or thinking about the theoretical side of things. Everything has a computer in the middle with a little bit of analogue stuff around the edge which you can usually just pick out of the book.

Edit: to be clear I know Laplace, Nyquist, how to do FFT/DFT, network theorems etc but I just don’t need them most of the time.

> Surprisingly mathematical and theoretical knowledge was rarely discussed

Sounds like some direct parallels there with the software industry. I think I have heard CS stuff mentioned precisely once in the last decade, ironically by someone whose code I regarded as overly complicated gobbledygook.

The ratio of people who actually use maths and "hardcore" CS in their programming job to those who literally never do is probably 50 to 1.

Yes it’s exactly the same. I tend to get some of the difficult and fun tasks like writing parsers and things and that comes along once every couple of years or so :(


Such a beautiful execution of a great story set in a captivating world, packing a pageful of storyline, images and innuendos into every line of text. It feels like Gibson was on a strict word diet, but the result is a one of a kind masterpiece of story telling.

There's a recording[0] of Gibson reading Neuromancer that I really enjoyed. His reading is very stylistic and might be off-putting for some people, but I think it captures the spirit of the story better than a dry narration.

[0] http://www.bearcave.com/bookrev/neuromancer/neuromancer_audi...

I enjoyed this BBC version:


Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham - everyone goes blind and a bunch of sentient plants start eating people. one of the first science fiction books I ever read, and the one that introduced me to post apocalyptic fiction. Giant plants might sound silly, but its no more silly than walking corpses. And in fact the walking dead and 28 days later owe a lot to this book.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke - beautifully inventive fantasy novel about two magicians bringing magic back to Britain during the Napoleonic wars. Fab read.

Gateway - Frederick Pohl - pulp sf at its best. Humans discover a hollowed out asteroid worth ftl ships preprogrammed with unknown destinations. Prospectors pack as much food as they can and hit 'launch' in the hopes that they'll discover something valuable and not land on a star or starve to death.

The Forever War - Joe Haldeman - more great pulp sci-fi about the first interstellar war. Old man's war by John Scalzi is very similar and almost as good.

Most things by Iain (m) banks. Crow Road, Wasp Factory, The Bridge, Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons, Player of Games etc. Song of stone was awful though, they're not all winners

Shibumi - yes, it is partly a parody, but I have found many good, inspiring lessons from the characterization of Nicholai Hel. For instance, this paragraph made me deeply reflect on the "convenient rationalization" of bad behavior. Basically, there is always a good excuse that is up for grabs. Don't be that guy.

"Politeness is more reliable than the moist virtues of compassion, charity, and sincerity; just as fair play is more important than the abstraction of justice. The major virtues tend to disintegrate under the pressures of convenient rationalization. But good form is good form, and it stands immutable in the storm of circumstance.”

All Trevanian's books are great.

- The Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr. Flawed badass with a quick wit, I love Bernie Gunther.

- Hypnotherapy by Dave Elman. Dated, but gives you a clear abstract (oxymoron) path on how to "bypass the critical filter of the conscious mind"

- Coaching the Mental Game by Harvey Dorfman. Erudite, deep, chocked full of lessons that are applicable to your personal, professional, and sports life.

Many, many others.

"Northrop bombers. American bombers."

Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I put this book off for years because I hated the covers of them. Amazing read, best sci-fi I ever read.

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Must read for a sci-fi fan.

SICP (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs). Structured very well. Each exercise builds on a concept of the previous exercise, getting increasingly difficult.

1984 by George Orwell. I am told that we're increasingly moving towards a mix of 1984 and Brave New World (I haven't read the latter).

Benjamin Lee Whorf - Language, Thought, and Reality


This little collection of essays from the 20s by a chemical engineer is astounding. For anyone interested in cognition, engineering, language, there are mind-blowing insights packed throughout.

He's the guy for whom the Sapir-Whorf hypotheis - that the languages we use can themselves shape what we say and even how we think, an idea I think is 100% true.

Which brings me to one of my favourite scifi epics - the Culture series, the titular people (and machines) of which consciously designed their language Marain to encode desirable aspects of reasonableness and peaceableness according to that very hypothesis. Nice connection!

Agreed, I think it's very hard to deny at this point. Careful what you say :D

Thank you for reminding me to read the Culture series. I've put it on my list for many other reasons, and now I have a new one :)


This Pulitzer prize winning book proves the adage "Truth is stranger than fiction". Surprisingly, you don't need to know any math or much of physics / chemistry to read this one.

It is the story of one of the most amazing achievements of human kind and its more engaging than all the Dan Brown novels put together. This is no exaggeration - the book will entertain, educate and enlighten you like no other book you have ever read.

About this book, David Eisenberg wrote thus on his blog...

> The Making of the Atomic Bomb is not only the best and most comprehensive treatment of the [Manhattan] project and its antecedents (and I’ve read a number of them), it is also possibly the single best history or non-fiction book that I have ever read, and that’s a lot of books.

> Of course, it is not for everyone. If you don’t like history or science (don’t panic, no math necessary), World War II stories, daring commando raids, hair raising escapes, behind the scene politics, mysterious conversations, intellectual battles between the world's greatest scientists, between scientists and soldiers, scientists and politicians, the interpersonal relationships of the great men of this century, incomparable drama, massive death, powerful explosions, personal sacrifice and “a ripping good yarn” as they used to say, then don’t read it. If you are interested, I promise you that there will be no disappointment.

Milk, Sulphate, and Alby Starvation by Martin Millar.


This book was given to me by my first girlfriend. She died some time later, and I've found her death hard to deal with.

A few things bring back really strong memories of her - drinking tea and eating buttery pikelets and jam, listening to Ivor Cutler or Tallulah Gosh.

This book (and his others) do that.

The new Guide to Self Sufficiency by John Seymour. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1405345101/ref=mp_s_a_1_4?i...

We used to live in the country side, and I had to chop wood for our family, our neighbours, and my aunt who lived nearby. It's almost meditative. You start with a big pile of logs, and a sharp ax, and you end with more wood on the stack. It's surprising how quickly you can burn wood, especially if you're using it to cook food and heat your home.

Hard to pinpoint. In terms of entertainment books, it'll probably come down to a tie between Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See and Walter Moers' The City of Dreaming Books, or maybe something by Terry Pratchett (although I couldn't single out a book there, either).

The reason for those is just that I can't imagine ever being bored reading them.

Maybe also Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) for being a really creative concept (the way the story is told) and for being a wonderful example on how interesting modest sci-fi can be without resorting to "LAZERZ!!!".

Edit: Another contestant: Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Physicists. Grim yet humorful. I generally really like Dürrenmatt's dark endings.

Edit 2: And another one: Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, specifically for how well he got me to understand Gauss' weird reactions and motives without going into his work at all. Before I've read it, I would have sworn that a book that tries to present one of the greatest mathematicians would need loads of math in it.

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy.

Worth reading for the landscape descriptions alone, McCarthy transforms the American west into a hellscape of inhuman violence, savagery, and evil; and yet, it's a beautiful descent into madness.

His character of the Judge is as captivating as he is horrifying. Some choice quotes from him:

> "Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent."

> "War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god."

> "Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test. A man falling dead in a duel is not thought thereby to be proven in error as to his views. His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view."

> "The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I'd have them all in zoos."

> "All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage."

Neverwhere => wonderful setting full of fantastic things

The Dark Tower => a massive epic that starts out western and goes multiverse SciFi and links together many of kings works. I felt like i was on a grand quest

Various short story collections from Gaiman & Stephen King => most are like twilight zone episodes (short little mind benders I can digest in one sitting)

Ted Chiang's short stories=> each one of these was amazing...particularly the one that inspired Arrival movie and the one with the guy that gets super intelligence.

The Dresden files => this won't win any awards from literary critics, but is one of my favorite series that just keeps on getting better and more captivating. There are so many complex characters. They don't exist in isolation either, but interact. There are so many main and sub plots. Themes about good & evil, how many things are gray, love, redemption, faith, corruption , perseverance, tactics & strategy...it's all there. It's very unpredictable plot wise. So many books just blow me away.

Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. The first time it was slow read, but I went back the book several times later in life and it has much to tell.

The Glass Beads Game by Herman Hess.

Several books by Steinbeck - Travels with Charley, Log from the Sea of Cortez.

The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo. A recent penguin translation is superb. Among the saddest and most memorable love stories.

Blindsight, by Peter Watts. It's a sci-fi novel that asks fascinating questions about sentience and intelligence, and made me stare at the ceiling for weeks after I finished it.

I love just about every one of Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile science fiction novels [1] and still love them as an adult. When I was a teenager, Time for the Stars [2] was probably my favorite, but as an adult, I've come to appreciate Citizen of the Galaxy [3] more.

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

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_for_the_Stars

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_of_the_Galaxy

The Cuckoos Egg by Cliff Stoll

It's a wonderfully easy read about the early days of the Internet and hacking.

Whenever anyone asks:

Catch-22 East of Eden Remains of the Day Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman

These threads where people suggest multiple books are good to run through. If you see one in a comment that someone else liked, probably try to read the others they listed.

Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss. It taught me early to question authority and resist popular movements that are built on my back.

  * Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. Powerful anti-war story.
  * Vagabonding, by Rolf Potts. Shaped my views on hard work and travel.
  * 1984, by George Orwell. Brilliant and terrifying.
  * The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Overcoming mental pain through consciousness. 
  * Planetwalker, by John Francis. Inspired me to walk and put myself into things more.
  * Pure enjoyment: Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), Ready Player One (Ernest Cline), Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Red Rising trilogy (Pierce Brown).
Honorable mention: The Water Knife (Paolo Bacigalupi).

Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis. Wonderfully written, though not as completely fleshed-out as a modern sci-fi reader may be used to. Still stands on its own two feet, worth a try. My first sci-fi.

The Golden Bough, Frazer. Sublime, frustrating and intriguing. Changes your dreams, whether you immediately realise it or not.

How Things Work: The Universal Encyclopedia of Machines. My grandfather gave me this when I was 8, I still regularly leaf through the tea-coloured pages and detailed black-and-red drawings two decades later. It's a charming book, the kind of thing we have websites for nowadays.

Yes. I couldn't muddle through the other two of the series, though.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse for its portrayal of a spiritual journey / life that was not a ‘religious’ one.

This was a book I read in my early twenties that really helped me come to terms with a religious upbringing that no longer resonated with me, as well as a spiritual void in my life that needed to be filled. Seriously life changing stuff and so easy to read. Definitely the most accessible Hesse.

I’d be curious if this book has impacted anyone else similarly and if so what they took from it. Love this thread btw

It's an excellent book that I am fond of. I don't come from a religious upbringing, but that doesn't mean I don't wrestle with spiritual questions.

The art of game design: Even if you're not aspiring to be a game dev, this book teaches you a lot about project scope, management, psychology, mechanics, balance and user experience.

Flight of the buffalo: An excellent book about leadership.

Moneyball: I'm not into novels, so this might be the closest thing to it. It's a fantastic book about thinking creatively and working with what you have. It's about baseball, but even if you don't like it, it's quite entertaining and insightful.

I got a lot out of some very practical books, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting to Yes, The Tipping Point and The Peter Principle. I read a lot of good fiction in my youth, including books mentioned here, like Siddhartha, works by Heinlein and the Amber series.

There are a couple of books that had a big impact on me whose titles I long ago forgot. Periodically searching has not uncovered them.

One was a history of the deep south. Another was a book about about raising money for non profits.

I grew up in the deep south. Reading a history of it helped me understand my life and my country better. The second book had some pithy passages. One of my takeaways was "Don't say no for them." In other words, don't fail to ask because you assume the answer is no.

There were some other pithy, wise bits in the book that boil down to "If you really care about this project and the people it impacts, you need to get over being a thin skinned crybaby and keep at it in spite of repeatedly dealing with rejection, etc." I think the story was repeatedly told that someone would come to her all upset about something and she would say something like "I will put on my best therapist hat and tell you to get over it."

It was a surprising attitude to run into. The author was very practical. She also talked about the fact that she kept doing what she did because when things went well, there was no better feeling. I have done a lot of volunteer work in my life and there is a whole lot of touchy feely stuff that goes along with such work. This book was a breath of fresh air.


-I loved this book for its humor, everyday practicality, how relatable it felt even without having a background in physics or knowledge about the pranks and experiments he conducted. As well as the book being well-written in the sense that it reads as if you're sitting on the couch with him as he's telling you stories about his life, all with a child-like sense of wonder and enthusiasm about the world.


-I'm interested in the high-finance and fine-art worlds and this book discussed how they both go together - money and art - in an informative, quick-paced way.


-For its humor, honesty, and how well written it was in terms of it being a page turner while also providing you with an insightful account about the high-finance industry.


-It was an entertaining, quick-paced read about the private, high-stakes poker industry with an assortment of participants.


-I thought they were all entertaining reads, while also being insightful about their respective subjects.


-It was an illuminating read to me.

- - -

Separately, these books are on my list to read if anyone has opinions about them:

-Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

-Principles by Ray Dalio

-A Man For All Markets by Edward Thorp

I'm going to have to read "surely you're joking", it comes up so often on these lists

I just finished it a few days ago. Read it for the exact same reason. I can really recommend it!

Another reference here. Go for it. It’s a brilliant book.

Surely you are joking Mr Feynman - He was a brilliant man, but I also get a weird vibe from him. I all his books, he comes across as the man who knows is more brilliant than the vast majority of other people, he wants to be considered as a simple man with more persistence and curious attitude than other simpletons, and at the end, I realize that the fake humbleness is pretty insufferable. Come on, Feynman.

An interesting perspective. I can’t disagree.

I have read "Principles". Good ideas in the first 2 chapters, but I got tired of the relentless, religious-like search for improvement no matter the psychological cost, the weirdness, and, ultimately, the boredom. He reminded me of a former housemate who was constantly searching for the deep truth when he was talking to his girlfriends. Don't be that weirdo.

'Q' by Luther Blissett. A fictional romp through the Reformation written from the perspective of a protagonist who is on the losing side of every struggle. Low farce, high politics, a bit of sex, lots of death, and a fabulous take on how Western Christianity came to be how it is today.

Written by a collective of Italian anarchists, bizarrely, and named after a former AC Milan and England footballer. You couldn't make it up. Fabulous.

I read ~ a book every other day last year, here are the ones I liked best http://adit.io/posts/2016-12-10-The-Best-Books-I-Read-In-201...

I'm interested to know the motivation behind this question. Two of my favorite books of all time: "Notes From Underground", "A House For Mr. Biswas". They are very specific to me, an immigrant coming to the US at a young age. I doubt they have universal appeal.

On the other hand, "Evicted" is a book I think everyone should read. It gives great examples of how hard it can be to climb out of poverty. I think we all see "poverty" talked about as generic label, and it can be really hard to find good specific examples to discuss -- "Evicted" has tons of them.

"The map and the territory" by Michel Houellbecq. It's hauntingly beautiful depiction of life and loneliness of a man obsessive about his field of work - a visual art in his case, but I feel the book could just as well be about a working-from-home kernel hacker or SaaS bootstrapper.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - he goes a little bit into how he did the stuff he did.

In my youth, my favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo, in college it is The Mind's I by Hofstadter and Dennett. (Actually for both I read their Chinese translations as I was in China). My favorite English book is The Fall of Hyperion.

I really enjoy Jorge Luis Borges (hard to pick a favorite, just dive into the short stories and find out for yourself). Imagine an M.C. Escher drawing in story form.

I also have a strong pull towards adventure so books like Wind, Sand and Stars by Exupery or Starlight and Storm by Rebuffat are constant companions.

Growing up I loved books by Emilio Salgari, for a man who traveled so little outside of Italy he had an uncanny ability to imagine worlds and adventures beyond his doorstep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Salgari

I second Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Salgari?! I thought he was unknown outside of Italy.

Anyone else read it?

And Salgari never traveled!

Robinson Crusoe, swedish translation by May Bylock is probably the book i have read the most since the beginning of elementary school. Very short, can be read in a day.

Ghost In The Wires by Kevin Mitnick is a very interesting book that i recommend too.

The "Malazan Book of the Fallen" [0] series. Because of its sheer amount [1] of deep characters, the many years and areas it spans and the differences in power levels, from lowly soldiers to essentially gods.

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/series/43493-the-malazan-book-of-t...

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

The Incerto series by Nassim Taleb. They taught me about the importance of tail events, and started my interest in probability theory. More importantly, they taught me how to live a good life.

"Soul of a New Machine" - Tracy Kidder. I read it while in engineering school, and it's the first time it kind of clicked with me of what an engineer actually "does"


Let me recommend an author instead: Jacqueline Carey.

She writes in a beautiful language, writes gripping stories, sometimes includes erotic scenes which don't appear cheap, and the characters are well thought out. There's often some politics going on in the foreground or background, sometimes quite intricate.

Checkout the Kushiel series for classical fantasy, or "Santa Olivia" for young adult urban fantasy.

Other fantasy authors I'e read recently and enjoyed: Patrick Rothfuss, Peter v. Brett, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks.

How to Win Friends and Influence People. It could have just as easily been named "How to be a Good Person". Carnegie's advice is practical, yet powerful. I return to it every few months to make sure I'm staying on track.

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. Franklin led one of the most interesting lives in human history, and this book is a window into his mind. There's a lot of great advice sprinkled in with subtle, timely humor. Another book I return to often.

Jared Diamond - "Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed" (non-fiction)

Iván Repila - "The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse": short intense novel about 2 boys who are trapped in a well

Margaret Atwood - "The handmaid's tale"

Khaled Hosseini - "The kite runner"

Agatha Christie - "The murder of Roger Ackroyd" (very surprising plot)

Andy Weir - "The Martian"

Charles Dickens - "David Copperfield"

Clare Mackintosh - "I let you go"

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - "The Shadow of the Wind"

M.R. Carey - "The girl with all the gifts"

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis is the only book I've ever read that actually made me laugh out loud. I'm told Catch 22 is like that, but I haven't read it.

Hagakure - Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Kind of the ethical codex for samurai warriors. Little stories about what to do and not to do which you can translate to a modern daily life.

Fiction - Narcissus and Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. Contrasting the lives of a free spirit and a disciplined mind.

Non Fiction - A Time of Gifts/Between the Woods and the Water/The Broken Road by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Recounting a trip from Holland to Constantinople by foot in the 1930's when he was a teenager. A trilogy of books written when he was in his 60's and 70's. An erudite raconteur.

* Harry Potter!

* A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy: Taught me much about myself and reinforced a healthy pattern of practicing will power.

* The End of Your World: After discovering spirituality and meditation I had lingering questions. This is a frank book on the trappings of the spiritual journey. The break-down of abiding vs. un-abiding enlightenment helped me navigate through fascinating times.

The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World's Most Successful Political Idea.

This review claims it's the best book of 2017 and sums it well: https://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R24LMIB16JWMLC?ref_=glimp_1...

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Foundation series. Snow Crash. 2001: A space odyssey.


All are so much fun to read over and over again.

For sheer engineering fun, R.V. Jones' "How I Won the War" (No, not really; it is called "Most Secret War") is hard to beat; it is the memoirs of Britain's chief scientist during WWII; hundreds of pages of one-upping their Axis counterparts - the birth of electronic warfare. Excellent read.

accelerando - Charles Stross

It blew my mind from beginning to end. Loved every shred of concept and potential.

Glasshouse is close 2nd

Demon Haunted World is a solid 3rd

It's been ~8 years since I read it, but I think "The Sciences of the Artificial" by Herb Simon might make my list. It's about design, engineering, intelligence (artificial or human), and building things.

The Land of Laughs Debut novel and masterpiece of Jonathan Carroll. I need to read this regularly to readjust my antennae, otherwise I might become a complete jerk. Yes, I know this doesn't make any sense.

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny. Great protagonist, characters and universe. Written in the 70’s but still holds up well by today’s standards.

Rumor has it that Robert Kirkman of Walking Dead fame has optioned it for TV.

The Amber series is excellent.

I find later books in the series to be... well... a garbage. And it pains me to say that, because Nine Princes in Amber was jaw-droppingly impressive.

Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics William Dunham

Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society by Peter McWilliams

Humorous, comprehensive, and, sadly, still as needed today as it was 20 years ago.

My favorite book is "A Thousand Plateaus" by Deleuze and Guattari. It's quite the challenge, and I find new things every time I pick it back up.

East of Eden. It is to me THE American Novel. A great read.

I like books that introduce the concepts of good urbanism

{Geography of Nowhere, Streets are for People, Great Good Places}

They really opened my mind to understanding structure and place

The Fountainhead - Ayn Rand

I don't agree with everything in it, but it is one of those books that really makes you rethink your life when read at the right time.

For better or worse, I mostly only do non-fiction books, and my favorite so far is still Zero to One by Peter Thiel + Blake Masters.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand. I like idea of 'I' itself which can shrug the belief(s) of social norms.

Blood Meridian. Beautifully written. The violence of technological disruption as the central theme.

Trustee From The Tool Room, by Neville Shute. Maker as hero. Adventures in the South Pacific.

Um hello... Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Then have a look at the Tensorflow logo. :)

Getting Things Done - David Allen

Helps me live in the present and not stress about the future.

1. Thinking fast and slow - Kahneman

2. Godel, Escher and Bach - Hofstadter

3. On Intelligence - Jeff Hawkins

I started reading GEB, and enjoyed hearing about things like Goedel's incompleteness theorem, but Hofstadter is really hard to get through. What did those who persevered get from it?

I second Godel, Escher and Bach.

The Masks of God, Joseph Campbell.

Deep examination of the human meta-mind.

Nine Stories

Franny and Zooey

of course Permutation City, I am confused why anyone named that book yet.

Gödel, Escher, Bach awakened my intellectual curiosity about formal systems and other autistic modes of beauty as a teenager. After "The Selfish Gene" it was the first book I bought and read on my own volition, so I have to credit it as a major influence.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs for showing that you can think rigorously and compose beautiful programs out of simple pieces.

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty for showing that it's possible to think and feel about politics while maintaining a profoundly ironic and groundless mind.

The Body in Pain by Elaine Scarry for its beautiful view of civilization as materialized caring and of the inflicting of pain as metaphysically destructive.

Being-in-the-world by Dreyfus for introducing me to Heidegger and showing how continental philosophy inspired by Heidegger was a major force in the evolution of AI and how AI researchers tended to be influenced by rationalist philosophy in the vein of Descartes which leads to huge misunderstandings of the nature of being.

Dhammapada translated by Gil Fronsdal because it's a beautiful exposition of early Buddhist poetry and clearly shows the worldview of south east Asian Buddhism.

Debt by David Graeber for making me interested in money and credit systems from an anthropological point of view.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace for being hilarious and sad and buzzing with neurotic perceptive overeducated thought in a way that mirrored my own precocious self-consciousness and made me feel less "marooned in my own skull."

The Uses of Disorder by Richard Sennett for giving a defense of the anarchy of urban life that views conflict as necessary for growth.

After Virtue by Alisdair MacIntyre for showing the contemporary situation in thought and ethics as profoundly abnormal and difficult, being the aftermath of the Enlightenment project's failure to ground morality in objective reason, and pointing to virtue within traditions as the only way to live coherently.

The Teachings of Huang-bo for being a merciless and hilarious attack on sanctimonious and ritualistic Buddhism, displaying the role of sarcasm and wit in spirituality, and generally just shouting "wake up, lazy pretentious idiot" on every page.

Fanged Noumena by Nick Land for diving deeply into amphetaminic insanity thus accurately mirroring the schizophrenia of postmodern capitalism.

The letters of Van Gogh.

Phillip Lopate's personal essays.

Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton.

On the Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

Three Scientists and their Gods: This book foreshadows the meaning and purpose of science+tech https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/214570.Three_Scientists_...

Scifi: The Three Body problem (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20518872-the-three-body-...) for its whole encompassing narrative about human future and some of it will be real (fusion instead of chemical fuel, pulse propulsion and other social consequences)

Ardor: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20931250-ardor if you ever wanted to understand ancient indian philosophy. Heavy read, not recommended for fun but more as quest

FoxTales: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/412167.Foxtales about how software was developed in the midwest free of all the fashion/hipsterism currently in vogue and building a community of users for your software

The elements of networking style: If you ever wanted to know the politics of how networking RFCs are made: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2298785.The_Elements_of_... and design choices made to build modern day internet

Unwritten Laws of Engineering: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13122143-unwritten-laws-... is an old and timeless way detailing what it means to engineer

High Performance Browser Networking: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17985198-high-performanc... if you ever wanted to know what happens inside a browser

The Computer and the Brain: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/358880.The_Computer_and_... where the master compares the machine with our brain

The Grammatical Man: If you ever wanted to know the importance of structure and constraint in everything: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/722028.Grammatical_Man

The Name of the Wind - For all the reasons mentioned above, is one of my absolute favorite fiction books. Its not just the characters, its Rothfuss' use of language. I've never kept track of so many quotable phrases in a book.

Enders Shadow Series by Orson Scott Card - I loved the majority of the Ender's Game series was disappointed when it was over. Throughout those books, Bean was always my favorite character and it was a great day when I discovered the Ender's Shadow series which chronicles Bean's life over several books. The thing I loved most about Bean were his powers of analysis and he taught me to think more about scenario outcomes and think about multiple ways of achieving my goals.

Dune - A pattern is emerging here. I love the books where the hero CHOOSES to ascend and works to get there. Paul Atredies starts out a boy against harsh conditions and rises to the challenge.

The Stand by Stephen King - I read this book when I was 14 or 15 on summer break in a week. I fell in from the start and read for entire days until it was done and when it was over I was in awe at the size (1000+ pages) and scope of what King accomplished.

The Alpha Strategy by John Pugsley - Its an interesting book and look at economics and wealth preservation in layman's terms. Its funny because this book was written in the 80s and when I read it, it was immediately applicable. I grew up in a pretty liberal household and this book made me start to pay attention to what liberals and conservatives were saying and form my own opinions.

Atlas Shrugged - I read this right after the book above and the two in combination really caused a mindeset shift for me. It wasn't so much that everyone is out to get me or against me, but more I am responsible for my outcomes and I need to invest in myself.

E-Myth Revisited By Michael Gerber - Piqued my interest in systems and where I started to learn the value of systems and making success repeatable.

Working the System By Sam Carpenter - More of the "how-to" book E-Myth Revisited should have been.

Daemon Series - This one has been mentioned and while it didn't have the impact on my that the other books did, I did enjoy the world the author created.

Thieves Emporium by Max Hernandez - This was a quick read and appealed to my love of technical fiction. Similar to Daemon, its use of technology in the story is interesting and not that far off from the real world at this point. [WARNING: GRAPHIC SCENES]

I was unambitious and coasted through life until after college, and it wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I started really reading books like these. Over the past few years, I've become almost a completely different person. I read a tremendous amount and can say its had a huge impact on my "mental models" and how I approach life.

Books I'm interested in reading next include: - Meditations - Works on mental models - Elon Musk biography (the amount he's able to accomplish quickly is staggering)

I don't read as much fiction as I used to, instead choosing to focus on technical books, but fiction has definitely had an impact on my development as well.

The Trial. It is a book end on how bleak life could possibly be and has served me incredibly well for the 20 years since I read it.

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