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Ask HN: Best books you read in 2017?
84 points by gallerdude on Nov 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



Without a doubt, the best book I read in 2017 was the three body problem (first in a trilogy). I actually came across it in an interview with Alina Cohen of Initialized via the 20 minute VC podcast. It intrigued me to not know what it was about, and I recommend that people who are interested in reading it go in with as little information as possible.

Going to start the second one this weekend :)


The trilogy as a whole is simply mind-blowing. This is high up on my list also.


this has been recommended to me quite often by my girlfriend. i should really get to it.


If you're like me, you will be gripped as quickly as the first chapter!


The second one is going to blow your mind.


This was a book a girl recommended me after our 2nd date :). The book made me think about who I am in a different way. I really recommend it, especially for those depressed because of no social life. The book is funny and scientific. Also gives some good advice.

Awkward: The Science of Why We're Socially Awkward and Why That's Awesome Book by Ty Tashiro


Seeing Ourselves Through Technology by Jill Walker Rettberg. It's a useful read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of self representation through technology. Every time you tweet, take a selfie, like a facebook post or track your running, you're doing it to perhaps signal something to others or to document yourself. The book gives a good history on the topic and goes into people's motivations for self representation.


I don't recall if I read Ann Leckie's "Ancillary Justice" this year or last year. It was excellent.

I have only a few pages left of Neal Stephenson's "REAMDE", which turns out to be better than I had dared hope.


I came here to recommend Ancillary Justice too. A surprising, awesome sci-fi novel that won the Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.


Also came here to suggest "Ancillary Justice". About halfway through the last in the trilogy, "Ancillary Mercy" and they've all been amazing and incredibly though-provoking books.

Leckie released a book, "Provenance", this year that takes place in the same universe and at the same time as the "Imperial Radch" trilogy; haven't read it yet but it's definitely on my list.


I read a few good books this year, all of them non-fiction. Some that come to mind are:

"Worldviews - An Introduction to the History and Philosophy of Science" by Richard DeWitt. Instead of doing a history-only or philosophy-only take on the topic, I really enjoyed how DeWitt meshed these two viewpoints and examined how they inter-played with each other. It overthrew forever my image of the ancients as a group of irrational, superstitious people who believed in such funny notions as the Sun and the planets orbiting the Earth. DeWitt nicely explains how given the data that they had, their conclusions were very much rational. For example, it's very difficult to imagine from our everyday experience that earth could be orbiting the Sun at a speed of some 30 km/sec.

"A History of the World" by Andrew Marr. I find history a simultaneously fascinating and frustrating subject. Fascinating, because a good knowledge of history makes the present day world seem a lot more meaningful and un-arbitrary. Frustrating, because it's difficult to find a history book that's not just a list of facts and dates. Marr's work walks us through history via vivid portrayals of interesting personalities and events. I found the accompanying documentary series equally interesting as well.

"The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy" by Donald Robertson. This book examines the common grounds between stoic (and to far lesser extent, Buddhist) philosophies and modern cognitive behavioral therapy. It also lists some of the tools in the stoic's tool-chest to tackle common anxieties and worries about life. The nice thing about this book is that it teaches you to treat philosophy as a method of self-therapy, which immediately opens up an ancient fund of literature to tackle day to day problems.


The Aeon 14 novels following Tanis Richards[1] have been a consistently good read. The Intrepid Saga and The Orion War series. Haven't ventured into the other offshoots as yet.

The Dome Trilogy[2] was also pretty good, as are the Rho Agenda series[3][4][5].

And if you prefer horror to sci-fi, the I Am Not a Serial Killer series[6] was very good overall, although I thought it lost some steam in the last two books.

And finally, The Rosie Project[7] was so completely charming I ended up reading it straight through in one night.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6426890.M_D_Cooper

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25501349-unexpected-rain

[3] https://www.goodreads.com/series/61746-the-rho-agenda

[4] https://www.goodreads.com/series/142618-the-rho-agenda-incep...

[5] https://www.goodreads.com/series/175066-rho-agenda-assimilat...

[6] https://www.goodreads.com/series/49883-john-cleaver

[7] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18015965-the-rosie-proje...


+1 for feel-good Rosie Project. The sequel is nice, too.


I'll give you my 3 favorites of the year:

- The Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard. The shooting of Garfield is the framing of this book. It covers a time period I knew such little about (~1880s), so I learned so much reading it. Just a crazy, interesting story in many ways.

- The Forever War, by Filkins. Sort of a series of vignettes by a reporter covering Afghanistan, then Iraq during the war. I still don't know what to think / feel about it, but I've recommended the book several times.

- Barbarians at the Gate, by Burroughs, Helyar. A classic that I put off reading for years because I thought it would be a slog (it's sort of long), but I finished in a week. I love business history / case study books, and this is one of the most famous, for good reason. If you like this also check out Predator's Ball, which I read this year. It's about Milken and the junk bond era.


"now that the world is on fire and the barbarians are at the gate you have the audacity to come to me for help."

Sorry, couldn't resist :)


Not finished yet. Genome- Matt Ridley. The guy knows how to take a "dry" subject and spin a nice story around the central subject. Was recommended by Naval Ravikant on the Shane Parrish's Knowledge Project podcast. Makes even more sense to me now that I actually work for a NGS company.


This was one of Mark Zuckerberg's book recommendations. It's a great book to get a basic understanding of the Genome. I read most of the books he recommended and all gave me a new view of the world. I've since changed my view of him. Facebook was not an accident. He truly is a deep thinker and understands what it takes to move Facebook forward.


Try Sapolsky's incredible 25-or-so-part online lectures on Biology of Human Behavior. A great lecturer on a most fascinating subject, it's accessible to a general audience. Covers the topic on all different levels, scales, approaches, from evolutionary psychology to the minutiae of brains and genes, with a lot of stories about the discoveries and researchers involved, and jokes, he's a funny guy. Best course I've ever done. Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNnIGh9g6fA



Oooh 2017 has been a year of heavy reading. There's a few for very different reasons:

- Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson

- Functional Programming in JS by Michael Fogus

- The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes

- Why the Tories Won by Tim Ross

- The Game by Neil Strauss (as a story of self-destruction and a guide on how not to treat women).

- Built to Sell by John Warrilow

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I'm currently reading a handful of books on statistics and UX. This may change before the end of the year.

I think there's a few I might return to that are half done but I guess the fact I've put them down half way through disqualifies from being "the best".

Amd just to finish: I love these book posts. A good deal of books I read come from these :)


Thanks for sharing. I read Steve Jobs by Isaacson and it was great and very in-depth! I also want to desperately read his latest biography on Leonardo da Vinci before the year end as heard it is awesome.


Oh I didn't know he had released one on da Vinci! Thanks for the heads up.

Einstein is a great book. I also recommend the NatGeo series after reading it - it's based on the book.


Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic "Dune". Amazing both for the entertainment value as well as for the thought-provoking ecological/sociopolitical ideas.


I think the director of Blade Runner 2049 is working on a Dune movie


I'd pay to see it. BR2049 was amazing IMO.


The DAO of Capital by Mark Spitznagel, it basically talks about an investing approach where “one gains by losing and loses by gaining.”, it is very insightful because it explains a strategy and effect I have seen work everywhere. Where people who suffer hardship early on, become stronger to deal with things, whereas people who do not suffer hardship early on get wiped off when real hardship arrives.

His whole strategy is about how to do things in life by not trying to take the greedy algorithm [1] strategy where you choose the most logically beneficial outcome at each step and hoping to find the global optimum. Rather he talks about how various organisms in nature take a less than optimal step in the short run, but in a roundabout way they win big.

Spitznagel runs a billion-dollar hedge fund based on the same strategy, and his investment approach is to make less profit in the immediate future, only to make a humongous profit in the long-term future. He has demonstrated this strategy with his fund in 2015 when the market flash crashed and he made billions.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greedy_algorithm


Code Complete, Clean Code, and Debugging were profoundly educational to me as a junior developer. The Obstacle is the Way helped me deal with personal issues, but it's still a work in progress. The Joy of Less was a great introduction to minimalism. I just started reading Neuromancer but its got me hooked on the scifi/cyberpunk genre.


Absolutely, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. He crafts a beautiful story.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was a long one, but very very good also.

Lastly, The Empire of Austria: Its Rise and Present Power by John S. C. Abbott. It gave me a deeper understanding and historical context on where I am currently based.


Pretty popular and not a niche book, but I enjoyed Give and Take by Adam Grant very much [0].

- [0] https://www.robinwieruch.de/lessons-learned-give-and-take/


Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Red Rising and sequels by Pierce Brown

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

(I read Three Body Problem + sequels in 2016. The first book I thought was ok. I really liked the second book - The Dark Forest - the Dark Forest theory of the universe I thought was quite interesting)



Tim Wu's "The Master Switch". A history of communications industries in the United States with an emphasis on consolidation / industrial organization and its effects on free speech.


Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow


My second favorite book I read this year was Sapiens which is also really good in case anyone is interested. I mention it because AFAIK, the book the person I’m responding to recommended is a follow-up of sorts.


Fiction: A Little Life, not about technology but a very eye-opening set of perspectives I've never read before. Cried on the El twice while reading it.

Nonfiction: Master of the Senate by Rob Caro. Lyndon Johnson's years in the senate (1949-1960) with an incredibly rich historical backdrop and detail. Caro is known for writing about power and how powerful people have wielded it, and this is a master work. Paints a very human picture of an extremely effective politician.


I read it a few years ago, but I must second _Master of the Senate_. Probably the best book on American politics I have ever read.


If you like Caro's work check out The Power Broker.


I actually much prefer the years of LBJ to the power broker. Caro uses the extra length to go soon much deeper.


I've read all Caro's work. I greatly enjoyed them all, although the last book felt like it lost its way about halfway through. Hopefully volume five will be back on track.


The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America by Summer Brennan. I learned more about oysters than I thought possible, the history of oyster farming, and a lot about the setting aside of land for national parks. It doesn't drag at all, and the author does a great job of trying to stay relatively neutral. She does explain her conclusions at the end, but only have you have formed your own.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21094755-command-and-con...

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser

A great history of the US nuclear stockpile interwoven with the story of a specific silo accident


I am currently reading the Strugatsky brothers' "The Doomed City". The history of the book and its fanfare intrigued me. Sci Fi played an important role in Russian history as authors treaded carefully with their criticisms of the State. This book was written and went unreleased for decades in fear of retribution.


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Highest possible recommendation. Everyone I've urged to read it has loved it.


Tim O'Reilly's WTF - What's the future. The single best part was where he details how O'Reilly forecasts the future. But great chapters on open data and also the clearest explanation on how and why the economy has changed in the past fifty years.


End of the World Running Club - I picked it up for £1 on kindle and its about a group running the length of the UK to make the boat leaving the UK following a asteroid strike

Also liking Shoe Dog by Phil Knight at the moment


Not done with it yet but listening to a great audiobook from Audible called Shoe Dog about the founding of Nike. Great story of the tough grind of starting a business. Recommended on the Acquired podcast.


One of the best books I've read ever! Haskell Programming: http://haskellbook.com/index.html


Deep Work by Cal Newport


Jaron Lanier's "Dawn of the New Everything". Beautiful description of his journey in VR and how Silicon Valley has evolved from the early 80s.


Shoe Dog - Phil Knight

I read this book based on the recommendation of Bill Gates. It was one of the best books I have read in a while


Travels with Charley in search of America


The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis


leonardo da vinci bio by walter isaacson came out this year. very in-depth & excellently researched


Principles by Ray Dalio, and its not even close. Best book of 2017 imo.


Sapiens by Noah Harari or When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


Angel by Jason Calacanis

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares


The Simple Path to Wealth by J.L. Collins


To get a taste of what this book is about, you can also check out his blog at http://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/


+1 for this one. I just finished it.So much wisdom.


Agree this is great, should be required reading for anyone who wants to hit Financial Independence. Natural fit for HN readers.


I think it should be read by everybody, period.


"An American Sickness"


Teaming with microbes


“Between Facts and Norms” by Juergen Habermas. A voice of clarity for a time of confusion and rancor.




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