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Ask HN: What was the best book you've read this year?
29 points by iamthirsty 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn.

Science is not a purely additive process. New facts and theories are not simply added to the pile of existing ones. New knowledge and understanding often requires abandoning or drastically reconceiving old theories and observations. Kuhn explores this in great detail, and I found it fascinating and insightful.

For example, prior to the invention of the telescope, the celestial sphere was viewed as fundamentally different from the earthly sphere. But a simple look at the moon in Galileo's telescope reveals it to be a body that is very similar to the Earth. It has mountains which cast shadows as the light moves across them, and so on.

The "moon" must now be be viewed as a rather different concept, and this new conception is invoked every time one looks at it. This new "paradigm" affects other observations, such as those of Jupiter and Saturn. They are not pure, static points of light like stars, and some color and a circular shape can be see with the new telescope. Must they be bodies like that of the Moon or Earth as well?

In the book, as Kuhn presents his analysis, it seems we are also taking a deep look at epistemology, and the subtleties and differences between how something is perceived and how it is conceived. Grounded in the historical narrative of scientific advancement, I found this investigation of those difficult and elusive topics to be more enlightening than usual.

I believe that some criticize Kuhn for how sharp and discontinuous he describes his paradigm shifts to be. For me, this was not a main point. I enjoyed his detailed analysis of how paradigms change in general, and why this is a more accurate description of how science progresses, compared to additive models.

If you like Kuhn, you'll like "Theories On The Scrap Heap" by Losee. A chronicling and criticism of the different views of science.

Thanks for the recommendation, I'll check it out.

"A Man For All Markets" by Edward O. Thorp

The incredible true story of the card-counting mathematics professor who taught the world how to beat the dealer and, as the first of the great quantitative investors, ushered in a revolution on Wall Street.


This is the best book published in 2017 bar none and a great inspiration to booth...

> "A Man For All Markets" by Edward O. Thorp....

Seconded. I started reading the book last night and it's a can't-put-down. You just sense the genius and greatness of the man shine through with every page you covered.

I however wouldn't go so far as say it is the "best book published in 2017 bar none"

What is your choice for book of the year? I am reading all the time and I am always on a look out for my next read... Thanks!

Blindsight by Peter Watts - really interesting high concept sci-fi about the nature of life and consciousness.

Designing Data Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann. This book really made stream processing and Kafka click for me.

League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

Excellently written, impactful stories, solid science and a scandal as big as Big Tobacco... I couldn't put it down and read the whole thing in a weekend.

Absorbing and disturbing. I used to glorify Iron Mike back in the day. Hearing his story and that of his family trying to take care of him as his cognitive function deteriorated was heart-wrenching. All the while as the NFL suppressed data and fought him tooth and nail from paying disability.

Key takeaway: Letting your kids play football is akin to child abuse.

“Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. It was published back in 2011, but I just got to it this year.

It’s a concise history of humans. Common for books to aim at this, rare to hit it.

The most interesting thought I took from the book is that humans and civilizations biggest advancement was the ability to accept collective fictions to assemble greater than just small tribes. Nations, currencies, religions, morality.

The concept has been stuck in my head like me moving a smooth stone slowly around my mouth.

The description on the conflict and resolution between Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens was interesting as well.

Shogun by James Clavell. Probably the best fiction book I've ever read. Fascinating characters, amazing descriptions of feudal Japan's culture, society, and philosophy. Great storyline and suspense.

Truly an all around masterpiece. I've been to Japan once before and now I want to go back based entirely on reading this book. I feel like I'll see the country (and it's people) in a whole new light now.

I would suggest the whole "Asian Saga" my childhood favorite (and re reading it when I have nothing else) a must read for sure...

Thanks for the recommendation- just added this to my audible cart for my next set of credits, sounds great!

I´ve read the book "Behind the Cloud" by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler. It tells the story of how salesforce.com was founded and how it has developed into the strong brand it is today. The book is full of valuable insights into many different fields of business and development.

An American Sickness, detailing he misaligned incentives and "brokenness" of the American healthcare system.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller. Read about John D Rockefeller and the likes of Bezos and Zuck seem like amateurs.

I have ways of making money that you know nothing of - John D Rockefeller.

"Big Business and Human Values" by Theodore Houser.

Pretty amazing take on how to run a business when compared to how we see things happening now. And prophetic in it's critique of how Wall Street and stock holders change the human values of how businesses are run, especially considering the position he held and his comparative and actual counterparts now.

It's a short book and an easy read, but it's very well thought out and articulated and it covers some very important aspects of the responsibilities of big business that seem to be popular to ignore right now.

I highly recommend it.

Charlatan by Pope Brock. It's a thrilling non-fictional account of a medical quack who got rich putting goat testicles in men's scrotums. Due to his talent for speaking straight to the people over a new communication medium that nobody understood the power of (radio), he very nearly became the governor of Kansas.

I heard about it through the excellent Reply All episode from late last year, and the book is even better.

Sounds like Trump!

That was the strong subtext of the Reply All episode: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/86-man-of-the-people/ They talked about how this was a story from the early 1900s that felt like it was happened last week.

Rembrandt's Eyes by Simon Schama - verbose but fun writing. Very good analysis of the painter, his life, and how it was reflected in his art.

"Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World" by Cal Newport

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson

Feeling is the Secret - Neville Goddard

"2666" by Roberto Bolaño.

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