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The Best Textbooks on Every Subject (lesswrong.com)
823 points by Ibethewalrus on July 26, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 186 comments

I have to admit that I have often disagreed with others over what textbooks are best, but I think that's natural.

For one, you often start a field with a specific book. If you pour a lot of time into that book, you often feel more attached to it. Then, when trying to evaluate another textbook, it's hard (impossible?) to go through that same experience and understand if you would have had an easier time with the material. There are definitely some obvious cases, but it isn't always.

Second, sometimes people just have different learning styles and have a preference for them. Landau and Lifshitz has a reputation for being very hard (but rewarding!) to parse, and that is easily a showstopper for some people. Other books might only have relatively easy exercises (Axler's Linear Algebra Done Right, for example), which can help you gain a lot of confidence, while others might have many very difficult or very tedious problems. Some might have solutions to problems, some might not.

Really, I think the best we can do is put a list of "top books" for each subject rather than the "best textbooks" for each subject.

Learning styles is a myth..


I used to believe this nonsense myself.

The article exaggerates a little bit. The myth is that every person has one specific style in which they learn best, and that this is how they should ALWAYS be taught.

Different ways of learning different subjects will be more or less effective for different students. All the studies linked in the article show that students perform best when presented new information in multiple representations, so they can then focus on the style that is working best for them in that case.

My "learning style" is a consequence of my attention span (I've got ADD). I tend to start thinking about tangents even (or especially) during the more interesting lectures. After 30mins I'm often hopelessly lost. Books (or video lectures for that matter) let me rewind when I "snap back" after those tangents.

My main point being: maybe learning styles don't exist in the traditional sense, but external factors (ADD being just one of them) can lead to another type of "learning styles" that manifest in effectively the same way.

Yeah, you two are talking about different things. "Learning styles is a myth" refers to a very specific definition (that was used and defined in academic literature) of learning styles.

It doesn't mean that people won't learn differentially. It just means that specific model is wrong.

Same. Lectures are useless to me. I also find books and equations generally boring. I can do it, but I have to overcome some kind of aversion, and when the author explains something I don't think is important I immediately go do something else. I suspect I'm a lost cause. I do much better with the random walk.

That isn’t really germane to the grandparent poster’s point.

Feel free to replace his or her shorthand “learning style” with something like “personal preference, past experience, and miscellaneous psychological factors”.

Whether or not the published work about “learning styles” was solid science with meaningful conclusions for guiding formal pedagogy, it is all but impossible to argue that different students don’t respond better to different books.

Or so some studies say. But the quality and reliability of soft science studies like these is an even bigger myth -- and the reproducibility crisis is real.

In any case, whether learning styles are a myth or not, learning preferences about teaching styles are very real, and what works for someone to keep them engaged can bore someone else to tears and drive them off a course.

I won't downvote you because I disagree with you (who does that???)...

look, sure this broad idea about learning styles may be false, but you cannot I think disagree that a book may be more or less suitable for someone depending on their particular strengths and weaknesses, and that OP's point.

The point of using learning styles should never be to pigeonhole someone into a limited form of data consumption. It needs to used to teach them build a bridge from where they are, to where they need to be. It should be about teaching the student how to process any type of information from any type of source. In order to do that, we need to know how they process, so they can build a system that allows them the best use of whatever it is they're learning.

The brain needs to be progressively challenged just like any muscle and achieving a state of mild confusion while consuming new information does just that.

I didn't mean to use the term that way, just that different textbooks can be more effective than others.

Same reasons I take issue with the phrase "best practice". Besides my cynical POV that when people start talking about "best practices", they are about to tell you that whatever you're doing is wrong, and here, let me sell you on NEW_DEVELOPMENT_PARADIGM_FAD. I'm all for making things better, but I'd argue, there's no "best" practice, only strongly recommended guidelines and some practices that have fallen by the wayside as we learn to do things better.

Replace Best Practice, with Good Practice and it may be less irksome for you, as it leaves it open for improvement, and is not mutually exclusive with other good practices.

perhaps it's really related to the word "Best" and wouldn't be as bad with "Good" but i've found that these things, more often than not, are neither. "Best Practice" is just a concise reformulation of "this has been blogged about a lot and everybody else seems to be doing it", it's an incantation intended to shutdown brains and differing views. i'm just moving off a job in a company full of "Best Practices" that cost shitloads of effort in exchange for negligible benefits. nobody stopped to weigh the pros against the cons, because they're industry best practices, so they gotta be good; doing what everybody else does gets you more job offers than doing what works well.

I definitely agree that reading textbooks is not commutative with respect to ordering. I wonder whether there is any method for de-biasing from this pernicious effect? Other than, perhaps, split up a test and control group that reads A followed by B, or vice versa, and then debates what they have learned?

> For one, you often start a field with a specific book. If you pour a lot of time into that book, you often feel more attached to it. Then, when trying to evaluate another textbook, it's hard (impossible?) to go through that same experience and understand if you would have had an easier time with the material. There are definitely some obvious cases, but it isn't always.

Exactly what I noticed about other types of comparisons. People conflate familiarity with quality. That's why loyalty wars, like vim vs emacs, verilog vs vhdl, python vs ruby, etc, have significant components of subjectivity. It's not a purely objective debate about vim vs emacs, rather a debate between a comfortable user of vim and a comfortable user of emacs. That's why when someone decides to learn the rival tool properly before bashing it, they end up not being too radical in their views.

To your first point: I agree that as a consumer of textbooks, it is difficult to fairly compare them. But, if one were an instructor in a subject, it would probably be a bit easier to observe how groups of people react to different textbooks, to get some bulk idea of which is better or worse. So, I don't think it's impossible to meaningfully compare books and make a "best of" list, but that list should be created by people who are maybe less biased and have wider perspectives.

Of course, as your second point gets to; a book that's generally considered "best" won't always be the best for a specific reader and their circumstance.

This sounds pretty intriguing, but I'm not sure if professors actually do this...

Has anyone had a professor that tried something like this?

Very true. How people learn depends on different factors like past knowledge, interest in the subject material etc. etc.

But these lists do help in decreasing the search space when trying to find material to learn a new subject.

This is likely why the author of this list only accepted submissions from people who had read at least two other textbooks on the topic.

I don't see why that fixes the issues I brought up --- if anything, I mention that it really isn't a good way to figure it out.

Also, it really depends on what you already know and don't know before you start with a new field. You may be turned off by having to go through too much beginner material to get to what you need.

Or though too little beginner material =).

How do I re-learn math up to a level just before say a US undergrad in Math?

I hated math when I was in secondary-school, but loved computers so did a computer science course which was heavy-ish math in its final year.

Passed that course and now am in a pretty decent programming role, but I feel like my maths is just built on such a shaky foundation that I maybe could improve my programming and problem solving if I solidified the base.

Is there any one text book I could get which would teach me up to that level of Math?

I suspect no, because Math is so broad, but generally if I could get an entire pre-university schooling in Math I would be very happy.

In a previous life, I used to tutor students who had to cover high-school mathematics for their university courses.

What I found was that going through a proper high-school textbook was the best way to cover all the topics systematically and in a focused manner. If you can get your hands on some such books (such as a text for the International Baccalaureate Higher Mathematics or the UK Advanced Levels), that would be the ideal solution.

You can also look at Schaum's series at this level (search them on Amazon). Some useful books are Schaum's Basic Mathematics, Intermediate Algebra, Precalculus, and Calculus. These have the advantage that many problems are solved and the text is completely waffle-free. I myself enjoyed working through Schaum's Calculus whenever I had to brush-up my calculus skills in the university.

Yet another option is to go through the texts by "Art of Problem Solving" (https://artofproblemsolving.com/). From what I have seen so far, these are beautiful texts that stress on improving your problem solving skills along with acquiring technical knowledge. However, I haven't taught from these, so I can't vouch for how the learning experience with them will be like.

I was once in your shoes. Here are the books that helped me out of that spot. I recommend them in this order.

1/ Geometry and the Imagination. Yes, it's geometry. Yes, it's written in a somewhat older style. No, it doesn't do a lot of hand-holding. But if you can spend the time to really understand the dazzling intellectual fireworks going on there it will reward you with a very strong intuitive understanding of a lot of practical mathematics. The key goal of this book was to teach insight and it totally hits the mark.

2/ Contemporary Abstract Algebra by Gallian. This helped me learn more of the language of modern mathematics, so I could be more comfortable approaching recent developments in my field. It is an approachable, not-excessively-rigorous text and again, emphasizes intuition over deep rigor. Even if you don't really need abstract algebra, I'd recommend this book.

3/ Proofs From The Book. This is a brief survey of a selection of especially elegant and beautiful proofs. This is partly valuable for the immediate facts you'll learn-- I have surprised coworkers with a solution to a seemingly difficult problem that closely mirrors something in here more than once-- but is mostly about understanding mathematical standards of beauty and why proofs might be structured the way they are.

4/ TEA's problem solvers for whatever you actually need (calculus, etc). These books are just piles of worked out problems. Personally I found it useful to study several of the hard problems, understand the mechanics of solving them, and then go back to the easy ones and make sure I could work all the way through them without error. In my opinion, combining this practical and detail-oriented legwork with the above theoretical material helps avoid fooling yourself into thinking you can solve problems you really can't.

I'll caution that in math there is no substitute for hard work. Where in programming being lazy is often a virtue, learning math was something that I really had to grind through even when I was enjoying it. It's just a guess, but I suspect the same might be true for you; best to expect it.

As a counterpoint, I have decent math chops and even do a lot of computational geometry professionally, and I really wanted to like "Geometry and the Imagination"—but for me I was till missing way too much information to figure out what he was saying half the time (much of because of the antiquated style), and after putting lots of work into some section I'd get to the end and be like, "this is kinda neat, but it's not rockin' my world or anything..." (to be fair, I did only make it halfway into the second chapter, on lattices iirc, and the later chapters did look more interesting).

I would definitely not recommend it for someone working on high school level math. If I had made an attempt at that in high school, being told it was something I should be capable of then, I probably would have totally given up on any ideas I had about being able to do math well.

If you look at a lot of reviews for math books, you'll find there is a major split between folks who, on one side, believe a math book should should be a sort of pure, elegant, perfect thing with barely anything in it but statements of definitions, theorems and proofs. It should be difficult above all. There should be no trace of how the contents within it came to be, just a pure presentation of some set of mathematical truths. The other side values pedagogy. The mathematical results in themselves are not considered sufficient on their own to be good teachers; instead, attention must be paid to the psychology of one's readers, and in consideration of it, the best route for making contact from the reader's knowledge to the author's must be taken. A typical trend is that the presentation includes context on why and how the results were developed.

I've seen a similar split in CS, and I can say at least here, that I haven't seen any correlation between those insisting on doing everything the hard/austere way and doing interesting/technically impressive work. That said, I haven't personally done anything particularly impressive in mathematics, so I'll refrain from making too strong a comment about the necessity of any particular pedagogical style in that realm.

But I would bet two things: 1) We lose many folks who could have become good mathematicians because they were freaked out by the sort of attitude and presentation making up the first half of the 'split' I describe above 2) It is probably significant that not all excellent mathematicians choose the trial by fire pedagogical approach in their own works.

Hmm. The books I put up here are frequently criticised for focusing on pedagogy at the expense of rigor. So I'm not sure what to say to that.

Overall I agree that too much of mathematics is obfuscated. Whether that's because it makes the author sound smart or because excellent prose isn't a big timesaver for a reader who has to grapple with a complex proof anyway I don't know. Could be both.

But I will reiterate is what I said above: deeply understanding an unfamiliar result or method often is irreducibly hard work that simply must be ground through. That's no reason to make simple things needlessly hard but when it's time to work through something tricky, well, people should expect to spend some time on it. Importantly, they should not feel stupid or bad at math when they have to do so, which I think is probably the thing that loses us the most mathematics besides obfuscated intro calculus.

Maybe go through the Khan Academy math courses. The organize it by grade level. Then you can see where you are lacking.

Two books: Basic Mathematics by Serge Lang and Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P Thompson.

While I love calculus made easy, I do think that someone interested in programming has more from a discrete math book then a calculus book. Or even a statistics book or linear algebra before calculus. We’re Lang is always great though, and his Basic Mathematics book is excellent as a first book to relearn math.

I think pre-university math should focus on algebra and univariate calculus. Also sophisticated freshman programs focus on linear algebra and multivariate calculus and analysis. See e.g. Math 55a/b at Harvard.

You do need calculus for non-trivial statistics and even for some topics of discrete mathematics where continuous approximations are useful. For example Stirling's approximation [1] which if I recall well is on the first page of McKay's Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms.

I think that if we talk about more modern approaches for mathematics, logic, type theory and interactive theorem proving could be great. I've been toying with this idea for teaching a course, but I haven't found suitable materials.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling%27s_approximation

There's a discrete math course that uses types/proving in ML https://cs.wheaton.edu/~tvandrun/dmfp/

Khan academy would be a good resource for that.


I wrote a book which would be a good fit for you (math review for adult learners): No Bullshit Guide to Math & Physics. It covers high school math, calculus, and mechanics. Preview here: https://minireference.com/static/excerpts/noBSguide_v5_previ... (I wrote it for students, but adults, and techies seem to really like it too) Available on lulu.com/shop/ and the Amazons.

This concept map might also help situate you about which math concepts to review: https://minireference.com/static/tutorials/conceptmap.pdf and since you're a coder, you should also look into SymPy which is the best thing since sliced bread when you're learning math, see https://minireference.com/static/tutorials/sympy_tutorial.pd...

Also, +1 to other comments that recommend solving exercises/problems. It's very easy to fall into the trap of "I already know this" when reading math, so always good to try things out on your own and, literally, exercise those new knowledge pathways.

I'm glad you asked this question, and you worded it so well. I'm in the exact same position and I was having trouble articulating my frustration. I've done some Khan Academy but it's not congruent with my learning style I guess, I'd like to find the right textbook for me.

The comment you replied to received loads of responses, and many of the answers ignored the actual request, and plugged their favorite math books instead. In case you missed it, there was at least one suggestion that gave a real answer to the question: 'Basic Mathematics' by Serge Lang[1]. It's a streamlined but somewhat dry textbook that starts with the properties of arithmetic and ends with precalculus. You might try reading through the table of contents to get a better idea of whether or not it will solve your problem!


See my comment above where I plug my book.

Just out of curiosity, what was the problem with Khan Academy? Was it the video format, the pace of explanations, or something else?

Khan Academy has a lot of nice things going for it, but it seems like there's a lot more presentation than there is practice. I don't care about the gamification of learning. The practice problems, of which there are only a few, are wrapped up into an interactive UX. I just want a bunch of problems and solutions that I can work through.

Thanks for the recommendations, obviously the title of your book appeals to me. I will check them out.

As someone who wanted to redo my mathematical foundations and go onto higher maths, I tried (and failed) many different approaches. Eventually I found that New Math books worked for me. I'm about 70% through the www.elementsofmathematics.com course, which is derived from New Math, and loving it. Warning: it's about 3 years worth of work at a normal pace, and covers 6th-12th grade (through precalc, though you get some abstract algebra and number theory too).

I have not used it personally (and am not affiliated) but I've heard good things about ALEKS. It provides an adaptive learning path that supposedly adjusts to you as you master topics. Now that I think about it I think Kahn academy might have a similar feature. For personal use ALEKS has a subscription plan that provides access to their whole catalogue.


Expii.com will work for algebra practice then choose any undergrad intro math text and try it, looking up things you don't remember as you go.

I can highly suggest "What Is Mathematics?" by Courant, Robbins and Stewart.

You don't have to read it cover to cover, but this is the book that will be very helpful in shaping the right perspective.

As a side note, a friend of mine gave it to me in high school. It was probably the book that influenced me the most mathematically. I ended up getting a PhD in math last year.

I like this book too, but I'd say for a typical reader it's more like something you'd want after getting to the point where you're caught up and ready for university mathematics. It's a fairly demanding book. I'd recommend checking reviews on Amazon or something to get more perspectives before diving in.

It is a demanding book -- I never got to really finish reading it cover-to-cover -- but it's very helpful nonetheless even if one reads the parts they find easy.

For example, the first dozen pages on Calculus have imparted a better understanding of the subject than all the indecipherable (if only due to sheer volume) tomes of Stewart. It was an invaluable boost.

I can recommend Gilbert Strang's "introduction to applied mathematics".

It is a great overview of calculus and linear algebra, leading up to PDE and chaos theory. It starts with the discrete models (kirchoff's law on graphs) and then moves on to continuous models as an approximation of the discrete case, which is quite neat.

Take it at your local community college. I’m about to finish a summer session of algebra 2 and I have learned much quicker and more thoroughly than when I attempted with online resources, or books. I highly recommend it!

3blue1brown's calculus and linear algebra series are what I wish I had when I was first studying math at that level


The same guy who does these videos also does many of the math lectures for Khan Academy, which are also good.

I’d use Khan Academy, which lets you build brick by brick from simple addition. The gamification is motivating, and you can’t fool yourself.

Choose s specific math subtopic relevant to your work and bust ass. For you, writing a program using new knowledge might be the best.

Are you finding yourself having difficulty in programming due to weakness in math?

I never liked math that much, but as a professional programmer I don't typically find that the programming I do requires any advanced math.

If your job needs math, learn that math. If your job doesn't need math, there's not a lot of point in learning it because you will forget it again due to non-use.

I don't remember any calculus for example, because I've never needed it since I've been out of school.

Kahn Academy

If what you want is math for computer science, then I recommend Knuth's TAOCP, and its cousin Concrete Mathematics. This is not traditional math, but math applied to CS problems.

Not that I have specific issues with the recommendations there, but from a conceptual standpoint, why should I trust recommendations on every subjects from a centralized non-specialized site when I can search for sites specialized in each subjects and take their recommendations on their own subjects instead.

To me, this article strongly recommends reading textbooks and softly recommends this list. They even go into detail about what methods should be used to validate textbooks generally!

If you input the term "discrete mathematics" in the search field "Books" on Amazon, you get about 15 books (not counting the advertised ones) per page and 101 pages of those. If you slightly change criteria (change the search field by subject or tweak the date or add another term to "discrete mathematics" or ...), you get even more hits (many more). This is essentially a bottomless well. Most books found in this way (many of them incredibly good) will never be found in the lists like that offered by OP for many reasons: lists like that of OP favor 'classics", every month there's a new book on the market that tries to outdo the existing ones, etc Many writers of the newer books are aware of the existence of the classics (in fact, many had to learn from them), so in their books they point out the pitfalls, fill in the holes, add more details and make your learning experience all around more pleasant.

The books in the OP's list might not work for everyone, so you have to do your own searching, sorting and analysis. This is especially true if you are a self-learner and much more so if the subject you want to learn is math because in math you are the one who has to prove every one of your assertions and be as independent as possible.

tl; dr:

don't worry about the "expert opinion". Instead collect data, clean it, analyze it and the consume the parts you need. That way you avoid 'expertise' that comes bundled with traditionalisms, bureaucracy, calcified thinking and other undesirable bullshit.

I share your doubts. For instance, I have a URL saved on my home computer where the (admittedly non-universal) HN consensus was that the CLRS algorithms book recommended here is not a great one to learn from.

However, I think your faith that it's easy to find good recommendations by subject matter experts underestimates the difficulty of finding them in the mass of things on the internet. To take one example, I remember reading a post about two approaches to denotational semantics, along with recommendations about the best textbooks, but have never subsequently been able to find that link.

Because you've spent some time on the site and think that the people on it are likely to come up with good recommendations. And if you haven't, maybe you shouldn't.

Some of the books it is comparing are in completely different classes. For example it is comparing Griffiths Introduction to Electrodynamics and Jackson's Electrodynamics.

You can't read Jackson if you haven't taken Griffiths or an equivalent! Jackson is a graduate textbook whereas Griffiths is undergraduate. And if you don't have a strong math background (knowing multivariate calculus and differential equations) neither of those are recommended.

I think the hard thing about lists like this is that it doesn't specify who it is best for. At least compare books on the same level...

I was going to make exactly this same comment. (And the third text being compared was The Feynman Lectures, which is another entirely different sort of book and level.) This was the example that made me decide that this list's approach just wasn't useful the way that its author wanted it to be.

I could take a stab at an actual list like this with better organization by recommending books for each course in the more or less standard undergraduate core physics curriculum, but I'm sure different professors would make different choices (and even for me, I know that my choices would be situation dependent). It's a hard problem, and it doesn't translate well to the very short summaries shown here.

> but I'm sure different professors would make different choices (and even for me, I know that my choices would be situation dependent).

I think most of us would recommend books that we used. Or adamantly say "stay away from this one!" Like you said, it isn't easy.

But there seem to be a few good options in each level, and usually only a few. I think the best thing to do would be to categorize them by level and say "Here's the most popular books, this is the one I recommend." It is impossible to be unbiased but I think that's about as close as you can expect to get.

I'd love to hear which books you recommend for the core physics curriculum. I started working on such a list[1], but I feel out of my depth for certain courses because I did my UGRAD in Electrical Engineering and don't know the physics UGRAD curriculum that well, let along provide recommendations.

[1] https://github.com/minireference/structure-api/blob/master/d...

You definitely have some stuff messed up in there. It is hard to know without physically opening up books.

An example: Classical Mechanics.

Goldstein is the de facto graduate text on the subject.

I haven't used Hand, but what I could get with the "Surprise Me" feature on Amazon, it looks like a Undergraduate text. I however used Marion and Thornton[0].

There also seems to be some misunderstanding in HOW to order it too. Like you have Mechanics in the beginning. What do you mean by that? The first round? ie: not Classical Mechanics (Junior year). If so, those books are typically a trifecta, containing: mechanics, E&M, some waves, and some modern. Those are typically Young or Halliday and Resnik.

You also separate electricity and magnetism into different sections, in the undergrad section. Why?

You have QM but don't have Griffiths? You have E&M but don't have Griffiths?

Why do you have Sakurai and don't specify which one?! If anything says "Modern" in the title it is probably a graduate book. I can't see inside that one but it is frequently bought with Jackson (E&M) and Goldstein, so I would take a stab at it being a graduate text.

[0] https://smile.amazon.com/Classical-Dynamics-Particles-System...

I should probably write this up more formally somewhere. But have a look, and it would be cool if you'd give me credit somewhere if you use these notes in your own stuff (I'm Steuard Jensen, and I'm a professor at Alma College). For each course below, the books are listed in roughly my order of preference. This is far, far from being every book for each course or even every popular one, but it's a start.

Intro Physics (Mechanics, E&M, waves, etc.):

* Six Ideas That Shaped Physics, by Tom Moore: Conservation laws first, and a nice conceptual approach (and can incorporate "modern physics" along the way).

* Matter and Interactions, by Chabay and Sherwood: Integrated VPython programming, and uses "true" relativistic mechanics right from the start (and quantum's built in, too).

* Physics for Scientists and Engineers, by Randall Knight: As close to a "traditional" intro book as you can get while still paying attention to physics education research. It's very good, though I feel like the latest edition has veered back a bit to a bit more traditional order, perhaps to make it smoother for old professors to switch.

Uncertanity/Error Analysis: (Essential for understanding experimental physics)

* An Introduction to Error Analysis, by John Taylor: Such a beautiful little book!

"Modern Physics": (Is a class whose content mostly ends before 1950 really "modern"?)

* Six Ideas That Shaped Physics (Units R and Q), by Tom Moore: A very nice first introduction to both special relativity and quantum physics. Might need some supplemental content if you have time for more advanced quantum/nuclear stuff.

[* Special Relativity, by Tom Helliwell: I learned out of this, and it was very good. I haven't taught out of it.]

[* Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles, by Eisberg and Resnick: I learned out of this, but haven't taught out of it. Comprehensive.]

Intermediate Classical Dynamics: (I haven't taught this one!)

* ?Classical Mechanics, by John Taylor: I've heard very good things about this one.

[* Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems, by Thornton and Marion: I learned out of it. It was fine.]

Intermediate Electromagnetism:

* Introduction to Electrodynamics, by David Griffiths: Truly excellent introduction to analysis of electric and magnetic fields using vector calculus and partial differential equations.

[* ?Classical Electromagnetic Radiation, by Heald and Marion: I learned out of this. Not my favorite book, but it did the job.]

Intermediate Quantum Mechanics:

* A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, by John Townsend: Inspired by Sakurai's graduate text, Townsend starts by studying spin and Stern-Gerlach experiments in depth using Dirac bra-ket notation, and then progresses to time evolution and position space. The chapter on the path integral formulation is fun but optional, and there's good stuff on perturbation theory and scattering and some hints toward field theory. (This may work best if students had a strong "Modern Physics" course first that studied wavefunctions in some depth.)

[* Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, by David Griffiths: I haven't used this myself. An excellent quantum book with a more "traditional" organization, starting with wavefunctions and only later talking about Dirac notation and spin.]

Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics:

* An Introduction to Thermal Physics, by Daniel Schroeder: A fantastic, multi-pass blend of statistical mechanics and classical thermodynamics. It starts with basic classical definitions of thermal concepts, then introduces explicit state counting in medium-sized systems with the help of Excel, then discusses classical thermodynamics in depth, and finally goes into a full discussion Boltzmann factors and statmech.

* Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics, by Frederick Reif: This was (for me) the least bad of the books that I used to teach myself undergraduate statmech while I was in graduate school. (I foolishly arranged to avoid the class as an undergrad.)

The main idea from lesswrong is to prefer textbooks over other other books.

More related to software, I have another rule: read the official documentation first before going somewhere else. Though often less polished than external books, it comes from the creator and it usually worth the effort.

Good reminder.

The official Postgres manual instantly comes to mind whenever I think about great documentation. There's just something about the way it's split up, and especially the typical length of a leaf page, that makes it absurdly helpful.



And the fact that you can usually find the exact page you want from Google is nice. As a bonus, if google gives you the wrong version, that page links to the same page for every other version too.

It's a joy.

Documentation of major products has definitely improved. As has tooling for producing and consuming it.

When open source was getting rolling in the 90s I don't remember it being nearly so polished.

Ah, you must not work on a Microsoft stack.

Ha. Although you have to admit even modern MS documentation is loads better than it was historically.

And at least there's some kind of acknowledged API now (even if the first class languages shift with the slightest breeze).

Would this advice apply to JavaScript (ES6)? Can anyone speak from experience?

Anyone here read the "Thinking in Systems" book? systems thinking seems to be surprisingly absent from many professional developers and engineers. Or, they lack the ability to abstract properly beyond their specific domains. I'm trying to improve this in my office and would like to find some books to hand out to people (particularly some of the more promising young folks, influence them before they get stuck in a bad mode of thought).

Based on the Amazon reviews it seems like it might be the sort of book I'm looking for, I'll continue to check through those and for other reviews later.

It's an excellent book for folks who haven't been exposed to this stuff [1] before, but it could be called "Cybernetics for Dummies" (I don't mean that in a bad way!)

I can recommend "Feedback Control for Computer Systems" by Philipp Janert [2], but the real underlying treasure is understanding Cybernetics. For that, try "Introduction to Cybernetics" by W. Ross Ashby [3].

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

[2] http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920028970.do

[3] PDF available from http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASHBBOOK.html

I’ve read both your replies. I’ll check out your suggestions over the next few weeks. Much appreciated.

I really enjoyed that book. You can always read the final chapter with her summary, but I found it more worthwhile to read the entire book first.

Not sure if it may serve your purpose but if you Google for “Systems Engineering Book NASA”, you may find a text book from NASA.

You may take a look.


I believe this is what you're referring to. This seems useful as a reference, but not what I'm looking for.

It's on my reading list. I'm currently reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, and it's up next.

I quite liked it. To be honest, I read it either before or after Gerry Weinberg's systems book and really enjoyed them both. Unfortunately their content is now jumbled in my brain and I don't remember who said what.

It’s been on my ‘sometime later’ list, but after seeing it mentioned again and again, I’ll will start reading it tonight.

I read it and both enjoyed it and found it valuable. It's in my recommended reading list for product people.

I'll pick it up (based on your and others' comments here as well as reviews I've been able to find). It seems like it might be the sort of material I'm looking for.

I don't find it anymore surprising than interest in mathematics being absent from many people.

The solution to your surprise will be a re-calibration of the expectations you have, not them magically becoming more like you :)

A brain dump of my thoughts on this follows:


Kind of gets at what I'm wanting to convey to people. Often (especially with technical people) we focus on a narrow thing. I have a problem, I will fix it. We don't examine the environment in which the problem exists to actually understand its causes and impacts. Maybe my problem is actually not a problem for the organization, it may actually be a benefit. Example:

A friend works in aircraft maintenance. They do something called "bonded repair", using adhesives to apply patches rather than other techniques. It's remarkably effective. But when the patch is later removed during a big maintenance effort, the technicians have to remove the remaining adhesives. They've been given a plastic (consumable) tool, it's slow and breaks but they're cheap and ultimately effective. The technicians look at the "problem" (too slow, breaks) and go find a metal tool. It's faster, doesn't break, they can get the whole area cleared by lunch. Great!

No! The metal tool introduces scratches. Scratches become failure points in the future so they have to be repaired before the aircraft is released. The local optimum introduced a 2-week delay in releasing every aircraft while damage detection and repair was conducted. And potentially worse failures in the future if the scratches aren't detected.

A systems thinker would examine the whole of the operation before solving their local problem. This is the thing I want to convey to my colleagues.

For developers, the locally (to you or maybe even your team) optimal decision to use language X may seem great. But then it turns out you aren't the one maintaining it in 5 years. Your choice to use Rust in 2011 was ok. But now in 2018 none of your code compiles because of changes to the language in the intervening 7 years [0]. Now the maintainers have to rewrite things, or stick with a now very outdated and potentially unstable compiler and tool suite. C++ may have been unpleasant to use, but it may have been a better choice within the environment of the decision.

Other times, by not applying systems thinking, you find yourself solving the same or similar problems over and over. Perhaps your code review process is incomplete, or your use of version control is non-existent or haphazard. Have you ever been in a shop where the same damn bug showed up every second or third build? Why? Because they solved the problem (the bug) but failed to understand the process and systemic problems that permitted the regression in the first place. And if that regression-permission-failure isn't addressed, other regressions will happen in the future and may go undetected.


Long story short: Systems engineering applies systems thinking to the design and development of, well, systems. Software engineers should definitely study it, at least if they want to be called engineers. But systems thinking is a component of systems engineering that can go way beyond that one area in terms of applications. The more people can view things this way, the better off your team, your office, your company, your world can be. My problem is not just conveying the value of it (I have anecdotes galore), but actually bringing people up to the level where they can do it themselves, independent of my prodding and guiding.


[0] Not a dig on Rust. They've stabilized the language specification, but this is a thing that can and does happen.

I read this after entering my first reply above.

Get you a copy of "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual" by Bill Mollison.[1] Never mind that it's technically about farming. It's the finest manual of abstract design I've ever encountered.

I promise you, it's what you're looking for.[2]

[1] This is the publisher's site but it might be faster/cheaper to order from e.g. Amazon, as they are in Australia: http://www.tagari.com/store/books/permaculture-a-designers-m...

[2] Did you ever read "Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven? This book teaches Motie engineering.

complexitylabs.io offers plenty of gentle introductory material.

Interesting. I'll check out the courses they have over the weekend. I appreciate the link.

On the neuroscience recommendation: I had been reading Principles of Neural Science and decided to check out the recommendation, Neuroscience Exploring the Brain, and it actually does seem much better written and more informative/useful. Thanks for the link! Also, most of these texts are at library genesis: http://gen.lib.rus.ec/

Here are mine, from my area of study (physics).

Quantum mechanics: Cohen-Tannoudji et al. Simply sublime. Read the first chapter and you will understand the physics of quantum mechanics. Read the second chapter and you will understand the mathematics. The rest of the book is a reference of nearly every basic topic in nonrelativistic quantum mechanics.

Classical Mechanics: Landau and Lifshitz. Simply my kind of book. Terse, to the point, no faffing about, yet detailed and rich in discussion and physical insight. In other words, does not say anything it doesn't need, and doesn't omit anything that it shouldn't.

QFT: Peskin and Schroeder. The clearest introduction I found of this difficult topic.

You a fan of Boas? Still have Mathermatical Methods open on my desk here at work.

Never read that, I'm afraid. I used Arfken and Riley as my main practical mathematical reference works, throughout my degree.

I think the "best" is based on a lot of factors. I teach at a liberal arts college so the "best" book for me is an OER book because I don't want to charge my students for a book that some of them may not be able to afford. If there is something wrong or lacking in the book I tell my students what I think is right or missing.

What I use:

Public Speaking: http://www.publicspeakingproject.org/

Intro to Comm: http://kell.indstate.edu/public-comm-intro/ (I helped revise this and edited together one of the chapter from existing OER chapters with my own material)

Intro to Media Studies: http://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=143

I think most things that claim the "best" in categories which really don't have "best"s is mainly for the clickbait. They often end up being like the link... a recommendation with a bunch of other worthy recommendations

But, for instance, the linguistics recommendation is seemingly based on the remarks of one pseudo-anonymous commenter. And it's also hard to give such general recommendations for large subjects. Even at a more generalist level, do you want a really, really general overview of the broadest possible coverage? Or do you want a slightly more focussed overview that actually gets into somewhat more meaning information? Certainly for a course textbook, the former type isn't very useful at all.

As others have noted, a survey isn’t a good indicator of quality, as it has more to do with what people learned from.

An approach I have used in the past: given a field F, find universities best known in F, and see what textbooks they use in their courses.

For math and physics textbooks, I find the Chicago undergraduate bibliographies quite useful: https://github.com/ystael/chicago-ug-math-bib and https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~abhishek/chicphys.htm

Yes, in fact some recommendations at LW are odd:

"On analysis in Rn, orthonormal recommends Strichartz's The Way of Analysis over Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis and Kolmogorov & Fomin's Introduction to Real Analysis."

Rudin or Kolmogorov & Fomin are waaaay more advanced than Strichartz. If they wanted a more conceptual but still advanced book they could recommend e.g. Hubbard & Hubbard which is a marvelous book IMHO. I'd put it on par with SICP and CTM in terms of the enormous amount of ground it covers and the insights a novel reader can get.

I’m a big fan of reading textbooks. I tend to buy and read several texts on the subjects that interest me most, and then continually to revisit each of them as my experience and knowledge in the subject broadens and deepens.

But I feel like this sort of list is basically misguided, because the textbook that best suits a reader depends crucially on (a) the reader’s particular background and (b) the reader’s goals in learning a subject. Every textbook on a particular subject is written for a different target audience and emphasizes different aspects of the subject, so in addition to trying to identify overall quality of exposition, prospective readers should try to identify the text that best suits their knowledge and interests as they sit down to read. And after reading one text, a reader’s knowledge and interest in the subject should have changed substantially: his or her interest may be exhausted, but if it’s piqued the reader should then move on to another text that covers the subject more deeply or from a different perspective.

In short, there is no such thing as a “best” textbook. There are good and bad texts, but they’re good and bad for different readers. Well, there are some texts that are just bad and will be bad for just about any reader, but the good ones are all good only for a certain subset of readers whose background in the subject and its prerequisites, and whose goals in learning it, best match what the author had in mind (or implicitly assumes).

> But I feel like this sort of list is basically misguided, because the textbook that best suits a reader depends crucially on (a) the reader’s particular background and (b) the reader’s goals in learning a subject.

This is why the list was great you got to read a bunch of reviews that didn't just talk about one book but compared them. With people making lots of comments about what they got out of each textbook.

Even so, the list is not misguided, it's pretty useful.

Spivak's Calculus, oh, the memories! Logic at its finest. Definitely a nice maths book, as it is the place to learn how logical reasoning combined with fundamental concepts can be developed into a rigorous mathematical theory rather than a bunch of tools and techniques learned by rote.

Combine with the oldish, but still unbeatable in their clarity and charisma, video lectures by Herbert Gross and you can have tons of pure, free fun.

Herbert Gross' videos - absolutely amazing work of art. Nostalgic sentiment as a bonus :)

The book is also beautifully typeset. A magnificent book.

I tried reading the modern quantum mechanics book, but it seems very difficult off the bat. Seems like there is a lot they expect you to have a very heavy physics background already. I have a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in math so I figured I had enough to work my way through it, but I don't know any more. Anyone have a recommendation for a book that can ease me into it a little better?

I've read Griffiths, most of Shankar, some of Sakurai, and some of Feynman.

Of those, I would say Griffiths is the best option for someone with your background. It's short enough that you have some hope of going through the entire book, and it has you doing real calculations. The writing is good.

Shankar has lots of good stuff, but its 600+ pages long, so a bit overwhelming. I also found the explanations not as clear as in Griffiths.

The perspective in Feynman and Sakurai is quite different than in Griffiths, and it is possibly a better approach. But Sakurai is much more challenging than Griffiths and not nearly as well written. Feynman lacks the worked examples and exercises that Griffiths has, so is not (IMO) appropriate as your sole textbook, but definitely worth looking at for the different perspective. A text taking the Feynman (or Sakurai) approach, but at the length and level of Griffiths, would be valuable.

(I taught myself basic QM prior to going to grad school in physics, with a background similar to your, so I have some direct experience here. This was about 12 years ago. Perhaps there are better options now.)

Hmm... both Messiah and Sakurai are usually at the graduate level. If you're fairly strong in math I'd recommend Messiah, but I can't recall off the top of my head whether there is a good chunk of physical knowledge expected. IIRC, it's a more axiomatic approach than most QM textbooks, so I'd pick this up (I believe Dover has a cheap version, but it's also available on PDF in most places).

The usual undergraduate textbook that people recommend is Griffiths, though I definitely disagree with its usefulness (the book often opts for doing a bunch of calculations to 'get the intuition,' as opposed to explaining some points clearly, which is fine but I dislike this approach).

If you're up for a fantastic, but quite dense, reading, Bohm's Quantum Theory holds a special place in my heart for its brilliant motivation and fairly clear exposition of foundational QM (note that it doesn't concern itself with the notion of Bohmian mechanics at all). This book sits on my bookshelf with hundreds of notes all over its pages. Of course, there is a good chunk of physics expected to be able to read this book, but you should skim it and skip to the chapters of interest as a good reference !

My program required a course in QM and recommended a second.

I will say I found Griffiths incredibly difficult (it was the official text for the first course). Admittedly this is in part because my maths background was not as strong as it should have been (the quality of my school's advising was poor, and indicated that I didn't need linear algebra - among other faults). I found myself regularly consulting Eisberg and Resnick's Quantum Physics which had a nice logical structure and fully worked paradigm cases. I thought Zettili was an excellent reference as well.

I'd like to revisit all this at some point. If anyone has a link to a recommended course of study for refreshing physics majors, I'd love to have a look.

Not sure if this one is going to be any easier, but I've been slowly going through Max Born's Atomic Physics after I picked up it used for really cheap. I like the way he goes through each step historically and presents quantum mechanics as a progression of discoveries based on what people were thinking at the time, which for me made it easier to reason about.

As per author's recommendation I checked the alibris website for books on other subjects. Unfortunately top books in programming are C/Java/Algo & Cracking interview.


On electrodynamics, madhadron recommends Purcell's Electricity and Magnetism over Griffith's Introduction to Electrodynamics, Feynman's Lectures on Physics, and others. Right on!!

I don't want the "best" textbook in a subject any more than I want the "best" editor[0]. "Best" is a really big judgement call.

I want "widely accepted as great" or maybe even "good." Great or Good books may not cover exactly the same material, but any given one is likely to cover most of the material (all of the material that author/team considers most important) and avoid mistakes.

[0] Vim, Emacs, Sublime2, Sublime3, Atom, VSCode, Scintilla-based stuff, various IDEs, etc.

This book isn't a text book, and doesn't want to be, but for Fourier Analysis, "Who is Fourier? A Mathematical Adventure" provides an introduction to the subject that, IMO, few books can match: https://www.amazon.com/Who-Fourier-Mathematical-Adventure-2n...

I would add "The Jazz Piano Book" by Mark Levine - for anyone learning music theory, even if you happen to hate jazz

In which 'Every' means a very limited subset of {EVERY}

This will help a little, but if you scour HN, then you get the wisdom of crowds. Today I found a really short succinct book on ASP.net, it was exactly what I was looking for!

surprised not to see morrison and boyd get a mention in the organic chemistry sector, at least as a contender. that was my pick for outstanding textbook across my entire academic career; they just presented the material so much better than i'd seen anyone else do on the topic.

Any recommendations for exercise physiology textbooks?

"Art of Electronics" Horowitz and Hill

Can anyone weigh in on the math recommendations?

The last (only?) recommendation for Numerical Analysis, "Numerical Recipes", is infamous for its poorly-written and hard to parse code examples. AFAIK some of it doesn't even compile.

For Algebra, I'd rather recommend Aluffi's "Algebra Chapter 0". The prerequisites are maybe a passing knowledge of some algebra, but mostly start with fundamentals and develop the concepts through explanation and then interesting exercises. It's a joy to work through, but can occasionally be tough.

For Analysis, I'd rather recommend Tao's "Analysis I". Tao has the style that I really enjoy where he uses a mix of intuition and light mathematical maturity to build basic Analysis from first principles. Not everyone benefits from this approach, but if you're the person who enjoys discussing and debating with the author as you develop the fundamentals, then Tao's Analysis is fantastic.

Aluffi's book switches to the language of category theory way too early. The best introductory yet "serious" book on abstract algebra is A first course by Fraleigh; for topology, the book by Munkres is at the same level.

I preferred that approach, personally. I felt the categorical treatment led to a bit more unified insight rather than treading each of the cases as independent with similarities we just "take note".

I found the Stumbling Robot list of math books to be a bit better. It lists multiple books for a number of topics and explains the differences / difficulty.


> On business, joshkaufman recommends Kaufman's The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business over Bevelin's Seeking Wisdom and Munger's Poor Charlie's Alamanack.

What a rat. Recommends his own book over two others. This is exactly what is wrong with University textbook selection. They're often just picking their friends, or someone who picked their textbook. Crooked and corrupt.

We likely agree on the larger sentiment here, but in fairness to the author I think the context of the post makes this more acceptable. The textbook recommendations are all submitted in the comments below the compiled list, and the author's own submission[0] includes at least a disclaimer and a justification for why the author felt the need to write the book.

0: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/xg3hXCYQPJkwHyik2/the-best-t...

Edit: I have not read this book or any others in the domain, just wanted to add some context I did not already see in this thread.

I can't say I blame him.

I mean, if I thought someone had written a better book on a subject than I could, I doubt I'd bother writing the book!

You shouldn't trust a book recommendation of the recommender doesn't explain why they are recommending it.

If you write your own textbook, you had better be prepared to explain why your book is better than other books on the same subject.

The author did, though you may not find it satisfactory. In particular, people attacked him for recommending his book, with little specific counterargument ("it's terrible" isn't good enough). If they had engaged him in a dialog instead of insulting, maybe we'd have a better justification in the list.

I kinda feel the most ethical thing for an author to do is focus on a recommendation for the best book that isn't theirs (e.g. besides my book X, I'd recommend Y for Z reasons).

Why would they have bothered writing the book if others existed?

Or, if better books existed after they wrote theirs, why would they bother mentioning theirs at all?

You can acknowledge that someone else's book is well-written, accurate, and valuable even if you think yours is better, or has a different focus, or a different pedagogical method, or...

The rules for the list don't say that an author can't recommend his/her own book. The rules do say that a recommender must explain why he/she recommends one book over others, which this author did.

Well, to give credit where it's due, The Personal MBA is not a bad book. It has a slightly misleading title though. It should have been called "extremely short pieces about various aspects of business".

The real value of it, at least for me, is inspiration. I read a small chapter (which is often just a page or half) and think how it relates to my actual situation. This gives me some food for thought, and very often for action, for a couple of days. Then I go back to the book, read the next piece, and so on. I sometimes disagree with the author, but it's a positive experience overall.

God, I hate books like that. In my youth, I got on a freestyle kick (go watch Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme) and bought a book called 'How To Rap' because it was well reviewed. I was hoping for some sort of insight from the greats. It was entirely made of just quotes from different rappers. Barely any structure whatsoever.

I am partway through reading The Personal MBA, and the book of quotes you mentions sound very, very different. Sure, The Personal MBA is not a deep dive into any subject (it's not meant to be) but it's got a lot more meat than just quotes from other textbooks.

Probably could have used a more clear disclosure, but it is probably one of the best books for a solid overview.

If you look at the comment where he makes that recommendation, it starts with:

> "I'm the author, so feel free to discount appropriately."

The process of consolidating all the recommendations into a list didn't leave room to say that sort of thing, though.

Add a star next to the item and a foot note or exclude your book from the list.

While I agree that it's not "in good taste" to recommend your own book like this. I feel your reaction is a bit harsh and did not consider that he actually gave disclosure upon recommending the book.

Agree 100%. I submitted this post but arrived at the same conclusion with this book recommendation, also the author is way too young to have ample experience...

Too young to have ample experience? He’s distilling the results of reading over a thousand books on various business topics into a book on what business is. You don’t need ample experience for that. You need the stamina to read, judge and summarise all those books and the good taste and writing ability to actually write it.

It’s like the process of a journalist writing a book on a topic they have only the vaguest idea about, there’s a lot of reading and at some stage hopefully some understanding slips in. Except Josh has a business degree and worked at Procter & Gamble so he actually knew what he was on about before he started writing.

> What a rat. Recommends his own book over two others. This is exactly what is wrong with University textbook selection. They're often just picking their friends, or someone who picked their textbook. Crooked and corrupt.

My professor for Political Science recommended his own book.

He also donated all of the money he would have made on it for our class into the general fund for the students. Which meant that he lost money because not everybody in the class bought the book.

Textbooks are a racket. Especially the "rental" model which effectively admits that the textbook has zero utility beyond the class.

However, the professors are neither the cause nor gaining the profits from that racket. The act of writing a textbook takes so much time and effort, that it really isn't profitable for the vast majority of professors.

Have you read the book?

I have not. It very well could be true (which I do realize would be contrary to corruption). But I do not trust the jury of 1 composed of the author.

Having the best product and corrupt practices aren't mutually exclusive at all.

I mean this in general, this example here where an author is promoting his own book without hiding his name is borderline. Says more about the site's reliability than the author's honesty to me.

Seeking Wisdom is also really, really good. Super approachable and underrated.

The Personal MBA is also great, but I do agree that it's poor form for Josh to recommend his own book.

> Crooked and corrupt.

It's just business. Every business does it. Get used to it. Have an iPhone are forced to buy things from the App Store? Crooked and corrupt...? Bought a Tesla and cant use it for independent ride sharing? Crooked and corrupt? It's just business.

The textbook industry is well known for its shady practices that go beyond "just doing business." Try this: https://www.edutopia.org/textbook-publishing-controversy

Most industries have practices that can be considered shady. It's not unique to the text book industry is my point.

>>> It's just business. Every business does it. Get used to it.

>> The textbook industry is well known for its shady practices that go beyond "just doing business."

> Most industries have practices that can be considered shady. It's not unique to the text book industry is my point.

Ah, the famous "I claim everyone's doing it without proof, so it's OK" argument.

> Ah, the famous "I claim everyone's doing it without proof, so it's OK" argument.

Being OK, and something happening all the time are different arguments. Im just saying it happens everywhere, not OK but also unavoidable.

"It's just business" sounds like a justification, where you're trying to say it is okay, which may be where people are inferring that from- even if it was not intended

Even in your further explanations of your repeated use of the phrase, you continue to say things like "it's not corrupt, it's just business". That makes no sense. Something can be both. These are not the same thing. Business is not always corrupt, and corruption isn't always "just business"

A view that "much of business is corrupt" may be true but there is no nuance in your (confusing) statements.

> Im just saying it happens everywhere, not OK but also unavoidable.

You're saying such behavior should be accepted and left without comment, because you claim "everyone's doing it." At best, that's and argument for apathy that rejects the idea that progress is possible.

It's accepted everyday by people everywhere now.

> It's accepted everyday by people everywhere now.

What are you trying to accomplish by saying stuff like this? The subject of your sentence is "corruption and shady behavior." It's false that corruption and shady behavior are "accepted everyday by people everywhere now" without extraordinary evidence that you fail to provide.

That is, unless when you say "accepted" you mean "endured," and you just chose your words poorly.

I don't get your point? It's common so we shouldn't discuss or challenge it?

We can discuss and challenge it but dont be surprised at how pervasive the practice is, the OP seem appalled and shocked this could even happen.

Isn't that a good thing, then? I feel there's already way too little 'appalled and shocked' going on because we just roll over and adapt.

>> Crooked and corrupt.

> It's just business. Every business does it. Get used to it.

No, that's how you get endemic corruption, which eventually leads to things like people dying from deliberately tainted food and shoddy medicine.

Widespread intolerance of corruption and scams eventually builds a trustworthy environment that's better for everyone.

It's just business. Recommending your own text book is not crooked and corrupt. It's business. Forcing your users to acquire all apps for your iPhone through your own app store is also not crooked and corrupt. It's just business. Everyone tolerates it because money talks.

> It's just business. Everyone tolerates it because money talks.

Sometimes "business" must bow down to things like ethics, otherwise it tends towards corruption and exploitation.

Hocking your own book in a list of the "best textbooks on every subject" is definitely a kind of corruption. It may get you some sales but it abuses the list and any trust placed in it. Recommendations like that should be made without such conflicts of interest.

Also, repeating "it's just business" a bunch of times isn't a very good argument in favor of anything, it's nearly totally free of any content.

> Sometimes "business" must bow down to things like ethics, otherwise it tends towards corruption and exploitation.

That's if you get caught. On paper I completely agree with you, but in reality I think you'll find many many many businesses and industry that skirt ethically and moral behavior to cement their bottom line.

I keep repeating its just business because it is, ultimately everything comes down to money especially in business. Is it inappropriate to charge people a higher price for an airline ticket because they browse your website with a macbook? It happens. What about amazon raising the price for an item because you've browsed it several times in the past already? Recommending your own book because you believe in its contents but also helps to put a roof over your head? It's all just business.

>> Sometimes "business" must bow down to things like ethics, otherwise it tends towards corruption and exploitation.

> That's if you get caught. On paper I completely agree with you, but in reality I think you'll find many many many businesses and industry that skirt ethically and moral behavior to cement their bottom line.

No, businesses, and the people who they're composed of, must bow down to things like ethics, even when they wouldn't get "caught" behaving unethically.

> I keep repeating its just business because it is, ultimately everything comes down to money especially in business.

That's a morally bankrupt sentiment. Don't hold up a descriptive model of sociopathic behavior as a normative model of social behavior.

Simple models can be intellectually compelling, but neither correct nor complete. Simple economic theories, especially not the ones laymen read, do not represent the bedrock principles of society or human behavior. There's much they leave out and more that's orthogonal to them.

> Don't hold up a descriptive model of sociopathic behavior as a normative model of social behavior.

Do you use Uber, Apple, Github or Amazon? Because if you do you are accepting these principals as just being part of business and it comes down to money. Most CEOs and/or founders exhibit a significant degree of sociopathic behavior and it's clearly accepted (evidenced by the support seen in HN discussions). Yes simple models can be neither 100% or complete but do show a general trend. Move fast and break things, easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, all is fair in love andwar (and business). Im not saying its right, Im saying Im not surprised and expect this behavior from most companies and also expect some sort of insane justification when caught.

> Do you use Uber, Apple, Github or Amazon? Because if you do you are accepting these principals as just being part of business and it comes down to money...

Not that tired pseudoargument again. "Don't you exist in the imperfect world? Therefore you must be OK with its deficiencies." With few exceptions, the inhabitants of Earth are unable to conjure bubbles perfectly isolated from contact with any of the world's imperfections. That doesn't mean we're unjustified or hypocritical for criticizing those flaws or using our limited influence to try to smooth out those we can.

Also, there's that misleading blurring between the normative, circumstantial, and explanatory again.

> Most CEOs and/or founders exhibit a significant degree of sociopathic behavior and it's clearly accepted (evidenced by the support seen in HN discussions).

It's really odd how adamant you are that we should accept corrupt or sociopathic behavior as normal, and how resistant you are to criticism of it or calls for its curtailment.

> Move fast and break things, easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, all is fair in love andwar (and business).

For the most part, those are shitty ideas used to justify shitty actions.

> Bought a Tesla and cant use it for independent ride sharing

Come again?

Look up elsewhere, but IIRC Tesla bars use of its SuperChargers for vehicles being used commercially. Not sure if that just slows charging or if it fully restricts the vehicle to home and other private chargers.

"Just business" (aka profit maximization or capitalism) is frequently crooked and corrupt


The link does not work for me. Anyone else having the same issue?

Same here. It's available on the Internet Archive:


Note that I had to disable JavaScript to prevent it from hiding the content and displaying "Sorry, we couldn't find what you were looking for."

(Main Dev of site here: Sorry for that! I should really get around to setting up autoscaling. Site should now be properly available again.)

While I have your ear, any reason why the Be Happier post[0] isn't loading anymore? Loading it through the Wayback Machine it shows that the author deleted their account. Did you folks decide to hide those posts? I only ask cuz it's my favorite post on the whole site.

[0]: https://web.archive.org/web/20180220101251/http://lesswrong....

Yeah, the old Reddit codebase was super inconsistent about how it marked deleted and "soft-deleted" posts, and so we erred on the site of deleting stuff to not accidentally deanonymize someone.

But now that you remind me of that, I think we now have the relevant technology and understanding of the old DB to make it do the correct thing. I will give it a shot in the next few days.

That's awesome news. Good luck!

I've been out of the loop a long time -- did the backend change along with the frontend? I remember LW links surviving HN hugs before...

Yep, backend changed together with the frontend, and we are still working out some of the kinks.

Actually you should probably set up a CDN. There is no need to serve pages that are the same for every visitor from your server.

It eventually does, just keep trying.

Same here. I tried the home page, but it's not loading either.

Works for me

This is stupid. Using popular vote to find best quality :D

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