- "On Intelligence" and "I am a Strange Loop" - how mind works.
- "Rework", "Zero to One", "Start Small, Stay Small" - insightful startup advice.
- Fun autobiographies: Ghost in the Wires (Kevin Mitnick), iWoz (Steve Wozniak), Catch me if you can (Frank Abagnale), Just for Fun (Linus Torvalds), Elon Musk, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
- How companies work: Creativity Inc (Pixar), In the Plex (Google)
- On writing: Art of fiction/nonfiction by Ayn Rand, Story by Robert McKee, Save the Cat, Step by Step to Standup Comedy.
- Other: The Selfish Gene, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Serious Creativity, Hackers & Painters, Hacking Growth, Angel (on angel investing, by Jason Calacanis).
Also collections of essays by Paul Graham  and Scott Alexander :
The book is now around 40 years old but still stunning in its insightfulness.
Humor aside; not sure if favourite of all times, but definitely impacted my thinking a lot:
- "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" - https://intelligence.org/rationality-ai-zombies/ - read this when it was still a bunch of posts by 'Eliezer on LessWrong. It cleaned up my thinking quite a bit, and introduced to couple new ideas from economics, sociology and epistemology.
- SICP, obviously.
- "How to Win Friends and Influence People", and "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" - from the father of the whole genre of self-help/personal development, and one whose books are still probably the only good ones in this genre, Dale Carnegie. They explain exactly what it says in their titles.
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. Few thinkers have thought about this issue as deeply as Bostrom, and it was fascinating to hear his thoughts on AI.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Pretty traumatic read but essential if you really want to understand a dark and overlooked chapter of American history
The Unfinished Parable of the Sparrows
2. The Gene: An Intimate History - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27276428-the-gene
3. I Contain Multitudes - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29083367-i-contain-multi...
4. Stuff Matters - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19553030-stuff-matters
5. Rework - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6732019-rework
Again, it’s an okay book. I wouldn’t say the best in the last 10,5,2,1,0 years but worth reading, if only to form your own opinion and learn a few interesting factoids here and there.
If you want to get a taste, go look up 'The Legend of Peugot' from the book.
There was also a sale on the ebook for $3 on Amazon this weekend -- not sure if it's still going.
Can you perhaps mention some examples?
- we tend to think that our species was a result of evolution - a concept that's somehow nice and smooth. In reality, the author argues, at each step of the evolution, the 'better' species simply exterminated the previous one. Think about that ! We (or our ancestor) just exterminated those poor Neanderthals that we so fondly think of now
- when he describes a corporation and applicable law (I think it's about Peugeot) comparing the lawyers to shamans. It really makes you realizes how most things and laws of what govern our world are just pure invention and it's very similar to religion actually
Reading this so far has been one of the most rewarding learning experiences of my life. If you are interested in how philosophy, religion, and civilization has emerged and grown in our species, than you will be constantly delighted while reading this. The Durants are equal to none.
The Berkshire-Hathaway shareholder letters are very entertaining and informative, and reading Warren is probably the best way to deeply understand the last ~40 years of US business climate.
To complement, I would add two books from Buffett and Munger:
- "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life" by Alice Schroeder
- "Poor Charlie's Almanack" by Charlie Munger - a fantastic read
2. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (just gives a different perception to success all together, at least did for me)
3. Mastery (Robert Greene) - can be dismissed as Anecdotes but really powerful ones
4. Deep Work (Cal Newport) - a guy who doesn't like to be on social media and I found reading about him and stumbled upon this and it's absolutely an insightful read
5. The subtle art of not giving a fk - This is a short, beautiful and an amazing read even if you aren't looking for self improvement
The Quark and the Jaguar by Murray Gell-Mann is a wonderfully readable and accessible intro to complexity, which again is a topic that seems to crop up all over the place.
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine cites a shedload of research to dispel gender-related myths. It should be taught in schools, in my opinion.
Haven't been able to put it all into practise, but they opened my eyes to what's possible, and provided some motivation to make the best use of the space we've got.
The Art of Electronics, and especially the student manual that accompanies it. I read these a long time ago, and at the time it was a pretty good introductionto electronics, especially if you bought some cheap second hand test equipment and had a few breadboards and components to do the lab work. I'm not sure if it's aged well. There are a bunch of people on HN who still do electronic work who could recommend better newer books.
Not a professional in this area, but between various HN comments I've read and YouTube channels like EEVblog, I've seen the third edition of this book recommended multiple times as the best book. It's actually sitting on my to-buy list because of that.
Originally suggested by Werner Herzog as the most thrilling book ever written. It's ludicrously detailed. Absolutely riveting and thrilling. Opened my eyes to how a story can be constructed around a single moment and elucidated by a huge investigation.
First half of the book changed my life, and second half is merely good. I wrote a full review , and eight years later, that first half has become one of my favorite reads ever.
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution on what are states, where do they come from, and how do they work?
The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life is just what it says on the tin.
The Strategy of Conflict is the original book on game theory which stands up pretty well.
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts on the modern science of what we know about what consciousness is.
It is hard for me to select a favorite. However as a voracious reader there is only one author for whom I have found myself re-reading his books multiple times: Robert Sarah.
He has published two books:
The Power of Silence (extended reflection on silence and the human condition)
God or Nothing (autobiography + reflections on current affairs)
Brotherhood of Kings: How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195313984/
The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the Economy Bigger https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0691136408/
The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CG3JMD0/
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature https://www.amazon.com/dp/0670031518/
"The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg and "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini are both books that showed how and why you often act against your best interest.
The Innovator's Dilemma
Thinking Fast and Slow
Godel Eschel Bach
Hard Things about Hard Things
The Power of Vulnerability: Brene Brown
Non-Violent Communication: Marshall Rosenberg
The Secrets of Consulting: Gerald Weinberg
Some are pretty short reads as well. I just read "Information and Society" and enjoyed it.
1. 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb', R. Rhodes
2. 'Apollo: Race to the Moon', C. Murray, C. Cox
3. 'The Prize', D. Yergin
4. 'Are Your Lights On?', D. Gause, G. Weinberg
5. 'Becoming A Technical Leader', G. Weinberg
Raven, by Tim Reiterman. Biography of Jim Jones by one of the journalists who'd reported the story the longest.
Liquid Intelligence, by Dave Arnold. Everything you need to know to understand cocktails and make good ones.
On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. An exhaustive reference on the history and science of food and ingredients. Every page has something surprising and useful.
Empires of Light, by Jonnes. Titan, by Chernow. The Wright Brothers, by McCullough. His Excellency, by Ellis. The Wizard of Menlo Park, by Stross. I Invented the Modern Age, by Snow. Dealers of Lightning, by Hiltzik. Margin of Safety, by Klarman. Masters of Doom, by Kushner. Andrew Carnegie, by Nasaw. Infidel, by Hirsi Ali. Buffett, by Lowenstein. Where Wizards Stay Up Late, by Hafner. Shoe Dog, by Knight. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Rhodes.
Often gets low ratings because people mistake it for an educational book. It’s a mix of history, biographies and verbal exposition on the development of mathematical theorems, with a good poetic slant.
Reminds me I really need to look into his other books, his writing is scarily good.
It's the story of a foreigner working as a serious reporter in Japan. He finds that the US government has been essentially selling organs to the Yakuza crime lords. No, really!
Oppenheim, Willsky, and Nawab, "Signals and Systems". The foundational modern text for signals processing; Fourier analysis becomes a fundamental way of thinking.
Not only does he talk about Animals the average human never gets to see, it's also full of weird insights because of his often rather unique perspective on things. Plus, it's Adams, so it's very entertaining.
The Physics of Wall Street: A Brief History of Predicting the Unpredictable
by James Owen Weatherall https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13356644-the-physics-of-...
Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines
(1953) by B. V. Bowden. http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/10719/Faster-Than-Tho...
Design of Crystal and Other Harmonic Oscillators by Parzen delighted me with its practical depth and detail.
Freedom from the Known - Jiddu
For decades I've been plagued by 'what is one supposed to do in life' question, I've been restless for years.
These two books gave me atleast a logical framework to understand my frustrations.
Later -- The Book of the Courtier by Baldassare Castiglione -- same topic as Art of War I'd say.
• Thinking Fast and Slow
• The Mind Illuminated
• A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
I've read both, and I like both philosophies. While they both share similarities (non attachment, living in the present), it seems that in Vipasana you wouldn't try to get rid of a bad thouhgt by using your rationality. You would just observe it.
While Stoicism demands engaging rationality to overcome the emotion or bad thought.
Have you thought on how to reconcile the two? This is something I've been pondering for a while.
Like you've identified, a recurring apparent disagreement between the two philosophies is how to relate to positive and negative phenomena: In the stoic view, positive phenomena should be enjoyed, but we should be clearly aware that they're impermanent so that we're not disappointed when they inevitably end. Likewise, we should bear negative phenomena with the knowledge that we could always be experiencing something even more negative.
In Buddhism, there's also guidance for relating to positive and negative phenomena in a different way, but it doesn't appear to agree with the Stoics. In Buddhist thought, we should use concentration careful attention to our inner experience to cultivate equanimity toward both positive and negative phenomena while growing a deep sense of inner fulfillment.
I don't think these are actually that different: in both philosophies, the end state — whether that of a Buddhist arhat or a Stoic sage — is to be pretty much happy with whatever's going on, and the path is essentially to become aware of the bad in the good and the good in the bad. Really, I think the main difference is that the Stoic philosophy is phrased and framed in a more accessible way, but the practices complement each other well.
Concretely, imagine your dog is sick and will probably die. Stoicism tells you to appreciate every moment you have left with your dog but to vividly imagine your experience of him dying to lessen the blow when he does, and to prepare yourself for (and convince yourself of!) that eventuality. Buddhism would suggest you meditate on the mental talk, mental imagery, and emotional body sensations associated with your experience of the trauma. These are, in my mind, complementary ways to cultivate equanimity, and are even better used together than separately.
I enjoyed 4 Hour Work Week when I first read it. I am still trying to create a profitable side hustle.
The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
The Mac Is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams
Getting Real by 37 Signals
Deborah Tannen, You Just Don't Understand - how males and females talk different languages.
Lakoff & Johnson, Metaphors We Live By - how our language and thoughts are built from a fabric of conceptual metaphors. Philosophy In The Flesh is about the conceptual metaphors that philosophy is built from.
Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century - WWI, WWII and other wars, nazism, communism etc
Plutarch's Lives - biographies and stories from famous ancient Greeks and Romans. Amazing how little's changed.
Lin Yutang, The Importance of Understanding - introduced me to ancient Chinese philosophers. The Importance of Living - introduced me to ancient Chinese writers, poets and the Chinese way of life.
Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach - read it when I was 14, and I was into music, art and programming, so it blew my mind.
Susan Faludi, STIFFED - men, work, jobs, masculinity, 20th C
Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion - media, war, propaganda, democracy
Noam Chomsky's political books
E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful - the world, development, government, planning, organization, humanity, sustainability
J.R. Saul, Voltaire's Bastards - power, history, democracy, technocracy, reason, rationality, history from late 18th C until today.
Raymond Williams, Culture and Society 1780-1950 - the anti-industrialist tradition, politics, culture, society and the new language describing these things
Clifford Pickover, Computers, Patterns, Chaos, and Beauty - programming, mathematics, art, fractals, dynamical systems etc
Ben Zander, The Art of Possibility - hard to explain, kind of advanced self-help, the magic of changing attitudes, expectations, habits.
My favourite non-fiction books of all time, though, are the essays of Emerson, Hazlitt, RL Stevenson, GK Chesterton, Santayana, Bertrand Russell. And the books of Nietzsche, SARK and Robert Fulghum.
- Thinking fast, and slow
- 7 habits of highly effective people
- Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
- Getting Things Done
- Choose Yourself
Business / Tech
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is.
Managing Expectations: Working with People Who Want More: Working with People Who Want More, Better, Faster, Sooner, Now!
Explore It!: Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing.
Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-From Global Epidemic to Your Front Door.
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy.
Badass: Making Users Awesome.
Social Engineering in IT Security: Tools, Tactics, and Techniques.
How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody.
Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.
The Global War for Internet Governance.
Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking.
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace.
High Noon: The Inside Story of Scott McNealy and the Rise of Sun Microsystems.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet.
The Soul of A New Machine.
Hot Spots: Why Some Companies Buzz with Energy and Innovation - And Others Don't.
A Computer Called LEO: Lyons Tea Shops and the World's First Office Computer.
Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron.
The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing.
What's Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live.
Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network.
The Undersea Network (Sign, Storage, Transmission).
Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.
Meaningful: The Story of Ideas That Fly.
Zero Bugs and Program Faster.
Official Criticism Manual: Perfecting the Art of Giving and Receiving Criticism.
Hacking Wireless Access Points: Cracking, Tracking, and Signal Jacking.
Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set...Test!
Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management.
The Accidental Project Manager.
Building Successful Communities of Practice.
Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories.
More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen.
Security and Usability: Designing Secure Systems that People Can Use.
Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet.
The Well: The Epic History of the First Online Community.
Programmers at Work.
The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy
Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists
The Dinosaur Hunters: A True Story of Scientific Rivalry and the Discovery of the Prehistoric World
Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Prometheans in the Lab: Chemistry and the Making of the Modern World
Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Knocking On Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate our Universe
An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere
Snowball Earth: The Story of the Global Catastrophe That Spawned Life as We Know it
Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution
Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error: The Meaning of Error in an Age of Certainty
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science Of Life In Space
King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry
The Ghosts Of Evolution Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, And Other Ecological Anachronisms
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA
Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot's Daughter
Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor
Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 bath Toys Lost at Sea
Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science
World / Politics / Other
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power
The New Jim Crow
The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security
Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld
Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion
The irregulars : Roald Dahl and the British spy ring in wartime Washington
Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing
The Gift of Fear
3. The 4-hour workweek
Additionally, some which have been mentioned or not:
- a couple of biographies of Lincoln (one is free on gutenberg.org, the other more recent by Doris Kearns Goodwin), and one of Washington whose name I forget now, but there are good ones out there.
- the 7 Habits book (Covey), and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Carnegie.
- Refactoring ..., by Martin Fowler.
- some thick Scheme programming book from college (sorry, it's downstairs). And "The Little Schemer", also about Scheme (one of the authors, Friedman, was also our instructor).
- Since Cumorah, by Hugh Nibley (maybe dated now, but there is a lot of related work). Really got me interested in related topics.
"Games People Play" by Eric Berne.
Berne was a psychiatrist and founder of the discipline of Transactional Analysis. Games People Play was a PopSci bestseller when first published, which was odd because it's a highly technical volume written for other psychiatrists. His thesis was that most human behavior could be viewed as games, and most of what we did were ways of structuring time. Follow up with his "What Do You Say After You've Said Hello?" and "Beyond Games and Scripts". Hall's work above did much to explain teh behavior of societies. Berne's work does much to explain the behavior of people in societies.
"The Anatomy of Criticism" by Northrop Frye.
Frye was a Professor of English at Toronto University. He had completed a study of William Blake called "Fearful Symmetry", and was attempting to do a study of Spencer's Faery Queen. But he found himself trying to make sense of various terms used in literature, and the result became a work of pure theory, unconnected with any specific works. He refers to poetry and poetics, but his canvas is broader. Part of his problem was that there was no general term in English for a work of prose fiction. It's a set of four essays, covering Historical Criticism, Ethical Criticism, Archetypal Criticism, and Rhetorical Criticism, but makes clear that while each form is valid in its own terms, none fully described literature, and a more synoptic view was required.
"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn
Kuhn's work challenged the accepted notions of scientific progress, and the notion of steady accumulation. His thesis was that the real progress came from notions that lay outside accepted theories, and provided new paradigms by which reality might be understood, and faced all the resistance transformative ideas face from entrenched doctrine until they are demonstrated to be correct.
"Management: Tasks, Practices, Responsibilities" by Peter F. Drucker.
Drucker was our present generation's primary primary theorist and consultant on the practice of management, and just what management was and what mangers did. This work was probably his magnum opus, where he pulled together the ideas he'd formulated elsewhere into a coherent whole. It's a liberal education not only in management, but in the nature and structure of market based economies.
"The Making of Economic Society" by Robert F. Heilbroner.
This is probably the best single volume overview I'm aware of on economics and economic history, beginning with just what an economy is, and the changing conception of economics through history, with the transition from Traditional through Command to Market economies and the issues involved with each. Many animated discussions I see online about economics make me say "Those words don't mean what you think they do. Please read Heilbroner, and come back when you have. Then we might at least be talking about the same things."
"The Problems of Philosophy" by Bertrand Russell.
Russell is concerned with knowledge, and how we know what we know. He asks "Is there any knowledge in the world so certin that no reasonable man could doubt it?", and concludes that it's one of the most difficult questions that can be asked. When we understand the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we are launched on the study of philosophy, which is concerned with precisely such questions. If philosophy is of interest, this is a superb place to start.
"Religion and the Rise of Capitalism" by R. H. Tawney.
Economies don't exist in vacuums. The are aspects of the societies in which they exist, and reflect the values of those societies. Religion has been a critical part of the value systems of societies for as long as there have been societies, and religious notions on what sort of behavior is acceptable affect the structure of economies by determining what sort of transactions are permissible. Tawney is specifically concerned with religious thought in England affecting social organization and economic issues in the period immediately preceding the Reformation and the two following centuries, but while his focus in England, his description of the way in which Christian religious doctrine changed gradually to make a capitalist economy possible in England, the underlying processes could be applied through Europe in general. Read this as a companion to Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism", originally written in German and concerned with the Netherlands and Germany.
"Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy" by Joseph A. Schumpeter.
Schumpeter was an Austrian economist, a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes, and (briefly) Austria's Finance Minister in the 1920's. Like Keynes, he considered himself influenced by Marx. But unlike many others, he believed Marx "asked all the right questions, and got all the wrong answers". Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy was Schumpeter's (often delightfully snarky) attempt to understand what Marx got wrong and why. It's a useful brainwash after you've spent any time reading MArx or other folks who consider themselves Marxists, and provides a needed sense of perspective.
There's more, but I have to stop somewhere...
- Godel Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
- Language, Truth, and Logic by A. J. Ayer
- Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows
Books that serve as investment philosophy guides for those who've developed a habit of saving money but are looking for the "next step" in building more wealth. From the mind of one of the greatest investors of all time:
- The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (get the annotated version with an epilogue written by Warren Buffett!)
- The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America
A book that discusses what matters most in your life from a resource-allocation, measurable results standpoint (family, etc.):
- How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
A book I read 10 years ago that forever changed the way I manage productivity and organization both at work and in my personal life:
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
Books that show that our universe is just as crazy, if not crazier, than science fiction:
- Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy
- Quantum Chance: Nonlocality, Teleportation and Other Quantum Marvels
- ..and so on with intersecting topics!
Not to mention, I love trying to have as deep an understanding as I can by reading highly technical textbooks on cosmology, gravitation, and quantum physics.