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Ask HN: What are you reading right now?
79 points by rick_2047 on Nov 3, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 298 comments
At the end of my first (freshmen) year of engineering I realized I had totally trashed my reading habit (Maybe I because I had to study 8 subjects which were mostly irrelevant to my major i.e. ECE ). I used to read about 50-60 pages per day in my commute to high school (about half hour each way). Even though I commute more now (1&half hour each way) and that too in a much more comfortable bus, I had started reading less. So at the start of this semester(its mostly ended now) I (re)started reading.

I completed the Foundation series and the last two novels of Paulo Coelho. Other than that I completed Makers and FTW. Both were fun. Right now I am reading two books simultaneously (they both require different kind of attention so its no biggie), they are Godel Escher Bach (funny story how I got it, but that would be a big tangent here) and The Elements of Computing systems.

What are you reading right now?

* The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

* A Guide to the Good Life: The Anicent Art of Stoic Joy

* Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

About the last, I typically abhor fanfic, and I admit, I started reading this one in a fit of ironic pique. However, it's actually quite damned good. Reimagine the world of Harry Potter if Harry grew up in a happy, rationalist houehold and was an exceptionally bright young scientist. When inducted into Hogwarts, he swears he will use his scientific training to learn the Rules Of Magic in a fashion that no wizard before has ever done, because no wizard before has HAD the scientific background he's had.

The author is well-versed on physics, math, psychology, philosophy, and many other scientific pursuits, and manages to wrap them all up in an entertaining-as-hell story that is on chapter 56 and still going strong.

Here, let me save you a Google search:


Thank you, thank you, thank you for that Harry Potter fanfic. I am neither a Harry Potter fan nor a fanfic fan, but the premise piqued my nerdy interests just the same. Perhaps it's coincidental that I'm writing a story (not a fanfic; original IP) that is sort of like Harry Potter but involves an alternate future in which the combination of nanomachines and quantum physics allows people to wield "magic"-like control over the physical world. It's magic from a theoretically plausible standpoint, even if I'd still consider it highly sci-fi and less spec-fi. Dorky? Ooooh, boy. Well, I'll put it this way: not exactly the project I'd bring up on a date!

I have actually toyed with this idea quite a few times, most recently after finishing The Alera Codex - a series of fantasy books by Jim Butcher that I highly recommend.

Thanks for the rec. I'm sure there's already a burgeoning microgenre for what I guess I'd call PhysPunk (physics punk). I'm torn between wanting to delve into it and wanting to keep it at arm's length, lest it influence me too much in my own work.

I too am reading the Stoic Guide. Its a great book to start and I'm already putting stoic principals into my daily life to great success.

Thanks guys for the excellent recommendation for the stoic guide. I had a blast reading it. Even posted a review on HN.


Discrete Mathematics and its Applications by Rosen, Kenneth H.

The most interesting math book I've read as a computer programmer. It covers graph theory, combinatorics, boolean algebra, trees, complexity theory, etc. I already knew a good chunk of this, but this book let me connect many dots and discover real life applications of mathematical concepts.

This is a really great textbook. Probably one of the only textbooks I kept around after school.

Rereading "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara - a novelization of Battle of Gettysburg. This is the perfect book for people who love American history, character-driven novels, and old maps (every dozen pages or so he includes maps that mark the progress of the Union and Rebel forces as they gain or lose ground in the Battle, which are, simply put, just awesome). Very interesting portrayal of Robert E. Lee - the Old Man - who was essentially revered as a god by both sides, but made some critical tactical errors here. Had also never heard of Joshua Chamberlain - the college professor from Maine - who became famous for his brave defense of the hill called Little Round Top. The Battle of Gettysburg is another example of those historical events that everybody thinks they know about, but really don't or have entirely forgotten- and Shaara brings it back to life.

Yep, I love that one too.

In case you (or others) don't know, the movie Gettysburg is based on The Killer Angels, with the same focus on Lee and Chamberlain. It's very long, but good -- much was filmed on site, and Pickett's Charge is done in real-time. Harrowing stuff.

Also, let me plug the battlefield itself -- I just visited a couple of weekends ago for the first time as an adult. If you've read about it or seen the movie, it's a fantastic place to see. Unlike some Civil War battlefields, standing there really makes it clear -- you can look down from the top of Little Round Top, and you can look across the field of Pickett's Charge from both directions.

Definitely want to see the battlefield after reading this book, so it's good to hear another positive review.

Did you see a re-enactment? If so, worth it? I've never seen one before. I'm torn between wanting to wander around by myself with the book in hand and actually seeing Pickett's Charge recreated by a bunch of nuts like myself.

Great book! I used to love story format non-fiction books, and "The Killer Angels" was one of my favorites. Also, check out "The Longest Day" by Cornelius Ryan (D-Day) and my favorite one of his, "A Bridge Too Far" (about largest airborne operation in WWII). Just don't watch the movies!

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Histoire d'O by Pauline Réage

My Life in Art by Constantin Stanislavski (This one seems to be taking me forever, even though it's entertaining. Biographies are not really my thing.)

I am also reading Kafka on the Shore by Murakami.

Before that I read Norweigan Wood and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End Of The World by Murakami, as well as Godel, Escher, Bach which took forever (I read on the subway).

Here's an interesting interview with Mr. Murakami: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2/the-art-of-fictio...

Thirding Murakami. Currently reading The Windup-Bird Chronicle

"Programming Collective Intelligence" by Toby Segaran. It presupposes no knowledge of statistics or machine learning and focuses on 1) what machine learning technique is probably best in a given situation and 2) how to implement it in Python.

My only complaint is it does completely skip over theory. That makes it accessible to a wider audience (I have a degree in literature) but he misses the opportunity of helping out people who are trying to build a better theoretical foundation or are learning higher math / mathematical notation.

Try looking up the corresponding topics in Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Russell and Norvig.

I found reading the two books in parallel very helpful. When I read the SVM chapter in both books in parallel, the whole picture just came together for me. The theory and the implementation side-by-side.

  - *Built to Last* - Collins and Porras
  - *The Ruby Programming Language* - Flanagan and Matz
  - *_Whys Poignant Guide to Ruby* - _Why the Lucky Stiff

Regarding Built to Last make sure to check out how visionary the companies profiled later turned to be.

Oh I know! The book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally cracked it. I looked at the company list (compiled almost 20 years ago) and thought, huh?

But I think there is still some good lessons to be learned - especially when contrast with Positioning. Knowing that Sony's first product was a rice cooker, and HP fumbled for ideas (a bowling gutter ball detector?!?) is oddly comforting.

Or read the book by the same author that covers that exact question, _How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In_

Ruby first "clicked" after I read _Why's Poignant guide to ruby. As zany as it is, some how it clears all the things you need to kick start in ruby

Its strange. Everyone seems to rave about poignant guide but I just couldn't get into it. For me Ruby for Rails by David A Black was an absolute revelation, really made things click for me.

I bounce back and forth between the Matz book and _Why's. The Matz book is comprehensive, but _Why's makes sense.

Hi, this is my first contribution to HN.

I'm currently reading Revelation Space. It's a science fiction space opera novel by Alastair Reynolds. Pretty immersive. A good read!

Read this one a few months ago. Thought it was OK, but I hear the sequels, in particular "Chasm City," are a little better. I'll probably check it out in the next month or two.

I think it depends on your taste. I thought Chasm City was a lesser novel in the series, though it's an interesting mix of a hardboiled detective story with space Opera and hard sf

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid — Douglas Hofstadter
    Logic for Mathematicians – A. G. Hamilton
    The Black Prism — Brent Weeks
I like to be reading 2-3 books at a time, but one gets my full attention, and the others switch up the pace for me otherwise. I like "serious" books (GEB, Logic) interspersed with "easier" books; a classic, sci-fi/fantasy, etc.

Read when you'd instead be surfing HN or Reddit and when you're done coding/working on homework. Reading takes the place of procrastination very nicely—the same relaxation, but less guilt and more benefit.

Founders at Work

It's been on my 'to-read' list for awhile, finally got around to reading it. Really enjoying seeing into the origins of a lot of the big companies these days, and how that shaped what they do today.

I just finished that one last night. Some of the interviews are better than others; Woz was probably my favourite. I found the stories of the failures most interesting, as they seemed to inspire the most reflection and have the best lessons.

Interesting, I actually didn't like Woz's all that much. I know a lot of the story so it wasn't all that new to me and I found his style of story telling to be rather dry.

Out of curiosity, what makes you like it so much?

You'd probably enjoy iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon, if you haven't read it. Great stories of his childhood and totally inspirational. He makes you want to build things.

Me too! high five

Just finished CryoBurn by Lois McMaster Bujold, probably the last in her Miles Vorkosigan series. Any of her works are excellent, but she's (rightfully) best-known for her Miles books.

I doubt it's the last. I thought that of Civil Campaign (Miles' ultimate triumph ["Why, yes, madam. Now?"]) and then Diplomatic Immunity. I think once the little git got in her brain, it was all over. Clearly she loves him dearly. So do I. Really, I believe the tricky part was figuring out new ways to get him into crises, since he keeps winning.

Unfortunately, I don't think I can even say anything more about this without it being a possible spoiler, but I can think of more ways to write Vorkosigan books even after the final scene of Cryoburn.

At least, I certainly hope so.

I would very much like to be wrong, but reading the scene carefully sounds very final for Miles as we know him. I don't disagree that she could pull something out of her sleeve, but...

At some point, all the best artists put down their favorite art, otherwise the characters and situations we've come to love become farcical stereotypes, all their charm and uniqueness gone.

Bill Watterson famously did this with Calvin & Hobbes, which is still fondly remembered by many (as would Xanth be, if Piers Anthony had stopped twenty or more novels ago).

If she picks Miles back up, there's no doubt I'll have a copy of her next book as soon as Amazon can get it into my hands. If not, I'll be disappointed, but not displeased.

And yes, it is really hard to talk about Cryoburn without spoiling the final scene...

I just read Young Miles. (just as in taking up the last 4 or 5 evenings on the ipad). It's hilarious, chaotic, and sweet.

Check it out: http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/24-CryoburnCD/CryoburnCD/ - Most of the series from the CD that Baen is distributing with the book, free and distributable, in lots of formats.

Oh wow. Holy. Cow. I figured the CD was typical promotional schlock. I forgot this was Baen.

I had no idea they were giving the Miles series away for free.

That is either brilliant or the most insane thing I've ever seen.

Now: "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years" by Diarmaid MacCulloch. A comprehensive history of Christianity, going back to its origins in Judaism and Greek philosophy.

A few days ago: "Iron Sunrise" by Charles Stross. Solid space opera, buy not my favorite Stross.

Reading right now:

Charlie Stross, Halting State.

Jacques Barzun, An Essay On French Verse: For Readers of English Poetry.

Recently finished:

James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (nonfiction, highly recommended; more about the history of the Shakespeare authorship controversy than a salvo in it)

Ian Banks, Consider Phlebas (first book in the Culture series, well-written but way way longer than it should be, which is annoying)

John le Carre, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (re-read this spy classic, for Le Carre's style)

Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao (peppered with nerdy references from the 80ies and 90ies, the style is annoying at first, but grows on you, and the novel only gets better. A great novel)

I was where you are a few years ago: realized that I thought of myself as still reading, but in reality I was reading very little. Then I decided to adopt a very simple system: I try to read about 40 pages every day. If I read more, great. If I read less, I don't punish myself or carry debt (this is crucial), I just try to make 40 pages next day. The point here is simply to have reading on my mind as a desirable activity. I found that if I don't consciously remember that I want to read, it's very easy to spend all free time in other activities (browsing the web, reading long HN/reddit threads, etc.), which I don't actually prefer to reading; they're just there in the foreground, in my browser. Just remembering the I want to read ~40 pages per day makes reading occupy part of my conscious foreground, and helps me read more without other important stuff really suffering.

The BBC miniseries of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is wonderfully done; have you seen it? Highly recommended if you like the book.

Haven't seen it, will try - thanks!

Discworld! I just finished the second one, The Light Fantastic, and loved it. Terry Pratchett is a brilliant and very funny author.

I find after long days of technical thinking I really enjoy a lighthearted funny piece of fiction to help me unwind and get to sleep. At this point I don't think I could handle much more math or computer science and stay sane.

Yep. And they just keep getting better the further into the series you go.

It was a shame to hear about his Alzheimer's. His work will be sorely missed.

I'm a huge Pratchett fan. I especially like the Watch novels, but every one of them has its merits. You might find this useful:


I found that to be very useful! Thank you!

Right now, Charlie Stross Wireless, a short story collection. However, what I'm going to read very shortly will be Moby-Dick for the third time; my daughter just read it in her high school English class and it became clear to me that it's time to read it again. Good Lord, that man could turn a phrase.

Awesome. I'm a huge fan of Stross. "Missile Gap" was my favorite story in that collection.

"Accelerando" is his best novel by far, IMO. Check it out if you haven't already.

I loved Accelerando but found his other novels to be not nearly as visionary or entertaining

Accelerando is available for free online: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelera...

I checked it out years ago (for some small value of "years", I guess), and again earlier this year. I think it's aged well, although Charlie himself seems to have his doubts.

Missile Gap is fantastic.

Accelerando was ok. But I don't think any singularity fiction lives up to Vinge's classics (A Fire Upon the Deep etc).

I just finished Wireless last night! Charles Stross is pretty enjoyable. I loved his novel Accelerando. (It’s focused around the singularity and some pretty interesting ideas…)

Gödel, Escher, Bach

Types and Programming Languages

6 dozen students' homework

Probably going to start Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said sometime soon (or some other novel... I can't currently remember what I have waiting on my shelf).

Just finished ``On Lisp''. This is an advanced Lisp book and shouldn't be your first one. It assumes some familiarity with the language so you're better of reading ``Practical Common Lisp'' first if you're diving into Lisp for the first time. The book focuses almost exclusively on advanced use of macros and metaprogramming.

Interestingly, I've also read SICP in parallel -- currently reading the last chapter -- and there's some overlap in the topics treated in the two books. I'm also walking through CLRS and TAOCP at the moment, albeit reading the latter with a slower pace compared to the former.

On the non-technical side, I'm reading ``Drawing with the right side of the brain'' by Betty Edwards. I've picked up this book since I've decided to resume drawing one year ago. I highly recommend it if you struggle to draw a realistic rendering of a real life object or a landscape.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Foundation Series about a year ago and since then have been reading many of the books found in Asimov's Foundation Universe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_series#List_of_books...). Right now I am reading "The Robots of Dawn", the third book in Asimov's Robot Series. I have gone in a kind of a strange order, first reading The Complete Robot, then the Foundation Series, the Empire Series, and now the Robot Series. I have enjoyed them all, I like Asimov's style. I also enjoyed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and will be reading the next book in the series "Speaker for the Dead" soon.

You should read Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card. Perfect companion piece to Ender's Game (not sure if you know much about it, but it is focused on Bean). I also recently finished the first book in the Foundation Series and need to pick up the second one. Awesome book choices!

Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation (2nd edition) by Hopcroft, Motwani, and Ullman.

Compilers, Principles, Techniques, and Tools, 2nd ed ("The Dragon Book") by Aho, Lam, Sethi, and Ullman.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Just finished The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and started Starting Strength (2nd Edition) by Mark Rippetoe & Lon Kilgore.

I highly recommend The Paleo Solution.

Without any doubt I can say it has radically changed my life for the better.

Robb Wolf's podcasts are also packed with great information if you haven't dug into those yet.

Omnivore's Dilemma

I tried Godel Escher Bach but after a few pages of his pq system I couldn't take it any more and walked away. Is this something I need to endure or am I not "getting it"?

It's not _all_ like that. Skip it and keep going. The most important stuff is in plain English.

That's great news. The chapters before that were great. I'm ignorant of anything above HS math and figured I would be lost in the rest of the book if I was having trouble in the first few pages.

I think it covers diverse explanation of the same theme i.e. can consciousness be generated out of unconscious (something like that). But I found the pq system quite interesting. BTW if you are having problem with that you can skip it, Hofstadter takes his sweet time explaining what formal systems is.

Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard -- Chip and Dan Heath (http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385...

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us -- Dan Pink (http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivates...)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? -- Seth Godin (http://www.amazon.com/Linchpin-Are-Indispensable-Seth-Godin/...)

The Laws of Simplicity -- John Maeda (http://www.amazon.com/Laws-Simplicity-Design-Technology-Busi...)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- Robert M. Persig (http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Motorcycle-Maintenance-Inquiry...)

Invisible Man -- Ralph Ellison (http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Man-Ralph-Ellison/dp/0679732...)

How to Win Friends and Influence People -- Dale Carnegie (http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/06...)

The Kindle app has really got me buying a lot of books that I now need to finish...

Big -1 on How to Win Friends by Dale Carnegie

I think Franklin Covey's 7 Habits is much better in this regard

Just finished reading Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden, a fascinating tale of evolution and intelligence.

Now I'm trying to tackle Infinite Jest on my iPad. I've never been much of a reader but I'm trying my damndest to break that non-habit. I have no idea what's going on in this book but I feel I'd be totally screwed with out the built-in dictionary function of iBooks. I'm certainly expanding my vocabulary if nothing else!

Before trying to read Infinite Jest, try to read all his other essays (and short stories). This is really helpful.

Be OK with the fact that you really aren't going to understand what happens the first time though, like at all. The book -must- be read twice, the first time in a bit of a haze, since even basic acronyms aren't expanded till 200 pages after they are first used. Its enjoyable the second time because there are hundreds of references you'll get from events that are expanded upon much later.

It really is a fantastic book, and its not nearly as confusing as most people think when read twice. :)

Reading IJ on the iPad is the right move. My advice: make sure you look up words that you don't get, instead of following your normal reading instinct to pick up meanings from context. You have a dictionary a touch away.

I agree, read (at least some) of his essays first; not because the story will make more sense to you, but because you'll appreciate the writing more after seeing it deployed in a comprehensible linear narrative. Strongly, strongly recommend _A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again_.

Once you've done that, even at its gnarliest, you can look at IJ like a collection of essays that just happen to be unmoored from reality, and kind of surf the text until it starts making sense again.

Someone reduced IJ to a diagram a few weeks ago, which I translated to Graphviz and re-rendered; this has "spoilers", though:


Thanks for the advice. I have indeed been making liberal use of the iPad's dictionary while going through IJ. I'm even highlighting the words after I define them as I love expanding my vocabulary and this novel is such a trove of new words!

I don't think it's necessary to read "all his other essays and short stories" to appreciate Infinite Jest, but you certainly might want to read at least a couple to get used to his writing style (e.g. the unending sentences; heavy use of footnotes and abbreviations). A fun one to read (for me) was "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again," about his experience on a week-long pleasure cruise.

Don't skip the footnotes when reading IJ. There's some important stuff in there.

Don't get frustrated when you get to the end of the book and aren't sure what just happened. That's why ladyada correctly says that you'll need to read it again when you get done.

This is assuring to hear. Any particular essays of his you recommend?

_Consider the Lobster_ has him subverting a Gourmet magazine writing assignment about the Maine lobster festival.

_A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again_ is perhaps his most famous, about the Illinois state fair.

_Host_ explores a conservative radio talk show; the original Atlantic article had an interesting layout to accomodate his footnotes.

_Big Red Son_ has him at the Adult Video Awards in Vegas. A bit TMI for me, but still well written.

The "This is Water" commencement speech is online at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122178211966454607.html

Re-reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Best fantasy series of all time. Read it even if you're not a fantasy buff.

Love that series so much. Cant wait for the show to come out on HBO.

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

I'm not even a fan of bios and seriously this is one of the best books I've read this year (so far, I'm halfway through).

My wife and I are reading Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.

I am also reading The Brothers Karamazov on my Kindle. I kept seeing so many references to it in other things I was reading and I took that as a sign.

Also just started reading Being Geek by Michael Lopp (of the "Rands in Repose" blog). O'Reilly had the ebook on sale the other day and I couldn't pass it up!

Oh man, Mockingjay? I loved that whole damn series. I bought the first two books in physical form and the final shortly after I got my iPhone as a Kindle book. I may just go re-buy the first two as Kindle books when I go to re-read the series again.

(Partly because Kindle books are so much more convenient to me, and partly because I'm not a huge Collins fan and don't mind pumping her sales figures at all.)

Currently reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. So far, it's a really charming history of science (and well, everything else), starting from the Big Bang. Bryson has never let me down before.

I just finished Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. That was an intense book! If you like deep sea adventure or anything U-boat, it's a worthy read.

Just want to second ASHNE by Bryson. This is one of those books that you see in a lot of people's backpacks when you travel to hostels - meaning that when you cannot carry tons of stuff, people choose this book...Thought-provoking and interesting.

I just finished "How to Write Great Copy for the Web". It's a piece of crap. The design and presentation of the ebook is amazing, but the content doesn't make it. It's not 90 pages, it's only 40 or 35 (Extremely large fonts and lot of white space). It does particularly add nothing to what can be found in a blog post or two.

I'm currently reading multiple books. Some are technical, some are small enough to read in the subway, some are far too big, and are read before going to sleep ;)

- La Zone du dehors by Alain Damasio, a french author. I must admit I liked his more recent book, La Horde du Contrevent, a lot more. Sadly, it is not available in English. Read it if you understand French and like SF.

- Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (finishing the 9th book). It's a good story, but not a must-read.

- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Liked the first 150 pages I read.

- Cryptography Engineering by Niels Ferguson, Bruce Schneier, and Tadayoshi Kohno. I'm learning tons about cryptography.

- The Non-Designer's Design Book (3rd edition) by Robin Williams. Only read a few chapters, but I'm learning a lot about design. Very simple principles that change everything.

- Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests by Steve Freeman & Nat Pryce. I decided to go with this book instead of reading Beck's book on TDD. I'm learning / revisiting a lot of best practices from TDD masters. I recommend it to Java Developers (once they have read Effective Java, of course).

I still have a lot to read ( http://i.imgur.com/lgpjf.jpg and http://www.google.com/buzz/neveue/Kc4GhaSSoLE/Un-weekend-pro... ), and am looking forward to it :)

I anyone is interested, I've spent some time researching (on HN, StackOverflow, and other communities) about design & UX, Linux & System administration, and programming. Here's the list I ended up with: http://www.google.com/buzz/neveue/NBBSEryBonS/Woot-ordering-...

Liar's Poker (Michael Lewis) Rereading. Initially in preparation fro his latest, but in reality, it's just a great, fun read. Laugh out loud funny in places. It's like Alice in Wonderland in that it gets better with age and experience.

Accelerando (Charles Stross -- our HN buddy) Mainly to remind myself how fucking awesome British sci-fi can be. It is.

The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain de Botton) I'm a mathematician who should have studied philosophy. Alain writes superbly insightful, unpretentious, and accessible books on philosophy.

Raising Venture Capital for the Serious Entrepreneur (Dermot Berkery) In case my bootstrapping fails. It's as dry as you'd expect and USian, but good background.

A Guide to the Good Life (William Irvine) An overview of Stoic philosophy and how to apply it as a philosophy of life. William writes beautifully, which makes this a very pleasant journey.

Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

Blood and bloody ashes.

Just can't wait until tomorrow when it gets delivered. This is the first time in India we are getting this so quickly.

Regarding Sanderson's books, it is amazing to see so much material come so quickly.

May the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

I would be reading it, if Jordan's estate hadn't requested delaying the ebook release by one year. Luckily Sanderson has intervened and the delay is only three months, but I'm still pissed. They could have at least communicated this to people, rather than allowing Amazon to accept ebook pre-orders. I would have paid the hardback price for the ebook to get it now, instead I'm waiting and sorely tempted to look for torrents.

Per Sanderson's twitter/fb they are now going to release an ebook in February as a compromise (Sanderson was pushing for same-day release, Harriet wanted the year wait). As for myself, I have the hardcover to match the rest of the series on the shelf, but I'll be reading the pirated copy that will undoubtably hit IRC today or tomorrow.

I am reading the same book myself. I highly recommend this series (The Wheel of Time). IMHO it makes the Lord of The Rings seem like a child's book (and don't get me wrong I love the LotR !).

I'm happy they went with Sanderson, too. His styles fits so well with Jordan's, and his Way of Kings series has started of really well.

Indeed ! I had never heard of him before The Gathering Storm. But his work on the Wheel Of Time series has fulfilled all my expectations (and they were high!). The Way of Kings series is next in my queue.

You won't be disappointed. The WoKings was a bit odd at the start. He dumps you right into the middle, and I was somewhat confused by everything changing so fast, but you quickly realise this is in a way intentional, and works well in the long run.

Also, if you haven't read the Mistborn trilogy, I highly suggest it. It's a great, unique setting, and I had a great time with it.

Finally, his other books are great as well. Elantris and Warbreaker, each different, and great for single novel stories. I'm a big fan of the long arcs of great epics, but these one-off's were well worth the time invested.

Basically, he's an author that will require me to buy everything he writes for as long as he's writing.

I'm having trouble getting any work done knowing it's waiting for me in my backpack.

I'm "reading" the audio-book version, with the powerhouse-duo Kramer and Reading doing the reading. Makes the commute very enjoyable, and for some reason, I don't mind washing the dishes as much. =)

Also check out Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality too.

Yes, I have been following this too, and it feels like near the end in the last few chapters. Still have trouble reconciling HP's intelligence with him being 11 yrs old. Huge contrast with the "authentic" HP whom apparently had learnt nothing by the time he was 17.

Just finished Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson). About 100 pages into the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles (Haruki Murakami). Next is The Invention of Morel (Adolfo Bioy Casares).

I find that reading recharges my creative thinking. I used to think it was purely relaxation, but now consider it as essential as sleeping / eating well.

Just finished Little Brother, in the middle of The War of the Worlds right now, and I plan to tackle Cryptonomicon once the semester starts winding down. I also read You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier recently, which is a great read.

I liked the description of You are not a Gadget, maybe I will pick it up after I complete one of my current books (its almost definitely going to be TECS, GEB will take year to even be read once and understood superficially and add another few years for my habit of googleing or wiki-ing ever word I don't understand.)

I just read all of Peter Watts' books (Blindsight and the Rifter triology), very hard scifi, you can find them all free online at his website: http://www.rifters.com/

I really loved Blindsight. It set me off reading reading a bunch of non-fiction about the mind (e.g., Hofstader' I Am A Strange Loop)

The first Rifter book was pretty good, but in the 2nd he really let loose with anti-capitalist themes to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore.

I probably have bookmarks in 20+ books but these are at the top of the pile:

The Art Of Probability , Richard Hamming. I find prob/stat frustratingly hard to master. This book is clearing up my confusion chapter by chapter. As an engineer this book appears to be written for someone with exactly my level of knowledge which helps a lot.

Conspiracy of Fools , Kurt Eichenwald. Very entertaining ... shining examples of what not to do.

Security Analysis, 1934 Edition, Graham and Dodd. They authors are exquisitely clear thinkers. I don't know how useful the financial information is because it is 80 years old.

Getting Things Done


So that I can read more and do other things :)

I'm also reading Getting Things Done.

me too :)

You guys should stop reading and get something done already!

Structure and interpretation of computer programs. We have a kind of a book club at work: we're reading the same book, do the exercises and meet once a week to discuss the progress and share ideas.

QED, by Richard Feynman

Also watching the Messenger Lecture series Nima Arkani-Hamed gave recently http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1851016

Peter Seibel's Practical Common Lisp which is a really nice albeit long tutorial with interesting case studies.

Peter Norvig's Paradigms of AI Programming which is quite dense (in a good way) and extremely interesting.

I just bought and started the Land of Lisp for something light to pair with PAIP.

I'm also off-and-on reading Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (which needs no introduction), GEB (the same), and Coders At Work (which is humbling).

And Erik Larson's The Devil In The White City which is pretty entertaining.

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War

One-paragraph pitch:

In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries--or, better yet, get inside the adversary's Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop. ... Such activity will make us appear unpredictable thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries--since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.

A bunch of research papers related to compiling Prolog / logic programming idioms, pattern-matching hueristics, implementing constraint systems, etc. via CiteSeerX (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/). Also, APL-related stuff.

Nisan and Schocken's _The Elements of Computing Systems_ (http://www1.idc.ac.il/tecs/), which is about how the whole modern computing stack works, from NAND gates on up.

Jon Bentley's _More Programming Pearls_. Again.

Last few books:

Wind-Up Girl - Great postapocalyptic novel where the scarcity of 'calories' drives innovation and economy. A cool take on cyberpunk... biopunk?

The Shallows (What the internet is doing to our brains) - Great book, though a few chapters are kinda slow. Whether you believe the studies or not, it's full of excellent anecdotes about the history of book publishing, tv, etc.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Great story of post-wwii england written entirely via letters.

The Secret Lives of People in Love - Extremely beautiful prose. Each story is 5-6 pages.

Big +1 for Windup Girl, best SF book I have read in a long time

Couldn't agree more, as I haven't been hooked by a fiction book in a long time. Must admit that I've been hesitant to recommend it to friends because of the one gratuitous sex scene that randomly pops up in the middle.

I just finished House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

A fictional story told, in part, from the perspective of a tattoo parlor apprentice living in Los Angeles, who stumbles upon a monograph of a documentary film, authored by the late, blind neighbor of a friend, about a family who moves into a house in Virginia that is ≈ ¼" bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Leaves

I just finished this, too. Interesting, but a little exhausting. I wonder if it at all inspired paranormal activity.

Is my description pretty accurate?

The Foundation Series is my favourite sci-fi series, followed by Rendezvous at Rama.

Currently reading the 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene (Author of the Art of Seduction). I quite enjoy the way he writes, it's filled with historical examples and the sidebars on each page are filled with quotes from all the ages. Similar style to "Think and Grow Rich"

Summary here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_33_Strategies_of_War

Unquiet Earth by Denise Giardenia. I think I may have liked Storming Heaven, which this book is a sequel to a little better, but both are excellent.

They're both historical fiction centered around the coal mining industry in West Virgina. Storming Heaven covers the years during the WV mine wars/Battle of Blair Mountain, and Unquiet Earth spans years beyond that, up into the 1980's.

Another good one along the same vein is Strange as the Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake.

Bounce by Matthew Syed. Highly recommended read in the same vein as Outliers without the need to find continuously interesting anecdotes every 5 pages and with some science.

Cuckoo's Egg it is the story of a man tracing a hacker.

Dracula, and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

I've been restricting myself to fiction these days, since I get way too engrossed by non-fiction and want to keep it light and fun for a bit :)

This post.

I'm always surprised by the relative dearth of smart-ass comments on this site.

The Forever War - Joe Haldeman

Excellent science fiction.

I keep having to buy new copies of Forever War and Good Omens. I lend them to friends, and never get them back.

Yes, it is. It's held up surprisingly well considering it's nearly 30 years old at this point.

Yes, I'm reading that too. Next, I'll read The Forever Peace.

I picked up The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose, for the third time. It's really interesting and well written, but I still feel it's a pretty heavy read. I figure that I'll get through it with Sal Khan's help, when I hit math and physics that's above my level.

I hope it will be a good way for me to improve my math, while learning about our history and the universe all at the same time.

Just finished Andrew Vachhs's Haiku which I think is his weakest novel so far, I liked Alina Rodriguez's The Husband Habit and I could not put down Born To Run which gave me new insight into running, a sport I'm just getting started with. Currently reading Cooper's About Face (only technical book on the list :-) and about to start Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World

Reading for half an hour before going to sleep really helps me clear my mind after a long day's work. Try to do it every evening.

Currently reading:

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman - Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) - traces his journey from lifestyle business to super fast growth. Some excellent thoughts on leadership in there.

Also re-reading The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Highly recommended.

I've been wanting to sit down with Let My People Go Surfing for a while now. How is it?

The Orange Revolution


Getting some interest in building teams that makes an organization be more productive, efficient and at the same time, a nice and fun place to be in. I wanted to start with our IT department and perhaps, when permitted, expand to other sectors in the company I am working for.

World of Warcraft - The Shattering. Yeah, I said it.

I'm reading "The Living Cosmos" by Chris Impey. Found it in a bargain bin at the book store. It was worth much more than what I paid for it. The book is about astrobiology which is an interesting topic. The author is very balanced on the subject, it's a good 10,000 feet overview of the field and the author does a pretty good job at vulgarizing the subject matter.

I really enjoyed Solar, and really anything from Ian McEwan. Ammaniti is good fun too. But currently I'm reading mostly books for classes; Combinatorial Optimization by Papadimitriou and Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds, Solid State Physics, Introduction to Linear Analysis, Measure and Integration Theory, Lectures on the Coupling Method, Particles and Nuclei etc...

I have read about 1 500-600 page book ever two weeks for the last 4 years, almost 100% audio books. I swear by audio books, having listened to even quite difficult and dense tomes. The catch is you can't listen to math and comp sci books.

I highly recommend the Teaching Company Lectures on any historical topic, but esp. the Italian Renaissance. The lecturer is really awesome.

Fractals Everywhere by Michael Barnsley. It's a mathematics textbook, but very approachable. It could stand to be more rigorous but I'm finding it needs very little supplementary material. I've made it through metric spaces, affine transformations, and dynamical systems. Looking forward to Julia sets and Mandelbrot sets.

Fractals. They're pretty awesome.

I'm also reading Gödel, Escher, Bach

The first few chapters were invaluable to me with discrete maths - it was far easier to think inside a fixed formal system when I had experienced it within the book first.

The remaining chapters are all fascinating as well. Only bad point is I find it very tiring to read, I can't manage more than a couple of chapters in one sitting.

"Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307279189?ie=UTF8&tag=...

I just finished this over the weekend and thought it was great. What did you think?

Very similar thread, three hours ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1864688

EDIT: Not necessarily trying to say that this shouldn't be here, just that the audience for these two threads is probably pretty close, so people here might find the info there interesting/useful.

Yes, but this is on the front page.

To be honest this thread was inspired by that thread. But as the person was asking for suggestions, there is a fundamental difference I think.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Stephen Johnson - interesting exploration of how connectivity facilitates ideation.

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky - great nuts & bolts conversation on moving ideas into execution

Comfortable With Uncertainty (re-reading for the Nth time) - 108 short meditations and stories on finding peace in the context of constant change

  The Machine of Death - Anthology
  To Mock a Mockingbird - Raymond Smullyan
  Scott Pilgrim - Bryan Lee O'Malley
  Zero History - William Gibson
I've kept my reading history from mid-2003 on my web page; it's fun to have around: http://technomancy.us/books

Started on A Game of Thrones (G. Martin), in at around 100 pages it hasn't really captured me, and now Towers of Midnight (Jordan & Sanderson) is here so I think I'll postpone GoT.

Also started The Land of Lisp as a total Lisp newby and got royally confused at the end of 1st section with cons, car, cdr, cadr… what?

You really should give it a few hundred more pages. I guarantee it will grab you at the end it is kind of a slow burn though.

I was reading Paulo Coelho's "The Winner Stands Alone" and I just left it midway, it's insufferable. I tried before "The Witch of Portobello" and I couldn't get past a few pages so I guess I'm done with this author.

Before that I just finished Clavell's Shogun and I liked it, I just wished I had read it when I was in my teens.

Mythical Man Month.

Some of Jakob Nielson's usability stuff.

The Tao te Ching – Lao Tzu. Classic and calming.

Also Design Patterns in Ruby, which is rather entertaining for a programming book.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes

I'm also:

1) slowly working through F. Copleston's History of Philosophy Volume 1: Greece and Rome while reading selections of the philosophers he discusses

2) reading daily an article or piece from Lapham's Quarterly, and

3) reading almost daily 0.5-1 law from Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power

Making Our Democracy Work, by Justice Stephen Breyer

The Koran (Just five minutes here and there. Honestly, I find it excruciatingly boring.)

The Elements of Statistical Learning (Just started.)

Plus fun stuff. I have a Simenon on my bedside table plus The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Not sure which is next.

I just finished The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss and started Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. For those of you reading Ice and Fire or who have finished all of the current work I recommend both of these series.

I also look at The Book of 5 Rings and The Art of War on a regular basis.

I used to have your problem as well. Then I got a Kindle. Best thing I ever did for my reading addiction.

same here. went from reading 0 to reading 500 pages per month+ due to k3

Beginning The Land of Lisp, as a totally lisp newbie. And finishing the reread of that wonderful trilogy in six parts The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and waiting on the line "The Annotated Alice" by Lewis Carroll , Martin Gardner and John Tenniel (a spanish edition).

Just started Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. It's been years since I last touched scheme.

Just finished Refactoring in Ruby by Wake & Rutherford (a quick read, but had some good tips), and Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (fantastic).

Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

If you work in a UI/UX/Product/Front-end role do read this book some time.

I always have multiple books going at one time. Right now they are:

1) G.E.B 2) Mind Hunter - John Douglas 3) Whoever Fights Monsters - Robert Ressler 4) End the Fed - Ron Paul

I leave each book in a different place that I know will be "downtime" for me. i.e - bedroom, bathroom, office, and car.

Four Hour Work Week: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com

and re-reading

How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2274

Loving them both - excellent books.

The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler. Between reading this and The Making of Star Wars I now understand Lucas' attitude of "fuck sets and live props, we'll film everything in front of a green screen and fix it in post."

The books I'm in the middle of reading to one extent or another, that I can think of right this moment:

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

Swarm Intelligence - James Kennedy & Russel C. Eberhart

How The Mind Works - Steven Pinker

A History of Western Philosophy - Bertrand Russell

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

Heart of Darkness... an amazing read (and short!) A book that should be on everyone's list!

A History of American Labor by Joseph G. Rayback http://books.google.com/books?id=i9Tk_WF9Hc4C&dq=America...

* Networks of the Brain by Olaf Sporns

* Set Theory and the Continuum Problem by Smullyan and Fitting

* The Calculus Lifesaver by Adrian Banner

* Discrete Mathematics with Proof by Eric Gossett

* Unix and Linux System Adminstration Handbook by Nemeth, Snyder, Hein, and Whaley

Put this somewhere if you ever have a kid: The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. I've just finished applying what I learned, and believe me, you never knew how much you need sleep until you go without it for a few months. It's a great book.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This was after I finished Casino Royale by Ian Fleming and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

As far as non-fiction goes I'm reading Backgammon by Paul Magriel and Beginning iPhone Development.

‘Where’ and ‘what’ in the whisker sensorimotor system


Metaprogramming Ruby, by Paolo Perrotta The Girl on the Boat, by PG Wodehouse

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying - Sogyal Rinpoche


thank you for sharing.

Just started with "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning" by Andy Hunt.

Also reading "1453: The Holy War For Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West" by Roger Crowley. More of an action book than a historical one.

I read 2-3 dissertations per week, and just as many research papers daily.

Pro tip: if you read a business book like you would with a novel (when in a busy commuting, before going to sleep and generally when you attention is low) it's still better than not reading it at all

The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran

Once you've finished that, you may enjoy The Profit, by Kehlog Albran (http://www.angelfire.com/on2/mikemcclellan/theprofit.html)

"In Defense of Food" - Just finished.

"Long Walk to Freedom" - Currently reading.

"Good to Great" - Up next.

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman - a biography of mathematician Paul Erdos that also functions as an introduction to some of the more interesting puzzles of number theory.

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

It is essentially a guide on how to reduce complexity in your life so you can have more success with the essential things. I like it so far but I'm only half way through it.

I'm reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

I was just wondering whether anyone else experiences the problem I do when I read books: falling asleep after about 15 minutes. Any suggestions?

I'm reading the following:

#Recommend on HN:

--Infinite Jest - DFW

--A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again - DFW

--The Web Application Hackers Handbook - Marcus Pinto

#Recommended Elsewhere:

--On Intelligence - Jeff Hawkins

--Refactoring - Martin Fowler

--The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (re-reading/skimming)

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I'm also currently reading Godel, Escher, Bach. Simultaneously, I'm reading Coders at Work, which I am going to follow up with Founders at Work and Hackers & Painters by pg.

Zero History, William Gibson.

I am reading it very slowly and savoring it. I felt I read his last three books too quickly and found myself wishing I could read them again for the first time.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Great read so far. Equal parts grim and funny.

A few others have mentioned fiction by Haruki Murakami. All of his work is fantastic.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It's public domain, so you can get it free. I challenge anyone here to read the first page and not immediately want to read the whole thing.

* The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (audiobook)

* Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (kindle)

* Erlang Programming by Francesco Cesarini (rereading mostly because of the excellent exercises)

Drumming at the Edge of Magic, by Mickey Hart w/ Jay Stevens.

Random tales of the Grateful Dead, Shamans, percussion, and (most interesting to me) a conversation with Joe Campbell.

I've been reading Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" on and off over the course of these last 5 months or so, even though the other book I am reading is "Getting Things Done".

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb - Rhodes

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness - Thaler & Sunstein

Factorization Methods for Discrete Sequential Estimation - Bierman

If you really want a doorstop of a tome on nuclear weapons, checkout Rhodes' other book:


Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck. Long past due.

Edit: I'm also reading this book called "Hold Nothing Back" by Mike Jones, it was gift from a good friend of mine.

btw kudos on an awesome question

Richard Branson's early autobiography - Losing My Virginity

Plan to get this next time I go to the library. Good?

Yes I am thoroughly enjoying it. Takes you through all his early entrepreneurship issues.

Don't Make Me Think - by Steve Krug

A classic in good UI design for webpages.

Trainspotting, the novel that 90s film about Edinburgh drug addicts was based on.

Being written in Scottish slang for the large part enhances the humour and character greatly.

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