Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Non-fiction:

- Factfulness by Hans Rosling

- The War on Science by Shawn Otto

- Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell

- A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

- The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan

- The Enigma of Reason by Hugo Mercier

Fiction:

- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

- The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

- The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The non-fiction books were all incredible and highly recommended. I especially appreciate The War on Science as it is highly relevant in today's polarized and emotional political climate.

The fiction books were good, for the most part. However, The Magicians might be the worst book I have ever read, not limited to fiction or fantasy. For more on that, ask.

I managed to read significantly more books this year due to joining an at-work book club, which has been very nice.




Wow, that's interesting. We must have approached Grossman from completely different perspectives. Last year (2017) I read the entire Magicians series and thoroughly enjoyed them because they made me uncomfortable. I was trash, in the same way that Quentin was trash, so following his arc was introspective. At the time I contrasted it to the optimism in "All the Birds in the Sky" by Charlie Jane Anders (if you're familiar)

What was your experience like?

For reference, my most recent fiction is:

- "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Murakami

- "Uprooted" by Naomi Novik

- "God Emperor of Dune" by Frank Herbert


Cool to see an economics book on your list. I think it's a highly underrated subject among the tech community. I started to lightly teach myself economics this year. It was a real sobering experience learning how incredibly stupid I was towards economics and how complex it is. But even after just learning a little, it's amazing to see how that ignorance is a fear mongering tool in the media.


I agree with you 100%. There is a lot I didn't understand which is surprisingly obvious to me now.


Right? It's really eye-opening when a few basic concepts are explained. My only qualm so far in that field is the ideology aspect towards economic theories. I don't think Keynesian, classical, supply-side, etc should be considered as "theories", but more as "tools" to address certain economic situations. More I read about them, the more I think they are all, more or less, equally valid, depending on the situation or end goal. It's like, there's no one perfect battle strategy. It all depends on the situation. But it seems the greater part of politics and society just wants "One way that works all the time".


I hated The Magicians the first time, but I read it again once the tv show came out and I found it a lot better the second time. I just had to realize everyone in the book was supposed to be incredibly spoiled and bored assholes with barely any redeeming qualities. It showed the completely emptyness of life for people who can do pretty much everything, like youre playing a video game with cheats.


I definitely understood what Grossman was going for with the characters and the aspect around boredom you mention. My problems with the book have to do with how the story is paced, which is pretty bad, as well as with completely unnecessary and useless plot points around sex. I don't want to read a fantasy book where furry porn is sprinkled in wantonly without contributing to the plot in a meaningful way.

Also, Grossman writes the perspective of women (especially with respect to sexual interactions) as if he were a horny 19 year old incel. It actually gives no consideration to how women truly think in the real world, which is offensive and makes for bad reading.

Just my thoughts though.


I'll push back just a little and say that a lot of the first book was written from Quentin's perspective, so that's why it might have come off as clueless wrt how it handled sexuality. However, that might have been by design because in the rest of the series there's a lot of, "Expectations vs Reality." Meaning, "Here's how Quentin expects the women around him to exist," but "Here's how they actually exist."

Plus, a big chunk of the rest of the series revolves around <spoiler> Julia healing from sexual trauma </spoiler> and it was both nuanced and satisfying.

I won't go so far as suggesting that you give it another try, but it's not as terrible as it might seem :)


I side with you on this, I found it to be fantastically bad.

That being said, the defenders here have me suspecting that I may have misjudged it or misinterpreted it some. There is also a fairly popular tv show based upon it. It is very polarizing, perhaps it’s the age of the reader or some other experience that makes it so.


Man, the Magicians has to be the most controversial book, in terms of people either LOVE it or HATE it. I fall in the former camp and consider it my favorite book of all time.


Yeah, me too. I thought it was a wonderful take on fairy stories and the danger of getting what you want. I think you need to read all three to truly appreciate it though.


I thought I was the only one! The Magicians is by far the worst and least enjoyable book I’ve ever read, and I read ~ 100 books per year.


Yes - it was truly atrocious. It was nominated in our book club, but I wouldn't have finished it otherwise.

I wonder how it managed to get published in the first place. Also, I love this review from George RR Martin, where he manages to discuss the book without complimenting it:

“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children's book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”


I'm interested in checking out Basic Economics, but I'm concerned it's very ideologically slanted compared to an undergrad economics textbook. I'm moderately well read in classical political economy (and Marx) but I've heard conflicting reviews over Sowell (the man) and his book.


I highly recommend it. I don't think it's ideologically slanted too much, but he does ignore some oppositional arguments. However, I've heard (no source, just word of mouth) that the book is used as the main text in introductory courses to economics.


It's a very well written book. It's obvious that Thomas Sowell skews libertarian but he doesn't brow beat you over the head with it. The focus of the book is more to provide the analytical framework for you to make your own judgements as to how things operate in an economy. Once you ready the Sowell book make sure you read "How Markets Fail" which takes a slanted, oppositional view to deregulation.


I just picked up "How Markets Fail" at your recommendation, thanks!


Thanks for your recommendation of Thomas Sowell. I've been looking for a good beginners guide to economics.


I just finished this one and I have to say it was eye opening and a great read.

My one criticism is that sometimes he ignores oppositional arguments where I think he should address them. For example, he argues against market regulation in a number of cases, but doesn't admit that some market regulation is a good thing.

However, I'm very glad I read it and think it's much more good than bad.


> My one criticism is that sometimes he ignores oppositional arguments where I think he should address them.

Yes, that's because Thomas Sowell skews libertarian as mentioned by another commenter elsewhere in the thread.

I think this Amazon review [0] and a few others did a decent job of mentally preparing me wrt Sowell's biases before I committed to reading his very well-written book. It's essentially a caveat that there are quite a range of economic views out there but Basic Economics only exposes you to the economic view which he considers worthy of his time.

Regardless, Sowell does an excellent job of clearly expounding on what constitutes economic thinking.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3RFDB6MCBI1BI/re...


I'm not sure if he skews libertarian because of his economic views, or vice-versa, but I agree that he is libertarian.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: