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Analyzing Hacker News book suggestions in Python (towardsdatascience.com)
264 points by MLpractitioner on Dec 18, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

  - Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon by Valley John Carreyrou
  - Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep by Matthew Walker
  - The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  - Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight
  - How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
  - Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World by Hans Rosling
  - Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  - Deep Work by Cal Newport
  - Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
  - The Phoenix Project by D.M. Cain
  - 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
  - Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Tia T. Farmer
  - Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  - Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
  - Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
  - Linear Algebra by Jim Hefferon
  - 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
  - Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
  - Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  - Atomic Habits by James Clear
Most are about self improvement...i wonder if this bias says something about those who recommended the books. Was hoping for some new fiction books to put on my audiobook list.

When I was younger, I made a rule for myself to always be reading a fiction and a nonfiction book simultaneously, to keep my reading habit from being all fiction all the time. Now that I'm older, I keep the same rule, to keep my reading from being all nonfiction all the time. As it is, I probably read five or more nonfiction books for every fiction book these days.

I don't know if it's about self-improvement so much as self-education, which seem a little different to me. For example, Deep Work is absolutely a self-improvement book, but Prisoners of Geography is simply educational. After reading Deep Work, I behaved differently (not differently enough). After reading Prisoners of Geography, I knew more, but didn't feel any different.

It depends on on what type of fiction you like. If you're into fantasy with hard magic systems[0], I highly recommend anything by Brandon Sanderson. The narrators for the Mistborn and Stormlight Archives are pretty good.

I can also heartily recommend the first 5 or so Artemis Fowl books. They also have a great narrator.

[0] A hard magic is very understandable by the reader and can be used to resolve conflicts. Personally, I love them. See https://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-first-law/

I have read the first 4 Artemis Fowl books. Does the quality drop after the fifth one?

I think the books are all pretty good, but the narrator of the books changes at some point for the audio books. The first several ones have a stellar narrator.

You probably mean the first 7 books narrated by Gerry O'Brien.


The Three Body Problem series is probably my favorite fiction I've listened to in the past couple years.

Same here... it's hard to surpass that level of grandness, but I read it in Chinese. English translation of Chinese character names are not very easy for me to digest, but I heard the translation was really good. I bought both versions.

I read the trilogy English translation. I sometimes had trouble following individual characters with similar names, but it didn't impede my comprehension. Fantastic series, 11/10.

For me it was dissapointing. I dont read scifi that much, but Blindsight was way better

They are very different. Three Body trilogy keeps humanity as-is, time morphs the society and culture, but humanity more or less the same regardless. In that regard, I think Blindsight is better at exploiting the internal conflict within the humanity.

But the Three Body trilogy has many advantages over Blindsight in terms of time (it literally takes you on a journey from 1950s to the end of universe); dimensions (very concept that I haven't seen anywhere else); society (very acute transitions).

But really, they are both good. I also recommend Bobiverse series. Though it's not as good, sorry Dennis, but it's very enjoyable, every software engineer's wet dream that is. Haha.

Always puzzled with tech worker’s constant need for self help books. Go read history or a novel every now and then!

Personally I’ve found very few nonfiction books which helped me improve and educate myself more than the fiction (almost 80% of my reading list).

Sometimes it just seems there’s a forcefully acquired obsession with nonfiction reading and the misplaced sense of intellectual accomplishment attached (I’d not call it pseudo intellectualism).

I often compare it, in crude ways, with how one picks up smoking in school/college just because the “cool kids” do it too. But then that’s more to fit in I guess, or to fulfil a need to belong.

I was surprised to find friends move quickly from normal (for the lack of proper word) to “need a cig to think” or “.. do X”. Similarly “dude, this [a nonfiction book] got ‘depth’” followed by a couple of “you know”s and subtly accusing fiction of being mere entertainment.

PS. I’d love to know whether there’s been work done on relating preference of self help books with isolation, loneliness, being introverted, reclusiveness, lack of knowledge of a broader spectrum of issues (or exposure to a diverse social circle, if any at all) but having developed a very sharp analytical and logical thunks in a very narrow manner (usually the related STEM field) and tendency to just fit in everything in those “formulas” etc. I have noticed a lot of these in myself and also observed them dramatically change as my surroundings and circle changed.

They probably make a good fit, especially with how tech people tend to think analytically about things. However, I'm not entirely convinced that self-help books will always work and I've often thought that you can sometimes be over-analytical about things. Also, sometimes you can understand the rational explanation of something, yet that still will not affect the way you respond.

I've probably gone somewhat off-track here :]

Time reading novels (or doing anything else for fun) is time not spent improving, which in this all-against-all knife fight world is foolish.

HN being what it is, I can't tell if this is intended as satire.

It applies to me too. I can't afford books so I pirate them. But I can't enjoy fiction without physical books so I never read any lately.

No public libraries where you live?

A few fiction recommendations:

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple is the funniest novel I've ever read.

Man v Nature by Diane Cook is an inventive, insightful and sometimes dark collection of short stories that are often high concept but reveal a lot about human nature & motivations.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a funny and also literary novel by an author who writes endlessly clever, joyful and energetic prose.

I've pulled a few good ones out of this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17749283

When you are into fantasy, "The Malazan books of the fallen" are the most intricate, intense, complex, insightful, aeon-spanning series I've ever read. And the author managed to finish it. After reading Malazan, the ASOFAIs story arch and character development seemed almost trival in comparison. I envy you, that you have not read it yet and have it all still before you :).

If you are more into "novels" see this thread: "What are some great books that are relatively unknown in the US?" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17381352

My suggestions where

Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" [1] is by far the most outstanding novel i have read, as it stretches the limits of what language can express past anything i tought possible. The protagonist is a mathematician whose scientific mind applies allegorical dissections over a wide range of existential themes concerning humanity and feelings. The polarity makes it for an extraordinary read.

Hermann Broch "The Death of Virgil". The novel creates out of a dying poet a rich, profound vision both of civilization and of primal concerns of all mankind.

Austrian authors where on another level in the late 30s and 40s of the 20th century.

Finally, Victor Pelevin's "Empire V: The Prince of Hamlet" [3]. You gain instruction into the vampire life and by extension the humans which vampires feed and the nature of god and existence itself, with interesting meditations on existence, theology, matter, illusion and withering attacks on fashion, advertising, politics, the Davos elite, literature and particularly the nature of money.

Finally, Karel Čapek "War with the Newts" is just great.


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

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Virgil

[3] https://www.amazon.de/Empire-Prince-Hamlet-Victor-Pelevin/dp....

by Cormac Mccarthy, check the road or no country

Or Blood Meridian.

It's possible that's more due to the HN audience, which probably trends toward people who want to better themselves. I also imagine that self-help books are more universal (who doesn't want to Make Friends And Influence People?), whereas people can be judgmental about their Harry Potter/Narnia fanfic. :)

The City & the City by China Mieville

The third book is completely different from his results. In the article the third most recommend book is actually "Magi: Uncovering the Secret Society That Read the Birth of Jesus in the Stars Paperback – September 1, 2002 by Adrian Gilbert"

Sometimes it helps to read the article ;)

Not sure if it’s available as audio book, but I strongly recommend My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk if you’re looking for fiction.

It is, and the narration is quite good! I listened to it this year after looking for literature set in the Ottoman Empire.

I'm curious, what led you to recommend _My Name Is Red_, specifically? It's 20 years old, and I would think the more obvious Pamuk recommendation would be the Nobel prize winning _Snow_.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. I read the trilogy but my sister did the audiobook and enjoyed it.

Ohio was a gut punch of an audiobook.

Rediscovering nonfiction a few years ago was really cool, but unfortunately I think I’m out of books. I’ve noticed nowadays that most non-fiction books are basically “pop non-fiction,” is high basically entail a giant collection of studies and anecdotal stories all around a central theme, in easy to read language. There’s nothing wrong with this, just they don’t do a lot of synthesis of their own.

The problem is, the only books that do any actual synthesis of their own tend to be very long and very hard to read.

There are a few books that meet a sweet spot that are easy to read and are deep on content, (12 Rules for Life, Sapiens), but they’re hard to find.

I agree with your characterization of "pop" and "giant collections of studies" -- there are a lot of books like that turn out to not be very good. I honestly felt that way about Dan Ariely's books, which are heavily recommended. I found it hard to get through them.

For writers with a pleasing style and are deep on content, I would recommend Michael Pollan's books and Jared Diamond's books. Those are two of the authors that I've read 4+ books from. They are really synthesizing information and not just describing a list of studies.

I've also read 4+ books from Jon Krakauer and Anthony Bourdain. Although they're not about "synthesis", I think books that are "narrative" are better than a lot of the pop non-fiction books you're talking about. It's concrete and lets you draw the conclusions, rather than trying to force some canned conclusions upon you.

There's more than a thousand years worth of books for you to read.

The more recent a book, the worse you should expect its content to be.

Get outside of the bubble of immediacy and read the classics.

Can you elaborate on some names (expect Franklin's autobiography and Marcus Aurelius meditations)

Depends what your interests are.

I wouldn't call 12 Rules particularly "deep" in content, it's mostly anecdotal stories, bible quotes, and Christian Conservatism.

While sometimes the bible quotes went too far for my taste, I wouldn't say it's not deep. One thing it did for me is help me see religion in a new light. Religion is a constant in most (all?) human societies, this book helped me understand why.

That's assuming a very loose definition of Christian Conservatism.

Not sure I agree. Peterson is definitely controversial, and his political side is worth ignoring. But foundationally, the book is about the foundations of living a meaningful life and self improvement. And not that shallow sort of self improvement, it’s the real hero’s journey stuff.

I'm going to plug a few great non-fiction books that are easy(ish) to read and deep on content. I'm sure there are a lot more out there.

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Coming Into the Country - John McPhee

The Unwinding - George Packer

Anything by James C Scott (Thinking Like a State, The Art of Not Being Governed)

The Righteous Mind - John Haidt

The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins (Regardless of how you feel about his current public persona, this book published in 1976 is an absolute classic)

> Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Doesn't "giant collection of studies and anecdotal stories all around a central theme, in easy to read language" perfectly describe it? I know I am very much in the minority but I absolotely hated Thinking, Fast and Slow.

What is your take on "single topic" investigative journalism books? Like "The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks"[0] or Bob Woodward's "All the president's men"

I'd love to recommend "Abusado", by brazilian journalist Caco Barcellos, but unfortunately it does not seem to be available in English


Read history, art, music, etc. books - books on topics you're interested in? I read tons of nonfiction and I never have this problem.

I'm having trouble relating to parent's comment too. Are they only shopping at airport bookstores?

True. I love Cal Newport but he’s a great example of this. Best thing is that if you read a lot of books you get a quick easy feel for whether a book will be in the first or second grouping. Just by reading the description or look through a few pages. Table of contents is usually the best way to tell.

The author of Thinking in Systems is incorrect. The author is Donella H. Meadows: https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Systems-Donella-H-Meadows/dp...

Great, so my "won't recommend The Phoenix Project" made it to the top 10 (it is quarter of the votes for the book).

Nice overview. However, if I search in the tread, I can find "Thinking in Systems: A Primer" only twice. There are a few other books with "systems in the title, maybe some of those are counted as well?

this is great, though I wish it had year-by-year lists too (instead of week-by-week)

Hmm, Linear Algebra - Jim Hefferon does not seem to be mentioned at all in that thread.

Yes, I thought the original thread was interesting and so I was reading the article (which I thought is also interesting). Suddenly, there is my name---that's a bit of a start. However, I don't find that I come up when I search the discussion, although there are three instances of "Linear". A glitch, I guess.

It looks like when the script fed the titles into the Goodreads API, it picks the most common (popular?) book with that title. Since the subtitles were stripped out it got confused.

In the original thread, the two books were: -Linear Algebra, A First Course by Kutler -A Concise Introduction to Linear Algebra by Schay both in JabavuAdams' post.

Then there was a mention of the Linear B language elsewhere

That thread is my favorite thread each year. I look forward to it! I always find a few gems I wasn’t aware of and I love the way people share - warms my heart. So thanks for putting this together!

I recommend removing the "Show HN" prefix, which is not allowed for blog posts, before a mod changes the title of your submission to sth you may not like.


Thank you! Nice explanation of how you did it, combined with a useful result, makes for a great "Show HN". Bravo!

Incidentally those are reasons why it's a bad Show HN thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/showhn.html

> Blog posts, sign-up pages, and fundraisers can't be tried out, so they can't be Show HNs.

Whoops! I've been here long enough I should've known better. Thanks minimaxr

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