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Ask HN: Favorite nonfiction books of 2018?
842 points by jestinjoy1 on Dec 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 332 comments
What are your favorite nonfiction books of 2018 (Read in 2018)

Michael Pollan: How to Change Your Mind [1]

Not just about an utterly fascinating topic (psychadelic drugs), in terms of history (LSD turning from a scientific wonder drug to illegal), his personal experiences, and the neuroscience behind it, but also just extremely well-written -- a real page-turner. A crazy potent combination of science, spirituality (from a skeptic), and narrative. I expect his book will be a significant part of why psychadelic drugs will be legalized in the near future specifically for therapeutic purposes.

Also +1 for 2017's Why We Sleep [2]. After reading it, I couldn't believe how shockingly ignorant I'd been of how I spend a full third of my life, and how much it affects the other two-thirds -- and the degree to which a lack of sleep prevents us from perceiving the effects of lack of sleep, in a kind of vicious cycle.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Mind-Consciousness-Transc...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Sleep-Unlocking-Dreams/dp/1501...

the topic of psychedelic drugs is truly fascinating, but I think Pollan's books "How to change your mind" is poor. I read most of it and felt angry and hollow after. I don't recommend a purchase.

Here's the review I left on Amazon (2 star):

"How tot change your mind" delivers and important core message, but it should have been an article or a podcast episode. Cutting the fluff offers vast room for lossless compression.

If you listen to the episode of Russ Robert's Econtalk (a podcast) with Pollan you'll know everything the book has to say.

Some takeaways:

When LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) were first studied by western science, there was a lot of hope for their potential use as medical treatment. Recreational use exploded and governments around the world banned the drugs, crudely throwing psychedelics in the same bucket as Heroin. Research stalled for 40 years but has recently picked up again. Partial legalization and increased medical use can be expected in the near future.

Psychedelics can move humans away from the "default mode" of consciousness and lead to ego dissolution. This is a trans formative experience for many.

Psychedelics harbor the potential for alleviation: Within the right medical setting (non-supervised usage is discouraged), the use of these substances can help addicts, those close to death and the depressed.

LSD and psilocybin are neither toxic or addictive.

According to some, it is possible to reach the enlightened states through a long term meditative practice, psychedelics can be seen as a shortcut.


What annoyed me about the book is that acronyms are spelled out repeatedly (for readers who don't pay attention?) while deeper explanations, especially regarding Timothy Leary are made too late in the book (e.g. only after the name has been mentioned several times - I am reminded of the frequent mentioning of John Galt in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged").

Numerous academic researchers are introduced, I'm fine with an elaboration on their respective academic affiliations and educational backgrounds - but spending a third of a page on the description of their physical appearance is disrespectful of the reader's time.

How others can refer to this book as "the best book they've ever read" is beyond me. I'm going to try to send the book back, I don't want it in my library.

Gee, I guess people just don't read books the same way. What might be annoying to you might be an enjoyable style of writing to others.

I respect your opinion, but your verdict is just not the single truth out there. Personally, I read such books very different from reading at a younger age or non-fiction books.

Encounter a paragraph which does not catch your interest or you don't like the writing style? Skim over it. Familiarize yourself with the rough contents of a chapter before you read it, as to understand the general topic - makes skipping single paragraphs much easier.

The goal is not school like reading, where you ought to know all the contents to fill out a standardized test, but reflect your own personal values and experiences against what you are reading. If there are passages which don't give you anything - people are very diverse - then, well, skip them. The author did not conspire to make the experience unpleasant for you.

Ultimately, this is a fascinating topic for many, whether you prefer the podcast or the book should be left for everyone personally to decide.

It appears you clearly don't like narrative, and yes -- if you don't like narrative, you won't like this book.

But many (if not most?) people do enjoy narrative -- they enjoy the build-up and suspense of what did Timothy Leary do that was so bad instead of getting straight to it, literary descriptions that paint a picture of a main character visually and personality-wise, and sentences that are natural and conversational (not a science article full of acronyms).

This is why I specifically mentioned the book is a combination of science and narrative -- which comes out of fiction. Born to Run is another classic example.

It's very rare that an author is excellent at clearly explaining science, excellent at writing narrative that hooks you, and also covers a topic that is very timely, widely unknown, and fascinating. That's the kind of triple-threat combination that makes it a best book for me.

Ram Dass wrote and said some interesting things about LSD in his books and talks, and had a unique perspective, as an ex-psychology professor and Hindu guru. He gave his guru in India a very large dose of LSD and the guru said "Enlightenment has come to America in the form of a pill."

Personally, I tried (what I think was) LSD a few times, mushrooms a half dozen times; in short, it was the most amazing thing I've ever done. Super-highly recommended. Mushrooms especially, as you know what you're getting. Do it with someone who knows what they're doing and you trust.

But do you have a better book recommendation?

Not op, but acid test is a great read too on the same topic

you might also enjoy:

PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story by Dr. Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin

It's an autobiographic story from the creator of MDMA and 2C-B — an amazing account of scientific approach and original thinking — in addition to an amazing love story and the history of progressive-thinking Bay area

(one of my favorite books I've read in 2018)

+1 for Why We Sleep, just finished it a few days ago.

+1 for Why We Sleep


The Shallows - What the internet is doing to our brains

Truly a great read

Favorites that I read in 2018:

* Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34466963-why-we-sleep)

* Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4806.Longitude)

* Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26156469-never-split-the...)

* Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25852784-evicted)

* Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11084145-steve-jobs)

PSA: if you use an e-reader or like audiobooks, check out Libby: https://meet.libbyapp.com/

I'm not affiliated with them. Nice app for borrowing ebooks and audiobooks from your local library.

If you like “Why We Sleep” I recommend “The Sleep Solution” as a companion. Why We Sleep is heavy on interesting sleep science but light on practical tips for improving sleep (The Sleep Solution is the opposite...)

Agreed with the remark about 'Why We Sleep'. I also suggest "Circadian Code" for some practical remarks (for improving sleep, but overall health too)

Can vouch for Circadian Code. The first two third of the book is accompanied with practical actionable items and helped me to gain control on my sleep.

I actually fixed my insomnia in 2018.

In the past, I could always rely on the fact that I was able to sleep well the night following a bad night. After I couldn't sleep two nights in a row I started to get very worried.

I changed three things:

1. Before going to bed I meditate (I usually listen to the app from Sam Harris)

2. No more caffeine after 11 am

3. 100% of what is called in books "bed hygiene", meaning: when I go to bed I immediately switch off the lights and sleep. I do nothing else. Also, I try to always sleep around the same time, even on weekends.

I believe 3) has been the biggest change. I used to read and even sometimes watch Netflix in bed. I miss reading in bed but since I stopped doing that and only focus on sleeping I have never had problems to fall asleep anymore, despite going through some stressful times.

I do sometimes still wake up early, but since I sleep well before I can handle those days pretty well. My life has changed a lot for the better, one of the best things I have done recently

Thanks for the recommendation. I agree, I wish the author had gone a bit more into practical tips and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. I'll check out The Sleep Solution.

I second Libby. You can get just about any of the books recommended on this thread for free. Additionally, for me, I like to get my books from the library since it gives me a reason to read them before I have to return them.

I have not tried Libby yet but recently started checking out eBooks from my local public library (via Overdrive) to read on my Kindle. I am pleasantly surprised how convenient and straightforward that process is. And all that without spending any money.

Libby is the new and somewhat flashier version of Overdrive. My old Android tablet doesn't handle it as well as the old overdrive app, but it works. I think it also has better support for multiple library cards than overdrive, but I haven't tried that yet.

I've used overdrive with 2 library cards and never had any issues.

I really don't understand the need for libby

I've not tried Libby yet, but I always find the popular books on LibGen.

“Never Split the Difference” was fantastic. Still it was super weird that unlike the advice in the book, some of the book comes across as bragging. Also, Chris Voss does not perform the audiobook although in the book he discusses his mastery of voice, his smooth radio jockey voice and covers different speaking techniques. Still, one of my favorites of 2018.

I finished the book recently and I cannot recommend it enough. The bragging sometimes shows through the stories and the end of the book feels like a clever marketing about his company. But the book is well written, well structured, stories are good, and each chapter brings new techniques. The book changed the way I handle communication. There are actionable practical tips and tools for communication and it shaped how I think about a hard phone call, how to prepare for a meeting and how to push coffee chitchat at work in more interesting directions. You will have to ignore more self-centered persons in your life than this book's author anyway, take it as a practice lesson :) And to Chris Voss defense he also talks about examples he made mistakes.

I found the constant bragging intolerable and ended up stopping reading after two or three chapters.

I had a similar experience. And I usually try to go through books I start even if I dislike them. But this one... it was too much...

Chris Voss's interview on Shane Parish's podcast is filled with some really good nuggets. I have not read the book but found the podcast like a condensed version of his skills/expertise: https://fs.blog/2018/01/chris-voss/

I might not end up reading this one due to the comments about bragging, but I wanted to ask: what's with the title? Why would you never split the difference?

He was an crisis negotiator focused on situation where hostages are taken. You don’t go around asking for half an hostage.

Definitely at least go through podcast: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18822162

I also enjoyed Longitude when I read it, but it's been described as "suffer[ing] however from a major flaw, it is a distortion of the real history it is claiming to relate."


Interesting, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately the post you linked is not about the book Longitude, and the blog the author links to for people who want to "discover more about what really took place" is a 404.

I'll have to do more research, but at first glance I don't see any criticism (yet?) on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longitude_(book).

I'd like to see a breakdown of the facts vs. what Sobel wrote. I read the book because I'm a mechanical watch enthusiast, and I was not disappointed in any of the descriptions of the Harrison timepieces or what made them work. I plan to go see them next time I'm in London.

I still recommend the book, especially to watch enthusiasts.

Ah, sorry — that'll teach me to post when I should be asleep. The author of the blog has discussed it a few times. This is probable the best summary: https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/the-true-story-of-a-...

Here's another post, more about another book he recommends on the subject: https://thonyc.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/retelling-a-story-th...

The book is Richard Dunn & Rebekah Higgitt, Longitude: How Ships, clocks and stars helped solve the longitude problem, Collins and Royal Museums Greenwich, London 2014. It is from the people who were behind that 404ing Royal Observatory blog. At least some of that blog's posts are archived: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919110228/http://blogs.rmg....

The blog is still on the Royal Observatory site, but their site redesign makes it nearly impossible to find since they are merged with all their other blog posts and they didn't set up redirects. Here's that final post (the links to other blog posts are dead, but I've found most with a "site:" search with the post title): https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/so-lon...

'I still recommend the book, especially to watch enthusiasts.'

I have no interest in watches but it remains my favourite book nonetheless.

I followed your link but it did not lead to a discussion of Longitude. It lead to a discussion that mentioned Longitude and had a link to a longer discussion, which however was dead for me. If you could fix that, I for one would be interested in more.

I posted some better info in a reply to a sibling comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18746779

I have not read it, but judging by the synopsis on Goodreads, it seems to gloss over any developments during the Islamic Golden Age. Is this judgement accurate?

How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big - Scott Adams (2013)

One of my favorite quotes: “I put myself in a position where luck was more likely to happen. I tried a lot of different ventures, stayed optimistic, put in the energy, prepared myself by learning as much as I could, and stayed in the game long enough for luck to find me.” pg - 158

My top ten list for the year: https://www.gregkamradt.com/gregkamradt/top-reads-2018

I really enjoyed it too. My main takeaways:

1. Use systems, not goals. A system lets you feel good every time you follow it, whereas a goal only makes you feel good when you reach it

2. Combination of skills. If you can be good (say top 20%) in more than one domain, then that combination of skills can be enough to make you very sought after.

3. What all adults should know, like public speaking, psychology, business writing, accounting, design, and conversations.

4. Learning from failures. This is a theme throughout the book. Each failure can teach you something. If you attempt something and fail, you at least gained experience. This experience will be useful for your next project.

> Use systems, not goals.

This, it could seem something that could have limited effect in real life but it's not. Small daily improvements compound.

Regarding #2: Does the book go into any specifics on how exactly you're going to be sought after or at least how to look for the people who needs generalists?

I consider myself a generalist but I never ever see much interest for hiring someone like me. There's always ask for a person who's a focused pro in some niche area AND then possesses a cloud of tangential skills, though.

I have not read his book but have seen that particular point float around from links to his blog: https://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/07/car...

> Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.

The idea isn't about being a generalist, but rather being valuable because you're like getting two okay guys or gals in one package.

Adams' own example is how he's by no means a highly talented artist nor is he a top comedian, but the combination of being halfway decent with a pen and having a better than average sense of humor suddenly puts a person into a much smaller group on the Venn diagram. And adding in just one more thing - his experience in the corporate business world, allowing him to create strips a lot of people could relate to - was enough to catapult Dilbert into a global phenomenon.

There are tons of moderately funny people in the world. And many okay line artists. And it's not hard to find someone with experience working in a corporate office. But the number of people who meet all three criteria is incredibly tiny. Heck, just having two of the three is quite rare.

The point being, it's far easier to become a big success by being above average in a few things, than it would be to try to be one of the best in a single area.

Finding a way to combine yout skills to make that success is the key, of course. And may require learning new skills or improving areas in which you're merely average.

One of the big themes of the book is how you shouldn't worry too much about trying new things and failing. For one, humans are terrible at anticipating what sort of work we would truly enjoy or be good at, and the only reliable way to find a true match is to try a lot of things and keep redirecting yourself. And for another thing, any skills you learn along the way only increase the odds of eventually finding a combination of skills that can lead to great success.

One thing many people reading the book overlook, I think, is that being mediocre in a lot of skills isn't the point. It can't hurt, of course, but the idea is to be above average in a combination of skills that can be utilized together in an interesting way. Recognizing that combination is more likely to be a process of trial and error rather than high minded planning.

I think the idea is that you are somewhat a specialist in 2 areas (but not a worldclass specialist). As I recall, that advice does not apply to being a generalist.

This looks more close to reality, but parent said "20%", which doesn't look good enough.

Top 20% is definitely good enough, the value having removed the issue with transcendence between two normally unrelated fields will improve your advantage by many factors.

Of course, not everything goes.

Pretty convincing reply. I'm placing an order for the book right now

I thought this book was quite good.

I also used to enjoy Scott Adam's blog and ideas, that's why it was quite shocking to me when I revisited his site and found out what he has turned into. I can't take him seriously anymore.

I never understood why it is so hard for some people so to seperate political opinion from other fields of the personality.

It's not just his politics. He has become a delusional an egotistical person.

He kept talking about how Twitter shadowbanned him for months. When he was on Joe Rogan's podcast, Joe Rogan suggested ways to test if this is true. He got upset and tried to change the subject. When pressed by Rogan, he finally said: "I don't really want to find out. I just like the idea that I am important to be shadowbanned."

Maybe a personal choice how much eccentric behavior one is willing to put up with.

Agreed. I haven't visited his "blog" is some time now. A shame.

"what he has turned into" is roughly "a Trump fanboy" for those who don't want to go trawling through his blog. I also used to really enjoy his blog for his unconventional but mind-opening ideas before he started blogging about Trump in the pre-election runup.

it's more than being "trump fanboy". It's his confabulating of abstruse theories like "master puppeteer" and all this gibberish talk.

I find it irresponsible the opposite of what he has done before. Is this really the same person who created Dilbert and the above mentioned useful book?

I 100% agree with your opinion. Initially when he was discussing his analysis of Trump it felt like he was doing to tell us about Trump’s skills in persuading etc., but it has just turned into it being a mouthpiece for Trump. It’s so sad that such a talented person can become that. I truly enjoyed the book though

That Adams would join the Trump train isn't all that surprising when you read the book. Right from the beginning, he mentions that he didn't get a promotion at work because of upper management's 'minority hiring' policies (this was in the '80s, I believe). He doesn't provide much information about this policy, only that he perceived himself to have been left behind because of it.

He does provide information later in the book: an explicit policy to no longer promote white males. That policy was communicated to him by his boss, and was one of his primary motivations to become self employed.

Loved this book, so much wisdom.

I see loads of great suggestions in this thread, let me just add three of my LEAST favourite nonfiction books:

Thinking, Fast and Slow: Really should have been subtitled The Ludic Fallacy Run Amok. Filled with grand generalisations based on dubious conclusions from small under-powered behavioural experiments. Read if you want further evidence that Behavioural Economics, that bastard child of psychology is an edifice built on bullshit.

Masters of DOOM: A homage from a fanboy meant for other fanboys. It definitely has its bits of brilliance but it is still a chore to finish.

The Inner Game of Tennis: At 161 pages it might seem short but is in fact 160 pages too long. I bought it after someone on HN said its advice wasn't really about tennis but about life. I wonder what that person was smoking at the time.

> Thinking, Fast and Slow: Really should have been subtitled The Ludic Fallacy Run Amok.

Recently I read Blink by Malcom Gladwell (somewhat recommend) and I finally understood why I hated Thinking, Fast and Slow so much.

Gladwell mentions a concept called thin-sliccing [1]. I finally had a term to describe my feelings towards that book. If you pay attention to the beginning you get a pretty accurate idea of just how bad the book really is overall.

Given the book's subject I find the whole thing deliciously ironic.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin-slicing

I just finished reading the Undoing Project which is a biography of Kahneman and Tversky. I realized that Kahneman and Tversky's conclusions seem the opposite of Gladwell's Blink which I read many years ago. I need to go back and read Blink again to see what I really think.

Blink is riddled with problems (as Gladwell seems to sometimes admit) but IMHO is still a far more honnest book than TFS.

Regarding the Inner Game, I haven't read that, but felt the same about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Apparently the inspiration of both might have been Zen in the Art of Archery, which some say is better than either of the previous two, but I've never read it.

I do recall thinking that Kahneman moved too quickly over his own comment in that book that over 50 percent of studies in psychology had been found to be under powered from a statistical standpoint. He didn't then follow with 'so I made sure that every study mentioned in this book had sufficient power'... Which made me worried about his conclusions. Given your opinion was voiced so strongly, I assume you've looked at this in detail? If so could you please expand on what evidence or research supports your statement?

> Masters of DOOM: A homage from a fanboy meant for other fanboys. It definitely has its bits of brilliance but it is still a chore to finish.

Can I recommend the audiobook? For what it's worth I found Masters of DOOM to be great. Mostly because the writing style _really_ does a good job of communicating the personalities of the people involved. I'm not a video game guy, in fact I've never played DOOM, but I still enjoyed it start to finish.

I haven't read Masters of DOOM but I did enjoy the other two books. And yes, the Inner Game of Tennis is more about the "inner game" than the tennis. And the inner game applies to everything in life. Too bad you didn't appreciate the book but I guess to each his own.

I know it's already been mentioned, but John Carreyrou's "Bad Blood" is a must-read. Even as someone who read and enjoyed every story published in the WSJ about Theranos, the book managed to have even more context and incredible (and hilarious) reporting. It's a book as entertaining as it is invaluable in its investigative journalism.

Agree, I thought I knew everything about the story, but the book had even more in it. Well written and highly entertaining. I couldn't put it down.

Yes it’s a great book, non-fiction but riveting.

Dr Panetta, Williams: Count Girls In [1]

The field guide for anyone who refuses to accept girls and women are less likely to succeed as engineers, scientists, or in any technology profession. This accessible yet science-grounded book was effortless to read and is packed with chapter after chapter of practical age specific advice. I’m a father of two young girls (and a boy) and I will no doubt keep it at my side for many years to come.

My key take away: It seems too often we assume the way things are is they way they will always be, so we fix the symptoms and stop looking for better answers. “Education is education and the same for both genders, so the dispartity between genders in the tech field must be girls aren’t as good at it or boys keep them out of the club.” Well the authors present a wealth of scientific evidence to strongly suggest our approach to STEM education (starting in the home) is geared more towards the way boys brains are biologically wired to learn, and simple intuitive adjustments to the way the same concepts are taught to girls net amazing results. After trying a few of the tips on my 2 and 6 year olds there’s no doubt.. anyone who wants a girl or a women in their life to succeed should read this book. It’ll change lives.

+1 for Why We Sleep, alarming, insightful and ultimately likely to add years the lives of those who read it.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/1613739397

Interesting. Here in Norway, girls are outperforming boys in school at every level, and the gap between them gets bigger every year. A few years a go the gap was smallest in math, but I recently listen to a discussion on radio that said even that gap started to get bigger. One of the arguments that are used here often is that school is geard more towards girls than boys.

I have to read that book to understand why it seems to be so different in USA (I presume).

Some links about the topic in norwegian: https://www.nrk.no/norge/jentene-tar-over-prestisjestudiene-... https://www.nrk.no/norge/_-guttene-ligger-langt-bak-jentene-... https://www.vg.no/nyheter/meninger/i/B7XG7/hvorfor-blir-gutt... https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/Jenter-flinkere-pa-sko...

This is a common theme across all Western countries, see eg PISA & other OECD data and the excellent and detailed Eurostat statistics:

- Girls perform much better in most domains of education (in math & STEM the picture is more mixed) - girls are less likely to drop out - girls are more likely to go to university - in nearly all subjects of university there are more girls than boys, except for a few hard sciences & engineering - after university women are as they get older less and less likely to be in most science professions, less likely to be in management, more likely to stop/take a break from working (and then eventually never come back or vastly under their formal skills level)

I just looked up the Norwegian delegate to the International Math Olympiad. Unfortunately, males are still top heavy. There was only 1 female out of 6 spots.



Not too long ago I was student, doing CS. In my programming classes senior year there would be literally 1 girl. The harder the class the less girls there were. When I wasnt sure about which major to do I tried psychology, 80% were girls. First I was excited but very soon I felt like an outsider.. eventually I was looking forward to finish the class and never come to this major again.

As a father of an 8 year old girl, I'll be getting this book, thanks for the recommendation.

What's disheartening though, is all the "Sponsored products related to this item" at the link are all weight loss books. All the "Customers who viewed this item also viewed" are cosmetics or 'accessories'.

Seems it's still an uphill battle.

Real Analysis: A Long-Form Mathematics Textbook by Jay Cummings [0] finally helped me conquer elementary real analysis. It was fast, smooth and streamlined experience. Your millage may vary, though, as this one wasn't my first analysis encounter.

This book enters the pantheon of books that were tremendously helpful to me: Learning to Reason by Nancy Rodgers, Discrete Math by Susanna Epp and Linear Algebra by Kuldeep Singh.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Real-Analysis-Long-Form-Mathematics-T...

FWIW, I'm also a big fan of Susanna Epp's book on Discrete Math. I found it more accessible than Rosen's book.

“A Programmer’s Introduction to Mathematics” by Jeremy Kun. It’s funny, approachable, and manages to get deep into math topics important to programmers. It goes into the history and culture of math, helping you understand why math is the way it is. Couldn’t be happier with it!

https://pimbook.org/ for those who didn't see the announcement post here.

I went back to the basics this year. Re-read my favorites from Jerry Weinberg ( August 7, 2018)

- The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully

- An Introduction to General Systems Thinking

- Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach

- Are your lights on?

based on his references I went back to Virginia Satir, her Books are kinda hard to order:

- The new Peoplemaking

- The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond

- Your Many Faces.

And as always once a year:

- Thinking in Systems: A Primer - Donella H. Meadows

Just writting this list makes me realize that this was a kinda classic year for me. Still read a lot of coding books i.e.: about JS, CloujourScript but nothing stood out.

- Understanding ECMAScript6: The Definitive Guide for JavaScript Developers - Nicholas C. Zakas

was good. Some points I did not know and a good read.

- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It - Chris Voss

was great as it gave me new insights how to structure my speech and thoughts behind it.

But well, my favorite book this year was and is mine

- "Understanding SEO - A Systematic Approach to Search Engine Optimization" - Franz Enzenhofer

Taking what i learned from Weinberg and Meadows (with some E. Bono) and apply it to the system that is search(-behaviour and the marketplace Google). https://www.fullstackoptimization.com/b/understanding-seo

What is it about "Thinking in Systems" that compels you to read it annually?

it defined the way i think about ... everything.

and every year again while reading it i put my experiences (business and private) again in the form of systems and leverage points as outlined by donella. and every year again its an awesome learning experience. simply the most important book i have ever read. (i read a lot)

You've piqued my interest. It's now in my queue.

They weren't written in 2018, but some I enjoyed:

* Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution (Steven Levy)

* Masters of DOOM (David Kushner)

* The simpsons and their mathematical secrets (Simon Singh)

* Countdown to zero day (about stuxnet, by Kim Zetter)

* Sapiens: A brief history of human kind (Yuval Noah Harari)

* Coders at work (Some interviews, not all, but I enjoyed it. By Peter Seibel)

“Hackers” is brilliant. No other book captures so well the iconoclastic adventurer spirit at the heart of the microcomputer revolution from '75 to '85.

Because I and my future boss had just read “Hackers” (in 1986), we spent a job interview exchanging favorite vignettes from the book, which led to my first job in programming. This book changed my life. Thanks, Steven (and Greg)!

Masters of DOOM is amaaazing, really made me into a John Carmack fan.

Really? I admired his accomplishments before I even read this book (which is an amazing read), but it kind of makes him seem like a sociopath.

The book keeps getting recommend on HN presumably by true fans of DOOM. Apart from a few brilliant bits scattered throughout, it was a disappointing read for me.

I liked the book because it was pretty fast paced and gave insights into the PC game industry of the '80s and '90s, which I didn't know anything about. The rest of it I feel like I enjoyed because I was a kid in the '90s who loved Doom and Quake.

As for me, I was quite a 'hardcore' gamer in the late 90s early 2000s. So it was interesting to read where the games that I've played came from, because they owe a lot to DOOM.

The first game I remember playing was Wolfenstein 3-D. Or well, my father played it mainly and I watched, and only occasionally dared to play it myself. So perhaps for me it was more the nostalgia of Wolfenstein rather than DOOM that did it :)

I always admired Carmack, even before reading the book. I could agree with the 'sociopath' sentiment though, but that doesn't diminish his genius in my opinion :)

+1 for Sapiens, it was really perspective-broadening for me. His two followup books, while good, were not quite of the same caliber in my mind. While I would unconditionally recommend Sapiens to everybody, I would only recommend Homo Deus and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century to more limited audiences.

Sapiens is one of my all time favorites. This is how history should be taught in school instead of looking at different time periods in isolation.

+1 for Coders at Work! Excellent, long interviews with really famous developers and computer scientists.

I enjoyed The More of Less by Joshua Becker. This year I finally had the realization that I've been accumulating way too many physical possessions that I didn't really need nor benefit from, and it's been a good introduction to practicing minimalism.

The book talks about how minimalism isn't about ridding yourself of everything but your bare necessities, but to discard things that you don't love so that you can better focus on the remaining things that are important to you. If you've read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, this point will resonate with you quite well.

I've since whittled down my wardrobe significantly, throwing out a large chunk of shirts/pants/sweaters that I haven't worn in over a year and it's actually done wonders for my health. I discovered that my bedroom had been left in neglect for a long time now, which had caused a bit of mold to grow (which in turn had given me allergy issues for the past couple months) and having to go through my clothes helped me both physically and mentally.

Another book that touches on these themes is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

Maybe in 2019 I'll finally get to a point where I don't have to pack dozens and dozens of boxes when I inevitably move again.

+1 on both these books

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michel Lewis. [0]

It is about the one of the greatest paternship between Nobel laureate Danny Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky.

Kahneman and Tversky’s extraordinary friendship incited a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis’s own work possible. [1]

The book is very well written and if you have read Kahneman's Thinking fast and slow, then you should also read this one.

[0]https://www.amazon.com/Undoing-Project-Friendship-Changed-Mi... [1]https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35631386-the-undoing-pro...

The View from Flyover Country

Sarah Kendzior is my favorite political analyst today. She has called so much of what's happened over the past few years long before others, and she cuts right to the heart of what's happening. This book is a collection of essays she published about the changing economy and political scene over the past ~5 years.



If you see this reply soon, you can edit and fix the Amazon link for this book. Your link shows a Page Not Found error. The correct link is https://www.amazon.com/View-Flyover-Country-Dispatches-Forgo... (the last two digits are flipped in your link).

Righteous Mind, Why good people are divided by politics and religion by Jonathan Haidt (also applies to classic nerd feuds like Mac vs windows vs Linux)

The Mom Test, how to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you by Rob Fitzpatrick (worst title ever, book is great)

The Righteous Mind is brilliant. It gives an excellent framework by which to understand today's events better.

yep, very much agree. I wish everyone would read that. It increased my ability to feel empathy toward those who I disagree with, even strongly.

Seems somewhat of an odd tagline "why good people are divided by politics"...

All people are divided by politics.

Perhaps it's one to give a read though.

I swear I'm noticing a systemic failure at a global level of people to recognize they are always-on 24/7 political machines living inside an always-on 24/7 political machine and it's mostly Garbage In, Garbage Out.

That's the default mode of operation. Most people are wrong about most things. Couple that with the fact we are de-facto tribal animals that can't turn our politics off. All you get is one big, giant disagreement where everyone is likely wrong and nobody will admit it.

But I keep noticing patterns in everyones language... Patterns that make an assumption that the crazy political debates we find ourselves in are somehow an abnormal state and the world has "descended into madness" or "we've gone mad" or "it seems people have really lost their minds lately".

This pattern crops up over and over again. It's like no man, look at the hardware and software producing the outputs. This is the output the system is designed to produce. We haven't "lost our minds" or "gone crazy", we were always this batshit insane and this is always the protocol we have operated on.

Curious what the framework the book lays out and what resemblance it bears to my own framework...

The tagline is meant to emphasize that even good people are divided by politics, and the book is meant to target people who didn't find that obvious.

Right but "good" itself is a moral/value judgement, so you wind up with the question "who is doing the defining?" And that descends into a disagreement. That is our M.O.

Actually looking at description of this book and some of the reviews it's basically what I'm saying. Though my thesis contains a large component centering around our complete inability to calculate the truth value of most truth claims a priori and our inability to recognize that leads us to being utterly convinced our erroneous conclusions are correct and getting angry at people who disagree with us. This coupled with all the literature on how dissenters are treated and how groupthink takes hold. We are a walking recipe for disaster.

This will make for a good read. Probably help me to expand on my own model even more.

I think a lot of turmoil and confusion could be avoided if we collectively upgraded our protocols for dealing with each other.

The point of the tag line is to humanize people on the other political side from you.

> Curious what the framework the book lays out and what resemblance it bears to my own framework...

I haven't read the book but I assume it follows the framework the author developed (he's a moral psychology academic, I believe) and laid out in a TED talk a while ago (back when they were still good). If you're curious about it, check out the talk on YouTube.

Absolutely loved The Righteous Mind, it was one of my favorites this year as well. I just ordered his next one, The Coddling of the American Mind.

It's great, if troubling. I wasn't taking some of the cultural shifts very seriously until reading it. Very few books shift my thinking on current events so significantly.

I should order that! I emailed him after I read The Righteous Mind (2016, 2017 maybe?) asking what his opinions were of the shifts we had seen since the book was published and whether his opinions have changed and how hopeful he was, etc. He did take the time to reply, even if it was short, and answered my questions; always appreciate when an author interacts with readers like that.

* The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

* Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City by Neal Bascomb

* Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean

* Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

* A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin

* The Actor’s Life: A survival guide by Jenna Fischer

* The Interstellar Age: The Story of the NASA Men and Women Who Flew the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell

* The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

* Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars 1955-1994 by David Hepworth

* Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, & Second Chances by Leland Melvin

* The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

* Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles

"Sapiens," is extraordinary on how well it summaries the human journey through time from the start. It never gets too technical but it's highly informative. It's 500+ pages yet it's hard to put down because it's so entertaining. I highly recommend it.

This is all true, but I sometimes missed the nuance of less witty but more detail-oriented histories. Harari could seem flippant at times, which mostly amused me when I agreed with him, but left me worried when I didn't. In a book this short on a period so vast, there was no space to steelman anything.

David McCullough is an American treasure.

Have you read all of these?

Well listened since they were all audiobooks. But they are the top 20% or so.

For around the last year I've been listing (with a little review) the ones I listen to


FWIW my library account shows me as having loaned 28 books this year. I’d say I finished 80% of them.

Don’t watch too much television, don’t read too much crap online. There’s plenty of time in life to read.

If you use Goodreads to track what you read, you get some stats per year, like number of books read, number of pages read.

Mine: https://www.goodreads.com/review/stats/63629672-henrik-warne

I find it very useful, and especially by combining the two.

For example, in 2015 I've read more than double of the amount of books I've read this year, but comparing by the number of pages, the difference is just a few dozen pages.

While the amount I've read remained steady, I'm clearly able to retain longer focus necessary to read longer titles, which is something I wouldn't easily spot in such a short timeframe otherwise.

Also there are apps to block social media while reading: Offtime app works great.

Better have

The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa. I find it the textbook on meditation and it has largely transformed my life.

+1 to the book. There was a HN comment that said that the book is like a technical book of your mind. For those who are interested more in the Buddhism there is a guy who answers 3/4 questions on his podcast "Dhamma on air" : Bhikku Samahita https://www.youtube.com/user/BhikkhuSamahita

1. I would agree: I discovered it a few weeks ago and it changed my understanding of both how my mind works and the practice of meditation (after 5+ years of on/off practice, retreats and many many books). I found the explanations so clear that I'm going for a 6 weeks retreat to his center in a few days.

2. In the same vibe I was recommended Shinzen Young "the science of enlightenment"[1], which has very enthusiastic reviews from many masters, including Culadasa. I haven't read it yet.

[1] printed in 2016, https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1591794609/

Drucker's Lost Art of Management [1] contains some amazing foundational material (as opposed to quick-fix 'techniques' you get in other leadership books) on how to build an effective organizational culture. It shows that for Drucker, the modern corporation is an integral part of civilizational fabric (just like family and other social institutions), and that it too should be governed by moral values and that those values are the glue that holds it together as a community.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Druckers-Lost-Art-Management-Organiza...

How to Measure Anything - Douglas Hubbard

This book is a treatise against the notion that some important things can’t be measured. Full of information about how to figure what should be measured and then how to measure it. Very thorough and he managed to answer every objection I could come up with throughout.

Deep Work - Cal Newport

Starts with the thesis that a generation of workers have forgotten how to concentrate on mentally challenging tasks. Full of ideas and inspiration for rebuilding your stamina for intense focused thought.

How to Measure Anything - Douglas Hubbard

I personally consider this one of the most valuable non-fiction books I've ever read. It would be hard for me to state emphatically enough how strongly I recommend this book and the author's approach. Using calibrated probability assessments, an understanding of nth order effects, and Monte Carlo simulations, is a process that everyone should have in their toolkit.

The stuff on AIE and portfolio management I found less valuable, but all in all it's a great book.

Have you actually used the techniques mentioned in Deep work in your real life? Just curious. Thanks

I read over 40 nonfiction books this year. Here are some favorites.

Life-changing: Why We Sleep

Page-turner: How to Change Your Mind

Most useful: The Consolations of Philosophy

On startups: Troublemakers: Silicon Valley's Coming of Age

Random but amazing: Shadow Divers (true story about deep sea diving - think Into Thin Air)

Which of the 2 books which are called How to Change your Mind? Michael Pollan or Martin E. Seligman?

> "Most useful: The Consolations of Philosophy"

Interesting ! Can you explain why it was the most useful to you ?

How fast and often do you read?

Not the parent, but that's less than 1 book a week, which I often do.

If your average non-fiction book takes you ~12 hrs to read, that 3 nights of 4 hours of reading. In other words, if reading is a main hobby it's totally doable. (Also if you have an hour commute to/from work on the subway or train, that's 10 hrs/wk right there, or... 40 books a year.)

Also, I personally find that non-fiction is much faster to read than fiction -- in fiction, you want to savor and appreciate each sentence as it paints a world you don't know. In non-fiction, there tends to be a "lot you already know" when reading that you can read quickly, especially when you read multiple books on similar topics. (E.g. reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment for the nth time, or an explanation of the Prisoner's Dilemma.)

Please define "reading"? In my experience, it means different things to different people.

>(Read in 2018)

* Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/215758.Shake_Hands_with_...

Still reading it every few weeks and its hanging over my head to finally finish it. Not something you want to read, but a book like few i have read before.

Oooh. Added to my list.

I read Man's Search for Meaning this year and man that's a bleak, hard-hitting book. Just such a gripping experience reading that.

I've recently bought a copy of The Gulag Archipelago which is a historical account of the Gulag in Soviet Russia.

Will definitely add Rwanda to the list. I think these books are so important to read. They're absolutely horrifying, but lest we forget where those ideas lead people.

If you're interested in these kinds of books, I'd recommend you to Svetlana Alexeivich's "Unwomanly Face of War" in particular, if you haven't yet encountered it (and her body of work, in general).

They're more bite-size than Solzhenitsyn's behemoths, and perhaps more literary than documentary, but address some similar atrocities from a very unique and human point of view. In particular, her very humble voice for the feminine experience (one that's historically absent from political and "military" histories) is enlightening and provocative. It also helps that she's a fantastic story-teller – fitting neatly into a long genealogy of excellent Russian storytellers.

I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. The world might be a better place, if only every person in a position of power spent some period of their life ruminating this tragic corner of world literature.

Keep in mind that Solzhenitsyn's books are primarily fiction and far from historical.

Primarily fiction meaning most of it didn't happen???

Yet it is based on the testimony of the 200 people he interviewed as well as his own first hand experience. And was so well documented the KGB couldn't discredit it. Try as you might.

> Primarily fiction meaning most of it didn't happen???


I'm definitely not the most informed person on this topic, but if you're really into it, you can find a lot of materials disproving his claims. Probably most of them are in Russian though, I don't know.

> KGB couldn't discredit it. Try as you might.

There's no point in discrediting someone's beliefs. I just want you to look at his books critically. At least double check the numbers he wrote about.

Upon investigation it seems they are likely of enough accuracy to get you into the right ballpark of understanding what life in the Gulag was like.

If you want to debate specifics of how many million vs how many 10s of millions, you're missing the point.

The 1-Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib Totally changed my view and understanding of what marketing is and how core it is to product development. No theory or fluff, cuts straight to the point.


Well, this is my next reading! Thanks so much, I wanted to invest in marketing and I haven't found an entry point until now.

Three entertaining reads that also turned out to hide interesting little studies in team management:

- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (the breakout memoir that made his career)

- Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (about the 79-80 Portland Trailblazers)

- The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith (about the Bulls first NBA championship with Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson)

[0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33313.Kitchen_Confidenti...

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/75406.The_Breaks_of_the_...

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/246468.The_Jordan_Rules

I'm really liking How to Invent Everything by Ryan North. It's instructions for rebuilding civilization if you were stranded in the past, and is just the right mix of funny and interesting.

That looks like such a cool book, I'm so getting it! Thank you

Ah, just the book I wanted to write! Glad someone else has done the work. I must grab it.

A Philosophy Of Software Design by John Ousterhout. Pretty short, but interesting and does a nice job at dissecting the mistakes we make that lead to software complexity.


I read it and made my own notes and charts and it's a solid and fun software engineering book. I hadn't enjoyed a "soft skills" book so much since Coders at Work.

It's a little bit too technical for the non fiction category though and reads a little too much like course notes (which it somehow is).

Bad Blood is a must if you work in tech. Incredible page-turner, and shocking at the level of deception they employed.

I also got hooked on Endgame by Frank Brady, about Bobby Fischer (the american chess prodigy who quit chess and became a reclusive antisemite). It's a biography and doesn't discuss his matches with any kind of depth, but was still really interesting to read.

* Bad Blood - John Carreyou

This has been listed multiple times. Depicts the darkside of the startup phenomena

* Chasing New Horizons - Alan Stern, David Grinspoon

Documents the people and machine that explored Pluto

* Sunburst and Luminary - Don Eyles

History of the Apollo guidance computer software from the man who wrote it

another recommendation for bad blood. really really good book that shows the dark side of startups.

the audiobook is super good too, well narrated.

Scale: The Universal Laws of Life and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies by Geoffrey West [1]

[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scale-Universal-Organisms-Cities-Co...

Also featured at the Long Now Foundation:

Very much worth a listen, and probably a read.

The Making Data Count PDF. I also have a hardcopy of a shorter version. https://improvement.nhs.uk/resources/making-data-count/

I like this because it's an easy to read and understand guide to statistical process control charts, and common cause variation vs special cause variation.

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson - amazing book about US criminal justice system. Read it.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt - a management novel. Oddly engrossing and educational at the same time

The Everything Store by Brad Stone - about Amazon's history, culture, businesses

(None of these books was written in 2018. I just read them in 2018)

"The Everything Store," was very enlighting to me on Bezo's thoughts on business. It's just one nugget from the book. All the Amazon news stories that are propagation these days aren't really surprising once you read the book. Bezo's primary view on business is that you must work hard to get by in this world. All who do will get by and even thrive. All that don't will not. A Dog eat Dog kind of view. It's very good. I highly recommend it.

The Goal was a surprise hit for me this year. It was a recommendation from an airplane seatmate some months ago. Lots of good advice on starting to analyze systems for bottlenecks.

I really enjoyed Just Mercy as well.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas.

"An insider's groundbreaking investigation of how the global elite's efforts to 'change the world' preserve the status quo and obscure their role in causing the problems they later seek to solve."



* Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

* Masters of Doom, by David Kushner

* What Doesn't Kill Us, by Scott Carney

* Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou

* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondō

* How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams

> Masters of Doom

No likable "characters" in that one. Fun reading about the era though.

It's been a long time since I've read it, but... not even Carmack?

thanks for mentioning Bad Blood - truly great book, possibly best in 2018

I'm biased since I'm married to the author, but I highly recommend "Poached: Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking". Rachel (the author) does on the ground reporting in 12 countries interviewing poachers, traffickers, customers, conservationists, and government officials. Her description of meeting Sudan, the last male northern white rhino that died earlier this year, is haunting. There are also some other great scenes like her sneaking into a South African prison to meet a convicted trafficker. It's entertaining, informative and important:


you're quite the accomplished couple!

Really enjoyed:

- 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy - Hamilton Helmer

- American Wolf - Nate Blakeslee

- Atomic Habits - James Clear

- But What If We're Wrong - Chuck Klosterman

- Conspiracy - Ryan Holiday

- The Courage To Be Disliked - Ichiro Kishimi

- Elements of Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card

- The Elephant In The Brain - Robin Hanson & Kevin Simler

- Good Strategy Bad Strategy - Richard Rumelt

- Gridiron Genius - Michael Lombardi

- The Longevity Diet - Valter Longo

- Open - Andre Agassi

- Warriors & Worriers - Joyce Benenson

- Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker

- World After Capital - Albert Wenger

12 rules for life by Jordan Peterson

I read this too. It was an enjoyable read. You can safely ignore any commentary or review you read about this book since I have not found a single one yet that isn't incredibly biased. About half of reviews I've read seem to be written by people who didn't read the book at all, let alone skimmed it.

I read it to see what all the fuss was about, and I can see why it would get controversial reviews.

I don’t think it comes off as sexist or right-wing in the big picture, in fact it seems like an extremely old fashioned self-help book founded on liberal (as in enlightenment) and Christian (mainly protestant) values. Considering the controversy already surrounding Peterson the author really does himself no favours. Of course it’s entirely possibly that it’s intentional.

Especially the first two chapters would easily be perceived as sexist if you were inclined to feminism. Every positive story Peterson tells in those two chapters is about order (and he uses masculinity to portray it), and every negative story is about chaos (which he uses femininity to portray). It’s so deeply rooted that every positive example story is even about a man while every negative example story is about a woman. Then at the end of chapter two or three he makes turns that upside down by displaying the negative sides of order along with the positive sides of chaos, and makes it clear that too much of either is bad. The path to a “good” life lies within the balance, showing how he’s not actually sexist at all, but I personally suspect most readers who would be offended, have long quit in anger by then.

Throughout the book he remains critical of left-leaning ideologies, and presents rhetorically sound but also provocative argumentation against them. I’m not sure why right-leaning ideologs see him as their hero though, as it seems very evident that he doesn’t like them either, but I think it is easy to see why the provocative tone will turn a lot of left-leaning readers off.

Then there is the branching into areas where the author clearly isn’t an expert. Like how our ability to think forward is attributed to hunter-gathered society, when it’s commonly accepted that it happened with our transitioning into farming, where planning for the next season was vital. A minor error that ultimately has nothing to do with the point the author is trying to make, but it does make you wonder what else he’s wrong about. Which is generally something that doesn’t go over well with reviewers of non-fiction. Because they’ll find and expose those other holes.

I personally think it was an enjoyable book and I think there’s some genuinely good advice in there, and it’s advice you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. I also think the book could have easily been half the length.

The problem with Peterson is that he makes preposterous truth-claims: based on his stylised readings of Western mythology, his understanding of humans as necessarily and essentially hierarchical, and various sub-scientific claims - e.g., about lobsters - that are dressed up as something their not. All in the service of something which is knowingly reactionary, to row back on progressive social moores and the gains of feminism. Obviously he also occasionally says some things which are true and interesting, but he is not a reliable intellectual authority.

He's also just a bit of an oddball. He lives in a house full of socialist realist paintings, his diet is based on absurdist nutritional science - he only eats beef and salt - and some of the things he says are just plain weird.

> but he is not a reliable intellectual authority.

I don't believe he ever claims the opposite. In fact he urges the reader to check his sources. All 220 papers and books he read before producing his work are listed in the endnotes.

> He's also just a bit of an oddball.

The problem with this type of statements are that now I'll say "No, he isn't an oddball" and this will get us nowhere. Can you understand that?

> "No, he isn't an oddball"

His (alleged[1]) diet alone would paint him thoroughly as "oddball", surely.

[1] I don't for one second believe he eats only beef, salt, and water.

It isn’t that strange. It’s basically keto, which has become almost mainstream.

For the record, I’ve tried the “zero carb” diet (basically meat) and it’s not that hard once you treat food as purely as something functional like a vitamin rather than a source of pleasure.

While he's likely in ketosis, pretty much any keto advocate would be shocked at his (again, alleged) diet.

As far as I know, Peterson's diet is actually his daughter's diet [1]. She claims it cured her from numerous diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and depression [2].

I have no idea how credible that is, but I'm just saying it isn't something he decided on a random basis just to look cool.

1 - http://mikhailapeterson.com 2 - http://mikhailapeterson.com/about-me

keto is about high fat and entering ketosis; if you eat just meat you'll have enough protien that through gluconeogenesis it will be converted into glucose and it will knock you out of ketosis.

The way he rationalises his advice is pretty whacky. But the advice itself is what he found works in his experience as a clinical psychologist, and it seems to ring true with most people who read it. As far as self help books go 12 Rules is not bad at all.

Reading now Factfulness by Hans Rosling and it's pretty great so far (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34890015-factfulness)

Other than that I believe Bad Blood by John Carreyrou is possibly the best of 2018 (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37976541-bad-blood) - mentioned in the other comment already

Haven't actually read through all of it yet, but I started reading Radical Markets by E. Glen Weyl and Eric A Posner: http://radicalmarkets.com/

Interesting take at economic policy and market idelogy.

Here's a talk by one of the authors presenting the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMSAA_nMv_E

* The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Tries to explain the reasons behind all the "triggering" and safe spaces phenomenon on college campuses

* Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm

WWII as the outset, one of the topic discussed why people in a democracy would turn to authoritarian figures.

Great picks. I started Coddling this week - I've learnt so much already. Incredibly insightful. Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis was the best book I'd read in a while, also highly recommended. It's about much more than just happiness, but how our mind/self/consciousness/emotions work.

Escape from Freedom (also known as Fear of Freedom) is great, as are a lot of Fromm's books. He's my favourite psychologist, and by a long way favourite Frankfurt School writer. I also love Man for Himself, The Sane Society, To Have or To Be, The Art of Loving. He's wonderfully BS-free, combining insights into psychology, society, work, politics etc.

Fabien Sanglard's Game Engine Black Book: Wolfenstein 3D (2nd Edition). http://fabiensanglard.net/gebbwolf3d/

It's been a fascinating read of why games had to be made the way they were back then due to the hardware of the day. All kinds of tricks to squeeze performance out of a machine designed for word processing and spreadsheets.

Favourites of 2018:

Lost and Founder: The Mostly Awful, Sometimes Awesome Truth about Building a Tech Startup by Rand Fishkin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35957156

Transforming NOKIA: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change by Risto Siilasmaa https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39850907

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34466963

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/222146

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25870385

How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story by Billy Gallagher https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34964879

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters by Richard P. Rumelt https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36658033

The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert Gordon. Really fantastic book about the changes in American society over the last two centuries. Argues that the impacts of new technology are decreasing over time.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Genius Foods by Max Lugavere

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

The Framers Coup by Michael Klarman

Leadership by George MacGregor Burns

Strategy by Lawrence Freedman

Several books by Joseph Campbell or Peter Drucker. Can't go wrong with either.

The Beastie Boys book. It’s like a time machine. I read like 800 pages in a day, couldn’t put it down.

I never knew how central a role Adam played in the group. Further, I was shocked to learn that he wasn't just the leader but a creative genius.

Jane Eyre. Not my usual kind of book and I didn’t know what to expect, but wanted to catch up on the classics and loved it. Not only beautifully written, it also felt like taking a break outside my usual bubble.

does it have to be written in 2018? i've read something from 2000 years ago.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

"Meditations (Medieval Greek: Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, translit. Ta eis heauton, literally "things to one's self") is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy."

- Rationality From AI to Zombies (huge collection of essays about (rationality,intelligence,quantum physics,bayesian probability,philosophy...) that can be read on lesswrong.com)

-Intuition Pumps and other Thinking Tools


-Edward.O Wilson Letters to a young scientist

-Cédric Villani Birth of a Theorem

-Emanuel Derman Models Behaving Badly

-Letters From A Stoic by Seneca

-Mathematics it's contents methods 3 Volumes (Aleksandrov et al.)

-Nick Bostrom Superinteligence

-The Moral Animal by Robert Wright

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight ( Nike Founder)

The journey of how nike became what it is today. It is a must read because, it gives an in depth knowledge about how Companies used to be built without the VC's.

Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda

An amazing book full of great stories and lessons to learn from people who made incredible innovations like the first iPhone. My favorite parts are the story of the iPhone keyboard and detailed encounters of Steve Jobs demos he has given.

After skimming the great recommendations in the comments one I didn't see mentioned is: "Dream Teams" [1]. Just recently finished the audio book, narrated by the author Shane Snow. Was a very engaging book overall.

One I read last year that was one of my favorites is "What Doesn't Kill Us" [2] by Scott Carney. I went and did a week long Wim Hof class after reading it and the book was a great preread that gave me perspective and context for the trip.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37703548-dream-teams

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30039048-what-doesn-t-ki...

How was the class? What were your takeaways?

His mind control methods seems similar to Buddhist monks. But monks spend a life time mastering their brains. How he is able to teach it so quickly?

The class was very good for the money I thought. I went with a friend, we spent a couple days in Prague before, and then met with the group at the airport and took a bus to the hotel close to Mt. Snezka. Day 1 you're thrown into cold immersion. I remember the first day, it was about 30F, doing a barefoot walk with just shorts and a hat. Now that might sound crazy to most, but it was actually very interesting to see how your body could handle it. Our group was one of four that had between 12-16 people in it. The ages ranged from early 20s to late 60s. Nobody had a problem. We had people in the groups that that had zero experience with the methods, so there were really no prereqs.

I had been doing cold water showers daily for 6+ months before we went and felt very comfortable with that, but cold water immersion in nature is very different. If you've watched the documentary the waterfall is part of the Poland expedition and was fun to go there, and immerse, sometimes multiple times per day. Often times at night under the cover of dark (which I believe puts you in a mindset that conditions can vary and you should be open to the experience).

I would say I didn't do much of any breathing practice prior to the trip and this was my favorite part. It's hard to describe in words but it was the big eye opener for me and, I think you're right - a lot of this has been derived from other ancient practices of other cultures. The nice thing is this is all packaged up into a week long trip and you're focusing on these things basically all day. By the time I left I had felt comfortable with the breathing but wouldn't say I "mastered" it. I think this probably takes months, minimally.

I still do cold water showers daily and living in a northern part of the US I'm afforded relatively cold ground water - however I seek colder often. I thoroughly enjoy it at this point and if I accidentally finish a shower "warm" it feels incomplete and I'm not, obviously, alert like I am after 3-5 minutes of the cold.

I've missed 80% of what I got from the class in this short write up - but overall if you're curious and have an open mind about the methods you'd enjoy the class. I met a lot of great people on the trip and never felt it wasn't worth it. The instructors were great. And to clarify you're not always with Wim - so if that's what you're after I don't think those classes exist anymore. But the reality is I enjoyed our instructors presentation more than Wim's. He's very opinionated and constantly talks his mind. While I can appreciate that I could see how spending an entire week with only him could wear on certain people and potentially distract.

I should spend some time writing a more detailed review of the experience. I took notes daily and even though it was just over a year ago I feel so many aspects of it resonated with me and I'll continue to use the tools I picked up during the course for years to come. Finally - other acquaintances of mine attended after me and had similar experiences. I wouldn't say it's for everyone, but again, if you're curious and have an open mind it was well worth it.

Edit: Oh, and Mt. Snezka is 110% validation of your short term learnings. We went on a very windy a day, and while the Mt. is not tall - it's an entire day adventure. I remember being close to the summit, winds at 30-50mph gusts with icy snow cresting over the path having only a hat, shorts, boots and a backpack on thinking to myself how awesome it was to have found that level of control. Nobody had frostbite, everyone made it and it gave everyone a lot of that "inner fire".

Thanks for the nice write-up, please keep us posted when you get time to expand your notes into blog posts.

Favorites read in 2018:

Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg. This book is, so far, the closest I've come to finding a "spiritual successor" to The Soul of a New Machine by Kidder. If you liked The Soul of a New Machine, or if you like watching Halt and Catch Fire, you may well like Dreaming in Code.

Inspired by Marty Cagan. Really solid overview of the essentials of product management.

The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl. Judea Pearl is, of course, a giant in the worlds of statistics and AI, and this book distills his work on "causal inference" and lays it all out in a pretty accessible manner. Not a textbook per-se, but not completely non-technical either. Read this if you're interested in how statistical analysis can be used to truly establish cause/effect relationships.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand. Do you think you hate Capitalism? Do you not understand why so many people love Capitalism? Have you based your opinion of Ayn Rand on second-hand commentary instead of actually reading her works? Then read this book.

I presume this was heavily downvoted because of the Rand. While I'm not a fan of her either, that's unfair: 1. Dreaming in Code and The Book of Why are excellent (I haven't read the other two), and 2. Rand makes some points that some people need to learn, even if I don't buy her whole worldview.

I presume this was heavily downvoted because of the Rand.

Yeah, that's the norm here, sadly. You can post a list of 20 books and if one of them is by Rand, your post will be down-voted into oblivion. It's almost like some people have this Pavlovian reaction when they see Rand's name.

I mean, I get that not everyone appreciates her works, and that's fine and totally understandable. "Different strokes" and all that. But the zeal with which her haters go on the attack is a bit strange.

2. Rand makes some points that some people need to learn, even if I don't buy her whole worldview.

Exactly. This is the same reason that I have copies of Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto and Mao's Little Red Book on my shelf waiting to be read. I don't have to agree with a work to find benefit in reading it. Quite the opposite... I believe that if I'm going to argue against something, I should probably have a reasonable understanding of it. And I prefer to go to primary sources than rely on secondhand commentary.

I tried to read Mein Kampf and could not. The language is just so incredibly bureaucratic and dull that I gave up after 50 pages. Maybe it reads better in German, but I can't read German.

I suspect a lot of dogmatic texts are the same way. Rand is at least not a total drag to read even though I find a lot of her ideas hilarious (chief of which is: the very ethical, honest, and hard working rich people).

I haven't read it, but it's also famous in the German version for being pretty unreadable.

Many people opine that forcing Neonazis to read it may be a way to get them disillusioned.

Hitler's strength was speaking to the masses, not writing.

My entire reason for reading Capitalism was because people hate on the world view so much, I felt obliged to at least try to understand why.

As I said in my other comment I got in a few good conversations on my commute about it too, it almost felt like a dead time debating society ;)

My money is on the patronising defensive presentation of the book:

> Do you think you hate Capitalism? Do you not understand why so many people love Capitalism? Have you based your opinion of Ayn Rand on second-hand commentary instead of actually reading her works? Then read this book.

All of this could easily be reversed to mandate reading all three volumes of Marx's Das Capital.

All of this could easily be reversed to mandate reading all three volumes of Marx's Das Capital.

Absolutely. And, in fact, I would absolutely advocate reading Das Kapital. I actually have all three volumes on my shelf waiting to be read. But it's easier for me to submit a personal recommendation for Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal given that I've actually read it.

> Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg

I also really enjoyed this book. It was a bitter story of an idealistic Open Source project failing miserably.

I read a chunk of “Capitalism” on my train commute, and it was really interesting how often a fellow passenger felt the need to start a discussion. I’m not sure if this is a warning or a recommendation… I’m going with recommendation.

[FWIW, UK’s KGX-CBG line.]

Some I haven't seen mentioned yet:

The Monk of Mokha - Dave Eggers; This seems to have been mostly under the radar but it was immensely entertaining and gives a look inside Yemen that is hard to come by. Probably my favorite book of the year.

Tailspin - Steven Brill; A look at how the split and interaction between business and government became so dysfunctional over the last 50 years. This topic has been covered elsewhere but I thought was done well.

Behemoth - Joshua B. Freeman; A history of (very large) factories.

Live Work Work Work Die - Corey Pein; A very cynical but funny look at life/work in Silicon Valley.

Two Sisters - Asne Seierstad; A story about 2 young Somalian immigrants to Norway who move to Syria to join ISIS.

Also: Bad Blood

Read in 2018 but published earlier: Black Edge - Sheelah Kolhatkar; The Solace of Open Spaces - Gretel Ehrlich; American Cornball - Christopher Miller

No Easy Day by Mark Owen. It is about the seal team who killed Osama Bin Laden. I thought the book had a ton I action and was very captivating.

I’m currently about half way through Principles by Ray Dalio and am enjoying it so far.

Next on my reading list is The coddling of the American mind, by Greg Lukianoff

Interesting. I read "The Operator" this year by the SEAL that shot Bin Laden, and it was really good.

Here's one that's out of the norm around here- Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story by Chris Nashawaty.

Caddyshack is one of my favorites comedies. I've always imagined its creation was a well thought out journey from the first idea to the finished movie. It turns out it was not. The movie didn't really take shape until it was being edited and getting ready to be released.

The book is a description of how it was created. A great read on describing the process from idea to award-winning movie.

I've worked with very creative teams and wondered how anything gets done. It's very different from the engineering/techie way of getting from point a to finished. The process that created Caddyshack is a great example of that.

Not written in 2018 but these are some of the books I’ve read this year

The Bullet Journal Method - Ryder Caroll - A how to and the philosophy behind bullet journalling. Am doing a 1 year test to see if the system works for me.

Spark Joy - Marie Kondo - Book about living minimally, got this suggestion because the previous book mentioned it and was curious.

The Hacked World Order - Adam Segal - got interested in cybersecurity thanks to my internship, so picked up a book to read about it and am planning to study and get certification/qualification to get into the field. Will be working in IT/Network Engineering for 2-3 years while learning cybersecurity during free time.

Jony Ive - just like biographies in general.

* A mind for numbers - Barbara Oakley - great framework for learning how to learn * Checklist manifesto - good for investing better * 12 Rule for life by JP - Great read, very in depth but only two rules (guidelines) are that needed.

Since setting up a business in 2016, I needed to better understand how to build a business:

Principles by Ray Dalio - I found this really motivating to ensure our business sticks to and has a set of principles that evolve based on mistakes made (sounds obvious).

Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - I loved listening to this (audible) because being a CEO can be lonely and hearing other peoples thoughts and advice based on their experience (that you can relate to) is really uplifting.

2018 has been a great year for us and I do think these books have helped me get through the roller coaster that is building a technology startup.

Tim Harford’s “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure”¹, an enthralling collection of tales from really diverse projects. I’ll freely admit to only picking it up because I recognised the name from the More or Less² podcast, but it was well worth the read.

1. http://timharford.com/books/adapt/ 2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qshd

Terrific list. In addition to the Theranos book, Bad Blood. I'd also check out Paige Williams' The Dinosaur Artist. Deep dive into world of fossil hunting and collecting.

New Yorker article on which it is based, Bones of Contention: A Florida man's curious trade in Mongolian dinosaurs


Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

this is not very well known, but it is an amazing book about why humans behave this way, it has genetics, history and lots of cool stuff in it.

I've been enjoying the trilogy of A Time Of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor's story of walking across Europe in the 1930s.

It's an extremely dense book, like a black forest gateaux. It's also extremely Romantic, almost to the point of mysticism. I keep having to put it down to let the imagery fill my head or look up a historical figure. It's changed the way I think about history and taught me a lot about parts of the world I'm unfamiliar with.

- Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39088590-gene-machine) - by the Nobel Prize-winning discoverer of the ribosome, Venki Ramakrishnan, in the same vein as The Double Helix. Highly recommended.

- Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1842.Guns_Germs_and_Steel)

- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18077903-creativity-inc) - about Pixar's internal culture

- An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18170143-an-astronaut-s-g...)

The Righteous Mind by Johnathan Haidt

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

just put my full lists on medium:



Surprised I don't see this listed here.

Habeas Data, by Cyrus Farivar: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/565026/habeas-data-...

Book did an incredibly job outlining the history, twists, and turns privacy and technology have slowly taken over the past few decades. Was very hard to put down.

It's an old book but I really enjoyed Liar's Poker (1989) by Michael Lewis.

+1 for Liar's Poker. Funny, revealing and really well written.

American Kingpin: The epic hunt for the criminal mastermind behind The Silk Road.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. Fantastic book that makes you realize how poorly designed many things in our lives are.

Disclaimer: the book might provoke a latent obsessive-compulsive relationship to doors.

I didn't think it was that great. It was interesting, but a bit repetitive and a bit too long.

hah. i actually have this in my list of book I recommended to junior developers. it’s not about software but the way of thinking and approaching the problem will make you a better software developer.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Principle by Ray Dalio.

When Coffee and Kale Compete by Alan Klement.

Spark by Dr John J. Ratey, Eric Hagerman, John Ratey.

The One Thing by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan.

The Mythical Man Month by Frederick P. Brooks.

A Dozen Lessons for Entrepreneurs by Tren Griffin.

Software Project Survival Guide by Steve Mcconnell.

The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.

I Wonder What I'm Thinking About? by Moose Allain.

Truth, Lies & Statistics by Lee Baker.

On shortness of life by Seneca.

How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

My favorite for the year too!

My choice as well. Lovely dive into psychedelics

I'm currently reading it. great book

Three of my favorites were:

1. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle An excellent analysis of what makes some cultures great and others toxic.

2. Measure What Matters by John Doerr John Doerr describes a simple yet effective management system that has helped Google succeed and scale. The Objective and Key Results approach can be effective for anyone from a single contributor to a large organization trying to encourage a culture of effective collaboration and achievement.

3. Small Giants by Bo Burlingham The stories about a handful of companies that chose to be great rather than big.

Some of the other books that I have enjoyed are listed here: https://behavioralvalueinvestor.com/other-interesting-books/

The Billionaire Who Wasn't - How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune

An entertaining read about a low profile billionaire who secretly gave away most of his fortune. When forbes put him on the richest list in 1988, he had already moved most of his fortune into a foundation for charity deeds

Exploding the Phone (Phil Lapsley): A history of the Phone Phreak phenomenon. If you've browsed around ancient hacker lore or read textfiles.com, you'll enjoy it.

Giving Good Weight (John McPhee): Some John McPhee articles. They're very good, as usual, the title article being about farmers markets and told in an experimental style.

Rust: The Longest War (Jonathan Waldman): Explores several different stories tied together by the theme of metal corrosion and the people who contend with it.

Hallucinations (Oliver Sacks): Mostly about what malfunctions of the brains of a few can tell us about how all of our brains are structured.

Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry (Parts 1 and 2 so far) (Shannon Appelcline) The history of a bunch of start-ups.

"Educated" — Tara Westover

Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times by Alan Walker [1]

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Fryderyk-Chopin-Dr-Alan-Walker-ebook/...

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe

"In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the "orthography of the wake." Activating multiple registers of "wake"—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation."


Psychology and Space by Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Lebedev (a Soviet psychologist)[0]

It's an old book (I just read it in 2018, if that counts), but I guess its content about astronomers' training is very relevant to this day. Still, I'd like to read more up-to-date -e.g reflecting on the astronomers' experiences who had lived on the International Space Station- counterpart of this book.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Space-Yuri-Gagarin/dp/1410...

Breaking news : the remaking of journalism and why it matters now – Rusbridger, Alan

From the editor of The Guardian for the last 20 years, a fascinating look at the move from traditional print to online news.


The perfect weapon : war, sabotage, and fear in the cyber age – Sanger, David E.

The subtitle says it all. From that I’m now reading ‘Click Here to Kill Everybody’ by Schneier. Enjoying it so far.


The world as it is : a memoir of the Obama White House — Rhodes, Benjamin J.

Another obvious one based on the title.


As a side note, join your local library, people. None of this cost me a penny. I hope you still have a library wherever you live. Ours (Melbourne City Library Service) is just magnificent.

Yes I Did ny MBA studies there. Incredible place.

And apparently skipped typing class:)

“The Anatomy of Peace” because it has helped me to get unstuck and start living life and feel free.

For two years I have been stuck in growing my business, now I am free to grow it as much as I want.

my reading has taken a dark turn this year. I blame it on Thomas Ligotti (first book on my list) ;)

- The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (Thomas Ligotti) ... fun fact: S01 of 'True Detectives' has ripped part of the dialogue straight from this book without giving credit

- The Trouble with being born (Emil Cioran)

- The Industrial Society and its Future (Ted Kaczynski)

- The Technological Society (Jaques Ellul)

- Propaganda (Jaques Ellul)

- McMafia - A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld (Misha Glenny)

- The Doors Of Perception (Aldous Huxley)

- The Manipulation of Human Behavior (Albert D. Biderman)

You should certainly also read the books "Technological Slavery" (2010) and "Anti-Tech Revolution" (2016) by Kaczynski

The Dictator's Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith

Everyone should read it. You think you know politics, but you haven't even begun until you've read this book.

If you don’t have the time for a whole book - CGP Gray does a pretty good summary in his “Rules for rulers” youtube video. Very highly recommended!

That was great, thanks! Looks like I’m gonna have to pick up The Dictator’s Handbook now.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, it taugh me very important negotiation skills that I use everyday.

Extreme Ownership by Willink and Babin has taught me about good leadership.

K-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher

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