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* The Selfish Gene - our bodies are vessels for DNA as they travel through time. Also colony insects and birds are fascinating.

* Thinking Fast and Slow - study after study shows that we exhibit so, so many cognitive biases, as our minds take shortcuts. there are some things you can do to recognize and mitigate these biases.

* Imagined Communities - the notion of a "nation" is only 300 years old and has no objective basis, only the fact that a group of people agree that it is a thing.

>* Imagined Communities - the notion of a "nation" is only 300 years old and has no objective basis, only the fact that a group of people agree that it is a thing.

The Penguin History of Europe series is great for this, especially The Pursuit Of Glory, which details the time when states switched from being based on their king, to states being based on a 'unified set of people', i.e., an imagined community.

There's also the amazing Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, which is a bunch of essays, one on a forgotten European kingdom that ceased to exist, and no-one claims it as their heritage. It shows you how easily your identity of a citizen of a state can get lost and forgotten - your great-grandparents may have seen themselves as Etrurians, but that state is gone and now you think of yourself as an Italian, but nothing much changed about your family

> Imagined Communities - the notion of a "nation" is only 300 years old and has no objective basis, only the fact that a group of people agree that it is a thing.

The Lombards, Saxons, Franks, Magyars, Mongols and many, many others would disagree. And the Khmer, Mon, Viet and Tai.


> Overall it is worth reading Imagined Communities because of its purported cultural significance. But much of it is so garbled and unclear I’m not sure what people are taking from it, aside from the proposition that the modern nation-state was invented in the last few centuries due to modernity. In the end the book is kind of a long tautology.

Azar Gat’s Nations is a far superior book.

Can you also suggest some book on the languages of Europe that were forgotten because of emergence of nation states?

"The Selfish Gene" was a revelation to me. I read it during college, as a break from my math, CS and physics classes. It felt like having an evolutionary biology course on the side.

I was going to put down "The Selfish Gene" myself. I remember picking it up in high school and hating the first few pages. I read the first chapter in college, and I didn't get what all the fuss was about. After college, I picked up the book, and was blown away! In retrospect, my younger self wasn't ready for it

For younger readers, or those who prefer a lighter reader, Dawkins "The Greatest Show On Earth" covers similar material in a more accessible (if less rigorous) manner. I forgot to mention it in my own recommendations, but it is one of the books I recommend at every opportunity.

I came here to recommend Thinking Fast and Slow. I'm not surprised that it was mentioned a few times already. I am about to head into my third read of it. If I had to pick one concept from this book that had the most impact on my decisions and the way I look at other people's decisions, it would have to be loss aversion / prospect theory.

Yes, the loss aversion graph is amazing!

The Blind Watchmaker, also by Dawkins, is the book that really undermined the necessity of a Creator to explain the complexity of life.

The God Delusion was also pretty good and eye opening

The counter-argument book to Thinking Fast and Slow:

Risk Savvy by Gerd Gigerenzer

Love your list, but wanted second Imagined Communities. I don't see it as much as the other's (frequent HN recommendations). Drags a bit, but is short and impactful. I especially thought its exploration of how _language_ influenced nation's was particularly enlightening. If you find the Selfish Gene to have powerful explanatory effect, I bet you will feel similarly about Imagined Communities.

Read Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism, Azar Gat.


> Basically, Gat is refuting a modernist view, which has arguably gone from being revisionist to normative, that the concept and execution of a nation is a historically contingent construction of early modern Europe, and more precisely Revolutionary France of the 1790s.

"The Selfish Gene" was also a great discovery for me. I guess that coming from a CS background it was a big revelation to understand the biology in such a different perspective. Really worth reading.

Reading The Selfish Gene convinced me to give up on the ideal of arranged marriage (which I was instilled with from birth), and marriage in general.

I haven't read the book but one of the first "nations" were the Greeks.

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