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Ask HN: Best book you read in 2010 and briefly why
258 points by sscheper on Dec 6, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 202 comments
My choice: Delivering Happiness because Ton Shieh outlines a phase he went through after selling his first company. It really made you think about startups, goals and life.

"A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195374614?ie=UTF8&tag=...

It taught me (reminded me mostly) what kinds of attitudes I have when I am happiest and kicking ass with my projects. Over time I had somehow lost myself. This book helped me get back to the person I liked the most. I think it's also helping me do a lot better on my current startup, so it's not just a touch-feely book, it is having a lot of real, immediate, positive impact, at least to me.

"Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson

I'm fairly stubborn, so it takes a lot for me to change my ways. This book has changed my daily work routine. Johnson outlines 7 environments that have historically produced the most innovative ideas. It's easy to apply the lessons to your typical working day. Best book I've read in probably 5 years.

4-minute Teaser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU

TED Talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af00UcTO-c

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594487715

Could you share some of the specific changes you made to your daily routine as a result of your exposure to this book?

Also, have you read Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity?

Yes, "Creativity" is very good, although for some reason it didn't 'wow' me as much as when I first read "Flow".

Two quick and easy changes from WGICF:

1. The power of bad/wrong ideas. I used to approach a problem space by first eliminating all of the obviously bad ideas. Johnson makes a compelling case that invalid facts and invalid ideas juice our creativity. Since reading the book, I've made an effort to at least consider the bad ideas and implementations. More than once there has been a nugget of creativity that I would have otherwise glossed over.

2. Liquid networks. I get banged up A LOT (2x - 5x per week) by people who have an idea and want to bounce it off of someone. I used to view these as a fun distraction and would reward myself with a 1-hour coffee only if I had met my goals for the previous week. If I was behind, these meetings were the first to go. Now, I always make it to these, even if I'm hopelessly behind. The idea is that the more you lift your head out of the sand and participate in a larger network of thought, the more creative you'll be.

"A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin: http://www.amazon.com/Game-Thrones-Song-Fire-Book/dp/0553381...

GRRM manages to create an alternate world that feels real, where characters have flaws, nothing is black and white, and the good guys don't always (or even frequently) win. By far the best book (and series) I've ever read.

Be forewarned. If you don't deal with cliffhangers well, it may be better for your mental health to wait for the series to be finished. The author is thoroughly committed to the quality of the series, no matter how long it takes. At the current rate it will probably be a decade before the final three books are finished.

On the other hand there is an HBO series in the works that looks to be very high quality.

I came to a similar realization but unfortunately not until 5 or so books into the Wheel of Time series. I think I found myself reading a 10+ page section in which several women were doing their hair and gossiping about the men in their lives and realized (based on that scene plus some other trends I started seeing in previous books) that the series had jumped the shark and the author was now just trying to pump up the page count and make the series run as long as possible, to milk it. Thankfully I got out well before he blew past what was originally intended to be the "final" book in the series, which of course was not.

I read the first one or two Game of Thrones books, thought they were awesome, and much much higher quality level than what Wheel of Tome became, but, alas, by then I had too much fantasy/medieval/magic fatigue and put them down. I will likely pick them up again.

You might look back into the WoT. Since Jordan's death, Brandon Sanderson has been finishing up the series, and (IMO) the latest books have returned to a level of quality rivaling the first three.

agreed, although to note -- the last 3 are likely much better because their plot is so much more set in stone. the middle books meandered because RJ did so much in the first 3 books that he realized he had to let the plot catch up to the action in order to do what he wanted to do with the story.

I love the way he captures the total destabilization of the country. I don't believe I've encountered another book that paints that kind of image so well.

Yeah, it's downright incredible. It feels much more like reading a well-written history book than a fantasy novel.

Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut. I've read a ton of books in my life, but for some reason never took the plunge into Vonnegut. I was utterly awe struck by this book. I think every person has a small list of things that they wish that they had created (well, the ability to create them that is). Breakfast of Champions immediately found its way onto my list. The only problem is that such a book makes me embarrassed to have the audacity to ever put pen to paper (or fingers to M-x as it were). I'll keep trying though.

OT: Why was the Amazon link downvoted? Isn't it generally accepted practice to include an Amazon link, or post one if the OP forgot?

One of my favorite books of all time, fogus.

The "*" joke, and the ";" joke pop up in my mind whenever I see one. :)

"Switch" by Chip and Dan Heath. Website here: http://heathbrothers.com/switch/. I don't tend to go out of my way for self-help type books, which this may or may not be. The authors leverage a lot of research and rhetoric that was already familiar, plus some that was not. It was pleasing to learn some new vocabulary, such as "Fundamental Attribution Error" and "Ego Depletion." Since my kids were born, it has been very apparent that the better a human is at manipulating others, the more likely that human is to survive. But we tend to think of manipulating behavior as having negative connotations. "Switch" is full of stories about effecting change by manipulating behavior. Positive stories. As a parent, I found the reminder to look for positive ways to reinforce desired behavior invaluable. And, personally, I found the notion that behavior is highly attributable to environmental forces something of a relief.

Very interesting. I haven't read the book, but is the only reason you see some of the manipulations as "positive" because you are an authority figure to your children and you know "what is best for them"? At what stage is the manipulating a detriment to their development? Would you call it brainwashing? Building structures within their mind without them realizing (at the current time anyway)?

Am I misunderstanding here? I am seriously wondering and hoping that I am. I am still struggling with realizing what I believe in certain circumstances and I wonder if it's partly due to manipulation.

Obviously, you're not a golfer.

I missed this. Had my head in the sand. It's not clear from what I wrote which direction the manipulation was going when the epiphany occurred.

Here was this small, completely helpless animal that would have died if I hadn't cared for it. As he got older, he began to exhibit a behavior that is commonly referred to as 'flirting' -- starts with smiling. The response in the mother's body is a release of oxytocin. Children don't just flirt with their parents; they also do it with strangers. To be short, the more people a small, helpless human can charm into caring for it, the more likely it is to survive. It's hard to believe that a child's first smile at around one month of age is a learned behavior. This leads me to believe that we're naturally wired to try to control each other to our advantage.

Sure, there's a line where that stops being moral, but those borders are cultural.

Neal Stephenson's "Anathem". Seriously one of the best novels I've ever read. He's an excellent writer, and after about the first fifty pages I couldn't put it down.

Anathem gets my vote.

It's a mystery, with things left for the reader to figure out. These things include where and when it's set, and what genre it's written in. A brilliantly apt form for a novel about science, which makes it hard to describe without spoiling it.

The author has his usual fun. Historical inspriation: monasteries in the dark ages. Martial artists: far too cool for their own good. Tensor calculations performed as interpretive dance: it had to be done. The plight of hackers and scientists in a violent, greedy world strikes as true as ever.

Stephenson's neologisms are a bonus. The principle "'X would be nice' does not imply X" needs a name, though I don't expect "Diax's rake" to stick. Also useful is "Lorite", for a scholar who specialises in refuting claims of novelty.

Anathem was one of the rare novels that when I read enough to get into it I was utterly delighted that there was so much of the book still to read.

I've even bought some of the music tracks by David Stutz:


Profits from this go to the Long Now Foundation - which is very appropriate given then themes in the book.

Also his "Cryptonomicon", a phenomenal novel.

Snow crash was great as well.

Also the "Daemon" series by Daniel Suarez is great along the same lines as snow crash.

And, Diamond Age, which I actually prefer to all Stephenson's other novels. Suarez rocks too.

This book got me started on "The Baroque Cycle". Now I am doomed to think of Newton as a wizard alchemist.

I was enthralled with Anathem and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I tried to read Cryptonomicum after Anathem but could not get into it.

Non-fiction: Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman! - I'm not sure how I'd managed to avoid reading it this long given that I already really liked Feynman and had read and watched a lot of his stuff already. It's a great book and I proceeded to inflict it on quite a few other people.

Fiction: Of Mice and Men - A tiny little book that fits in masses of content and atmosphere.

Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman! is also a great listen via audiobook, especially on road trips!

The Alchemist

Heard about it for years, always wrote off as too esoteric but as an entrepreneur it seriously resonated and somehow made it all seem a little more manageable.


Fantastic book. Either that, or Eliezer Yudkowsky's fanfiction "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" was the best fiction I read this year.


HP&TMOR didn't sound like the kind of thing I'd have liked... massively mistaken. Very good. Highly recommended.

I don't see the point of having a no procrastination setting on Hackernews if irresponsible people link to captivating etexts like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

That's book is really grabbing me at the moment.

> I don't see the point of having a no procrastination setting on Hackernews if irresponsible people link to captivating etexts like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

There goes the next two weeks of your free time.


Hmm -- and unfortunately for you, even though it masquerades as "just" a online fan fic, it's actually already the length of multiple books; the chapter count is in the 60s, and the downloadable "book-format" PDF is over 1K pages.

It's great fun, but yeah, you have to figure out a way to spread it out over a few weeks or you'll accomplish little else. :)

Yeah, I loved Methods of Rationality, too.

I hated this book. It was like a kitschy, easy digestable, consumer friendly version of other (much) better south american writers.

It was like a Borghes book told by the author of Harry Potter.

Could you recommend some of these other writers? Because I quite liked The Alchemist, though I'm dubious of some of Paulo Coelho's philosophical ideas at times.

Borges and Marquez are the two I latin americans I'm acquainted with and they are overall the most famous too. Borges is always very brainy and philosophical in a very good way; sometimes he even ventures into flat-out mindfuck territories. He mostly wrote short stories that are consistently good. Marquez has a lovely vivid and very visual prose and writes either in a realist or slightly magical realist style. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera" are the pivotal points of his bibliography.

Hey I just noticed this comment - thanks, I'm going to check out the authors you mentioned.

Yeah, brilliant. A great illustration of gumption and willingness to pursue self-knowledge giving rise to amazing opportunities.

Along the same lines, Siddartha by Herman Hesse was my favorite book this year. Quite similar to the Alchemist really, viz. understanding yourself and being conscious and receptive to your environment.

A toss between 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis and 'Too Big To Fail' by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

Both books are about the financial crisis on Wall Street. They provide excellent insight into how smart people made very bad decisions that had repercussions around the entire world. The last time I remember getting such an insight into this important industry was Lewis' own 'Liars Poker'.

I think it is important for people to understand what went wrong with the most recent financial crisis, and these two books do an excellent job of informing us from an insiders perspective.

I liked both of these books --- "The Big Short" maybe a little more than "Too Big To Fail", because Lewis is just crazy!good about pacing and character development --- but had serious concerns about how accurate/unbiased they were. Particularly Sorkin's book, which I've heard negative things about.

I'm about 2/3 of the way through _All The Devils Are Here_ by Joe Nocera and feel like it's doing a brilliant job of addressing the shortcomings for Sorkin's book, which I felt maybe sacrificed some accuracy for the sake of building an enjoyable narrative. _Devils_ also has an interesting structure, different than the others; it's a catalog of sketches of the different people/forces/companies that went into the mess, so you get a chapter on the guy who started Ameriquest, and a chapter on Fannie's struggles against the Bush administration, and a chapter on how Goldman's IPO and Merrill's cultural mismatch to trading culture caused them to screw up the market. It's great reading.

I've found Nocera's commentaries on NPR to be unusually frank. Perhaps I'll check out his book.

Speaking of documents of the financial crisis (though it's not a book), I went to see Inside Job last night, partly because I'm interested in the subject and partly because a weird sort of hey-he's-a-startup-guy-too loyalty inclines me to patronize Charles Ferguson's movies. It's an overview that falls a little short as a movie, i.e. it doesn't quite structurally hold up to the level of outrage it's going for. The most interesting thing, though, is how Ferguson devotes the last quarter of the movie to ripping academic economists a new one for their shoddy work and gaping conflicts of interest. Given that he started out as a policy wonk on the Ivy League/DC circuit, it seems clear that this is where his heart is. I felt very uncomfortable watching those segments (Ali G makes me squirm too) but it seemed like it needed to be done.

Edit: Also, Nouriel Roubini, on whom the film relies heavily, turns out to be surprisingly good onscreen.

"Daemon" and "Freedom" by Daniel Saurez. Very enjoyable reads, and chock full of not-too-distant futurism. They display an enormous amount of thinking about how social networks and the massively increased availability of data about our lives are changing the ways we interact with each other. Sprinkle in mysteries that play out in both reality and MMORPGs, lots of interesting devices, and a terrifying peek at what a technology-driven global economic meltdown could look like, and you have the basis for these books.

I liked Daemon. A rogue AI story that doesn't depend on strong AI.

This talk by him was interesting (which was how I found out about the book): http://fora.tv/2008/08/08/Daniel_Suarez_Daemon_Bot-Mediated_...

Daemon and Freedom are very good. The only problem I had (at it is pretty minor) is that for an AI that keeps asserting that it is just a canned set of production rules (i.e. wait until <something> happens then do <stuff>) it seems to possess a remarkable degree of general intelligence.

I chalked that up to the billionaire supergenius creator, which also hurts the plausibility a bit.

Yeah - I think that was the intention of the author. I used to work in AI research so I'm probably being a bit harsh.

mind sharing why you no longer work in ai research

It's a long time ago now (late 80s early 90s), but reasons include:

- I hated the politics/game-playing that seem to be a huge component of getting on in academic research

- It was clear to me that we are unlikely to see any fundamental breakthroughs in general AI during my career

- I had been doing work on the Web since '92 and it was clear to me by '95 that this had a much brighter future than "classical" AI

- I co-founded a Web/Java startup in '95

The Foundation trilogy, because it rekindled my interests in the relationship between determinism, humanity, choice and the succession of time.

I must say I'm not enjoying Foundation and Empire as much as the original Foundation. Foundation had me pausing every few pages to think, but I found the second book lacking in those viewpoint-altering ideas. Anyway, I'm only halfway through the second one. I hope it gets better towards the end.

Frankly, the second was the weakest of the three.

Frankly, after the first three, it starts going downhill very fast. I stopped reading after Foundation's Edge.

Dang, I just purchased the entire series after falling in love with the first book. Note to self: do not make impulsive purchases.

Absolutely great series- my first real sci-fi series ever in middle school. I don't think I fully grasped its depth though- gonna have to reread.

The Joy of Clojure - Michael Fogus and Chris Houser (http://www.manning.com/fogus/) Riveting look at the language and functional programming - covers edge cases, gives lots of idiomatic examples, and goes deep into the really interesting parts.

"Land of Lisp" http://landoflisp.com/

I'm not even finished with it, but it has still introduced me to Lisp, functional programming, artificial life, and web servers as well completely changed the way I program.

My copy arrived late last week. Can't wait to start reading it.

It's a toss up for me between Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Ender's Game is one of those books I never got round to reading and I thought it was incredible what they put that boy through. I got the main twist a bit earlier than I should've done but it was such a good story that it didn't affect me too much. I loved the manipulation of political debate by the other children, it reminded me of Fox news for some reason.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is the tale of two Afghan women, one in Kabul and one from outside. It's incredible, harrowing and keeps you in a vice-like grip from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a copy for my Mother in Law as I kept raving about it. If you liked the Kite Runner then you'll love this (it's by the same author).

"A Little History Of The World" by E.H Gombrich http://www.amazon.com/Little-History-World-H-Gombrich/dp/030...

From a long time I wanted to dig deeper in to the subject of human history starting from the undocumented prehistoric era. But the plethora of information available in the internet often bewilders me and I find my self thinking where to start. This book--mind you first printed in 1936--describes the story of humans from the stone age to atomic age in 40 concise chapters. It's like a reading a fiction (a good one..). This is the most comprehensive span of the human history and the most colorful and vivid account of it.. (at least comparing the history books I've read..)

read guns germs and steel by jared diamond if you wanna know more about why history of mankind panned out the way it has.

I just re-read "Microserfs" and "Generation X" by Douglas Coupland. I actually read both of these years ago when they first came out. I am amazed at how prescient they were. So many themes and ideas that I had buried away were right there on the printed page. Looking back over the past decade of my own life I can see that even though I wasn't aware of it, these books had a profound influence on my dreams/ideas/aspirations.

It's a tie between Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan and Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

Naked Economics was a brilliant overview of economics in that it explains all the concepts behind economics without being utterly boring (like all the other texts I've attempted to read) and has real life examples for each and every thing. Lots of revelations of how incentives work together and / or clash at times to create important results.

Predictably Irrational was a mind-changing book in that it questioned the notion that rational self interest is embedded in everyone. All the statements are backed up with either previous research or at least ad lib experiments, and I love that. None of that handwaving bullshit that I usually see in popular science (and especially psych) books.

Predictably Irrational was okay; the experiments were the best part. I was annoyed that the author made many conclusions beyond the support of his evidence though.



Informative, in a space I am interested in, and im already applying the techniques. Probably something everyone on this site should read.

I'm quoted on that site so it is kind of redundant, but there is some great advice in there. I particularly like the chapters on VAs and email marketing. For early stage companies, there is a basic primer to SEO and whatnot which covers some of the things I learned the hard and expensive way.

"Innovation & Entrepreneurship" by Peter F. Drucker.

A book from 1985 that makes many books discussed here on Hacker News seem obsolete ("Four steps to the epiphany", etc.).

Drucker discusses 7 sources for finding the right idea, entrepreneurial management and startup strategies.

I was really suprised how good this book was: Very insightful and fun to read.

Price was 1,93 an Amazon Germany.

Bottom line: the best book an entrepreneurship I ever read.

I second this and have a fun little story to add.

In 2008 I was on vacation in Costa Rica with my girlfriend and was actually reading this book. Two days before we went back to New York we checked in at a nice hotel in San José.

The first evening we met a really nice older Texan couple and had a few drinks with them.

The man was an engineer and had built a nice business around drilling for oil with some special explosives. Apparently no other companies did this and he was selling this technology to the rest of the world.

Then the day we were leaving I was in the airport reading the book and waiting for the plane. And lo and behold in the book Ducker referenced a company in Texas who had found a niche in the oil market.

I never found out if that was in fact the same guy since I never got his contact details. But I assume it was him.

Had I only read those pages a few days before!

Into Thin Air. http://www.amazon.com/Into-Thin-Air-Personal-Disaster/dp/038...

Amazing story, super inspirational, and lots of great history. My wife and I both loved this book and could not set it down.

I second this book too although I read several years ago. AND it's relevant in our startup life in a surprising way.

I often found myself make much better decision when I'm a bit detached, which is one of 'the' lessons people learned from that accident. So now in our startup, my business partner does all the client/customer/user communication works and I had the precious opportunity to sit back and observe.

Along the theme of "unexpectedly resonant books for startup entrepreneurs", can I submit "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain?

(Medium Raw, a 2010 book, was also pretty good --- although probably only if you're into the high-end restaurant scene).

Kitchen Confidential seconded. The account is surprisingly honest and also funny. Lots of tips on how to manage a business, how not to start a venture, now to keep on trying after failure, team interactions etc.

Krakauer can get really, really shrill --- I mean, really shrill --- but he hasn't written a book I've found that I didn't enjoy at least a little.

What does "shrill" mean in the context of writing?

Polemic, passionate in a one-note way, pleading, to an extent that sacrifices the narrative. Two great examples from Krakauer: _Under The Banner Of Heaven_, which veers into a straight-up litigation against the Mormon faith†, and _Where Men Win Glory_, whose latter third is practically tear-stained.

Note: I'm not saying either of those books are bad; I liked them. I loved _Into The Wild_.

I'm not one.

You'll probably like also "Touching the void". The movie/documentary is fantastic too.

"The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks. I love serious literature, I love non-fiction, and I love business & tech books, but I decided to give sci-fi a shot again and a friend leant me this book: wow. Fascinating, rip-roaring, mind-bending read! If you want to read something but don't want to fall asleep, I highly recommend this book.

The entire Culture series is of like caliber. I just finished Surface Detail in a little over a day, wall clock time. Having just finished The Player of Games, I think you might really like Surface Detail.

Both great books, as are all in the Culture universe. Don't skip The Algebraist either - it's not Culture but it's as good if not better...

I've read all of his novels and must say I am an Ian M Banks addict. I've read some of his fiction as well which he publishes under Ian Banks.

My favorite is The Use of Weapons. I liked Surface Detail but I do think you should read the Culture novels in the order they were written.


Have you read Peter Hamilton? Specifically, the Commonwealth Saga.

Banks is good, but I find his universes are to be sketchy and sometimes fairly shallow and not well-thought through (e.g. the one in the Algebraist). Hamilton is as creative as Banks, when it comes to the concepts, but he really delivers on the depth and complexity of the story lines and the actual execution. If you haven't read him, do it. If you have, I'd be curious to hear how you compare him to Banks.

I've read Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy and the Commonwealth Saga - the latter is much better but still suffers a lot, in my view, from poor characterization - something that Banks can be very good at (his bad guys can occasionally come from central casting though).

Banks is in a different class from Hamilton - in general I think the quality of his work has dropped off a bit but some of his earlier writing is exceptional: Use of Weapons is particularly strong.

I read several Culture books in addition to the Algebraist and the Use of Weapons was the only one that I genuinely liked. I was constantly under an impression that I am reading a screenplay - good bones, but lacking the works and details that would actually turn reading into a wow experience... which is what I got from Commonwealth Saga. To each his own though of course :)

I've never read any Peter Hamilton. But I'm gonna check him out now. Thanks for the tip.

The Baroque Cycle trilogy by Neal Stephenson was good. It took me about a year (off and on) to finish though. It's historical fiction through the eyes of a computer geek and sci-fi writer.

I read those a few years back and they obviously come highly recommended, but in the same vein of historical fiction the best this year was: "Drood", by Dan Simmons.

Agreed. I actually liked his previous book "The Terror" even more, although I read it last year. A great book for cooling off on a hot summer day... Simmons is probably the most versatile writer I know.

Seneca's On The Shortness of Life. It's extremely short and to the point on how best to spend one's life and how we have enough time to do whatever we please - I summarized/heavily quoted it at http://peterc.org/pedia/seneca-shortness-of-life/

_Shantaram_ by Greg Roberts

Violent criminal escapes from prison in Australia, travels to Mumbai on a forged passport, learns Hindi and Marathi, lives for years in a slum, fights with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, becomes a gangster, learns about life, love and honor in the process.

Not only is it a great story, but it's about a self-made man surviving by hacking languages, cultures and business. I read it as an allegory of entrepreneurship.

My best book as well, the quotes (by Karla and others) are just amazing.

Here are a few quotes that I liked - about life, and maybe relevant to the startup struggle.

"There is no man, and no place, without a war. The only thing we can do is choose a side, and fight. That is the only choice we get - who we fight for, who we fight against. That is life."

"For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world."

"The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life", by Alice Schroeder - http://www.amazon.com/Snowball-Warren-Buffett-Business-Life/...

This is by far the best biography on the man. Alice Schroeder did an amazing job. His life story is incredibly instructive whether you're an entrepreneur or an investor. When you study Buffett's life you get a deep appreciation for the intangible qualities that define extraordinary entrepreneurs.

Best business book I've ever read, and probably will ever read. I don't say that lightly. My copy is thoroughly dog-eared, highlighted, and I turn to it over and over again.

Will teach you far more business than any MBA will -- but only if you're serious about learning, and reading through 832 pages.

"The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage" by Clifford Stoll was a great read.

The title gives away the premise of the book, but to think - it was all put into motion because of a $0.75 accounting discrepancy.

Gandhi & Churchill: the epic rivalry that destroyed an empire and forged our age


From a HN perspective, this book is inspiring because it documents the tenacity of both of these men in the face of grinding failure.


From a personal perspective, it was eye-opening, because I have always lionized Gandhi and despised Churchill, and the rather clinical look this book takes at their lives shows both their warts and blemishes.

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory - by Peter Hessler

A fascinating book about everyday life in today's China. It's actually 3 books in one: - Book 1 is an account of his driving trip along the route of the great wall from near Beijing to the Western deserts and steppes, the people he meets, and the towns he visits. - Book 2 is an account of his experiences in the village of Sancha where he bought a house and came to know a family with dreams of setting up an inn and restaurant. Eventually the village becomes a suburb of Beijing and the family gets wealthier and wealthier, at a price. - Book 3 is an account of his experiences in the town of Lishui, a small city on the way to becoming a major manufacturing center. The focus is on a couple of entrepreneurs who set up a factory that makes bra rings.

Besides the excellent writing style, what I liked about this book is that it focused on ordinary people and their hopes and dreams. It was impossible to avoid mentioning corruption of small time party leaders, but it didn't dwell on them. It was the first book about China I've read that didn't make the country seem like a dark menace or an unstoppable economic dynamo.

Oh jeeze, I have to choose?

Nonfiction: QED, by Feynman. It made a large portion of quantum physics "click" for me intuitively and dispelled a bunch of popular notions about quantum physics that are just wrong.

Fiction: Probably the celebrated Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, for reasons others have stated over and again, or else Ass Goblins of Auschwitz for letting me explore an author's deliciously disturbing mind.

Linchpin by Seth Godin.

What Made this so valuable to me was that it introduced for the first time the concept of what Seth calls the "Resistance", the part of the brain that prevents you from taking risks and putting yourself on the line. I also love it for introducing me to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Since reading those books I have been much better at doing important work that actually matters without putting it off or making excuses.

This is a random one R.G. LeTourneau: Mover of Men and Mountains

It's an autobiography of the businessman and inventor who basically created the industry of large scale earth moving equipment before, during, and after the Great Depression. "What does this have to do with tech stuff?" you may ask. I read this book right after re-reading Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham. LeTourneau utilizes many of the business principles that Paul Graham espouses in his book. Additionally, LeTourneau was a true hacker before computer hackers were around - he just hacked tractors. I highly recommend this book. One thing that many may not like is that his machines destroyed rainforests. Being from a different generation, he saw this as taking unproductive jungle and making it productive. Not a view many of us would take in this day in time as we've seen the consequences. LeTourneau was a Christian and he does talk about his faith a good bit in the book. Even if that's not your thing, I still think you'll enjoy the book and be surprised at the similarities between his makeup and the makeup of a modern hacker

Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health

Not really the audience here (it has a very anti-libertarian message), but I found this book to be eye-opening. Basically it's about how companies create uncertainty, delay, litigate, whatever it takes to keep extremely harmful products from being made illegal (most of the methods were pioneered by the tobacco industry). I found it eye-opening.

"Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices" By Peter Drucker

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887306152

In Japan the book “What if the Female Manager of a High-School Baseball Team read Drucker’s ‘Management’" (By Iwasaki Natsumi) is incredibly popular. So I decided to read the original Drucker book and see for myself. Drucker's historical perspective by itself is interesting enough to warrant checking this book out. Although the advice is more focused on management in large companies, I think it lays a good foundation for those of us lacking MBAs.

Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

Fascinating book about the mental activity/game at peak performance, and transferring skills from old disciplines to new ones. This book helped me realize the value of interdisciplinary studies in my own personal studies and work.

Delivering Happiness

It made me think of what makes me happy and how I can help make the people around me happy, while still being entrepreneurial (which makes me happy).

I would start with providing the link and naming the author http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-P...

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh.

"Shogun" by James Clavell.

Really great historical fiction about 16th century Japan. Quickest 1100 pages I've ever read.

Indeed. After I finished it, I was sad for weeks. I just missed being in that world with those people.

None of Clavell's other endeavors even comes close (though Tai-Pan was, relatively speaking, a fun modern romp).

I finished this recently and could not agree more. I've just started the 1980's miniseries via Netflix (no streaming, unfortunately) - I'm only two hours in, but so far it is a great retelling.

One of my top five books. I've read it so many times that the binding broke and the book is now in three pieces. I'm amazed that James Clavell managed to capture the culture so well.

Would you recommend any of his followup books? I'm worried that stories with different characters, time periods etc won't have the same feel.

I've read only Noble House. It's quite rich on the culture--maybe not so much as Shogun--and captures the setting quite well, but I didn't find it nearly as entrancing as Shogun.

Worth a read, still.

Likewise. Noble House was a good read, but Shogun was much better.

Clavell's whole Asian Saga (Shogun, Tai-Pan, Gai-Jin, King Rat, Noble House, and Whirlwind) is amazing. My favorite is Tai-Pan - the book had a tremendous impact on me, and I'd imagine it would appeal to every real entrepreneur. The underlying themes are freedom, individualism, honor, risk-taking, and ultimately, building something and defending it.

After Shogun I read a bunch of his books. The only one that stood out for me was Rat King.

> Rat King

It didn't stand out enough for you to get the title right though ;)

Tai Pan, King Rat.

I read that about 10 years ago. I need to revisit it again since I don't think I have ever managed to finish it without long periods of rest inbetween parts.

That said I totally agree. Excellent book.

Currently a chapter away from finishing Bill Bryson's new one, At Home. It is basically the same style and formula of A Short History of Nearly Everything but applied to a walk around his home in England. I am a sucker for a good history of science and technology and Bryson is really, really good at it.

"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" by Steve Blank For me it made the prospect of running a startup much more real. It gave a good grounding in the various phases you'll go through and the challenges and priorites in each. It gives clear actionable advice at every step. For someone from a technical background or for those up at bat for the first time (both attributes describe me), I reckon it's indispensible. I carry my copy in my bag wherever I go.

"The Four Steps To The Epiphany" - Steve Blank.

Because it opened my eyes to a whole new world in terms of understanding customer development and the "market definition" side of things. And, coming from a background as a hacker, not a sales/biz-dev guy, that's exactly what I needed.

I agree, but I really wish that Steve would invest in a book designer. It's truly one of the most ugly books I've ever seen. But to be fair it is actually the minimum viable product.

I agree. I had the book on my shelves for a year before I finally started reading it, because it looks so amateurish.

It's absolutely riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, but it's still one of my favourite books of the year for the content.

Not one book, but two graphic novels. "Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta", Alan Moore's perspective is such a great perspective. Alan Moore tackles important philosophical questions in a really accessible medium. Alan Moore is a realist with very dramatic inclinations and all hackers will appreciate the references in his works. He combines the pretentious with the subtle in a way that will blow your mind. It's not very time-consuming to read through a graphic novel, but after reading them you will spend a lot of time processing the content in your mind, until you reread the graphic novels by Alan Moore.

Anatomy of an Epidemic: http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-A...

About how there has been an enormous rise in the rates of mental illness over the last 50 years. And despite the fact that the APA says it's because we've gotten better at diagnosing mental illness, the bulk of the evidence points to the fact that psychiatric drugs are causing diseases that used to mostly get better with time to become both more severe and long lasting.

The Black Swan (unrelated to the Natalie Portman movie)

A great look behind some of the pseudo-science and psychological principles behind decision-making, rationality, and markets.

I loved Black Swan for the same reasons. I also read "Hollywood Economics: How extreme uncertainty shapes the film industry," which reads like an applied version of the Black Swan in relation to the film industry.

Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure by Jerry Kaplan

Jerry started "GO," the company that was the first to bring to market "pen computing." His company raised over 75M and spent it all on a product that the market did not want. It is a great read. A time before the concept of "product/market" fit had entered main-stream vocabulary

_Do More Faster_ by Techstars founders Brad Feld and David Cohen

(Apologies to OP's request for brevity; there's just a lot of good stuff that I'd like to share.)

A must read for anyone here who is serious about their startup.

I read it on the flight to Startup School to "get in the mood". I couldn't put it down.

It's easy to read for 2 reasons: every chapter is a short essay by a different person (including many Techstars alumni) and it's very well written, almost like pg essays but by lots of different people. It covers lots of ground, much of which has been covered here at hn many times, but then again, some of this stuff can't be covered too often. Also, sometimes someone says the same thing a little differently, and that's the one that actually reaches you.

My 300 page copy has 50 or 60 dog-earred pages and hundreds of red marks; it's that full of gems. (For that reason, I highly suggest buying a hard copy and keeping it on your bookshelf for future reference.)

I think that yc should come out with a similar book. I'd love to read essays from yc alumni, their advisors, and of course the yc principals themselves about what they thought was important. I realize much of this is on-line already, but there's nothing like a great hard copy too.

A few of my favorite quotes from _Do More Faster_:

"I realized that I had two options. I could quit buying comics or I could quit my job and build the iTunes of comics." - Kevin Mann

"Getting feedback and new ideas is the lifeblood of any startup. There is no point in living in fear of someone stealing your idea." - Nate Abbott and Natty Zola

"That means every moment you're working on something without it being in the public arena, it's actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world." - Matt Mullenweb

"Focus on the smallest possible problem you could solve that would potentially be useful" - David Cohen

"You know you're on to something when the community starts donating money to make sure it stays alive." - Darren Crystal

"In companies that rely on having a large user base as ours does, it is very unlikely that you will offend enough people quickly enough to dampen your future growth." - Sean Corbett

"We learned that very few people care how you accomplish something. Instead, these people care more about whether you create value for your end user." - Colin Angle

"We knew that the high-level concept of our first site still really inspired us." - Alex White

"They stepped back from what they had created and thought about what they could do better than anyone else in the world." - editors

"During the first few days of every TechStars cycle, we tell the 10 bright-eyed new teams that one of them will not be together at the end of the program. Unfortunately, we have not been wrong yet." - editors

"If you can't quit no matter how hard you try, then you have a chance to succeed." - Laura Fitton

"When you ask CEOs of major companies what they're most worried about, one common answer is 'a couple of guys in a garage somewhere.'" - David Cohen

"Companies that work just always seem to move at lightning pace." - David Cohen

"It turns out that giving up your one obvious competitive advantage often proves to be deadly. If a startup can't do more faster, it usually just gets dead faster." - David Cohen

"There is an enormous difference between exciting technology and an exciting business." - Howard Diamond

"Changes come daily, weekly, and monthly - not once a quarter or once a year." - Ari Newman

"While it was only a detour of a week, that's a lot in TechStars time." - Bill Warner

"Only hope instead is to listen to their head and their heart and follow a path that they believe in, keeping some of the feedback and discarding other thoughts and ideas." - Bill Warner

"...when presented with exponential growth, remember that people tend to drastically overestimate what will happen in the short term, but will profoundly underestimate what happens over longer time spans." - Ryan McIntyre

"...consider life as a founder of a startup to be one big intelligence test." - Ryan McIntyre

"Remember that human nature has a tendency to admire complexity, but to reward simplicity." - Ben Huh

"If you are innovating, you actually don't know what your product needs to be. Furthermore, your customers don't either. No one does." - Ajay Kulkarni and Andy Cheung

"Nearly every startup must find ways to differentiate itself from competitors." - Raj Aggarwai

"What is the thing that matters most to making progress right now?" - Dick Costolo

"...you cannot create the need." - Michael Zeissner

"Opportunity cost can kill a startup." - Michael Zeissner

"It's easy to feel trapped by these handcuffs but if you change your perspective just a little, you might find that you hands are bound by nothing more than air, and the future is yours to create." - Eric Marcoullier

"There is one thing that the hundred of founders I meet each year have in common, and that is that their plan is wrong. Sometimes it's the big things, sometimes it's the little things, but the plan is always wrong." - Rob Hayes

"...we have to strike while the iron is hot! My experience is that this is rarely true." - David Brown

"Take the time to get it right and you'll find that those competitors might not be as close as you think." - David Brown

"Seeking the perfect combo: 'a smart-ass team with a kick-ass product in a big-ass market.'" - Jeff Clavier

"The moral of the story is easy: When you follow your heart, good things usually happen. We have a very short stay on this spinning orb and I believe life is way too short to be stuck in a career that doesn't fulfill you." - Mark Solon

I wonder how many of these books you just caused to sell. I'm sold myself! Thanks for the quotes and review. Very motivating. Let me quote you.

>Sometimes someone says the same thing a little differently, and that's the one that actually reaches you.

Beautiful! and true.

at least 1 ;)

I sense a decent money generator for the startup fund in this idea (not that they need it). This would be invaluable and highly desired advice and I'm going to look into getting a copy of the TechStars book.

One of the great triumphs of _Founders at Work_ is its obvious emphasis on multiple perspectives to any single given problem. This book seems to emulate that approach to similar success, if your enthusiasm is to be taken as any indicator!

I can't wait to read it.

"Why Don't Students Like School?" by Daniel Willingham. It's primarily aimed at educators; if that's not your career path you'll find it less useful. So much of education consists of untested fads that it was a relief to see a social scientist go through the evidence of what works and what doesn't. Among other things, Willingham completely demolishes learning styles.

It's easily the best book on teaching I've ever read, and it will have a strong influence on how I structure my classes in the coming semester.

Pillars of the Earth. It's a historical fiction novel by Ken Follett about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. Brilliant book.


Brilliant indeed. Now available as a TV-series as well. And a sequel is out, World Without End: http://www.amazon.com/World-Without-End-Ken-Follett/dp/05259...

"Failure is Not an Option" by Gene Kranz

An awesome look back at the space program in the 1960s.


Gokhale's 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, via http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1739607 (thanks, HN). It's not the best presentation or the best science, but it has ended my back pain and given me awareness of my body. Anyone who sits with a curved back or occasionally lifts heavy objects should read it.


Delivering Happiness is great. I loved it too.

The best book of 2010 for me "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall: http://www.amazon.ca/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/...

There are so many great things about this book. It has an amazing story and also delivers a message why humans were born to run.

The Fabulous Showman: The Life and Times of P.T. Barnum by Irving Wallace http://www.amazon.com/Fabulous-Showman-Life-Times-Barnum/dp/...

Barnum was masterful at using the media of his day to promote his various business enterprises:

"I am indebted to the press of the United States for almost every dollar which I possess and for every success as an amusement manager which I have ever achieved. The very great popularity which I have attained both at home and abroad I ascribe almost entirely to the liberal and persistent use of the public journals of this country."

A great read for startup people, even though it's a biography of a 19th-century personality. Chock full of timeless advice and quotes, to whit:

"Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!"

"Every crowd has a silver lining."

"Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant."

"Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only set their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily done."

"If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star."

I'm getting great value out of this list.

Can anybody recommend a book that has helped them become a more productive and efficient developer?

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

I'll second 'The Pragmatic Programmer' as a wonderful career enhancer. I'm reading 'Growing Object-Oriented Software guided By Tests', Pryce, Freeman right now, and think it's really worthwhile.

"Programming in Scala" by Martin Odersky, Lex Spoon, Bill Venners.

Very easy read, explains a lot of functional programming concepts. This book made me a fan of Scala and functional programming.

"White Fang", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_London

Klondike "like" experience, forges determination.

"Little, Big" by John Crowley, a fantasy novel about several generations of a family connected to a hidden world of magic within our world. Could not be less like Harry Potter (even though I'm also a fan of that series). People who appreciate the sentiment that "cellar-door" might be the most beautiful word in the English language would enjoy the experience of reading this book - the only way I can describe it is that I literally wanted to eat the text I was reading. For example, character names include 'Daily Alice' Drinkwater, Grandfather Trout, and Smoky Barnable. People obsessed with typography or copy would probably enjoy this book because Crowley seems to always pick the 'perfect' word or phrase. Outside validation - "Little, Big" appears in Harold Bloom's well-regarded Western Canon.

SSI Open Water Diver. Not because the book is particularly (or at all) well written, but because it was my entry into an amazing hobby -- SCUBA diving. It's an enjoyable activity on its own, and the training model for SCUBA is actually a good way to teach a lot of things to consumers (a VC friend who just picked up diving too believes this as well).

For actual book as book, probably "First In; How Seven CIA Officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan" by Gary Schroen. They basically went in with $30mm or so and an old helicopter, 2 SF ODAs, and accomplished most of the good accomplished to date in Afghanistan within 2 months.

For fiction, I'd love to say Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but it's just too fucking long. He needs an editor; I'm on book 3. For unexpectedly awesome, Suarez's Daemon and Freedom.

"Masters of Doom" by David Kushner

It'd been on my list for quite awhile but I just got around to it a few months ago. It was fascinating to read about all the games I'd played growing up. For those who haven't read it - it covers pretty much the birth of the gaming industry as we know it today not just Doom. It goes all the way back to when Romero was writing games and sending them in to magazines to be included on disks. Carmack has always been an icon for me so it was interesting to read about him on a more personal level.

In addition to the interest factor - it was also quite inspiring to me. It certainly increased my drive to get stuff done. If the early history of PC gaming interests you at all; or you just want to read a page turner of a book about people not that dissimilar from you I'd highly recommend it.

I think you mean Tony Hsieh?

I haven't finished it, but the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs was by far my favorite book that I've been reading this year. It really opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas, as it apparently has for so many other people.

Andrew Hodges's biography of Turing, "Enigma", easily. Although "Profiles of the Future" by Arthur Clarke was also surprisingly good.

In a similar vein I just finished reading "the man who invented the computer" by Jane Smiley. It's mainly about John Atanasoff but it includes other important figures of early computer development such as Turing, Zuse, Mauchly,Eckert, Von Neumann...

Just came but worth buying if you don't know the story of the ABC and it's relationship to ENIAC.

Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos by Seth Lloyd.

It made me think about reality in a very novel way, and the nature of what a tautology really is, and it was extremely readable considering how cerebral it is.

Reworked by the 37Signals guys.

It fit with what I needed at the time. It gave me some great new ideas and confirmed others I had already been both coming up with on my own and brewing from others around me. I will probably re-read it again soon.

It hasn't been a great year for books for me. Lots of things I found entertaining enough, nothing really stands out. Pinned down, I'd say _Game Change_, which I expected to hate (the story is getting very stale) but turned out to read like a West Wing season put to paper.

I'm trying to read more fiction and am cruising this thread for ideas. Downthread, someone suggested _Into Thin Air_ as being startup-relevant (in an entrepreneurial, building something amazing up from nothing sense), and I added _Kitchen Confidential_ to that pile. Both are nonfiction. What are some good fiction titles that resonate the same way?

I must say The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell


If you think this talk http://g4tv.com/videos/44277/DICE-2010-Design-Outside-the-Bo...

is good you should really read the book. Great stuff.

Work Hard Be Nice. It helped me understand how tough it is to bring about change at the grassroots level and why one needs to make a lifelong commitment to such causes. http://www.amazon.com/Work-Hard-Be-Nice-Promising/dp/1565125...

Dunno. Maybe _The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet_, by Thomas Mitchell, a novel set in the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki, ca. 1800. Maybe de Tocquivelle's _Souvenirs_ (of the revolution of 1848)--but that I am re-reading. Maybe the NYRB edition of Thoreau's journals, but was that this year?

"The Big Book of Concepts" by Gregory Murphy.

Killed off completely any remaining hope I had that artificial intelligence would be achieved via formal logical methods.

This was probably a good thing: can't say I didn't have some idea that it was coming but I didn't see the headlights until I read the book!8-)

Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Exceptional book about the environmental, social and individual costs of industrial animal farming. Also somewhat philosophical about consuming animals and cruelty against them.


"Against Love: a polemic", by Laura Kipnis.

The title is a little misleading, since the book is not against love per se, but speaks about coupledom. It does not want to give answers, but only ask questions and it's a good book to think about our love affairs.

My choice: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace

I was actually very surprised on how insightful this book was. It is a great look into the inner mind of a prolific writer and the anguish he felt by in genius.

Man, I couldn't possibly disagree more. I really enjoyed Wallace's voice in this book, but felt like David Lipsky injected way, way too much of himself into it.

The book that caused the most external change in my life was Crash Proof 2.0 by Peter Schiff. I've been concerned about the economy and what its direction means for me, my family and my assets, but uncertain of what to do about it. Crash Proof is a practical and pragmatic approach to understanding and preparing for what Schiff predicts to be a virtual meltdown of the US Dollar.

The books that caused me the most mental change were the three volumes of the Gulag Archipelago. It's a harrowing real-life, incredibly human, insightful story of Solzhenitsyn's experience in the Soviet prison camps during and after Stalin in Russia. A real life page turner.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Never had a chance to read it and now I think it's one of the most brilliant book I ever red.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis (major spoilers)

The Success Manual http://thesuccessmanual.bighow.com - Contains concise summaries of 200+ most useful business and self-help books of all time.

Atlas Shrugged

Mediocre novel, tremendous ideas. The prose is a slog but worth it.


The Ridiculous Race Steve Hely & Vali Chandrasekaran http://www.amazon.com/Ridiculous-Race-Steve-Hely/dp/08050874...

Two friends challenge each other to an old fashioned race around the world with one caveat: no airplanes. Starting from the first page hilarity ensues as the two try to outdo, outthink and out race while experiencing as much as they can at the same time.

I liked Delivering Happiness too - a great book.

For me "How We Decide" has been the best book of the year as it gave me quite some insights into human brain works and how to deal with different situations.

Work Where wizards stayed up late - Matthew Lyon, Katie Hafner: The beginning of the internet. Plenty of history and lessons

Fun The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins. Young adult fiction that reads fast but makes you think.

Life Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough - Lori Gottlieb: Amusing book, easy read and aimed at women, but has some good insights on why we fail to get married before it's too late.

I love that I was able to scroll through pages on Amazon to check (most of) the books I read this year.

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nobokov.

Superb meta-literature.

Bloody amazing book. I just reread it a few weeks ago.

"Energy, the Subtle Concept", a great overview of the history and physics of energy that doesn't avoid equations: http://www.amazon.com/Energy-Subtle-Concept-discovery-Feynma...

"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" needs no introduction. The first couple of chapters really drove home some mistakes I have made in past projects.

The eight books of the House of Niccolo series by Dorothy Dunnett. Swashbuckling 15th-century entrepreneurship. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_House_of_Niccol%C3%B2

And once you've finished that, there's a sequel series (actually written before the House of Niccolo): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymond_Chronicles

The first of the Lymond Chronicles, Game of Kings, is in the running for best (fiction) book I've read, never mind best fiction I've read this year.

However, yes, entrepreneurs in particular will love Niccolo.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. It's full of ideas about meaning of life, happiness and spirituality and it's one of a few books that made me think differently about life.

"Different" by Youngme Moon. This book was given out at the Business of Software 2010 conference, and she also spoke there. It's basically a call to arms for meaningful differentiation with organized business case studies of companies that have achieved it.


These are old, but I got a lot this year out of 'Dynamics of Software Development', McCarthy and 'Working Effectively with Legacy Software', Feathers.

"The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Take time to walk slowly and think deeply. Walk slow enough to forget that you're actually walking.

'The Master Switch' by Tim Wu, because it gave me an added perspective on how History shapes present Information Empires

Cosmos by John North.

This book is just threatening to be a masterpiece. An overview of mans scientific ideas about the stars and the planets and the cosmos in general from before Ptolemy to Einstein and modern times. Absolutely epic in scope. This book is to the history of astronomy like "The Prize" is to the history of oil, only bigger.

The Art of Travel by Francis Galton (1872) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14681

Captures human ingenuity brilliantly. A timeless book that makes me look at _everything_ with an eye to make it better. A must read for any hacker of any persuasion.

I just got done reading "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis. Well written, does a good job explaining what bond traders were doing before 2008 and why this downturn started. Well worth the read, IMO (I was recommended the book by a hedge fund manager when I met him at my school).

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger because of the Holden Caulfield in me who couldn't tolerate all the phoniness around.

Also enjoyed The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel. After reading about Hardy in this book, I have read "A Mathematician's Apology" which was excellent too.

"Start small, Stay small" by Rob Walling. If you're a solo founder you need to read this, it's gold. An easy read and touches on the surface of just about every facet of a startup. http://www.startupbook.net/

How Judges Think by (judge) Richard Posner. Could also have been titled 'How things work.'

Founders at Work

The Big Short

The Wealthy Freelancer

It's full of realistic ideas you can apply to your freelancer career, and no BS about becoming a trillioner in an x amount of time. Its actually stuff that can put to work now as you read it, so it worked as a manual for me.

"Reluctant Genuis" (biography of Alexander Graham Bell) - a must read to better understand the context in which the phone was invented, and the tremendous impact it had as a technology; the story of an amazing inventor, period.

I am a strange loop by Douglas Hofstadter - fascinating exercise in 'thinking about thinking' that radically changed my perspective on the concept of 'self'. Lots of mathsy and techy overtones, great stuff.

I recommend you book The Domain Game from David Kesmodel- http://tinyurl.com/2dv5u9c

It is fascinating story about domain tycoons like Kevin Ham or Frank Schill

Rework of 37 Signals' guys. I read it along "Getting Real" as I started my own company and was quite eye-opening. Don't agree 100% with everything but there's a lot of common wisdom inside.

"Finite and Infinite Games" - James Carse



"Financier" by T.Dreiser and "Martin Eden" by J.London. Some of the best books you'll ever read about character development. Definitely read the latter one if you're in your early 20-ies.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, because he shows that there's writing after Dostoyevsky, and because he probably was a hacker.

Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas

This book is a new cosmology for a new age of civilization. Couldn't stop reading and it expanded my cosmic view.

Book: Straight Man, by Richard Russo Why? It was funny. Might appeal more to those of us who have experienced academia.

What is God really like by Craig Groeshell or Alien Encounters by Chuck Missler

The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton.

"Delivering Happiness" and "Getting Real".

from Cortázar Blow-up and Other Stories.


Some things are exaggerated. That's what I like about it.

The best book I read was a work of fiction. "The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, Day" by Elie Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel is a Nobel peace prize winner and he is a survivor of The Holocaust. The short novel Night, talks about his experiences in the concentration camp. The Dawn and Day are fictional works by him .


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