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Ask HN: What book changed your life?
393 points by tomrod on March 19, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 522 comments
What book (or books) changed your life? I'm looking for inspiration and would love to hear what and how you were impacted.

Thank you!

The Stormlight Archive (series) by Brandon Sanderson has probably changed my life the most. I don't think I've enjoyed a book as much or have had one mean as much to me as I've have with this series.

The series is incredibly inspirational since despite being a high fantasy novel. In fear of spoiling the plot, I'm being vague: it tracks the stories of (multiple) people who go through difficult life situations and learn to heal from depressive moments while having incredibly, intricate worldbuilding (which is excellent for taking your mind off of reality) and a twisty plot. If you go on the subreddit for this series, r/stormlight_archive, you'll see people talking about how this book (literally) saved their lives. I can tell you that in the most off-putting moments of life reading inspirational scenes from the Stormlight Archive has helped me stand up again. The messages and themes about life are simple, but also on-point. Overall, an excellent series. I recommend it.

Thanks for being vague, I just started The Way of Kings last week. I've read Elantris and the first Mistborn trilogy from Sanderson. I'm roughly half way into this first book of The Stormlight Archive and I've already come to the conclusion that this likely is my favorite of his work.

I very much agree with your thoughtful sentiment. I've been wondering if the story of Joseph from the Bible had influence on Kaladin's character (Sanderson is a Christian). And Dalinar's character has me thinking about re-reading texts such as Meditations by Marcus Aurelius & Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. These early assessments might be very wrong as I'm still early in the series, but the book definitely has me feeling inspired and motivated thus far.

I've also read nearly every other Sanderson book after Stormlight. While they're still quite good, none of them quite compare to the depth or significance of the Stormlight Archive.

I'm not Christian and as such am not familiar with Biblical stores, but I would be inclined to agree that the messages Sanderson conveys in Stormlight could perhaps be derived from those stories. However, something that strikes me is that Sanderson mentions faith and religious conflict in all his novels, but seems to transcend a singular true faith (eg. in portraying Jasnah's atheism, I've seen people mention her reasons for rejecting God are surprisingly accurate to what real people believe, and Sanderson attributed that to spending time on atheist forums to understand their beliefs better).

> the book definitely has me feeling inspired and motivated thus far.

I found Rhythm of War to be the most (read: exceptionally) inspirational and motivational of the four novels (followed by Words of Radiance) , so I would wager that there will be much more in terms of inspiration in the following novels. And good luck with your reading journey! The Stormlight Archive was truly a wonderful experience to read (and I've re-read it since then) and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination."

> Sanderson is a Christian

To be more specific and accurate he’s a Mormon. I’m told that the Cosmere owes a lot to Mormon theology, like the henotheism, embodiment of God and non-trinitarianism.

I was at Brandon's home just yesterday, although he wasn't present. Next time I see him, I'll have to ask him about this. I am also a Mormon, but nothing in the Cosmere stood out to me as being directly inspired by our religious beliefs. But I could certainly be wrong.

I'll piggy back here, I'm quite an anti religion person (people doing that in their own privacy, all power to you). But i mainly say that to state that overly religious preachy stuff in books usually irks me. Stormlight archives is my favourite series

I hope the above came across as positive, it was meant that way

I think that Sanderson's faith influences his writing but his novels are very accepting of other religions and he almost criticizes the "overly religious preachy" stuff (eg. through Jasnah's story and the hardships she faces because of her anti-religious stance) in Stormlight. Although I might be wrong.

+1 I loved Stormlight Archive so much that I read it twice and I would probably read some chapters over and over. The struggles of various characters with past failures and the way they overcome it gives me hope for myself. Not only the mental health angle is really meaningful, the whole storyline is super interesting. Anyway, I can keep going on and on about these books. You have to read them at least twice to appreciate the intricacies and subplots.

I wholeheartedly agree and I read it twice as well. It's also the only book or series I've ever had the heart to read twice. It was just that good, and every time you read it, you pick up on new details and it's just as refreshing and beautiful as the first time.

I think I read the first 3 books of this series (didn't finish the 3rd book), and if you liked it I would also recommend his Mistborn book and the A Song of Ice and Fire (the books behind Game of Thrones). I actually drifted towards Sanderson after looking for more fantasy books like Game of Thrones. The Arcane Ascension series by Andrew Rowe is also top-tier.

Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely look into them (especially A Song of Ice and Fire since I've received many suggestions for it from people who've seen me reading the Stormlight Archive). Never heard of the Arcane Ascension, but I'll look into it.

While not completed, I've also read the Gentleman Bastard series and the Kingkiller Chronicle which were also suggested to me since I read Stormlight and I really enjoyed them as well (although, well, not as much as the Stormlight Archive).

I have heard so much about Sanderson but never read anything. Where should I start?

I recommend starting with Stormlight, but if you want to fully understand it, you should probably read the first Mistborn book before Rhythm of War and Warbreaker before Oathbringer (Warbreaker is probably my second-favourite Sanderson book, due to its "wholesomeness"). You should also read the novellas as you get through Stormlight, but I believe Dawnshard has far more more plot significance than Edgedancer. Mistborn is pretty good, but it's not as meaningful or deep as Stormlight.

There is a page titled "Where do I start?" on Brandon Sanderson's website: https://www.brandonsanderson.com/where-do-i-start/

I would highly recommend it. If you wanna go systemically, look up guides on how to go about Cosmere. Or you could start anywhere. Stromlight is definitely,imo,his best work.

Wah its like going into a rabbit hole of new universe, love it!

First and foremost: The Bible. Not the watered down "everybody goes to heaven" theology that most people subscribe to, but rather an evidence based approach that uses the Bible to interpret itself as it was designed to do.

Secondarily, this book saved my life in the sense that it helped me understand my depression, a clinical depression so deep that my psychologist had never seen such a thing previously:

Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy - Stephen C. Hayes https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0054M063A/

Its scientific approach to understanding our own thought patterns gave me control- coping mechanisms- for dealing with my own feelings instead of ignoring ("Burying") them and letting them slowly destroy me from the inside out.

I agree. I would also add continues to change my life. I read the Bible every day and am constantly amazed how relevant ancient wisdom is today.

In recent years teaching from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament taught me how to understand my work. There is such a lot of nonsense on HN and the net about success. So many are pursuing a pipe dream. Below helped me to work hard, enjoy what I have, and not be concerned about what others have. See below, written in Ecclesiastes 5, thousands of years ago.

10 Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! 11 The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers!

12 People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep.

13 There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. 14 Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. 15 We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.

16 And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind. 17 Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud—frustrated, discouraged, and angry.

18 Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. 19 And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. 20 God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.

I’m so excited by this comment.

1) As gp said, the historical grammatical hermeneutic is the way to go for interpretation.


2) the book of Ecclesiastes is definitely a beautiful way to stay grounded. Just the mere fact that Solomon, the author, had access to everything his age could offer and still ended up writing Ecclesiastes Ch 11 is mind blowing. Everything passes away. This world, your legacy, your wealth, memories of you, things you care for, everything. The only thing that doesn’t is God, his word, and your spirit. It puts this world and it’s fleeting pleasures in perspective.

Of course, the natural reaction to this is “so what? Nihilism then?”. The Bible unabashedly says “yes, if you don’t have God”

People search for the meaning of life in a variety of ways. The Bible answers this clearly:

“To love God and worship him forever.”

What do Christian’s do in this world? Ecclesiastes would say “to enjoy your lot with the one you love, to worship God and to accept what comes your way.”

> Nihilism then?”. The Bible unabashedly says “yes, if you don’t have God”

I am not trying to argue theology here, just giving another perspective.

I was raised an an observant Catholic household, and I went every week from ages 5-19 and missed only a few times due to illness. But I never believed, I just don't have a spiritual bone in my body. None of what you quoted from Solomon about the impermanence of our material acquisitions sounds profound -- it seems obvious.

But the main reason I'm commenting is this idea that non-believers must be nihilists [1]. I want to assure you that I find meaning and purpose in life, but it isn't dictated by some holy person. Pain and suffering and happiness are real and even though we are all reduced back to molecules when we die, what we do and how we act during out lives matters to the people (and wider world) around us during out lives and for a while after we die. I get the same impression from other non-believers. It is a colossal failure of imagination to think that without God people must believe nothing matters.

[1] This footnote is to acknowledge that different people have their own interpretations of what "nihilism" means, and so any statement I make about nihilism will result in some group of people saying "you don't even know what it means!"

> I was raised an an observant Catholic household, and I went every week from ages 5-19 and missed only a few times due to illness. But I never believed, I just don't have a spiritual bone in my body. None of what you quoted from Solomon about the impermanence of our material acquisitions sounds profound -- it seems obvious.

I had a similar upbringing. I attended Catholic schools until college. And the whole time it all just struck me as pageantry. I perceived that it was very real for many of the others, but to me it was as you imply.

Thank God the scales fell from my eyes. Interestingly it was not preaching, but my meditations on the three normative sciences that convinced me of the necessity of God. I realized that culturally Christian atheists conception of ethics is just a more or less attenuated Christian one that will continue to wither as any plant cut from its roots will. I further concluded that the same holds for the other two normative sciences. This was so unsatisfactory to me that I had an epiphany.

> It is a colossal failure of imagination to think that without God people must believe nothing matters.

I haven't ever talked to an unbeliever who believes nothing matters, though I've heard of nihilist philosophers. I suspect non-philosophers who believe in nihilism usually have something from which they're trying to escape; they're not being honest with themselves. Of course each moment matters - it's a time of lived experience for billions of people.

On the other hand, as a Christian, I'm accustomed to thinking a lot about eternal destiny and how things will end up in an ultimate sense. For me, the idea of no God existing opens up a yawning chasm of eternal emptiness I find frightening to imagine -- it would mean when I die, there's nothing more for me; and when we all die and no humans are left, that'll be it for all of us. At that point, will anything that transpired previously matter at all?

I suppose for those who consciously or subconsciously know they're guilty of sin, the idea of annihilation is far preferable to facing judgment for their sins in the past, so I can see how atheism would be an attractive option, ultimate meaninglessness notwithstanding. But Christianity is primarily about what to do with that guilt -- that God's son Jesus paid the price for your sin and mine, and he offers forgiveness to those who will trust him and call on his name. (And I'm sure you've heard that before.)

So while I agree stuff matters right now even without belief in a God, for me the meaning of the past and present pale compared to what matters (if anything) in the eternity of time that lies ahead.

> On the other hand, as a Christian, I'm accustomed to thinking a lot about eternal destiny and how things will end up in an ultimate sense. For me, the idea of no God existing opens up a yawning chasm of eternal emptiness I find frightening to imagine -- it would mean when I die, there's nothing more for me; and when we all die and no humans are left, that'll be it for all of us. At that point, will anything that transpired previously matter at all? I suppose for those who consciously or subconsciously know they're guilty of sin, the idea of annihilation is far preferable to facing judgment for their sins in the past, so I can see how atheism would be an attractive option, ultimate meaninglessness notwithstanding.

But that’s the thing, you’re completely failing to understand how a non-believer (speaking for myself) feels about there not being an afterlife. What you’ve said is not in any way how I feel - I die, but the actions and efforts and (hopefully) descendants I put out there go in to hopefully contribute positively, in this magical thing we call life; and even in still there, the bits of me continuing to be recycled in the universe. As someone who has had many psychedelic experiences my non-believer side still has a spiritual axis to it; I can’t believe we all get to walk into a place where everyone who’s ever died is cutting around alive again; and Jesus and some older dude who created the universe sit at the head of the table, but that doesn’t have to be true in order for a life to have meaning, and it’s a failure of imagination (and really, and I don’t mean this to belittle your faith, but ultimately an indoctrinated fear - you use the word yourself - that is- ‘frightening yawning chasm of emptiness’) to believe that unless that is the way it pans out then everything is pointless and people are subconsciously compensating or blocking out that fear because they’re sinners.

“I suppose for those who consciously or subconsciously know they're guilty of sin, the idea of annihilation is far preferable to facing judgment for their sins in the past, so I can see how atheism would be an attractive option, ultimate meaninglessness notwithstanding.”

This kind of quite literally holier-than-thou pretension is a large reason why, despite being raised religious, I want nothing to do with it today. Especially Christianity.

> holier-than-thou pretension

Could you elaborate? I certainly didn't mean to imply I'm any better than someone in the position I described. I'm as much guilty of sin as anyone else.

I don't think it's pretentious either to say that all have sinned in some way or another. As Solzhenitsyn writes, the line between good and evil runs right through every human heart -- all are capable of great good and great evil.

The attractive option of atheism bit.

Plenty of other reasons why someone would turn to atheism. Eg the massive occurrence/support/obfuscation of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

Ah, understood. I didn't mean characterize atheists or conversions to atheism.

It's just that from my own frame of reference, that's the most attractive aspect of atheism.

Misinterpreted on my end, then - nothing personal!

>I suppose for those who consciously or subconsciously know they're guilty of sin, the idea of annihilation is far preferable to facing judgment for their sins in the past, so I can see how atheism would be an attractive option, ultimate meaninglessness notwithstanding. But Christianity is primarily about what to do with that guilt -- that God's son Jesus paid the price for your sin and mine, and he offers forgiveness to those who will trust him and call on his name. (And I'm sure you've heard that before.)

  Your comment and a lot of others seem to presuppose that atheists don't genuinely not believe in God, there must be some sort of rejection of a God that exists or some conscious/unconscious attempt to avoid taking responsibility for something.

  My not being a Christian is really simple. It has nothing to do with my ideas on the bible or morality in general. nothing to do with whether or not I'm a sinner (I agree with you and Christianity that everyone falls very short of moral perfection), it has nothing to do with my personal happiness or making it easier for me to sleep at night.

  I simply don't believe that supernatural events exist. Nothing I have heard, discussed, read, watched or experienced in my life has convinced me that supernatural things happen in a general sense or that the specific supernatural things that are essential to believing in Christianity have happened.

Yes, I'm sure it is scary if you have lead your life assuming that there was a blissful afterlife. But you must recognize that that was Jesus' main selling point: follow me and you'll have eternal life. Judaism believed that when a person dies, they are simply gone. Yet somehow they found purpose and meaning and weren't frightened of a yawning chasm of eternal emptiness.

> when we all die and no humans are left, that'll be it for all of us. At that point,

Yup, just like the universe existed for 14B years before humans came along.

> will anything that transpired previously matter at all?

Here is a thought experiment I've heard before. Say I'm really rich and have a tropical paradise, and I invite you to spend a month there. "It'll be great!" I promise, so you come. When you arrive you find I'm actually a twisted genius. I have developed a pill which will completely reset your memory back exactly like it was 30 days prior. In front of you is a spinner which alternates between: "party" and "torture".

I tell you, go ahead and spin. If it comes up on "party," you'll have the most amazing time for the month. You'll have private snorkling trips with Jacques Cousteau's grandson; you'll eat the finest food cooked by 5 star Michelin chef's I have flown in. Name your favorite bands and I'll arrange for them to fly in and perform for you. No expense will be spared to entertain you. But if you spin "torture", oh boy, it will be bad. Nothing that will leave a physical scar, mind you, thinks like waterboarding, being shocked by high voltages, capsacin injected into your urethra, etc. But at the end of 30 days, I'll give you a pill that will wipe any trace of memory from the previous 30 days, no PTSD or future nightmares.

So the question is: does it matter if you spin "party" or "torture"? After all, in 30 days, there will be no memories nor after effects. I'm sure that just about everyone would pick party. Why does the choice matter? Even though the memory of the torture will be wiped out, while you are actually experiencing it it is very real suffering (or joy in the other case).

To someone who doesn't believe in the afterlife, the fact that all of our memories dissolve when we die (in the case of dementia, even before we die) and nothing outlives our body, the joy and suffering we experience in life matter.

> ... sin ...

Look up the definition of sin: transgression of God's moral law. As someone who doesn't believe in God, I also don't believe in sin. I believe some events are good and some are bad, but I don't believe in sin. I am consciously or unconsciously worried about upsetting God by transgression His laws to the exact same degree you are consciously or unconsciously worried about upsetting Odin for transgressing his wishes.

I said originally I don't want to argue theology. I was just pointing out that non-believers are not nihilists, contrary to the claim of the person I was responding to. I have lots of thoughts about the other things you've written, but this doesn't seem like the right forum for them.

Jews did not think that people were simply gone after death. Read about "Sheol", for example.

None of what you quoted from Solomon about the impermanence of our material acquisitions sounds profound -- it seems obvious.

Of course, the answer is always obvious when you've been provided it beforehand.

You state that as-if you somehow shipped from the womb knowing wisdom, when in fact that implicit knowledge you take for granted has been lived and transferred by your ancestors and most certainly derived from your own social and spiritual milieu.

Let me ask some questions. Do you think Solomon was the first person to realize this, did he come up with this de novo? Or, perhaps, he was also a product of his cultural environment. Is it possible that he has been lionized by the hagiography that surrounds him to make it seem as if nobody had ever had such moral insights until he came along? Do you think it is likely or unlikely that cultures which don't have any Abrahamic tradition have also arrived at the same conclusions?

More importantly, whatever contributions Solomon's wisdom has had on our culture, there are thousands of other competing (and often contradicting) ideas in the milieu. Even if Solomon was the author of the wisdom ascribed to him, it isn't obvious to me that those ideas are at the center of our culture or at the forefront of everyone's thoughts, and so it isn't "obvious [that it has] been provided beforehand."

I can pinpoint when I had my own epiphany. Probably like many people on HN, I did quite well in school. I took standardized tests every year starting in grade 1 and a few weeks later I'd receive a breakdown of what percentile I scored in math, vocabulary, reading, etc, and a combined score. I wouldn't say I had an ego about it, but it was planted in my mind that I was smart and would grow up and do great things: maybe I'd invent something amazing, or discover some deep scientific principle.

Early in high school I had the thought: no matter what I do, it is unlikely that I'll ever be as famous as, say, US President John Tyler, and nobody gives a damn about him. In fact, very few people achieve lasting fame, eg Jesus or Buddha or Isaac Newton. Heck, I don't give a moment's thought about my great grandparents. Each of us is just a ripple in a pond, and as the diameter of our ripple gets larger, its amplitude shrinks. Conceptually, the effects last forever, but only in the most diffuse, indirect manner. Thus my goal became not to do something great that would impress everyone, but to focus on making a positive difference to the people nearest me in space and time; everything else that ripples out of that is gravy.

Why tell this story? Because culturally I had been programmed, and I still see it in full force, that fame and influence are desirable goals. Look at how many people try to become influencers on social media, or do the dumbest things on youtube or tiktok to get eyes to look at them. Yet despite that programming, that thought really changed my life philosophy. Just a realization to a sheltered 14 or 15 year old, so I'm sure there are many people who have had similar thoughts.

I think you're not driving far enough to the conclusion of what you're saying. If there is no afterlife, then eventually there will be nobody left in the world, in which case nothing that anyone had ever done or said would have really mattered.

I completely disagree. Scan this thread for my thought experiment about the pill that wipes your memory back to the state it was 30 days ago. I haven't overlooked the point you are making.

> If there is no afterlife, then eventually there will be nobody left in the world,

Whether or not there is an afterlife, it is inevitable that the earth will become uninhabitable. It seems far more likely that humans will die off before that becomes a problem.

> in which case nothing that anyone had ever done or said would have really mattered

Like the old joke about fish not being aware of water, I think people who have spent their entire lives in a Christian mindset forget that the novel thing Jesus was offering was an afterlife. Many cultures and religions believe a person simply stops existing when they die (including Judaism), yet the people without a belief in the afterlife still seem to care if they are happy or miserable.

Let me try another tack along the lines of the thought experiment I stated elsewhere in the thread. Christians believe in a personal soul that outlives the body it is tied to. I'm sure some Christians might think that some animals have souls as well, but I'll go out on a limb and say most don't believe, say, a beetle, has a soul. If you came across me torturing beetles with salt, or fire, or pulling their legs off, you'd rightfully think I'm a horrible person. Why would it matter? After all, the beetle has no soul and will be dead in a few months anyway. It is because even though the pain is temporary, it is very real while the beetle lives through it.

Jews did believe in an afterlife - read about Sheol, for example. Not sure where you got that idea from. They thought that death was permanent, but that is a very different thing from thinking there's no afterlife. There are also two Old Testament figures - Enoch and Elijah - who were brought up into heaven. What Jesus taught that was new in this regard is a bodily resurrection.

Also, all animals have souls according to Catholicism, and so do plants. The distinct thing about humans is that we have rational souls. But the soul is the form of any living thing.

Torturing an animal is wrong because it does harm to God's creation for no legitimate purpose. A theist doesn't have any problem explaining this - it's the atheist/materialist who does.

To be fair, several (at the time) large religious groups believed in a spiritual afterlife. What disgusted many Greeks & Romans was the concept that a _bodily_ afterlife was the ultimate destiny of a human.

Humanism might he the term that you are describing.

The idea that a deity is not needed to find meaning and derive morality.

What's the term for when the pursuit of knowledge is regarded as the highest morality? That's where I mostly get my meaning at least.

In Stoic virtue ethics, practical wisdom (phronesis) is the central virtue. But it doesn’t mean pursuing book knowledge, it means learning how to handle, think about and navigate all aspects of life well. In short, how to live “the kind of life worth living” (eudaimonia).

Ah yes, the Stoic 'considered life', exactly. I recommended Derren Brown's book 'Happiness' if anyone is interested in that.

There might not be one because a morality requires considering others, but simply pursuing knowledge does not. Unfortunately, you’ll soon have to reckon with how that knowledge affects your actions in order to call it a morality.

Man, I tried reading the bible, maybe some pages are to be skipped, I couldn't keep after 5 ... too many "don't have sex with your cousin's wife unless her father owned a goat" logic.

My suggestion: Start reading in Matthew. Once you get through, go back to Genesis and Exodus. Leviticus is a harder read, but worthwhile because it provides so much context for the rest. But if need be, skip to Judges- it's an action packed book, and I genuinely enjoy it, as I do Ruth. If you get stuck on Chronicles, skip to Ezra. Esther is an especially wonderful book!

What I'm really trying to say is: The Bible isn't a book that HAS to be read in order. It's not presented in chronological order and every book has individual value. Once you develop a love for the Bible, then the harder reads will be that much easier :)

I'd like to suggest: 1)include Acts with Matthew for initial reading 2) get people to Samuel and Kings ASAP. You probably need to read genesis and exodus first, but after that, David seems like the archetype of God-fearing Jew, and you need to know his story.

To be clearer: I meant to start reading the entire Bible at Matthew- not reading JUST Matthew.

Not a bible expert, but the old testament in particular has books that are effectively 'legal' (rather than theological) in nature. The kind of thing you quote here is likely from that kind of book (and typically the kind of thing quoted in TV shows needing to show how 'silly are the things Christians believe in').

If you put it in that context, then it's not that much sillier than stuff like "Owning a pet lobster in Maine is illegal when that lobster is pregnant" kind of laws. (true law btw)

I would invite you to re-evaluate your position on books like Leviticus not being "theological". For example, Leviticus 16, the Day of Atonement, shows you on so many levels what Christ accomplished. The reasons many of the rules and laws are put into place is to show how reality is structured ontologically. And to show you that mixing categories can be harmful, and that fringes are necessary to keep the rest of the cloth whole. I could go on and on about this.

A good place to start is Language of Creation by Mattieu Pageau and Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser. Nothing in the Bible is there by accident. It all has meaning and connects with the rest of what's there. And the "contradictions" are there on purpose, to draw you in. Think of them like Zen koans that are inviting you into contemplation of what is meant, rather than "oh those ancient people must have missed this one".

I'm not saying the 'legal' books shouldn't be part of the bible because they have 'no theological value'.

I'm saying that when a hollywood actor in a film makes fun of christians and says something like "oh go sacrifice a goat like it says in your bible", they are willfully misrepresenting those verses as "cherry-picking your beliefs and conveniently leaving out the goat stuff", when in fact typically they're quoting verses of legal/historical significance, rather than of a dogmatic/theological nature.

> typically they're quoting verses of legal/historical significance, rather than of a dogmatic/theological nature

This distinction dos not make sense. The laws in the Bible is literally given by God.

Hold on a minute - You lost me here - how can description of animal sacriface on na altar not have theological nature?

Leviticus is a good book to read if you are stranded somewhere in a low technology environment that is relatively warm.

>it's not that much sillier than stuff like "Owning a pet lobster in Maine is illegal when that lobster is pregnant" kind of laws. (true law btw)

I agree about the old testament, but this is only silly when taken out of context. Long before I got into network security I worked in the Maine Lobster industry shoveling bait (which is half-rotten fish mixed with salt, lobsters love it!) into buckets and weighing/storing lobsters at a fisherman's co-op.

An important part of conservation revolves around people putting fertile female lobsters back in the ocean when they are inadvertently caught. Maine puts a lot more effort into conserving them than the surrounding states/countries do (who frequently get caught poaching in Maine waters and keeping lobsters that would be illegal to keep even if they were allowed to fish in Maine.

Hahah. Thanks for this.

Yes, this is kinda the point. It's the Chesterton's Fence argument. Before mocking something which appears silly, try to find out the reason it was created in the first place. Maybe there was good reason, maybe that reason still holds, maybe it doesn't.

Yes, and I don't think anybody reached enlightenment after an encounter with Maine law books

Yeah I'm also slightly confused by those comments. I tried reading it from start to end, and it wasn't that enjoyable. It was mostly lost listings of names about peoples grand grand parents... and things that didn't really fit what was say two sentences ago.

Am I missing the "proper" way of reading it? But if there is, that would eventually just leave to cherry picking...

A lot of the difficulty in approaching the Bible is that we are unaware of just how much modernism and the Enlightenment affects our worldview, and the ancient world did not see the world that way. A good place to get an introduction to their worldview is Language of Creation by Mattieu Pageau or another book called The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser.

I made the same mistake as yourself. Read from the beginning. To make it worse in 16th century english. This is a good resource, https://www.biblegateway.com/.

I enjoy the NWT translation, it's in modern English but also very true to the original text.


It's also available in the JW Library app. Both are 100% free, no signups or membership, and makes reading so much easier and more enjoyable.

Be aware that the NWT is a translation produced by a single church, a single sect of Christianity. Those wanting to study the Bible as a literary exercise should consider a translation accepted by more than only one sect of Christianity. Another comment here suggests an interesting translation: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30735352

It's important to compare translations and understand why they exist and where they differ. Books like "New Age Bible Versions" by G. A. Riplinger give insight into changes with modern versions like the NIV and NKJV that make deliberate alterations to the text. But even still, it's important to remeber that translations like the KJV has replaced words like "She'ol" and "Hades" with "hell", or even replacing the name of God with "God".

I personally find myself comparing the KJV with the original Greek as well as the pre-Challoner version of the Douay-Rheims when I want more insight into certain passages.

Commentaries also provide interesting insights. They typically cite the translations that were used as well so you can see how their conclusions were drawn

I agree that there is a huge difference between literal and dynamic translations of the text. That being said, I was recommended "New Age Bible Versions" before and was not impressed, I read through the first several chapters and compared the accusations to the other translations actual text and found most of them to be blatantly false. False as in, her charts said the other translations used words they did not use. I really enjoy the KJV also but do not consider other translations satanic like the Riplinger's book attempts to portray.

I'll have to look into that further. I wasn't aware of there being discrepancies between her book and the sources she used. I wonder if it's related to some of the newer translations being constantly updated. For example, the NKJV has been revised since it was originally printed. Here's a short example showing it:


Another book similar to Riplinger's is "Corruptions in the New King James Bible" by Jack Mundey. The writing style is a little enthusiastic, but the author compares several editions of various bibles, showing where and how they changed over time. Both Mundey and Riplinger draw the conclusion that the NKJV and NIV are deliberately changed to mislead people, and therefore are Satanic, though neither one makes any point about the KJV's edits themselves, such as the name of God or translations of "Hell" as I've mentioned earlier.

I guess my conclusion from reading different literal translations is that most of them do not deviate significantly from each other. Personally, I haven't really found any significant differences that would change a person's understanding on who Jesus was and what He taught, contrary to the point "New Age Bible Versions" is trying to make. Comparing single words or phrases between translations is not an effective way to demonstrate that the meaning as a whole has changed. Reading the NKJV, I feel the same need to honor Jesus Christ both as Lord and Savior and obey His teachings. In the end, we need to hear what we read and obey it. https://biblehub.com/matthew/5-19.htm

Overall, I agree with this. Though there are some interesting cases that people bring up around certain translations, like certain translations referring to Joseph as Jesus's father, calling Jesus the "morning star", and ones that lend themselves more to the Trinity being real versus it not existing. Those cases are more interesting as deeper knowledge and whose debates shed a lot of insight on the history of the Bible and its translations. But overall, the teachings of Jesus and His disciples are not often debated between versions since they do not change significantly, as you've noted.

The only translation of the bible that I can tolerate is the "plain english" translation. Otherwise it's just too cryptic and give me a headache

Do you also read commentaries or study guides? They can help with grokking some of the more difficult parts of the text

For the benefit of other readers, as is mentioned elsewhere the NWT is a translation which amongst Christians is only accepted by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Mainly because they produced it.

It's actually reasonably readable but there are differences in meanings due to the decisions of the translators. This is true with all translations, so not a direct criticism, but the NWT tends to differ on areas where the JW belief system itself differs from the mainstream. So personally I'd suggest avoiding it as it will give the new reader a very exclusive perspective on the faith.

I've commented elsewhere (in this same discussion), but it was a long one so in summary here's my own perspective on the order: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30745865

1. Luke and Acts 2. Genesis and Exodus 3. (1 and 2) Samuel and (1 and 2) Kings

There are lots of answers to this question floating around the thread. Maybe mine will be helpful:

First of all, so much of the Bible references and builds on itself that it's a battle to establish the initial framework of knowledge so you can try to fill everything in.

The most important question of Christianity is, as Jesus put it, "who do you say that I am?" Start working on this with a Gospel (either Mark, more focused on a clear message; of Luke, more of a detailed narrative). (Matthew was written for a Jewish audience, so the perspective isn't as helpful, and John is just different in ways that make it better saved for later.) After this, read Acts, which finishes the story begun by the gospels. If you pick Luke, then you have the advantage that Luke and Acts have the same author.

Read Genesis. There's so much to unpack in this huge book. Jordan Peterson released lectures on many stories of Genesis as early podcasts of his; they do a good job of presenting the stories in the modern day, and are probably his best work, far better than recent work.)

Exodus. It is narrative and explains God's relationship with the Jewish people.

If you want to keep digging into that story, you could go next to Joshua and Judges. But I recommend next reading 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. They're the story of David, who is the archetype of a God-fearing, yet only human, Jew.

As to a "proper" way: slowly, carefully, repeatedly, with humility, and with help.

I tried the same, gave up after Lot's daughters got their father drunk and raped him.

The bible is the story of Israel, the life of Jesus, and the birth of the new testament church. It is history, teaching, prophecy and songs. The penny dropped for me many years ago that because it says it in the bible doesn't mean God is happy about it. Just as I am not happy about my own mistakes or many of the goings on in the world today.

p0d's comment is right - much of the Old Testament is an illustration of fallen human nature. It's a stumbling walk towards redemption. The characters of the OT do not always act heroically. In fact the point is largely that they do not - that they need to be saved somehow. How that happens is described in the New Testament.

There are countless opinions/suggestions on how to read the Bible (and the same applies to the Qu'ran for example).

If you are totally new to the Bible the important thing is probably to try and get enough from it at the start that you'll be interested enough to continue. I've read it through many times and some/much of it is pretty impenetrable, obscure, and even dull.

So from this perspective, and note that this isn't a great sequence theologically, I'd go with the book of Acts, the gospel of John, the books of Proverbs and Psalms, and then the letters of John.

As for which versions of the Bible, avoid older ones like the King James (KJV, NKJV) or Revised Standard (RSV, ASV, NRSV); the archaic language and structure will be off-putting. I'd perhaps go with the Contemporary English Version (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+1&version=...) but the linked page will let you see the various translations of the same text using a drop-down.

There is no one ideal version of the Bible but personally I'd avoid any translation used by a single denomination or sect such as the NWT - which is produced by the Jehovah's Witnesses, and I'm meaning this not as a judgement regarding the organisation but as an example of a group whose translation has alternative readings at various doctrinal points (eg the trinity) and it is not worth getting sidetracked by theological disagreements at this stage.

Whatever route you choose be prepared for a hard slog as a casual reader.

Approach it as a collection of very different books. There is myths, history, genealogies, law, poetry, short stories, philosophy, deep wisdom and mad ramblings. The books are collected over a thousand years in different cultural environments.

If you just start from the beginning, expecting to read it as one book, you will probably lose interest when it gets into the mosaic law.

ahahahah that quote killed me

If you enjoy that, while they are considered "deuterocanonical", you may also enjoy Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon. Especially having only read them as an adult, I keep finding more good advice each time I peruse them.

Solomon knew what he was talking about!

Seminarian here. One word of caution here, is plenty of people think they discover something new by reading some authors. Whatever the view is, a lot of them aren't new, and there exists notable scholars (from the early church fathers to modern theologians) that can disagree and agree with it.

When people think they knew. They actually don't know. Not even close.

Love there's a passionate discussion/touch point about the Bible on this site. For anyone interested, biblehub.com is a tremendous resource to help deep-dive themes, passages, words, etc...

I actually highly recommend The Word on Fire series by Bishop Barron, it's not a full Bible yet but the two books are out (Gospels and Act) I believe.

They have great commentary, beautiful artwork and are high quality overall. Leaving the link here for anyone interested: https://www.wordonfire.org/bible/#volumeii

Word of caution: if you are an Atheist, please remember that the Bible is a religious text, many verses are in parables and should not be taken literally. It is not a scientific textbook or a historical one either. It is also a _collection_ of books called the Canon. You must read it with an open heart and mind to get the most out of it!

> evidence based approach that uses the Bible to interpret itself as it was designed to do

I don't understand what that means. But I do think Misquoting Jesus is one of the better biblical criticism books I've read, and can recommend it for interested folks. Your recommendation reminded me of that.

It means not taking individual verses out of context and using only the rest of the Bible to provide that context such as who the Bible writer was writing to, in what circumstance, even in what time of year if it was a farming analogy, or what other Bible writers say on the same subject. That's only scratching the surface, but hopefully gives you an idea what I meant.

> but rather an evidence based approach that uses the Bible to interpret itself as it was designed to do.

Can you expand? Did you create this approach yourself or just read the Bible directly?

Another, non JW or LDS answer is the historical grammatical hermeneutic. One tenant of this method is that the grammar and history of scripture will always confirm what it says in other areas. Scripture supports scripture

No, I did not create this approach at all. It is the approach taken by Jehovah's Witnesses who started out by questioning beliefs and looking directly at the Bible to figure out whether a belief was Biblical or not. That's how they came to the conclusion that hellfire is a lie and many other things that the Christendom accepts aren't actually Biblical. It's a very balanced approach. It also avoids all the "God hates $group" garbage and gives solid reasons for what's going on in the world. If you want to learn about that method of Bible study, check out jw.org.

Ironically, the name "Jehovah" is a misunderstanding. It comes from applying the vowels from "Adonai" (my lord) to "Yahweh" (the name of God).

The Hebrew alphabet initially didn't have vowels, so the name was written as YHWH. When vowels were introduced they decided to write the vowels for Adonai above YHWH, to remind readers not to say his name, as it was too holy. Eventually people forgot this logic and assumed it was the normal spelling of his name.

Even so, it's the most recognized way to pronounce the name in English. Yahweh is also acceptable, but isn't as widely used.

The funny thing about it is that we also don't know how Jesus' name would have been pronounced for the same reasons, but nobody ever has an issue using "Jesus", but people say "Jehovah" and it causes a stir. ¯\(º_o)/¯

Well Jehovah's witnesses think it's important to use the personal name of their god, so it's a bit amusing that they get the name wrong. It's like they fell at the first hurdle.

To be fair, the mistranslation predates them. I see they acknowledge the issue and think it doesn't matter.

I guess it's a bit of a coordination/communication issue with other JWs and with the world at large. The fact that they stick with this mistake doesn't mean that individual Witnesses, or the group as a whole, are stupid, or don't understand their own religion.

From my understanding, this is the oldest approach to understanding scripture. To keep from deviating from the truth you must examine the text in light of what has been written before. Acts 17:11 bears this out, "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

This has always been a key approach to Quranic exegesis. I wouldn't be surprised if they were influenced by Islam when it comes to this topic. Of course, Islam also has very rich bodies of information such as Hadith, and authentic quotes by the Companions and the Righteous Followers, all of which are used.

I would recommend getting the Ancient Faith Study Bible, which uses a very readable translation, and has extensive footnotes that consist of commentary on the Bible from the Early Church Fathers.

The "only thing" worth reading from the The Bible are the "Wisdom Books". Robert Alter's translation The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary is pretty good.

> The "only thing" worth reading from the The Bible are the "Wisdom Books"

From the perspective of Wisdom you're probably right.

From the perspective of the modern Christian Faith I'd include the complete New Testament. From the perspective of historical reference (I know archaeological opinions vary) include the Old Testament too.

I mean if you like those you'd probably like Jesus's sermon on the mount.

>but rather an evidence based approach that uses the Bible to interpret itself as it was designed to do.

Can you elaborate on this? I'd be interested to hear more about your approach.

Do you also read about the history of the Bible? For example, scholars consider the book of exodus to be highly inaccurate/mythologised.

Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf

Before this book I generally did not read, unless it was a Star Trek branded airport novel. I had just got an iPad and was rummaging around the Project Gutenberg texts they’d dumped into iBooks. I chose it impulsively.

This book set my brain and heart on fire and opened the world of literature for me. It’s very specific, though, and I can’t -recommend- it to anyone.

There is little spackle in this book, as if every sentence and scene is cropped a bit beyond the point of readability. But reading aloud it flows well. There is effectively no plot and a great deal of its merit is at the sentence level. Furthermore, this book in particular resonated with me emotionally.

I was thirsty for more and read other classics. My favorites; To the Lighthouse, Picture of Dorian Grey and Thus Spake Zarathustra (the translation they have on Gutenberg).

This hobby dominated my attention for years. What displaced it was I had to learn Polish. At first I tried to combine these; I read Charlotte’s Web, the Little Prince and Pulp (bukowski) in Polish. But it really wasn’t an effective way to continue and Polish was the priority. All other hobbies had to go.

+1 on To The Lighthouse - phenom!

I'll have to give Jacob's Room a read -- thanks!

This one is available on Standard Ebooks[1]. It's fairly common knowledge, but I would highly suggest this site as the definitive source for high-quality copies of public domain works. I've contributed to their project before, and their editorial work is top notch.

[1] https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/virginia-woolf/jacobs-room

The Listening Society by Hanzi Freinacht. It taught me that there is indeed a direction for society to go beyond PostModernism, that is constructive and nuanced. Also explained why it is so rare for people to move into such a stage of development.

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. Showed all of the archaeological evidence for vast time periods where alternate governance models were put into practice, and how the history of progress that we are given is not the whole story. Useful for seeing that we are in a local minim, and can evolve into something better.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. Goes through the diaries and historical evidence of the early interactions with Australia's Aboriginals. Shows how over time their agricultural practices, towns and living environments were destroyed and replaced with a narrative that they were backwards and not using the land. Good example of how sustainable practices can look like unused natural spaces, and thus dismissed as poor uses of space.

Ditto The Dawn of Everything. I binged on everything Graeber thru the apocalypse. Debt: the First 5000 Years rewired my brain. FWIW, I enjoyed everything Jill Lepore the same way; they're good compliments.

Will give The Listening Society a try, thanks.

The Listening Society starts off strangely, and doesn't really explain it's thesis directly. The author even says they won't do so in the first chapter which fired off a bunch of warning bells for me, as it seemed like a filtering function for the gullible.

All for not, the author really is going somewhere. And it felt worth it to me.

thanks these books look interesting to me added them to my kindle!

Dune. Specifically the parts about how a human can choose their reaction to an external event. And the ability to overcome fear.

Man's Search For Meaning. Again, overcoming the worst situations and finding joy anywhere.

How to Practice. Understanding what you are feeling and why you are feeling it.

Emotional Intelligence. How the amygdala sends signals to the brain, why it does that, and how to recognize your negative reactions.

And all the Discworld books, to find joy and humour in everything. GNU Terry Pratchett.

How to Practice and Emotional Intelligence are rather generic book titles. Do you mind providing the author names as well?

My apologies, I knocked that comment out super quick between chores and forgot about it.

How to Practice is by the Dalai Lama: https://smile.amazon.com/How-Practise-Way-Meaningful-Life-dp...

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman: https://smile.amazon.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Matter-More-...

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life - the Dalai Lama, translated by Jeffery Hopkins

Not the OP but presumably the 'Emotional Intelligence' book by Daniel Goleman

I've always wanted to read the Dune books, but have no idea where to start. It seems like there are so many, and so many prequels and so many optional side stories.

Is there an agreed on book to start with and an order to follow?

Frank Herbert only wrote six books. You only have to read them in order of publication.

His son's books aren't as good and in the opinion of many aren't worth the trouble of reading.

Herbert only wrote six Dune books - but he wrote many other books…

Jesus Principle / Lazarus Effect / Ascension Factor (trilogy) are very good and very thought provoking.

Fair point. I was only referring to the Dune saga.

> Is there an agreed on book to start with and an order to follow?

No, so I'll get shot for this but ... read the first (Dune) then stop.

This is the correct order. If you need more dune in the future, you can read dune again.

Yes -- Dune. It is the starting point and best book in the series. The next three books in the series are also very, very good.

All of the prequel stuff and the books post Chapterhouse Dune are what happens when children take over the family business and run it into the ground, set it on fire, and grind the wreckage into dust. They are like the Highlander 2 of book sequels. Or imagine if Jar Jar Binks from Episode 1 was the best part of all three prequel movies made by a George Lucas with less talent.

Unpopular opinion but … as a lifelong Dune acolyte, I think Chapterhouse is favorite one after the original…

Chapterhouse was very decent, the whole series with ups and downs are works of art. Sad that Herbert died before closing the cycle.

I'll echo the others' sentiments. Only bother with the Dune books authored by Frank Herbert starting with the first published Dune itself. The "Dune" books written by his son are bad fan-fiction.

Read Dune and it’s three sequels. The rest ranges from decent fan fic to drivel.

Devoured it all though!

"Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman" - sort of like an autobiography of Richard Feynman but from recordings of some conversations. I'm a scientist and this resonated with me a lot.

"The Game" - very immature and sophomoric book. I was given this book by an acquaintance who was also geeky like me. I was painfully shy of girls until grad school, and this book gave me much needed confidence to talk to the opposite gender. A lot of the content is garbage but this book was definitely a life changer.

"Hobbit" - Great story that got me into the LOTR. Shorter than LOTR and hence why I put that on this list. Also about being brave I suppose. I'm seeing a pattern here.

"Good Omens" - Not sure why but when I read this book, I was convinced it was the best book ever written (and I used to read a lot of books in youth). Just witty writing and the occult I suppose.

"Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman" is so good. I read it, or listen to the audio book through my library via Libby, at least once a year. It portrays Feynman as so “normal” relative to his achievements and then makes his ideas much more accessible, such as the Feynman lectures. Sort of the sense of, if he can do it so can I.

"The Game" is certainly juvenile, but it's also a funny look at a very odd world at a point in time that also changed the industry it described massively by making people aware of the tactics and forcing the companies involved to massively reinvent themselves. It seems half of them doubled down on getting worse and creepier, and the other half tried - with varying success - to move to more mainstream self-help.

Glad to see "the game" in here.

Not the most profound but definitely one of the most empowering for young men. In a society that constantly weakens men, receiving the message you can go out there and get what you want is powerful.

My main takeaway from Feynman’s book was that it’s probably good to be more adventurous. He wasn’t just committed to a specific thing. He just generally followed his curiosity and great things came out of it.

The Game is a fantastic book, and Neil is a real stand-up guy. He's responsible for my first marriage.

I think the only book I can recall having a direct impact on my conscious awareness was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle[0].

The book is very easy to read and quite enjoyable with everything that it includes. I definitely recommend to check it out.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenme...

I was very skeptical about this book, and even while reading along I'd get the feeling of "uh, this is way out there wacko", but I decided to just take it at it's word and follow along.

And now I am able to briefly enter a state of complete acceptance and feel pure love flowing through me, like the perfect hug from a perfect being that understands me in every way. The first time I actually teared up a bit, the feeling of being accepted the way I was with no judgement.

It could be God, it could be "collective consciousness", it could be me just tricking my brain into releasing endorphins (and I'm leaning towards that explanation). But the result is amazing, it has seriously helped me with anxiety, fear, self hatred, etc.

I can remember having a similar experience the first time I read it. Although I saw value in it, it seemed weird. I later recommended it to people who found it just too bizarre or radical to get through.

Coincidentally I just finished the audiobook again today. I couldn't count how many times that makes. With all other things that seemed significant to me, they mostly fell by the wayside of my changing experiences or perspectives. The Power of Now is the only book that has seemed _more true_ every time I've read it, and at every stage of my life.

It's lucky that Eckhart is alive to narrate the audiobooks, as his voice almost in and of itself conveys the meaning of his writing.

I am glad it helped you. Truly it is the most life-changing book I've read.

It's the God-focus that immediately turned me off to Eckhart. I've had plenty of people recommend him, and own a copy of the power of now, but I can't get past the feeling that there's a hidden agenda. I'm all about being present and experiencing the world through different lenses - I like new ideas and I'm open to thinking differently, but that higher power thing just puts every synapse I have on high alert.

Well why not address the elephant in the room. He's not going about his message subtlety:

"You used the word Being. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. This means that it is accessible to you now as your own deepest self, your true nature. But don't seek to grasp it with your mind. Don't try to understand it. You can know it only when the mind is still. When you are present, when your attention is fully and intensely in the Now, Being can be felt, but it can never be understood mentally. To regain awareness of Being and to abide in that state of “feeling- realization” is enlightenment." Ch. 1 The Greatest Obstacle to Enlightenment

There it is. That's what he considers to be God. Mind you, those are just the words he chose. He mentions that words are merely signposts. Think of pointers in programming languages.

"If you are unable to look beyond such interpretations and so cannot recognize the reality to which the word points, then don't use it. Don't get stuck on the level of words. A word is no more than a means to an end. It's an abstraction. Not unlike a signpost, it points beyond itself. The word honey isn't honey. You can study and talk about honey for as long as you like, but you won't really know it until you taste it. After you have tasted it, the word becomes less important to you. You won't be attached to it anymore. Similarly, you can talk or think about God continuously for the rest of your life, but does that mean you know or have even glimpsed the reality to which the word points? It really is no more than an obsessive attachment to a signpost, a mental idol." Ch 6 Look beyond the Words

For what it's worth, that book is probably most to blame for shoving me hard from Christianity to secular agnosticism. I grew up being able to feel God's presence and love. The Power of Now helped me look at where that feeling originates (internally), how it is connected to me, and how universal it is across various traditions and religions throughout time. What is it? I don't know. But calling it God and being done with it doesn't describe it well. It's a part of you and your brain is involved in the process.

Yeah, I know something is happening in my brain's state, but it's no proof of anything else "out there". But I can completely understand those people now, and how they can take this feeling and believe there really is something else there.

Though it's infinitely more likely it's all still inside my fleshy brain. :)

This state of being is a focus of Sam Harris' Waking Up book, and one he discusses in some of his initial podcast episodes. The beatific state achievable by meditation, deep prayer, or psychedelics sounds very therapeutic.

Note I'm not a Sam Harris acolyte, but I do appreciate his logic-first approach to understanding the world, the mind, current events, and life generally.

Thanks for the recommendation, I'm going to check out that book too.

Did you have to practice to achieve this or just from reading the book?

I really didn't have to practice. I just read the book and followed some of the directions like, "Ask yourself in your head, what am I going to think about next?"

It is a way to kind of 'separate' your consciousness from your 'thinking'. I don't really have the right words, but you then just observe your own analytical mind. You can observe without judgement, and at that point you're not thinking about the future or the past, but only the present moment exists.

In those moments I can then use thinking as a tool, but in the same way I use my hand to grab something, I'm not always using my hand, and in that state I'm not always using my analytical mind, only when needed.

It's in that state that I feel 'love' or something like it throughout my entire body. I feel like a huge weight is taken off me and I can just relax. And with hints of that love extending outwards and through everything. Something I've never believed in, it could be all internal to my brain still, but I understand how people can feel like there is something else out there.

Random 'thinking' thoughts come and go in that state, you just observe them, acknowledge them, and let them go. And I've heard that's very similar to what most people say about meditation.

He goes on to say that state of mind can become permanent. You live in the moment and only choose when to think about the future and planning, only use that part of you when needed. Worrying about the future all the time is not good, but there are times when you do need to think and plan. You don't always have to analyze everything, but choose to do so when it's needed.

I am nowhere near that point, not sure I could get there. But it does sound appealing, constantly enjoying the present moment, but also deciding when you should learn from the past or think about the future. But not be obsessed with it.

As a side note, I find right when I hit that state, most of the time, I yawn. Yawning is still kind of a mystery, but some current research shows it could be extra excitement of the brain, or even extra brain cooling. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3678674/ Maybe I'm just using a lot more brain power and energy to focus on my consciousness or just to focus on all my senses? All just random guesses, I know barely anything about it.

Thank you for sharing!

Same. And I recommend the audio book over the print. The format of presentation in the audio book and hearing Eckhart himself talk makes a big difference.

Same! As you mentioned: "What is my next thought going to be?" was my trigger as well.

If this book seems too woo-woo for some, or the term God triggers you, you should check out a book called Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Here are other meditations that leads me into the present moment:

   - Am I alive?

   - Do nothing for 30-60 mins

   - Who am I?

   - What do I know for certain?

Same here. First time I tried to read it, I literally smashed it angrily in the floor. But I came back to it a while later. And then it clicked. I read many more books by “E.T.” after that, and also loved his audio lectures (audiobooks, YouTube, Eckhart Tolle TV). That was a while back, though. Ten years or so.

Those who enjoy Eckhart will probably also enjoy Osho. His talks had a similar effect on me. With Osho, it is helpful that he is no longer around. So it’s easier to look past the cultish aspects of his person.

I liked PON but it did seem to fall under the "thanks I'm cured" or "happiness is a choice" school of personal development. It works for some people, maybe those who sometimes fall under a bad mood once in a while, but doesn't do much for real mental illness. It's like telling a lifelong alcoholic that drinking is a choice or an overweight person that eating is just a choice. How do you stay on that horse if you fall off it nearly every waking hour?

How to tell someone is trying to trash something. Unnecessary abbreviations. Its literally everywhere. The Power of Now is a transformational book and is extremely enlightening. Everyone should read it.

Not sure I understand your comment? Are you criticizing that GC abbreviated the books as PON rather than spelling out Power of Now?

Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

Introduced me to the beauty of logic and its limits. Also gave me solid mathematical thinking foundations.

Pro tip: Try listening to Bach while you read about Bach.

As a high school student, I had all sorts of interests: Math, science, electronics, music, computers. GEB reinforced my interest in math as being more than just useful (for physics and electronics), and led me to choose math as my college major. Not surprisingly, getting interested in math as an end unto itself was what got me good enough at it, to actually make it useful for those other things, and I ended up doing my graduate work in physics.

+1, Same here. Like, I'm not even happy about it, I could have done something very different if i didn't read that book. "It blew my mind at an impressionable age" is a comment I read online about this book, very accurate!

Yes, the same for me - this book was the most influential in my life!

I spent three years of my life reading this book from cover to back three times and it was a different experience every time.

That was in 1985 and in Germany, during my education as a typesetter. I was 20, into computers (ZX81, C64), the Internet was still years away and this book just mesmerized my brain.

The German version of GEB is also a typographical marvel (printed by Klett-Cotta, fonts Syntax and Weidemann) - much nicer than the US version.

This. This book is so much more than math. It's about using multidisciplinary approach to tackle a series of deep philosophical problems. The math-inclined crowd here unsurprisingly sees inspiration from the math perspective (which is a perfectly fine and valid view), but there's also a lot of ideas from art (Escher), music (Bach), and classic philosophy (both from Western and Eastern traditions!), not to mention as a book written in the 1970s, it is (AFAICT) well-informed in the a state of art theory of computation and bioinformatics.

The sheer breadth and depth of understanding from the author blew my mind away. I suspect my attitude towards cross-disciplinary learning was probably reinforced by reading the book.

I think what you get out of this book really depends on where you are intellectually when you approach it. I read this book decades ago while in college and it helped me conceptualize a recursive universe; thus, how complexity comes from simplicity. It was a mind blowing experience where I wasn't able to sleep for days as my mind raced to make sense of it all.

Ultimately, the ideas I formulated while reading this book set the foundation for my understanding of the universe in general. It gave me a mental model that has served me well for over 20 years and freed my mind to wonder about other things.

Honestly don’t get the hype about this one.

I picked out GEB randomly at a bookstore like 20 years ago. The cover grabbed my attention and I started flipping through it and was instantly curious. My mom ended up buying it for me, on Valentine's Day I believe, ha.

Read the whole thing pretty quickly after that, I couldn't put it down.

I quite like your description of what you got out of it, it's been a pretty fuzzy concept to me for a long time but "the beauty of logic and its limits" is a great way to put it. :)

I need to re-read it.

I came here to post this, and look it's rightfully already present here. This book completely changed how I think about consciousness and existence.

+1. After reading this is ninth grade, my lifelong trajectory of interest in computers, neuroscience, and the philosophy of mind was set.

+1 for influenced. A charismatic high school philosophy teacher recommended it to us and it prompted me to read G's collected works they had in my uni library. Came up liking more the set theoretic bit than the incompleteness conundrum.

Same goes for me. Changed my outlook towards any intellectual matter or pursuit.

Yes, this is the book that got me interested in computer science.

As a young teenager, Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. A brilliant series of essays about critical thinking.

More recently - I hesitate to recommend it because the trilogy is unfinished, but still - Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle books have redefined what is possible with fantasy fiction, with incredible depth and subtlety and literary flourishes. It has flaws for sure, but I can't think of anything that remotely compares to it, and I've read an enormous pile of genre fiction. A real eye opener if you're doing any kind of creative writing.

Kingkiller moves the fantasy fiction genre past its LOTR-esque roots.

Every word is a joy to read. I haven't read anything else that brings as big a smile on my face. Kingkiller's literary qualities are head and shoulders above anything in fantasy fiction. Every word, every metaphor and every description is chosen with care, so as to convey the exact emotion that the author wants you to feel. I hope the final book comes out soon.

Kingkiller is eternally compared to Sanderson's books. But, to me they are completely different writers. Sanderson's books are written competently, but the fun is in the story and interweaving pieces. Sanderson embodies the ultimate refinement of fantasy fiction tropes to produce something that's faultless, yet traditional.

On the other hand, Rothfuss is crafting something that does not lend itself well to comparison. It is perfect, because it is what it is meant to be. In some ways, Kingkiller feels closer to Shakespeare than any contemporary fantasy fiction work.

I am inclined to refer to Rothfuss as the Einstein to Sanderson's Von Neumann. A more-apt but weeb-esque comparison would be Rothfuss's Berserk to Sanderson's FMAB.

I found Rothfuss comically bad as a writer and Kingkiller #1 nothing more than superficial wish fulfillment aimed at teens that were bullied at school.

Not that Sanderson is much better.

I have routinely seen this opinion, and I liken it to saying that Shawshank Redemption is a prison escape story.

In KKC, the reader is an observer, where the main character unreliably narrates their journey in 1st person to someone else as the young MC would have perceived it. The POV is central how you perceive the story. KKC never clicks if taken at face value. Kvothe is portrayed as a clumsy prodigy every step of the way. From the way he projects his insecurities onto his female counterpart to the chasm between how he perceives himself and how others perceive him. Young Kvothe is a mess, and old Kvothe knows it.

I can't imagine any serious reader who'd put themselves in Kvothe's shoes. KKC is not a hero story. The reader is actively discouraged against taking Kvothe's self-image as truth. His life is a disaster. Kvothe is closer to Forrest Gump or Icarus, than a Mary Sue.

IMO, it is unfair to criticize it from outside of the context that it exists in. "KKC is not grimdark enough for my liking", is stylistic preference. It isn't a shortcoming of the book that same way that "Queen's lyrics are too simple" is not a shortcoming of Queen.

Certainly everyone is entitled to an opinion :).

I'll echo the posts you replied to and say that the current 2 books in the KKC series are by far the best fiction I've ever read. I've listened to them at least 3x each on audio (a combined ~71 hours per pass through the series), and I enjoy them in a new way each time.

I'd be curious to hear which fiction series/authors appeal to you and why.

I don't particularly like fantasy, but I have read my fair share. I've enjoyed "The Darkness that Comes Before" because I thought it was intelligently written, philosophically consistent and deep, and didn't hand-hold the reader.

These are all attributes that your average mass-market fantasy (Sanderson, Abercrombie) lacks, maybe delibaretely so in order to chase popular appeal.

The Darkness That Comes Before is stupendous. It took Bakker a decade to write, which shows. His books after are written too quickly and the introduction of dragons spoils what could have been a purely own creation free of the poisoned tropes of fantasy.

THANK YOU! I thought Name of the Wind was satire at first. It features all the classic neckbeard tropes. Including hits like:

* The other kids don't like Kvothe because he's so much smarter than them.

* The girl Kvothe crushes on has friend-zoned him...

* Because, of course, this girl only dates Chads.

* Though all the other girls fawn over him, Kvothe is too gentlemanly to take advantage of them.

* Kvothe uses "my lady" unironically and, even in a fantasy novel, makes it sound cringe-worthy.

Sagan's work is one of my favorites thus far.

I'll check out Kingkiller chronicles.

Atomic habits. Last year I had just came back from 3 days in Hospital for extremely high blood pressure. I took up walking as a daily workout and listened to Atomic Habits audiobook. It provided me enough motivation to continue and build a new habit which has not become a part of my daily routine. I am healthier and in a much better space mentally as well.

I’ve not read Atomic habits, but keep hearing it recommended. If it is appropriate for me to ask, how do you distinguish the motivation derived from the book and that from 3 days in hospital with extremely high blood pressure? I live with a fear of hypertension because of genetics. My diet and exercise (what I can control) is at front of mind and so far so good, but my high level of motivation is driven by knowing where the disease road can lead. Not intending to diminish the book but just curious about how you balance the contribution of those two in your mind.

The book isn't about motivation, it's about steps that you can take that make creating new habits easier. In fact, the book tells you that motivation wanes quickly and we need to force ourselves to create determination instead

Thanks. That sort-of makes sense to me-not 100% but enough for me to get the book.

It's a combination of both. The book alone wouldn't have made me motivated to workout. The catalyst was obviously the health scare, but what the book did was to help me get regular and build upon my habit. The book essentially tells you that a small step is all that is required and not to give up in case you miss one or two days. Making something a habit takes time. I started small. 15 mins a day. Gradually it increased. Would I have continued working out even without having read the book? Yes. Did the book help? Yes.

Thank you. That clarifies. I will read the book. Best wishes on this going forward.

I struggled to get in to this book. I think the main reason was the author described that in his first year in college, he was so committed to forming his habits he abstained from drinking and partying! That's not a reasonable ask for people and kind of turned me off from continuing...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've just used one of my Audible credits on this and will give it a go.

what was your bp readings if i may ask?

260/160. Yes, that high. I had a retinal bleed which blurred the vision in one eye. Over subsequent days they got my brain, kidneys and all vital organs scanned for damage. Luckily no long lasting damage to anything.

glad you are fine!

How to win friends and influence people - Carnegie

Think and grow rich - Napoleon Hill

That last one made something click in my head but I find it hard to describe what it is exactly. The key concepts that I learned from this book are in my thoughts and actions every single day.

Think and Grow Rich has been absolutely phenomenal in spearheading the mindset shift I've had over the past couple years, and I could not recommend it any more to anyone who wishes to have financial success in life.

Some may consider the book and its ideologies excessively materialistic, but I personally find that outlook refreshing especially considering the subject matter: making money; furthermore I think that take is a little baseless as the viewpoint on willpower etc. that Napoleon Hill provides can apply to far more than just accumulating wealth if utilized correctly.

All in all though, it was easily one of the most life-changing books I've ever read and I'm glad to see it's affected others positively too, cheers!

+100 for Carnegie.

The simple lesson of trying to look at things from other people's perspective is absolutely invaluable.

Also, Cryptonomicon was an unexpected eye-opener on how every privacy-oriented tech will be instantly abused by people you'd never want to have it in the first place. Cypherpunk has a flip side and it's pretty damn dark.


Apparently he was a bit of a fraud. Or generously put... a fake it till you make it guy. I don't think this is an ad hominem attack, as credibility matters in this case.

I remember Coffeezilla did a video about that article

The Untold Truth of Napoleon Hill - History's Most Beloved Con-Man


A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle

I probably read it in fourth or fifth grade, not too many years after it was published. It was definitely the first science fiction novel I ever read. It wasn't until many years later that I saw how foundational to my worldview it was that my first SF book had a female protagonist.

I was going to give a few other examples of truly life-changing works (LOTR, Dune, Neuromancer), but I'm not sure how I would have found them if A Wrinkle In Time hadn't opened by pre-adolescent eyes.

For me it was "The Demon Lord of Karanda" by David Eddings. Picked it out randomly from the "Bookmobile" (a mobile library I had access to in my younger years).

Introduced me to the world of fantasy and science fiction, which has been a source of enjoyment since then. I don't know if it pushed me towards my current occupation as a SWE, but it sure didn't hurt.

The First and Last Freedom by Jiddu Krishnamurti, with a forward by Aldous Huxley.

I read it while living in California, during a trying time after deciding to move far away from my parents, and it helped me see all of life in a calm new light.


I really like his audiobooks and it does make a lot of sense when listening to him but I have never been able to apply much of it in my real life.

While I certainly agree that there is no place in the world for calling yourself a Hindu, muslim, christian etc, it's hard to isolate yourself from your nation and say we're all humans and I'm not a ukranian or russian or indian.

Same for stuff like 'I don't mind what happens.' Little stuff bothers me (like my tenant not paying rent, or say hacker news banning my account, and stuff which may not be of any significance on the cosmic scale). To say it doesn't bother me makes me even more anxious and feel like an impostor instead.

I can never seem to get to the heart of what Krishnamurthi is trying to say. I just find myself getting lost in his words. I can’t tell if there’s no there there or if I’m just not understanding his angle.

I don't get that much out of him. He starts off sounding very profound, but then makes a statement that doesn't compute. And then his arrogance makes him unable to explain himself further (see youtube clips).

Like Colbert had truthy he has ‘profoundy’. You read or listen and nod along. Read again and think wait..what?

Non-violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. It taught me so much about how to empathize with someone and genuinely listen to what they're saying.

It's a bunch of very straightforward advice that I would never have gotten to on my own and which is _really_ hard to put into practice, but so worth it when you do.

This one changed my life also. The diverse personalities and foreign cultures we all experience as "other" can be confusing--and for me, seemed to have no core theory that could broadly guide my interactions with people.

Non-violent Communication helped me to understand there is a shared underpinning to the experience of being human--that emotions are fundamental, and that there are some universal human needs. From that foundation, I could see how important it is to observe the context of any conversation with someone, and to react based on an empathic curiosity of their feelings & needs. This freed me from a more narrow reaction space that was based on my interpretation/story of the content of their communication.

Someone can be screaming "I hate you!" and be feeling hurt, alone, and scared. I think we recognize this most in connection with people we are close to and love, but don't know how for people we don't know or don't yet "love." Reacting to the content of someone's words vs. attempting to understand the contextual emotion & human needs almost always diverges into vastly different potential outcomes.

Very well put. Thanks for sharing your experience!

- The Unbearable Lightness of Being, fiction, how the “crazy” actions of people in relationships makes sense in the context of their individual history.

There’s one chapter about misunderstood words. The word “mother” was highly regarded by one character. They loved their mother, so to call someone a mother was a deep and powerful complement. The other character hated their mother, the word had a hypocritical meaning to her.

So when the first character complemented the second with the deepest most heart felt honor they could muster, the second character left them without a word.

I have just finished reading this book (English translation) and was blown away by how relatable a lot of the characters and the flaws in their relationships are. At some parts it was like looking in a mirror and not in a good way.

It's trite but Crucial Conversations.

I think the key is that you have to read it when you are trying to collaborate with someone and you can't seem to communicate. In that moment, the guidance is a serious level up. If read outside of that context you'll say "well, yeah, sure, duh." In situ, it will help you better communicate (speaking and listening).

It's been a few years since I read this (when I briefly considered switching from software engineering to management) and the one thing that stuck is the advice to "start with heart" during your crucial conversations.

Trite indeed, but it's not a bad phrase to have bouncing around in your head before you have to deliver critical feedback or resolve an interpersonal conflict. Never forget you're talking to a fellow human.

Might be trite, but it’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for awhile - thanks for the reminder to get a copy, which I just did!

I'll check it out!

* Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Among lot of books i've read this was the one that pushed me towards questioning my beliefs. Although i can't say this book made me irreligious it certainly was a gateway to a whole new world.

* Calvin and Hobbes.

this is one of those things that completely changed my perspective on creativity, oh and not to mention all the things about life and philosophy in there, its in good spirit.

* Animal Farm

This is arguably the best piece of satire I've read that is also fun and easy on the brain. It flows like water.

* The Little Schemer.

I hold this book dear. I've tried reading SICP twice and given up. And thought LISP was not for me. The environment was horrible, all those parens it was just confusing. This book changed that, what it encouraged me to do is grab a pen and paper and try to work everything out myself[1]. It was such a fun read and i owe most of my understanding of functional programming to this book. Few days after finishing this book, i introduced this book to my friend and we spent all our days discussing life listening to sufjan stevens and working through this book, it was a sweet time.


[1] I wrote my actual scheme programs on computer long after i had worked through the book(i don't recall exactly but it was after 5th or 6th chapter). An online friend of mine recommended that i try DrRacket as i could execute scheme there. It was a much friendlier environment.

On this tangent, I want to recommend the Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker. Rucker did a lot of work on cellular automata in his day.

I mentioned and quoted Rudy's wonderful work with the CAM6, which also inspired me a lot, in this discussion:


Rudy Rucker writes about his CAM-6 in the CelLab manual:


Computer science is still so new that many of the people at the cutting edge have come from other fields. Though Toffoli holds degrees in physics and computer science, Bennett's Ph.D. is in physical chemistry. And twenty-nine year old Margolus is still a graduate student in physics, his dissertation delayed by the work of inventing, with Toffoli, the CAM-6 Cellular Automaton Machine.

After watching the CAM in operation at Margolus's office, I am sure the thing will be a hit. Just as the Moog synthesizer changed the sound of music, cellular automata will change the look of video.

I tell this to Toffoli and Margolus, and they look unconcerned. What they care most deeply about is science, about Edward Fredkin's vision of explaining the world in terms of cellular automata and information mechanics. Margolus talks about computer hackers, and how a successful program is called “a good hack.” As the unbelievably bizarre cellular automata images flash by on his screen, Margolus leans back in his chair and smiles slyly. And then he tells me his conception of the world we live in.

“The universe is a good hack.”


Margolus and Toffoli's CAM-6 board was finally coming into production around then, and I got the Department to order one. The company making the boards was Systems Concepts of San Francisco; I think they cost $1500. We put our order in, and I started phoning Systems Concepts up and asking them when I was going to get my board. By then I'd gotten a copy of Margolus and Toffoli's book, Cellular Automata Machines, and I was itching to start playing with the board. And still it didn't come. Finally I told System Concepts that SJSU was going to have to cancel the purchase order. The next week they sent the board. By now it was August, 1987.

The packaging of the board was kind of incredible. It came naked, all by itself, in a plastic bag in a small box of styrofoam peanuts. No cables, no software, no documentation. Just a three inch by twelve inch rectangle of plastic—actually two rectangles one on top of the other—completely covered with computer chips. There were two sockets at one end. I called Systems Concepts again, and they sent me a few pages of documentation. You were supposed to put a cable running your graphics card's output into the CAM-6 board, and then plug your monitor cable into the CAM-6's other socket. No, Systems Concepts didn't have any cables, they were waiting for a special kind of cable from Asia. So Steve Ware, one of the SJSU Math&CS Department techs, made me a cable. All I needed then was the software to drive the board, and as soon as I phoned Toffoli he sent me a copy.

Starting to write programs for the CAM-6 took a little bit of time because the language it uses is Forth. This is an offbeat computer language that uses reverse Polish notation. Once you get used to it, Forth is very clean and nice, but it makes you worry about things you shouldn't really have to worry about. But, hey, if I needed to know Forth to see cellular automata, then by God I'd know Forth. I picked it up fast and spent the next four or five months hacking the CAM-6.

The big turning point came in October, when I was invited to Hackers 3.0, the 1987 edition of the great annual Hackers' conference held at a camp near Saratoga, CA. I got invited thanks to James Blinn, a graphics wizard who also happens to be a fan of my science fiction books. As a relative novice to computing, I felt a little diffident showing up at Hackers, but everyone there was really nice. It was like, “Come on in! The more the merrier! We're having fun, yeeeeee-haw!”

I brought my AT along with the CAM-6 in it, and did demos all night long. People were blown away by the images, though not too many of them sounded like they were ready to a) cough up $1500, b) beg Systems Concepts for delivery, and c) learn Forth in order to use a CAM-6 themselves. A bunch of the hackers made me take the board out of my computer and let them look at it. Not knowing too much about hardware, I'd imagined all along that the CAM-6 had some special processors on it. But the hackers informed me that all it really had was a few latches and a lot of fast RAM memory chips.

I'm curious, how did the book change your life? What kind of problems did the authors model using their approach? I'm new to the topic, thanks for any input.

It really helped me get my head around how to understand and program cellular automata rules, which is a kind of massively parallel distributed "Think Globally, Act Locally" approach that also applies to so many other aspects of life.

But by "life" I don't mean just the cellular automata rule "life"! Not to be all depressing like Marvin the Paranoid Android, but I happen to think "life" is overrated. ;) There are so many billions of other extremely interesting cellular automata rules besides "life" too, so don't stop once you get bored with life! ;)


For example, it's kind of like how the world wide web works: "Link Globally, Interact Locally":


It's also very useful for understanding other massively distributed locally interacting parallel systems, epidemiology, economics, morphogenesis (reaction-diffusion systems, like how a fertilized egg divides and specializes into an organism), GPU programming and optimization, neural networks and machine learning, information and chaos theory, and physics itself.

I've discussed the book and the code I wrote based on it with Norm Margolus, one of the authors, and he mentioned that he really likes rules that are based on simulating physics, and also thinks reversible cellular automata rules are extremely important (and energy efficient in a big way, in how they relate to physics and thermodynamics).

The book has interesting sections about physical simulations like spin glasses (Ising Spin model of the magnetic state of atoms of solid matter), and reversible billiard ball simulations (like deterministic reversible "smoke and mirrors" with clouds of moving particles bouncing off of pinball bumpers and each other).

Spin Glass:


>In condensed matter physics, a spin glass is a magnetic state characterized by randomness, besides cooperative behavior in freezing of spins at a temperature called 'freezing temperature' Tf. Magnetic spins are, roughly speaking, the orientation of the north and south magnetic poles in three-dimensional space. In ferromagnetic solids, component atoms' magnetic spins all align in the same direction. Spin glass when contrasted with a ferromagnet is defined as "disordered" magnetic state in which spins are aligned randomly or not with a regular pattern and the couplings too are random.

Billiard Ball Computer:


>A billiard-ball computer, a type of conservative logic circuit, is an idealized model of a reversible mechanical computer based on Newtonian dynamics, proposed in 1982 by Edward Fredkin and Tommaso Toffoli. Instead of using electronic signals like a conventional computer, it relies on the motion of spherical billiard balls in a friction-free environment made of buffers against which the balls bounce perfectly. It was devised to investigate the relation between computation and reversible processes in physics.


>A reversible cellular automaton is a cellular automaton in which every configuration has a unique predecessor. That is, it is a regular grid of cells, each containing a state drawn from a finite set of states, with a rule for updating all cells simultaneously based on the states of their neighbors, such that the previous state of any cell before an update can be determined uniquely from the updated states of all the cells. The time-reversed dynamics of a reversible cellular automaton can always be described by another cellular automaton rule, possibly on a much larger neighborhood.

>[...] Reversible cellular automata form a natural model of reversible computing, a technology that could lead to ultra-low-power computing devices. Quantum cellular automata, one way of performing computations using the principles of quantum mechanics, are often required to be reversible. Additionally, many problems in physical modeling, such as the motion of particles in an ideal gas or the Ising model of alignment of magnetic charges, are naturally reversible and can be simulated by reversible cellular automata.

Also I've frequently written on HN about Dave Ackley's great work on Robust-First Computing and the Moveable Feast Machine, which I think is brilliant, and quite important in the extremely long term (which is coming sooner than we think).




Zed Shaw's "Learn C the hard way". Had years of scientific programming before that (R, Matlab). But I used to be afraid of working with "real" code bases. This book (which still has an unfinished feel to it) helped me understand how computers work and how to write programs with that understanding - at a high level. Learning about "Object-oriented programming" with plain C was super fun. Not the most illuminating book I've read (e.g. The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee), but the others did not change my life.

Thank you! I've been contemplating what I should learn next. I read your comment, bought the course, and have already started the exercises. Excellent recommendation!

I think this is a fantastic recommendation! Having come to coding from the same background (++Python), I feel the need to tighten up my understanding a bit.

Besides ones already mentioned, a suggestion I'd like to throw out is the writings of GK Chesterton. I've heard many engineers cite "Chesterton's fence," the idea that you shouldn't get rid of something until you understand why it's there in the first place (which, naturally comes up a lot in software engineering). I haven't come across many engineers though that have actually read one of his books.

His non-fiction books are easy to read and full of lots of wonderful turns-of-phrase. A lot of what he wrote back in the day sounds like it could be written today. There is a fair amount of his books that was very of-the-moment, making references to people from the time that I suppose were well known then that you need to read around.

I've only read two of his fiction books (Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man who was Thursday), both of which are really funny.

Would recommend Manalive amongst his fiction works. Better if you go into it blind than if you read a synopsis.

"Mastering Regular Expressions" by Jeffrey Friedl. While reading Dreamweaver 3 Bible I became intrigued by the Find And Replace options which included regular expressions. At the end of the chapter was a reference to Friel's classic and I found a copy in a local London library. That led me to "Programming Perl" by Larry Wall and the beginning of my career as a developer. The O'Reilly Perl collection is unsurpassed to this day.

I came here to post that same book!

When I was a kid I wanted to make an IRC chatbot. I didn't know much, but I read online you could use regular expressions to match text commands. I felt like I needed a book, saved up money, and got my mom to drive me to the next town. Our little library didn't have any computer books. I remember her paging through and asking if I really wanted this "technical manual".

Mastering Regular Expressions was the start to my programming career as well. Having references to a bunch of other languages spurred my curiosity to learn them. I eventually bought some of the O'Reilly Perl books as well.

When you say "kid" do you mean teenage or younger? I was 39 when I started-out with Perl and server-side programming.

This was my first real "programming" book, and my first O'Reilly animal book and it changed the course of my life in a real and tangible sense. I read it cover to cover and did all off the exercises, and then moved right on to Learning Perl. To this day, I watch people struggle with regexes or dismiss them, but I'm done finding what they were looking for before they can finish complaining.

The appeal of Perl when I chose my first "real" programming language, after using Javascript for browser compatibility hacks, was that it was designed by a linguist with regular expressions built into the language as first class citizens. My flatmate at the time, who worked for a bank, was trying to persuade me that Java was the future but I took one look at Java's regex implementation, where you have to escape regex metacharacters, and nearly threw up. Java 17 still hasn't fixed this even after adding raw string literals.

_The Mind Illuminated_ Hasn't changed my life yet but it might (found it three days ago out on hoopla.com). I say this as someone who has given meditation practice a good college try (more than a year at a time of daily practice) on a couple of occasions. Most books say just keep going and you will eventually fart pixie dust. This book says you can reach advanced practice in under a year BUT requires a consistent one hour a day which might be a deal breaker. This book gets very specific about technique, achievements and expectations which is unique in my experience. And the author is not saying you need to find a "mentor/guide". If you have seen a better book I would love to hear about it.

It has changed my life to some degree- very clearly and significantly.

Yet, I read only one chapter and following the advice and instruction to the letter for almost a month.

I am feeling the deep joy from meditating just ten minutes. I know I am not supposed to get attached to this deep bliss feeling, but it validates my efforts.

I read the first chapter a few months back, but did not really start following it until I started reading W. Rahula's What the Buddha Taught and Bhante Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English.

I am deeply attracted to the Theravada Buddhism philosophy. And there is no place of blind faith in it.

So, my serious attempt to meditation started after I learned more about Buddha and his way. I had to try it.

I much more calm and composed. With better concentration and more self-control. Procrastination has left me. And I have insights much easier than before. I am an overally better thinker, now. And I give the credit to meditation.

A great counterpart to this book might be Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck. The Mind Illuminated is a technical manual for meditation practice; Everyday Zen is more about how to think of the rest of your life while you’re not meditating as practice. (It’s not much about Zen specifically either; it’s author just happened to be a practitioner of Zen.)

Check out Goenka's lectures on YouTube - search "Goenka 10 day". Blew my mind. So much clearer than TMI

I would say TMI is much more technical because it's written for the "Hardcore Dharma" community which is far more technique-oriented than Goenka. Goenka doesn't approach the stages of insight adaptively, which can easily frustrate practitioners of mindfulness whose first intro to meditation is body-scanning. I would rank body-scanning as one of the least efficacious techniques with very poor results when applied to the physical pain that often results from long sits.

Good meditation teaching is equipping the practitioner with a toolset with the right tool applied for the appropriate stage of practice.

TMI and Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha are necessarily complex because they are treating the entire path toward nibbana as a segmented map of attainment. I can think of virtually no technique which can be applied from the beginning to the end except for very difficult-to-approach techniques such as shikantaza ("just sitting") or the ekayana ("one vehicle") techniques of the Quanzhen ("complete reality") Chinese Buddhism schools. If you think TMI is obtuse try and approach the Shurangama Sutra which is really a mindfuck. But here's the thing: unconditioned existence is a mindfuck so we often need "lesser" graduated techniques to approach the paradoxical nature of reality.

TMI does do a good job of not providing difficult techniques, but the I think Goenka explains watching the breath much more simply and better. He emphasises not grasping or being averse to what arises, and only working with your reality in that moment instead of wishing for things to be different. TMI does mention some of those points but I found the way Goenka reemphasised them to be very helpful

Steven Pinker's "Better Angels of Our Nature" and the sequel "Enlightenment Now" briefly helped to restore my faith that humanity is not entirely an evil virus best gone the way of the dinosaurs. Don't get me wrong though, these books are not easy reads. In the first one Pinker does spend an inordinate amount of time cataloging humanity's centuries of evils against itself before he can make the case that we're doing better now, so don't consider these to be light reads.

Going to assume that your use of "briefly" there is preceding your attempt at a short synopsis, rather than that your views have shifted again.

Personally I'm depressingly cynical when it comes to Pinker's views, looking at, e.g., https://twitter.com/robinhanson/status/1496685550241292293 and then thinking about how now, given modern weaponry one man's decision could basically destroy all life on earth. A few billion dead in a single conflict would be all it'd take to really mess up Pinker's trend line.

Sorry, I meant to indicate that my views have shifted again. I am not particularly sanguine about our collective future.

Please tell me the chart in that twitter thread adjusts for deaths per capita. It looks like it doesn't.

The y axis is deaths per 100,000 people

Thanks, I'm dumb and don't know how I missed that when it was right in front of me.

Happens to us all!

I have sympathy for what he is trying to do (actually put data on what people traditionally just use "gut feeling" for) but yes, it is the sort of thing that might sound sadly misguided depending on how things turn out, much as how late 19th century writers like Spencer suggested that the trend of the 19th century suggested that things like war and famine were fading away not predicting the world wars or the famines of Stalin and Mao in the 20th.

Pinker is still an excellent writer. One of those writers its a pleasure to read. But I have not read that particular book.

None, seriously. Sorry for not giving any inspiration. I have only read technical books like Static/Dynamics mechanics, TCP/IP, Material Science, mostly engineering stuff etc. Because I wouldn't want much reading about someone else's opinion or view of truth. People may find they are useful for learning broad spectrum of perspective, but I find that they all fall into limited set of views that I never be surprised to know, actually almost anything is not new to me (i am yet too old though).

Update more info:

I'm a really fun at party guy and used to read adventurous fictions (text and audio), lots of entertaining, individual-help, business-help kind of books, they are all just opinions, not even statistical useful because you manually collect just one data point per book. Use science based knowledge and can get stuff done and be able to make money, that will make much more impact to life and family!

Just finished taking a shower, I came up with a book that made significant impact on my life. When I was in high school, I saw my close friend carrying a robotic book around since he was into robotic competition, it woke me up from just singing some rap songs. I was like .. I had to get into something cool in sci-math field, then that day I was in computer class that taught Microsoft Office stuff and save work in floppy disk. At that time I just know programming exists but had no idea how it actually works. I reached out teacher and asked "please teach me programming", he said like .. nah getting good at Office stuff I taught you first. That's fair but I wanted to be as cool as my (robotic) friend. I went to a book shop, picked up a "Programming C" book and also bought "Turbo C++" CD. That is the moment I know what major I was going to get into at university.

So the book that actually probably changed life quite significantly is my friend's robotic book that I didn't read.

How old are you? I used to be like you, but ever since I've hit mid-30s I started to find more fulfillment in books that are not engineering and science focused. Unless it's something directly relevant to what I'm currently working on, I would end up never using concepts from scientific books in real life and forget them after a couple of years. And if I really need to learn something relevant to my current work, I can do it "on-demand" anytime, without needing to be proactive about it.

On the other hand, books that change the way to think about life can have a more profound long lasting impact, even if they are just opinions.

I am a couple years younger than you. For non-technical stuff, I'm more comfortable with video format, and there's going to be several videos on the same topic, better than getting narrow story from single book. Podcast is kinda ok too. Knowledge these days need competitions, you likely to just buy single book for a set of topic based on reviews. But for video or audio content, there are plenty!

Downvote? For science based books and non fictions? OP asks for what books changed your life, not books you like. You could say every single book changed your life, but that is as useful as my answer that said none.

I upvoted, audience should not confuse disagreement with inapropriateness. If you disagree, explain in a reply why.

Not so much a life changer but certainly reshaping the way I look at things, the way I judge things, and the way I let things ruin my day:

'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' by Mark Manson

The book is full of examples and while reading, you go "hey, that's a bit like my friend X", or "hey, that sounds like my Uncle Y". And then, when Mark describes certain personality traits, you think, "hole smoke, that's ME!"

I couldn’t get far because I don’t like how he writes.

I found The Subtle Magic of Not Giving a Fuck to be a lot better. The sample is enough to get the point: you can apply Marie Kondo’s method to obligations that don’t spark joy.

Can you provide a link or author name? I can’t seem to find that.

The Life-Changing* Magic of Not Giving a Fuck

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunru Suzuki. I first encountered it when I was around 19, and came back to it at various points. At around age 55 I finally started a serious Zen practice which involves an hour a day of meditation, working on koans with a Zen teacher, and more. I've been doing that for around 10 years. It has truly been life-altering in the deepest possible way. I've read other Zen books but that one by Suzuki is the one that started everything and it still holds a unique and very valuable place.

Awareness by Anthony De Mello

I've been a follower of Eastern Philosophy for 20+ years and have also read most major religious and philosophical works, but during my reading of this book I experienced Satori, Englightenment, Awakening, Nirvana, 'Receiving The Gospel', whatever you want to call it.

Oddly enough, it happened to a friend after their reading it, too.

I haven't been the same, in the best way possible, ever since.

Anthony was well-read and traveled and his background as an Indian, Jesuit Priest and practicing psychologist put him at the perfect intersection of experience to deliver such a life-changing work that encompasses religion, science, relationships, your psyche, career, money, philosophy, spirituality, etc.

It's telling and (to me) validating of his mastery of life that, after his death, he was excommunicated from the church due to his 'blasphemous' works.

The ebook and audiobook are available for free here: https://archive.org/details/Awareness-AnthonyDeMello

I started reading it and already have finished 20 or so chapters. I started because I want to get to that place, I know I won’t in the near future and have stopped trying to get there but reading your comment made me curious “maybe there is some angle in the book that will shift something in me and I will be there, awoke”

Gonna have to go with Dune. So much wisdom presented in such an engaging way.

Ecology? Check.

Emotional intelligence? Check.

Logical intelligence? Check.

Leadership? Check.

Power? Check.

Family? Check.

Love? Check.

Politics? Check.

Badass desert world and technology? Check.

> ... there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

The Gita-- Eknath Easwaran's translation is the best

Gilgamesh--Stephen Mitchell's translation

Dear Author, you need to quit by Becca Syme-- a book for fiction writers, it opened my eyes to the fact that I dont need to follow the advice of "experts", thats its okay to write what I love and keep my writing a fun hobby. I only recently read this, and it allowed me to restart writing after a 2-3 year gap.

> Easwaran's translation is the best

If you want a balanced, philosophical, explanatory, and a direct version, go with the translation by Servapalli Radhakrishnan. SR was an educator, philosopher, and the first Vice President of free India. He later became the President of India.

As far as I know Hacker News and the people that dwell on it, this translation [0] will be an ideal fit.

[0]: https://harpercollins.co.in/product/the-bhagavad-gita/

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