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Ask HN: Best book you read in 2011
336 points by kia on Dec 27, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 307 comments
My choice this year is Burton Malkiel's "A Random Walk Down Wall Street"

"The 4-Hour Body", by Tim Ferriss.

Because of that book, within 3 months I went from running completely out of breath after 2 minutes of running, to finishing a half-marathon in 2 hours. And during the prior 3 months, I had lost 15 kilos by following the "slow-carb diet" described in the book.

Reading it seemed to flip a switch in my brain: before, I would think of my body as something I had little control over, while after, I saw it as not only something I had full control over, but as something I could hack. I've also followed up on quite a few of the product recommendations in the book (e.g. Inov-8 trainers, Aqua Sphere goggles, etc), and have yet to be disappointed.

That said, the book does come with a heavy dose of Tim's pointless boasting, half-assed chapters (e.g. the polyphasic sleep or the baseball batting ones), and far more conjecture than a book of that sort should have.

In a similar vein, I'd recommend Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.

Before SS, my martial arts instructor always chided me: "Crazybear, don't power through the disarm. There are lots of guys bigger than you. Get the leverage right."

Now he tells newbies: "Don't power through the disarm, it won't work on a guy like Crazybear. Get the leverage right."

It's a simple how-to guide to getting strong. Just follow the program he gives and you become stronger - it's time tested and works well for pretty much everyone. Be really careful with deadlifts, particularly if you have back issues.

And in a similar vein, I'd recommend both Practical Programming and 5/3/1. The first is great to get a more thorough understanding on what is learned on SS and help's you understand how to modify your routines for maximum gains. 5/3/1 Has in my opinion been one of the best plans for the moment you stall on SS and need something more advanced. This stuff builds not only your body, but your strength and does heaps for your confidence which I believe is as important.

Starting Strength was definitely my best book of 2011. I went from a reasonably out of shape cube denizen who strained at a 125 pound low bar back squat to a 300 pound low bar back squat in just seven months. Rippetoe makes it very clear how any idiot can pick up a lot of strength in a very short period of time. Great Book.

Absolutely. In fact, Starting Strength was the next book I picked up after the 4-Hour Body, and it was immensely useful and motivating. If I could still edit my comment to mention Starting Strength, I would.

Tim Ferriss is like Wikipedia to me. It's a good place to start, but you will be mocked and humiliated if you only read that material.

I would hate to be involved in a community (academic or otherwise) that mocks what has been widely known to be a reliable source of information. Wikipedia, that is. Opinions on Tim Ferris vary greatly.

Pretty much every university professor I've had is hell-bent on wikipedia's destruction. I've even had professors threaten to fail people for using it as a reference.

While wikipedia does have some errors, most of the mistakes seem to come in the form of someone sabotaging a disliked celebrity or organization's page. In light of this, it seems to me that most of the topics a student would be likely to write about for a term paper wouldn't be affected. Universities should always allow students to use wikipedia for one of their references, but they should also hold students accountable for the information they take from it.

"Pretty much every university professor I've had is hell-bent on wikipedia's destruction. I've even had professors threaten to fail people for using it as a reference."

I know university professors who love Wikipedia. Some even give their students the project of writing new Wikipedia articles.

That's an awesome idea for a project. I'm glad to hear that my experience might not be the norm.

Using Wikipedia and using it as a reference are two very different things. I use it as a place to find great references and to get a synopsis on a topic, like an encyclopedia was meant to be used. Having lived in the former USSR and reading a lot of encyclopedias produced by the former USSR, I would never trust an encyclopedia alone, no matter who wrote it, without sources.

What he means (I think) is that it's only a surface understanding. You won't be able to hold your own in a serious conversation with experts on the topic.

Why would/should one be mocked and humiliated for not being able to hold their own in a serious conversation with experts on some topic?

If I want to learn about a topic, wikipedia is great. If I need more information, I can look elsewhere but many times I don't need to. And except for maybe a handful of topics, I shouldn't expect to be able to seriously converse with an expert. Why should that be the goal? I think the goal is to find the answer to your questions, and that's it.


On a similar note I'd nominate Good Calories, Bad Calories as my book. Ferris gets my back up, especially the received wisdom that others quote from him, but Taubes really opened my eyes to the fact I could change what I eat and feel ten times better.

I initially thought Good Calories/Bad Calories, and "Why we get Fat" were revelations - until I read http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-h....

Turns out Taubes just masquerades as a scientist - he's more like gladwell in his approach to writing - it _appears_ to be correct, but if you dig a little deep at all, you discover there isn't really much substance.

So - in that sense, "Good Calories, Bad Calories" was a great book for me in 2011. It showed me how easy it was for you to to be taken in by fraudulent writing. Lesson learned.

I'll just point out that Taubes is a charlatan, and most of his scientific claims have been debunked. See here, for one example:


I'm starting to read more about the (s)low carb/paleo/primal diets. I'm genuinely interested in reading more critiques of this class of diets. Charlatan is pretty harsh. I'd say this article paints Taubes as a person who hit on something that works, but who also explains that success with a flawed theory. What else do you have on Taubes' charlatanery/debunkedness?

The opening paragraph of the article: "I'd like to begin by emphasizing that carbohydrate restriction has helped many people lose body fat and improve their metabolic health. Although it doesn't work for everyone, there is no doubt that carbohydrate restriction causes fat loss in many, perhaps even most obese people. For a subset of people, the results can be very impressive. I consider that to be a fact at this point, but that's not what I'll be discussing here."

And later on in the article: "I think it's likely that refined carbohydrate and sugar can contribute to obesity, but by what mechanism? Insulin is not a compelling explanation."

I don't see a charlatan exposed here.

Guyenet's critique reminds me of a saying I heard a while back: Sure it works in practice, but does it work in theory?

Guyenet is pushing the same idea that most of mainstream nutrition science pushes: playing with the composition of a diet may affect your willingness to stick with a diet.

This is pretty well known, and has a fairly simple mechanism. By imposing artificial restrictions on your diet (no carbs, no acidic foods, nothing brown to yellow in color), you reduce the amount of calories you can consume. I.e., where you previously saw "ooh, lemon cake, let me eat", you now say "no yellow food". Caloric consumption goes down, and so does bodyfat.

This is why basically all weirdo diets work in the short term.

The fact is that Taubes theories about insulin have been shown to be false. His theories that obese people retain more fat has also been shown to be false. His theories that obese people have a lower metabolic rate have also been shown to be false. He continues to push them in spite of this. That's the definition of charlatan.

Another experiment: go read this article of his. http://garytaubes.com/2010/12/inanity-of-overeating/

Then based on his presentation, state what you think his hypothetical fat person and thin person are eating. Most people come away with a completely wrong idea.

I am flabbergasted to see Gary Taubes being named a charlatan, especially since Taubes has written a whole freakishly long response to Guynete's articles on his blog:


Um, that's a) not a response to the article I provided, b) focuses on a single inconclusive paper while completely ignoring the other 42 papers cited by Guyanet.

I agree that by itself, the one paper Taubes focuses on does not prove all that much. So what?

Taubes is using rhetorical tricks - in this case, throwing words at the reader, confusing the issue, and declaring victory, in an effort to prevent fanboys from catching onto him. It'll probably work, he'll probably make millions more selling books. Doesn't make him any less the charlatan.

I highly recommend his other book "Why we get fat" too.

Yep. For all its faults, that book has changed my life. For the sole reason that it convinced me to try slow-carb dieting. That led to reading more about low-carb diets, and from there to (so far) sustainable weight loss.

yes. I highly recommend this book. And I can't wait for his new book, "The 4-Hour Chef".

I'd like to mention two books because I can't decide which is greatest (they're very different):

- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (often quoted here, and rightly so; it's short and really really great)

- How to Live, or A life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell (a fantastic take on Montaigne's essays by a contemporary scholar with a refreshing take on everything).

The Checklist Manifesto is a great book. Short and offers lots of insights in how to manage risks and minimize silly mistakes. Must read for every system administrator and programmer who want to make sure every deployment works as smoothly as possible and every release as few silly bugs as possible.

Yes! I've read "How to Live, or A life of Montaigne" and it _is_ brilliant, partly due to Montaigne being brilliant I'd recommend Penguins Great Ideas Book "On Friendship" by Montaigne. And seeing as you mention on of my favorites to, I'll be sure to check out The Checklist Manifesto, thanks.

Care to share the gist if the book?

Penguin's Great Ideas series [1] is a collection of abridged (i think) versions of popular/influential books, or essays by influential writers, the "On Friendship" one by Montaigne is a few of his essays from his Essays [2] Short essays brilliantly eloquent, accessible pragmatic philosophy.

[1]: http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/minisites/greatideas...

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essays_%28Montaigne%29

"""Montaigne likes to point out that philosophers don’t know everything, and that they would be a lot wiser if they laughed at themselves a little more. He also writes in a personal and often very frank way designed to shock the prudish. “Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies,” he says, “Even on the highest throne in the world, we are seated still upon our arses.” """

Sounds like a good man.

A shorter version of the Checklist Manifesto originally appeared in the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/12/10/071210fa_fact_...

Let's see... in no particular order:

* Thinking, Fast and Slow: http://amzn.to/sXQGSR - probably makes my list because I just finished it, and as he says "what you see is all there is" - we're biased towards things that come to mind easily. Actually, it is a pretty good book even looking through all the others I've read.

* 1491: http://amzn.to/uaR0yf - about the Americas prior to the arrival of "Cristoforo Colombo".

* Built to sell: http://amzn.to/ukmyNP - how to create a business that is something that you can sell because it can exist without you. Not quite so relevant to startups working on a product, but some good concepts nonetheless. A good summary is probably just as good as reading the book, as the core concepts are fairly simple.

* Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World: http://amzn.to/tVvltK the history of the world as seen through languages.

* The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East: http://amzn.to/spQCF7 - a look at how the legal systems of 'the west' and the middle east differed and the results those systems led to.

And of course, if you haven't read this one, I think it's a great read:

Start Small, Stay Small: http://amzn.to/v2DHyx - a great guide full of practical advice on "startups for the rest of us".

What I haven't read:

Lean Startups by Eric Ries. Does it contain much practical advice? I get the impression it's a bit on the 'strategic' side without giving you concrete ideas about how to go about doing things.

The Steve Jobs biography. It looks to be so pervasive and widespread that I'm wondering if I can absorb most of the good parts from other people who have read it. I may get it anyway; we'll see.

FWIW, all links contain a referral code to help fuel my reading habit.

I recommend reading The Lean Startup. I found it full of good ideas. One example: cohort analysis. You might already be familiar with all the concepts and ideas in the book, but even then I think the various examples of real companies doing some of these things will be inspiring.

The Lean Startup is good but I found Running Lean to be much more tactical. Plus the guy who wrote it, Ash seems to be very active in providing content beyond the book in his newsletters, blog posts, and his Lean Canvas.


The top rated review of The Lean Startup basically trashes it, saying it never gets very specific, and is sort of a vehicle for Eric Ries to sell himself.

There's definitely some self promotion in the book, and at times it can be a little repetitive. It's also fairly introductory and the information in it can perhaps be found on various blogs, etc.

It's a good introduction however for anyone looking to move beyond a trial and error approach to startups.

Very curious - what was the referral link impact of HN?

You should read the analysis regarding Kuran's book in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/28/110228fa_fact_...

Looks like he may be arguing a bit at cross-purposes with Kuran's book, which primarly regards, roughly, the period from the rise of Islam to when the European colonial powers really came into their own.

But I can't tell, because it's behind a paywall.

I enjoyed 1491 a lot. The author has a sequel of sorts out now, 1493, about the aftermath of the Colombian exchange. I'm looking forward to reading it.

It isn't a proper book, but Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality was incredible. Don't judge it by the fact that it is a fanfic.

Eliezer, if you are reading this, please stop procrastinating and finish writing it.

This. His writing was life-changing for me in many ways. Incredibly accessible, useful discussion of various human logic fallacies. Fundamental misattribution error FTW!

How interesting will this be if i've never read the Harry Potter series? (i've seen a couple of the movies)

I hesitated to start. Partly because I found the original Harry Potter kind of boring/frustrating. And partly because it's fanfiction, a sort of writing I do not normally enjoy.

Still, I found it enjoyable and worth my time. Even though I thought Harry's portrayal was pretty uneven (swinging between "scientist/genius in an irrational world" and "arrogant prick demigod").

I liked Drako's additional depth far better than Rowling's one dimensional jerk.


(rehash of my previous comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3231266 )

There are some inside jokes you would miss out on if you didn't know the canonical universe, but overall, like others have said, it can stand on its own as a great work.

It's set in an alternate universe to the actual Harry Potter series, and starts from the events in the first book. You won't miss much from not having read the actual books.

I was in roughly the same prior-Harry-Potter-knowledge state as you are and I enjoyed it.

I read it and enjoyed it. And I'd consider it a proper book. Just cause it hasn't been published by a big publishing house doesn't mean it's not a proper book

For me, I had a few that I really liked:

* The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. Probably one of the best books I've read, even for people who don't want to make games, it was really good.

* Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur. One of the better business books I've read through. Also one of the most creative.

And I finally read:

* The C Programming Language by K&R. 'nuff said.

Too bad this comment is too down, but The Art Of Game Design is a fantastic book about design and user experience, even if you're not into games, there's some interesting psychology to learn and to apply in whatever you're doing.

I've read a lot of the most well known game design books and its staggering how good this book is. League of its own.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman

It made me feel like I'm not thinking enough about everything around me.

I'm going to be on the receiving end of a great deal of vitriol for saying The Bible and the Koran, but sitting down and reading those two books—for the first time in my 21-year existence—was a really interesting experience.

I'm not going to turn this into a personal essay. I realized—after reading both books with a critical eye—that there are a lot of trumped-up claims made about each books' contents that ultimately fail to bear themselves out. But there's a great deal to learn from each, and I say this as a nontheist.

As someone who's made the transtion from muslim -> atheist, I was disappointed, confused and terrified when I first read a translation of the Koran. I'm genuinely curious as to what you've learned from it that's of any use, apart from perhaps, a deeper understanding of the thought-process and ethos of Islamic fundamentalists.

I am genuinely curious what you gleamed from your reading that made you atheist. I made the transition from atheist -> Muslim a few years back, though this was not solely from reading the Quran it certainly played a large role in it.

> I am genuinely curious what you gleamed from your reading that made you atheist

On it's own it didn't, but there was enough in there that a) I didn't agree with, b) didn't engage me on a spiritual level and c) that was just downright weird that I knew this wasn't the holy book that I should be looking to for guidance.

Reading it alone got me to 'looking for an alternative' but not quite the atheist I am now (or more specifically secular humanist).

If you'd like to discuss this more via email feel free to drop me a line at ali dot najaf at gmail dot com.

Your reaction seems very strange. Can you explain why you had never read the koran if you were muslim?

The obvious answer is that he/she was a child, and simply received the religion from the parents. As far as I can tell, most people are religious because their upbringing was, and of those most simply adopt an interpretation of the religion they were brought up under.

Even in adulthood I'd be absolutely astonished if even 50% of any major religion have read to completion the core text of that religion, indeed I would expect the number to be far lower.

Many non-arabic Muslims have not read the Koran, at least not most of it. There are a couple of reasons for this:

Most importantly, translations of Koran are not equated to the real thing, i.e. a Koran in English is not the Koran, it's only a translation. This has historically been a handicap for the "common people" to have access to the book. This situation was also backed by the religious elite (although Islam lacks a religious caste like Christianity, there are still hodjas, etc. who are the ones who interpret the writings). Remember that the Enlightenment in Europe was due in some part to the wide access to the Bible in the vernacular languages, e.g. the King James' version.

Another reason is that, for devout Muslims, there are a set of rules that must be obeyed to touch the Koran, one has to be clean. So (theoretically) you can't just grab it, lean back on the couch and read it. In houses it is not placed with other books on the shelf but usually in a separate cloth cover, above all books. This reverence for it has the paradoxical effect of curtailing access to its content.

All correct. I would also add that I (along with many other non-Arab muslims) had read the Koran at a very young age in Arabic phonetically without understanding what it means. As far as my parents (and our sunday school teachers) were concerned, it was just as good. It wasn't until later that I tracked down a translation.

Excellent point, which I've forgot. My mom and her neighbors perform the hatim during religious festivals using exactly the method you describe, without knowing one word of Arabic and without understanding anything. Reading in the native tongue is just not done.

As far as access to the contents of the Koran, Islam truly has some medieval qualities.

Perfectly valid question with a simple answer. I wasn't born with the ability to read, so between the time I was born and the time I could read and comprehend a translation of the Koran, I was a muslim who hadn't read the Koran.

Now, to be fair, most Christians haven't read the Bible.

I can't really decide, but here are a few of my favorites.

* Song of Ice and Fire series. I never really liked fantasy but this series is wonderful. The TV-series (Game of Thrones) is okay but a far cry from the books.

* The Pragmatic Programmer. The best programming book I've seen. A must read for programmers I'd say.

* Introduction to Algorithms. Haven't really gone through it but so far it's been great.

I thought the series was almost a word-for-word summary of the first book, and was extremely well made, even though fitting 9 characters into 10 episodes is a tough thing to accomplish.

I've seen the series and read the first book and thought it did a pretty good job. What do you feel the TV show got wrong- not being argumentative btw, I'm just interested!

My only major inaccuracy is re: Sansa Stark. I found her to be a well-intentioned yet manipulated and confused child in the books. She just wants to be a quintessential 'Lady' - courteous, artful, etc.

In the show they made her out to be... American. Rude, spoiled, etc. Other than that I just wish they had the time and the audience to tell the FULL story in all it's glory. Of course it's expected that the sub-plots have to be trimmed of the minutiae, but the complexity and ambiguity is part of what makes ASoIaF so amazing.

Out of curiosity, what makes you define "american" as rude and spoiled?

Fair question. After initially seeing Sansa represented this way, I began to ask myself "Why would they do this? What advantage does it serve?"

Using the common motive of "making the show appeal to a wider [American] audience," it seemed to me that they wanted her character to hit closer to home than a polished young lady would. Of course, my opinion is just a shallow one - a thought in passing.

Thinking on it now you are probably right to question me on my association of 'rude and spoiled' with 'American,' but that was just my gut reaction. FWIW, I'm an American with minimal knowledge of the demeanor teenage girls from other societies, Western or otherwise.

I agree the TV show was pretty well made, but it just wasn't as good as the book. Obviously you can't include everything in the series and it just felt kind of flat sometimes? It generally gave a different feeling from the book I'd say, maybe not better or worse but I preferred the book more. And I really disliked all the fighting scenes from the show - in my mind they were so much cooler.

Complimentary to Introduction to Algorithms you might enjoy The Algorithm Design Manual (http://www.algorist.com/).

Perhaps best, certainly most depressing (and 20 pages or so to go, but there's time left yet): Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder, http://www.powells.com/s?kw=bloodlands

Very good, long: China Marches West: The Quing Conquest of Central Eurasia by Peter C. Perdue, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780674057432-0

Odd, interesting, relatively short: Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues by George Berkeley, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780674057432-0

Techie: Effective Perl Programming by Joseph Hall, http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780321496942-0

Wise Man's Fear was incredible. That's the only non-technical book I've read multiple times in years.

Don't make me think was the best book I made someone else read in 2011. It changed my boss's view of our web site, and now he's on my 'side'.

For me they were:

"An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought" by Murray Rothbard

This was great because of the history lesson packed into a book that's mostly about economics. I didn't realize how libertarian the economic thought of the east was until I read this book. I also appreciated the focus on economics before Adam Smith since I knew only about Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas's contributions prior to reading the book. Rothbard's take-down of Marx was both thorough and satisfying.

"City of God" by Augustine of Hippo

The history lesson here was helpful as was the perspective on how the church should view the state though I should have invested more money in a better version for Kindle. The version I had was filled with grammatical mistakes due to the poor translation to the Kindle format.

* Thinking Fast, Slow by Daniel Kahneman

* Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

* Slack, by Tom DeMarco (also re-read Peopleware). Both of these books are fundamental to anyone developing software within an organization.

* Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh. It's not fantastic but it's helpful if you are trying to build a business.

* Tribal Leadership - recommended by the above. Not great but interesting.

* Rework - short read, worth the time.

* Managing Humans by Rands - very entertaining, useful if you manage people.

Other stuff I read is not worth mentioning in a "best books" list.

Shop Class as Soulcraft - Matthew B. Crawford (2009) Non-fiction

This will resonate well with people who enjoy working with their hands. It also has some pretty entertaining anecdotes from the author's personal life, but it's not overly autobiographical. I personally found this one interesting because I've had some similar experiences in life-working on (and driving) an old Volkswagen as a first car, working in the trades, going to college, getting a desk job, and now, thinking perhaps that a desk job isn't for me, as he realized.

Code by Charles Petzold. It's made me think about computers in another light. AND to be amazed at how simple things (input/output, on/off) can add up to really big and complex systems.

I got this for Christmas and have eagerly consumed the first few chapters. Who'd have thought that the history of information encoding would be so intriguing?

I started listening to audio books very recently, so some of these books might be old to you.

* Predictably Irrational - How Humans behave and why.

* 4 hour work week - About how to earn money to live not live to earn money

* Made to stick - How to convey ideas in a way others will remember

* Lean Startup - How to build products using continuous innovation

* Guerrilla Marketing - Basic Marketing principles in 30 days

* Rework - Myth Buster for Internet/Tech companies

* Outsider Edge - Condensed History and reasoning for success of self-made billionaires

* Linus Torvalds - Just for Fun - About Linus Torvalds

Ebooks ( haven't finished reading yet, but they are great so far )

* Getting thing Done - Management principle for knowledge workers by David Allen

* Agile Development - Building Rails apps using agile methodology

I can't believe I've finished 8 books in 2011, long live audio books.

Best books I read in 2011:

* "Salonica, City of Ghosts" by M.Mazower. Tells the history of Thessaloniki, informative, entertaining, at times nostalgic.

* "The Cauchy-Schwarz Master Class" by J.M.Steele. A guided tour of mathematical inequalities. Very entertaining and readable (for a math book) and extremely well written.

* "Indiscrete Thoughts" by G-C.Rota. Irreverent anecdotes about mathematicians.

* "Black Swan" by N.N.Taleb. Maybe overhyped and at times annoying and pompous, but extremely insightful nevertheless.

Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness are both great reads from N.N. Taleb. Imho both are must reads.

I'm reading Fooled by Randomness and really like it. The Black Swan I couldn't finish because it kind of rambled. Not sure if he had a better editor for Fooled by Randomness or what.

Fooled by randomness seemed to me a little bit less rambling as well and a little bit more straight to the point. But I liked the more essayistic style of Black Swan as well (well, I studied literature, so i think I am just used to these kinds of writing).

"Salonica, City of Ghosts" is definitely an excellent read. I thought it was somewhat sad how the world wars of the 20th century diminished one of Europe's great, culturally rich cities.

Status Anxiety - Alain de Botton

It's about how we have come to live in a meritocracy, where your status depends on what you have achieved. Very insightful and readable work by the contemporary philosopher/writer.

I don't think de Button mentions anywhere that status is based on merit (which is good because the correlation depends on many factors and is tenuous, at best), or what you have achieved.

He's saying that your therapist might ask about your parents and family, but won't probably ask about the nameless people you run into every day -- your neighbors, the people in line at the store, etc. -- but these people also play a large role in terms of your self-esteem and ultimately your happiness because you are constantly defining yourself in terms of those around you. You will be happier living in a place where you make 10% more than the average, than where you make 10% less, no matter what that amount is.

You're right, thanks!

Prime Obsession : http://amzn.com/0309085497 - a great introduction to the Riemann hypothesis with chapters alternating between the history and impact of the claim, and a dive into the mathematics behind the claim. I have a mediocre background in math (i.e. up through Calculus III in college) but I had no trouble following the chapters explaining the maths behind the hypothesis.

The Undiscovered Self : http://amzn.com/0451217322 - A distillation of much of Carl Jung's lifetime of research in psychology into a short book. The blurb on the book jacket sums it up best: 'In his classic, provocative work, Dr. Carl Jung-one of psychiatry's greatest minds-argues that the future depends on our ability to resist society's mass movements. Only by understanding our unconscious inner nature-"the undiscovered self"-can we gain the self-knowledge that is antithetical to ideological fanaticism.'

It has to be Java Concurrency in Practice. Even though it has Java in its name I think every programmer should read this.

Other books I absolutely loved are Effective Java 2 and Programming Interviews Exposed. I'm waiting for Amazon to ship me the second edition of the latter.

Hackers and Painters is a classic I default to whenever I'm looking for inspiration.

I thoroughly enjoyed Iain M. Banks 'Culture' novels [1] (sci-fi), in particular 'Surface Detail', 'Matter' and 'The Player of Games'.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Culture

"The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin. It really challenged many of my beliefs about the underpinnings of society. Quite relevant in the year of Occupy Wall Street as well. Feminist Science Fiction for the win.

Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow". It's a great account of things we know about how the mind works, with amazing insights.

It's been on my list after watching this great lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjVQJdIrDJ0

I plan to follow it with Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

Moonwalking with Einstein is a good read. I found it worth the time I spent on it. But it's on an altogether different league.

Agreed, I'm reading it a second time now. I find it absolutely remarkable that Kahneman is 77.

I had a fantastic reading year, too much to choose from:

"Cosmos" - Carl Sagan

"Hyperion" + "Fall of Hyperion" - Dan Simmons

"Red Mars" - Kim Stanley Robinson

"The Prince" - Niccolo Machiavelli

+1 for "Hyperion" + "Fall of Hyperion" – both are amazing books that I just finished.

Also, "Glasshouse" by Charles Stross was pretty rad too.

"To Kill a Mocking Bird", "Logicomix" in English.

A play called "Andha Yug" (The Age of Darkness) in Hindi. English translation is also available for those interested. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0198065221/

I just finished Logicomix (got it as a Christmas gift), in French though. It's a great read for anyone looking for a refreshing take on the history of mathematics in the early 20th century.

I really did find it boring and had a hard time going till the end despite my fondness for mathematics history. Nothing was really interesting in it, only simple facts adn I was a bit disappointed after seeing it on a "must read" list from a math professor for its students.

I also read "To Kill a Mocking Bird" for the first time, and it is truly a work of art.

Always on the lookout for a good read. Thanks for posting the question. Through HN I discovered:

"A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy"

Which I enjoyed very much.

I can strongly recommend this book!

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

A scary tale about the collapse of the various markets across the globe. I constantly had to keep checking to see if the book was from the fiction section. The stories are so far out there it seemed unreal.

Second this. I'm a huge Michael Lewis fan. If you enjoyed this, I would recommend reading (in the following order):

- Liar's Poker. Lewis' account of how the bond market really got huge in the 80's. The book that put him on the map. He was a bond salesman in Solomon Brothers investment bank, a really interesting read with many larger than life characters. An insider account on how companies and financial institutions gorged themselves in debt.

- The Big Short. In a way this is like a "sequel" to Liar's Poker (weird to say for non-fiction I know), as the 20 year "story arc" from the grow of junk bonds, to the massive deleveraging due to the subprime mortgage collapse is examined. He also follows the stories of those canny enough to stack up massive bets in anticipation of the collapse.

Finance is a boring topic generally, but Lewis focuses on the characters and is a superb storyteller. He has a real knack for being able to explain these complex, earth-shattering events in a way that those of us without PhD's in quantitative finance can understand.

Thanks for the recommendations. Those are free to read on my Kindle with amazon prime membership, definitely will be reading them now!

You're welcome. Lewis also writes for Vanity Fair, where in fact some of the material for Boomerang and his other works originated. You might be interested in these also.


The Civilization Of The Renaissance In Italy by Jacob Burckhardt:


Pioneering Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt saw the Italian Renaissance as no less than the beginning of the modern world. In this hugely influential work he argues that the Renaissance’s creativity, competitiveness, dynasties, great city-states and even its vicious rulers sowed the seeds of a new era. Great book for entrepreneurs, scientists, thinkers, inventors, coders, radicals, and visionaries.

Excellent book. With a bit of looking around you can find a volume of his letters, and also a book called "Judgments on History and Historians."

I've read a lot of books this year, some have already been mentioned (eg. Gawande, Gombrich). I've been devouring the Game of Thrones books since summer, and as no one has mentioned it yet, I'll point it out.

On the fiction side, I absolutely loved Shogun by Clavell. I didn't know what to expect, and I found an epic that was captivating in many ways. I also started Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. I realize I'm about 10 years behind everyone else, and I've found it most deserving of all of the hubbub.

With respect to nonfiction, I enjoyed Schroeder's recent biography of Warren Buffett, entitled the Snowball. It was much less of a hagiography than much of what you read on him. He's a fascinating, complex man.

Not sure if you will see this but have you read any of Clavell's followups to Shogun yet? I recently read Shogun as well and really loved it, but haven't had the courage to tackle the other books in the series - as they sound so different (and take place hundreds of years later).

It's not tech-related, but my favorite book this year was Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. The book is a collection of stories from North Korean defectors, combined with some history and background info. It's a quick but satisfying read.

I was so incredibly tempted to put 'Twilight' down and wait for the lynch mob, but then realized that the Reddit color scheme is different.

This year was solely devoted to pleasure reading.

Neal Stephenson's REAMDE was quite good, although I imagine everybody on HN has read it, as Neal is practically a Valley institution.

The original 'Starship Troopers' by Ray Bradbury was also a good read, and easy to miss if you're into more modern science fiction.

Did you mean Robert Heinlein? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers

Damnit, yes, thanks. I now feel a bit stupid. I dug through a mixed stack of Bradbury, Heinlein, and Niven earlier in the year, so who-wrote-what is a bit mixed up in my brain.

Hey, I'm sure Twilight has novelty value. You could appreciate the parodies with a new depth.

Anathem - Neal Stephenson. Recommended here last year, it blew my mind in a similar way to Name of the Rose but with a sci-fi theme.

Dr Zhivago - Boris Pasternak. If you have not read any of the Russians, give this a go. Initially it is not easy, like all Russian literature, but the wonderfully poetic images and lyricism keep drawing you back. Easily my favourite for the year.

I enjoyed James Gleick's The Information. Wonderful book from one of the best science writers around.

Seconded. The last few chapters were unsatisfying to me, but overall a really fun read that does a good job of tying together a bunch of different threads of science around information theory.

"Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart was great. It's a hilarious "detective" novel set in a fictional ancient China. One of the two main characters is an 80 year old sage with a drinking problem and the ability to con almost anybody. The pace never slows and it always has you wondering what'll happen next.

Technically, I'd say "Land of Lisp" has been the most fun and the most rewarding.

Born to run by Christopher McDougall

Read it in the beginning of this year when I was starting to run, very inspiring. And look, I'm still running!

+1, that is an amazing book. even if one is not a runner, it is still worth reading the book. The author goes to great lengths to track the tarahumara, and to organize the race, in a dangerous region.

Not tech related, but I loved Devil in the White City by Larson and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig.

Also, I reread Rework about 3 times this year. Always a good and quick read.

Ah, but Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig is very much tech related!

For those who want a clue: the book is largely concerned with two things: how to get unstuck, and how to recognize quality.

Ahh true... That book is really deep. I love it.

Unrelated comment, but I feel compelled to mention... I just moved to SF and read that book right when I got here, only to find out that Pirsigs son (who is one of the main characters of the book) was stabbed and killed at roughly 22 (I am 25) a few blocks from where I work. For some reason, that story really affected me and has changed the way I look at life. I highly recommend the book to anyone in any field.

Being an engineer amplifies its meaning.

Victor Hugo ~ Les Misérables

An amazing book. Read it twice already, and the 3rd time isn't too far away I think.

This is probably my favourite novel and Jean Valjean my favourite fictional hero.

- "Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship" by Robert C. Martin

- "Physics for Future Presidents" by Richard Muller

Not really a book but I found the "MIT Guide to Lock Picking" an interesting read.

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

Peter Singer introduced and popularized the term "speciesism" in the book that is often referred to as the bible of the animal rights movement.

"A little history of the world" by E.H. Gombrich. I've never been too enthusiastic about History in general, but I couldn't put this book down until finished.

His "Art and Illusion" is very good too.

E-Myth revisited


I've read it early in the year, and it made me think about my business in a totally new way. Way too many parts me had me nodding sadly "yes, this happens to me too". A must for any business owners

This year I read again '100 years of solitude' (in spanish, of course) and I enjoyed every bit of it.

The one I've enjoyed the most, was probably "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" but additionally read a couple that kept being mentioned on here:

* A Random Walk Down Wall Street

* Predictably Irrational

* Black Swan

* Blink

and enjoyed those too. I've also read "How To Make Friends and Influence People" and started "Lords of Finance" but never finished.

I enjoyed "Debt: The First 5,000 Years" by David Graeber, an anthropoligical look at the history of money, morality and the nature of debt.

The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind - Julian Jaynes

Very Powerful Read!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It's a really good book for starting entrepreneurs.

It took me 2010 as well as 2011, but I really enjoyed Godel, Escher Bach now I've finally got through it. It's hard going, but I can't think of a book that chnaged what I think about the world as much as that book has.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, old but definitely worth the read. Changes the way you look at things.

If you loved the book Selfish Gene, I recommend listening to the story of George Price. http://www.radiolab.org/2010/dec/14/

It is both depressing and enlightening.

Nice thread! My favorite books this year were:

The power of Less: http://amzn.to/t4umWo . It discuss how you can simplify your life. It give many practical advices, and is good for all kinds of people. The message in the book is " be aware and simplify".

Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky. By Sarah Lacy, former writer fo techcrunch. http://amzn.to/vMJwhR. It show how the entrepreneurship and startups are going around the world. As a brazilian reader, I find the picture of brazil very accurate, so the rest of the world must be accurate too. It's a good resource for anyone wanting to understand and know the startup community in countries like India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and others.

If you want to write, by brenda Ueland ,http://amzn.to/w5gQyz: It's a nice book about the craftsmanship of writing. It's a bit 'philosophic' book, but also give a little practical advice. It's and old book, don't be amazed when it refer to the typewriter. And it's very cheap, only 3,99.

And to finish, time warrior, by steve chandler. http://amzn.to/vNBawK If you want a book to beat procrastination, and other modern plagues, this is the book. very practical advice, the book has more then 100 tips. Every should read it.

Thats my favorite books of this year, apart of the ones everyone has talked about, like Steve Jobs bio, Lean Startup, and others startup world books.

"Go the F--k to Sleep", by Adam Mansbach. It's a great book that's helped me much in my personal life. I used to have trouble falling asleep at night, often finding myself worrying about issues that had come up during the day, and being unable to put work away when I needed to sleep. Since reading it, I've found that I can put away these fears and problems far better than I could before. I highly recommend it to anyone who has trouble sleeping from time to time.

I'm not sure whether to downvote you for trolling, or upvote you for humor. Since I don't have a downvote button, I'll have to upvote.

Game design wise, the best are:

- The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell: http://amzn.to/zFOiEk

It's pretty comprehensive, but I found it a bit "heads in the cloud" and not very hands on. The lenses give you some hands-on approach if you apply them though. If you are looking for a book with very specific "how-to-do-this-or-that" then it may not be your thing.

I like to pair this book with David Perry on Game Design: http://amzn.to/ytXF7G

That monster tomb is all hands-on and You can use it more like a cheatsheet:"OK I need a villain. Let me turn to the 'villain archetypes' section and pick one at random. OK he needs a weapon. Let me turn to the 'rifles' section and pick one at random" and so on.

I also really liked "Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design" by Scott Rogers: http://amzn.to/xuVjWU

It is the book I recommend to budding game developers because it is sort of like "Art of Game Design" lite. It covers most of the same topics but don't go into such an intellectual depth which is a GOOD thing for people just wrapping their heads around what game design is. Once they finish that, I move them to Schell's book.


Re-read a classic fiction, Treasure Island by Stephenson.

Of the non-fiction I read, and completed, this year, Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Lansing.

Make sure to check out "South" which is Shackelton's own telling of the journey.

It's free on Kindle, so it's now on my Kindle. Thanks for the tip.

I read "Wheel of time" series by Robert Jordan this year. The books in this series are just so addictive.. wasn't able to stop till I read all thirteen books :)

Just one left to go, I've been waiting for a very very very long time.

Apparently it's finished. It will require numerous rewrites and edits, but the book is essentially finished. Sanderson said to look for the final book in the fall.

Oh, when ever I get the longing for the last one, I go on a revision of my favorite parts in previous books.. Thank fully I started this in August and haven't heard of it before.. Now just one more year to go till the last book.. :)

I still wonder how BS is going to cover all loose ends in one book!

I'm fairly sure it was well mapped out for him. I'll go and re-read the lot a couple of months before I do.

TIL today, there is a comic book for The Eye of the World.

Oh god, don't talk about it.

A song of Ice and Fire series

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read any books (beside some programming related stuff) in over a year. But I did start reading A game of thrones in the middle of August this year, now I'm on page 300 of the A dance with dragons. Simply amazing book.

That's probably the best thing I read this year too. It's very good, but not amazing, which just means I haven't read anything amazing this year.

"Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger" by Peter Bevelin. Excellent read.

I've been trying to get a hold of this book for a while in the UK, but it seems very tough to get a copy of without paying through the teeth for international shipping. Anyone have any tips?

Check the libraries in your region and/or ask the biggest one whether they could buy it for the library -> free option.

Is it necessary to be books published in 2011? If not, Calculus Made Easy is the best book I read in 2011.

This is on my todo list. "Maths and stuff" is a big gaping whole in my intellectual toolbox and I've been meaning to get it sorted out for a while. I'll probably pick something like this up, right after I'm done with "Speech and Language Processing"

I just finished reading "The Origin of Political Order", which was recommended by Venkatesh Rao. It's refreshing to read an overview of world history that doesn't focus on kings and kingdoms, but rather on the underlying causes. This book covers some dense material, but remains readable at all times. Highly recommended.

I'll second the recommendation for The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. It lays out a systematic way of thinking about political development and decay.

I wrote a review here: http://pragmaticpoliticaleconomy.blogspot.com/2011/09/im-rea...

I thought Designers Don't Read was great (don't let the name fool you). It's basically an art director's take on advertising and design with bits of history and insights thrown in: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1581156650

Best read for me is actually a non-tech book; the Dutch "Hoe hoort het eigenlijk" (roughly translated as: "how it should be done") which is considered "the Dutch Etiquette Bible". There is not enough courtesy and etiquette in this world.

That, and I really liked SICP (finally got off the shelf).

"Left in the dark" - a theory about how our mind works. It is either crackpot or one of the most amazing discoveries of the last few decades. Hard to tell which, but it is a very interesting read regardless.


Crackpot, because I couldn't go through the first page with a straight face. It is attacking science for lacking rigor (why not, depending on your standards and the field) and ignoring a momentous event, then proceeds to put forth an explanation that is not rigorous at all (cultural arguments do not support neuroscience jargon).

First page of the website or the first page of the book?

Either way, you should spend more time reading it. Consider it science fiction if it bothers you.

"The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind" is also mind blowing. Neither is foolproof, and both are potentially crackpot -- but if should read a crackpot book to broaden your horizons. Just consider it scifi instead of science.

Tech: Code by Charles Petzold

Novel: Invisible by Paul Auster

Essay: Après la démocratie (French) by Emmanuel Todd

"Code" is an excellent book, and I'd agree, it's worth it regardless of what you do in computers.

Professionally, The Art of Project Management did the most for me.

Privately, general-fiction-wise, The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami did the most for me.

Privately, SF-wise, three books by Kurt Vonnegut: Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse-five and The Sirens of Titan

Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankel.

It was recommended by several friends, and I finally got around to reading it. Helped, along with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to work through my personal thought process. Highly recommended.

Quite possibly the best book I ever read in my life came out in 2011: The Beginning of Infinity by quantum physicist David Deutsch. http://amzn.to/mSTNCn

It talks about the kinds of ideas that lead to progress in human societies and those that lead to stagnation. I believe Deutsch is, in this book, the first philosopher to actually explain why science works as well as it does. I wish I could do justice to this book in a short review, but instead I can only urge everyone reading this to give it a shot. Read the first chapter, and you'll know you have to read the rest.

I'd have to recommend "Holy War" by Nigel Cliff.

Great read about how one little tiny country (Portugal)in Europe ended being the first colonial power through their dominance of the seas, spice trade and their desire to see Islam vanquished.

Hmm... there have been a few, and I'd have to look through my "read books stack" to remind myself exactly which ones fell into 2011 and not prior years... but offhand, I'd mention:


Mona Lisa Overdrive - William Gibson

Zero History - William Gibson

11/22/63 - Stephen King

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss


Ghost in the Wires - Kevin Mitnick

The Elegant Universe - Brian Greene

The Trouble With Physics - Lee Smolin

Not Even Wrong - Peter Woit

The Lean Startup - Eric Ries

Blue Ocean Strategy - W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Built To Last - Jim Collins

Business Model Generation - Alexander Osterwalder

Started, but unfinished, may yet make the list:

Simulacra and Simulation - Jean Baudrillard

Reamde - Neal Stephenson

The Fabric of the Cosmos - Brian Greene

Reamde, non-fiction?

Heh, no; the "started but not yet finished" section was meant to be independent of the "fiction" and "non fiction" headings. :-)

"The Moral Landscape" (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/143917122X/) by Sam Harris

The book discusses how science can be used to deal with questions on morality.

I am loving this thread. There are so many wonderful suggestions.

My personal additions (though I know they are not obscure):

Down and Out in Disneyland - Cory Doctorow (This was gifted by a friend and really inspired me to make some significant changes in my life. That includes the decision to learn to code and escape the user end of the spectrum.)

Procrastination- Jane B. Burka , Lenora M. Yuen (This book has fundamentally altered my introspective conclusions. That is to say, I am now more aware of times when I am procrastinating and the impact it has on my life.)

This year was a great year for reading and I hope to read even more next year.

Design for Hackers by David Kadavy. Besides being informative it was really really interesting to read. Really opened my eyes to a lot of the things designers do deliberately and not just because "its pretty".

My choice is Spin, a novel by Robert Charles Wilson (2005).

This is IMO the very best kind of sci-fi: a plausible, scientifically grounded story about interesting people experiencing some fascinating shit.

Wilson is a great writer, too; I hadn't heard of him previously, but have since read a bunch of his works.

(As an aside, there has never been a year in my life where the best book of the year for me was a nonfiction title. Am I weird?)


Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers It's about a "resident humanist" at a research institution who makes an improbable bet with a computer scientist/AI researcher. For people in tech, it's a fantastic read.

Best book every year since I read it every year: The Tree of Knowledge. Given how grounded I am in computers, it's important to know what it is to be human. The book starts with simple micro biology and ends by explaining the biological foundation of love. it's the only book I've read that literally changed the way I see the works (and if you read the book you'll know that I mean "literally" in the most literal sense).

It's a difficult book, but some excellent reading guides exist do I highly recommend giving it a read.

- The 4 Hours Work Week (Tim Ferriss) - The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly - I highly recommend reading this book. The title describes what the book is about ~ as a hacker it might just make you rethink everything you do.

The War of Art http://www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art/

Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles.

Many books mentioned here are good, this is the only I haven't seen referenced. But this one book really helped me deal with resistance and get stuff done. Seth Godin is a big fan and references it a lot in his material.

Steven Pressfield also wrote 'The Legend of Bagger Vance' and Gates of Fire (Spartan 300 kind of book but way deeper).

"Picturing the Uncertain World" by Howard Wainer. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691137595

- World record improves linearly for over 50 years, for how long will the trend continue?

- Is it OK not to rescore erroneously high SAT scores?

- Why among examinees who get the same SAT score White examinees do better on easy items, whereas Black examinees do better on hard items?

- How comes that areas with the lowest and the highest kidney cancer death rate are rural areas?

1. Founders At Work. Biographical - "Entrepreneurship stories at it's best" 2. Rework. Business-Book - "Think your business different" 3. Into Thin Air. Biographical . "An Everest Expedition Turn Wrong" 4. I Was Blind But Now I see. Biographical. "Leave Your Job, Start Your Business. Make Your Money Work For You, Don't Work For Your Money" 5. Anything You Want. Biographical. "Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what's not working. "

Pinker's _Better Angels_. Mind-blowingly detailed and thorough.

Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

Rework. Also, "The Long Run" by Matt Long. Mr. Long wrote a book about his experience as a NYC firefighter who, a few days after qualifying for the Boston marathon, got run over by a bus while riding his bike and literally got split in half up to his chest. Almost two years later, he ran the New York City marathon and went on to do the ironman. Insanely great story and the book is a good read. His story was inspiring to never give up.

"Accelerando" by Charles Stross. I think this was the third time I read it. There will be a 4th, and a 5th, ...

It's a very interesting idea of how "The Singularity" might look.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card Foundation series by Isaac Asimov Orion series by Ben Bova Stranger in a Stange Land, Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein

Speaking of business books: Growing a business (old but still valid and great) and Setting the Table.

Speaking of fiction I want to recommend Neil Gainman The Graveyard Book

just curious, where do you get updates for book recommendations or updates ?

The Art of Readable Code

Best book on software engineering in a good while.

I often got back to Playing to Win by David Sirlin - http://www.sirlin.net/ptw/

Though it's certainly aimed at competitive gaming, I also use it at times as an inspiration for my business. It helps whenever I need to take a second look and play the devil's advocate about my own decisions. Reading it also earned me an extremely effective weapon against procrastination.

The Penguin and the Leviathan. It is an interesting mix of science and anecdotal evidence which hints that most people, most of the time, would actually benefit more from cooperative behavior than they would from competitive behavior.


In no order: - Word Catcher - http://amzn.to/s1Ykku - The Postmortal - http://amzn.to/rpaQyL - Moonwalking with Einstein - http://amzn.to/tDkRkY - The Post American World - http://amzn.to/4ex38B

* The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

* Dune, by Frank Herbert

"The God Delusion" - Dawkins

Very blunt and mean. But also convincing...

Does fiction count?

- Steve Jobs, the biography (edition is bad, lots of repeated passages and phrases and phrases, but the story itself is great) - Ender's Game (better at human psychology than Lord of the Flies)

On the "biggest letdowns" ranking: - Lean Startup (shallow and basically a recollection of common sense stuff) - Game of Thrones series (I tried, then tried, then tried again. Not my kind of fiction, I guess)

Hey guys, just made a little Bindle of some of the choices you've made, for those of you who like a more visual perspective: http://bindle.me/bindles/298.

My contribution:

"Devices and Desires" by KJ Parker: An interesting fantasy book that is centered around an engineer---his unique take on complex human situations might appeal to the more analytical amongst us.

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

Open Services Innovation from Henry Chesbrough

"Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" (http://amzn.com/0307377334) blew me away. Very interesting read on the current understanding of how the brain/consciousness work and the implications of these models on free will, etc.

I've now given it as a present no less than 4 times and counting.

Personally for me The Bible is and has always been. I'm not a religious fanatics but The Bible has taught me how to live life no matter how hard life is so that's good enough for me.

Lately I've been reading old books as well from Og Mandino. Ditto with technical books: books from the 70's, 80's, 90's are quite good. The rest are... "OK".

* Steve Jobs biography. I couldn't put it down and I'm shocked there aren't more fans on HN

For those who liked Malkiel's Random Walk, read:

* Ben Graham's Intelligent Investor

* Philip Fisher's Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits They counter Malkiel's thesis (yup, he's wrong) and Warren Buffet credits both men for teaching him how to invest. True classics.

I read both Malkiel's book and Grahams' book this year and was much more convinced by the former, especially in the context of just wanting to put some money away and not work at it too much - although to his credit, Graham also says that investors like this should not be all that active.

I think reading both is not a bad idea, but for those of us not in a position to crack open a company's books like someone like Buffet can do, I'm not convinced of the wisdom of trying to beat the market at determining which companies are 'value' companies.

Steve Jobs may be a great entrepreneur and innovator (or tweaker, whatever, people can debate this for decade) but not all people care much about his life. Especially when most of it have been exposed for years.

I borrowed the book from library and only read a few pages here and there. Returned the book within a week because I have other priorities or other books to read.

I think it's good that the "herd" mentality is missing on this book. In fact, I hope the herd/blogger mentality decreases as well in any other books (like Gladwell's, Ferris's, etc).

I strongly disagree. I got the biography for christmas this year and finished it in two days.

Having never owned a piece of apple hardware due to its closed nature and being an open source supporter myself, I was quite surprised by the joy I got from reading this book.

The honesty used by Walter Isaacson to describe Jobs was really refreshing and not expected by me at all.

I was able to draw many conclusions from this book. For example I do not think that there is the possibility of using it as a recipe for your own success as an entrepreneur, which might be the reason of why the hn community might be undervaluing this book. It clearly shows that Steve had many unique character traits which made him successful after all. Most of them were negative in my eyes. Actually he often seemed borderline insane. When thinking about the way he treated people, the way he manipulated people, the way he thought that he knew it all and used all of those techniques in order to make those things happen, I realized that those are character traits that lie deep within and cannot easy be emulated, if at all.

As a conclusion I might add that I really respect Steve and his family for allowing such a self critical biography to be published.

What are you disagreeing against?

I find it... weird when someone said something in HN and somebody else has to agree or disagree. It's like a blog post that requires a rebuttal or something.

Some people want to read about Steve Jobs, some don't...

And FYI, I'm not sure if reading a book on X and consider it as a recipe for your business is a good thing anyway. Nobody has replicated 37Signals success so far.

Whatever you thought about Steve, most people probably already knew that from the numerous books, articles, and whatnot written about him. And if this book exposed 10-30% more about him... well.. some people may not bother to know more...

It's not like we all must read the book or something...

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick -- Fascinating to have some insight into Dick's thinking and attempts to understand his experiences. The book isn't really something to just sit down and read cover to cover, but more to explore and move around in, but if you love Philip K. Dick it's awesome.

I'm guessing most HN readers won't be too interested in this list, but here goes:

Instant Karma: The Heart & Soul of a Ski Bum

Wild Snow: 54 Classic Ski and Snowboard Descents of North America

Roof of the Rockies: A History of Colorado Mountaineering

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

Computational Geometry: Algorithms and Applications

I got "The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive" for Christmas and it's just fascinating. Interesting history on the Turing test and AI and philosophy and very well written. I highly recommend it.

Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Wheelan, Charles

Economics explained in the most intuitive way.

On a related note I started an account at goodreads.com at the start of this year. It is great for keeping track of what you read and to find books for future reading.

API Design for C++ - Martin Reddy

The table of contents looks very good. Do you know any other recent and worthy C++ books? I'm more interested in design-related and deeply technical ones.

Another book (though not a C++ book) that comes to mind is: Linux Programming Interface by Michael Kerrisk.

Yep, it's on my reading list. Thanks.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of The Brain - David Eagleman.

A much recommended read.


Everything and More - David Foster Wallace

It's a book on the history of math, focused around the story of math's struggle to deal with infinity. There's really nothing like it. (okay, technically I still haven't finished it, but it's still 2011)

On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins

Lean Startup, got it for X-MAS.

"Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Really good book about willpower, mental fatigue, dieting, working etc. Lots of nice examples and tips to improve different aspects of your life.

Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. Highly recommended for anyone who has discipline problems, it is really inspiring, one of the top 3 books I've read. It tells the history of the real samurai named Miyamoto Musashi.

Poor Economics - Changed my views on some areas of how to combat poverty and poor education. As well as relating a huge amount a detail regarding the unexpected ways people with different backgrounds behave.

just curious, where do you get updates for book recommendations or updates cuz that one is my favorite ?

The Emperor of All Maladies - spectacular journey into the history of the disease. Filled with great human stories of discovery, and also taught me a ton about the currently understood biology of cancer.

In no particular order, the best ones I read this year on top of my mind are: - enchantment by guy kawasaki - rework by 37signals - the prince (machiavelli?) - the 4 hour work week (ferris?)

For work : Rework, from 37signals. Fresh, opinionated and funny.

For leisure : A Dance with Dragons, from Georges R.R. Martin "Game of Thrones" series (the HBO version is superb, but do not miss the books either).

Game Theory At work by James Miller is a great non-mathematical description of key game theory and how to apply it in real life. I consider it to be a must-read for any entrepreneur.

It's not from this year, but I have to say it: I read Rework quite a few months back and it honestly changed my life. Other than that, The Thank You Economy is a good one as well.

I posted my list in this recent blog post: http://dundat.com/blog/2011/11/30/a-wannabe-founder/

"Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography" by Julian Young.

The Art of War - Sun Tzu

Seriously? I've often seen this book recommended, but I just can't figure out what people find in it. Care to share?

You need to read it in a context where there is nothing else to do, and you can leisurely let your thoughts move between the book and your life.

Read in this way, the book can act as a catalyst for meditative insights -- overlooked possibilities, bigger pictures, new roles and options, and alternative directions for the future.


I find certain books required a deep thought before you can get anything out of it. These books aren't something that you can read in a plane on the way to New York from LA.

The Bhagwat Gita : You will very changed man once you read this, a very different person. This book is around 10000 years old,has even more relevance in the world today.

Consider the Lobster - essays by DFW

Startup Nation - discourse on startups in Israel

Tempo - narrative strategy by Venkatesh Rao - REALLY good read, distilled and full of gold

Solar Trillions, by Tony Seba. The book makes a strong case for seven market opportunities for solar energy. A great read that got me interested in clean tech.

Linux in a nutshell. Best book for Linux noobs and pros.

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