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Ask HN: What book changed your life in 2013?
209 points by fraqed on Dec 28, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments
Ok this question is a shameless attempt to find out what the HN community has been reading in 2013 but the caveat is that the book must have had a meaningful impact in the way you live your life. That's fairly open ended and can include anything such as new programming languages learned, health and fitness, investment philosophy, relationships and so on. Choosing one book is an artificial constraint but it does help with focusing on that one big change. Also the book doesn't have to be from 2013 only that you read it during the year and it in some way changed your life.

The most significant book for me was in the area of health and fitness as I finally read The 4-Hour Body (2010) by Tim Ferris. I'd read about many of the topics he covers before but they just didn't stick until The 4-Hour Body. What I like about Tim's approach is that one should experiment to see what works rather than following a rigid plan. I tried many of his suggestions and some worked for me while others didn't. The binge day was particularly bad so now I just follow the same plan every day; as well I had to increase the amount of carbs before my last meal of the day to get a better sleep. But experimentation and tracking my results has made all the difference from other diet and exercise changes I've attempted in the past. It's definitely worth the read even if experimentation and tracking are the only things you get from the book.

Thanks for a great community and I look forward to your suggestions.

It's hard to choose a single book, as I've read (or listened to) a number of books this year.

I'll choose Daniel Kahneman - Thinking, Fast and Slow (http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman-ebo...).

The way it changed my life was to make me actually think more about the way my mind operates, the decisions I make and the way these decisions affect my life. As a consequence, there were a few books I read later that were loosely related to this one in the way that they all refer to the way people think.

Barry Schwartz - The Paradox of Choice

Steven Pinker - How the Mind Works

Nassim Taleb - The Black Swan; and Fooled by Randomness

Leonard Mlodinov - The Drunkard's Walk (quite similar to Fooled by Randomness)

Carol Dweck - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Neil Postman / Andrew Postman - Amusing Ourselves to Death

Rolf Dobelli - The Art of Thinking Clearly (just started)

On my reading list now:

Quiet by Susan Cain - mentioned already

The Better Angels of Our Nature - Steven Pinker

Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel

Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash

Jared Diamond - The World Until Yesterday

Also, did not quite change my life, but very recommended:

Neal Stephenson - Anathem.

You may have to struggle through the beginning, but as soon as I understood the way the world he devised operates, I was thrilled completely.

+1 Snow Crash

The interesting part about Snow Crash is that I feel that the dialogue between Hiro (the protagonist in the story) and the Librarian (an artificial intelligence in the metaverse but more advanced than either Siri or Google Now) amount to what may be the future of Google/Wikipedia/Research in the form of Q&A search queries. His questions are usually ones which attempt to draw new insight from historical documents, but are asked in a way in which the Librarian can answer them as though a computer can, but does not immediately draw conclusions. I can easily see that in 10-20 years, research/Q&A/Google could perform many of those same functions without biasing the user with any particular conclusions (because it can't).

I was thinking about reading 'Thinking, Fast and Slow', but I couldn't tell if it would really be useful or if it would just be another glorified self-help book. But if people here like it, I will probably give it a shot.

Also, Drunkard's Walk was excellent.

Thinking is not a self help book. It's a memoir of sorts about a nobel prize winning economist and the way he and his mentor changed the field of decision theory through the combination of economics, psychology and statistical mathematics. It truly is eye opening and life changing.

Technically, Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who just happens to have a Nobel Prize in Economics because his work in the field has been amazingly usefil to economists.

Well "just happens to" is strange attempt to diminish his accomplishments. We're talking about the life work of a brilliant polymath.

I would also characterize Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as "applied Thinking: Fast and Slow". I would strongly recommend it.

Reading 'How Mind Works'. Do you think his proposal matches the recent discoveries in neuroscience? Till now(120 pages in) he seems to be an evangelical of Computational theory of mind

+1 to Kahneman - the book is brilliant.

While reading the book, sometimes you feel like it's reading your own mind. Very chilling.

Guns, Germs & Steel was a real revelation about the rise of Western civilization. Ain't because we're so smart or genetically superior, sorry. Just a matter of being in the right place at the right time a few thousand years ago.

+1 Thinking, Fast and Slow. I was going to post that as the most influential book of the year.

(I started reading Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise when I got to a reference to Thinking, Fast and Slow. Switched and haven't gone back yet.)

If you liked "Guns Germs and Steel" you'll also enjoy Diamond's latest book "The World until Yesterday". Everything I've learned about organizational dynamics can be gleaned from this book.

Barry Schwartz on TED, same title as the book you mention:


+1, I was just going to reccomend this!

Great list

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I had avoided this one for years due to its age and because reading it seemed to imply one has no friends and no influence. It gets long-winded in parts with a few too many examples, but it's excellent. Definitely something everyone should read once, no matter what type of job or lifestyle one leads.

This is a good book. The simple tip of asking people about themselves when unsure of what to talk about does work in a pinch. I also found it interesting that Susan Cain (see my comment in this thread) largely derided this book and the others like it that came out at the same time.

I read this and also the 48 Laws of Power -- both interesting reads that have a few crossovers. Mind you, the 48 Laws of Power audiobook sounds like it's read by the devil.

Definitely! (Unfortunately, that goes for everything you mentioned, including the long-winded parts.)

I agree, it's a good foundation to build upon!

Quiet by Susan Cain

This book profoundly affected me because she convinced me that many of my mannerisms and preferences are completely normal, and even positive. She also confirmed a lot of my suspicions that open offices, group work and the like are not as beneficial as they may seem.

Her TED talk[0] hits most of the major points in her book. If you enjoyed that, her book is a must read.

[0] -- http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts....

+1 thanks. I just listened to her TED talk then bought her book. What she said resonated because sometimes I like busy social scenes, but usually I like quiet contemplation and work. BTW, I dislike open office layouts intensely. The first company that I worked for had private offices for everyone, technical, managers, and secretaries - a big productivity booster in my opinion. When we needed to talk in groups then a walk outside, getting a snack in the cafeteria, or grabbing a conference room was more than sufficient for people to get together and share ideas and information. Private offices are better for one to one communication also (compared to grabbing a conference room).

Two years ago I was lucky enough to read a comment here about the 4 Hour Body and how it changed someones life. I downloaded it and read it that night. Lost 50lbs. Never looked back.

This year the book that shaped my year has to be The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter. Great read, teaches you how to motivate yourself to get shit done. Has worked really well for me.


I got this book 3 weeks ago. I agree it is a good book on motivation. It isn't very polished though, like some of the other popular psychology books out there. It isn't embellished with eloquent flowery writing or mind-blowing feats of accomplishments. This isn't a criticism but a strength. It reads more like a series of blog posts where the authour is discovering how to amp up his motivation using a set of hacks to tackle goals. The format makes it easy to walk away from the book and apply it to those unfinished tasks that have been hanging over your head for months. It's a great find and ranks high on the books I've read this year.

I agree with all of your points. And I think we both have the same view of the book, which is that it is good, not AMAZINGLY GREAT, but I thought it was appropriate for this list because its not a best seller or something, but a little bit of an unknown, but useful.

I also agree with all these points. (I wrote this one.)

I read a significant amount of fiction and non-fiction in 2013, including books on founding start-ups, marketing, psychology, english lit (even Shakespeare, Dickens and Jane Austin), and sci-fi.

Surprisingly (at least to me), the most interesting and profound was an obscure sci-fi book called Permutation City by Greg Egan. It was surprising because it was written in 1994 and pretty much nails HPC and cloud computing. It also plays on the ideas of intelligence, consciousness, artificial life and longevity, all of which I think we're right on the precipice of making some pretty significant inroads within the next decade.

The cloud computing aspect of the novel though really blew me away. Most parts seem almost like throw away paragraphs which help support the plot, but you don't have to squint very hard to see the similarities between it and something like the Amazon Spot Market. For me, in 1994, I couldn't even imagine cloud computing. The PC was so completely dominant at the time (I had a 486DX2-50) and the internet might as well have not existed for most people. The web consisted of a handful of sites and only a few people had even heard of NCSA Mosaic.

I realize others might not find this profound, but for me, working in cloud infrastructure and virtualization, it really struck a chord.

Greg Egan is a great visionary, his ideas and ingenuities are profound and intelligent. His works exude a kind of brilliance, a technological devotion to the big ideas, but at a cost: sometimes the ideas take the stage, and characters and plot are bystanders. Overall, they are still excellent, and they're big on the ideas. A warning: it's the hardest hard sci-fi out there, for example, the book Schild's Ladder is full of hardcore mathematics and physics.

I think "The Kingdom of God is Within You" by Tolstoy was the most life changing book I read this year.

It made me start thinking about the idea of sin, which I haven't given much thought about before since I was not raised as a Christian and do not identify myself as one. But sin is such a powerful concept for understanding my own weakness and shortcomings and the evils that come about when I let them control my life.

It is also a very powerful message against the corruption of Church and State and the necessity of peaceful rebellion against these corruptions if they do not allow the living of a Christian life.

The book is Hold Me Tight: Your Guide to the Most Successful Approach to Building Loving Relationships. It's a book from the creator of emotionally focused therapy which is based on the insights brought by the attachment theory.

The attachment theory was completely new to me and it let me have a new look on the way I act in the close relationships. It cut a lot of shame I had about the way I act when the relationships didn't go the right way. The rest of the book related to the therapy itself was good too. It shifted my focus from solving relationship problems the rational way (it didn't work out) to something more aware of the emotional reality of the process.

In the end I feel like I perceive all the interhuman relations a little bit different then I did before.

The one that made the biggest impression (and, hopefully, impact) on me was definitely The Power of Habit. tl;dr: on a fundamental level, habits of all sorts shape much of our days and lives. It's like setting up automation scripts — it takes some time, but makes your life better and easier once you do. And they're like a sharp knife — a powerful tool, but be careful not to cut yourself. Good habits make you do things right without any effort, bad habits will ruin you. The book shows you how.

Oh and the thing that impressed me is that it's not just the typical BS-filled self-help book. The Power of Habit appears to be very well-researched and doesn't promise wonders, just shows you how habits work and how you can influence them.

I gave this book out as a Christmas gift to a lot of people. I read it six months ago and it has dramatically improved my life.

Given the criteria, this would come closest:

* A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195374614/

Honorable Mention:

* Anything You Want - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00506NRBS

* On Intelligence - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003J4VE5Y/

* Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00555X8OA/



Those interested in Stoic philosophy would do well to just skip to the primary sources. Not to say the guide you posted isn't a good book (I'll take your word that it is!) but Stoicism is one school of thought that I'd say rewards reading from a blank slate. As opposed to, say, certain domains in analytic philosophy wherein understanding is impossible without years of prior reading.

Seneca's various Letters [1], Marcus Aurelius' Meditations [2], Epictetus' Discourses [3] are all good places to start. There are a variety of translations for those titles available for free (see links).

[1] - https://archive.org/stream/Seneca/Seneca_djvu.txt [2] - http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html [3] - http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/discourses.html

"The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion"

If you're like me and love debates, this book is awesome. It'll show you how to find common ground and understand implicit values behind arguments.

Link for the lazy (non-affiliate): http://www.amazon.com/The-Righteous-Mind-Politics-Religion/d...

That was on my top three for last year.

A really quick introduction to his ideas:


I read about a book a week this year, and the one that I loved most was "Give and Take" by Adam Grant. The book discusses two opposite approaches to work and life: being a taker (where you always try to use people and situations to your advantage) and being a giver (where you try to help others out before yourself). The book included a nice combination of anecdotes and research that all pointed to giving being a more effective road to success than taking. The first half of the book is spent building a compelling case for the main thesis (i.e. that giving is better); the second half talks about a few pitfalls that should be avoided and offers tips on how to be a more effective giver. Some of the lessons that I learned included tips for learning when I'm being taken advantage of and tips on how to keep from burning out on generosity.

I loved the combination of research + practical applicability and I think the book encapsulates many parts of the startup/tech community where people will help others -- even strangers -- very generously. I've given (no pun intended) about half a dozen copies of this book as gifts to friends.

How the hell do you manage to read one book per week? I can barely manage to read one every two months while working sixteen hour days.

You sort of identified your own problem there, didn't you?

- I have a Kindle, so I'm never without a book.

- I read whenever I'm waiting somewhere for >5 minutes: at the subway station, in line at a busy restaurant for lunch, etc.

- When I go on a long drive, I'll use text-to-speech to listen to books. Some of the older Kindles have this feature, as do some phone apps if you're willing to convert your Kindle books to a non-DRMed format.

Also, working 8-hour days helps =\.

Audiobooks are a godsend. Driving around went from being a chore to being a way to relax with a good book.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful By Marshall Goldsmith

I came to realize that sometimes to improve your teams' performance you don't need another tip to add into the behavior of the team members. actually the problem with mature team members is not that they don't know what to do; The problem is that they don't know what to STOP doing. And there is another thing that makes the situation even worse: Most of the time the team member who hurts others in the team don't realize that. But everyone in the room knows that something is wrong as the heat in the room rises. And this heat raise certainly will affect the team overall performance and unity. So this is a serious business.

Understanding Michael Porter on Strategy by Magretta. Porter is a well known thinker on business strategy but most people misunderstand him. He has also been derided because his own company (Monitor) failed but his work in strategy still remains the best.

This book by one of his former students and proteges lays it out clearly. Too many people don't really know what strategy is about. The bottom line is that if you have a strategy it should show up in your profits and the examples/case studies of Southwest, Ikea and Zara are really insightful. If you are serious about business or entrepreneurship this book is a must read.

I remember reading a tell-all autobiography of a literature major who got sucked into management consulting. He basically summarised Porter thus: the economics department discovered all the ways that a monopolist can misbehave. The business school began teaching those misbehaviours as "strategy".

I've read a lot of books this year[1], but if I had to pick one to fit your criteria, I'd lean towards The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker.

TOoW presents a case for a new view of Economics, rooted in evolution as the primary engine behind endogenous growth[2], and modeling the economy as a complex adaptive system[3].

In the end, his theories may or may not be correct, but I've learned a TON about economics from reading this book, and if the "Complexity Economics"[4] guys are right, it has some interesting implications.

Personally, I suspect that the CE folks are onto something, but this book is worth reading just for the history lesson it presents, vis-a-vis the development of modern economic thought. And for a book featuring a ton of history and on a topic (economics) that some people might find dry, it's very accessible and reads more like a novel than a textbook. I churned through the whole thing in about 2 days, it was so engrossing.

Anyway, I only just read it last week, so it may be too early to call it a "book that changed my life", but I can say that as soon as I finished it, I immediately started re-reading it, this time to take notes and jot down thoughts about some of the implications and actionable aspects of this thinking. It definitely gets a +1 from me.

Outside of that, The Discipline of Market Leaders would probably be the other candidate. I only discovered this one because it was referenced in a different book I was reading, but it's turned out to be quite interesting. The authors present a pretty strong case for a very specific approach to business strategy that resonates with me.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6964841

[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_growth_theory

[3]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_system

[4]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complexity_economics

Test-Driven Web Development with Python.

Very well written and engaging. The prerelease version is available free online at http://chimera.labs.oreilly.com/books/1234000000754. I've known for a long time that I wanted to do unit testing on my web dev projects but never really understood the how part. I'm almost done with the book, and am super excited to try TDD on my projects now.

Looking through my list, none jumps out as a 'life changer':


Although there are several good ones there:

* Nathan Barry's Authority: http://blog.liberwriter.com/2013/11/21/nathan-barrys-authori...

* Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.it/2013/09/worthless-imp... - not one for the ages, but I thought his take on entrepreneurship was interesting.

* http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.it/2013/08/pathfinder-jo... - biography of John Fremont. Interesting guy in an interesting period of American history.

* http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.it/2013/02/innovation-an... - Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Drucker. Still a very relevant book in a lot of ways.

[The one I self-published](http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/52397119/decrypting-rita...).

It's the second volume of three. The change is still ongoing; book 1 has garnered me some new fans at the top of the comics game, some cool short-form opportunities, and some tentative little beginnings of nibbles from publishers. I figure bringing book 2 to cons will keep that going; I'm pretty confident that by the time I run out of copies of book 3 and want to publish an omnibus, I'll have someone interested in taking care of that and the distribution for me.

Oh, wait, you want books we read, not any books, huh? I'd have to say [The Primal Blueprint](https://www.amazon.com/dp/0982207786?tag=egypurna-20&camp=0&...), which got me seriously thinking about what I put in my body and how I use it. I've been backsliding from the fabulous shape I was in during the year I was taking burlesque class, and while I haven't gotten it back, reducing my carb intake and trying to regularly remind myself to just run around for the hell of it! has been keeping things mostly under control.

I mean, I've actually started eating salads, made from awesome locally-produced ingredients that actually have flavor. I still eat a decent amount of junk, I'm nowhere near following a hardcore Primal diet, but I'm doing better than I was a couple years ago.

A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian. This book has completely changed the way I approach interactions with people of faith. It's an incredibly important, useful and practical book.


How to Win Friends and Influence People

I was skeptical at first due to how old the book is but the advice is truely everlasting and extremely effective.

I read it a few years ago and found it quite helpful, too – the most important bit being that (most) people like to talk about themselves.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Such an immense story about love, friendship and the evil in all of us.

Godel, Escher, Bach - [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach](http:...

Made me view, and think about every day to day problem or decision making in a completely new light.


I picked up a copy of 'The End of Faith' by Sam Harris at an airport bookstore several years ago. My first thought was "let's see what this atheist asshole has to say." Reading the book completely changed my views on religion and religious tolerance. More importantly, the experience encouraged me to be more proactive in seeking out opposing viewpoints.

After the Newtown shooting, his writing on Gun Control [1] and [2] were quite enlightening to me.

[1] http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-riddle-of-the-gun [2] http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/faq-on-violence

What happened to the parent? I know what it said, I'm just not sure why it got deleted...

HN doesn't like self promotion, maybe?

Most of what I read is related to startups or economics, but for the short list of change-my-life books:

This year I read a lot about what you might loosely call the Paleo movement / anti-carbs and sugar movement. The New Evolution Diet, The Primal Blueprint, books by Gary Taubes, and so on. I think this is going to change how I eat and exercise forever.

The Gift of Imperfection and other works by Brené Brown. Lately this is being promoted by Oprah, which isn't usually a good sign. I think it stands apart because it's not theory or poetry; it's based on some solid research on what people living more productive and satisfying lives are actually doing. If nothing else, her books have made me a better friend when my friends are in pain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

Sounds like a book I will enjoy, that goes now on my reading list for 2014!

- Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard

- Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

then couldn't stop reading all there is to read at Mises.org

You're doomed to be exasperated by the actions of humanity if you continue along this path. Be forewarned.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big -- Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame)

Super Rich -- Russell Simmons (hip-hop magnate)

Choose Yourself -- James Altucher

Edit: forgot about Walt Isaacson's bio of Steve Jobs

Thumbs up for James Altucher's book. I liked a lot "I was blind but now I see" by him. I don't think a book can be a life changer at my age (who knows), but it was a great read.

I have to name two in a tie: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and Masters of Doom by David Kushner. Both Jobs and John Carmack have been huge sources of inspiration since I've read these books, and in very different ways. And that effect has lasted long since I finished the books, which is rare.

The Jobs bio was a great read, I really enjoyed it. I'm currently reading Jim Henson's bio. It's really interesting how both of them accomplished a lot and had a lot of incredible influence within their domains, but in completely different ways. Jobs was demanding and a tyrant, where Henson was gentle and compassionate. It's interesting to see where these traits worked and didn't work for each of them.

I suspect this will be a long-tail answer, but what the heck:

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

It is not a perfect book, but it did get me running, and in that sense literally changed my life.

You know that running is as bad for health than staying on a chair all day long, right? For example the marathon is extremely stressful for the body and my friends w who do it all admit they are sick for one month afterwards.

> You know that eating bananas is as bad for health than staying on a chair all day long, right? For example eating an enormous amount of bananas at once is extremely stressful on the body and my friends who do it all admit they are sick for one month afterwards.

Your friends are likely not fully prepared for the marathon. Saying something and then trying to prove it true with a hear-say based example of an extreme case is ridiculous. Please don't post comments like this on HN.

Posting unconventional views is ok in HN, in fact it is the only place I know where it is possible. My unconventional view is that sport is bad for health. If you count all the injuries, the health issues, etc that can be attributed to sport... The problem is that most people mistake sport for exercise, which is good. E.g. walking or cycling at normal speed for the commute is good, lifting weight or running like crazy is bad.

As so many people suggested books related to fitness, I suppose this unconventional view has its place here.

I am pro running, but anti-marathon. One resembles normal daily activity, the other a major survival event.

I'm pro-marathon until it heads into five hour territory, then I'm convinced one should work on bringing down that half-marathon time rather than seeing if one can survive shuffling 26 miles. Elitist attitude it may be, but I just don't think you're doing yourself any good going into it so woefully unprepared that it takes you that long.

Right, indeed. It keeps me thin, keeps my blood pressure down, and it gives me the fitness to do other things...just like sitting in a chair does. People get sick after a marathon because on that particular day they've added a high level of physical stress that lowers immunity. Don't worry, they'll get better, and probably come back better for it (look up "training effect").

Do you have any evidence beyond the anecdotal that running is bad for your health?

I ran a marathon before and I can tell you there's no negative effect, aside from the obvious muscles soreness. OTOH, I can spend all day tell you about the benefits of training for and running a marathon.

For more running related books you should check out "Once a Runner" by John L. Parker Jr. [1], and "Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek [2].

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/1441800905 [2] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0544002318

Indeed, for me it was a page turner and inspiring.

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Read it twice now, absolutely fantastic.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Took me about five months and I already want to reread it. Brilliant masterpiece. Read it right after my friend's suicide and help me think about my own addiction to success.

Real World Haskell

This book has completely changed my view on programming. Also now I appreciate the whole functional paradigm concepts.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher. I was already heading in the direction of the books theme. Reading it though gave me the extra push and had some good ideas for making the necessary changes. Basically, getting enough sleep, exercise, gratitude, mental challenge, and bringing people you love and who love you closer are what he found to be keys to happiness. And I have to agree. I was even able to get back into programming, after experiencing severe burnout years ago, by setting my priorities in a like manner. Choose Yourself!

"Seeking Wisdom - From Darwin to Munger" - by Peter Bevlin

What struck me about this book is that it's a summary of insights about how to think better from some of the best thinkers ever (Munger to Twain to Einstein to Feynman).

If you're looking for more book recs, Farnam Street (blog dedicated to extracting wisdom from the best of what other people have figured out) is another great resource - http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/

Seeking Wisdom is very hard to come by, especially if you live outside the US. Any idea where it can be purchased online?

There are some listed on Amazon.com. Not sure if you can request international shipping on that or not though

I would say 3 books did it for me: 1. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott adams http://www.amazon.com/How-Fail-Almost-Everything-Still-ebook... 2. Choose Yourself! - James Altucher http://www.amazon.com/Choose-Yourself-James-Altucher-ebook/d... 3. Anti Fragile -Nassim Taleb http://www.amazon.com/Antifragile-Things-that-Gain-Disorder-... The first two as the names suggest are more on self-improvement and creating systems that increase the probability of long term success. The third one talks more about the things that gain from disorder thus increasing my understanding of how the world works.

Of all the books I read (or listened to) The Trauma of Everyday Life: A Guide to Inner Peace by Mark Epstein was the most life changing in that it made me more conscious of myself and my emotions, both of which I find difficult to understand.

Some other great ones:

The Neurobiology of We - Daniel Siegel (lots of stuff on interdependence here)

Zealot - Reza Aslan (a great book detailing the life of the man, Jesus of Nazareth)

1984 - George Orwell (I think very topical)

The Field - Lynne McTaggert (some "woo" but thought provoking)

I've read many great books but... "Bible", I think, had the greatest impact.

I am curious, impact How?

What could I say? The Bible won't teach you about software development, social/psychological/mind controlling techniques, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, astronomy, time management, quantum physics or s-f predictions. It will not help become "more successful". It's not even funny, it's rather boring and hard to read (especially historical books in the Old Testament). But I believe it's not less worthy of reading than all the "wise" books I have read. I assume you're not a Christian, but even then it tells the unique story of the nation and the religion, it's tragic and beautiful. But it is not mere historical book, it concerns spirituality and morality of the mankind. I believe it's much more valuable than any other knowledge and only such a wisdom can make a man happy. If you've an allergy to the "religious stuff", read some philosophers like Plato or Kant, I'm not assuming that the Bible has some kind of monopoly on wisdom ;) So to answer your question about the impact... I believe that Bible made me happier and better man or in the other words that "I've developed spiritually".

PS I agree with @juliend2 that New Testament is a better place to start, it's much more readable and less controversial.

Interesting. I was curious because how can the era which had slavery, didn't treat women equal to man and killed homosexuals could possibly teach something unique. There are bunch of atheist ethics philosophers who talk about good and bad. I read Practical Ethics by Peter singer and even left eating mammalian meat after that. And I totally realize that person who wrote Bible could not have possibly thought about these eternal truths(which are always evolving) :

1) Love people unconditionally without keeping them in shackles. 2) Males and females(of all races) as it turns out have equal right to learn, earn and decide. 3) Fuck conformity, think for yourself and accept who you are even if different. 4) Don't condemn people for their inborn nature because genetics! 5) Understand anything in the world(including humans) without bias.

1) Hmm. Do you claim that old books can teach you nothing unique? It would be sad. Of course, you can read some modern books about Plato, not read Plato at all and learn the same, but... These books were created in different times, I don't believe that any moral treatise could replace it. They're much more unique than any modern book.

2) What is the source of atheist ethics? Humean "Is–ought problem" AFAIK has not been plausibly resolved. I believe that Christians would agree with all the rules, maybe with some restrictions like: Think for yourself but don't think than you're smarter than other (especially God ;); Understand anything if it doesn't violate other laws.

is-ought problem is a false problem. Hume says u cannot derive an ought from an is. So if science tells us that a society which treats women as subordinates, kills homosexuals, inhibits dissenting opinions is not a healthy society, you saying we cannot say its not what we ought to strive for? And i guess you can see which sort of society I am hinting towards.

You've given a radical example. It's less obvious when you compare egoistic and altruistic attitudes, as in Gorgias. The evolution itself, as scientific theory, is blurring the border between good and "efficient" behavior. There must be some scientifically proved scoring rule for comparing "bad" and "good" societies, if science can tell us what is wrong. Otherwise it would not be a science ;) I don't claim that you're wrong, but it is very hard to preserve moral values in an atheistic ideology. Of course, you can identify "good" with "pleasant" or "increasing probability of reproduction", but IMHO it can't give you a proper view of morality. BTW your reasoning (why is-ought is false problem) didn't give ma a positive solution about source of the moral values in human actions.

I highly recommend 'Practical Ethics' by 'Peter Singer'. You will start seeing how you can apply critical thinking to various moral questions in life without clinging to any religious book. If there are facts to learn about human happiness then 'science' only(this includes economics, history, philosophy etc, basically all forms of rational discourse which are open to criticism and change) should suffice.

There is some good advice in Bible but there is lot of crap too and if you choose to cherry pick, its fine. Just keep in mind that your innate morals themselves are making you pick and choose. It was not written for a person in 21st century whose world is unfathomable for the Bible's author.

> I don't claim that you're wrong, but it is very hard to preserve moral values in an atheistic ideology

What do you mean by 'preserve'? Why can't moral values evolve overtime? At this moment, people eat mammalian meat happily without concerning about torture that those animals go through. I have no doubt that 100 years from now, people will look at this tradition similar to how we find slavery now. Slavery was so prevalent(and useful) that there seemed to be nothing 'wrong' with it. No surprise, that Bible didn't mention anything against it. But society evolved and soon it became something unthinkable. Some act which was not wrong, suddenly became very wrong. Similarly many moral values were not 'preserved'. I hope you see my point(literally and metaphorically).

I don't want to talk for the parent comment's author, but for me, the impact was spiritually. The Bible talks about God, his grace and his justice. It is really fascinating once you start digging into it. I highly recommend it. The new testament is a good starting point, IMO.

I must submit a third vote for Susan Cain's Quiet[1]. This book is a great revisitation (and arguably a more diplomatic treatment) of the topic of Anneli Rufus' 2003 book Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto[2]: introversion, lonerism, individualism, etc. While the latter - as its subtitle intimates - is far more geared toward introverts/loners, Cain's book is effectively an overview and comparison of both the inward as well as outgoing personality types.

For those who do not label themselves as loners or introverts I would recommend reading Quiet and perhaps skipping Party of One altogether. However, for the loner/introvert I would recommend Party of One as the prerequisite to Quiet.

[1] http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/

[2] http://www.annelirufus.com/partyofone/

Quien Fuckin Sabe by Patrick Carlin (brother of George). Lots of funny anecdotes and thoughts from someone who has lived a very full life.

Data Intensive Text Processing with MapReduce. It was a key reason I got my current job, which is my dream job at this point in my career.

Congrats. What job would that be (if you don't mind me asking) ?

The team description: The first part will focus on enhancements to core algorithmic, modeling, and optimization components. The second part of the work will focus on the data architecture that brings all the data we collect into the hands of all data consumers, so that we get the right data in the right place feeding the right algorithms in as many cases as possible.

We're hiring another 1-2 people for this team. Contact info in profile.

"The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty" by Peter Singer. After reading this I dramatically increased the amount of money that I donate and began supporting several new charities.

"Lying" by Sam Harris. This is really just a long essay, but it changed the way I think about communication. It convinced me that honesty really is the best policy.

> After reading this I dramatically increased the amount of money that I donate and began supporting several new charities.

I've been in a dilemma for years about this. I look at the world and how systemically fucked up it is for so many people, and feeding the charity machine seems so indirect and ineffective. Although I do acknowledge that charities probably do improve peoples' lives in a band-aid sense.

As old as I am, I'm still emotionally a teenager and would like to figure out a way to wipe out war and poverty and intolerance. I wish I knew ...

Singer's book talks about finding and supporting effective charities. Here's one I now support that seems pretty direct: https://www.fistulafoundation.org

It also made me rethink what I am doing with my life/career. Is creating apps for well-off people with iPads the best use of my time? Is getting rich and donating most of your wealth a good strategy? What's the biggest problem I can personally solve?

I'm still trying to figure it out.

One group that's spending some attention to this is 80,000 Hours, a group that Peter Singer recommended. They are researching and advising people on how to do as much good as possible through their careers.

There are quite a few people doing "Earning to Give", or earning as much money as possible and giving away 10-60% of it to the most efficient known causes. One can do quite a bit of good this way, it's actually quite difficult compete in the direct work you do.

Disclaimer: I'm currently doing an internship here. Think their take is quite unique in this way though. http://80000hours.org/blog

Steven Pressfield's 'The War of Art' helped me view my own work in a new light and get shit done by removing my ego from the outcome. It's very complimentary to modern startup ethos in that it is better to focus on the art of production than to become mired in the outcome of one attempt.

Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos by Peter M. Hoffmann

Just an amazing book giving what seems like the secret details how of the world works at a physical level.

"Thus, the nanoscale is truly special. Only at the nanoscale is the thermal energy of the right magnitude to allow the formation of complex molecular structures and assist the spontaneous transformation of different energy forms (mechanical, electrical, chemical) into one another. Moreover, the conjunction of energy scales allows for the self-assembly, adaptability, and spontaneous motion needed to make a living being. The nanoscale is the only scale at which machines can work completely autonomously. To jump into action, nanoscale machines just need a little push. And this push is provided by thermal energy of the molecular storm."

"At the nanoscale, nothing can escape the molecular storm. As Astumian and Hänggi point out, every molecular machine in our bodies is hit by a fast-moving water molecule about every 10−13 seconds. Each collision delivers on average 4.3 × 10−21 joules of energy (the energy is determined by the product of Boltzmann’s constant and body temperature measured in degree Kelvin). This translates into an average power input of more than 10−8 watts. Remember that a molecular machine generates only about 10−16 watts in power."

"Where do molecules obtain the needed activation energy? From the molecular storm! The impetus needed to make it across the transition state is provided by small, fast molecules (typically water molecules) fortuitously colliding with the reacting molecules to give them the right push. If lucky, the push causes the molecules to snap into their new shapes. Of course, not every colliding water molecule will have enough energy or hit the reacting molecules in the right way. Chemical reactions take time— we have to wait for the right push to come along, and the higher the activation energy needed, the more time it takes, as higher-energy collisions are much less frequent than low-energy collisions."

I read a lot of books this year, a lot that were great. But the one that gave me a stronger impression in my real life and the future of it is Accelerando, from Charles Stross (you can read it here http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/fiction/accelera... or buy it from amazon).

The always increasing rate of change in technology, from a close and foreseable future to a not so far away but almost not recognizable one made me rethink how fast are things changing now, and how much they will change pretty soon. Probably we won't get "there", but got the impression that a lot will change the next 1, 5 and 10 years.

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of The Thing One Sees, on Robert Irwin's life: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0520256093?tag=morgasuthe-20

Many lessons in discipline, joy, and taking time to see.

Software development related reads with a strong focus on proven practices that enhance software quality in terms of readability and maintainability (and other software ~ilities) to ease the process of changing the software later on.

The Art of Readable Code by Dustin Boswell & Trevor Foucher

Don't Make Me Think 2ed by Steve Krug

Remote: Office not Required by Jason Fried & DHH

The Art of Unit Testing by Roy Osherove

Code Complete 2 by Steve McConnell

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler

The Practice of Programming by Brian Kernighan & Rob Pike

JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford

Code Simplicity by Max Kanat-Alexander

An Introduction to Programming in Go by Caleb Doxsey at http://www.golang-book.com/

Also read: How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

The Art of Unit Testing by Roy Osherove is indeed amazing.

Thanks to it I now write much better unit tests, and as a result of removed frustration I do it much more often.

I've listened to a few books this year (Audible saves me time), but I read/listened to a book that actually changed my life in the summer of 2012 (close enough). I had wanted to become an entrepreneur, but then I read The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco. He described some of the things that I really don't want to do deal with: hiring non-engineer employees, using the services of lawyers, marketing, and other business responsibilities. It wasn't that I hadn't heard these themes before, but he said it in a way that made me recognize what I don't want. I just want to be a great engineer. I didn't give up on a dream; I found a better one.

Ready Player One and The Postmortal were really rad.

I'll 2nd Ready Player One as a great book. It and The Sentinels by James Layton were my two favorite reads this year.

Looks like I get to be the first one to throw out a fiction book:

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson.

I remember reading two pieces of the book from an anthology many moons ago; how did it affect you? Is it because it's a book about a young man's discovery of his sexual yearnings or a the zeitgeist of the life of the adults around him? Thanks, I'd like to very much read it.

Definitely the latter: to be honest, I wasn't super drawn to the protagonist (it's kind of set up as a bildungsroman, which isn't bad or anything but I think I'm past the point in my life where that stuff is super-applicable) but more the overall depiction of adult life in the town. There's a pervading sense of loneliness (or, more accurately, lonesomeness) and how that affects the town as a whole.

All in all, I thought it was pretty modern stuff considering the settings.

Bill Walsh - The Score Takes Care of Itself

Seconded. I listened to the audiobook about a year ago and am ready to listen to it again - and I never do that.

Non-fiction: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb was very good. Reminded me of Hayek's deep insight into chaotic, organic systems (e.g. human interaction systems). Also helped me to find out what direction I should take after my own book (http://www.nationbydesign.com)

Fiction: re-read Milan Kundera's Immortality and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Still lifetime favourites after all these years.

Quiet by Susan Cain The Art of Meditation by Mathieu Ricard (I've read it in French, though)

The first changed profoundly how I view myself, the second shows me how I can improve.

"The design of Everyday things" Donald A. Normann

Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation. http://www.amazon.com/Red-Thread-Thinking-Connections-Profit... The Author Debra Kaye, presents market driven innovation and product development in a way that is engaging and fascinating.

The pattern on the stone by Daniel Hillis changed the way I look at computing and software. It is just simple book, but explains the computers in the initial pages using sticks and stones, in all seriousness and leads the reader to appreciate how the "principles" of the machine we use is no different than built using stick and stone. This outlook changed the way, I look at computers.

I read every short story written by Ted Chiang. His science fiction stories are, for me, the best I've read. As a biologist, I especially enjoyed "72 letters" (http://web.archive.org/web/20020202192832/http://www.tor.com...).

For me, there were two books that I consider complementary: Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

The power of habit is amazing - thanks to it I am finally getting fit - managed to make it from 60 to 180 pounds on the benchpress in two months just by creating a habit of getting to the gym.

Also I have now a cleaner desk.

That's really great!

"Types and Programming Languages" by Benjamin C. Pierce "Principles of Program Analysis" by Nielson, Nielson, Hankin

No More Mr Nice Guy. Dr Glover. I met this book thinking it was a self help book related to the the downsides to seeking approval in our personal lives, but I was surprised by the positive impact on my work also. I became a more assertive manager, stopped seeking approval in various 'David Brent'ish ways, and ultimately become a better manager.

Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His other books Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan are more accessible - all incredibly great discussions of risk, probability, complex systems such as the global financial and banking industries, and how many attempts at risk modeling fail to recognize important unpredictable "black swan" events.

tldr version of his books: stuff can happen that you don't expect

The point is that these things are much more likely to occur than you'd like to think, not that you don't expect it.

Might not be a very popular theme here, but I'm an active investor/speculator. Michael Covel's book - "Trend Following" was a eye opener. http://www.amazon.com/Trend-Following-Updated-Edition-Millio...

Thanks for all the great recommendations I’ve compiled a list of the books mentioned in this post, non-fiction and then fiction by author. Apologies in advance for any I missed.


For me, the book that instantly jumps to mind is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Nothing else I've read – let alone this year – comes anywhere even close to having had such an impact on me.

Yet, the more I think about specifically “how it's changed my life” the more I'm finding it devilishly difficult to either qualify or quantify.

It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it's almost as-if the book was written for me. I'd say I'm nothing if not a dreamer so it really speaks to what I want to believe about life, namely that I can do with it what I want.

For years, I've been mulling over a business idea in my mind. I'd finally put the fear of failure to bed before but the book has since given me a previously evasive confidence that I can do something extraordinary if I dedicate my life to it.

It's full of ideals like: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” and other great notions which will never leave me.

Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts if you've read it too because this has turned into something of a stream of conciousness and I'm not entirely sure I'm making much sense any more.

Mastery by Robert Greene is one I mentioned in another post. I don't want to say its life changing but its extremely good and it's the closest thing I've found to a self help book that isn't full of fluff. Edit "Who owns the future" by Jarron Lanier was good too.

I don't think there's just a single book that changed my life, however there's this one book that changed my perspective on procrastination and personal productivity. And being more productive can be pretty life changing IMHO. The book's name is The Now Habit, BTW.

None sadly.

2013 was a bit of a write-off in terms of books for me. Didn't read enough & encountered nothing truly great. I'm thankfully well read compared to my peers so it doesn't show - but deep down I know it was a bit of a screw-up. Oh well...kindle is charged for now/2014.

Not a book, but a blog: Kevin Simler's exploration of consciousness, sacred experiences, and the sociological underpinnings of religion has turned my rationalist materialist perspective inside-out.


Check out Ken Wilber as well.

Will do, thanks.

thanks, looks intriguing, something to look forward for 2014.

I never really thought that reading psychology books by PhDs would change your outlook on your own life. Turns out, they seem to have PhDs for a reason. This one made a big impact:

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World

I'm jealous of all you reading some useful sounding books. Every time I try anymore, I lose focus or start falling asleep :P. Anyone else have this issue and any suggestions? Coffee doesn't work - I've tried.

Maybe you have ADD [serious]. During the school year, I can't focus on reading even 5 pages of textbook. It's only after I started taking adderall could I blaze through 100s of pages per day.

I'm able to program for hours straight - just books knock me out for some reason. Even ones I want to read.

I _have_ to choose between:

Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us and Daring greatly by Brene Brown

I think Daring greatly will be the winner, since it has had the biggest influence on how I run my business and where I am going in the future.

The short story "Runaway" by Alice Munro. Alice Munro is very good at depicting the complex emotions of people in a relationship. This story has given me insight about my own relationship.

The Phoenix Project - Gene Kim Necronomicon - Neil Stephenson

Cryptonomicon(no snark intended)? I read that book this year too and it was definitely a great read. It's aged really well.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Game changing. Humans are creatures of habit, and we need to be able to recognize these habits to successfully control them

Mindstorms by Seymour Papert

How Children Fail by John Holt

These books literally changed what I was doing with my life. Both are about how children (and thus people) learn.

"I Am A Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter. I read GEB many years ago, and this book focuses more on applying those ideas to thinking.

1. Think and Grow Rich - by Napolean Hill

2. Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story - by Arnold Schwarzenegger

3. The Motivation Hacker - by Nick Winter.

If I were to choose one that benefitted me the most, directly, I would pick "33 Strategies of War" by Robert Greene.

Care to elaborate? Fan of Robert Greene's work (his Interviews With Masters is free on kindle for a bit: http://www.amazon.com/Interviews-Masters-Companion-Greenes-M...)

Its density and breadth took me by surprise. He does a great job analyzing various wars, battles, political campaigns, career trajectories and finding common themes among them all. The book, ultimately, is about the importance of balanced strategy, and how it has been applied and should be applied in the the real world.

I've heard people compare it to Art of War, but that comparison is not proper. This book is driven by Greene's interpretation of actual historical events and literature (Art of War is indeed heavily quoted).

I think this quote by Helmuth von Moltke in the book describes the book's motivation best:

> [Strategy] is more than a science: it is the application of knowledge to practical life, the development of thought capable of modifying the original guiding idea in the light of ever-changing situations; it is the art of acting under the pressure of the most difficult conditions.

"The Long Emergency", James Kunstler (2005). Surviving the converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century.

Collected Poems ~ federico garcía lorca

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco

The Mars Trilogy ... it made me come to closer to hard science fiction than ever before ...

The Master Key System by Ruth Miller and Charles F Hannel

Life changing book. Helped every facet of my life.

Ipad app won't let me edit but i wanted to add "On writing well" by William Zinsser. What a book!

'Riders in The Chariot', by Patrick White!!

Big bulking book, worth every minute you put into it.

"The Box" Marc Levinson

AntiFragile - Nassim Taleb

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital, by Carlota Perez

Siddartha - Herman Hesse

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

A Course in Miracles

Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge, 2007

Random review - http://boingboing.net/2007/11/28/vinges-brilliant-rai.html

Fiction, near future. Not a biggie but an easy read and changed my opinion on possible futures.

Rainbows End is great. It pretty much predicts wearable computing and Google Glass. I'd recommend reading just about anything from Vinge as he's got a lot of great ideas.

Fooled By Randomness

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