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Ask HN: Which book are you reading these days?
211 points by pmcpinto on Apr 9, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 388 comments
I'm finishing the Art of War by Sun Tzu and I'm looking for some book suggestions, so I'm curious to know which books are being read by the members of the HN community.

"Metallurgy of Steel for Bladesmiths & Others who Heat Treat and Forge Steel" by John Verhoeven http://www.feine-klingen.de/PDFs/verhoeven.pdf An interesting technical introduction to metallurgy, without being overly tedious. Congratulations to the author, for what sounds like it could be a dry subject. I am pleasantly surprised by how ignorant I was about such a common everyday material, and about the fascinating changes that take place in the crystal structure of steel with mere temperature changes. I've got no plans to forge steel, or make blades, but found this book very good so far (although I have been interested in metalworking in general lately).

"Basic Lathework" by Stan Bray. This is the best of the beginning lathe books that I've been reading recently, covering the parts of the machine and accessories, techniques, and cutting tools. Very minimal pre-requisites.

"Metals in the Service of Man" by Arthur Street and William Alexander. A very light read about industrially useful metals, a little history about them, and their uses.

"Measurement" by Paul Lockhart. I finally got this book after reading his "A Mathematicians Lament" from a while back. https://www.maa.org/external_archive/devlin/LockhartsLament....

"How Round is Your Circle" by John Bryant and Chris Sangwin. Just started this, but it sounds interesting, the pictures are intriguing, and it pushes a lot of my "interesting" buttons.

The Metallurgy book sounds very interesting, definitely going to check it out. Along those lines, but I think much more simplistic, is a book I just read called "Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World" -- one chapter each devoted to a common everyday material. You may like that one based on why you liked the Metallurgy book.

"How Round is Your Circle" is awesome. I finished that and immediately lost a huge amount of time investigating all the papers referenced by them, and reading on planimeters and measurement theory. I still have to get a copy of "Measurement" by Lockhart though.

I'm reading Measurement currently. It's a great book and if I'd been taught math like this when I was younger I'd be a math major right now.

That metallurgy book looks awesome! I just picked up my blacksmithing hobby again recently, so this is very timely. Thanks!

Thanks, looks interesting.

I'm almost done with The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error: http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Understanding-Human-Error/...

It's a brilliant book written by Sidney Dekker, a "Professor of Human Factors and Flight Safety". The basic point is that the default way of understanding bad outcomes is what he calls "the Old View or the Bad Apple Theory". He instead argues for the New View, where "human error is a symptom of trouble deeper inside a system".

Normally with a book like this, I read the first couple of chapters, say, "Ok, I get the idea," and can ignore the rest. After all, I both agree with and understand the basic thesis. But so far every chapter has been surprisingly useful; I keep discovering that I have Old View notions hidden away. E.g., when I discover a systemic flaw, I'm inclined to blame "bad design". But he points out that's a fancy way of calling the problem human error, just a different human and a different error than normal.

Even the driest parts are helped by his frequent use of examples, often taken from real-world aviation accident reports. There are also fascinating bits like a system for high-resolution markup of dialog transcripts to indicate timing (down to 1/10th second), speech inflection, and emphasis. I'll never use it myself, but I will definitely use the mindset that it requires.

Given how much time software projects spend dealing with bugs, I believe we need a new way to think about them, and for me this book describes a big piece of that.

You'll probably like Thinking Fast... and Slow. By Daniel Kahneman. It's all about how the mind works and why errors in judgement/logic happen.

It probably has nothing to do with it, but as I was reading your post it sounded very similar to the typical Hegelian approach to history and societies.

Huge +1. This is one of the best and most informative books about engineering process I've ever read.

The numerous real-world examples from airplane crash investigation also help put into perspective the relative unimportance of the "critical bugs" and "extreme pressure" most of us building the kinds of products discussed on HN actually experience.

Greg Egan renewed my faith in Science Fiction. I just finished reading Diaspora, and I am now a fan. It's an incredibly well thought out extrapolation of the future of the human race, much less phantasmagorical and much more grounded in science than pretty much every other SF I know of, while still going off into mind-bending tangents.

I think the most common critique of his work might be about the occasional digressions on physics. It's undeniable that they make the book a bit dense, but in fact, he appears to have restrained himself to keep it readable and entertaining, instead publishing the actual hairy details on his website:


PS: I'd like to thank HN for making me discover this author. Now I'm keeping with the tradition!

Diaspora and Permutation City put totally new questions in my head.

If consciousness is only a series of states in your brain, does it matter what the order of running that sequence is? In Permutation City there is an experiment where brain states are played back backwards or in a random order, but to the person perceiving it, it seems like just business as usual.

I always assumed that after my brain is destroyed there would be just nothingness. But maybe if the "next state" will again exist some time in the future (or past?) from my perspective it will still be a totally continuous experience. Death might seem like just a bad dream.

He plays a lot with this stuff. In Diaspora consciousness is just a piece of software. Since this software can be run at a much higher speed than wetware can, each moment of real time seems much longer to the uploaded. But when they want to, for example when waiting for an interstellar trip to complete, they can "skip forward" and let the brain emulator run them at a much slower pace to make the trips more bareable.

I thought running a consciousness backwards or in random order would be as far as he goes, but in Diaspora they even go a step further, having every state be a completely separate structure in a completely separate universe. The book assumes that to the participants even that would seem like a continuous experience.

It really makes me question what I really am, how malleable is this "me"?

Wow, thanks for taking the time to put into words one of the main aspects that make these books so powerful. At first, there is a strange anguish in being immersed in a world where human minds are just programs, and consciousness seems to be a feature emerging from their structure. Especially when they must consider the possibility of modifying and forking themselves or transferring themselves from one medium to another, one can't help but think, "No, my consciousness couldn't possibly work like that, it's too special".

But as the book progresses, you get more and more comfortable with this universe, and with the fact the your consciousness could work like that. You learn to be at peace with this conception of the mind, and this feeling of peace is the main element that stuck with me after Diaspora. I suppose this may also pervade other works that belong to the vague cyberpunk genre.

> If consciousness is only a series of states in your brain, does it matter what the order of running that sequence is?

I liked Permutation City, but I regard it as something of a cognitive hazard because it's not obvious which parts are realistic and which parts aren't unless you have a fairly specialized background. The above is something that wouldn't actually work, for the simple reason that the later states depend on the earlier ones, so you can't calculate them without first calculating the earlier states.

Yeah, Egan's "Dust Theory FAQ" page discusses some of the philosophical problems with the novel. http://gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au/PERMUTATION/FAQ/FAQ... (contains spoilers)

Incidentally, his answer to Q6 on that list inspired a more recent story, "Crystal Nights": http://ttapress.com/553/crystal-nights-by-greg-egan/

Yes, this bothered me as well when reading Permutation City. But for the sake of argument, say we posit infinite computation (let's not worry about how that's possible), then would that objection still apply? Then it seems not all that necessary that the states are in order, but just that they exist at some point, regardless of mechanism.

Yeah, if you liked diaspora then permutation city will have you picking your jaw up off the floor in a similar manner. Schild's Ladder is the third in the unofficial trilogy (he denies any connection, but I definitely reckon they form a nice trio) and it's pretty hardcore: lots of quantum mechanics and graph theory actually driving the plot.

A fascinating thing about diaspora: if you read reviews of it, opinion is split between those who see it as a story about nerd-heaven, which to me is how egan wrote it, and those who see it as a dystopia, basically a vision of hell. Apparently to a lot of people, the book reads like pitch-dark satire. I'm guessing there aren't so many of those people here.

EDIT: Bonus scott aaronson quantum conciousness essays! Wooooo! Egan fans will like these:



Do you recommend reading this trilogy in any particular order? I noticed that Permutation City was written before Diaspora.

If you read them in the order they were written, you will also be reading them in chronological order of their setting, if that makes sense. They are specifically not set in the same universe, but they portray different stages of posthuman development, so I think that would be a good way to read them. You can see the development of egan's own thinking along the way. Also this is ordering by increasing weirdness/hardness of ideas, which is probably a good idea too.

That being said, I read disapora first, then permutation city, and that was fine.

I really loved Containment, one where the human race woke up one day to find that the stars had disappeared because the solar system had been placed in a huge container.

I loved how humanity reacted to having their horizons limited, but in an unexpected but potentially reversible way.

Greg Egan's stories always ask really great what-if questions. I think about them long after I read them. I'd actually forgotten that permutation cities was where those interesting ideas about consciousness came from.

I've been reading his short story collections and I'm very pleased with them.

Just bought it on Amazon for $2.99 and $1.99 audio included. Thanks, your first sentence was enough.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, and I'm loving it. Some parts are funny, some are dry, and some are truly mind-blowing. As someone who loves wordplay, self-reference, and multiple layers of meaning, this book is like crack. Every chapter surprises me with something new. Its reputation is well-deserved.

I've had that book for over 10 years, but haven't read more than a chapter of it. I should give it another try.

It took me doing a reading group to get through that one. That was more my fault than the book, but GEB is real work, and having a number of people involved definitely helped me stick through the parts where I might have wandered off for brain candy.

I think it took me four tries before I finally read it all the way through. Eventually the text on formal systems becomes quite heavy and that's where I stopped in my previous tries... once I got past that hump it was downhill all the way. Highly worth the effort; one of the best books I've ever read.

I'm in the same boat. It certainly isn't easy to digest, light reading, but some of the initial ideas seem very interesting.

It's definitely fantastic, and one of the books that had the greatest influence on my thinking (I read it as a teenager, 20+ years ago).

If you want something less theoretical, more personal, poetic and emotional, his "Le ton beau de Marot" (English, despite the title) is also fabulous. He takes a short poem and translates it a hundred different ways, all the while musing about what "translation" means (literal, conveying the same emotion, using the same metaphors, between cultures...) as well as about thought, language and meaning more generally. And then, while he writes the book, his wife gets a brain tumor and dies, and the book becomes part of his mourning.

Great book. I haven't read his more recent I am a Strang Loop. For people who have read it, is it worth the plunge?

I am a Strange Loop elaborates on the ideas from GEB, while also being more personal (which GEB definitely isn't). Some people I knew thought it was repetitive, less enjoyable, and less artistic than GEB. In some ways I agree with those criticisms. But if you want to know more about how self-reference actually leads to consciousness and more about Hofstadter the person I recommend it.

Yeah, it's much more concrete about his consciousness ideas and definitely got me thinking about a lot of things.

I see this book lauded on HN frequently. Would it be interesting/understandable for someone who doesn't have a CS background but has an interest in CS?

There is very little "hard CS" in the book, though there are references to programming. It's more about formal systems. If you're a CS major you may find these things easier to grasp, since you can draw analogies to finite state automata, recursion, the halting problem, etc. But a CS degree is by no means required to enjoy the book.

This book is very interesting. It is taking me eons to read because of its density, but it is well worth it.

I have this weird habit where if I sit and read too much about the same topic, I have trouble retaining all of the information I just read. So, I find I can retain everything better if I read small amounts from multiple books. I sit with a stack of a few books and read chapter out of each. Weird, I know. Here's my current stack:

* The C++ Programming Language, 4th Edition (Bjarne Stroustrup)

* Effective Modern C++: 42 Specific Ways to Improve Your Use of C++11 and C++14 (Scott Meyers)

* Interactive Computer Graphics: A Top-Down Approach with WebGL (7th Edition) (Edward Angel & Dave Schreiner)

* Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture (David Kushner)

* Neuromancer (William Gibson)

I most recently finished:

* Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them (Cynthia Shapiro)

* C++ for dinosaurs (Nick Economidis)

I am highly anticipating the final(?) book of the Ender's Game Series by Orson Scott Card titled Shadows Alive.

I just learned about and probably will buy:

* The Denial of Death (Ernest Becker)

Masters of Doom I read recently and devoured it in about two days. I am apparently starved for stories like that. I don't even like video games!

Have you read:

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

by Steven Levy?


Artificial Life is also great and has a kind of similar feel to it too.

Exactly like me! :) I couldn't put it down to save my life.

I thought for sure I was the only person who hops between 5 books at a time. I'm reading:

* Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software (Eric Evans)

* F# Deep Dives (Tomas Petricek and Phillip Trelford)

* PostgreSQL: Up and Running AND PostGIS in Action, 2nd Edition (both by Regina O. Obe and Leo S. Hsu)

I'm eyeballing Purely Functional Data Structures by Chris Okasaki (1999) and a few others for after I finished the Postgres books.

Loved Masters of Doom. I reread that one every once in a while as sort of reminder. It's an easy enough read that rereading it is fun.

You're probably downvoted because of the multiple mentions of C++. If you'd mentioned Haskell, you would be upvoted.

haha thank you, I was scratching my head as to the downvotes. HN is weird. I do recognize that it's difficult to maintain a healthy online community, and that if you forced people to comment when downvoting, you still don't necessarily get constructive criticism.

s/Haskell/today's new JS framework/ ?

> s/Haskell/today's new JS framework/ ?

Or vim. Any books on neovim yet?

Why would there be a book on neovim? It's just vim with a different plugin system allowing you to create plugins from any language via rpc and improved architecture right?


Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan. He is most famous for remarking that "the medium is the message."

The media we use influence the way we think, the way we act, the political narrative of our times, etc. by placing limits and incentives on the messages we convey through those media. As an easy example, consider Twitter: you cannot have a coherent and intellectually involved conversation on Twitter. If Twitter were our only method, or main method, of communication, that property would drastically shape public discourse.

As technologists, we are developing the communications media of the future; it is imperative that we take on this task responsibly by first reflecting on the design and effects of media from the past.

I also read some of his books. He does make a great introduction to the topic of media philosophy.

If you're interested in his topic, you might want to read some books of Vilem Flusser. "Post-History" and "Does Writing Have a Future" are great texts which I think are highly relevant to computer scientists like me. Sadly, Flusser is almost unknown to people not taking classes in philosophy. I would never have read any text of him without taking philosophy as my minor subject ^^

Audiobooks I have Read Recently: (Sanderson is Awesome)

  * The Reckoners #1/#2
  * Stormlight Archive #1/#2
  * Mistborn #1/#2/#3
  * Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures As the World's Most Wanted Hacker
Digital Books:

  * How to Win Friends and Influence People
  * Malazon Book #1
  * The Forever War
  * The Martian
Things on my List:

  * Think and Grow Rich
  * Watership Down
  * Rainbows End
  * Snow Crash
  * What is Zen
  * Wool: Silo
  * Founders at Work
  * Light Bringer
  * Hyperion
  * The War of Art
  * Atlas Shrugged
  * The Demon Haunted World
  * Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
  * Joe Abercrombie's books
  * Rich Dad Poor Dad
  * Founders at Work
  * Fear the Sky
  * Daemon -- EDIT ADDED

Things I recommend:

  * All of Brandon Sanderson's Books
  * The Kingkiller Chronicles
  * How to Win Friends and Influence People
  * Issac Asimov's short stories and Foundation series
  * The Forever War
  * Gentleman Bastards
  * Ready Player One
  * The Martian
  * A Wizard of Earthsea
EDIT: Short Reading I Recommend:

  * http://www.multivax.com/last_question.html

If I can jump in... I'm a third of the way through Hyperion, and it's very interesting. It's Science Fiction that causes one to think.

Atlas Shrugged is an important intellectual work whether you agree with the philosophy or not. It's a long slog, but worth reading to understand the people who follow it. It will just take a long long time. I read it when I was doing regular coast to coast flights.

The Demon Haunted World is vintage Sagan. Very well worth readying, though as an HN member it's probably preaching to the choir.

I have tried Hyperion a few times but I find it a little too slow and I give up. One of these days I will get to it. Thanks for the input!

It is slow - perhaps because it covers deeper content and ideas? I generally read it on the exercise bike in the morning. :-) I do think it's very Literary science fiction, which may be what pulls down the pacing.

Can someone enlighten me about how to read the Foundation series? Do you read them in the order of publication or the chronology of the story?

I think order of publication. The last books were a sort of prequel and written accordingly.

Amazing series!

Read the first three in publication order. Not sure how to reas after that as I stopped reading on the forth book as I found it dull, although I may pick it back up one day.

I read in order of publication! Seemed to work well.

I read Foundation, then the two prequels, then everything else by publication date. I remember this working well, but this was around 20 years ago :)

The Martian... Just wow! I got totally hooked!

And a book I would recommend to you is Enders Game and the following ones... They are just great!

Enders game was a good read. I could never get into anything after that though.

Scifi wise I would like to add Metagame by Sam Landstrom to the mix. It is a relatively recent and enjoyable dystopian story about a gamified future. I liked all of your recommendations that I know, so I will probably try some of the others.

It looks like you have pretty similar taste to mine, what did you think of Malazon #1? Would you continue the series? I've seen lots of conflicting reviews...

I also saw conflicting reviews and have since stopped the series. Its not bad, but I find it really hard to get into. I may pick the series up at a later date.

Add "Deamon" by Daniel Suarez to your list.

I really enjoyed the Daemon series. In a similar vein, you might want to try William Hertling's Avogadro Corp.series.

Added thanks!


I read all those books! You read the Dune series too?

Also on my list but I missed it. Thanks for brining it up!

"Quantum Computing since Democritus" by Scott Aaronson. This book makes me wish I was cool enough to understand everything in it. But still, it does a very good job at connecting the high level bits, and letting you skip over proof sketches if necessary.

He is connecting quantum computing, computability, computational complexity, foundations of mathematics, probability, crypto, philosophy, and a bunch of other things I haven't gotten to yet. All the deep stuff -- but it's not pretentious or tedious at all.

Scott Aaronson is a great writer and lucid thinker. I got hooked from the preface alone.

Thank you for your suggestion! I love this type of books. Looks very interesting, although not easy at all :)

"Guns of August", Barbara Tuchman

I am particularly interest in rereading it and paying particular attention to the question of judgement and how poor judgements were formed. World War 1 is notable for its poor judgements. This interest is sparked by my recently listening to [1], which was very enlightening.

The essential question in our field often is not how fast we work, but if we're working on tasks worthy of attention - in other words, we have to judge the systems and features and determine what brings us the best outcomes. I've had some number of technically successful projects that were nulls when released. Avoiding that is part of significant improvement for me going forward.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFcHX0Menno , "Stranger than Fiction Case Studies in Software Engineering Judgment" Steve McConnell

If you haven't read it already, Tuchman's The March of Folly continues the same theme, but as the consequences of the limits of humans and our institutions played out in a few other historical settings. Not as good as Guns of August, but still worth reading

1984, George Orwell. I'm enjoying it. It's bleak and scary and messes with your mind. The only think I dislike is that the overall mood is "look at how wrong this is". I was expecting a more detached and unemotional description of the setting, where all the "wrongness" would be creeping up in back of the reader's mind.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, Simon Blackburn. Not enjoying it. It is a well written book, and reads easilly, but it's way of explaining the themes is just not good. It's long-winded, goes back and forth between the philosophers and the analogies are not very good. Maybe I'm too used to technical books, but I was expecting something like "Theme X. This is what philosopher A thinks of it. This is what philosopher B thinks of it. This is how these theories clash". Probably gonna drop it.

Programming in Lua, Roberto Ierusalimschy. The first programming language book I bought since college. IMO, Lua is the most well-designed and beautiful language yet (from the one I know). The book is clear, concise, full of examples and it is simply a treat to read.

Regarding your critique of 1984, try Brave New World if you haven't already. I think it fits your expectations of the dystopian genre much better.

You may also like Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" [1]. Orwell asserted that Huxley ripped it off for Brave New World, but Huxley said that he had never heard of it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_%28novel%29

I read this as part of a science fiction class back in college. It was amazing and well thought out!

I've read it in about 10 years ago, in my teens. It's funny because I've always thought that the Orwellian dystopia was a bit far-fetched, and the Huxleyan dystopia was much closer. Reading 1984, I feel like we're nearing both at the same time!

Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us: http://www.nedhardy.com/wp-content/uploads/images/2011/may/h...

I usually read more than book at once.

«Ready Player One», Ernest Cline -- Because all my friends read it and I've to.

«What is to go to war», Karl Marlantes -- After learning about it in a podcast, very interesting.

«Los enemigos del comercio, II», Escohotado -- Slowing progressing through it, full of footnotes and amazing stories about all the attempts of communism and socialism. Nearly clinical dissection of the original texts and sources.

«The windup girl», Paolo Bacigalupi -- Harsh, hot, cruel, realistic and futuristic. I'm enjoying it a lot.

Stories of Your Life and Others is a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. The stories explore wildly different topics, but every one of them is amazing.

Someone on HN had recommended The Box by Marc Levinson. It's a history of the shipping container. That sounds dreadfully prosaic, but the book is well written and the shipping container's influence on our modern global economy cannot be overstated.

Not reading per se, but Dan Carlin's WWI podcasts on the Hardcore History blog are well worth listening to. http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/

I didn't realize until the other day that DC isn't even at the point where the US enters the war yet. I've got a long way to go!

Love Ted Chiang!

I just read Andy Weir's The Martian in one day -- it was (obviously) fantastic. I highly recommend it.

Freaky. I'm reading this on another tab in this very browser session. Did you by any chance have any involvement in a recent /r/kerbalspaceprogram thread? Or is this just crazy coincidence?

Just a coincidence! I bought the book a few weeks ago but didn't pick it up until I was finished with something else.

One of the best books I read in 2013, hugely enjoyable and very funny. Was also lucky to get the 99p Kindle self published one before he got picked up by a publisher.

I remember seeing that deal. Should have jumped on it then but forgot about it. Then I saw the book at an airport news stand and grabbed it...glad it got picked up by a publisher!

The publisher made a few small edits too. The last scene of the book was completely cut out ('are you out of your fucking mind?').

Treasure your original edition.

Just finished The Martian last month...any recommendations to follow it with..so many choices in this thread

Second that, reading this right now what a great book!

Best book i've read in a decade

Reading this too, loving it so far!

I recently read 'The Lean Startup' and 'The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy'. I would recommend both books.

I think 'The Lean Startup' is not just a good read for startups in the usual sense; it's also a great advise on how to handle personal projects.

With regards to 'The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy' I think the stoic view of life is great and fits well into our western mindset while still being somewhat 'zen' like. I plan to read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations at some point since it's a bit like a diary of a stoic.

I will soon start with 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage'[0] which was recommended in a previous HN thread.


[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorless_Tsukuru_Tazaki_and_Hi...

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on Marcus Aurelius. I read the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy and moved on to Seneca next.

Can't recommend "Meditations" highly enough, it is a great read. The first part takes a little bit of discipline to get through (at least, for me it did), but stick with it if it puts you off, it gets better. You should check out Seneca and Epictetus as well.

I'm usually reading two books at once, one technical I read in the evening, and another one I read in bed before sleep, usually fiction.

The current technical one is Functional Programming in Scala: http://manning.com/bjarnason/ which is awesome.

The non technical one, after a few books by Vernor Vinge, is Metro 2033. I'm halfway through it and it's a good read. It's kinda weird, a postapocalyptic novel with some mysticism mixed in.

Also, thanks to everyone who answered the question, my reading list is now long enough to last me a year or two!

Quiet by Susan Cain, great book about introversion and why we have the "Extrovert Ideal". It's really fascinating to see how introverts have their qualities and how

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance - Robert Pirsig: Fantastic book that talks about philosophy in a new way and goes deeper into discovering what's "Quality" and what are the main 2 ways of interacting/reading the world around us.

Adam Smith, theory of moral sentiments: Just began the book under ryan holiday advice, but can't really say more about it.

Game of thrones, 1st volume, I suppose this book doesn't need any explanation :)

Read Zen back in the day. On the surface, it's simplistic but once you gain an understanding of where Pirsig is going, it is amazingly complex. Its definitely not light reading. It takes some real concerted effort but, in the end, it's worth it.

Yep, I'm listening to the audiobook. Being a non-native english it's a nice work.

At first I bought the book thanks to many suggestions but didn't realize it was a philosophical book, it is sure training me to new levels of listening and concentration.

Sometimes I end up relistening to a part because I just didn't follow it enough closely.

I'm in the middle of "Quiet" right now and have tried to read TMS on and off over the years. I could really go for a reading group on this if you know a few other people who are interested and/or local to SF.

Too bad I'm from italy :) (although I'll be in SF for a trip next week ;) )

Can you help me understand why Quiet is a good read? It's been recommended to me before but it just keeps on getting bumped on the backlog.

Many people already joined in with great comments, but I'll also add mine.

For now Quiet seems more about getting to appreciate the differences between introverts and extroverts and how getting to respect the way introverts "works" (being someone else or even yourself) might lead to better performance and happiness.

It's not a self-help book (at least for now).

Nice book, although now I'm in the part where it's super-filled with references and it's kinda boring (I started reading it after writing the comment on HN :D )

Usually we are filled with self-help book that describe how to be "super". I was a bit bored by all that topic (although some takeaways of the self-help world are valuable), and I wanted something that went in a totally different direction.

Reading something like quiet (aside from the fact that I feel like I'm a bit introvert) is a great way to expand how I see things, because it does give me new point of view about people and the world.

Hope it helps ;)

I'm about halfway through it. The first half surveys how many powerful institutions including churches, the US education system, and companies encourage/reward extroversion, perhaps without realizing it.

I'm somewhere in the middle of the E/I spectrum and the book has made me reconsider how workplaces, etc. should be structured to avoid excluding people. According to the author, something like 10-30% of the US population are more on the "I" end of the spectrum, including many of the most creative people, so it seems a terrible mistake to encourage practices that exclude such a huge number of people from contributing.

I wouldn't recommend it. It's not a "bad" book, but I went in to it hoping for something else. If you want some affirmation that introverts are awesome and under-appreciated (which they often are) then it's exactly what you want.

I'm not sure what I was hoping for when I read it but it started to go sour for me when she talked about Dale Carnegie's book How To Win Friends and Influence People. I couldn't help but think the author never read it (an irrational thought, but colored my perception the rest of the way).

(Not the OP). Maybe try the audio book, which is the route I took with "Quiet". It's been over a year since I listened to it, and I can't really recall any great take-away points, other than the generic "listening is important". Think of it more of a pep-talk for people who aren't overly talkative.

Thanks. Does the pep-talk encourage them to be more talkative?

No, its more about celebrating and recognizing the strengths of those who are less boisterous.

"Harry Potter and The Methods Of Rationality" by Eliezer Yudkowsky. I am really liking the recasting, so far.

Likewise! I'm halfway through myself. I'm a huge HP fan, and the concept of a Harry Potter universe with slightly modified initial conditions taken to a logical conclusion ("taken to a logical conclusion" being the operative phrase with this book) was hugely appealing. Loving every page, would highly recommend.

Another fanfic that's well worth reading for the consumate HP fan, although cut from a very different cloth: Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness [https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4315906/1/Dumbledore-s-Army-and...]. If you've ever read Ender's Game, imagine Ender's Shadow for Book 7 of Harry Potter. :)

These threads always make me happy. Old books and new.

Currently I'm reading book three of the "Kefahuchi Tract" trilogy by M. John Harrison. It's like a cross between Donnie Darko and Neuromancer. Just surreal enough to be fun, without losing me completely, and some really amazing writing. [1]

[1] http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/future-without-nostalgia

* The Fall of Doc Future - http://docfuture.tumblr.com/post/82363551272/fall-of-doc-fut...

There are very few stories that strike me as having been 'natively' written for a reader like me; this is one of them.

I also bought book 1 of the Bartimaeus series, read it, and am now onto book 2.

* http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0786852550/ref=as_li_tl?ie=...

Sequel: http://docfuture.tumblr.com/post/111819789111/skybreakers-ca...

Plus some short stories and outtakes set in the same universe.

Awesome book. Thanks for the link. There's already a sequel.

Just finished Nate Silver's "The Signal and The Noise". Interesting collection of prediction case studies, seeing what can and can't be effectively predicted. Good for correcting black-and-white thinking.

Currently reading "Naples 44", diary of an intelligence officer there just after the US landings. The author is classically trained enough to immediately fall in love with the place despite the war, so it's a strange mix of lounging around Paestum and the stark effects of war.

Next in queue: pick one to re-read from Iain M Banks or Pratchett.

(Presumably Clausewitz is in your reading list somewhere as well; his book is unfinished but contains both good quotes to mine and real insight into how few military problems are about actual fighting itself.)

I like how most people here have a fiction and non-fiction book on the go at the same time. Not just me then :)

Currently reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, after finishing East of Eden, which I loved. On the non-fiction front I'm reading Big Data by Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Both interesting and compelling in their own ways.

Some I've recently finished...


- Virus Hunter - C.J. Peters with Mark Olshaker

- Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science - Richard Preston

- Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries - Molly Caldwell Crosby

- The Woman With a Worm in Her Head and Other True Stories of Infectious Disease - Pamela Nagami

General good nonfiction

- Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin - Norah Vincent

- Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb - Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

- Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism - Ron Suskind


- Funny Once - short story collection by Antonya Nelson (sad, weird, but very good)

- It's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini

- Backward Compatible - Sarah Daltry

Also definitely recommend the Magic 2.0 trilogy by Scott Meyer (starting with Off to Be the Wizard).

I'm currently reading The Design of Everyday Things. I'm not sure if anyone else does this but I recently created a Github repo to log all of the books I read [1]. I could use Goodreads but I like the visibility of Github for any future employers.

[1] https://github.com/atom-morgan/read-it

Some of my favourite books or books currently on my wishlist (in no particular order). Many of these have been mentioned in other comments:

* Harry Potter series (thankfully I read this as a kid when I had more time)

* Thinking, Fast and Slow

* How to Win Friends and Influence People

* David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

* Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

* The Martian: A Novel

* How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

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

* Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

* Outliers: The Story of Success

* The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out

* The Martian's Daughter: A Memoir

* Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

* Ghost in the Wires: My Adventure as the World's Most Wanted Hacker

* The Better Angels of our Future

* Daemon

- Mort, Terry Pratchett

The first Pratchett book I've read, and I can't believe I've waited so long to read his work. Humorous in a Douglas Adams sort of way.

- Arabian Nights, Haddawy translation

This is a great read. The translation is modern and clear, and the stories are exciting. I can understand why these stories have been around for centuries.

I also recently read my first Pratchett book after reading some excerpts from around the time he died. Im 5 books in now including having read Mort. On Reaper Man now.

My 11 year old son did not want me to get him a story book. Instead he wanted a programming book, so we bought "Hello Python" by Anthony Briggs from a bookstore. The Amazon reviews for it ended up not so good, so we'll see how it goes: http://www.amazon.com/Hello-Python-Anthony-S-Briggs/dp/19351...

Anyway, I've recently read (my Kindle list):

    * Curious Myths of the Middles Ages by S. Baring-Gould
    * American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    * Instrumentalities of the Night series by Glen Cook
    * The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook
    * Many HP Lovecraft stories which I hadn't already read (I bought HP Lovecraft Complete Fiction)
    * Grimm's Fairy Tales
    * Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome by Apicius
    * Takeshi Kovacs series by Richard K. Morgan
    * A Fire in the Sun (Budayeen series) by George Alec Effinger
    * Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey
    * Hunted (Iron Druid Chronicles) by Kevin Hearne
    * Catspaw by Joan D. Vinge
Also I've been watching videos more than reading recently:

    * Peaky Blinders
    * Top Gear
    * Skins
    * Grimm (where everyone in Portland lives in restored craftsman style homes and uses devices from Apple)
    * The Grand Budapest Hotel
    * Constantine
    * Moby Dick (Patrick Stewart version)

Some short story collections:

   * This is How You Lose Her - Junot Diaz
   * Get in Trouble - Kelly Link
   * St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves - Karen Russell
   * The 10th of December - George Saunders 
   * Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro
   * After the Quake - Haruki Murakami
   * The Girl in the Flammable Skirt - Aimee Bender
Longer Form (but all still quick reads):

   * The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
   * Death with Interruptions - Jose Saramago
   * The Whispering Muse - Sjon

Metamorphoses by Ovid: a bunch of Roman/Greek myths, many are common references in all kinds of stories

Probability by Pitman: its embarrassing I never took this course in college. This is the book used for intro stats/probability at Berkeley

Code Complete: honestly I don't understand the hype around this book. There's good info, but its so sparse, I feel like I only get something good every 20-30 pages and the thing is like 800 pages total.

Obviously there are a lot of good books out there, however "Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers" is certainly one which most of the folks here would find interesting. It's a comprehensive list of what you can do to get your initial bunch of users.

The best line in the book though is the definition of traction: "It's identical to the Supreme Court's definition of porn: you know it when you see it!"

I'm a huge believer in going back to primary texts, and understanding where ideas came from. If you've liked a book, read the books it references (repeat). I also feel like book recommendations often oversample recent writings, which are probably great, but it's easy to forget about the generations of books that have come before that may be just as relevant today (The Mythical Man Month is a ready example). I approach the reading I do for fun the same way, Google a list of "classics" and check for things I haven't read.

My go to recommendations:

http://www.amazon.com/Structure-Scientific-Revolutions-50th-... - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn, (1996)

http://www.amazon.com/Pragmatic-Programmer-Journeyman-Master... - The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas (1999)

Things I've liked in the last 6 months:

http://www.amazon.com/How-Measure-Anything-Intangibles-Busin... - How to Measure Anything, Douglas Hubbard (2007)

http://www.amazon.com/Mythical-Man-Month-Software-Engineerin... - Mythical Man Month: Essays in Software Engineering, Frederick Brooks Jr. (1975, but get the 1995 version)

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Some-Companies-Others/dp/00... - Good To Great, Jim Collins (2001)

Next on my reading list (and I'm really excited about it):

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Interface-No-brilliant-technology... - The Best Interface is No Interface, Golden Krishna (2015)

That reminds me, I'm due a re-read of The Pragmatic Programmer. I re-read it about once a year, and every time seem to get something new from it.

Your list of primary sources ends at 2001 :)

No classics beyond that date?

The top was, "choose your own adventure" advice, the bottom was, "here's some clickable immediate gratification" advice. But point well taken, haha.

Not sure how I missed it - Reading "Ready Player One". Can't wait for the movie, currently in talks with Spielberg behind the camera.

Ready Player One is on the top of my favorites list.

If you liked that you might also enjoy Daemon and the sequel Freedom TM by Daniel Suarez.

Thanks for the recommendation.

Currently reading

  * 7 languages in 7 weeks, Bruce A. Tate
  * Coders at Work, Peter Seibel
  * Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
  * Neuromancer, William Gigson
Just finished

  * The Island of Doctor Moreau, H G Wells
  * Brave new world, Aldous Huxley

  * The Martian: A Novel, Andy Weir
  * Dune, Frank Herbert
  * 2001: A space odyssey, Arthur C Clarke

I'm reading 2nd book of The Kingkiller Chronicles (Wise Man's Fear) and loving it!

Anyone slightly interested in fantasy should definitely read the series. The story has been great so far and storytelling is exceptional.

They are great, but he seems to be really struggling with writing the third book. :(

I just finished "How to Fly a Horse" by Kevin Ashton. It was a fun and inspiring read on the history of creativity and innovation. The book continually makes the point that creation is the product of effort and persistence, rather than random flashes of genius or inspiration. Though I mostly bought it for the historical anecdotes and stories within it, I love those sorts of things. The author posted this excerpt on HN before it was released, and this is what made me buy the book. [0]

[0] http://www.howtoflyahorse.com/what-coke-contains/

Now I'm starting "The Naked Sun" by Isaac Asimov, having read "Caves of Steel" a few months ago. I don't know why I've never read Asimov before, but wow, the worlds and characters he creates are amazing.

As far as technical books go, I'm working on "Build Your Own AngularJS" by Tero Parviainen. I'm only a few chapters in, but enjoying it.

"Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.

Review in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast...

That is one of the best books I've read in 2014.

After years of only reading technical, business, and philosophical books, I finally decided to take the plunge and read some fiction about 2 years ago.

Since then, I've caught up with Song of Ice and Fire, read the first 11 books of Sword of Truth, and did the first 2 Dune books.

Most recently, I finished Stephen King's Dark Tower series, and I'm currently going through a bunch of HP Lovecraft (it feels good to finally understand the Cthulhu mythos and all that it implies).

When I finish that, I'm going to finish up the Sword of Truth series (the most recent 3 books), and I'm eagerly awaiting the 6th book in A Song of Ice and Fire.

These days, I don't actually read all that much, as I've picked up an appreciation for audiobooks and how you can read your stories while doing other things like driving, cooking, and shopping. So I don't read in freetime anymore, but instead just rock the audiobooks in the "between" times.

Obviously, audiobooks don't work with technical books so much.

You would probably really enjoy Brandon Sanderson's and Patrick Rothfuss's novels, based on your fiction list.

Thanks, I'll look into them!

Command and Control, a historical account of failures in safety and other procedures with america's nuclear arsenal:


I just finished that book last night! It is a must-read for people in systems engineering. I learned a lot about what kind of errors can happen...

I'm reading that one right now too, pretty intense, I usually make the assumption that people in other industries always have a level of expertise and proper practice that puts software to shame. However, hearing about the haphazard construction of early nuclear weapons and all the things that went wrong managing the Titan II complexes was really revealing.

I'm reading "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester, a look at the creation of the Oxford English dictionary and the personalities, challenges, and environment of the people involved in its compilation.

I'm also currently learning French, so it's interesting to see that English also contains exceptions, debates and colourful characters.

"The Better Angels of our Nature" by Steven Pinker. Highly informative, well-researched and compelling look at the history of violence, and how violence relates to economy, information, literacy, trade, etc. Very enjoyable, if long, read.


"Dune" the classic sci-fi novel for the first time and I've just finished the Fountain series. Before that was Snow Crash. On a classic sci-fi reading bender right now.

I did quite the bender over the last few years and covered all of the (Frank Herbert) Dune novels, as well as most of Orson Scott Card's and the Ringworld series. I highly recommend all of the Ringworld books if you haven't read them.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely take a look.

This is my favorite fiction book. I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time. Enjoy it. =)

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand a revelation, much like encountering Tolstoy for the first time via Anna Karenina.

A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin, is the Tolkien of our times, but with a dark and raunchy twist ;-) Almost finished; book 6 is a year or more away if previous publishing trend continues -- we needs it ;-(

* The last Girlfriend on Earth * Grails In Action: 2nd edition * Keep It up

I guess it counts: Going through my 2 year old reading queue in instapaper.

I think we should have this on a weekly or monthly basis.

Systems Performance by Brendan Gregg


Functional Programming Application and Implementation by Peter Henderson. Old but interesting. Woken Furies by Richard Morgan. Good sci-fi detective thriller series. Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C Feathers. Hell of a book. Up there with Mythical Man Month.

I just finished "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami. While it was really interesting, I am not sure I fully understood it. Still recommending to everyone that likes a little bit of fantasy combined with fiction and lots of cultural references :)

Recently read:

Blindsight (Peter Watts) - Hard sci-fi with themes of perception and identity.

Ancillary Justice (Anne Leckie) - More of a murder / mystery sci-fi with themes of gender.


Green Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) - Hard sci-fi covering the terraforming of Mars. Very political, takes a broad scope.

+1 for Blindsight. I recently read through the sequel and all of the Behemoth series. So great.

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Harari A breathtaking history book, I read in one night like a good thriller.

Thats the best beginning to a book I have ever read! I just bought it

I'm reading Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays. I forgot until I picked this book up again how much fun it is to read David Foster Wallace. Despite all the footnotes, he's very engaging.

Also, my girlfriend just sneaked Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love into my computer bag the other day. I haven't read him in a long time, but coincidentally was just very recently talking to a friend about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, which is mostly unrelated to the Carver book, but also a really good read about his life of running.

Birdman also heavily revolves around What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

I'm reading "Gödel, Escher, Bach" and "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" in online reading groups:



Practical Object Oriented Design in Ruby, Sandi Metz. Doing this for a bookclub I sort of helped start with some local developers.

A Game of Thrones, GRRM. The new preview chapter restarted my hype train and reminded me how much I missed reading the books. So I started another read-through, hoping I'll be done by the release of the next book.

I've also been reading lots of stuff on Git. I'm trying to learn everything I can about hooks so that I can start doing awesome things automatically, and I feel it's the one aspect of git workflows I haven't explored yet.

I'm starting to work from home some days, so I just started reading Remote, office not required


I read remote almost two years ago shortly before starting my first remote job. I'm a huge 37signals fan but the book just didn't do it for me. I found the advice to be mostly obvious. That doesn't necessarily make it a bad book but I was really looking for more well tested industry specific advice. It would have been great to also hear of any remote working failures they endured during their 16 years in business.

Great read with lots of sane advice. My only wish was that they talked more about "junior" folks and the whole mentoring aspect - steps to make that effective remotely (for both parties!)

I have to read that one

Just a couple of weeks ago I got back into reading books again, and mainly scifi. It feels great to read again!

I loved The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, recommended previously in this thread, and that got me to Old Man's War by John Scalzi. (It might be interesting to note that Ridley Scott has hold the movie rights to this book for many years now. I can't see it really becoming a mainstream movie without cutting out some themes from the book.)

The theme in Old Man's War are sort of the same as The Forever War, but in such a minor way that it didn't bother me even once. Scalzi then turned that book into a series, all very well worth reading (except Sagan's Diary - give that a miss). After his Old Man's War series I read Redshirts (so and so), Agent to the Stars (good read) and now I'm reading Fuzzy Nation, which is shaping up nicely.

In the afterword to Agent to the Stars Scalzi actually recommends other scifi books, and per his recommendation I tried out Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (of Starship Troopers fame) but that quickly grinded to a halt. Might give it another chance later.

Oh, I also read Haldeman's Camouflage. Seems to be liked by the reviews I find online, but I found it to be a waste of time due to a very weak end chapter.

After this I plan to dive into Rama territory and perhaps Dune also.

Please keep the book recommendations coming, this thread is a goldmine. :)

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I[1], the Pulitzer-award winner by Barbara Tuchman, and the book that might have helped avoid WW3 during the Cuban missile crisis, as recognized by JFK himself.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/Guns-August-Outbreak-Tuchmans-Nonficti...

"How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job", by Dale Carnegie. I can open any page in this book and find some wisdom and truth in it. He conveys a deep understanding of human nature and on how to lead a more effective life. As some say, "I was a good man; after reading this book, I was a better man".

I also recommend "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by the same author.

Regenesis by George Church

It's an interesting primer on the potential benefits of synthetic biology to society at large from one of the field's luminaries.

He covers everything from engineering "mirror humans" (with inverted biochemical chirality) to reviving extinct species.


On a somewhat similar topic, I also enjoyed "The Machinery of Life" by David Goodsell. Worth it for the diagrams alone.

Currently: Emma, by Austen, and Debt: The First 5,000 Years by Graeber. Both good.

Recently finished Austen's Persuasion and Dickens' Oliver Twist. I'm trying to fill in big gaps in my reading of major English novels. Both were good. Dickens seems to have more compassion, which I appreciate. The two most moving scenes belong to his two worst villains. Persuasion was great though, and in many ways (compassion aside) a better novel than Dickens', not that they really deserve to be compared to one another. Persuasion's the first Austen novel I've managed to finish; usually I bounce off them in the first chapter or two. Looking like I'll make it through Emma, too, but it's certainly rougher going. Made it farther than I did on my last attempt, anyway.

The Things they Carried by O'Brien is up next after Graeber, probably, on recommendation (and loan) from a friend.

I haven't read it recently, but I feel compelled to recommend Revolutionary Road by Yates at every opportunity.

"Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, he's a sociologist that examines the major textbooks sold in the US. The title is a little cheesy, the book is a bit more serious.


Agreed. Didn't read the whole thing but found his analysis of how textbooks in the US changed history over time. I believe the main example was justification for manifest destiny and how it was presented in various textbooks at different times.

I'm reading Españopoly, a book by investigative researcher and "data journalist" Eva Belmonte on the social networks that link the people who hold the power in Spain, my native country. I assume some HNers will read Spanish, but hail from a different part of the world. This book will really explain modern Spain to you.

Just finished Ryk Brown's "A Show of Force" [1]. It's the 13th book in his Kindle scifi series, which I'm basically addicted to.

Also working through "Bold" by Peter Diamandis [2]. Discussing how to leverage exponential technology over the next few decades.


[1] http://www.amazon.com/Ep-13-Show-Force-Frontiers-ebook/dp/B0...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Bold-Create-Wealth-Impact-World-ebook/...

Don Quixote. Touches on a lot: perception, value, narrative, ethics, creativity. Above all it is funny as hell and beautifully written.

Types and Programming Languages, Benjamin Pierce, slightly intimidating mathematically for me but worth diving in, lots of interesting ideas, I'm only through to the second chapter.

I struggled with Don Quixote. After 100 pages or so I just felt like I was missing something. It was as if the story was just repeating itself. Did you get to the end? Did it get better?

I'm about 40 chapters (~350 pages) through. I wouldn't say it gets better, or worse: I loved it from the beginning. If you aren't hooked by 100 pages, I'd put it down. However I'd recommend coming back to it later, maybe in a few years, try it again, see if you don't get more out of it.

Also, if you didn't read the Edith Grossman translation, try that, it is very smart and modern. The older translation feels a bit stuffy to me.

Thanks! I kind of felt I needed to visit Spain again to appreciate the cultural feel. :-)

Do any movies do it justice?

> Do any movies do it justice?

I have not seen any, my guess is no! Sometimes I think Monty Python comes close.

I'm working through Introduction to Algorithms by Corsen, Leiserson, Rivest and Stein.

I've just finished Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World by Justin Marozzi. A fantastic, thrilling, unnerving read. Tamerlane's ingenuity and political nous appears to have been incredible. Learning about Temur's life may change how you read all other history books. His mere existence changes the context and relative importance of much of Western European history.

I'm also enjoying and recommend Bloodhoof by Gerthur Kristny (trans. Rory McTurk), The Zoo Father by Pascale Petit, and Black Cat Bone by John Burnside. The Zoo Father and Black Cat Bone are among the most powerful collections of poetry I've read that were published within the last three decades, and Bloodhoof is also very good.

Currently I'm trudging through GEB[1]. Last month I read:

- The Dip (super short read and has a few good points but overall I didn't really like it)[2]

- Going Clear (great book, terrible formatting, but a great book)[3]

- The Martian (short read, very entertaining and well researched)[4]

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach

2. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/the_dip/

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Going_Clear

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martian_%28Weir_novel%29

I know there are a lot of fans of "The Dip" but I got the feeling that it was just too preachy and didn't have a lot of concrete examples.

Yeah it's super handwavy. The entire book is essentially "just be the best at what you do!" so...yeah.

I'm working on "Napolean: A Life" by Andrew Roberts http://www.andrew-roberts.net/books/napoleon-a-life/. This is a well written and pretty hefty biography. The author has done a great job of poring over the enormous material available from that era and consolidating it in a coherent fashion. I've always been fascinated by that period mostly because it seems to be the first time there was so much written down on paper which is preserved till today. Almost everyone who was literate seemed to maintain a diary and take notations of everything. Pretty decent descriptions of war maneuvers and battle tactics as well, if you guys like reading that kind of stuff ( I do :) )

Plato's Camera and Player of Games are what I'm trying to get through on my Kindle. Trying being the operative word: they're slow-going.

Goedel, Escher, Bach -- I'm trying to push through it for the sake of keeping up with a subreddit-communal reading, but it's boring as all hell. At least, for the special value of "boring iff you've read quite a lot of theoretical computer-science and logic papers before", which I understand is not really anyone's usual meaning for the word. I'm still waiting to see how he actually gets to the bit about consciousness.

Certified Programming with Dependent Types -- started it recently, working through the programming exercises. I need to understand well-foundedness termination proofs for certain parts of my research proofs.

"The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck, and "A Discipline of Programming" by Edsger Dijkstra. Before that, "The Most Human Human", by Brian Christian. "The Most Human Human" was particularly interesting, about what we can learn about being human by looking at machines.

Atomic Accidents - A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters, by James Mahaffey. http://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Accidents-Meltdowns-Disasters-M...

Started Flatland on the train yesterday - lots of fun so far.

I'm looking for more Sci-fi if HN can recommend anything! I've been reading a lot of historical non-fiction over the years, but recently finished Snow Crash and the Diamond Age. Love the genre, but don't know much about it.

"Off to be the wizard" is pretty light and fun. "John dies at the end" was fun, not really sci-fi, more buffy the vampire slayer esque. "Existence" by David Brin made me want to puke it had so many good ideas. A tiny bit dated, but very smart. "The Martian" I expect you've read it. Good romp, easy to read. Reminded me of a Michael Crichton. "World War Z" was good.

I'm a huge fan of John Dies At The End. It's really not for everyone but I found it incredibly entertaining. The follow-up, This Book Is Full of Spiders is also worth reading.

Anathem and Cryptonomicon are both must-reads by Stephenson too.

The two books I've read by Stephenson and really enjoyed. Never really got into the Baroque cycle because it's so long winded, but that should also be good.

You can try the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov if you like Sci-Fi.

Twice-recommended, I'll check it out - thanks :)

Neuromancer by William Gibson. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke. A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, both by Vernor Vinge.

Also, the Culture series by Iain M. Banks, but I would recommend not starting with the first published book, Consider Phlebas. YMMV, but I personally found it hard to get in to and almost didn't continue the series. Later I read lots of reviews of the second book, The Player of Games, and decided to give it a chance and have since read most of the remaining books. I have now gone back and re-read Consider Phlebas and love it now that I have a better handle on the setting, universe, and concepts from the series, but I definitely feel that The Player of Games is a much better intro into the series.

Not for every reader but Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World) is something between historical fiction and science fiction. Worth a try in your case.

Also, it's hard to go wrong with the yearly Hugo Award winners and nominees. Sometimes they are middle entries in long running series, which is worth checking on Wikipedia if you like to start at Book 1. Usually it is just going to mean the whole series is great.

How about a few great authors who have all won?

  Ursula K LeGuin
  Lois McMaster Bujold
  CJ Cherryh
  Connie Willis
  Jo Walton

Isaac Asimov is a must read for people who love Sci-Fi. Some of his books I loved: The Robot Series (The Caves of Steel, The Robots of Dawn etc.), The Foundation Series, Nemesis, the list goes on ...

R.A. Lafferty's literary sci-fi has many historical and non-fiction elements. Out of print but there's a complete collection online called "Talled Tales". Some stories can be read on the web, http://www.ralafferty.org/works/collections/online-stories/

Flatland is great.

Try Ian M Banks if you haven't already for some cerebral sci-fi, also Vernor Vinge.

Just started reading Ubik and liking it so far. Before that I reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I really enjoy hacking on side projects in my free time but sometimes it's nice to step away. I've found getting deep into a book is a good way for me to do that.

"Longitude" by Dava Sobel.

Sailors knew for a while how to get your latitude (by using the position of the north star) but didn't have a way of getting their longitude pre-18th century. This was a serious problem in navigation and this is the story of how a solution came about.

Here's my 'reading blog': http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.it/

Currently working my way through Thiel's book. It's not bad if you haven't read it yet.

Interesting blog, I loved the Thiel's book

Just finished:

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (as did pdevr) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snow_Leopard

A Guide to the Good Life: the ancient art of Stoic joy by William Irvine - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5617966-a-guide-to-the-g...

Now Reading:

Seneca's Dialogues & Essays - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1933080.Dialogues_and_Es...

Getting around to finishing Marc Andreessen's blog post collection [1].

[1] http://a16z.com/2015/01/09/pmarca-blog-ebook/

The Ancient Paths by Graham Robb [1]

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman [2]

Metamagical Themas by Douglas Hofstadter [3]

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ancient-Paths-Discovering-Celtic/d...

[2]: http://www.amazon.com/Trigger-Warning-Short-Fictions-Disturb...

[3]: http://www.amazon.com/Metamagical-Themas-Questing-Essence-Pa...

Linear and Geometric Algebra by Alan Macdonald. It's a nice book but a bit slow for my taste. I wonder if anyone has a recommendation for a fast paced route to geometric algebra for somebody who is already familiar with conventional math?

Sent you an email with a couple recommendations

Some interesting books by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: Breakfast of Champions Bluebeard Deadeye Dick

Those are my three favorite Vonnegut novels. Nice choices :-)

I'd second my sibling poster's recommendation of Galapagos, if you haven't read that one.

Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle are probably his two most widely-read and widely-referenced books, so if you haven't read those yet and you're still on a Vonnegut kick after those three, maybe read them. They're all quick cotton-candy reads anyway, so it's a small cost to read another. I do consider Cat's Cradle overrated, though. I think all the cute and memorable made-up words have boosted it to higher prominence than it deserves.

After reading Vonnegut's novel after novel, I needed to stop for a while. In a list of books of Vonnegut which I read, there is no Galapagos, no Mother Night, no Sirens of Titan, no Player Piano, and that's pretty all.

I recently finished Galápagos and was blown away. A story about how a few people unknowingly manage to escape humanity's demise by getting stranded on the Galápagos Islands, and their descendents' subsequent evolution over the next million years, all told from the perspective of a ghost... CLASSIC Vonnegut.

Being Geek by Michael Lopp

Rands does a great job at giving a broad range of career advice for software engineers. I also recommend his blog: http://randsinrepose.com/

Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Waldo E. Martin


A comprehensive study of the origins, actions, philosophy and results of the Black Panther party. Outgrowth of my interest in historical topics in general and Oakland, my adopted hometown, specifically.

I'm in awe of the drive, focus, and audacity of these revolutionaries, especially in light of present-day politics of race, inequality, police, and armed citizenry.

Currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Exploding the Phone By Phil Lapsley. Atlas Shrugged is an amazing account ofIndustry and government. Lapsleys book is a bit dry but it's a quick read and very informative

The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

One traces the history of computing from inception to roughly 1990, the other feels like it picks it up around 2030. Highly recommend both.

"The Secret History of Wonder Woman."


It's stunning that the comic book character was created by a man who secretly lived with two wives as part of the radical women's rights/free love movement of the 1920s...

Off topic but I met a guy once that had a room dedicated in his apartment for Wonder Woman...posters, action figures. Everything.

A book I read recently that I think others on HN would appreciate is Robert Scheer's latest book, "They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy". Here's a link to the book on AMZN: http://www.amazon.com/They-Know-Everything-About-Data-Collec...

Highly recommended to anyone that cares about their privacy online!

Currently reading: The House of Life, Mario Praz; Spring and All (try to read it every spring)

Recently finished: 1089 and All That (finished today), The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Gibson's The Peripheral

Reading right now: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

Up next: God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican



I keep my virtual book-shelf of books read here: http://www.kirubakaran.com/books-read.html

I just finished the Manifold series by Stephen Baxter. The series is a look at the (solution to, reason for, questions surrounding the) Fermi Paradox through three potential lenses. Best and most raw sci-fi I've ever read. The books left me hopeful, suspended, disgusted and in awe of the depth of this man's observation of humanity.

If you're looking for something lighter, perhaps check out Time Ships by the same author. This was the only authorized sequel to the legendary classic The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

* "Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life", Joe De Sena;

Great thoughts on life, by creator of the Spartan Race.

* "Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World", Mark Williams, Danny Penman;

Meditation excercies plan for mindfulness, which gives different view on everyday life. Also considered as a good therapy for apathy, depression etc.

* "Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography", Bear Grylls;

Great stories from former SAS member and adventurer.

I just finished Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A32NYYE)

Next I'm picking up Working Effectively with Legacy Code (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0131177052). It's been in my reading list for years and I can finally get to it!

If you like history at all, the Robert Greene books are awesome. 48 laws of power, 33 strategies of war, etc... They break down each lesson and their reversals with historical examples.

Have you read Ken Follet?

no, I'll look into it.

I'm reading Don Quixote and Becoming Steve Jobs.

I can't get enough of reading about the history of Apple and Jobs in particular. I read the Isaacson's Jobs biography twice. It's now more of a guilty pleasure than anything.

Don Quixote is good too. I'm listening to the audio book. While listening to it, I don't really know what to make of it. It's part comedy, part tragedy and all around captivating. Also recommend the mini-story within Don Quixote called The Ill-Advised Curiosity.

Then I would highly recommend you to read iWoz as well.

Where Sea Breaks Its Back. It's about a journey that naturalist Gregor William Stellar (Different transliterations different spelling) and a trip he took with Bering to Alaska. He was the first naturalist to describe a number of species, a number of which were never seen again or hunted to extinction before being studied and he was the only one to describe. To top it all off most of the products of his research, notes books diagrams specimens etc. were lost of damaged.

Currently reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich".

Would appreciate more suggestions for World War 1, World War 2 histories, especially Russian History books.

Already on my reading list (a few related to the above):

- Gulag

- Guns of August

- Churchill

Try "the kings depart: The Tragedy of Germany - Versailles and the German Revolution" - http://www.amazon.com/The-Kings-Depart-Versailles-Revolution...

Also, if you like podcasts, try Hardcore History - http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series. There's a 5 part Series on WW1 called "Blueprint for armageddon".

Peeling the Onion, Gunter Grass or any other books by him (My Century is an interesting read on 100 years of Germany).

"The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr. I'm halfway through it. The main thesis of the book is that the Internet has quickly modified our brain (neuro-plasticity) so that we absorb information quickly but we don't get deep into any topic any longer.

The book start strong with this thesis and then goes into a very interesting detour on the history of writing, from the egyptian to Gutemberg all the way to Vint Cerf.

Very well researched book and well written.

I'll second this, and also note that it probably make a good read for those who suggested reading Marshall Mcluhan (who the author references heavily).

Overall I enjoyed it, even though there were parts that I couldn't agree with.

Does the book address the issue of specialization in the professions and either exempt it or adapt it to the thesis?

No. The first part of the book explains neuro-plasticity with several examples and mentioning various experiments about the way the brain adapt quickly to external stimuli.

Then the author dives deep into the history of culture (oral, written, mass-media, internet). So far I haven't encountered any mention of how the mind of a "professional" wouldn't be affected by the distracting impulses of the internet and digital communication.


I'm really enjoying it. It is filled with history about creating NT that I've never found online. Also a large amount of information about Cutler, which is interesting.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2680

They are technical.

Brushing up on:

K&R - The C Programming Language

K&P - The Unix Programming Environment

K&P - The Practice of Programming

Kerrisk - The Linux Programming Interface (Not light reading)

Even though it is mostly review, reading code and seeing commands that K&R&P run has actually helped my workflow, code quality, etc.

Highly recommend re-reading if it has been a while. Even things like variable names have noticeably improved since beginning re-reading.

And, the Linux Programming Interface....is huge. There's always more to learn in there.

I just finished reading John Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" for the the third time, and for the third time I was completely enthralled from beginning to end.

I've been reading Pynchon's Against The Day for the better part of a decade now. I'm hoping to finish it within the next three or four years.

I was that way with The Brothers Karamazov. But it was worth it in the end.

Here's my usual list of recommendations, the best books I've read in the past 5 years.


- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

If you know nothing about this book you might naturally hesitate to read "Harry Potter fanfiction" and assume that it's dumb/horrbile, but it's not. Just suspend your disbelief and read the first 5-10 chapters. Trust me, it's brilliant, hilarious, and life-changing.

- Atlas Shrugged

Controversial, I know, a lot of people here hate it for some reason, but it was incredibly influential on me, inspired my passion for entrepreneurship and science and philosophy. Still is one of the best books I am aware of.


- Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Also a collection of his essays that you can find on github. He is one of the most clever writers I am aware of, but I assume you know that, since you're on HN.

- "On Intelligence" by Jeff Hawkins

This book explains in simple terms a very awesome and elegant theory on how mind works. Incredibly fascinating, I've learned a lot from it and it explains a lot of things, and will change the way you think about thinking process.

- The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Engaging and entertaining explanation of evolution, absolutely fantastic book.

- The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

Despite the stigma, and people thinking that Machhiavellian = "evil", I've found this book extremely clever and wise.

- Serious Creativity by Edward De Bono

The best book on creativity and the process of generating ideas that I'm aware of.

- Abundance

This is a very inspiring and optimistic book about the future of technology.


- Start Small, Stay Small

Guide to creating your first product/business for hackers. It lays out all the basics of entrepreneurship in a very concise and clear ways, my favorite introduction to startups.

- Rework

Very wise and intelligent advice about startups, intelligent and witty, must read.

- Lean Startup

Classic book on "lean startup methodology", very useful.

- 4-Hour Workweek

Despite the silly title I think it is a great book and is very much worth reading. Many people here dislike Tim Ferris, but whatever, I think this book is cool.


- Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman

- Ghost In The Wires by Kevin Mitnick

- Catch me if you can by Abagnale

- iWoz by Steve Wozniak

- Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson

All these are fantastic and very intelligent autobiographies by the very awesome people.

Now I'm reading "Gödel, Escher, Bach" and "Rationality: From AI to Zombies."

"Rationality" is great and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Can't say much about GEB, I've only started reading it, but everyone is saying that it is so great and the best book ever, so I think it's definitely worth checking out.

A good friend of mine recommended Atlas Shrugged a while back. I couldn't finish it. I just couldn't swallow the "better than you" venom Dagny spewed everywhere. Maybe I'm missing something

You're not missing anything. There's a reason John Rogers wrote “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

Can anyone explain to me why so many intelligent people love hating on this book?

Do you disagree with her philosophy? If so - can you tell me about which things exactly made you dislike it and why?

Everyone repeats this quote, and everyone generally says bad things about this book, but never anything concrete, never a clear reason what exactly is so bad about it.

Yes, I disagree with her philosophy. Rand believed that a person had no further moral duty than to pursue their own happiness, and that you are solely responsible for your success or failure. If you succeed, you should be applauded and be given the deference to do what you want. Those who point out that the government, by and for the people, provides for the schools that educate the workers, the roads that are use to deliver products, the police who keep the country safe, etc., are parasites and moochers for wanting the wealthy to acknowledge this and contribute to paying for the services the government provides. The same goes for unions who want recognition and fair wages for the workers.

If you reject her philosophy, it's very hard to identify with the characters she positions as the good guys. And why else do you read fiction if not so that you can root for the good guys?

I'd also like a clear refutation of that book. I've only read two Rand books: Anthem and Capitalism. I loved Anthem in spite of its anti-government bullshit because of my libertarian side but my socialist side overrides all of it and that's where my criticism of her lies.

I'm sorry I can't offer anything with regard to Atlas since I haven't read it but it's clearly rooted in her ridiculous philosophy of capitalist moralism. It doesn't stand up to even the most elementary scrutiny and once you apply any of it to real life you find that society would collapse in less than a year.

Here is a good reddit thread that addresses your question:


It's been more than 10 years since I read Atlas Shrugged, but what is often interpreted as disdain or arrogance in the characters, I took to be Arete. That is, the characters sought excellence in themselves and appreciated it in others, while holding those who were leeches on their achievements with disdain. I didn't read Atlas Shrugged as disdainful toward the common man (IE: those of us somewhere beneath excellence) but rather a kind of call to pursue perfection and greatness in whatever you might do.

I appreciate your interpretation, thanks.

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