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Ask HN: Best books you read in the past decade ?, Hacker News



– Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
– Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

– The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake
– Sherlock Holmes: The definitive collection



Probably Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger or Prometheus Rising back in (*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************. The “reality tunnel” concept has defined much of my personal and intellectual exploration of the past (years.) “When we meet somebody whose separate tunnel-reality is obviously far different from ours, we are a bit frightened and always disoriented. We tend to think they are mad, or that they are crooks trying to con us in some way, or that they are hoaxers playing a joke. Yet it is neurologically obvious that no two brains have the same genetically-programmed hard wiring, the same imprints, the same conditioning, the same learning experiences. We are all living in separate realities. That is why communication fails so often, and misunderstandings and resentments are so common. I say “meow” and you say “Bow-wow,” and each of us is convinced the other is a bit dumb. ”




**************************** Cosmic Triggerwas great, but I must say it’s hard to speak of Robert Anton Wilson without mentioning his magnum opus, (The Illuminatus Trilogy




1 for this, I read Prometheus Rising in and it has heavily influenced my mental model for different drugs. It’s not particularly scientific but still a fun read.


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The best books in the past decade, that’s a hard one! It’s also hard to pinpoint what I learned where, but I’ll just list the most memorable ones. I read a lot of software engineering books to learn language X or technology Y. But that’s just o’reilly books and probably not that interesting to list here.
– Jobs by Walter Isaacson. To learn about the Apple and Steve Jobs himself. I thought it was great

– Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s older than a decade (about 4 decades old actually) but I only read it a few years ago when I studied philosophy and it left quite an impression on me, food for thought.

– The Dip. It’s motivational, I think back on it every now and then when pushing myself through a rough patch in the gym or professionally.

– Turing’s Cathedral, it’s a history of computers basically. Recommended if you’re into software / computers.







It seems Frankl has been somewhat exposed / debunked. I loved his book too as a teenager; it pained me to read sources mentioned on his wikipedia page. Would you believe he was at Auschwitz for only a few days, performed medical experiments on Jews himself, and it appears his main thesis about attitude mattering above all else for survival in the camps is simply false.

https : //




I finished the audiobook a month ago. I had read up on the wikipedia page, but had conveniently skipped the controversy section. I assumed there are always naysayers! This time I took the time to read it. It definitely does put a different color on the whole thing!




* The Origin of Wealth * Elephant in the Brain * A Random Walk Down Wall Street * Why Buddhism Is True * Digital Minimalism



I think it was linked on HN where it caught my attention. This book teaches a great way to communicate, but for me, it has also helped me think about my feelings and how I can communicate those feelings better. I feel more in touch with my feelings and more empathetic as a direct result from following what the book is teaching.

On the communication side, it has helped me put more structure around tough conversations, personally and professionally. It has helped me understand others more and vice versa. It’s also helped me see toxic traits in others. Such as people who aren’t interested in understanding or people who struggle to understand their own emotions.



          -Lif …
Nonviolent Communication.



I recently purchased Say What You Mean which is about Nonviolent Communication and Mindfulness. I’ve only read the introduction but it really resonates with me.

Actually connecting with people rather than just talking past them and having them talk past me is something that I find very appealing at this point in life after realizing how much people seem to ignore what I am actually saying (and realizing I am almost certainly doing the same to them).





This book has also helped me connect better with others and accomplish what I think needs to be accomplished.

It almost feels like magic how effective it is as it seems to sort of ballet step away and around from conflict. I usually don’t care about conflict so it’s nice to just sort of leave behind all the distractions that come when people focus on the wrong parts of communication.

A recent example where this helped me … I was trying to figure out what tasks needed to be done to launch a product. At first I asked the project manager what tasks he defined and he started getting very defensive because perhaps I thought he sucked at his job. Just by rephrasing that I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to things that needed to happen and that I wanted to know what steps needed to be taken, the pm opened up. I felt like the book saved me 80 minutes of pointless arguing.











I’m not sure if condescending attitudes towards others is usually due from difference as much as it is from ignorance.

Usually, intimate familiarity with people from other cultures leads to some respect.





Principles by Ray Dalio changed my life and really helped me better understand that inwardly looking at and analyzing my emotional responses to problems at work and home set me up for failure and since reading it I’ve had such profound clarity of thought. I recommend that book to literally everyone.




“Invention of Nature”; nonfiction; about the life of Alexander von Humboldt; Darwin said of him “if it hadn’t been for AVH, I would have never stepped foot on the HMS Beagle”; profoundly important to modern science, an adventurer, yet little known in modern times
“Stoner” by John Williams; fiction; this book knocked me on my butt and I read it all in almost one sitting; about an English professor who refuses to relinquish his integrity in the face of great adversity

“Light Years” by James Salter; fiction; inexpressibly beautiful novel that takes place largely on the Hudson River above New York

“Narcissus and Goldmund” by Hesse; fiction; a fun yet literary adventure novel about the importance and fun of living life with integrity

“When Things Fall Apart” by Chödron; non-fiction; Chödron proposes that leaning into suffering, experiencing it as directly and fully as possibly and without resistance paradoxically leads to profound relief from suffering

“Enlightenment Now” by Pinker; non-fiction; proposes, convincingly, that life nhas drastically improved for nearly everyone on earth due to a shifting philosophical orientation towards enlightenment values; proposes that although much is problematic, there is reason for great hope, too


************************** (Narcissus and Goldmund) is probably my favorite of Hesse’s novels, but also great isThe Glass Bead Game (****************************. **************



>”Stoner” by John Williams; fiction; this book knocked me on my butt and I read it all in almost one sitting; about an English professor who refuses to relinquish his integrity in the face of great adversity
I read this book twice in the past 4 years. Such a wonderful and well-written book.




* Elements of Statistical Learning – Hastie, Tibshisrani (Lot’s of machine learning books to list: PRML, All of Stats, Deep Learning, etc.)

* Active Portfolio Management – Kahn, Grinold

* Thinking, fast and slow – Kahneman

Protein Power (the Eades’) / Why we get fat (Taubes)

* Why we sleep (Walker)

Deep Work / So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Newport)

* Flowers for Algernon (Keyes)

Getting to Yes (Fisher)






**************** Reading “Why we sleep” right now and enjoying it very much . It covers a lot of research, and Walker manages to tell a story and get you the bird’s eye view of what the research means. Definitely recommend.





The Troy rising trilogy by John Ringo. An excellent military science fiction book with a Libertarian lean. My favorite is the first in the trilogy called live free or die. Basically tells the story of how to bootstrap a whole world. Pays homage to a lot of other science fiction. If you complete this trilogy and are left wanting more then I suggest the legacy of the Aldenata and the black tide rising series.
American nations by Colin Woodward. Great book to understand the historical underpinnings of different regions in America.

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (who wrote Hyperion). Great horror scifi book with a nice concept. Fairly long though.

Thwarting enemies at home and abroad by William R Johnson. If you like spy novels or it’s text book albeit somewhat dated now likely on counter espionage.

On technical books I read the Linux programming interface by Michael Kerrisk. Really interesting incredibly detailed Linux book and always a great reference. Find myself keeping going back to it.

Ready player one the book by Ernest Cline. Way different than the movie. I actually preferred it as the movie justifiability leaves a lot out and condenses the story.



The Black Swan by Taleb and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman. are two books that pretty much completely changed how I view the world, and have made me much happier as a direct result.


The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure [1] by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

I didn’t necessarily agree with all of it but it helped me understand the changes I’ve seen across workplaces, colleges and beyond. It was also a nice way of thinking more “gray” in terms of the current political climate, and trying to understand the reasons behind people’s actions regardless of their political stance.

[1] (



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Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. A really wonderful, light-hearted, hilarious novel about self-worth. The writing reminds me of David Sedaris.





I read Less as part of my “read all the Pulitzer prize for fiction novels “and I also enjoyed it quite a lot. “the road” might have been my favorite novel on the list of pulitzer prizes in my lifetime.





If you like David Sedaris you might enjoy Spalding Gray’s monologues.Swimming to Cambodia

************** andGray’s Anatomy are my favorites.




The Rise and Fall of American Growth Sapiens

The Universe in a Single Atom

Reality is not what it seems

The Organized Mind

The Power of Habit

Zen Mind Beginners Mind

*************** (Restoration Agriculture) A Random Walk on Wall Street

Changing Magic of Tidying-up





Mating in Captivity – Esther Perel

She takes a post-modern stance on creating relationships that work rather than just following society’s prescribed path.





Deep Work by Cal Newport was great. (If only I could actually apply its principles at my job in an open office with an IM chat system.






– The Mysterium: David Bramwell, Jo Keeling – Digital Minimalism: Cal Newport
– How Democracies Die: Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt

– How to Disappear: Akiko Bush
) – Bullshit Jobs: David Graeber

– Its basic Income: Amy downes and stewart lansley

– utopia for realists: rutger Bergman

– Human Rigths and the uses of History, Samuel Moyn
– Too much Stuff: Kozo Yamamura




The Six Pillars Of Self-Esteem. Even if you think you already have high self-esteem, there’s no such thing as too much self-esteem. Someone here on HN first made me aware of it. It’s such a great framework for self improvement. I’ve read it 3 or 4 times and did all of the exercises the first 2 times.



     to read online)

While it may not be the most important, if you’ve been meaning to up your terminal game and want a bit more dexterity when shuffling between panes, tmux and vim are a good area to invest time in [1]

Personality theories :

Textbooks in this area. Affordable on Amazon if you get them used, some are also on kindle but pricey.

An Introduction to Theories of Personality: 7th Edition by Robert B. Ewen is so good.

They can be used as sampler to springboard into areas of psychology you like. The material in this space – normally in paper books – is fantastic. It’s totally normal to read through material from – years ago.
[1] Not the configuration part, though. That’s where the timesink is. Try to be basic as possible with vim configs. `vimtutor` is nice to play with.



I wrote a book on tmux, if you are interested in getting into the shell more:




I’ve yet to find a better workflow than tmux vim other terminal tools. The work I put into it has paid off a thousand times. I’d really like the whole os gui to work like tmux.






Essentialism – Greg McKeown Deep Work – Cal Newport

Value-Based Fees – Alan Weiss
Technology Strategy Patterns – Eben Hewitt

The Road Less Stupid – Keith J Cunningham (The Business of Expertise – David C Baker

************** Atomic Habits – James Clear





The Mind Illuminated (from HN), Non-Violent Communication, Antifragile, Atomic Habits and The Growth Mindset come to my mind immediately



* The Brain by David Eagleman*********** Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse
* A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss



Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think – by Hans Rosling.
Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, – – by Anne Applebaum .

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Phillip Tetlock. .

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein.

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– Orhan Pamuk – My Name is Red (Nobel Prize Winner, 2010)

– Daniel J. Levitin – Organized Mind

– Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind





Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso.

If anyone knows similar books, please please point me to them.



The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Literally destroyed left wing politics in my mind.






The whole left / right dichotomy is a bugaboo. (Politics is the continual friction between individuals and various groupsings of people.





>The whole left / right dichotomy is a bugaboo. Not exactly. Grouping along left / right, conservative / progressive axes is in effect a severe dimensionality reduction, simplifying thousands of metrics of political stance into two neat little clusters. It is technically valid, but overly reductive and forces black / white thinking into the common psyche which itself becomes a source of friction.


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