Hacker News

Ask HN: What are the best unknown books you have read?

Reading a tweet by Tommy Collison¹ reminded me that the best book I have read about musical harmony is practically unknown²

What are the best unknown books you read?

¹ https://twitter.com/tommycollison/status/1215008546657423361

² https://www.amazon.com/Harmony-its-systemic-phenomenological...

613 pointsbogoman posted a month ago147 Comments
mindcrime said a month ago:

How To Measure Anything[1] by Douglas Hubbard.

The basic gist of the book goes something like this: in the real world (especially in a business setting) there are many things which are hard to measure directly, but which we may care about. Take, for example, "employee morale" which matters because it may affect, say, retention, or product quality. Hubbard suggests that we can measure (many|most|all|??) of these things by using a combination of "calibrated probability assessments"[2], awareness of nth order effects, and Monte Carlo simulation.

Basically, "if something matters, it's because it affects something that can be measured". So you identify the causal chain from "thing" to "measurable thing", have people who are trained in "calibrated probability assessment" estimate the weights of the effects in the causal chain, then build a mathematical model, and use a Monte Carlo simulation to work out how inputs to the system affect the outputs.

Of course it's not perfect, since estimation is always touchy, even using the calibration stuff. And you could still commit an error like leaving an important variable out of the model completely, or sampling from the wrong distribution when doing your simulation. But generally speaking, done with care, this is a way to measure the "unmeasurable" with a level of rigor that's better than just flat out guessing, or ignoring the issue altogether.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/How-Measure-Anything-Intangibles-Busi...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calibrated_probability_assessm...

mellosouls said a month ago:

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban is not unknown but not hugely popular.

Post apocalyptic novel written in a made up language (think Clockwork Orange).

Poetic and deeply moving account of a boy's journey through a world where scientific knowledge has devolved to primitive ritual and incantation; and his dawning realisation that we lost everything.

I've never read anything else like it.



dragontamer said a month ago:

"The Method of Paired Comparisons" is a 1980s dissertation which discussed a strange form of statistics called paired comparisons. It is the fundamental math behind the ELO system (chess matchmaking) and other tournament designs. It was originally for psychology experiments.

My ELI5 version is... Imagine data of the form Alice > Bob (Alice beat Bob in one match). Because many matches take place, the data can be contradictory, like Alice > Bob and Alice < Bob. (Alice won the first match, but Bob won the second match).

There can be loops, like Alice > Bob > Carole > Alice.

In the face of these apparent contradictions, how do you linearize the data, or in ELI5 terms... How do you assign a score to each player?

ELO is probably the most popular methodology, but there are many kinds of linearization strategies, Bradley Terry for example is another one that ELO was in fact based upon.

The math is very well formed, and is likely a secret weapon for fantasy sports players. But it doesn't seem like many people know about this form of math at all.

rmason said a month ago:

The hidden persuaders by Vance Packard

I read this book as a kid, it changed how I view the world and I've never forgotten it's lessons. It shows how the ad world is working hard to persuade you. It convinced me to always question what are represented as facts by ads or the media. A healthy skepticism has served me very well.

Most people never deeply question and Packard is correct that there's an entire industry trying to persuade you. Not just what product to buy but which college to attend or which company to work for and yes even which political candidate to vote. Those very same hidden persuaders, some of the brightest minds in the world, are working on the web still trying to persuade you to click.

The closest way to bring it to HN world is PG's famous essay The Submarine that talks about recurring themes in the media such as 'suits are coming back'. The public relation professionals planting those stories are also hidden persuaders.


teddyh said a month ago:

The Network Revolution – confessions of a computer scientist (1982)¹ is the title which immediately springs to mind. I never see anyone else mention this book, but I liked it. One of the many interesting things it contains is an anonymized telling of what happened with Doug Engelbart and why, even after giving the dazzling “The Mother of All Demos”², the SRI company did not succeed in its grand plan for the future of computing.

It also talks a lot about very early Internet history, and gives the history of many things which I have not seen others reference, like Lee Felsenstein and Community Memory.

I suspect the book might not be well-known because its author, Jacques Vallée, it mostly known for being a ufologist. I did not know this until after I read the book, though, and the book itself does not contain any references to UFOs. I can wholeheartedly recommend the book, and it’s free to read online!¹

Later books in the same vein like Hackers and Dealers of Lightning are more well-known and seem to be appreciated by many, but this book seems to have been overlooked by most people.

1. https://books.google.com/books?id=6f8VqnZaPQwC&pg=PS1

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mother_of_All_Demos

b215826 said a month ago:

Among technical books, books by Cornelius Lanczos are some of the best (less popular) books I've read. Some quotes from his "The Variational Principles of Mechanics":

From the Preface:

Many of the scientific treatises of today are formulated in a half-mystical language, as though to impress the reader with the uncomfortable feeling that he is in the permanent presence of a superman. The present book is conceived in a humble spirit and is written for humble people.

From Chapter 8:

Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. -- EXODUS III, 5

We have done considerable mountain climbing. Now we are in the rarefied atmosphere of theories of excessive beauty and we are nearing a high plateau on which geometry, optics, mechanics, and wave mechanics meet on common ground. Only concentrated thinking, and a considerable amount of recreation, will reveal the full beauty of our subject in which the last word has not yet been spoken.

This book was also on Gerald Jay Sussman's must-read list of books [1]. Another great book of his is "Linear Differential Operators" -- if you've ever wanted an intuitive explanation for why d/dx is not Hermitian but d^2/dx^2 is, this is the book you need to read. A quote from the book that resonated with me when I first read it:

Since the days of antiquity it has been the privilege of the mathematician to engrave his conclusions, expressed in a rarefied and esoteric language, upon the rocks of eternity. While this method is excellent for the codification of mathematical results, it is not so acceptable to the many addicts of mathematics, for whom the science of mathematics is not a logical game, but the language in which the physical universe speaks to us, and whose mastery is inevitable for the comprehension of natural phenomena.

[1]: http://aurellem.org/thoughts/html/sussman-reading-list.html

philipkglass said a month ago:

"Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide?" It's a memoir by chemist and businessman Max Gergel, full of hilarious and hair-raising anecdotes about how a scrappy small American business could operate before the EPA and OSHA existed. It's also powerful if anecdotal evidence for why the EPA and OSHA were ultimately necessary.

Excerpt, brief review, and link to PDF of the full book here on Derek Lowe's excellent blog In the Pipeline:


AndrewKemendo said a month ago:

I will always promote Jose Hernandez-Orallo's The Measure of All Minds [1]

It attempts to codify how we should go about measuring and evaluating the somewhat fuzzy concept of "intelligence." He proposes an extension of his "Anytime Intelligence Test" which could be used to test animal and machine intelligence on a level playing field.

Measurement of task capability against a baseline is the most overlooked problem in AI and as far as I am aware Hernandez-Orallo is the only one focusing on it.

Notice that all of the major "breakthrough" moments in AI over the last half century had a human baseline that an AI was competing against. Those baselines were ones that had been already developed over years (sometimes a century) and were part of competitive games already. Go, Chess, DOTA etc... had leaderboards or international rankings.

For fuzzier things like driving, translation, strategy, trading etc... there is no generally accepted and measurable baseline test for what is considered human level, only proxies and unit specific tests. So we continue to not know when an AI system is measurably at or exceeding human level. Without this we can't definitively know how much progress we're making on Human Level Intelligence.


RangerScience said a month ago:

Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China, by Evariste Regis Huc

He's an early 1800s French Catholic monk and is possibly the greatest travel writer of all time. Not only is the trip amazing, but the way he writes about it? Incredible.

In the sequel, the Chinese empire summons him to stand trial for being a Christian, since it was mostly illegal to be so in the empire at the time. It, too, is amazing.


officemonkey said a month ago:

Anthony Trollope's "The Warden."

Trollope isn't as well known as Dickens or Austen. I think the emotional intelligence of this book makes up for the fact that nothing much happens.

There's a vicar who is old friends with the Bishop. He's made Warden of an Almshouse for old men in the community. The amount of money he's going to get to do basically nothing is embarrassingly large.

It's an extremely gentle book about controversy, conspiracy, and people taking a moral stand.

It got me hooked on Trollope. His other books are far more intricate, worldly, and entertaining. But I like this short novel very much.

timkam said a month ago:

Ariel Rubinstein - Economic Fables. For everyone who is interested in an intuitive and (self-)critical perspective on economic theory. The PDF version is available for free on Rubinstein's personal web page, but requires you to provide your email address: http://arielrubinstein.tau.ac.il/books.html

idlewords said a month ago:

"Light and Color in the Outdoors" by Marcel Minnaert. The book goes into the physics of a lot of outdoor phenomena; you will be amazed at the things you never noticed or thought about before reading it.

"The History and Social Influence of the Potato" is a pretty good time.

"Politics of Qat: The Role of a Drug in Ruling Yemen" may sound way too niche, but it's fascinating as a study of transportation in a drug economy. Qat is a perishable leaf (like salad) and the politics of the entire region depend on who can more reliably deliver it to gunmen.

e15ctr0n said a month ago:

The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney


I found this book in the Best Books of the Year 2006 round-up by The Economist: https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2006/12/07/fighting...

Book review: https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2006/05/25/radiantl...

Website: https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

cannam said a month ago:

Your harmony book sets a high bar for obscurity! I'm sure many of us with an interest in harmony would like to know more - please tell us something about it.

A book I am very fond of that I don't think is widely known (though it's not in the same league as your suggestion) is "Resisting the Virtual Life", a 1995 collection of essays on the theme of cyber-wariness published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights imprint - more often associated with poetry.

Also very obscure for a long time, though easily bought now: Mervyn Peake's self-illustrated children's book "Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor". From the author of Gormenghast, but frankly much better. Highly recommended.

chubot said a month ago:

I remember getting Semiology of Graphics from the Palo Alto library around 2006. At the time it was sort of legendary and out of print, but it looks like it's since been reprinted. I think you can get most of the ideas from newer books, but it's well done and clearly ahead of its time.



Interestingly another relatively unknown book I like (and bought/read 20 years ago) is also about harmony:


I would say there's two kinds of harmony: harmony in equal temperament, and "alternative" harmonies based on physics, and this is about the latter. I can't tell from the link what the other harmony book is about. What's good about it?

As far as computer books, I've read a lot of recommendations here over the years like "thinking forth", "Computer Lib" by Ted Nelson, etc. They are well known to some audiences but not others.


I also enjoy reading what people though the computing future would be like. I have "Superdistribution" by Brad Cox:


And "Mirror Worlds" by Gelertner:


I'm pretty sure Gelertner claims that the Facebook feed is identical to his "life streams". I guess taken literally it's hard not to see the current Internet as a "mirror world" that's becoming the real world.

DyslexicAtheist said a month ago:

Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (La Technique) https://ratical.org/ratville/AoS/TheTechnologicalSociety.pdf

Jacques Ellul, Propaganda https://archive.org/details/Propaganda_201512

Thomas Ligotti The Conspiracy Against The Human Race https://archive.org/details/TheConspiracyAgainstTheHumanRace

and anything written by Peter Wessel Zapffe (an introduction to his work https://philosophynow.org/issues/45/The_Last_Messiah)

8bitsrule said a month ago:

I consider Michael Polanyi's works to be very important in a certain way.

MP's The Tacit Dimension (1966, ~120pp) is a good introduction to his ideas about "Tacit knowledge", i.e. 'we can know more than we can tell', e.g. facial recognition. , A quick and enjoyable read that might appeal to many in this crowd.

Akin to Hadamard's Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field.

If you've got time, MP's earlier Personal Knowledge (1958, ~400pp) might be a worthwhile deeper-dive. I recall that his style reminded me of Lewis Thomas.

alephx said a month ago:

Science, Politics and Gnosticism: Two essays by Eric Voegelin, https://www.amazon.com/Science-Politics-Gnosticism-Two-Essay...

I found it to be a very interesting and deep take on the philosophical and historical origins of many contemporary political currents.

The Road to Serfdom, by F. Hayek, a liberal economist.

I found it very well written, amusing and even hilarious in how even in the 1940's supporters of communism and progressives where making the same kind of arguments that are made today. Hayek needless to say, deals brilliantly with these. As relevant today as when written. I find its ideas resonate a lot when thinking about how systems of all kind come to be and function.

qnsi said a month ago:

Self-directed behavior - Watson

This is a textbook for behavior change course, but it is 100% practical (project to pass subject is to change some kind of behavior)

Only tested information Science-based. This book can change your life but you wont find it mentioned anywhere

45ure said a month ago:

Aquarium by Viktor Suvorov.

The "Aquarium" of the title is the nickname given to GRU headquarters in Moscow by those who work there. "What sort of fish are there swimming there?" asks Suvorov of his boss when he learns about it. "There's only one kind there—piranhas." ─ Wikipedia.

Book: https://archive.org/details/ViktorSuvorovAquariumTheCareerAn...

jonnycomputer said a month ago:

The Structure and Confirmation of Evolutionary Theory by Elisabeth Lloyd has had an outsized effect on my thinking, even though I do not work in that field.


rland said a month ago:

Shipwrecks, by Akira Yoshimura. It's short, cold, meditative, and harsh. The author has won several awards in Japan but isn't widely known otherwise.

I read all his other books (those that were translated) after it.

ukulele said a month ago:

I'm always amazed at how few people have read The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes.

It covers the physics, politics, motivation, cultural implications, and so much more. It's one of those books where being extremely long is a feature because it's unbelievably interesting. I highly recommend it.

dwd said a month ago:

The Journey to the West - Wu Cheng'en

Abridged English translation:


In its book form this story is basically unknown in the English-speaking world despite being considered one of four literary classics in Asia. And the 70s TV show that was based on this story was very faithful to the source material, particularly the humour.

nrjames said a month ago:

West With the Night, by Beryl Markham. It’s a beautiful autobiography about and by a woman who grew up in British East Africa, became a bush pilot, and eventually became the first person to fly across the Atlantic from East to West, departing from Britain.

I recommend not reading the introduction.



CalRobert said a month ago:

The Lumberjacks by Donald Mackay https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7797112-the-lumberjacks. Tales recorded from British Colombian lumberjacks in the 19th century.

I found it completely by accident, picking it up at random off the shelf in my university's library while procrastinating.

killjoywashere said a month ago:

Not exactly a book, Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States. (1)

It raises some concerns that folks in this forum are probably interested in and could do something about. Things like forcing US companies doing business in China to transfer dual-use technologies, the lack of US suppliers for certain goods, like high tenacity polyester fiber, domestic production of PCBs, specialized glass for NVG systems, a shortage of software engineers, but also shortages in skilled trades, like welders.

The dominance of the Chinese in certain critical industries is also problematic. For example one manufacturer produces 70% of small drones, which then creates secondary attack surfaces, like lack of security on the drone’s link. Another is the Chinese takeover of solar panel manufacturing, which creates a potential energy security risk.

For those skeptical of any report from the current administration, I would refer you to Ash Carter’s Inside the Five-Sided Box (2) which raises many of the same issues.

(1) https://media.defense.gov/2018/Oct/05/2002048904/-1/-1/1/ASS...

(2) https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Five-Sided-Box-Lifetime-Leader...

pgreenwood said a month ago:

"The Symmetries of Things" [1] by John H. Conway, Heidi Burgiel, and Chaim Goodman-Strauss.

A fantastic and beautifully illustrated expository work describing symmetry groups such as the 17 wallpaper groups in the plane (think Escher), and other tiling groups in for example the hyperbolic plane. Love the use of orbifold notation as opposed to crystallographic notation.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Symmetries-Things-John-H-Conway/dp/15...

thorin said a month ago:

Not sure if these books are unknown or fallen out of favor, but I've never spoken to anyone else who's read them without me passing them on first:

Travels - Michael Crichton - a number of useful life lessons I'm only just catching up on


The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ragged-Trousered-Philanthropists-Wo...

Ishmael https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ishmael-Novel-Book-1-ebook/dp/B000S...

Another thought, Robert Heinlein doesn't seem well known in the UK these days but I think he might be better thought of in the UK although may be considered dated and sexist. I often see him quoted on here.

Wildgoose said a month ago:

I highly recommend the English/Canadian author Matthew Hughes and his novels "Majestrum" and "The Gist Hunter & Other Stories". His prose is just beautiful to read, you really do savour every word.

An even more obscure writer would be Christopher Evans and especially his novella "Chimeras". This is set in a medieval world in which some people have the Talent, an ability to create dazzling works of art out of thin air - just pure thought-stuff. An act of mental creation which appeals to the computer programmer in me.

kristopolous said a month ago:

The Analysis of Art by Dewitt Parker. This was referenced in Dynamics of software development by Jim McCarthy. They're both pretty good but the Parker book is kinda rare.

Propaganda and Information Warfare in the Twenty-First Century by Scot MacDonald, it's purely academic but also a fantastic read. Also academic is Technoscientific Imaginaries: Conversations, Profiles, and Memoirs by George Marcus, also obscure but at least easier to find.

The 60s-80s books from City Lights are nice when you come across them. Pretty rare though.

logicchains said a month ago:

Spinoza's "Ethics". It was one of the first efforts to apply mathematical logic to philosophy (Wittgenstein borrowed a lot from it), and to provide an axiomatic model of emotion. Very roughly, it took a two pronged approach to illustrate there is no objective logical foundation for differentiating between "me" and "not me": firstly, by showing that, given determinism, everyone/thing is part of a single unalterable process, and secondly, by showing that there is no single objective standard for drawing the line between a thing and the things around it. (He doesn't deal with nondeterminism, but most of the conclusions could be mapped directly to a system containing a mix of nondeterminism and determinism, as adding nondeterminism cannot "increase" moral responsibility or "self-causation").

In that sense it gave a (comparatively) rigorous argument for the nebulous eastern concept of "oneness". Using this foundation he then makes a logical argument (given his axiomatisation of emotion) for why we should be happy.

It's also the book that made me realise that, even if the jealous Abrahamic God exists, He is not moral. Because due to determinism every action can be traced back to the initial cause, so it doesn't make sense for Him who created the universe to punish or reward people for actions that were ultimately predictable consequences of the universe's creation, which if omniscient he should have foreseen. (And if some things are nondeterministic, this still applies, because somebody cannot gain moral responsibility through decreased determinism).

richev said a month ago:

I can really recommend Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint[1]. Written by Robert Gaskins, inventor of PowerPoint, I found it enjoyable and interesting to learn the history and design decisions behind a product most take for granted, and some object to the overuse of.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Sweating-Bullets-Notes-Inventing-Powe...

yosito said a month ago:

The most interesting unknown book I've read was Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible by Russell E. Gmirkin. It'a an academic thesis and not really written for readability by the general public, but the ideas it presents are mind blowing. The gist is a theory that the Hebrew Bible was written by pre-Jewish scholars and politicians who studied Plato's works at the Library at Alexandria with the goal of uniting (12) disparate pre-Jewish tribes into one nation modeled after Plato's Republic. It's interesting both as a challenge to the mainstream theory that Plato's works were inspired by the Hebrew Bible, and as a look at an ancient social engineering project that still has huge implications thousands of years later. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32183185-plato-and-the-c...

brownbat said a month ago:

Andy Kessler's How We Got Here.

Only a few hundred people have rated it on GoodReads, but if you wanted to trace a march of technological progress from swords to the Internet, it does a good job. There are definitely other stories you could tell about this accelerating sweep of technological change, but this one was a solid rapid overview and really stuck some ideas with me about how changes compound (or completely swerve to a new goal) over time.

The original tweet is more about how domain experts would rely on books nobody outside that domain has heard of, so maybe I should be thinking more about textbooks that stuck with me. Sources of Chinese Tradition, the Tractatus, and A Mathematical Theory of Computation all left pretty lasting influences in one way or another.

Sources of Japanese Tradition discusses the origins of Tendai Zen Buddhism, with some bits on Dogen, who once wrote something like, "If you want to achieve a certain thing, you must first become a certain person. After becoming a certain person, you no longer want that certain thing."

That's a pretty good tie in to Kessler's view of the last several hundred years of human progress. We were repeatedly solving some other problem, which once we had the tools to solve that, it became nearly irrelevant compared to what else we could do now.

smitty1e said a month ago:

I'll venture "The Third Policeman" for comic surrealism.


zokier said a month ago:

I did enjoy The Transylvania (or Writing on the Wall) Trilogy by Bánffy. It has similar feeling to Tolstoy (Anna Kareina, War and Peace) but bit less high-concept and more grounded to reality, maybe bit closer to Il Gattopardo by Lampedusa. One nice thing about Bánffy is that it gives insight on a period and setting that was so important, but not that well understood, in (European) history; the just before fall of Austro-Hungarian empire that eventually then led to triggering first world war. The books are fictional, but the author was an actual count from that era which lends certain degree of authenticity to it. Of course it also means that there are some nostalgic elements to it, but that just gives it bit more charm imho.

This is the article that introduced it to me; I don't know it counts as "unknown" if it has a Guardian story written about it.. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2011/aug/05/writ...

arikr said a month ago:

How to get lucky by Gunther. Based on the premise that luck is very useful for getting what you want, and that there are very practical techniques you can follow for generating results that look like “luck”. Absolutely excellent book.

bookofjoe said a month ago:

"The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life" — Erving Goffman (1959). Timeless. https://www.amazon.com/Presentation-Self-Everyday-Life/dp/03...

yourcelf said a month ago:

Radio Gaga: A Mixtape for the End of Humanity, by Stefani Bulsara.

An off-kilter, hilarious, inventive, and cutting apocalyptic sci fi novel about pop music. Writing style is like Douglas Adams meets Tom Robbins, through the lens of Top 40 radio and tabloids.


tomek_zemla said a month ago:

Unflattening by Nick Sousanis. It was originally the first PhD theses written in a form of a comic book. It is a study on how we gather, communicate and invent knowledge using images.

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2015/07/20/thinking-thro... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unflattening https://www.amazon.com/Unflattening-Nick-Sousanis/dp/0674744...

rebuilder said a month ago:

"A girl among the anarchists" by Isabel Meredith (pseudonym) - found it on Project Gutenberg somehow, it's a contemporary (fictionalized) account of anarchist activism in late 19th-century Britain and I found it to be a fascinating description of fanaticism.

perdid0 said a month ago:

Gog by Giovanni Papini.

I read it in Spanish, and apparently it's not the easiest book to find in English, but if you do, it's definitely different.


lcall said a month ago:

Very recently: Spillworthy, by Johanna Harness (https://www.amazon.com/Spillworthy-Johanna-Harness/dp/099138...).

Might be targeted at a teen audience, but I enjoyed it very much, as relaxing, clean, light fiction that makes the reader want to be a better person while they enjoy themselves. Very thoughtful and enjoyable, hard to put down. Shows a hard situation be resolved, from the perspective of the youths involved, and I thought it shows a lot of kind thoughtfulness over many years, by the author. (Some years ago I knew the author's husband.)

scanr said a month ago:

I thoroughly enjoyed “Constellation Games” by Leonard Richardson who coincidentally also wrote BeautifulSoup, the python HTML parser.

hyperion2010 said a month ago:

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp which appears to recently have received a reprinting, my copy is from the 40s.

Deathworld by Harry Harrison. I've been waiting for some screenplay writer to stumble across this one, and if I had to guess James Cameron probably did, but just didn't tell anyone.

SLAN by A. E. van Vogt.

The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz.

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, and Paratime by H. Beam Piper.

However the best of all, is maybe only slightly less know, since the author is certainly extremely well known: Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin. An absolutely fantastic collection of stories about an ecological engineer.

K0SM0S said a month ago:

Not exactly unknown but rarely mentioned these days:

Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life (1960) by Dr Maxwell Maltz, MD.

A foundational work in the field of self-image and more generally self-growth. Sort of the missing link between Hill-Carnegie and Covey, it's the first of its kind to shatter the body/mind duality and show facts in hand the power of the whole. A positively enriching read, containing a few invaluable ideas.

If you're a Zen or Stoic like me, you'll find the traces of these roots in there, the lineage of ideas.

cossray said a month ago:

Half of a Yellow Sun[1] by Chimamanda Ngozi.

If you want to sample probably a different style and culture, I would highly recommend this book. This is a 2006 novel by a prolific African writer and is set in the late 1960s Biafran times in Nigeria. There is a lot in it and is richly written.

[1]: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18749.Half_of_a_Yellow_S...

antoncohen said a month ago:

The Union Station (EarthCent Ambassador) series by E. M. Foner[1]. They are fun lighthearted sci-fi about the characters and their lives. But under the lighthearted fun hides thought provoking commentary on society and people. The books are included with Kindle Unlimited so if you are a member of that you can read the books at no additional cost.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K4I391A

vikingcaffiene said a month ago:

House of Leaves. I've literally never read anything like it.

MinusGix said a month ago:

Electrons and Valence: Development of the Theory, 1900-1925[1] by Anthony N. Stranges I picked this up at a Texas A&M (It is published by A&M) book sale for cheap. This book caught my eye as it was one of the few actual books on any form of science I had seen there (many of the books were history, and often specifically about Texas, which did not interest me). As the title suggests it is a part History, part Chemistry, book about the development of theory of electrons and the steps it took to get there. It explains various theories, and state of the Chemistry world at certain times in History. It often quotes and references older books, and provides the citation at the bottom. While my Chemistry knowledge is really lacking, it was still quite an interesting read. I haven't yet completed it, but I'm slowly working my way through it, and it's reinvigorated some of my interest in Chemistry that I had lost in schooling.

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Electrons-Valence-Development-Theory-...

bordercases said a month ago:

Foundations of Decision Analysis by Hubbard.

Most people here may have scraped work on decision theory. But Hubbard turns the field into a coherent skillset. Otherwise you're just sitting around talking about decision models instead of using and practicing with them, for everyday living. This is what Hubbard gives you.

"Smart Choices" is a book which may be better known but complements FoDA nicely as an entry-level supplement.

rramadass said a month ago:

This is a thread after my own heart! I love finding out and reading old, less well-known and thought provoking books on a variety of subject matters. I have come to the conclusion that "popular" almost always equals "lowest common denominator" and "fad of the month" particularly given today's media hype cycles. Moreover one has to guard against having ones mental models bounded within a box. By actively seeking out lesser known and out of the way viewpoints one truly grows. Some books from my collection which i have not seen mentioned here (in no particular order or categorization);

* The Natural History of Nonsense by Bergan Evans

* Programming on Purpose, Essays on Software Design by P. J. Plauger

* Management: A Political Activity by Ted Stephenson

* The Energy of Life: The Science of What Makes Our Minds and Bodies Work by Guy Brown

* Patterns for Time-Triggered Embedded Systems: Building Reliable Applications with the 8051 Family of Microcontrollers by Michael Pont.

* UNIX Systems for Modern Architectures: Symmetric Multiprocessing and Caching for Kernel Programmers by Curt Schimmel.

* Maxims and Reflections (Ricordi) by Francesco Guicciardini

There are a bunch more i have to root around for :-)

sfRattan said a month ago:

Fiction: Voice Net by Shinichi Hoshi

An eerie look into the future from before the age of computers. The number of things about our lives now he got essentially right in 1969 is frankly stunning. Twelve interwoven short stories explore various residents in the Honeydew Condomiminium: how a computer managed network of telephone based services has affected their daily lives in sometimes nefarious ways. The novella's availability is limited in English, but there's a link to the Kindle store from the late author's webpage[1].

Non-Fiction: The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer

I think this book remains the most useful and concise guide to understanding mass movements and fanaticism I've ever read. It pairs nicely with Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Hoffer's book is more expository and cautionary where Alinsky's book is more enthusiastic and encouraging, while both books have a healthy dose of cynicism about mass movements themselves.


[1]: https://shinichihoshi.com/voice_net.html

benatkin said a month ago:

Lila by Robert Pirsig.

Everyone knows about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM). Lila is not as well known, but it's fun to read if you really enjoyed ZMM. https://www.amazon.com/Lila-Inquiry-Robert-M-Pirsig/dp/05532...

Rerarom said a month ago:


Mordecai Roshwald, Level 7

Alexander Dewdney, The Planiverse

Joseph Heller, God Knows

Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams


Jane Goodall, In the Shadow of Man

Gian-Carlo Rota, Indiscrete Thoughts

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

Michael E. Brown, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads

Michael Harris, The Atomic Times

I may add guilty pleasures like the Legacy of the Force series, but I don't think this is what people here are looking for.

riffraff said a month ago:

"once upon an ice age" by Roy Lewis (sometimes sold as "how we ate father" or "the evolution man", I think).

It's a first person narration of some Pleistocene hominid, somewhat educational but mostly just hilarious, in the sense of a Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett book.

I know 3 or 4 People who read it, they all loved it, but it's virtually unknown.

mLuby said a month ago:

A Reverence for Wood by Eric Sloane.

Accomplished its eponymous goal in a brief 110 pages, many of which are beautiful lithographic sketches.

crimsonalucard said a month ago:

Systems of Survival by Jane Jacobs.

She comes up with an elegant social theory behind the nature of corruption.

We know on a certain level why people can be seduced by corruption, but she introduces a higher level concept that describes why entire civilizations can be corrupt.

The book is really short as her theory is quite elegantly explained in a short dialogue between intellectuals.

travmatt said a month ago:

“Huey Long” by T. Harry Williams. The politician who very well could have defeated Roosevelt and the loose inspiration behind Upton Sinclair’s “It Can’t Happen Here”.

“Reminisces of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefevre. Thinly veiled autobiography of Jesse Livermore, a 1920/30’s trader and his experiences, including foreseeing the crash of 1929.

galimaufry said a month ago:

The Bachelors by de Montherlant. About two socially isolated impoverished turn-of-the-century aristocrats. The plot is very bitter and the main characters are awful people so you'd expect it to be fairly cynical, but it isn't at all, really sympathetic in fact. The narration is insightful and hilarious.

seshagiric said a month ago:

Two books on improving your thinking skills:

1. Super Thinking - Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg (DuckDuckGo)

2. Thinking Strategically - Avinash Dixit

sukh said a month ago:

White by Kenya Hara [1]

A brain reboot. If you're into design or a minimal lifestyle or want to be inspired before creating a new thing. Easy to read.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/White-Kenya-Hara/dp/3037781831

carapace said a month ago:

"Neurospeak" by Robert Masters

A psychoactive book, science-based (YMMV).


- - - -

Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson"

Impossible to categorize, incredibly challenging. Gurdjieff was a genius on the level of Leonardo da Vinci, but where Leonardo studied the outer world, Gurdjieff studied the inner world. This three-volume tome is his effort to encode and transmit his particular school of thought.

Gurdjieff has had a deep and obscure influence on Western culture. For example, in the Monty Python's Flying Circus movie "The Meaning of Life" an abridged description of his philosophy is given in the boardroom scene about the meaning of life, right before Terry Jones asks, "What was that about hats?"

james_s_tayler said a month ago:

Sleight of Mouth.

It's an NLP book unlike any other. It presents 12 (if I recall correctly) patterns of speech that are highly effective at changing people's perception of something. It's just super practical and really helped me out when I read it close to a decade ago. Never heard anyone else bring mention it.

LargoLasskhyfv said a month ago:

An alternate history novel by Kim Stanley Robinson:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Years_of_Rice_and_Salt

Wherin the plague eliminates almost everyone in medieval Europe, thereby eliminating 'colonisation'.

Painting development of the world from there, up until around now. Showing to me how arbitrary much of the world as we know it is.

Not necessarily better, just like: 'Same shit, but different.'

(Even a little educational for real world history and geographic knowledge, because i've read it with maps and wikipedia open, and learned more of all the '*stans' that way.)

yepitsmeleaf said a month ago:

Some of my favorite obscure books are

-What Not by Rose MACAULAY (all caps just because I pasted it). It's a dystopian future book written during WW1. I've read that it's a inspiration for clockwork orange, 1984, and brave new world but much less well known. To be honest I find that it's the most relatable of all those dystopian books.

-The Story of B By Daniel Quinn (also My Ishmael and Ishmael but less well known then those). They represent a fundamentally different way of viewing the world we inhabit.

-The Foxes Of Harrow By Frank Yerby (Idk how well known it is though). This one is like those classic English lit books but focused on an enterprising Irish charlatan who goes down to New Orleans to build a life in the years leading up to the civil war.

uncle_j said a month ago:

Jaron Lanier's You are not a Gadget. It really changes your ideas about software and I really wish people would read it. Especially regarding Open source and regarding design.

Keep in mind It isn't a programming book though and it really shouldn't be read as one.

kseistrup said a month ago:

Bill Harvey: Mind Magic ⌘ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3573948-mind-magic

Make sure you get one of the older editions with mind drills in it.

TomWhitwell said a month ago:

Bad Boy of Music by George Anthiel. You know how Hedy Lamarr invented spread spectrum radio in the 1940s? George Anthiel was the avant-garde composer she did it with. This is an amazing book, full of incredible stories but very hard to find.

analogtom said a month ago:

Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. by John D. Clark

"And even when it was successfully completed, the peroxide would still decompose slowly; not enough to start a runaway chain reaction, but enough to build up an oxygen pressure in a sealed tank, and make packaging impossible. And it is a nerve-wracking experience to put your ear against a propellant tank and hear it go "glub" —long pause — "glub" and so on. After such an experience many people, myself (particularly) included, tended to look dubiously at peroxide and to pass it by on the other side."

ficklepickle said a month ago:

From Nut House to Castle: The Eddy Haymour Story


Story of a guy with a dream, screwed over by the government. His cousin storms the Canadian embassy in Beirut, demanding Eddy get his day in court. He does, and prevails.

Crazy story that occurred where I grew up, however it was before my time. I had driven past this "castle" a hundred times before I found this book. Every copy is signed by the author.

Here is a recent article detailing the story: https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/history/eddy-haymour-ratt...

rglover said a month ago:

It's made the rounds but The Courage to Be Disliked has been my go-to recommendation for the last year.

It fundamentally changed the way I look at the world and helped me to get unstuck from some serious mental and emotional shortcomings.

HedgedHuman said a month ago:

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha


Paraphrasing what one reviewer said on GR, it's a good read if you are taking life too seriously, or, the complete opposite.

I didn't get it the first time I read it.

I do find myself going back to the riddles and the poems in the essays now and then when I feel I'm stuck, blocked, or trapped in a loop. It made me ... more humble?

Also a good read if you just want to learn more about Korean Buddhism and Kong-an's in general.

phubbard said a month ago:

“Finite and infinite games” by James Carse. Philosophy and hugely thought provoking.

ecdavis said a month ago:

Life Beyond Earth by Feinberg & Shapiro. A really interesting examination of what alien life might look like, where and how it could arise. Explores fascinating concepts like life inside of a sun. Made me feel like alien life is most likely unrecognizable to humans as life. I think it's out of print, I got a second hand copy off Amazon (or maybe eBay).

The Manual by Cauty & Drummond. Funny, short, surprisingly insightful. A step-by-step method on making a #1 hit song. The authors had a #1 shortly before writing this book, and a few years afterwards. Can be found on archive.org.

marttt said a month ago:

"The Crisis of the Modern World" by René Guénon (1927), French mathematician and metaphysicist.

Quoting Wikipedia, this book describes the "intellectual divide" between the East and West, and the peculiar nature, according to him, of modern civilization." [1]

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Gu%C3%A9non

ctrager said a month ago:

"Mating" by Norman Rush. Fiction. I think the Amazon review has it right: "Had Jane Austen been in the Peace Corps in Africa in the 1980s, Mating is the book she might have written."

eyegor said a month ago:

Steal this book, by Abbie Hoffman [0]. Certainly not unknown, but not exactly something you find by accident. It's a book detailing 60s counterculture activities, and took a lot of work to find a publisher. Really interesting look back on history at general creative problem solving, and very entertaining. The most common theme in the book is "how to do x, for free".

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steal_This_Book

arminiusreturns said a month ago:

Trying to think about the future of warfare and the nation state, I picked up this gem that was hiding in a voluminous tome: The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History by Philip Bobbitt

It had so many implications, especially about the future emergence and dominance of the "market state" that I couldn't stop thinking about Neuromancer et al.

Another gem I have found myself rereading more than once, is Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic by Matthew Stewart.

neplus said a month ago:

Depends on your definition of practically unknown. With that said, these are the four that immediately spring to mind as being both worth reading and relatively obscure (judging by date of publication in conjunction with being either out of print or with very few star ratings on Amazon).

Did Monetary Forces Cause the Great Depression? - Peter Termin, 1975

Termin is still going strong at MIT. His 1975 book was foundational for challenging Friedman on the cause of the Great Depression. Given what was to come in the 1980s this book quickly became overshadowed and destined for obscurity. However, it still provides an appropriate, timely lens to analyze monetary theory without the abstraction that has engrossed economics as of late.

The Supreme Court in the American System of Government - Robert Jackson, 1955

A series of lectures created for a Harvard lecture series in 1954-55 by Justice Jackson. He suddenly died before being able to deliver them, but they were compiled in a book now out of print. Justice Jackson is widely regarded - across the aisle - as one of the most brilliant legal writers of our time (or perhaps of any time). While this book doesn't set out his entire judicial philosophy, or even do what the title says due to his untimely death, it does lay a valuable conception of the proper role of the SCOTUS within the Republic. Also recommended, to see both his pen and intellect in action, are his opinions in Korematsu v. United States and West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

The Opium of the Intellectuals - Aron, 1955

Amazon does a better job of summarizing than I could off the top of my head, so here you go: "Raymond Aron's 1955 masterpiece The Opium of the Intellectuals, is one of the great works of twentieth- century political reflection. Aron shows how noble ideas can slide into the tyranny of "secular religion" and emphasizes how political thought has the profound responsibility of telling the truth about social and political reality-in all its mundane imperfections and tragic complexities."

An incredibly difficult read that is worth trying to get through. Brimming with ideas and not without its own pitfalls. Tells the story of 20th Century intellectual history and thought as well as any could, although in a rather indirect way.

The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America (Aristocracy & Caste in America) - Baltzell, 1987

I'll let Amazon summarize again: "This classic account of the traditional upper class in America traces its origins, lifestyles, and political and social attitudes from the time of Theodore Roosevelt to that of John F. Kennedy. Sociologist E. Digby Baltzell describes the problems of exclusion and prejudice within the community of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (or WASPs, an acronym he coined) and predicts with amazing accuracy what will happen when this inbred group is forced to share privilege and power with talented members of minority groups."

My summary would be: what will happen (hypothetically, remember the date of publication) when an ephemeral class (WASPs) suddenly disappear from their previous pedestal of influence? Prescient, widely applicable to other countries with their own quasi-classes, and deeply interesting for those less familiar with the subject.

zeristor said a month ago:

'The Extended Organism' by J Scott Turner

I've posted this repeatedly to these lists, but no one else is as enthused by it.

From the GoodReads page:

"Can the structures that animals build--from the humble burrows of earthworms to towering termite mounds to the Great Barrier Reef--be said to live? However counterintuitive the idea might first seem, physiological ecologist Scott Turner demonstrates in this book that many animals construct and use structures to harness and control the flow of energy from their environment to their own advantage."

rjkennedy98 said a month ago:

"The American Religion" by Harold Bloom. It blew my mind. Its a deeply subjective book about our collective consciousness, as told by biographies of the religious makers of America.

zeroonetwothree said a month ago:

The Uneasy Case for Progressive Taxation

If you think it’s “obvious” that progressive taxes are better/worse than flat taxes this is an excellent look at the evidence which may make you less confident.

thrwaway69 said a month ago:

Suicide notes by Mitchell Heisman. Pretty obscure. No idea whether to call it good or odd. It raises many questions without answers and will probably tell you that the author likely has some deep rooted issues.

Book: https://web.archive.org/web/20151123024834/http://www.geenst...

johncoltrane said a month ago:

_When Prophecy Fails. A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World_ by Leon Festinger, Hank Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. I have no idea if it's popular or not but it certainly is fascinating.

A small cult is growing around a woman who claims that the world will end at a specific date and that some will be saved in a specific way. When the date comes and there's neither end of the world nor saving, how will the group react?

neitsab said a month ago:

"The Shamanic Path to Quantum Consciousness: The Eight Circuits of Creative Power" by Laurent Huguelit.

This book literally changed my life and set it on a very different course a few years ago.

It builds upon the 8 circuit-brain model of Timothy Leary, to provide both a map (which is presented as such and not expounded so as to confuse it with the reality it describes), and a practice that is derived from classic, western-compliant core shamanism, as formulated by the anthropologist Michael Harner who created the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS) in the 80's, practice which makes testable the framework presented in the book (so it remains quite pragmatic and not only theoretical), and provides the absolutely delightful properties of:

- not rejecting any part or aspect of reality as we know it, so that biology, emotions, the intellect, social life, sex, drugs, sports, science, religions, yoga, meditation, nutrition, arts, quantum probabilities etc. all have their place in this story;

- doesn't paint itself as THE ONE AND ONLY valid view of reality, but instead offers (and strongly recommend) to integrate and make your own life experiences first class citizens and to adapt the discourse according to them, thus completely reversing the usual pattern of those kind of "revelation" books;

- offers a very coherent and inclusive perspective on reality, borrowing concepts from the science of cybernetics to paint a picture of it in terms of feedback loops that develops a new approach of the mind and its harmony, relying on eight broadly defined "circuits" or "tracks" (like in a car engine) and their interactive and dynamic play to provide fulfillment and as the source to real life creativity...

It is not long but it is dense in content; there is no fluff, and I am fairly certain that any competent hacker (in the broadest sense) with an open mind will find a many very precious tools and ideas in it.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Shamanic-Path-Quantum-Consciousness-C... Official website: http://8circuits.org/ENGLISH/index_ENG.html

claudeganon said a month ago:

From the perspective of literature, there was a whole, great, long-standing blog devoted to this subject:


The best publishing house for this kind of work is Wakefield Press:


Personal recommendations:

“The Tanners” by Robert Walser or “The Book of Monelle” by Marcel Schwob

sah2ed said a month ago:

Two books first published in the 60s:

“The Science of The Artificial” by Herbert Simon, a multi-disciplinary treatise on the goals of design by practitioners in the physical sciences (physics, bio. etc), non-physical sciences (math, comp. sci, etc) and humanities (econs., psych., etc).

“The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn, coined the concept of paradigm shift and used it to revisit the history of science that was previously thought to be cumulative and linear.

nealabq said a month ago:

The Diary of Opal Whiteley, written around 1910 by an observant child using unusual syntax. It's poetic, simple, brilliant. I first saw it in the Multnomah (Portland Oregon) library.

Available online: http://www.opalonline.org/

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opal_Whiteley

abtinf said a month ago:

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology has radically changed my view of almost everything, including software development. I’m able to cut through a lot of controversial issues by using its methods to ask incisive questions.


I_complete_me said a month ago:

Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J.E. Gordon. As an engineering student I found the insights and examples in this book by an aeronautical engineer helped me greatly in really understanding structures. Much better than the dry academical treatises and obscure equations of the university course I undertook. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in understanding structures.

l0b0 said a month ago:

*The Devil's Dictionary[1] by Ambrose Bierce, a collection of sarcastic definitions, some of which are still funny today:

> LOGIC, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.

> SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one's self and to nobody else.

[1] http://thedevilsdictionary.com/

pattusk said a month ago:

Bergson's Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness

Not exactly unknown but Bergson isn't as fashionable as he used to be and often derided for his belief in spiritualism and failure to understand Einstein's relativity.

Yet I've always found his core argument about duration and science (that science only measure discrete moments but never the full motion) has always fascinated me.

lappet said a month ago:

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (1), a collection of 15 short stories, all of them retellings of folk stories from South & East Asia

(1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072KDDXC8/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

ctrager said a month ago:

"House" by Tracy Kidder. It's non-fiction about the design and building of a house, but it all transfers to software development.

baruchel said a month ago:

Looking at the "Best Sellers Rank" of some famous website in order to figure out if some of my ideas are actually forgotten or not... This helped discarding some books (like "Roadside Picnic" or "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub"). While not absolutely unknown, I would still suggest: "The Rediscovery of Man" by Cordwainer Smith.

bookofjoe said a month ago:

"The Five-Day Course in Thinking" — Edward de Bono (1967). Great challenging fun.https://www.amazon.com/Five-Day-Course-Thinking-Edward-1967-...

leoc said a month ago:

I'm no expert myself, but: An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic by Graham Priest. https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/an-introduction-to-nonc...

imdhmd said a month ago:

Ammi: Letter to a democratic mother.


I read this back in 2009 and remember it as a really interesting and important book especially with the troubling political climate in India over the last decade.

lemmonii said a month ago:

"The Revolutionary Phenotype" by Dr. Gariepy is a continuation of Dawkins Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype.

In it he explains the emergence of genetic layers, provides a theory on the emergence of sex and lays out the best argument against gene editing to this date. After reading this book I consider all of the major questions of evolution answered.

copperx said a month ago:

The Eight Day of Creation. It's about the crazy race to discover DNA. It used to be fairly well known in academic circles 40 years ago, but it is now practically unknown. It's is an extremely well researched and told story. You don't need to know anything about genetics or biology to follow it. I can't recommend it enough.

dave333 said a month ago:

The Naturalist On The River Amazons


Not exactly unkown since it has its own wikipedia article but definitely worth reading, especially if you follow his journeys on Google maps.

bwb said a month ago:

"killer of men"

Fantastic historical fiction and the series is mind-blowing. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVFY6BM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

WheelsAtLarge said a month ago:

"Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats." by Steve Ettlinger

The book is a look at the way ingredients to everyday products are created. It's both entertaining and eye-opening.

mjklin said a month ago:

The Priceless Gift by Cornelius Hirschberg, a very down-to-earth book by a man who gave himself an education by reading books on the New York subway. Although a bit dated, it includes great recommendations on how and what to read to become a widely read and curious person. Very motivating too!

sunstone said a month ago:

Consilience by E.O Wilson should be more popular than it is. How to tell BS from things that might be real.

kevinali1 said a month ago:

Financier: The biography of Andre Meyer by Cary Reich. The book goes into the beginnings and psychology of one of the most important investment bankers of the 20th century. It also goes into great detail of the toxic nature of banking and the Genesis of complexity in modern dealmaking.

dvfjsdhgfv said a month ago:

The Crystal and the Way of Light by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. I had no idea that in the heart of Tibetan Buddhism lies this this particular teaching, for hundreds of years considered ultra-secret, but at the same time so directly connected to our present situation.

jslove said a month ago:

Nice little book about betting, risk, math and computer programming.


supernikita said a month ago:

Morte d'Urban and Wheat that Springeth Green by J. F. Powers. Who could ever imagine that I would thoroughly enjoy a book about Catholic priests who are not even solving crimes? Subtle, funny, keen-eyed how America and its practicioners of faith change after WW II.

mam2 said a month ago:

If you speak french only because there is sadly no english version :( :


arikr said a month ago:

The married man sex life primer 2011 by Kay. Horrible title. Very useful book for me as a husband.

hackerbeat said a month ago:

Dirty Havana Trilogy by Pedro Juan Gutierrez - About the hardships of making ends meet in Cuba.

mirimir said a month ago:

You Can't Win by Jack Black (1926) -- about crime and punishment

Of Captain Misson by Daniel Defoe (1728) -- about Libertatia

Drugs and Rights by Douglas N. Husak (1992)

Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World by David T. Courtwright (2002)

jdkee said a month ago:

This title may be relatively well-known among the HN crowd, but Interface by Stephen Bury aka Neal Stephenson is an amazingly prescient read. I find it Stephenson's most insightful and critical work that reflects contemporary America.

nicholast said a month ago:

Check out "From the Diaries of John Henry", a collection of essays on material like machine learning, quantum computing, and entrepreneurship.


starpilot said a month ago:

V-2 by Walter Dornberger. About the WW2 missile development, Dornberger was the program head. Vivid portrayal of wartime development, brutal office politics (to say the least), and fairly in depth on the details of rocketry.

orloffm said a month ago:

A Russian one - “Three Jews” by Muhin. Stupid title, but it’s an incredible account of author’s life and work at a steel plant in Soviet Union in 70-80s. Probably not translated, but highly recommended for all Russian speakers.

ctrager said a month ago:

"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down", non-fiction, about the cultural clash of modern American medicine and Hmong immigrants. The author demonstrates an amazing amount of empathy for both sides.

injb said a month ago:

East and West by C. Northcote Parkinson. In fact, anything by Parkinson. It's an alternative view on what causes empires to rise and fall.

The Snow Geese by William Fiennes....just for the sheer perfection of the prose.

hkai said a month ago:

Chinese Profiles

A collection of interviews with a hundred ordinary Chinese people in 1984

intrepidhero said a month ago:

Goat Walking by Jim Corbett. Interesting musings on wild places, man's place in them and finally his memories of the beginnings of the sanctuary movement in the 80s. Very relevant to today.

dredmorbius said a month ago:

In no particular order, and some of these being more "highly underrated" as opposed to "unknown", with the notable exception of Smith's Wealth of Nations which is disturbingly un- and mis-read:

1. Grammatical Man, by Jeremy Campbell (1982)


My introduction to information theory and its diverse set of interrelated applications and phenomena.

2. Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity, by William Ophuls (1977)


Distills the Limits to Growth issue to its essence, and looks at the political implications, with a set of estimates of political developments which have played out closely.

3. An Inquiry to the Nature and Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith (1776)


The best-known, but least-read, and most mis-read book on this list. Smith isn't perfect and has flaws. But his message is extraordinarily misunderstood and misrepresented. Even where he is wrong, he is instructive.

4. Commercialism and Journalism, by Hamilton Holt (1909)


A short but extraordinarily illuminating read on the influence of money and advertising on the press, coming near the beginning of the era of mass media.

5. Unix Power Tools, by Mike Loukides et al (1997)


The book that really got me "over the hump" in understanding the Unix environment and tools. Now somewhat dated, though still highly useful.

6. A Short History of Progress, by Ronald Wright (2004)


An exploration of the story, question, and future, of progress.

7. Entropy and the Economic Process, by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1971)


A re-thinking of economics taking thermodynamics into account. Famously difficult to read, but well worth the effort.

8. On the Damned Human Race, by Mark Twain (1962)


A darker, angrier, more bitter side of Twain, cracking open the sanitised version those familiar with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn will know, and giving an insight to the darker side of late 19th and early 20th century America.

9. Energy and Civilization, by Vaclav Smil (2017)


A re-casting of history, not according to spiritual or cultural progress, Great Men, or social dynamics, but the access to and utilisation of energy sources.

10. Resistances to the Adoption of Technological Innovations, by Bernhard J. Stern (1937)


A fascinating exploration of the organised opposition to numerous significant technological innovations through the ages, contrary to the conventional story told by mainstream economic and innovation models and stories. Stern's research assistant at the time he was working on this topic went on to become known as a science fiction author, and based one of his first works on this notion: Isaac Asimov.

On the question of compiling such lists: I've recently started keeping a research journal in which I'm trying to capture works of significance that I've read, vaguely inspired by both index-card methods (such as Zettelkasten or POIC) and bullet journals.

The organisation is "BOTI" -- best of the interval.

I will start a two-page spread, dated, of a specific class of entries -- works, videos, authors, ideas, etc. -- and when that closes, start another. Periodically (about every month, for now) I'll select the best of those works for a BOTM list, and at the end of a year, a BOTY list.

Or at least that's the idea.

This may address the question of keeping track of the most significant works (or authors, concepts, ideas, etc.) over time, which otherwise tend to become a bit of a jumble.

The BOTI list and periodic aggregations themselves resemble round-robin databases, or ring or circular buffers or files, though without actually rewriting each specific list. The initial capture levels remain accessible (in the journal) for revisiting, should something prove to have been more significant on subsequent reflection than initially appeared.

reedwolf said a month ago:

The Invincible by Stanislaw Lem. Little known, even in Sci-Fi circles.

andreskytt said a month ago:

Dom skital'tsev, Aleksandr Mirer. Can’t find an english translation having been made. It’s a very nice Soviet sci-fi thing with a plot I have not really seen anything similar to.

hgal said a month ago:

Voyage to Kazohinia by Sándor Szathmári. I guess it's fairly unknown outside Hungary. Published first in the forties it's still my favourite utopia/dystopia.

scottlocklin said a month ago:

Beyond Sing the Woods by Trygve Gulbranssen -something that won all kinds of awards once upon a time, but which has been completely forgotten. What it means to be human.

heatherengland said a month ago:

after spending all day coding and being deep in erlang, algorithms and bug reports, i like to read something that doesn't require much thought. parodies work great i find.


that's the kind of work i have in mind. simple and refreshing.

clairity said a month ago:

i don't know how "unknown" it is, but i accidentally ran across the novel comfort woman by nora okja keller at the library a few years back and found it heartbreaking, on a subject few americans know much about.


me2i81 said a month ago:

Patterns in Network Architecture: A Return to Fundamentals by John Day. There's not a lot of criticism of technology at this level.

Merrill said a month ago:

MEGAMISTAKES: Forecasting and the Myth of Rapid Technological Change by Steven P Schnaars.

From '89, somewhat dated now, but still interesting.

ttctciyf said a month ago:

Severely underappreciated (IMO) is British psychiatrist Marion Milner's A Life of One's Own[1] (1934, as "Joanna Field") - an extraordinary recounting of the author's subjective yet diligent observational study of her own awareness and mental processes from first principles and with as few assumptions as possible.

The results were unexpected!

> As soon as I began to study my perception, to look at my own experience, I found that there were different ways of perceiving and that the different ways provided me with different facts. There was a narrow focus which meant seeing life as if from blinkers and with the centre of awareness in my head; and there was a wide focus which meant knowing with the whole of my body, a way of looking which quite altered my perception of whatever I saw. And I found that the narrow focus way was the way of reason. If one was in the habit of arguing about life it was very difficult not to approach sensation with the same concentrated attention and so shut out its width and depth and height. But it was the wide focus way that made me happy.

The book is full of arresting and innovative insights on awareness and perception. For example, the spotlight analogy for "covert attention" is often attributed to Francis Crick writing in 1984[2], but fifty years earlier Milner writes:

> At any moment there exist in the fringes of my thought faint patternings which can be brought to distinction when I look at them. Like a policeman with a flash-light I can throw the bright circle of my awareness where I choose; if any shadow or movement in the dim outer circle of its rays arouses my suspicion, I can make it come into the circle of brightness and show itself for what it is. But the beam of my attention is not of fixed width, I can widen or narrow it as I choose.[3]

On the topic of first person recountings of mental journeys, but from the other side of the analyst's couch, it's also worth mentioning Operators and Things: The inner life of a schizophrenic[4] a powerful first person account of schizophrenic hallucination and ideation which comes across a little more like a novel than an objective account but is fascinating nonetheless.

1: https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/10/11/a-life-of-ones-own-...

2: e.g. "(The analogy was first suggested by Francis Crick, the geneticist.)" - https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/how-cons...

3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ntg6OE7haSgC&pg=PA77

4: Online at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/13476 it seems - I read it in paperback in the 80s and only turned that site up with google just now, so ... but the PDF seems to work.

dot1x said a month ago:

Rule your World! By Harry Browne - and all other Harry Browne books. Changed the way I view the world.

imgabe said a month ago:

Twistor and Einstein's Bridge. Both excellent hard sci-fi novels by John Cramer, who's also a working physicist.

jmpman said a month ago:

Although it was immensely popular in its time, I haven’t found anyone else who has read it - “Memoirs of a British Agent”

mikeymz said a month ago:

The Candlemass Road by George Mcdonald Fraser

futurecat said a month ago:

More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, by Kodwo Eshun. Maybe the best take on Music and Afrofuturism.

dilyevsky said a month ago:

Mount Analogue by Rene Daumal is pretty cool and supposedly was an inspiration for The Holy Mountain and Lost tv series

dublin said a month ago:

If you like dogs at all, then "Cold Noses, Warm Hearts" is one of the best short story anthologies ever.

Eddie Rickenbacker's autobiography is a pretty good story, too - it's hard to believe one man could be so impactful in so many ways - he really had to fend off people who wanted him to be president, and there's little doubt he would have won if he'd run...

FranciscusG said a month ago:

"Matter, Space, Radiation" by Menahem Simhony.

It explains the Ether (EPOLA, Electron-Positron Lattice) and states the many proofs for that, as well as explains many hitherto unexplained physics phenomena such as Mass Inertia, the speed of light c, Gravity and the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

You'd think the concept of "Ether" is debunked but after reading the book you'll be convinced it is real.

werber said a month ago:

Last year I picked up this book Truckstop Rainbows, and it was great. Late soviet angstsy gen x snapshot

ranprieur said a month ago:

Gaiome by Kevin Scott Polk, about the potential for highly ecological artificial worlds in space.

JVIDEL said a month ago:

Can't believe nobody has mentioned Blindsight yet.

Awesome scifi book, it will blow your mind.

jtth said a month ago:

_The Retreat to Commitment_ by WW Bartley III is a book I think about almost every day.

embit said a month ago:

Lost in Mongolia: Rafting the World's Last Unchallenged River By Colin Angus