This is a list of most of the books I've read some of my reflections. It omits my reading on computers, which is a list unto itself. The list was started in 1996. I tried to go back, but memory is not reliable, mine especially so.

Non-Fiction:

Economics:

  • Hidden Order - David Friedman
    This is the 1st book on economics I've read since college. I saw the author promoting it on Booknotes on C-Span one night when I couldn't sleep. It is all about economic interpretations of everyday life. It was great, fully of interesting irony and insights. It inspired me to email the author, and read these other economics books:
  • The Armchair Economist - Steve Landsburg
    This is very similar in subject to Hidden Order, but predates it by a few years. I came to find out that the 2 authors are friends. This one tries to shock a little bit more, which I dislike. I like to be shocked by the ideas alone, not the writing style. It has plenty of shocking ideas as well. The author used to write the column Everyday Economics for Slate.
  • More Sex Is Safer Sex - Landsburg
    This is more recent than the above, but similar and similarly interesting.
  • The Black Swan - Tassim.
    This is about how we are ill equiped to handle rare events. An unassuming thesis, but a hugely powerful one when examined in detail. No book has had his big an impact on me in the last 15 years. I apologize for categorizing this under economics - the author would think this means I have completely miss-understood .
  • The Age of Diminished Expectations, Pop Internationalism & The Great Unravelling - Paul Krugman
    The previous two books from Friedman and Landsburg are kind of economics-lite. Not only are they accessible to non-economists like myself, but they emphasize the fun, everyday areas (like traffic jams and the market for dates). Krugman doesn't venture into these areas, but sticks to the more traditional, like monetary policy and it's effect on international trade. These books are still accessible to non-economists; they go easy on mathematics and economics jargon. The Great Unravelling is a collection of essays from NYT and Slate, but the other two are more complicated, and you must be familiar with some basics before they are digestible. The author used to write the column Dismal Scientist for Slate. Now he is my favorite Op-Ed writer for the NY Times.
  • The Ultimate Resource - Julian Simon
    This great book is about how population growth provides more benefits than costs. Here is a summary of the argument:
    People are better off now than ever before (consider average length of life). There are more people now than ever before. Therefore, the evidence suggests that people provide more benefits than costs.
    This is not a proof, of course, just a discussion of the evidence. It is surprising that number of areas where the evidence points in the same direction as the general statement above. Still, as every student of science knows, extrapolation is riskier than interpolation. Population-wise we are extrapolating, substantially.
  • The Misunderstood Economy: What counts and how to count it. - Robert Eisner
    More statistics than the others.

I enjoyed each of these books. Some of the conclusions run counter to my (prior) beliefs.One thing that makes economics interesting is that "rational" individual behavior can create irrational systemic behavior. Reason I like it is to see how it could influence decisions both small (what should i have for lunch) and large (should we cap the price of electricity).

Business:

  • The Essential Drucker - Peter F. Drucker
  • Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds - Howard Gardner
  • Bad Leadership - Barbara Kellerman Case studies of many leadership failures.
  • 4-Hour Work Week - Ferriss
    I enjoyed this. Have followed some of his suggestions - learned a language (Russian no less), travelled, lift better. But I am not a dancer and i sure as hell am not going to make an infomertial. Mr Ferriss, you are ruining the world! There must be a middle path, or we are toast (probably the latter).

Misc Non-Fiction:

  • 50 Things You're Not Supposed To Know - Russ Kick
    Overblown style, like most popular non-fiction. If you are willing to read this book, most likely you won't be totally surprised by many of these items. Still good stuff everyone should know.
  • The Obesity Myth - Paul Campos
    Excellent point (but repetitive). The thesis is that we have turned our aestetic judgement that fat people are ugly into a psuedo-scientic belief that it is life threatening. In general, the evidence shows that people can be healthy within a wide range of weights. Given where we've put our "ideal weight" (no exess body fat), being overweight is much less of a health risk than being underweight. The real take away is that some scientists don't practice the scientific method and are easily deluded when there's money to be made (see How People Believe, below).
  • de Bono's Thinking Course - Edward de Bono
    Great tips on problem solving, creativity and thinking in groups (as opposed to GroupThink :-).
  • The Mind Map Book - Tony Buzan
    I don't share the authors over the top, revolutionary beliefs about Mind Maps, but they are great at organizing thoughts and expressing one's self.
  • How People Believe - Michael Schemer
    Michael publishes Skeptic magazine. It was enjoyable, definitely worth a look.
  • Genome - Matt Ridley
    A tour of what we know about people related to genetics. Fun and interesting.
  • My Brain Is Open - Bruce Schecter
    Biography of mathematician Paul Erdos. He lived most of his working life out of a suitcase. Was a harbinger of a change in the way math is done (from individual effort towards more collaboration). The book gets it's strength from it's subject matter, not its writing.
  • Edge City: Life on the New Frontier - Joel Garreau
    Why the suburbs are the way they are. Did you ever meet someone who says they love suburbs? If you did, they would probably turn out to be a real estate developer. Moral of the story: Suburbs suffer from a serious, mostly undeserved, inferiority complex.
  • The Minds Eye & Godel, Escher, Bach - Hoffsteader
    Recommended to me by my friend Ron .  Mind-widening, always a good thing.
  • Mathematical Circus - Martin Gardener.
    Read when I was 12 or 14 - all children should have the opportunity to read something this good. Probably influenced me.
  • Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman? - Richard Feynman
    This book gets it's special humor from being non-fiction (or very near it).
  • The Art of War - Sun Tzu
  • Life Extension - Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw
  • Full House - Steven Jay Gould
    About how we put ourselves in the center of the universe because we're looking out. This provides a layman, like me, with a little biological perspective. Also listened to a few Gould books on tape. One of the best science writer for non-professionals and a commentators on science wrt politics. Sadly, Steven recently died - here is a memorial site. Thankfully, he published two more books in the year of his passing.
  • The Chomsky Trilogy, The US in Latin America - Noam Chomsky
    On politics, he tells it like he sees it and has lots of facts to back it up. If the NYTimes is "All the news thats fit to print." Then Noam talks about the stuff they are afraid to say. I'm proud just to have worked in the same town as this guy. Chomsky, if you aren't aware, is a linguist. In the 1950s he invented some structures in an attempt to analyze natural language (e.g., English, Chinese). His work was immediately applied in Computer Science (which has much simpler languages). It is still part of the foundation of programming languages today that most comp sci majors study (context free grammars).
  • Dragons of Eden, Broca's Brain, A Candle in the Dark - Carl Sagan
    I read these at about 14, 20, & 30. The first two are popularizations of their fields. The last one, Candle in the Dark is a broad defense of the scientific method. If I was emperor of the world, it would be required reading for high school seniors.
  • Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit for Pakistan and Peru - Rob Rachowiecki
    These are the best travel books I've ever seen. So good, my friend Sean read the Peru one with almost no intention of ever going there. 
  • How The Mind Works - Steve Pinker
    A compendium of theories of how we do what we do. Very cool. Had heard of some and even came up with a few myself (in a very rudimentary form of course). But mostly amazing interesting stuff.
  • An Anthropologist On Mars - Oliver Sacks
    A character study of the famous neurologist's patients. Sacks writes very well for a "popular science" author. His characters are amazing, but he doesn't slam you in the head with them. Subtle and beautiful.
  • Seeing Voices - Oliver Sacks
    This history of deafness in the US includes description of both medical and political treatment of the deaf. It makes me wonder what other groups are similarly miss-understood.
  • People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn
  • Why I Am Not a Christian : And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects - Bertrand Russell
    Read this when I was 13. It showed me that I was not alone (and that there are some very smart people who think the same way).
  • Waiting for Fidel - Christopher Hunt
    A good travelogue of Cuba in the early 1990s.
  • What's the Matter with Kansas? - Thomas Frank
    The author details many screwy things Kansan. Interesting, painful, and frightening. His thesis is that through the lens of Kansas we can better understand the shifting sands of US generally.

Fiction:


Poetry

  • Howl - Alan Ginsberg
    I 'm about 20 years younger than the typical Ginsburg fan - but I like it.
  • New World Border - Guillermo Gomez-Peña
    About the blending of (mostly European) United States with Mexico and Latin America. My father was Cuban and this book spoke loudly to me. You can hear him on NPR sometimes (All Things Considered and Latino USA).

Science Fiction

  • Visionary In Residence - Bruce Sterling
    A collection of short stories. Cyberpunk, like Gibson. Two of them interestingly take place in the past. Good stuff.
  • Idoru, Pattern Recognition - William Gibson
    In Idoru a man marries software. Pattern recognition a woman has a visceral reaction to branding. Yoew!
  • The Illuminati Trilogy - Robert A. Wilson & Robert Shay
    I love these - rarely does one see something this sharp covering this ground. This cascaded into several other Robert A. Wilson books, some non-fiction, most recently Cosmic Trigger vol 3, My Life After Death. Interestingly, in Cosmic Trigger 3 RAW rips Carl Sagan (noted above) a new one for his "extra-scientific" activities. I've also read Prometheus Rising, Masks of the Illuminati, and Schroedinger's Cat Trilogy.
  • Ender's Game - Orson Scott-Card
    With, of course, a great ending.
  • Zodiac, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age & Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
    Jim Reith, a friend passed me a copy of Zodiac a several years ago. It was pretty cool with a lot of local interest (I was living in Somerville Mass at the time). Chemical/Biological Engineering is the science in this piece of science fiction. 
    A few years later I realized it was written by the same guy that writes in Wired sometimes, so I picked up Snow Crash (about the time when Cryptonomicon came out in hardcover). This was more thoroughly amusing for me, as software is part of the plot. Got the Diamond Age to kill some flight time (to Peru).
    Bought Cryptonomicon, but lost it after 80 pages - bought it again, loved it to the finish. Found the original the same day I finished it.
    It is worth noting that his home page is at the well, an early Internet space. I have never used the well, but read about it in Whole Earth Review.
    You could really see him develop as a novelist. All 4 have common themes and plot devises, yet each is better than the predessessor. Also they grew in length.
    Read The Baroque Cycle (between Oct-05 and Jan-06), taken together they are the longest book I've read and well worth the time.
  • The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
  • A Scanner Darkly, The Man in the High Castle, and Counter-Clock World - Phillip K. Dick Great Sci-Fi - born from a fantastic imagination and an understanding of human nature. Too bad he will be most remembered as the genesis of the movies Minority Report and Blade Runner. But, at least he will be remembered.
  • Distraction - Bruce Sterling

Other

  • Narcissus & Goldmund, Sidhartha, Steppenwolf, & The Way to the East - a Hermann Hesse page .
  • Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess (also a movie by Stanley Kubrick)
  • Magick - Aliester Crowley
    How to change the world with models.
  • Fury - Salmon Rushdie
  • Dante Club - Matthew Pearl
  • Good Faith, Moo - Jane Smiley
  • Gorky Park; Red Square; Stalin's Ghost - Martin Cruz Smith
    After returning from Russia, my sister mailed me the 1st 2 of these murder mysteries. The detective, Arkady Renko was so cool I bought the 3rd. There are a few others.
  • Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
    For me, this is sort of a fictional parallel to the economics books.
  • Galopagos, Jailbird, & Welcome to the Monkey House - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, - JRR Tolkien

Both:

  • Junky, Naked Lunch - William S Burroughs
  • Tao T'ching - Lao T'su
    Have read at least 4 translations, loved them all.  I think of myself as a non-practicing Taoist.
  • Bagavad Gita
    I can deal with a god telling someone its OK to kill because he is a warrior, and that is what warriors do.  When men write it down however, it just pisses me off.
  • Whole Earth Review (originally Co-Evolution Quarterly)
    This great mind-widening magazine seems to have gone belly-up. They started The WELL .  Also, Kevin Kelly, one of the people that started Wired magazine used to edit Whole Earth.
  • New Yorker
    My brother got me a subscription.  He doesn't realize that my to-read pile is bigger than the refrigerator.  Whenever I pick it up, which is rarely, I learn something...
  • The Vision - Tom Brown Jr.
  • The New York Times & The Washington Post
    The "newpaper of record" and my local paper (which used to be The Boston Globe) are sometimes full of it, so they can not be fully qualified as non fiction. You learn to read between the lines, they tell you as much about the writer as about the topic.

As you might have noticed, it is also the page on which backgrounds are used with abandon!