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What do you think of my reading list?

4 [deleted] 26 November 2012 02:13AM

(I am slightly anxious about making my first discussion post! If there is anything about this that should not have been done, or done differently, please let me know!)

I'm new to this rationalist stuff. I want to improve my grasp on many topics. I want a richer vocabulary and set of concepts with which to discuss these topics. These are some nonfiction books I'm thinking of trying to eat this year, in no particular order of priority:


So if you have read any of these books and would like to help me with this:

Are there any that you would endorse? Which books might I be I wasting my time with? Are any of them too crank or pseudoscientific to be worthy of my time? Ones I had better save for later because I couldn't get anything out of them with my high school level math ability? Books that are similar to a different book that does the same thing better? Or any books along these lines you think it would be a CRIME not to include? Or any other suggestions? I would be grateful for any bit of help! 

Comments (20)

Comment author: ahartell 26 November 2012 02:22:44AM *  7 points [-]

I would recommend against The Holographic Universe. A relative read it and apparently it talks a lot about very woo-ish subjects. Whenever I've disputed it's claims, I've found it to be very poorly sourced.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 03:31:02AM *  0 points [-]

I was especially unsure about that one. I had my suspicions but was sufficiently intrigued to add it anyway. Just deleted it.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 07:14:40AM *  6 points [-]

I think you should join us in the LessWrong group on Goodreads (18 members and growing).

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 07:26:25AM *  0 points [-]

I might. I don't have an account right now though; I'll have to sign up. What do you use the group for? I don't see anything in the discussions or bookshelf

Comment author: Emile 26 November 2012 11:19:41AM 2 points [-]

Right now I only use it as a convenient way to find other LessWrongers and the books they read.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 26 November 2012 11:08:02AM 2 points [-]

I'm wondering as well. The intuitive feature would be showing me which books are most popular among this group.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 05:22:43PM *  1 point [-]

Right now, not much. I'm thinking of intersecting reading lists to start a regular book club. This would benefit those who (like you) want reviews by the LW community.

I am unsure how to implement the idea though. Following each member and looking for common elements manually is tedious. Scraping lists is beyond my programming skills, so assistance on this matter would be greatly appreciated. So would feedback on the general idea.

ETA: moving discussion to the Open Thread

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 09:27:18PM *  0 points [-]

Ah. So it's just that it's still young. LW book club sounds good, I'm in.

Comment author: gwern 26 November 2012 02:28:28AM 6 points [-]

If you just want recommendations, you can look at past book recommendation threads like the textbook one, or at people's lists on places like Goodreads (eg. me).

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 03:21:03AM *  2 points [-]

Upvoted, and you're right, of course. In fact, I created much of this list by looking at Goodreads, and the lw textbook thread, and Eliezer's bookshelf, and the SI reading list, etc, and cherry-picking what I was interested in. I was more soliciting commentary on those specific books, than just general recommendations per se.

I assumed the odds were that most of Lesswrong wouldn't have read most of them, or just wouldn't want to bother, which would be understandable. Honestly, I wasn't expecting too much from posting this. I figured if I could improve on or drop one book from that list it would be worth it.

Edited to add: I looked at your favorites list and will probably make a few additions

Comment author: pleeppleep 26 November 2012 02:25:57AM *  5 points [-]

I haven't read most of these books, so I can't critique them. The only one I can really say anything about is Godel, Escher, Bach. Read it.

Also, this would probably have been better placed in an open thread, and you shouldn't automatically assume that drawing is independent of rationality; Drawing LessWrong.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 03:00:31AM *  2 points [-]

Also, this would probably have been better placed in an open thread

Okay, noted, and thanks

you shouldn't automatically assume that drawing is independent of rationality

Thanks for the link; and I'll edit that part out.

Comment author: AlexMennen 26 November 2012 04:15:44AM 4 points [-]

From looking at David Talbott's wikipedia page and the thunderbolts of the gods web page, The Electric Universe looks like pseudoscience.

Comment author: [deleted] 26 November 2012 05:05:44AM *  0 points [-]


Comment author: MinibearRex 30 November 2012 08:32:01PM 3 points [-]

For what it's worth, I haven't found any of the Cambridge Introduction to Philosophy series to be particularly good. The general sense I have is that they're better used as a reference if you can't remember exactly how the professor explained something, than as a source to actually try to learn the topic independently. That being said, I haven't read the Decision theory one, so take this with a grain of salt.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 December 2012 08:17:58PM 1 point [-]

Huh. It was recommended by Luke in the Best Textbooks post, and it seemed to have positive reviews. Maybe it's comparatively better than the series in general?

What didn't you like about them?

Comment author: MinibearRex 02 December 2012 12:13:08AM 1 point [-]

I thought the explanations were just poorly written. But given that Luke, and other seem to have reviewed it positively, I'd guess that it is substantially better than others.

Comment author: EvelynM 26 November 2012 09:05:23PM *  2 points [-]

Skip the Zentangle book, the videos and pictures online are all you need. For learning how to draw, I recommend Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, or The Natural Way to Draw, and, of course, doing drawings.

Comment author: palladias 26 November 2012 04:38:49PM 1 point [-]

The Bill Bryson stuff is fairly basic and scattershot. Better off enjoying him in A Walk in the Woods and doing your rationality reading elsewhere.

Comment author: iDante 26 November 2012 07:41:47PM 2 points [-]

I thought that A Short History of Nearly Everything was interesting and well worth the time.