Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Bookshelves

33 Post author: JesseGalef 18 March 2013 09:52PM

A while back in the Columbus Rationality group, we started wondering: What books would the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality houses have in each of their libraries?  We had fun categorizing different subjects:

  • Gryffindor - Combat, ethics, and justice
  • Ravenclaw - Philosophy, cognitive science, and math
  • Slytherin -Influence and power
  • Hufflepuff - Happiness, productivity, and friendship

And so, I found myself taking all my books off their shelves this weekend and picking the best to represent each rationality!House and made them into Facebook cover-image-sized pictures.  Click each image to see it larger, with a list on the left:

(first posted at Measure of Doubt)


I’m always open to book recommendations and suggestions for good fits.  What other books would be especially appropriate for each shelf?

Comments (45)

Comment author: MichaelHoward 19 March 2013 12:30:56AM 20 points [-]

That is the second most Ravenclaw thing I have ever heard.

Comment author: Dr_Manhattan 19 March 2013 04:47:23PM 17 points [-]

Obvious suggestion: Bigger text, amazon links.

Comment author: ScottMessick 19 March 2013 01:11:50AM *  14 points [-]

Suggestions for Slytherin: Sun Tzu's Art of War and some Nietzsche, maybe The Will to Power?

Suggestion for Ravenclaw: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume.

Comment author: TimS 22 March 2013 11:11:47PM 1 point [-]

I don't think Nietzsche fits very easily into any House shelf, but Slytherin least of all.

Comment author: Alejandro1 18 March 2013 11:03:36PM 13 points [-]

Most fantasy books might be Gryffindor, but A Game of Thrones? Totally Slytherin.

Comment author: JesseGalef 19 March 2013 04:08:38PM 3 points [-]

My thinking for Game of Thrones belonging to Gryffindor (though at this point it might just be cognitive dissonance, so please let me know if it sounds right) is that the first book - A Game of Thrones - most heavily features Ned Stark, the paragon of honor and principle. I'm wishing that I had put another Song of Fire and Ice book on the Slytherin shelf to show contrast...

Comment author: Desrtopa 19 March 2013 04:44:59PM 3 points [-]

On the other hand, Ned Stark trgf rkrphgrq sbe uvf gebhoyr naq snvyf gb cerirag n pvivy jne. Ur hcubyqf ubabe naq cevapvcyrf, ohg qbrfa'g trg n ybg bs zvyrntr bhg bs gurz.

Comment author: Alejandro1 19 March 2013 05:02:07PM 2 points [-]

I see your point, but I agree with Desrtopa's reply. I would go further and say that Arq'f ubabe abg bayl snvyrq gb cerirag pvivy jne, vg npgviryl pnhfrq vg (ol jneavat Prefrv bs jung ur unq qvfpbirerq, naq yngre erwrpgvat Erayl'f naq Yvggyrsvatre'f zber frafvoyr cynaf sbe nibvqvat one). So I think he makes more sense as an example for Slytherins of how Gryffindor values are foolish and counterproductive.

Comment author: Oligopsony 19 March 2013 04:46:43PM 0 points [-]

That was my thought with Thucydides.

Comment author: khafra 19 March 2013 12:27:58PM 0 points [-]

The Strategy of Conflict also seems like it should be moved from the Gryffindor bookshelf to the Slytherin. EY described it as "Forget rationalist Judo: this is rationalist eye-gouging, rationalist gang warfare, rationalist nuclear deterrence. Techniques that let you win, but you don't want to look in the mirror afterward."

Comment author: Emile 19 March 2013 09:27:45PM 6 points [-]

EY described it as "Forget rationalist Judo: this is rationalist eye-gouging, rationalist gang warfare, rationalist nuclear deterrence. Techniques that let you win, but you don't want to look in the mirror afterward."

Nope, that was cousin it.

Comment author: khafra 20 March 2013 11:43:37AM 0 points [-]

Whoops. Thanks; that post just seemed like part of the sequences in my memory.

Comment author: Alejandro1 19 March 2013 01:56:12PM 3 points [-]

The Strategy of Conflict is in both Slytherin and Gryffindor. I guess Jesse had two copies.

Comment author: D_Malik 19 March 2013 01:06:10AM 11 points [-]

Was expecting a how-to on stacking two rows of books on one bookshelf. This is better.

Comment author: lukeprog 19 March 2013 04:48:18PM 7 points [-]

This has now been picked up by io9.

Comment author: palladias 19 March 2013 05:45:47PM 5 points [-]

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin Mitnick for Slytherin (was really handy to me when booking guests for a speaker series, since I needed to get straight to the schedulers)

Comment author: [deleted] 18 March 2013 11:03:30PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks for the reading suggestions! I made a Goodreads list for Ravenclaw, feel free to vote and add.

What I really want though is to peek at the books in the restricted section.

Comment author: DanArmak 19 March 2013 08:25:27PM 3 points [-]

Slytherin is missing the Evil Overlord List (ed. Professor Quirrel).

Comment author: novalis 19 March 2013 04:13:16AM 2 points [-]

Schneier's Secrets and Lies would probably fit well with Slytherin. Borges's Ficciones is something every Ravenclaw would love. And it's nice and thin so it will fit well on the shelf.

I'm sort of baffled by the inclusion of Herodotus, the "Father of Lies".

Comment author: atucker 22 March 2013 11:05:07PM 0 points [-]

A lot of Herodotus' histories have interesting stories about people exhibiting and not exhibiting ancient Greek virtues.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 19 March 2013 06:12:58AM 1 point [-]

Putting The Screwtape Letters in Slytherin strikes me as a case of completely missing the point.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 March 2013 03:08:59PM 5 points [-]

It's been a while since I've read the book, but it's got rather a lot about how to keep people confused for your own purposes. Slytherins certainly wouldn't care that Lewis was against such methods.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 20 March 2013 03:43:27AM 1 point [-]

I don't think the advice would be practical since it assumes the confuser has access to the confusee's mind, both the ability to inspect it's contents as well as plant and/or derail trains of thought.

Comment author: Decius 20 March 2013 08:58:33PM 1 point [-]

It's not a primer on how to influence people, it's a discussion of the philosophy behind influencing people. It's also something that a Slytherin would read for entertainment, in much the same way that a Gryfindor would read The Chronicles of Narnia.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 21 March 2013 04:01:39AM 1 point [-]

The Screwtape Letters as their intended to be read strike me as more Hufflepuff, and the portrayal of hell is sufficiently negative that I don't see a Slytherin enjoying it by sympathizing with the demons.

Comment author: Decius 21 March 2013 05:05:50AM 1 point [-]

If you only read things as the author intended that they be read, you're missing a large fraction of the entertainment value.

I wonder where The Adventures of Tom Sawyer should be?

Comment author: Alejandro1 22 March 2013 03:51:36AM *  0 points [-]

I wonder where The Adventures of Tom Sawyer should be?

I say Gryffindor. Tom is obviously a Gryffindor, and though the tone of the book is somewhat mocking, he is nevertheless clearly the hero and triumphs in the end. (As far as I remember at least; I haven't read it since I was a child).

Yet Twain's ouvre spans all Houses: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Hufflepuff, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is Ravenclaw, and The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg is Slytherin.

Comment author: Oligopsony 19 March 2013 04:45:49PM 3 points [-]

By the same logic, so would the Prince.

Comment author: pinyaka 19 March 2013 12:03:02AM 1 point [-]

Why only chapters 1-17 of HPMOR?

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 19 March 2013 01:12:55AM 2 points [-]

It's a teaser. They're meant to be distributed in meatspace as an easy way to get people reading HPMoR (something longer feels like more of a time investment). It includes a link to the rest at the end.

Comment author: JesseGalef 19 March 2013 12:48:06AM 1 point [-]

That's all that's in the printed paperback version that I have - I think Eliezer is working on publishing a more comprehensive volume, but this is all I have.

Comment author: jaibot 19 March 2013 01:54:05AM 0 points [-]

Check /r/hpmor. Also, the git repo now has a print-ready branch.

Comment author: jkaufman 21 March 2013 01:53:50AM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: LessWrong 16 November 2015 01:28:13PM 0 points [-]

Well this certainly looks like a fun list. Has anyone else tried it? I've never read HPMOR, I'm just loking for something good to read.

Comment author: Bluemidas 15 April 2013 07:05:34PM 0 points [-]

Hey everyone i just started this podcast and found myself addicted to it and its underlying science of rationality can anyone point to the next step so I can learn a little more. Also I would appreciate pointers to understand all the theories and methods mentioned in the podcast. And please give me the very basics as I have often been outwitted by the complexity of Harry evans verus. Also since I am very socially inept any pointers in that field would be welcome.

Finally if there is a proper way to ask for help would be helpful and if I am wrong in asking here please point to the right link please

Comment author: [deleted] 16 April 2013 03:27:50AM *  1 point [-]

Try the about page here to get a broad idea of what this community is about. As you will read, a good way to start learning what Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres knows is by reading the sequences. Don't be intimidated by the length; if you've liked HPMOR enough to come here, you'll find at least some, if not all, of the sequences fascinating.

As for asking for help, you may want to make an introductory post on the welcome page. You can give a longer description of yourself and your goals on this thread. Also, if you give more details about yourself, I expect someone with some more specific ideas will be able to help.

Comment author: victordrake 20 March 2013 10:39:11PM 0 points [-]

The Command to Look, by William Mortenson, might be enlightening to Slytherins. Even though it's about photography, you can learn things about how your personal appearance can be crafted to inspire the emotions in people that you want to.

Comment author: Dahlen 19 March 2013 05:09:40PM 0 points [-]

So... Why is HPMoR categorized under all four shelves? Aside from it being based on the book that came up with the idea of Houses in the first place, that is...

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 March 2013 06:16:41PM -1 points [-]

The Houses are canon.

Comment author: Dahlen 19 March 2013 06:59:48PM 1 point [-]

... I've known that for more than a decade. Reread my first comment; maybe the phrasing was unclear, although it doesn't seem unclear to me.

(I know that HPMoR attracts many non-HP-fans into reading it, but... seriously, is there really anyone out there who believes that the friggin' Hogwarts Houses made their first appearance into Yudkowsky's fanfic?!)

Comment author: TheOtherDave 19 March 2013 07:18:08PM 4 points [-]

Your phrasing is clear enough, though I did have to read it twice before I actually read "based on".

Comment author: Desrtopa 18 March 2013 11:01:20PM 0 points [-]

Doesn't Hogwarts have a single, unified library?

I wouldn't count on members of each house sticking to books representative of their respective hats (tvtropes.)

Comment author: [deleted] 19 March 2013 12:13:47AM 1 point [-]

I can't remember if it's in canon that Ravenclaw has their own library or if that's just Methods of Rationality.

Comment author: Randaly 19 March 2013 03:12:09PM *  7 points [-]
Comment author: fubarobfusco 19 March 2013 03:39:39AM 2 points [-]

It's fanon, at least. A few years back when I was reading a lot of HP fic, it seemed a pretty common addition.