HackerNews Readings
40,000 HackerNews book recommendations identified using NLP and deep learning

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Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems

Martin Kleppmann

4.8 on Amazon

241 HN comments

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Jared Diamond Ph.D.

4.5 on Amazon

239 HN comments

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Cal Newport

4.6 on Amazon

239 HN comments

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

Robert C. Martin

4.7 on Amazon

232 HN comments

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

David Allen and Simon & Schuster Audio

4.5 on Amazon

231 HN comments

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu, Luke Daniels, et al.

4.3 on Amazon

225 HN comments


William Gibson, Robertson Dean, et al.

4.4 on Amazon

218 HN comments

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Hardcover Journal and Elder Wand Pen Set

Insight Editions

4.8 on Amazon

212 HN comments

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software

Erich Gamma , Richard Helm , et al.

4.7 on Amazon

208 HN comments

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

4.5 on Amazon

193 HN comments

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari, Derek Perkins, et al.

4.6 on Amazon

191 HN comments

The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition)

Benjamin Graham , Jason Zweig , et al.

4.7 on Amazon

188 HN comments

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Charles Petzold

4.6 on Amazon

186 HN comments

Seveneves: A Novel

Neal Stephenson, Mary Robinette Kowal, et al.

4.1 on Amazon

184 HN comments

Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions

Gayle Laakmann McDowell

4.7 on Amazon

180 HN comments

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Sorted by relevance

chxonJuly 23, 2018

> Yuval Harari, author of the excellent "Sapiens"

Uh huh, Sapiens as excellent... there are ... problems. Some:



fcbrooklynonJuly 20, 2018

If you haven't read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, you'd probably dig it. He makes a very good case that storytelling is a cornerstone of the evolution of society as we know it.

unmoleonAug 15, 2017

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari is the best book I've read in a while. It's like Guns, Germs and Steel but better argued and far greater in scope.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins was a great read too. A bit of a slog in some places but otherwise brilliant and insightful.

joe-mccannonSep 1, 2016

There are two types of people on this Earth: Those whom have read Sapiens and those whom have not.

Harari is required reading, especially if you're reading this comment.

graposaymanameonJuly 3, 2020

Well, somebody's reading Sapiens I guess :D

thewizardofausonOct 13, 2018

Sapiens is a great book!

We became domesticated by wheat.

joakonApr 9, 2015

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Harari
A breathtaking history book, I read in one night like a good thriller.

okareamanonMay 13, 2021

I would like to put in a plug for Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. My intro to this author wasn't good. I listened to him try to be big brain about the pandemic and wasn't impressed, but then I picked up Sapiens. Now I know why people like Bill Gates and Barack Obama recommend him.

pier25onJune 9, 2020

- Sapiens

- The Lord of the Rings

- Siddhartha

- Chaos: Making a New Science

- The Death Gate cycle books

- Neuromancer

- Head First Design Patterns

- Valis

- Dune

- The name of the rose

I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones off the top of my head.

tomjakubowskionMay 13, 2021

For folks looking for more substance, a critical review of Sapiens by Charles C. Mann, author of 1491.


mellosoulsonJuly 2, 2021

I didn't think much of it myself but Sapiens by Harari was popular:


DEADBEEFC0FFEEonJuly 18, 2020

There quite a bit of related thinking in the excellent book : Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

criddellonFeb 13, 2019

I agree that there's no binary rule. I read Sapiens and while it was a very long book, I don't think it could have been shorter.

BTW, laboring the point is precisely the phrase I was looking for but couldn't recall.

stevewilhelmonJuly 20, 2018

You might be interested in

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari


"Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History" by Kurt Andersen

Both focus on how humans are unique in their ability to concoct stories, share plans, and propagate fantasies.

InboxZeroEmailonDec 1, 2018

Sapiens is the most interesting book I’ve ever read.

It details the evolution of man over hundreds of thousands of years.

bpodgurskyonJuly 13, 2021

Yeah I've read Sapiens and it's a fair speculation, but I've seen no real evidence to this point. Lot of other reasons Homo Sapiens^2 coulda been good at killing off Homo Sapiens^1.

kaushiktonSep 11, 2016

zero to one - Peter thiel - good read

old man and the sea - Hemingway - good read

sapiens (currently reading) - Yuval Noah Harari - fantastic till now

What if (still reading) - Randall Munroe - an interesting read

intevonMay 31, 2017

Sorry I was traveling and missed this. I haven't read Sapiens yet though I have a rough idea of the concepts you're talking about.

I definitely agree with you in that there is some good that will come from all this but right now it's being painted as only flowers and roses by most when it isn't.

vbrandlonJuly 11, 2017

I didn't read Homo Deus but it is on my to-read-list. If you liked that one, you might also like "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by him.

machiawelicznyonJan 29, 2018

I read both of them. Sapiens is more interesting in my opinion.

plandisonNov 29, 2017

My second favorite book I read this year was Sapiens which is also really good in case anyone is interested. I mention it because AFAIK, the book the person I’m responding to recommended is a follow-up of sorts.

surgecoachonJan 1, 2021

Agree, it was not as good as it could have been. Not a new book but Sapiens was best book i read in 2020

merceronMay 6, 2017

It's high on my list! If you liked that book I have a suspicion you'd also like Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind[1], in case you haven't read it already.

[1]: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23692271-sapiens

mastaxonApr 27, 2017

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" is a great pop-anthropology book for anyone interested in this question.

chrisweeklyonDec 13, 2019

Anyone interested in this sort of thing is likely already aware of "Sapiens" by Yuval Harari. Mentioning it just in case. Highly recommended!

joshuaheardonJan 5, 2018

According to the book, "Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind", we are the only animal that utilizes a "shared fiction", ie governmental laws.

AtwoodonJuly 11, 2016

Global Brain -Bloom

Captive Mind -Milosz

Machines of Loving Grace -Markoff

Station 11 -Mandell (fiction)

Sapiens -Harari

Revenant (do not remember author/fiction)

Argonauts -Nelson

maxlambonJan 7, 2020

The book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond pretty much answers this question, pretty convincingly to me at least. The book "Sapiens" does provide additional insight as well on this subject.

justjonathanonOct 2, 2016

If you haven't read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari, it is a great read and has lots of insights into the way early Homo sapiens may have behaved. Hint: we won, probably not by accident...

sunwicked1onSep 2, 2017

  1)Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

2)The design of everyday things 3) "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
In no particular order.

iAm25626onJune 12, 2020

this particular Ted Dialogues help me better frame the world around me. Just finished reading the book Sapiens and can't stop think about it.

ballarakonMar 16, 2021

The book Sapiens discusses this at length. Our early hunter gatherer ancestors had a much more varied diet compared to agricultural society

db1onMay 11, 2018

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Mostly the bits about how our society is mostly built on collective fictions.

2. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

I remember being very moved reading this, but I can't quite remember why.

Looks like it's time to re-read it.

robotrononSep 14, 2019

The book Sapiens explored some of this. I can see how agriculture has shaped us and the planet negatively. Not sure what the alternative would have been, other than remaining foragers.

vo2maxeronJuly 16, 2019

It doesn’t go deep into the biological aspects but, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, is an enjoyable read.

coryfkleinonMay 12, 2020

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari

Will forever change how you look at humanity, society, and technology. Lot's of eye openers and in general it causes you to shift your frame of reference entirely.

gdubsonSep 16, 2019

Have you read “Sapiens”? It’s fascinating.

Edit: just to provide a little more color, “Sapiens: A brief history of humankind” is a brilliant book on our evolution as a species. One of the striking things about it, IMO, is how vividly it presents the timeline.


AkshayD08onDec 11, 2020

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

Gave me a wider perspective of things.
Should have read it much earlier.

kayproonDec 16, 2019

The Body - Bill Bryson

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics - Rovelli, Carlo

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment - Robert Wright

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari

013onDec 19, 2017

Fahrenheit 451

Animal Farm

The Gene: An Intimate History

The Martian

Currently reading Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. I would recommend all these books, if you're interested in the subjects they are written about.

volfiedonMar 9, 2021

I have really enjoyed CODE as well, and I recently started reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Completely different subject, taught in a way it builds up.

finfun234onNov 27, 2018

I just about finished reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Strongly recommend it, to ponder over the human condition.

davidharirionJan 5, 2018

I’m in the same boat as you, but in the book Sapiens it’s written that bush fires in Australia are started to force animals out of the forest and to create plains where they can be more effectively hunted in the future. Maybe the birds do this too (or learned it from people?)

pitzipsonOct 1, 2020

I've recently finished 2 books that helped give a nice macro level to human's "progress".

'Sapiens' & 'The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World'

Stuff You Should Know (podcast) has also been a gem for learning broadly about industrial and material topics.

diego_moitaonDec 29, 2019

* Information: A history, a theory, a flood - James Gleick

* Sapiens - Yuval Harari

* Thinking, fast and slow - Daniel Kahneman

* Power of Habit - Charles Duhig

true_tunaonAug 26, 2019

It really depends on interest. What does your target audience care about?
I’d recommend Sapiens to anyone, but it’s more of a thinking book than an escaping book.

ramblermanonMay 11, 2018

> Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

I couldn't follow him in all his conclusions, namely the hunter gatherer worship, that things were in a sense better for them.

But it's probably in the top 3 books I've ever read, best in the last 5 years.

joddystreetonMay 28, 2018

Sapiens (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23692271-sapiens)
Gave words to describe my feelings for various ideas in my head.
Another thing that happened (probably unrelated), after this I reestablished my reading habit that got lost for nearly 10 years.

padraigfonDec 28, 2019

My criterion is 'influential on me', they may not necessarily be the greatest works of literature.

Mastery - Robert Greene

The Talent Code - Daniel Coyle

Peak - Anders Ericsson

The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B. Irvine

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning - Peter C. Brown

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art - Stephen Nachmanovitch

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

crakenzakonAug 10, 2021

I found the book Sapiens does wonders in shattering this objectively incorrect world view.

We are alongside all other animals, with some skills much worse than other animals, some much better. Nothing more than that.

cdancetteonNov 26, 2017

If you're interested, you might like Sapiens (A brief history of Humankind) by Yuval Noah Harari.

petefordeonJan 5, 2020


Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Astrophysics For People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

bonus round:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Shoedog by Phil Knight

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani

konartonSep 14, 2016

I strongly recommend reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari on this (among other) subject.

shim2konJan 15, 2017

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Harari.
Pretty much a review of all human history.

rwieruchonDec 12, 2018

I read 12 books in 2018 and these are my favorites from 1 to 4:

- Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

- So good they can't ignore you by Cal Newport

- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari

jagger27onApr 15, 2021

There’s a brilliant chapter in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind about how as we domesticated wheat, it domesticated humans in return. Grains are thought to have been dropped along trade routes which allowed for humans to be less nomadic as crops became established. Then we got comfortable. Fascinating to think about.

kolleykibberonFeb 5, 2019

The Selfish Gene by Dawkins, back when he was more young and idealistic. It changed my relationships with people. Recently reading Sapiens I recognised the same qualities in the writing.

tim333onDec 4, 2019

While not exactly one item, Sapiens looks at history from the perspective of human shared fictions and is a good read https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/B00ICN066A

whoami_nronJune 11, 2017

To anyone interested about the history of human evolution, I highly recommend Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. It's the best book I have read about human history and how we have evolved until now. The book is also listed on the Gates Summer reading list.

pacunaonDec 5, 2017

- Fooled by randomness by Nassim Taleb

- Sapiens by Yuval Harari

- The invention of nature by Andrea Wulf

- The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson

- Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction by Samir Okasha

dstickonOct 14, 2020

Yep, it’s a definite ying and yang. Sapiens (the book) spends a few very interesting chapters on the inner workings of this dynamic and how it shaped the world as we know it.

kulu2002onJuly 13, 2018

Recently got a chance to read - Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
Good description of Human history

furyofantaresonDec 29, 2020

This comment got my interest but I don't see anything linked here that's written by Yuval Harari. I can't tell if I've missed something, or if you're referring to another book called Sapiens other than Yuval's, or something else.

admirethemeyeronFeb 5, 2019

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

I know this is a recent book but it got me to think about personal, religious, and government motivations from a different perspective.

ericlewisonAug 9, 2020

I think religion might have proved that people will believe whatever they want to first. The book Sapiens really opened my eyes to people.

newdaynewuseronJan 4, 2016

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari

Very interesting though later chapters become less of history and more of philosophy.

newdaynewuseronJan 4, 2016

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari
Very interesting though later chapters become less of history and more of philosophy.

lamenameonFeb 23, 2018

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

a sort of maco-history of human civilization. Highly recommend


MikhoonSep 5, 2018

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari

arethuzaonMay 23, 2017

In "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow", the sequel to Sapiens, the author describes a "focus helmet" being developed by the US armed forces that provides a degree of Vinge-like focus.

SmellyGeekBoyonNov 13, 2018

From what I remember (and I may be thinking of the wrong book) "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari goes into this theory in great detail. It argues the case that chickens are the most successful animals on the planet when it comes to reproducing and passing on their genes despite being very low on the food chain.

ljsocalonNov 12, 2019

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

prependonJan 29, 2018

Not OP, but as a reader of both Sapiens and Homo Deus, I feel like the latter is a bit of fluff already covered by the end of Sapiens.

Not a bad book, but more baseless theorizing while Sapiens was a really rich examination of history where he author definitely applied a lifetime of study and research.

mlbossonJune 20, 2018

I currently reading "Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind". Through out human history we have destroyed ecosystems. We are responsible for extinction of 1000s of species. Oceans was left out because we didn't have the technology, but not for long.

seven4onJune 17, 2020

Unprecedented levels of stimulus around the whole world. If that isn't the precursor for some airpockets/bubbles of mispricing to emerge.. I don't know what is.

I was reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari today and he had an explanation of easy credit that i liked. You are basically betting that enough innovation and progress happens to underpin the money you've "borrowed" from the future - when that doesn't happen...the bubble bursts. I wonder what sort of progress would smooth over the extraordinary credit injection we've seen in 2020.

ncfaustionDec 23, 2018

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

pruthvishettyonMay 11, 2018

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

mlenhardonJuly 26, 2017

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari

samaonOct 9, 2015

The last two books I read were Sapiens and The Supermen (given to be by @dang). Highly recommend both.

aorthonDec 6, 2016

I will put The Vital Question on my "to read" list. On a similar topic, I've just picked up Sapiens, which was also on Gates' 2016 Summer reading list. A few people in my circles had been talking about it so I decided to pick it up, before even noticing Gates had recommended it.

whirl-windonJan 2, 2017

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

drakenotonNov 18, 2016

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

drakenotonAug 2, 2016

'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' by Yuval Noah Harari

heliodoronJuly 15, 2021

You're thinking of this from the wrong point of view. This is about evolution and dominance. A culture in which work is highly valued (even so far as at the expense of the individual) will expand and squeeze out other cultures. The same way a successful gene will reproduce and take over.

Two excellent books that delve into this area are "Stumbling on Happiness" and "Sapiens".

icucionSep 13, 2015

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

bob33212onMar 5, 2020

The book Sapiens has a similar message. The children of farmers who move to textile manufacturing were worse off than their parents in the 1800s. But the great great grandchildren of those people have material wealth greater than upperclass people in the 1800s when comparing clothes, entertainment, transportation, health care. And none of them would prefer to live as an 1800s farmer today.

romanovtexasonJune 25, 2020

Probably will get downvoted for this, but I think the halo around reading books is overrated. You can gather ample amount of knowledge just as well via a series of essays online, podcasts, and sometimes even twitter threads.

Most of the books, for example, introduce a radical new idea and then elaborate on that needlessly for 400 pages. I found Sapiens to be one such book.

Even if the idea/premise is insightful, there is often a lot of redundancy in the pages. We should value brevity more.

Of course, this might not apply to all books. Textbooks/Reference books can happily coexist with online tutorials/blogs. Even certain nonfiction books (Thinking Fast and Slow comes to mind) might be best presented in a book format.

joshgelonSep 11, 2017

I'm reading the book Sapiens right now, which I highly recommend. Lots of interesting facts. But also a broad explanation of the theory of human development.

Most interesting fact I learned:
At one point there were as many as 6 human species (Homo sapiens, homo errectus, etc) on earth at the same time!

kennethonMar 22, 2019

This kit is absolutely genius. It's uncannily accurate. As a VC, I own, use, and love almost every single item in the first and second kit.

I use Superhuman, wear Atoms, own a Patagonia fleece vest, occasionally read The Information, have read Sapiens and Zero to One… I don't know whether to be embarrassed or amused.


float4onMar 9, 2021

I was going to say that a lot of this sounds like stuff already discussed in the book Sapiens by Harari, but then I noticed that this article is written by Harari. Anways:

> The Sapiens advantage probably lay in large-scale cooperation.

The most popular theory at the moment is, as far as I know, that Sapiens were simply lucky, i.e. some mutations took place that made the cerebellum in Sapiens slightly larger and that made Sapiens more social.

This makes me wonder from time to time what "we" would have looked/acted like in 2021 if neanderthals, who were physically stronger and had larger skulls, were the ones with those mutations.

titzeronJuly 10, 2019

To be fair, this started pretty much with the either first stone axe or the first field of wheat. "Sapiens" by Yuval Harari is a great read. Where we are now, just about to go over the edge, is perhaps inevitable; it is actually the direct result of technology, as it has always been employed for greater environmental exploitation and leads to population increase. Growth.

rayalezonMay 14, 2015

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - as the title says, a short version of the whole human history. So far very interesting.

The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitnick - how Social Engineers work. A bit more boring than Ghost in The Wires, but still pretty cool.

Please keep up the book club, I love this kind of topics!

neiconDec 22, 2016

My favorite books of 2016 was, and I can recommend all of them:

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Honorable mention from 2015: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I have just started Homo Deus and my first impression is that is is a worthy sequel.

silveiraonAug 5, 2018

Very hyped author. I read Sapiens and despite very interesting points at the beginning and at the end of the book regarding things nobody can prove or disprove now, the bulk of the book is very week. A long logical juggling to praise a lot aggressions and mistakes because "hey, it could have been worst".

mungonApr 3, 2018

A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari on Coursera.

There is also a book (that I have not read) called "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" which I think was quite popular. It was not quite was I was expecting yet it was very interesting and enlightening.

Also, it's been mentioned, but Databases, by Jennifer Widom. Stanford.

ddseaonDec 29, 2019

- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari - I really liked his views on transformation of happiness throughout history.

- Babi Yar (full version) by Anatoly Kuznetsov - after my discovery that the version I've read earlier was heavily censored.

- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

- Collapse and The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

aprdmonDec 28, 2019

Both sapiens and The art of happiness were great books I've read.

Sapiens made history very interesting, I loved the idea behind our species being able to believe in the concept of a Created Myth( capitalism , companies, money, socialism, religion) as the main thing that made homo sapiens thrive.

The view of empires as not something bad and how they shaped our world of today and we essentially living in a global empire as well was a great point.

Buddhism is truly incredible and while I don't consider myself a Buddhist I have very similar approach to life.

Having a western psychologist/ researcher having conversations on topics about suffering, happiness, death, loneliness with Dalai Lama and how their separate views of the world interacted was awesome.

alexwildeonDec 19, 2017

1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

2. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

3. The Loyal: The Story of Atwood and the Second Civil War (disclosure - my father wrote this book)

4. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

5. Grit

I thoroughly enjoyed all of these. It was interesting to see how Grit and The Power of Habit played off each other.

spectramaxonFeb 27, 2020

I think you summarized it better than I could. When stating facts, be assertive and provide source. When stating opinions, state them as opinions, not facts.

As a reader, I wanna chuck the whole thing out of the window.

This is pretty common place - Harari's Sapiens suffers from this behavior excessively - I cannot read it and I don't understand why people like this book so much. Full of unsubstantiated claims.

ozimonMay 5, 2020

Let's go further with it and read "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind".

Not to spoil too much but those people working land were cripples as well. Hunter gatherers had perfect life because unlike peasants they could enjoy their life instead of returning to the work in field.

Now think about how hunter gatherers were exposed to risk. What kind of stress they had everyday. Look at current animals how they live. It is some kind of freaking horror.

You an see I am not a fan of Harrari's book because it is "earlier it was so much better" without any real stuff in it.

chucksmashonDec 22, 2018

The eye for an eye bit was in there[1], but apparently only for men of the same class:

> 196. If a superior man should blind the eye of another superior man, they shall blind his eye.

> 198. If he should blind the eye [...] of a commoner, he shall weigh and deliver 60 shekels of silver.

> 199. If he should blind the eye of a slave of a superior man [...], he shall weigh and deliver one half of the slave's value (in silver).

[1]: From page 106 of "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" which I was just coincidentally reading on the bus and would def recommend.

tootieonFeb 7, 2021

It's actually a major thesis of the book Sapiens that the use of fictive language is what allowed Homo Sapiens to become the dominant species. Shared stories helped solidify social groups and allowed disparate tribes to recognize each other. The most important stories and myths are obviously religious ones. And I think to your point, ancient peoples debating those stories with far more fervor than any flame war on a Star Wars forum.

I say this pretty comfortably as an atheist but even if you're a believer than at least everyone else's religious myths are fiction.

kaycebasquesonAug 25, 2018

A different take:

> So why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans came to dominate Africans enables us to realize that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that the world might well be arranged differently.

--- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, p. 241

chkionDec 3, 2020

That's a good point, also described in the book Sapiens by Harari: In a way Religion, currency and contract law (and many other things) are all "made up". They have institutions (priests, central banks, lawyers) with magic words (amen, price stability, due diligence) and a certain combination of magic words creates a new reality out of thin air. Think about how weird it is to "sign" an important contract and thereby changing you own future or the future of your company irrevocably.

While I'm definitely not a fan of crypto currency and wouldn't seriously consider investing a single Euro into this mess, it's certainly misguided to simply laugh at it being "not real", because a lot of important things are. Obviously the gp makes some other important points.

fokinseanonDec 12, 2018

- A Random Walk Down Wall Street: I got much more interested in personal finance this year, and definitely recommend this book as a stepping stone for learning about investing.

- Frankenstein: Highly recommend! It is nothing like it is portrayed to be in pop culture and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

- Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in America: It is literally unbelievable. It follows Katy Tur, a reporter tasked with following Trump leading up to the election. If you aren't already fed up with Trump, then give this a whirl.

- Dune: 5/5 sci-fi

- The Society of the Spectacle: I had trouble with this one. I think some things get lost in translation, and the philosophical arguments are so abstract it was a bit hard to follow along. I had a few key take-aways but to be honest it was kind of a chore to read.

- How Not to Die: Argues for prioritizing a plant-based diet, and definitely changed my relationship with food.

- East of Eden: My wife's favorite book and is now one of my favorites.

- Sapiens: Very enjoyable, but some of it can feel pseudo-sciency and gets a bit nihilistic in the end.

- Man's Search for Meaning: Also very enjoyable, a good reminder to appreciate the people and things around you.

- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy: Very accessible intro to Stoicism

- Red Notice: A True Story of Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice: Very interesting and reads like a fiction thriller. TLDR Russia doesn't fuck around

pruthvishettyonJan 2, 2018

The World Is Flat by Tom Friedman.

Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper.

Inner Engineering by Jaggi Vasudev.

Sapiens by Yuval Harari.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel.

pranay01onJan 2, 2017

Favorite of the books I read in 2016:

1. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

2. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson - What was interesting for me to learn was that even though he was a great scientist, he was very humane in other aspects - and you can easily relate to.

3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Fun read which is also deeply philosophical at the same time. Got me interested in science fictions as a genre.

4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius - Great intro to stoic philosophy

robaxonAug 25, 2018

This comment hits the nail on the head for me. I’m mostly a non-fiction reader and so many authors dance around their point or reiterate it over and over. Robert Greene is the first offender to come to mind for me but I’m also reading Sapiens and feel the same there. If anyone has any low-fluff book recommendations I’d love to hear them!

xrdonAug 13, 2018

I agree with your thoughts too. If the article speculated on the awful experience if any of those things happened, or if I had just taken that logical step on my own, I should be ashamed or at least contrite. It left those things up to me and I took the bait and just enjoyed the characters in the story that remained. It happens that I'm reading Sapiens right at this moment and it pulls you into a different perspective on the importance of a single human life as compared to the massive extinctions occurring and the incredible sad reality that we humans create for domesticated livestock. It is sad, this man who probably died, indeed.

ybluonDec 22, 2016

I read a few dozens each year. These are the top in my 2016 list.

* Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. If you can read only one book on startup this year, read this book.

* Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

* Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works.

* Alibaba's World: How a Remarkable Chinese Company is Changing the Face of Global Business.

* Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle.

* Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. You will like or hate this book a lot, but it's surely an interesting read and perspective.

* Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Good book that gives you a framework to become more optimistic.

* Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

* The Three-Body Problem Trilogy. Great, great sci-fi.

* Understanding ECMAScript 6. Best ES6 reference book.

* Node.js Design Patterns. Best Node book for intermediate/advanced developers.

* CSS Secrets: Better Solutions to Everyday Web Design Problems. Great, great book on advanced CSS tips & tricks.

* Mastering Selenium WebDriver. This is probably the only good book on Selenium among so many bad books on this topic.

* Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people. This is a good book but might be too basic for many people. Recommended for those who wants to quickly refresh their algorithms knowledge.

ddxvonMay 15, 2016

I will add a couple books I've read so far in 2016, both of which are not from 2016:

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. This book was an unexpectedly amazing overview of the history, current status and possible future of human beings.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I put this off because I'm not very interested in medicine. It was a mistake, this is one of the most well written non fiction books I've ever read.

FnoordonJuly 10, 2019

I'm at 2/3 of the book Sapiens (so I haven't finished it yet). Thus far, I can highly recommend the book in order to understand more of the current world politics and history. Heck, I believe this book great material for high school (though it does fit with many history lessons I had). I fully disagree the book is "just a regurgitation of the neo liberal manifest destiny". I don't understand how you can get to that conclusion. I haven't seen Harari trying to support any of -ism. From [1] you can read he is Israelian (therefore probably Jewish though I did not confirm), historian, openly gay, vegan. I did not see any specific support for any of these -isms. All I read is explanations on why humankind and humanity is the way it is.

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

kochikameonOct 1, 2018

Sapiens was a great read, very thought-provoking, but the weakest part of it by far were the final chapters on technology and the near future. He kind of just dropped a few buzzwords, asked a lot of big questions and put a bow on it. Very disappointing after the eye-opening insights and wide-ranging arguments of the rest of the book.

While there are many things I want to hear about from Mr Harari, the future is not one of them.

jefflombardjronSep 7, 2018

Anyone fascinated by this article, I highly suggest reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I just recently picked it up after seeing it recommended on a couple of threads here and it did not disappoint. Humans have been affecting ecology for a long long time.

If you are like me, you're probably wondering what you can do to mitigate some of the effects, while legislation and societal action is important. I also recommend checking out permaculture. Portland state has a great free online course [0]. I like to think of permaculture as ecosystem building, which you can do on a micro level. Enough microecosystems change the larger surrounding ecosystem.

[0] https://open.oregonstate.edu/courses/permaculture/

prawn_c_rackeronAug 20, 2020

I really enjoy books that span over human civilisation as it's a nice reminder how much we've achieved as a species as well as the destruction we've caused along the way. Have you ever read Bill Brysons a short history of nearly everything?

If you enjoyed that then I would say you would definitely enjoy Sapiens as I found it more interesting and less "text booky". I'm currently reading Homo Deus and enjoying it.

greenidoonDec 17, 2018

Some books I've enjoyed in the past year:

Wish to laugh?

* Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

* Yes please! by Amy Poehler


* Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

* Where Good Ideas Come from, by Steven Johnson

* The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene: An Intimate History both by Mukherjee Siddhartha

Learn (more) about great thinkers?

* Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci or Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

* Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

Yuval Noah Harari 3 good ones:

* Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

* Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

* 21 lessons for the 21st century

From time to time, I try to put some good ones over here: https://greenido.wordpress.com/?s=book

IgorPartolaonAug 8, 2020

Go read Sapiens and tell me how humans don’t need beliefs. Religion is the reason us Homo sapiens and not some other species of humans are the only ones that survived.

I say this as someone who is deeply against any form of organized religion, but saying they don’t affect anything in the real world is like saying that violence never solves anything.

dcchambersonDec 12, 2018

A selection:

Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari, 2014 [English]) - A bit late to the party on this one. Mostly enjoyed it, especially the early ancient history stuff, but I felt it got a bit contrived in the middle - like the author was forcing it. Overall a good read though.

How to Invent Everything (Ryan North, 2018) - First book I've pre-ordered in a long time. A look at the history of civilization and technology through a comedic lens. Pretty funny and enjoyable.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Edmund Morris, 1979) - Randomly happened across this book while browsing a used bookstore for some stuff to read on a summer vacation. Loved it. It's big, but reads pretty quick for a biography. I've been a fan of TR since I first really learned about him in High School and I would recommend this for anyone interested in TR/The West/Americana.

Jaws (Peter Benchley, 1974) - Quite a bit darker than the movie.

Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn, 2006) - I enjoyed Gone Girl (book and film) so I wanted to read this before the HBO series. To be honest...not my cup of tea. It was okay.

The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein, 2008) - Made me cry on an airplane. Thankfully my coworkers were on a different flight.

close04onAug 9, 2018

I won't claim to understand the topic better than this author but one thing I know: important is an incredible subjective concept. So I will quote the perspective of another writer. In Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind there's a chapter dedicated to research (the Sugar Daddy of Science). The short version is you have limited resources. You can't invest in every research project. You are more likely to invest in the ones that increase those resources or to try to solve a pressing issue at that time.

There is no scientific answer to the questions "Which project to fund? What is good? What is important?", only political, economic, or religious reasons. Science studies for the sake of expanding human knowledge and satisfying curiosity.

What's important for you, the scientist? Finding a cure for Alzheimer or developing a new semiconductor? What's more important for the person funding it?

So I will argue that "having a poor understanding of what's important" in a generally valid conclusion about anyone. And unfortunately I am acutely aware that a scientist might just be curious enough to spend money on studies that will bring no palpable benefit to anyone but his own curiosity sometimes. While this is an admirable academic exercise, is it better than any other study that produces in the end a more palpable result, like money?

I might be to cynical or pragmatic but sometimes there's no going around it. Just recently I read about a new archaeological dig that uncovered a viking toilet and could finally describe their approach to human waste over the centuries. While this definitely increased the total human knowledge, can you imagine a more practical way of spending that money? I can assure you someone a poor understanding of what's actually important could :). Or at the very least you can expect that they will be able to identify the "importance" based on the financial and profitability aspects.

fillskillsonFeb 6, 2019

For me it was some books and some other media.

1. Sapiens - It finally connected a lot of dots on how things work in the world (money, governments, religions, companies etc) and how humans communicate at scale.

2. On intelligence - Gives you a decent perspective on how brains work. How they are like learning centers that are continuously trying to figure out what is going on around us. How they store and recall that data and finally how they use our senses to put a lot of context around different concepts like objects, ideas, poems, people etc. Also it shares some examples to prove that our brain is not limited by its senses. Those examples just blew my mind wide open.

3. Biography of Einstein - I always imagined that people like Einstein are lone geniuses and worked in a silo. But it was pretty clear from the bio that even Einstein learnt and practiced his science by bouncing off ideas and fine tuned his explanations through many many different and equally brilliant people. And the role that his parents played in constantly keeping him challenged.

Non book:
Blue planet 2: You think aliens would be different than us? Check out some of the species on our own planet and no animal will ever seem alien to you anymore.

Some ideas that got triggered outside of a particular book:
1. All non natural things around us that I thought were super complicated were actually built by humans like me. Rules, bridges, planes, rockets, buildings, religions etc. This opened my mind that even I am capable to contributing in a significant manner.

2. Happiness is not the goal. It is an incentive to get the goal. This keeps me motivated to think beyond the current issues and focus on the future.

kashyapconAug 26, 2018

Without giving any spoilers, unfortunately, as the book (Homo Deus) progresses, there's more and more speculation.

He also wrote a third book, that will come out in a week, with a heavily click-bait title :-( 21 Lessons for the 21st Century—I just can't stomach the lacklustre title, and probably just stay away from it, as I'd assume it'll be a "thin wrapper" around his two other books.

Sapiens was the book I enjoyed 3 years ago, before it became popular. Reading that single book gives insight into his fresh and original perspectives.

mircealonSep 4, 2018

Sapiens is an okay book, but it’s all over the place. On one hand it kinda says that in many regards we have hypothesis at best (ie we don’t know) to follow it with [sometimes] wild theories.
There is no way you can cover as much ground as the author wanted in a book this size. It got diluted and turned into the classic “X best seller” crap.

iguanayouonJuly 16, 2020

I'm reading Sapiens right now. I wouldn't say "mind blown" as I was at least a little familiar with a lot of it before, but the way that Harari writes really makes you think about things differently.

Here are a couple of other books that have been pretty influential for me:

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

"Main Street" by Sinclair Lewis

brigaonDec 19, 2017

A few of the best were:

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly. A really profound and interesting look into what technology is. Technology evolves through the same sort of Darwinian process that life evolves. Technology is in some sense alive, and Kelly's perspective on it is wonderfully refreshing. I also read his book Out of Control, which is fantastic.

Sapiens by Yuval Harari. Enough people are talking about this one that I don't have to say much, suffice it to say it's a fascinating look into human history a la Guns, Germs, and Steel.

The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom. If you're a fan of Harari you'll love this one. It's an alternative scientific look at evil, and how evil appears to be encoded into our species.

Hyperspace by Michio Kaku. Kaku is an amazing popular science writer bar none and this is his exploration of modern physics and string theory. The most concise and understandable explanation of modern physics I've read, which is part for the course with Kaku.

Red Queen by Matt Ridley. A fascinating look at sex, and why the human sex drive, and therefore human nature, is the way it is.

runjakeonJune 4, 2021

Usually special operations/espionage/post-apocalypse type fiction. Some recent examples:

- The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (I've re-read this a number of times)

- The Postman by David Brin (Again, re-read this many times). Nothing like the movie.

- Sapiens

- The book series by Dalton Fury (RIP). His fiction is great, and if you do a little OSINT on the places in the book, you can see that he's describing these places from first-hand experience. Extremely realistic and you get the sense that many of these events really happened and are fictionalized to bypass censorship. I've re-read his book series at least 7 times. Easy reads.

- One Second After by William R. Forstchen. Although I have some minor issues with things in it, it's a fun post-apoc book.

- Anything by Derek Sivers. His writing is concise.

- The Terminal List by Jack Carr. Pretty good, not quite as good as Dalton Fury, but will read the next in the series.

- Bunches of tech books

I am very picky about the fiction I'll read but am open to unsolicited suggestions. Prefer post-apoc type stuff. Can't really get into fantasy. It needs to be an easy read because I have a house full of kids and no privacy.

quantdevonJuly 31, 2017

The fact that USD is "backed by the full faith and credit of the US government" is not the reason for its value. There is nothing the US government can do if everyone decides GBP or milk is worth 10,000 more relative to 1 USD. Things like USD and Bitcoin both have no intrinsic value and their market value comes from the collective fictions of society.

The collective belief in the value of intrinsically useless mediums with certain properties is one of the major technological breakthroughs of humanity. Currency is the bubble that seemingly never pops. Bitcoin and its future incarnations aim to improve it.

Proof of work has nothing to do with giving Bitcoin value. PoW is the cost the distributed network pays for trustless consensus, nothing more.

To understand your fundamental misconceptions, I would start by reading the seemingly unrelated but actually very relevant book Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari.

Finally, Monero solves the privacy problem of Bitcoin if that's the kind of transaction you want to make, but this is another topic.

sbmthakuronDec 12, 2018

These are the ones I read:

1. An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India - Highly recommended to Indians. It covers various aspects of colonization that are not covered in our history curriculum.

2. The Making of the Atomic Bomb - You will love it if you enjoy a mix of history, science and engineering. It pretty much covers everything from the discovery of the electron to the dropping of atomic bombs.

3. Sapiens - I think this is well known to HN community. It's a good read if you want summary of human development.

proc0onFeb 27, 2021

Sapiens by Yuval Harari, is a good intro to some aspects of this. I would then go to books on Civilizations, and history of Civilizations (after having a solid a history background to reference events across time). I think this starts building a big picture of the evolution of humans into the modern world.

lnkmailsonMay 11, 2018

A conflict of visions, Sapiens, Crime and Punishment and http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/alexandersolzhenits.... I've always been introspective but also was significantly less open minded than I imagined myself to be. These books opened me up to experience introspection in better ways. I think Solzhenitsyn's address is the one that really made a huge difference. My Russian boss pointed me to it :).

IgorPartolaonAug 8, 2020

That theory was popularized by Westworld and is highly debated. But you can’t separate the two: you believe in things like money and corporations and ownership of property and transfer of property right? Those ar exist as fictitious and god or satan. You might believe in things like capitalism or communism: both are simply types of religion. You might believe in destiny or free will: both artificial constructs.

The point is that there is subjective reality (I feel anxious), objective reality (a tiger is chasing me), and intersubjective (I am a part of a village and we share communal property). The latter is what enables us to do things like build anything that requires more than one person. Beliefs in things like money are as real as a hammer and cannot be separated from their real world effects. The book Sapiens goes into a lot of detail about this and does a much better job explaining it than I can.

glaberfickenonJune 6, 2018

>"Many thousand years of hunting and gathering gets tedious, so as soon as humans figured out beasts of burden and basic agriculture, they put down roots, in both senses. It saved a lot of walking. It was also the start of the concept of “after work,” which history teaches us is a thing most humans strive to increase in any way possible. That is, leisure, time off, vacations and every other use of time that isn’t working, hunting, fighting, and of course sleeping."

I recently read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, where he thoroughly debunks this notion that a transition from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural life-style brought more leisure time. I found it compelling, but don't have the arguments at hand at the moment.

iratewizardonSep 30, 2020

The book Sapiens talks about this well. People have a limited number of relationships they can maintain in their head. The only way societies can form to be larger than that number is shared myth between people. University graduates are in large part taking on the role of clergy in this wokist cult.

The cynical side of me sees it as America being transformed into an economic zone instead of a country. This is just what a religion looks like when you're binding people together in one large brutalistic finance zone.

vogonDec 26, 2017

Sorry in advance for this perhaps stupid question, but:

Which Sapiens exactly do you mean? Is it an article, a book, a documentary movie, a presentation such as a TED talk? Which is the full title?

I suppose you mean the book "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" (ISBN 978-0062316097), but I'm honestly not sure if I guessed correctly.

diehundeonMay 12, 2020

- Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

theseadroidonApr 5, 2019

1. Isn't it in 1984 the bad guys (Oceania) was winning on conquering the world? So 1984 itself doesn't really provide any solution to the problem.

2. I recommend you read the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. The main relevant ideas:
a. The evolution/progression of human kind doesn't necessarily have to benefit individuals. (this kinda circled back to 1)
b. Democracy and liberal values are only hold dearly by a fraction of human beings during a small fraction of human history. There's probably not enough proof that those values are indispensable to human progress in all situations. It's just during this period of time the super powers of the world happen to possess them.

torstenvlonMay 13, 2020

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert Sapolsky

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian is better, stylistically, but changed me less as a person)

The Alchemist and The Fifth Mountain, by Paulo Coelho

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Tribe, by Sebastian Junger

chubotonMay 25, 2019

Random: I read the "Autobiography of Gucci Mane" a couple months ago based on a recommendation from a HN comment (and based on liking a few of his songs). He's wildly popular in pop culture but so far nobody I've talked to in SF knows who he is. He's known as the rapper with the ice cream cone tattoo on his face, if that rings a bell.

It was a good book. The narrator is definitely "immoral", which can be disturbing, but he's basically a product of his environment. One lesson I took from it is that Alabama and Georgia (at least in the 80's and 90's) might as well be a different country.

It's also related to business since he says he always wanted to be the one pulling the strings and making the money, rather than the talent. He became both.

The economy of making and promoting niche rap -- which became mainstream pop, e.g. Migos has at least 1B views on YouTube -- is pretty interesting. Somehow the rappers know if a beat is worth $1K or $10K, or a co-appearance on a record is worth $1K or $10K. It's a very collaborative business. They obviously understand marketing.

And even though he was addicted to "lean" (cough syrup) for years and in and out of jail for various violent crimes, he (and his collaborators) still have significant practical knowledge of contracts, copyright law, and use QuickBooks!


So there's some diverse content on HN if you look hard enough :) I'll also say that I didn't read "Sapiens" for a long time because I thought it was one of these "tech bubble/meme" books, e.g. the first place I heard of it was from Tim Ferris several years ago.

But I read it last year and it was great -- definitely worth reading, and I read Homo Deus too. I guess the whole point is that it's from someone whose background is not in tech saying a lot of things that are relevant to the industry.

pwillia7onSep 4, 2018

I recently read Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari and it nearly broke my mind. It was on Obama and Bill Gates' reading lists that year and it is phenomenal. It's like one of those books that took some ideas I had been kicking around for years and blew the whole thing wide open.

If you want to get a taste, go look up 'The Legend of Peugot' from the book.

There was also a sale on the ebook for $3 on Amazon this weekend -- not sure if it's still going.

sp527onAug 25, 2017

Agreed. There's a serious problem of information density in content these days. Most publisher-driven content is almost intentionally sparse. It takes tremendous expertise to weld information with context in a way that doesn't feel hollow and commercial.

Two books I've come across recently that do well to circumvent that problem: Sapiens by Yuval Harari and Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann. In both cases, you get a sense of the author distilling a lifetime's worth of knowledge and expertise into a form that seems hopelessly condensed, and in fact provokes you into further study. That's the mark of excellent exposition in my opinion.

blocked_againonJan 29, 2018

Have you read Sapiens by any chance? If yes how does it compare with this book?

toxikonAug 2, 2021

It is generally the case that things don't exist without funding, correct. Different countries have different political consensus on how much tax money to pour into funding PhDs for basic research, but /all/ do to some extent as far as I know.

I think you should read Sapiens by Harrari, he writes about the interaction between universities, capitalism and democracy. Very illuminating to me.

wenconFeb 5, 2021

I heard this on Lex Fridman's podcast a while ago. This is Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott on “storytelling”:

Lex Fridman: Microsoft has 50-60 thousand engineers. What does it take to lead such a large group of brilliant people?

Kevin Scott: … (snipped)... One central idea in Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens is that “storytelling” is the quintessential thing for coordinating the activities of large groups of people once you get past Dunbar’s number. I’ve really seen that, just managing engineering teams. You can brute-force things with small teams, but past that things start to fail catastrophically if you don’t have some set of shared goals. Even though this is sort of touchy feely, and technical people balk at the idea that you need to have a clear mission, it’s very important.

Lex Fridman: Stories are sort of the fabric that connects all of us, and that works for companies too.

Kevin Scott: It works for everything. If you sort of think about it, our currency is a story. Our constitution is a story. Our laws are a story. We believe very strongly in them, and thank God we do, but they’re just abstract things, they’re just words. If we don’t believe in them, they’re nothing.

Lex Fridman: In some sense, those stories are platforms.

_jgdhonJune 4, 2017

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It gave me a good understanding of where we, as a species, came from. What did we do, why did we spread across the planet, how did we replace other hominids? What I really appreciated was his ability to explain some of the underpinnings of society like religion, nation states and currency with a relatively simple idea. Afterwards I felt like "damn that's so simple, I should have thought of that!" When you think that, you know you're on to something good.

On Writing by Stephen King. This a biography masquerading as a book on writing advice... Or its the other way around. Whichever it is, I think it's a great book for any aspiring writer to read. King explains the basics on how to get started, how to persevere and through his experiences, how not to handle success. Full of honesty and simple, effective advice.

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. Most people agree that the War on Drugs is lost and has been lost for decades now. But why did we fight it in the first place? Why do some continue to believe it's the correct approach? How has it distorted outcomes in society and how can we recognise and prevent such grotesque policies in the future? This book offers some of those answers.

Only if you're Indian - India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha. Sadly almost every Indian I've met isn't well informed about anything that happened in India after 1947, the year India became independent. History stops there because that's the final page of high school history textbooks. An uninformed electorate leads to uninformed policy, like "encouraging" the use of a single language throughout the country. If I were dictator, I'd require every Indian to read this book.

rowanseymouronMar 2, 2015

I've read a couple of good books recently (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari being my favourite) which make a convincing case for human evolution having mostly finished sometime around 100,000 - 50,000BCE when we homo sapiens started migrating out of Africa. It's pretty amazing to think that there were human beings walking around back then who were at least as mentally developed, if not more, than we are today.

rasmus1610onNov 29, 2017

Sapiens by Noah Harari or When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

nevf1onDec 29, 2019

Fantastic list, and thanks for the links.

Personally, I would put "Sapiens - A brief History of Humankind"[0] in the list rather than it's successor "21 Lessons for the 21st Century".

While some people have some gripes about The 48 Laws of Power and Robert Greene's other books, in my opinion, they serve as a really valuable tool for understanding how most medium and large companies work. And for anyone interested, a great way to dip your toes into it is by having a look at Derek Sivers' book notes - https://sivers.org/book/48LawsOfPower

[0] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari...

lennyscalesonJune 9, 2020

- Sapiens
- Richard Dawkin's books

jm__87onMay 11, 2018

A lot of people here are offering up books with life advice (though I saw a recommendation for Sapiens which I can also highly recommend) which may or may not help depending on what your problem is. Why not just practice introspection daily through meditation instead? For some motivation and evidence on what it can do for you, I'd recommend "Why Buddhism is True". In spite of its title, the book aims to give some logic behind mindfulness meditation. If specifically you have been dealing with chronic low mood as a result of your life shattering crisis, I'd also recommend "The Mindful Way Through Depression". If that isn't an issue for you, I personally enjoy Jon Kabat Zinn's writing in general so I'd research and pick up one of his books. Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield are some others in this field who have a lot of experience teaching mindfulness meditation in a Western context and have a lot of very useful advice when it comes to practicing mindfulness meditation. There is another popular "how to meditate" book out there called The Mind Illuminated which I see recommended on HN every now and then, though I personally feel it is a bit overkill (it is more of a textbook). With regard to Alan Watts, I've only read "The Wisdom of Insecurity" and personally found it to be a waste of time and money, though I guess you can read it online for free so that saves you the money at least :).

perseusprime11onMay 20, 2016

I used to think like you but after reading Sapiens I now understand how these things work.

wenconDec 9, 2019

I heard this on Lex Fridman's podcast with Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott on "storytelling"

Lex Fridman: Microsoft has 50-60 thousand engineers. What does it take to lead such a large group of brilliant people?

Kevin Scott: ...(snipped)... One central idea in Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens is that “storytelling” is the quintessential thing for coordinating the activities of large groups of people once you get past Dunbar’s number. I’ve really seen that, just managing engineering teams. You can brute-force things with small teams, but past that things start to fail catastrophically if you don’t have some set of shared goals. Even though this is sort of touchy feely, and technical people balk at the idea that you need to have a clear mission, it’s very important.

Lex Fridman: Stories are sort of the fabric that connects all of us, and that works for companies too.

Kevin Scott: It works for everything. If you sort of think about it, our currency is a story. Our constitution is a story. Our laws are a story. We believe very strongly in them, and thank God we do, but they’re just abstract things, they’re just words. If we don’t believe in them, they’re nothing.

Lex Fridman: In some sense, those stories are platforms.

KabuseChaonDec 10, 2017

Disclaimer: Non native english speaker - I am doing my best so please ignore my errors...

I read a bunch of the books on the list the most interesting to me that I have not read for now are:

- The Content Trap: A Strategist's Guide to Digital Change

- Stealing Fire

- Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought

- The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

Has anybody here on HN read those? Are these any good? I am usually quite sceptical regarding Amazon recommendations (or some random CEOs thoughts), but most of the time love books recommended on HN...

In turn my thoughts about some of the books on the list:

- Shoe Dog: Probably the best and most inspiring biography/memoir of any entrepreneur I have ever read. If you are thinking about starting a company or are a founder you will love it!

- Sapiens: Fantastic book that completely shattered parts of my worldview. In my opinion a must read for everyone! (Gave it away as a present for many of my friends - almost everybody liked it)

- Extreme Ownership: The best book regarding leadership I have ever read. At first I was skeptical about the "military-parts" of the book, but they have been useful in illustrating the underlying principles the book covers. If you are in any leadership position (top management, middle management or leader of a very small team) it is definitely worth your money.

akaralaronJan 5, 2021

Exactly my feelings, the first part just shows some good technical skills and flexibility of Emacs but it was the second part that was much more interesting. I too enjoyed the part about values and it gave me some food for thought. I also can tell the author read Sapiens as there are quite a few points that were discussed in the book. Also some of the links in the article are great rabbit holes as well, like the 80000 hours website. A+ writing overall!

squeaky-cleanonApr 22, 2016

I recently read Sapiens by Yuval Harari, and this is a recurring theme in the book. "Collective fictions" throughout human history, the different forms of these myths, and how they help a society grow, or need to change as one does grow.

One sort of related example is local religions versus universal, missionary religions. The majority of religions in history have been local and exclusive. Deities such as nature/animal spirits and the like, other tribes may have their own spirits in their own regions, and there is no need to convert people outside of your regions. But the most successful religions are ones are universal and missionary; they believe that their religion is affects everyone, regardless of whether they believe it (and is often the only true religion), and that for some reason, it is beneficial to convert others to your religion.

Ideas like money, capitalism, art, really anything not essential to the biology of humans, are such "fictions", and the most successful (from any evolutionary standpoint) societies are the ones that have or adapt the most effective "fictions" for their societies. I guess to put it in HN terms, "how scalable are your beliefs?"

A lot of the old ways we've lost touch with, or never had, aren't helpful to modern society. A hunting trip in which you become a man doesn't amount to much in a society with mega-farms, slaughter mills and processed foods that don't expire immediately. Instead, our equivalent goals would be like "get a degree, get another degree, get a job". You're an adult when you're old enough to vote, and so on.

There's a lot of other topics as well, but that's what stuck with me the most and my interpretation of it. It's fascinating to think about.

shedletskyonJune 27, 2015

Has there been any serious quantitative research into the additive or multiplicative effect of tools on effective intellectual horsepower to solve hard problems?

For instance, if I put two groups of mathematicians in two different rooms and lock them up for three years, but one group has access to the internet and the other doesn't, how much more progress will they make on the same open problem?

What if I give both groups internet access but only one group gets to use modern search engines?

What about finer gradations of the same idea? Is a research team confined to using only Google to search smarter or dumber than a team that must only use Bing.

I'm wondering about how much IQ actually matters compared to tools. After reading Sapiens (which I highly suggest), I don't think the principle machinery for solving problems exists in our heads and hasn't probably since the middle ages, if not before.

chubotonJune 6, 2020

YES! Read "Jaws" by Kahn [1] to find out why. If you're are familiar at all with Jared Diamond's books (Guns, Germs, and Steel) or have read Sapiens, it should be a piece of cake to understand. I bought this book for 4 people with sleep apnea or unresolved dental problems.

This book was published in 2018, and it's not yet common knowledge. Doctors I have been to don't get it, I have doctors in my family that don't get it.

It's historical and scientific, but it has a lot of practical implications for raising children too. A child's facial structure is surprisingly malleable (by lifestyle), and it determines how they breathe, which in turns affects everything else. Just like food, breath is at the base of your physiology, and affects all aspects of your health (dental health, mental health, and more!)



Agriculture and diet are fundamental reasons behind recent and huge changes in our jaw and airway development. They change us faster than our genes do. (epigenetics)

Another profound change that is faster than evolution is the development of speech.

In other words, apes and dogs don't have sleep apnea because they don't have agriculture, and they can't vocalize like we do. It's a crazy problem that requires an explanation -- your throat and neck tissue literally strangles you while you're sleeping, giving you heart attacks and many other problems.

There are a lot of practical implications, like breathing through the nose rather than the mouth (another article about this was recently on the front page of HN), and what foods you and your children eat.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Jaws-Hidden-Epidemic-Sandra-Kahn/dp/1...

There are a bunch of other books that touch on the related subjects, like "The Dental Diet", "Sleep Interrupted", etc.

yipbubonJune 24, 2018

I've thinking of how many of the communities and belief systems on the internet are very similar to religions.

I've started calling conspiracy theories the "religions of the internet" to make a point to my dad whose understandable distrust of the mainstream narrative has lead him to give more trust to the anti-establishment churches like https://themindunleashed.com that publish conspiracy theories, badly informed opinions on real science news, and pseudo-science mixed in with some real science news.

His reaction to mistrusting the mainstream was to shift his trust somewhere easily identifiable as untrustworthy (to someone educated in the sciences) atleast partly because it acknowledges his mistrust of the mainstream and presents the only-mostly-wrong ideas in a fleshed out manner and authoritative tone.

Some observations and layman speculation:

I've just started reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harrari which suggests that there is a strong biological tendency toward adopting unsubstantiated beliefs to enable human cooperation at scale he called them collective myths.

I've also once met a sincere flat earther, but I suspect his ideas arose from doing too much LSD before encountering the idea of tracing his beliefs to their root axioms.

juanreonJuly 19, 2015

Don't miss Harari's "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind". He talks quite a bit about Göbeklitepe, and explains some fascinating hypotheses about it and about its possible role in sparking the agricultural revolution.

A spoiler in a nutshell: conventional wisdom has it that a time of plenty allowed us to settle down and figure out the technology for feeding lots of settlers, and that in turn created a surplus that made it possible to sustain non-productive groups like religious leaders.

It might, however, have been the other way around: it may be that a shared fiction ---possibly a set of beliefs, what today we'd call a religion--- forced people to stay in a place ---maybe Göbeklitepe--- for long enough that new techniques for ensuring sustenance had to be developed. Anyway, do read that book. It's the best on the subject since Guns, Germs and Steel.

as17237onJuly 11, 2016

* In Defense of Liberal Edication By Farred Zakaria

* Confidence Men By Ros Suskind

* Dark Money by Jane Meyer

* Better by Atul Gawande

* The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

* Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

* Contagious by Jonah Berger

* Sapiens by Yuval Harari

* The Pentagons Brain by Annie Jacobson

* Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

* The Only Game in town by Mohamed El-Erian

* The Industries of Future By Alec Ross

raphtonFeb 6, 2019

I have seen Harari's "Sapiens" and Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel" in the comments.

Both are nice reads but Harari's book is shallow from multiple respects, and Diamond's book omits important counter-examples.

To me the book that made everything fall into place with respect to political history (and at some point, political philosophy) - and that I actually read before Harari and Diamond - was Francis Fukuyama's "The Origins of Political Order". An absolute must-read.

yarinronDec 19, 2017

> Everywhere people had the choice between what they were doing before and agriculture they either chose agriculture or they died out.

Once the agricultural revolution began, the extra food allowed the population to grow rapidly, forcing people to keep up with agriculture lifestyle to stay fed and survive - they couldn't just back out.

If anyone finds it interesting, I strongly recommend reading "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari - a very insightful book that also talks pretty extensively about the flaws of the agricultural revolution.

pavornyohonOct 9, 2015

@Paul_S, I may be wrong and if it the same book I am thinking then see below. I hope this helps.

1)Sapiens (A brief history of humankind). The book authored by Yuri Noah Harari

2)TheSupermen (The story of seymour cray and the technical wizards behind the supercomputer). The book authored by Charles J. Murray.

air7onFeb 5, 2019

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari.

Hands down the book that most influenced me. The book had (for me) not one but several simple-yet-profound ideas that were forever inserted into the foreground of how I make sense of the world. For example, the existence of shared myths that allow humans to cooperate on a large scale. Or how I too, am religious, though I was sure I wasn't.

Can't recommend it enough.

mattswainblogonAug 20, 2020

Read the full version at https://www.mattswain.co.uk/blog/is-sapiens-worth-reading

Pretty much everyone recommends reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Tim Ferris's podcast interviewee's often say that Sapiens is the book they gift the most and Amazon's 20,000 ratings give it 4.6 stars. But, with over 400 pages of dense content, is it actually worth reading? Or is it just 400 pages of boring, unenlightened, irrelevant history? Lets find out.

Early on in the book, it became clear to me that I didn't know much about the history of humans. It isn't studied in classrooms or discussed in modern day conversations or popular content. Most people seem to shrug off how we got here and do not seem too bothered to understand. You are therefore working off a bit of a blank slate. Yuval Noah Harari does an excellent job of building up the story and scenes with visual language depicting what an average day looked like hundreds of thousands of years ago. Essentially, a detailed, visual timeline is created in your mind showing the transformation of early humans to where we are now.

In summary, this book condenses lots of research, ideas and the whole of human history into a logical, easy to read and understand, visual way that gives you an overview into a topic in which simply doesn't get taught elsewhere. I think it is definitely worth reading, although this is is not a life-changing book, in the sense you won't become enlightened or change the direction of your life. But, importantly, it does give an appreciation into how we got here. Be prepared for a slow patch in the middle and go into the book knowing that you probably have very limited knowledge of the topic and you will learn lots.

I inspire thinking without limits with my Infinity Thinking email newsletter. I share insights to get you thinking, pose questions, quotes, book and podcast recommendations. Get inspired and check it out at https://www.mattswain.co.uk/newsletter

rimheronJuly 10, 2019

After having read Sapiens I realized that there's something deeply disturbing about it all, though.

The fact that Harari seems to think that everything is just a 'story' that we tell ourselves, is way too nihilistic.

Maybe, taking this external perspective, we can understand better the direction in which we're going, but it doesn't resolve a fundamental question: why do we live the way we do?

In the long(human timescale) run, this is unsustainable and depressing, it takes away from the ethics and the aesthetics that have made human life what it is, that have brought us to live the way we do.

qchrisonFeb 27, 2020

I appreciate you saying that. I haven't read Sapiens, but since we're on HN, I figure it's worth mentioning that I think Paul Graham's writing wanders into this territory a lot. Hackers and Painters has been sitting only half-read on my shelf for a long time because I got too frustrated with it to continue for that exact reason.

dustinmorisonJan 24, 2019

Sapiens is a must read for anyone who wants to better understand the fabrics of humanity. It's one of my most favourite books and reading it definitely has opened up my eyes to the world.

An example:

Humans are the "creators of the world", the most dominant species on the planet and at the top of the food chain by a long distance and yet we are the most jumpy/scary species of all.

If a tiny spider would crawl up the leg of a lion they wouldn't give a bit of a shit. A lion would remain calm, knowing that the spider cannot do anything and it wouldn't even bother to entertain the spider for a split second.

However if the same tiny spider would crawl up the leg of a human there's a real chance that this person would start jumping up and down, perhaps trying to kill the spider or maybe even rush out of the room until the spider is gone.

This is completely irrational for someone like us - the species who literally dominates everything on this planet - and yet so common. Why is that? Because lions had millions of years to climb the ladder to the top of the food chain and therefore had the time to develop a nature which reflects their strength, whereas humans have jumped to the top so quickly that we still have the fears and behaviour of someone who is extremely weak and vulnerable. It's actually quite scary and also explains why humans often respond to tiny issues with violence, bombings and other out of proportion threats when things could just be ignored.

crypticaonFeb 1, 2020

Throughout history there has always been a large majority class of people who were suppressed and controlled by the elites just like today. The difference is that today, the suppressed classes are comparatively highly educated and have access to limitless information.
Before, this knowledge was accessible mostly by the elites.

Today, the lower classes know what's going on politically and economically better than many of the elites. That's why distrust of institutions is at an all time high. That's why books which label the social order as a fiction like 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind' are top sellers.
For the first time in history, the correlation between wealth and knowledge has disappeared and is even starting to reverse.

It's difficult for the elite to control a class which knows what's going on better than they do.
And BTW, fake news has a purpose. It's a political and economic weapon invented by the lower and middle classes to serve their needs.

InsanityonJuly 13, 2018

Some books that I recently read and enjoyed:

a) Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari)
b) Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon (Kim Zetter)
c) Hackers: Heroes of the computer revolution (Steven Levy)
d) Masters of Doom (David Kushner)

e) The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)
f) Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

BeetleBonSep 19, 2018

>Have you read Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens?

I have not, but a friend did recommend it to me earlier this year.

>His central claim is that the -isms are all just like religion, in that one needs faith to believe they exist.

I looked at my comment after reading yours, and realized almost everything I listed is an "ism". That wasn't intentional, but I guess it's also not surprising.

Somewhat on a tangent: In the last so many years, in various conversations, if I'm asked what I think of <insert random -ism>, I tend to respond "I don't believe in it." Or more nuanced "It has some interesting points". The problems I've had with -isms is that people are initially attracted to a particular -ism because something in it rings true for them. But then over time they start pushing things simply because they are part of that -ism - without critical thinking. I'd rather not be pushed into accepting it wholesale. They'll defer a little too much to leaders in that particular movement. Invariably, they'll unnecessarily believe something that is espoused by that ideology but may be in conflict with the world.

Along the same lines, I'm a bit wary of making any ideology part of my identity. As an example, many of my beliefs may coincide with what in the US is called liberalism, but I will never view myself as a liberal. It's totally fine to be liberal in some ways and not in others. I have my own identity, and it is influenced by many ideologies - but I don't want to add things to my identity just because I am partial to that ideology. And I definitely don't care if someone points out that some particular view I hold is not consistent with liberalism.

If you've read the book Influence by Cialdini, this is essentially guarding against the consistency principle.

WheelsAtLargeonNov 19, 2016

Zuckerberg's list of books is one of the best I've encountered. Every one of his books opens up your mind to a different view of the world.

Think you a understand what it means to be human because you are one. Read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari to expand your view

Want to get a layman's understanding of the human genome. Read Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.

You think that technical writing needs to be dry to get to the point. Read On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss. Beautiful writing yet informative and to the point.

After I read the books in this list I obtained new respect for the man and his view of the world.

thewhitetuliponMar 27, 2017

Sapiens by Yuri Harari

The book is simple mind blowing. It seems as if the entire history of homo sapiens which we learned in school was wrong. There was no slow progression, homo Sapiens and Neanderthals existed in the same time as did many ither species like homo erectus, but the perished before Sapiens.

It seems that our ability to form fictional entities (like money, state, society, country, religion etc) made us superior to other species. It seems that the basic ability to gossip helped us beat other species!

Completely mind blowing.

mkingstononOct 26, 2018

I wonder, did you develop this idea yourself? I ask because it sounds similar to the central idea in the book Sapiens, and if you haven't read that I expect you'd appreciate it. At least for the sense of satisfaction you might get at your idea having broader recognition, but also because it's an interesting book. Sapiens discusses that countries are lies, money is a lie, every human organisation is a lie. (I use your terminology here, IIRC the author uses the term "collective fiction"). I found your comment interesting because you consider culture as a collective fiction, but I think you might be right that there's a difference between a self-identifying culture; and a non-self-identifying culture. Which, for me, raises the question: is the latter type an unspoken collective fiction, but a collective fiction nonetheless? And what are the practical differences between the two. Especially: does one type persecute outsiders more than the other? Should we try to avoid self identifying cultures as a rule? If so, when should we make an exception? Anyway, perhaps I ought to turn my armchair sociology into a reading list.

tarsingeonJune 11, 2021

And companies, states, ... What is a company? The contracts? Then it's just paper with ink. The buildings? It's just concrete. All of that don't exist naturally, it's a shared narrative. That these concepts can be enforced doesn't change that fact. That's not to say these concepts are not useful, civilization is built on them. The book Sapiens does a better job than me explaining that idea if you are interested.

slyallonDec 23, 2018

* The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

* Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City by Neal Bascomb

* Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean

* Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

* A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin

* The Actor’s Life: A survival guide by Jenna Fischer

* The Interstellar Age: The Story of the NASA Men and Women Who Flew the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell

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

* Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars 1955-1994 by David Hepworth

* Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, & Second Chances by Leland Melvin

* The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

* Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles

cwal37onJan 11, 2016

The book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind[1] is relevant here (which I've been reading and thoroughly enjoying recently) if anyone wanted to seek out some longer-form information on this and the topics around human evolution and development. The semantics here are really interesting to me because the book immediately points out that not too long ago there were at least 6 species of human on earth at the same time (going by homo=humans, sapiens is what distinguishes us). That concept had never been so explicitly stated to me before, and I find it really fascinating to unpeel.

[1] http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0062316095/ref=s9_simh_gw...

prependonFeb 2, 2021

> I was under the impression that in a distant past tribal wars ceased at the first blood, serious wound or at worse first victim, and didn't induce a major risk for non-combattants.

Not sure where this comes from. Tribal wars frequently ended in genocide, mass destruction, etc. The book Sapiens covers some of the evidence for how Neanderthals were exterminated.

I agree though that total nuclear war would be way worse than all the tribal wars in history. Although, interestingly, it seems like threat of nuclear war has prevented lots of wars. There have been no wars between major powers since nuclear wars. Maybe the closest was the Korean War, but China wasn’t a nuclear power back then.

kashyapconAug 26, 2019

I wouldn't recommend One Hundred Years of Solitude for a novice reader -- that's quite a heavy book to start with. You (I had to) have to also constantly refer to the large family tree at the beginning of the book, as people are given the same two names, generation after generation. There's a good reason for it, though; still, confusing and tedious.

I tried it in my initial years of reading, some 13 years ago. I gave it up after some 90 pages. Maybe the current, disciplined me, should give it a retry.

As for the OP's question, I would suggest a book like Sapiens, by Yuval Harari. It's written in uncomplicated language, a broad topic, engagingly written. FWIW, I gave out at least seven copies of it as a present to friends (who are not serious readers). Most of them really appreciated it.

Daniel_skonDec 31, 2020

In the book Sapiens there was an interesting thought that life is basically information that is trying to "survive". In the same way you can look at religion as some sort of information that spreads in people minds and without people it would ceise to exist or have even reasons to exist - the same way like a virus is just information that goes from host to host. Viruses can represent the simplest form of what life is actually trying to achieve. I am over simplifying that part of book, but it definitely gave me an interesting different look on life.

martythemaniakonSep 1, 2016

Sapiens was a good book overall - it put together the high-level facts fairly well into a coherent and entertaining story. However, that story was also very zeitgeist-y and ideologically skewed, he really tried hard to work the "Out of Eden" story whereby the human race has fallen from our great past into our miserable modern life.

In fact, he had to contradict himself to push that story. In one case, he describes how agriculture is worse for the farmer, because he was sedentary and if the crops failed, he could not move and faced a famine, whereas hunter-gatherers could move. In an earlier part of the book, he describes how hunter-gathers moved over a relatively small area (20x30km IIRC?). But of course, if there was a drought in a world of hunter-gathers and they had to move, they would just move where there is another tribe already, so the drought would cause war, rather than famine. That was never mentioned, it's just assumed there was random free land everywhere.

But the biggest weakness of the book seemed to be his very weak appreciation of the physical sciences, ie he tried to tell the 75,000 year history of humanity, without bothering to spend any time on the context. Much of history is tightly coupled to ecology, advances in tech, demographics etc and his just glides over that. In one particularly idiotic part, he seems to imply that one day, someone just randomly invented math for no particular reason. Hard to tell if he was being glib or actually believes it.

I'll probably give his one a go as well, even though it'll probably suffer from the same issues. For example, it's very in-vogue to view the development of intelligent systems as inventions of capitalist who seek power over the people, rather than the discoveries about the nature of reality. I find the latter much more interesting.

yusufponDec 26, 2017

Just started going down this rabbit hole myself. I've noticed to really grasp and develop your own mental models you deeply have to understand a few things first:

1. Human biases: Every mental model is built upon some human bias.

2. How incentives work: Understanding the motivation behind why people do what they do.

3. Mental thought construction: Understanding how the brain gathers, processes and stores information.

4. Biology: How we've evolved (and haven't) from stone age times and how that still influences us today.

This is by no means exhaustive but are just some of the topics I've found most useful. That said, here are the best resources I've found:

- The Art Of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli: Taught me about human biases. Reads like a directory of most biases.

- Influence by Robert Cialdini: Taught me about incentives and a whole lot more.

- Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff: Taught me about mental thought construction.

- Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charles Munger: Taught me about many things but most importantly good decision making.

- Sapiens by Yuval Harari and his course https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE-kxvSEhkzDEmLQx3RE0...: Taught me about how we've evolved as humans and how we haven't.

- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: Taught me more about human biases.

- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely: Taught me more about how and why we make decisions and what good decisions are.

The thing I've really started to notice is it's not enough to know or read about mental models, you have to ruthlessly apply them. This is tough when even knowing about your biases doesn't stop you from still being affected by them.

kaycebasquesonJuly 17, 2018

I question this idea. It seems like “common wisdom” that hunter-gatherers had “nasty, brutish, and short” lives but the author of Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind argues that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were the “original affluent society.” They probably spent much less overall time on food than our agricultural ancestors. The H-Fs would spend 4-6 hours foraging, trapping, or hunting, and then have the rest of the day to do other stuff. They had a diverse food supply, meaning they probably got more nutrients.

Agriculturists, on the other hand, labored all day doing work that our bodies weren’t evolved for. They depended on a single crop. If anything went wrong with that crop, famine for many people was certain. And since they had less food diversity, they were comparatively malnourished.

tlbonMay 11, 2018

Whether or not you believe God exists, ideas and stories about gods are part of the foundational myths of our society. Properly interpreted, they shed light on how the subconscious works.

You might try reading the book Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari. Among other things, it shows how intersubjective realities such as human rights, religion, and money make civilization work, whether or not the objects of those stories 'exist'.

mrtksnonSep 17, 2019

This seems like a false positive for the defence system of the society. When you don't have it, I mean, when a behaviour or opinion is not crucified worse things happen(angry mobs, oppression of groups etc.).

Recently I have been reading Sapiens, it the book Homo Sapiens is singled out about its ability to function in groups of up to 150 people. Other humanoids were not able to do that.

I think, however, that discussing thigs on Twitter/Reddit is the same thing as discussing things with thousands and even millions of people that are gathered in a single place. Our species does have the tools to make this possible(the internet) but lacks methods to make it functional. The only thing we have is to detect an idea that somewhat sounds band and oppress it before bad things happen. That way we have some wrongfully vilified people but at the same time, we are able to stop the creation of a group of extremists(some people will not understand the discussion, mistook it for a validation of their sick ideas and if no vilification happens they will take action).

Anyway, that's why we need privacy. We should be able to discuss things in small enough groups without fear of being vilified, in a group with no outsiders we would know if someone is up to something bad or and take an appropriate action instead of overreacting and mislabeling. High-quality public discussions are beyond our capability.

titzeronAug 9, 2018

I would suggest reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari to get some more perspective on what the agricultural revolution has done to this planet, and to humans. And for Native Americans just "up and changing their lifestyle"--nothing could be further from the truth. They initially died by the millions from diseases brought by westerns and were then harassed, betrayed, murdered, warred upon, and pushed territory by terrority away from their lands and eventually corralled into reservations.

GrayShadeonApr 30, 2021

It's a quote from Harari's Sapiens book: "[History is something that very few people have been doing while] everyone else has been ploughing fields [and carrying water buckets]". For some reason, it's in Romanian.

It may sound full of hubris, but I don't think that's the intention. Check out https://www.nano-editor.org/news.php for previous release names. The maintainer has gone through a wide variety of references.

jdmoreiraonJuly 11, 2016

"Present Shock" by Douglas Rushkoff

"Super Forecasting" by Philip Tetlock, Dan Gardner

"The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins

"The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control" by Walter Mischel

"Precision: Statistical and Mathematical Methods in Horse Racing" by C X Wong

"Functional Swift" by Chris Eidhof, Florian Kugler, and Wouter Swierstra


"Thinking in Forth" by Leo Brodie

"The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" by Philip K. Dick


"Porcelain" by Moby

"Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari

pikeronMar 5, 2019

The book Sapiens has a few pages on this. Essentially, the thought seems to be that we're an edge case that's been able to jointly optimize for intellect/large brains and small efficient bodies by overcoming the limits on brain size imposed by vaginal birth. This in part explains our relative immaturity at birth. We're vulnerable and require constant care for the first few years of life. Compare this with other mammals such as calves which are able to walk roughly at birth.

cercatrovaonDec 23, 2020

Regarding 3, I don't think you can uninvent it, as it seems to be part of human psychology. Books like Sapiens and Elephant in the Brain explain why, religions are useful social technologies to bring together large groups of people and coordinate them. Humans in religions which were able to do that have survived in the game of natural selection versus those who did not believe in religions, and so religion itself has become melded in our psychology.

dsegoonJuly 4, 2019

> Your rights are natural and they exist apriori

“Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’. Hammurabi would have said the same about his principle of hierarchy, and Thomas Jefferson about human rights. Homo sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas and chimpanzees have no natural rights. But don’t tell that to our servants, lest they murder us at night.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

joshuaheardonJuly 6, 2018

To answer your question, Jordan Peterson's video lectures series, "Maps of Meaning" (You would need internet access to YouTube).

For long flights, I buy magazines in the airport shop (Wired and Scientific American). I also have my music collection on Spotify on my phone with wireless Bose headphones to listen to. Also, several books on Kindle on my phone (now reading "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind"). Don't forget a spare battery. Or, sometimes I check the plane's movie list for a new release I haven't seen and watch that.

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