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

scubboonFeb 22, 2021

I have nothing to add beyond the great recommendations you've already been given, but I'm throwing in an enthusiastic +1 for Diaspora and Gnomon. Quantum Thief, and Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality, are also great.

SymbioteonSep 30, 2020

Nowadays, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone should be a good option, with about 78 translations. There are often audio books too.


mimixcoonFeb 18, 2019

No, we're talking about out-of-print books. There is no one around to claim copyright or payment.

No one is trying to download Harry Potter from Google Books, lol!

sidcoolonFeb 9, 2014

Harry Potter books there. They are good, but then it's about 100 books to read in a lifetime. Just my opinion.

acousteponJune 20, 2019

Harry Potter is probably the most famous example of YA.

Good Reads have a whole section for it: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/young-adult

rmsonMay 29, 2010

Great story. If you like this, you may like Eliezer's Harry Potter fan fiction! http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/1/Harry_Potter_and_the_M...

lostmsuonMay 11, 2018

Harry Potter and Methods of Rationality of course. It quickly led me to the list of cognitive biases on Wikipedia, which are, basically, the answer to introspection question by definition.

The book is here for free: http://www.hpmor.com/

cfonNov 13, 2014

The advice I was given was to read a favorite children's book like Harry Potter as you will sort of know the gist of what the passage is suppose to mean and can use that to bootstrap the words in the language you don't know.

hhmonJune 7, 2008

Also, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, got her honorary degree from Harvard together with JMC. Very surprising.

travisjungrothonJuly 3, 2021

Okay, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m legitimately trying to understand. Do you think after that book was published it should have no copyright protection? That it should be totally legal for me to print and sell my own copies?

Steve44onNov 6, 2018

If you're not a big reader then try the Harry Potter series. Although they are aimed at kids there is a lot of depth in them with the bonus they are easy to read and also quite gripping.

crucioonJuly 19, 2013

This is all good and well, but the Harry Potter books are some of the best I've ever read for many reasons. It's not luck that she created something so good

mdemareonFeb 9, 2011

I like to read Harry Potter in various languages - works great for learning to read well.

Also, I created a website where you can practice vocabulary and verb conjugations: http://inglua.com

steveridoutonJune 13, 2015

Harry Potter is one of the very few bestselling fiction eBooks that can be purchased DRM free: https://www.pottermore.com

If only more publishers would do this, it would be far easier for me to recommend novels for users to buy to read on my site!

jotjotzzzonDec 21, 2017

The Illustrated versions of Harry Potter is such a beautiful book. It went on sale recently to $24.

bradleyjgonMay 8, 2021

First edition Harry Potter books are worth thousands of dollars?!? I’m assuming that’s only in mint condition but wow.

TechticSolutiononMay 29, 2020

I read full series of J K rowling's Harry Potter many times.

jimbokunonJune 18, 2009

MacKay's side by side table comparing his book with Harry Potter made me laugh out loud just now:


He makes a pretty good case that his is the better textbook.

db48xonAug 7, 2021

You would probably enjoy Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality; see hpmor.com.

starpilotonJuly 26, 2018

Works with learning a language through enjoying other media as well. Read Harry Potter or other popular books in another language, watch movies dubbed in that language and so on. Some day (today?) even machine-translated stuff will be good enough to learn from.

DevX101onDec 27, 2011

How interesting will this be if i've never read the Harry Potter series? (i've seen a couple of the movies)

marco_guateonApr 29, 2016

So Johnny will find the book Harry Potter or certain math book he needs for school, which is owned by someone down the street. So he needs to contact the owner to meet him and get the book from him for free (or in exchange for another book). Johnny will have to pay us to get the owner´s contact info.

dandareonMay 14, 2017

I am perplexed: is the author against DRM itself or only against the ways it is being misused?

Should everyone have the right to read Harry Potter without paying Rowling a dime? Because overpriced textbooks is a problem of US' universities, not of the fact that you should not use someone else's work for free.

mrfusiononJune 6, 2021

I describe her books as Harry Potter meets game of thrones meets Thomas the tank engine. (In a good way)

EugenioPereaonAug 30, 2017

I read Harry Potter to my kids, on Periscope, and it turned out to be wonderful. Their English skills developed tremendously, we spent a lot of time together doing it, and they understood that the internet needs constant input from normal users to remain such a fantastic resource.

simionesonAug 19, 2020

Do you also wonder what inspired J K Rowling's Harry Potter? Or Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged?

We are quite capable of pure fiction with symbolic inspirations, there is no need to suspect "a kernel of truth" behind any speculation.

smusamashahonAug 20, 2020

Can you give it a huge book, Harry Potter series for example and then assume one of the characters, start an alternate storyline and let it build the rest? Can GPT-3 do that?

NoOneNewonMay 10, 2021

Like I said to another commenter, avid readers know these publishers. Outsiders who would potentially read from them dont know they exist. Non readers think books like The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter are once in a lifetime books. They're actually fairly normal genre pieces. Difference was, these were marketed better.

mwambuaonJan 14, 2016

CS Lewis is pretty good... I read the Chronicles of Narnia around the same time I started reading Harry Potter. What do you think about Philip Reeve?

By the way, I wasn't asking to challenge you... I'm just a big fan of childrens' fantasy!

Bedon292onMay 18, 2017

The Harry Potter books were just released on Kindle Unlimited about a month ago. Its not surprising that they are all up in the top 20, since people are going to read them right after release. It the exact ones in the exact order are likely something to do with the average rate people read at.

StavrosKonJuly 19, 2013

I found Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (http://leanpub.com/hpmor) way more fun. However, it isn't finished yet.

I also liked Ender's game.

billswiftonOct 8, 2010

HN readers liked Eliezer's Harry Potter fanfic (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1385932); I thought you might also appreciate this earlier one by him. I actually like it better than the Harry Potter.

rukuu001onAug 8, 2016

I used Harry Potter as my first Spanish book :) I recommend it!

rmsonMay 4, 2010

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality! I posit that it is the best Harry Potter fanfiction of all time.


newsgourmetonDec 18, 2020

Have you been working on any side projects? If you can finish and launch a software project, then you are OK. The consensus seems to be that interviews are bad at identifying capable people.

I think JK Rowling's Harry Potter books were rejected by 10 publishers, so fuck other people's judgement.

RandallBrownonOct 22, 2020

Then you just end up pronouncing things wrong.

How many American children grew up reading Harry Potter pronouncing Hermione as "Hermi-Own" until the movies came out?

eruonOct 23, 2015

No data. But anecdotally it's pretty high in Germany.

Eg Harry Potter has been a hit just as big as in Britain, but most people read it in the German translation.

nitrogenonJan 3, 2011

It probably depends on how much of the original text and plot were used in the parody. It would certainly be considered illegal to write Harry Potter and the Zombie Hallows now, just by virtue of using the same characters as the original.

emodendroketonNov 4, 2016

I don't know a lot about wine in particular. But this does ring a little bit like an argument that because more people enjoy reading Harry Potter than Moby Dick that therefore the latter has no merits over the former. Not so sure about that.

amiga_500onSep 21, 2019

Not a great example. Harry Potter is a book for children. If you are reading Zola, it's still fiction, but it's deeper.

umvionMay 10, 2020

I've tried, it's really hard though. At one point I started reading him a chapter from Harry Potter per day in the hope it would get him hooked on reading like it did for me. Well, it did get him hooked on the story, but since his reading skills were so low he would never read on his own so instead he begged his mom to rent the movies, and he promptly binge watched all 8 movies and proudly announced all the spoilers he knew. He also wasn't interested in hearing me read to him from Harry Potter anymore after that despite me hinting that the books were far superior to the movies.

stonemetalonJuly 19, 2013

The publish date for the book was April 30, 2013, according to amazon. 1500 books in a few months doesn't sound terrible for an unknown author in a niche genre. I would be surprised if Harry Potter had sold much more in the first few months of publication of the first book.

aidosonMay 4, 2012

Ha, yeah, I was just trying to think of a long book. I tried reading Harry Potter in Portuguese once upon a time - quickly learnt that fantasy novels are a hard way to learn a language.

johnaspdenonSep 8, 2010

This is just getting better and better. It almost makes me wonder whether I should bother reading Harry Potter to get some context for it. Although I understand the Author hasn't actually read all the books?

johnnydoe9onApr 7, 2017

I don't understand what's wrong with multitasking in this context. It is really easy to listen to an audiobook while doing some light cleaning or during commute. I love reading and I'm trying to increase my paperback collection but I think everyone should at least give it a shot, my recommendation would be Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter - it's an awesome experience.

mehwootonJuly 20, 2013

I don't think this is a very good example of what they are claiming is happening. The book sold roughly 1,000 copies in a month or two and received amazing, near universal great reviews. There is every chance that should she have continued writing the series (like she intended to) it could have been very popular. I'm pretty sure Harry Potter didn't sell 1 million copies within 2 months of being published.

jay_monAug 12, 2012

I'm sorry but lumping in Harry Potter along with "popular trash" such as Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey is shamefully dismissive.

Harry Potter is a wonderful series that brought the magic of reading and exploring imaginative worlds to countless children around the world.

Hardly "trash" as you characterized it.

inovicaonAug 9, 2009

Didn't the woman who wrote Harry Potter do the entire first book in a coffee shop? Well, at least thats the PR! Just think - we might have no Harry Potter if her local coffee shop (cafe) had kicked her out. I'll leave that up to you, if you think it's a good thing!

adammengesonSep 5, 2017

I'm rereading the Harry Potter books, they get _dark_. Blood, death, and stabbing all happened in just what I read yesterday.

ikeboyonDec 8, 2014

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky and the related sequences.

buttcoinslolonJune 15, 2019

It's not really up for debate that it takes more concentration and time to read Ulysses or Hegel than it does to read the Dark Tower or Harry Potter series.

Edit: And I like all of the above books/authors

lionizeonJan 14, 2016

Harry Potter is a poorly written kids fantasy, how does that relate to programming?

Djorak_onMay 29, 2015

Harry Potter was the first book I read in English because I was familiar with it since I had read it a few times in French. It was a great learning experience.

marvindanigonDec 18, 2018

I'd never read Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban like an article or a PDF file. No one will. This way I can… at least my nephew will.

We've discussed this subject at length over here:



JasonCEConAug 5, 2014

This is (wonderfully) reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality[1].

Both are well worth the read.


dalkeonDec 16, 2014

"Why is not every book, t-shirt or smartphone is just great?"

Different people have different ideas of what "great" means. Not everyone thinks the Harry Potter series are great books, while many do. We see that in movies where a movie does poorly at the box office while the critics.

The definition of greatness changes over time, so "It's a Wonderful Life", now considered one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made, had only mediocre revenue when it came out.

Greatness is sometimes situational, so "Dan Brown ... is the undisputed king of airplane books — the not-too-heavy, not-too-long potboilers perfect for a long layover." If you don't fly, then perhaps there's no time when Brown's works might appeal.

Travel has its own category of "good enough." Visiting Germany once I bought a book from the limited English selection not because it was great, but because it was something to read on the long train ride.

A lot of people watch sports, but surely it can't be that all sports games are great, so greatness can't be the only reason for keeping someone's interest.

Since it's hard to predict greatness, people will test out ideas to see if there's a response. Sometimes this can lead to feedback and improvements. Sometimes this testing is through writing clubs. Sometimes (as with smartphone apps) this is with the market itself.

qqssccffttonApr 29, 2020

> J. K. Rowling became a billionaire by writing the Harry Potter books.

And the hundreds of marketing people and the editors?

> Oprah Winfrey became a billionaire through her brand as a talented talk show host.

And everyone who makes her shows work?

> Michael Jordan became a billionaire thanks to his basketball skills.

And his coaches and trainers?

Without these people, none of those billionaires would've made it.

tvanantwerponDec 17, 2020

I don't even have kids yet and I'm also only able to complete books via sped-up audiobooks. It's a really great way to get through them.

For fiction, go for something with a professional narrator. Jim Dale's Harry Potter series is a good example. They can make it into a modern-day radio drama. But for non-fiction, I prefer if the author reads it. Authors imbibe an excitement to the reading of non-fiction; professionals often come across as monotone and I can't focus on them.

rutierutonAug 10, 2021

I just finished this and as a big fan of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality I enjoyed this a lot as well.

Anyone with an analytical/rational mindset will probably love both, even if you're normally not into fiction.

Don't expect to be able to discuss it with anyone that hasn't read it - or something like it - though.

drdreyonDec 22, 2017

I don't disagree -- but why do we value reading books so much over watching TV? Aren't you consuming stories passively in both cases? (let's say reading Harry Potter vs watching Harry Potter)

dragonwriteronMar 19, 2021

> This take sounds like Rowling had written Harry Potter to fulfill her dream of one day being famous and crushing transsexuals beneath her expensive heels.

First, my response was denying that the description was of a phenomenon which was in any way novel as the upthread poster claimed, it wasn’t my description.

Second, I don’t read it that way: it was simply describing that, Rowling achieved fame and then, having achieved it, used it to sell certain ideas. There was no suggestion that it was planned in advance as a strategy, or even that that use was especially prominent among her uses of the fame.

rayalezonJuly 13, 2018

I rarely read fiction. I'd love to read something great, but I have harder time finding it and getting into it.

Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality is the best fiction I've ever read, and am actually rereading now, so that's one.

I absolutely love everything written by Alexander Wales, The Martian by Andy Weir, and a lot of stuff from /r/rational. Also I think that Atlas Shrugged and everything written by Ayn Rand is brilliant.

I've read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson not so long ago, they were pretty fun, but I wasn't blown away or anything.

Aside from that, I don't know many great ones, so I mostly read non-fiction.

hardlianotiononMay 8, 2021

Harry Potter is not atrocious - lots of people read it and it has inspired a lot of people. I think it seems trite to people who have read a lot of the fantasy classics and are steeped in Wizard of Earthsea, Gormenghast, Once and Future King and the like, but to people that are looking for something different, it is imaginative and the characters grow in a realistic and interesting way.

maxkleinonSep 21, 2008

What's a good book? Harry Potter? Shakespear? What's good music? Beethoven? T-Pain?

More importantly - who is the judge? The government? You? If so, then are you allowed to decide what is 'good' for others? Are they allowed to decide what is 'good' for you?

You see what I mean? There is no absolute when it comes to entertainment. There is no good or bad. There is just stuff that entertains, and stuff that does not.

fyponJan 14, 2020

My theory is that we're just looking at the list of books most frequently assigned by english teachers. Excluding children books, most of these can be found in the new york state education department's literature suggestions: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/guides/ela/part1b.pdf.

The exceptions were "How to Win Friends and Influence People" (rank 8) and "Harry Potter" (rank 9).

I am actually pretty shocked by this. I didn't expect a self-help book (15 million copies sold) to beat harry potter (120 million copies sold, 500 million if you include the entire series, making it the best-selling series in history). I guess people who love the franchise would rather own the book?

hsitzonAug 7, 2019

Yes, Harry Potter is especially good because although it's written for younger readers (i.e, not difficult reading) it's well written and enjoyable for all ages. Also, you can find audio for the book as well as text in both languages. Listening to foreign language audio while following along in foreign language text is excellent method.

aokionJuly 4, 2020

The books by Tent are mathematically at a 4th or 5th grade level. They’re sort of like Jean Lee Latham’s bio of Nathaniel Bowditch (you learn a fictionalized life story but you can’t really grok the person’s contribution). Of course, most mathematicians lead far more boring lives than Bowditch did in his youth, so the kind of kid who is reading Harry Potter by 4th or 5th grade is going to find them very dry.

david-givenonFeb 5, 2017

Compare and contrast with Diane Duane's _Young Wizards_ books (which if you liked Harry Potter you should totally read), where in the later ones the characters are using their Wizard's Manuals as instant messenging/social networking clients. Turns out that books which magically contain the information you need to know have many applications.

Yes, they even go bing when a new message arrives.

godelmachineonMay 11, 2018

1) All of Robin Sharma's books - especially The Monk who sold his Ferrari

2) The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

3) Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

4) The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

5) Barking up the wrong tree by Eric Barker

6) This might be strange - but Harry Potter series also teach us a lot, especially about Courage and Conviction.

jarekonAug 7, 2012

> How is the next 300 million dollar Batman flick going to ever get made if the studios let everyone go see the movie for free? It won't get made.

What a fucking loss for humanity.

I'm pretty sure JK Rowling would have written Harry Potter (the book) with or without IP laws. I'm pretty sure Notch would have written Minecraft with or without IP laws. I'm pretty sure there were several bloody fantastic games made in the 90s when game piracy was easier and more common.

GoronmononJuly 13, 2011

If you've already read Boxcar Children when you're 12, Hardy Boys when you're 14, do you really need to be reading Harry Potter when you're 30?

freehunteronFeb 12, 2018

>b) Languages.

It is so damn hard to find media in other languages, and there is no reason for it. The US and Germany are both very technologically advanced countries producing a great amount of media in their own majority languages, but as a German speaker in the US, Harry Potter is about the only German language novel I can reliably find. I like Harry Potter, sure, but I like other books too. I shouldn't have to fly to Germany to find them.

joezydecoonSep 24, 2010

What would you recommend for a younger boy, say 5-7 years old? Harry Potter might be too complex to catch on at first read IMO.

nicolas_tonFeb 27, 2011

As an aside, I find that thanks to online web fiction and self publishing I found some works I really enjoyed but probably would never have been published by any publisher... I think that whenever you have gatekeepers like this, they can get a bit too conservative and tend to only accept work that is similar to successful works.

For example,
An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom http://www.meilinmiranda.com/intimate-history An erotic (but not the main focus) coming of age story in a victorian world.
It's really good and original, but it mixes so many genres and is so different from what I'm used to that I wouldn't expect any mainstream publisher to publish it...

The other big example of this is some works of fanfiction like Eliezer's Yudkowski Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality which is popular here... It would never be published because it's fanfiction but it's original and is quite different from what I'm normally used to by mainstream publishers...

SukottoonNov 13, 2011

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

I hesitated to start. Partly because I found the original Harry Potter kind of boring/frustrating. And partly because it's fanfiction, a sort of writing I do not normally enjoy.

I'm most of the way through the 1200 pages and find it pretty enjoyable.

Harry's portrayal seems pretty uneven (swinging between "scientist/genius in an irrational world" and "arrogant prick demigod").

I like Drako's additional depth far better than Rowling's one dimensional jerk.

Find it here: http://www.elsewhere.org/rationality/ (after the first few chapters I switched to the pdf version.. link on the right of that page)

xhrpostonDec 12, 2018

The Obstacle is the Way (somewhat encouraging)

The Art of Empathy (very interesting)

The Three Body Problem (good)

The Startup Way (decent)

The Politics of Bitcoin (short but interesting)

Why We Sleep (very much worth it)

The Last Arrow (mixed feelings)

The Prize (boring but informative)

Superhuman by Habit (OK, not much new)

The Circle of Profit (straight to the point)

Thinking in Systems (couldn't finish it)

Radical Candor (awesome)

Harry Potter #1 (too low of a reading level)

Man's Search for Meaning (classic)

Flow (Amazing!)

Scary Close (great)

caddemononApr 5, 2021

Yeah it's possible things have changed in the last 20 years but when I was growing up any pressure to read above grade level was purely social. I remember showing up to kindergarten very proud that I was reading Ramona, and one of my friends totally dismissed it because he was reading Harry Potter. So of course I begged my parents for Harry Potter after that, which lead to a pretty good run of advancing my reading over a couple years while "competing" with my friend.

It is true I read a bunch of books in early elementary years that I definitely did not have the ability to understand on a higher level, like Animal Farm and Frankenstein. But I still think I got a lot out of the experience. It's funny because I was totally glued to those books at the time, but then when we started reading "real" books for school around grade 7 I lost interest. Perhaps my early fascination was more with the mechanics of language than it was with any broader themes or symbolism. Or maybe I just hate being told to do things, probably a bit of both.

So yeah, I think reading early can be great and if the child is showing an interest in that it is great to encourage. I wish the teachers/admins at my school were as helpful as my parents/peers, but instead they forced everybody to do assignments using a particular pool of books each year based on age. In first grade my mom ended up doing a "book report" on Make Way for Ducklings because I straight up refused.

I do agree it shouldn't be pressured if the child isn't into it though. Different kids are different, so of course schooling is going to require different approaches.

PragmaticPulponSep 28, 2020

> It's an enjoyable read, but in a similar vein as Harry Potter is an enjoyable read. Maybe it will provoke some thinking that's applicable to your work life, but it's more entertaining than educational, IMO.

That's the unfortunate reality with a lot of Substack type newsletters.

The real world truth is often so boring and simple that it can be summarized in a short blog post. Want to get promoted? Work on important projects for the company, build rapport and relationships in the company, build a reputation for getting things done on time with high quality and low drama. You'll either get promoted, or build a foundation upon which you can pivot into a promotion at another company.

That's boring to read, though, so much pop-business advice turns into ego-stroking stories about how the reader is morally superior to all of the other unprincipled ladder-climbers around them. There's a large appetite for stories about how the world is unfair, and there are many writers happy to deliver those stories.

I'm part of a mentorship program for junior developers. These kinds of articles have been detrimental to a lot of impressionable young people who are growing up convinced that the world is thoroughly corrupt and therefore the only way to win is to become corrupt yourself. In reality, if anyone finds themselves at a company where people are promoted based on lies, nepotism, and general corruption then you don't want to get promoted there anyway. Get out while you can, because any company that rewards people who play games over people who deliver results is doomed to go downhill. In the real world, the good companies really do identify and promote those who consistently deliver results.

ascagnel_onFeb 22, 2016

Prime Video, and some of the other non-shipping Prime services, are really getting on my nerves. They can't be cheap to operate and generally have a limited-enough selection that I don't bother checking them anymore (for example, the only notable books on their Kindle Lending Library service are Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, while everything else pushes you to the for-pay Kindle Unlimited). Add to that the awful UI work they do (they mix Prime and non-Prime, for-pay video, the completely confusing Amazon Music interface, etc), and it's a boondoggle they need to seriously re-think.

The flip-side of that is they do run some programming that likely wouldn't find a home anywhere else (Transparent is excellent, and I highly recommend watching it if you'd like something to challenge your world-view).

skinnymuchonJuly 10, 2021

Harry Potter is my favorite book series in terms of personal enjoyment and memories, and one I re read every so often still. Is the author really cancelled if I’ve never heard about it?

I’m going to assume Rowling isn’t “cancelled”, but has a strong tiny population very upset at her. That’s usually how it goes for most “cancelled” people who aren’t already pretty old and retired instead of trying to continue in any limelight.

mttsonMar 30, 2008


Adults who list Harry Potter as their favorite book (which is not the same as admitting Harry Potter is a fun read) by doing so fairly explicitly state that the universe of a children's book, however well written it is, is pretty much all the intellectual stimulation they care for.

Nothing wrong with them, most likely, but certainly not people I'd want to invest emotionally in. YMMV, of course.

6renonJuly 20, 2013

There is a correlation between quality and success, it's just not very strong. And when you get to phenomenal success, the only correlation is that it just has to be good enough, to pass some minimal threshold of quality. i.e. to have fantastic success, it doesn't need to be a fantastic book - it just needs to be good book.

You can experience this here on HN or on reddit. My experience is that a good quality insight of mine will almost always get a few upvotes. But when there's wild success (like 1500 votes), it's entirely because of the circumstance. That is, there's a fantastic need for that comment, but almost any good comment could fulfil it.

Harry Potter is a good story, and good stories are good. That's about it. Oh, it's kinda nice to have common ground to relate to others with, and to use as a framework or reference point for discussion - like Moby Dick, Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. Are they great stories? They are good stories, that everyone knows. (though I really like the cinematography in Star Wars).

chrisvassellionAug 20, 2015

I would LOVE to have integration with e-books, I think that could totally change the way I learn Japanese. Since over time the app learns what words you know and what words you don't, it could even suggest books for you that are around the right difficulty level. Wouldn't that be amazing?

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any place where you can purchase DRM-free e-books, so I think this would require working with Japanese book publishers. The one exception is the Harry Potter books, which are published DRM-free through their own website. I read the first two Harry Potter books using clippings to generate flashcards for each chapter as I went along, and it was incredibly helpful.

The idea of audiovisual context is interesting. Could you tell me more about what you have in mind? I've thought about adding text-to-speech options on the dictionary entries and in flashcards. But something more complete, like what Rosetta Stone does, seems a lot harder, just from the perspective of acquiring rights to the images.

rsfernonAug 8, 2016

I'll second the Harry Potter books -- I've been reading the Sorcerer's Stone (electronically) in Portuguese after working through Duolingo. It's nice because I am familiar with the story and there's loads of new vocabulary, which I look up (after guessing) by switching to a translation app.

If you're on iOS, the built-in dictionary app will give you Spanish->English.

jeffoolonMar 24, 2012

I'm assuming they're talking both leisure and assigned reading? (I can't imagine schools assigning The Hunger Games, and I don't imagine many students leisurely reading Of Mice and Men.)

Maybe the solution is to push to popularize better books for older audiences? People read The Hunger Games and Harry Potter because they enjoyed them. Lots of early 20s people I know loved the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while I don't know how complex of a rating it would get, I understand it's considered an "adult novel", and is thought of as smart.

So all we need is popular, smart written, books.

chonglionAug 14, 2020

J K Rowling was - apparently - persuaded not to be Joanne by her publisher. But having a female name didn't keep Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, and many other women from having very successful careers.

The argument at the time was that Harry Potter is a children’s book with a male protagonist and that boys would not want to read it if it was obviously written by a woman. It makes some sense, as boys are under tremendous pressure to demonstrate masculinity at school.

sharkjacobsonNov 4, 2018

> If this is true - and to me this is a big 'if'

This is pretty easy to verify.

> my publisher, who published Harry Potter, they said to me, we think this is a book that will appeal to boys and girls. And I said, oh, great. And they said, so could we use your initials?
> Because, basically they were trying to disguise my gender.

She doesn't actually have a middle name, the K was just arbitrarily added to make a better initialism

XichekolasonJune 8, 2008

The books in the Ender series are my favorite books, and I have never read the Harry Potter books, so I must ask those who have, is his description of the parallels between the two series correct?

> "A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader. He trains other kids in unauthorized extra sessions, which enrages his enemies, who attack him with the intention of killing him; but he is protected by his loyal, brilliant friends and gains strength from the love of some of his family members. He is given special guidance by an older man of legendary accomplishments who previously kept the enemy at bay. He goes on to become the crucial figure in a struggle against an unseen enemy who threatens the whole world."

If so, that is both amusing and relieving. Since I know Ender backwords and forwards, I can save myself the time reading Harry Potter.

Regardless of the lady and her tactics in the publishing business, you have to admit this is quite a good speech. When I first saw it at the top, I thought to myself: "holy crap why is this on HN?" But after watching it, I can't help thinking how nice it was to have my optimism needle bumped up a notch.

tomeonJuly 2, 2013

Do you have to have read (or like) Harry Potter to appreciate this? I read several chapters (8 or so) and I actually found the story very distracting from the rationality message.

b3b0ponDec 29, 2012

Lots of great suggestions here. I believe the answer will be different for everyone based on their weaknesses and what super power people desire to learn. I've added about half of dozen of these to my Wish List now.

I don't read many books (I want to read more), but when I do I like something engaging, fun, imaginative, and different. So, I'll recommend any good fiction book that engages you. A book you can't put down. You want to keep reading to find out what happens next. It causes you to think, it causes you to imagine. It can cause you to think about things uniquely instead of being told to do so and give all sorts of ideas and new thoughts. If like me, you will end up remembering the characters, the situations for almost life and want to come back to re-read it some day.

My favorite modern day fiction books are fantasy / science fiction, something I would never experience in this world. In order: Shadows of the Empire by far my favorite, no reason off the top of my head and I am not a Star Wars fan, but I love it none the less. Followed by Harry Potter series. It's honestly a very fun read. Lord of the Rings and Hobbit will be popular choices I'm sure, but they just did not catch me and engage me like these 2.

ckarmannonJune 9, 2020

The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

Harry Potter - JK Rowling (re-read it all when the last book came out)

wistyonMay 4, 2010

I should have said "or vice versa".

JKR is better than Umberto Eco in some ways. You don't have to think much (you just know that most of the twists at the end will be some sucker-punch magical tricks that you never even heard of), and her early stuff was like Roald Dahl. I wouldn't read Harry Potter and The Name of the Pendulum unless I had a lot of time on my hands.

meheleventyoneonAug 22, 2020

Yes you can create a taxonomy but is it interesting or useful? If 7.9 billion people only read Harry Potter that’s very very significant. If we say “well they’re not real readers” that’s just being ignorant and gate keeping.

The problem mostly comes from people who define their hobby as their life. I play games a lot and make them professionally but wouldn’t call myself a gamer. I don’t see my wife playing Match-3 games on her phone as lesser than my wife playing Baldurs Gate. Likewise I can enjoy Sage Solitaire and Escape from Tarkov.

Gaming is mainstream now and people who feel threatened by that need to grow up.

ThomPeteonFeb 13, 2018

"The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child's brain."

This is almost certainly wrong and even logically absurd. I am sure there are more optimal ways to learn to read but any kind with a fair IQ who aren't dyslexic can learn to read.

My son isn't a genius, but he have been practicing reading since he was 5 and today at 8 he reads Harry Potter.

The trick (as with almost any other field)? Practice, practice, practice. That's it. There is no magic sauce there.

One thing that we found that actually increased his lust for reading (he definitely would rather play soccer, Minecraft or Rayman) is to give him a Kindle which has a kids app with achievements and daily reading goals.

It's sad that so few kids read at their grade level but it's not because of sub-optimal teaching methods that much is for sure.

goodrootonNov 5, 2017

* Harry Potter!

* A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy: Taught me much about myself and reinforced a healthy pattern of practicing will power.

* The End of Your World: After discovering spirituality and meditation I had lingering questions. This is a frank book on the trappings of the spiritual journey. The break-down of abiding vs. un-abiding enlightenment helped me navigate through fascinating times.

rando444onSep 1, 2016

I doubt few if any of the people that we think of as icons today had the fortune of being immediately accepted.

Elvis was rejected by nearly everone, JK Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected by a slew of publishers.. basically everyone who is currently famous has these stories, and often many of them.

The lesson though, is that the key to success is perseverance.

StavrosKonOct 18, 2012

It's odd to me that everyone comments on the phrase "rocket science", when hindsight bias is a much meatier subject to discuss. I've learnt (by reading Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality[1]) that hindsight bias is pervasive, yet easy to get rid of.

Whenever you find that something is common sense, reverse the outcome and see if it's still common sense or not. If you find both cases equally (very) likely, then you've just fallen prey to hindsight bias. Here's an excellent post about it: http://lesswrong.com/lw/im/hindsight_devalues_science/

Something can't be common sense both ways. If one solution is obviously extremely likely, all the others must be equally unlikely.

[1] http://hpmor.com/ It's a fantastic Harry Potter fanfiction novel, around 1500 pages and just amazing. If you've liked the original series, you'll love this. I read this before reading Harry Potter, and now the latter seems childish. Definitely recommended.

cududaonJune 9, 2020

Triumph And Tragedy of Lyndon B Johnson (his effectiveness to pass legislation fascinated me)

Harry Potter (comfort series)

Charlie Wilson’s War (it’s hilarious and informative),

Game Change (a sobering reminder of the 2008 election and how we got to today),

Lincoln’s Melancholy (on his depression).

I’ve read lots of books twice, but the above are the only I can find in my library I’ve read 3 or more times. Outside of Harry Potter, I view the figures in those books most responsible for turning points in our nations history.

patio11onMar 7, 2010

Imagine Martin writing Harry Potter about a manic depressive megalomaniac, then narrating it retrospectively.

Less political intrigue (by about two orders of magnitude), far fewer characters, frame character is better realized, far closer to Martin than Tolkien on the grit scale although less explicit about it, rather more magic, far closer to Tolkien than Martin in the heroic fantasy department.

I liked the first three Song of Ice and Fire books quite a bit, although in a lot of ways they are not my usual cup o' tea.

everyoneonSep 21, 2019

If your're reading non-fiction, then you're probably learning something.

If your're reading fiction, then it is most likely just entertainment. So, its equivalent to watching a fiction movie or tv show, or whatnot.

I find it odd thats its encouraged and considered good to just read, regardless of content. What you're reading is critical.

You can read 'Harry Potter' and divert and entertain yourself, or read 'A Brief History of Time', and do the same, but also learn a bit.

StavrosKonFeb 25, 2013

I can read pretty quickly (I've never really measured, but it takes me about a minute to read a page, which I guess is around 500 words). Depending on the text, though, there's a lot of slowing down or re-reading. I read Harry Potter pretty quickly, but "Thinking: Fast and Slow" is nowhere near at the same pace.

psadrionDec 8, 2012

Being a musician is a scalable profession, similar to being a book author (search for Nassim Taleb's definition of scalability). Most scrape by at the bottom all their life, but once in a while, someone breaks out and their income eclipses everyone else's put together. For example, JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.

TichyonJune 8, 2008

"The books in the Ender series are my favorite books[...]I can save myself the time reading Harry Potter"

Weird, I would never miss a chance to read a book that compares to another favorite book of mine.

I have noticed the similarity in themes, too, but I have enjoyed both Harry Potter and Enders Game. They are not similar in the sense of being clones. Also, the "flying game" is only a side plot in HP, and was for me the least interesting aspect of the books.

pm90onAug 13, 2018

I've always been addicted to gaming. When I was younger, my parents wisely chose not to purchase a PC, so I would usually play at friends/relatives' place. I assumed it was just how I was.

Now that I am an OK adult with decent life: my playstation just lies there, and its really hard for me to start playing any new game.

I figured that when I was younger, the video games provided an effective escape from the reality of being a child, with never having anything of consequence to contribute (I blame my parents for making me feel this way; even though they were perhaps just ignorant). Games had a structured environment, with rewards for specific actions, rewards that I did not find in my real life with doing anything. The fake medals/trophies were so much better than what I had in real life (which was nothing). It gave me a sense of belonging to a group, or to many groups, something which I did not in real life.

Perhaps this applies only to kids without siblings. But video games were the one place where I could really be happy. When that changed and my real life became more amazing, I stopped playing them. Perhaps thats all that kids want.

I should note that video games were not the only form of escapism, I enjoyed reading Harry Potter for that very reason too.

unaloneonMar 30, 2009

Harry Potter is first and foremost a book series. Anything more is based on the author's benevolence or interests.

Once Harry Potter is published, it's out there and it's done. The series lies in those printed novels. That doesn't change. If Rowling wants to let people add more, she can, but it is certainly not a requirement.

Similarly, I absolutely have the right to suspend a software project of mine and leave it hanging, if that's what I want. Perhaps I don't want something associated with my name being sullied by other people's work. Maybe I want it to be associated with me and only me.

The fan was terrific, but he tried to make money. Rowling told him she was against that and he did it anyway. So it wasn't like she lied to him.

By the way: I downvote people as soon as they ask about why they're being downvoted, unless they're giving a good rationale for why they shouldn't be downvoted. Maybe that's why the negativism?

prawnonJuly 29, 2020

My eldest taught himself to read relatively young and by 6-7 yo, he'd read the Harry Potter series through twice. He'd mispronounce words he'd learned (as happens from those who learn by reading) but could define and give context for anything I tested him with. When he started school, I think they were using a system called Jolly Phonics

His sister entered school two years after him and they've since changed to Read Write Inc Phonics. She's learning along with the class and take-home books. Hard to truly judge, but the system seems effective. She has confidence and then success sounding out increasingly difficult words.

pitchupsonSep 10, 2012

Great insights and lots of lessons for both investors and entrepreneurs. Especially the one about the best ideas looking like bad ideas initially. This should give pause to all aspiring entrepreneurs, and keep them moving towards their vision if they are convinced, even if everyone else thinks their idea will never work. In fact one could almost say that it is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for an idea to be the next big thing is for it to be considered bad or crazy initially by most people.
Reminds me of Neils Bohr famous quote (paraprhasing) : "Yes your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough to be correct!"
It also reminds one of how some of our most successful books in publishing history have been rejected dozens of times by publishers - Harry Potter by JK Rowling, Carrie by Stephen King, Dr. Seuss' books, plus many others.

AlchemistCamponJan 26, 2020

> Every action that a rich person takes to enrich themselves rather than trying to level the playing field is by definition taking from the poor.

J.K. Rowling was already a wealthy person before finishing her Harry Potter series. Each additional book further enriched her, but also enriched me because I got hours of enjoyment from reading another Harry Potter book which was a great trade for the ten USD or so I spent on it.

silencioonFeb 9, 2014

I think the US slant is a shame (or does Amazon have multiple lists?) but...

There are some really good books classed as "young adult" that I think are done a big disservice just by being labeled as such. Many of them are very accessible and cover things that sometimes even "grownup" literature does a terrible job of.

Personally I wouldn't go for Hunger Games, but Harry Potter was in large part responsible for a huge resurgence in reading among children and not for no reason. It's an easy read into a possibly new genre for many readers, and I'd be surprised if there was anyone out there that couldn't relate on some level to something going on in the series. It's not the best example ever, but it's far from shabby.

pilsetnieksonNov 3, 2012

It reminds me of the suggestion of learning foreign languages by reading Harry Potter in that translation.

alaskamilleronMar 20, 2013

J. K. Rowling said she wrote Harry Potter while on unemployment. The UK system doesn't sound like it's meant to be subsidizing entrepreneurship either, rather it's social welfare.

But Rowling classified her unemployment checks as the best investment the country's ever done given how she's earned billions of taxable income.

Though for every Harry Potter there are millions of not so successful attempts. Others may find it infuriating you're spending their, and obviously yours and your employer's, tax money on hair-brained Kickstarter panhandling ideas.

latchonMay 25, 2011

I always thought of Ender's Game of something like a child's book. Something like Harry Potter to LoTRs. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I mean, Harry Potter got a whole bunch of people reading. But seeing this explanation helps me better understand why I feel like that, and what it means.

I'd call this an analysis more than a review. Whatever you think it is, I found it a pretty honest and open piece coming from someone who has such a personal stake in the book.

StekoonApr 12, 2012

"In an appropriately competitive market we'd expect prices to be more related to the supplier's costs (and the costs of alternatives like getting a book from a different publisher or getting the hardcover) than they would be to the customers ability-to-pay."

This might be true absent IP laws but people who want to read Harry Potter can only get that from one legal source and if the profit maximizing price for Harry Potter was $100 that's what it would cost.

A cotton shirt with a designer logo stiched in at a supply cost of 20 cents can still sell for 50 or 100 times what a near identical shirt without it can. Price does not follow supply cost for these items.

nitrogenonFeb 20, 2021

Greg Egan's Diaspora, Schild's Ladder, and Permutation City feel similar in scale if not exactly style. I've just started reading Alastair Reynolds's books, and those are closer to the sort of space opera of Banks, and so far so good. If you like really long books, Stephenson's Anathem is mind expanding and vaguely parallels some of Egan's books in terms of concepts explored. Finally I'll recommend A Fire Upon the Deep and its sequels by Vernor Vinge.

Also check out Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for a rationistic fanfic crossover between scifi and fantasy if you haven't already.

You can probably use HN's search feature to find previous scifi reading recommendation threads for more.

GauntletWizardonNov 26, 2019

There's going to be an argument about "derivative works". If I feed all 7 books of Harry Potter into an AI, and only that, and then it spits out something - That's clearly a derivative work. If I feed all of the New York Times Bestsellers for the past 50 years into an AI and it spits out something, there's much less of an argument that it's derivative of any one work.

I've seen stuff like https://www.thiswaifudoesnotexist.net/ - It's both impressive and not. Sure, it's "new" and "Unique" every time, but if you were to take a trained eye to it, you'd see that a bunch of what it's done are very simple derivatives of an already derivative artform. Do I know which image it's stolen the basic shape from and which it's stolen the color palette? No, but if I spent a few hours looking through the training dataset I'd probably find another image that looked almost exactly like the one I'm looking at. These things are impressive because they can fool a cursory glance, and quite frankly, that's often enough.

larrikonFeb 8, 2011

You're confusing "quality literature" with "books people like to read." They aren't the same (though they may overlap).

The Da Vinci Code keeps a frenetic pace that makes "quality" secondary, and quite difficult to achieve. (I would submit that The Bourne Supremacy is superior in both pacing and quality, however).

Harry Potter is insanely accessible and easy to read, and has a very surprising amount of internal consistency, even over 7 books (which is in stark contrast to most mainstream sci-fi/fantasy series).

As for Twilight, I don't know what makes a book appeal to that demographic, but it seems pretty different than any area I've dabbled in as a reader.

(I worry that giving opinions like these opens me up for some interesting flaming, but whatever.

mrobonOct 19, 2019

Another example is "Worm", which I learned of from the author's notes for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality:


jimmiesonMay 27, 2018

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I lead a team to translate the whole book to Vietnamese fifteen years ago as a freshman highschool student, and released it for free online. We beat the printed book publisher by months. I should have gotten into tons of troubles, but everyone was kind enough to not beat me down. I didn't get into any legal troubles partly because people saw the values in doing it, partly because they didn't know what to do with it, partly because we were anonymous later on. The website received so much traffic I couldn't believe. Later on, I wrote an ajax-based site: after loading a very simple skeleton, it would only load plain text on demand afterwards, yet it would quickly saturate any free hosting bandwidth I could get. To put it into perspective, I had several HN front page stories nowadays and I got about 50k unique visitors worldwide a day at best. I got 5k a day just from Vietnam back then.

It was how I knew and met half of all the important people that shaped my early twenties, many of them were writers, translators, poets, reporters. It was an incredible stretch of luck and a huge eye-opening experience to be starting it and seeing how powerful the internet could be and where following a passion could lead me to at that age. I was a college dropout at 19 and an internet celebrity I knew from that incident picked me up and suggested to me that I should look into studying in the US. If not, I would have been typing this in a dark hot corner in Vietnam today.

I wrote a bit in more details about it here: http://www.tnhh.net/posts/Harry-Potter-and-me.html

Archive of the translated book in 2004: http://web.archive.org/web/20040213105923/http://huanhuu.net... (it was lame)

whitegrapeonMar 23, 2016

IANAL also. But it's important to distinguish a copy (which is just more or less copying what you read in C) vs a derivative work (a work that could not have been done or would have been done noticeably differently in the absence of the parent work existing). Just because you read Harry Potter 5 years ago and only now bother to write a fanfic in French using your memory of that world as a base, maybe keeping most names or subtly changing them a bit, does not mean your new work isn't derivative. It probably shouldn't be derivative given how much of our creative culture is remix upon remix, but hey, that's a much more extreme position that gets close to abolishing copyright entirely.

Code is just tricky though and metaphors for books and other things often break down easily... API / module substitution copyright seems silly, but maybe only to people who understand programming or who can grasp the metaphor that copyrighting an interface is like saying any book that uses numbered chapters (instead of custom named chapters) is a derivative work of the first book that used numbered chapters. Some code "could be but one way", naming included / irrelevant (I think a lot of SO code is like this, there are very few ways to glue together certain bits of code to do small thing X in context C), some of it is more like performance art, some of it is just almost pure math, and some of it works as a whole to solve one particularly hard problem which in itself has business value, just as music has business value by solving the problem of being appealing to listen to so that people buy it. Copyright law seems ill-equipped to handle it. Strategically though, I'd go with what the lawyers advise -- a lawsuit that I win can still be more costly than just playing it safe to begin with.

eesmithonApr 24, 2018

Yeah, I tried, it started with gushing over James Dobson - the man who believes that beating children is a good thing (this is personal; my parents used his books for parenting advice) - and C.S. Lewis.

Eg, it complains about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as being a "deeply incoherent work", and praises Lewis. But the Narnia series is also a deeply incoherent work.

It describes the book as a narcissistic fantasy, which is a literary description and an opinion. It then spends paragraphs describing the psychiatric condition known as narcissism. But the connection is still an opinion.

The author then gives this horrid homophobic nugget:

> One of the most blatant forms of magic through ingestion is, of course, homosexuality, and through its connection with narcissism we can get some inkling of the purpose behind the major cultural offensive in favor of homosexuality. The homosexual is the consumer culture’s version of the ideal citizen because he takes all of the strains of narcissism to their logical antiessentialist conclusion.

Yeah, I stopped there.

molszanskionDec 22, 2020

I would click “client-side peppering” over horxsomething, didn't read Harry Potter

akerstenonOct 29, 2019

Not really the same thing at all. Comcast is modifying content, and profiting off a service that delivers that derivative content. That is clear willful infringement. User modifying their own content locally is not infringement, since the content is not redelivered or sold.

You're free to tear up your copy of Harry Potter once you buy it from the bookstore, but you're not free to (as the bookstore) add a prologue to every book and sell it as Harry Potter by Comcast.

sbovonJan 1, 2018

> the books and movies could still make money on name recognition alone.

Books, maybe. But without copyright, what keeps movie studios from just turning J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books into movies without paying her anything?

diogenesjunioronNov 30, 2020

All I got was that reading Harry Potter gives you Ringworm?

sharker8onSep 3, 2020

Great answer and compelling thanks. However, ouch, you used the B word. I also read the Bible for the cultural relevance. I found it to be incredibly boring as well. I do not feel better off having read it. For contrast, reading Harry Potter (just as an example) does not enlist such a feeling of monotony and dread. It generally just hums along and is mostly enjoyable. I have often heard this 'canon' argument ie. If it survived this long, and was so influential, it must be worth reading. However precisely this argument unravels for me when reading the Bible itself in its entirety. On the contrary, if one is like me one becomes convinced of humanity's inability to select valuable work for lasting significance, and even more doubtful of the Canon as a great starting point. It seems to be like a 3500 year old imdb with a really inconsistent voting mechanism, if the analogy makes sense.

jrs95onJuly 28, 2017

This is sort of a dumb argument. Someone's grades when they're young isn't particularly indicitave of their intelligence. I literally was reading Harry Potter when I was 5, and my grades were usually bad because school was boring and I didn't like it. Plus I didn't have the best home life, and that probably didn't help either.

vidarhonJan 20, 2021

Many writers intentionally separate tooling to force workflows, even at the point of great inconvenience if it provides for an environment they feel is more conducive to writing. This is generally far more important than whether or not getting it into a format that editors can work with is extra effort or not.

Hemingway famously favoured pencils for his first draft and switched to typewriter for his second.

Gaiman and Stephen King uses pens for at least their first drafts. Gaiman expressly for the reason that he believes it force him to be more thoughtful and forces him to go back and rewrite the full book word for word rather than going back and forth to edit. King switched to pens after his car accident.

JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter with pen on loose sheaf paper.

Writing novels is intensely personal, to the point where writers will insist on specific brands of pens or specific models of typewriters. E.g. Danielle Steele has used 1946 Olympia's throughout her entire career.

nommm-nommmonFeb 22, 2016

Yes, Joanne Rowling was asked by her publisher to publish Harry Potter under two initials because they thought boys might not want to read a book written by a woman. Not having a middle name she choose K as a nod to her paternal grandmother, Kathleen.

jvm_onJan 23, 2020

My wife read and recorded the whole Harry Potter series for our eldest, now the second gets to either hear Mom read live, or listen to a recorded chapter everynight before bed.

I've heard you should always read to your kids regardless of their age. They'll only ever read at their level, so even reading a poem or newspaper article or scientific journal to them when they're older increases their reading level.

marvindanigonMay 26, 2021

> Except those web pages are broken into pages at arbitrary locations, rather than by chapter or topic like most web sites

Websites are not books. No one will read Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban like a website or a news article.

Books are also not files, going strictly by first principles.

> Another way to think of it is that a web page is one document, and so is a book.

One page is document. Multiple pages clipped together is a document. Website is a document. Video is document. Audio is document. Book is document. Manuscript is document. You are a living breathing document of your own life!

Everything is a document!

But history api on the web exposes useful methods and properties that let you navigate back and forth through the user's session history, and manipulate the contents of the history stack. It does not talk about the unit of transition within a session being a document. It stacks only webpages on the history api in the positive direction of time just like reading through a book. And that's what is implemented.

sundvoronAug 30, 2017

I can easily do half an hour or more for my six year old at night. Have always been reading for him, but it's more enjoyable now that he understands more interesting works.

Revisiting my child hood classics such as Hardy Boys, mixing in Harry Potter (books are so much better than the first and only movie that I saw) and so on: Feels like quality time, and a great way to connect. I can easily get into those books too, even in my mid 40s. ;)

I have noticed that enjoyment increases with my reading engagement level - creating different voices for the different characters and such. He has attention issues, and it's a pleasure to have him focusing on something other than a screen. I will stop every few minutes and ask questions to check if he is really listening to the story and not just the sound of my voice. Previously, it might have been more of the latter.

the_afonJune 2, 2018

But that's just it: I simply don't think Yudkowsky or any of the sort of people who would be enthusiastic about the sci-fi theories on SL4, or host extropy.org, or believe in Roko's Basilisk, or read Harry Potter fanfic and find it philosophically insightful, have a decent understanding of the AI domain. Everything about him and his followers smacks of fringe cultists completely outside mainstream research.

I don't think the chosen participants have a particularly deep understanding of the domain, they just think they do (because that's what defines Singularity believers, LessWrong readers, and people who believe they are hyper "rational" and that this is some kind of superpower). I think they understand AI no more than a Star Wars fan understands space travel.

qrv3wonSep 7, 2019

> The recommendations suck, the lists suck — it’s like, 100 lists telling me to read The Handmaid’s Tale and Harry Potter.

I had the same experience with GR and also Amazon.com which constantly peddles the vampire romance books when I am looking for recommendations for horror/fantasy. Both Amazon and GR strategy make sense because best-selling books sell the best, so they should recommend them to increase profits. However, it does suck being a reader looking for new book suggestions.

I've spent a good deal of time making my own book recommendation algorithm which has been working well for me for the last two years. [1] Through it I've discovered old authors I didn't know (Ted Chiang, Clive Barker) and new authors which I wouldn't have noticed (Scott Hawkins, China Mieville). Of course, it always helps to get recommendations from friends with similar tastes, too. :)

[1]: https://nowwhatdoiread.com

coldteaonDec 18, 2020

>If you can finish and launch a software project, then you are OK.

In what way would he be OK? Tons of developers launch software projects, but most don't go anywhere...

>The consensus seems to be that interviews are bad at identifying capable people.

Perhaps, but self-selection is even worse...

>I think JK Rowling's Harry Potter books were rejected by 10 publishers, so fuck other people's judgement.

Well, the books of some authors were rejected by ALL publishers though, and the books of other authors were accepted by sold nothing, so there's that too...

eruonJuly 31, 2015

I agree with you. And I'm happy enough if the fiction I'm reading is `rational enough' in the sense that the author has plugged the obvious plot holes I can come up within 30 seconds of thinking about the story.

Just makes the suspension of disbelief that much stronger.

HPMoR's biggest flaw when seen as a piece of entertainment is that the author spends so much effort trying to convince you how smart he is. (In contrast eg Harry Potter and the Natural 20 just wants you to enjoy yourself.)

mchan889onJune 16, 2020

"The thing about working on yourself is that it’s actually work. Reading an article, or a book on behaviour, self-improvement and what else doesn’t actually change you any more than reading Harry Potter does."

This is well put, and I think part of the reason so much self-improvement material is drivel. Generally, I've noticed that some of the most pathological people are the most into 'self-improvement' as an idea. That being said, their brand of 'self-improvement' generally does not extend beyond reading and quoting books by various gurus.

On the flip-side, those I've met who are actually highly motivated and disciplined, have never picked up one of those guru books.

Reading up on something is one thing, and in many cases, it's an important first step. There's no way to start using a new language without reading something. That being said, simply reading is not enough. On top of that, what you read has to be actionable. The self-improvement platitudes are not actionable. Reading a book on Python does not turn you into a python developer. Why should reading a guru book turn you into one?

gruseomonSep 19, 2010

That is fascinating. It solves a puzzle for me: the books I read, which would certainly have been the 1959 revisions, were definitely of a 1950s and not 1930s sensibility. The feel is that of the beginning of the rock and roll era, when teenagers would drive around in cars of their own and devote themselves to fun, but the social and family structures were still stable. Nothing transgressive had happened yet, but it was about to. The late 1950s were nostalgic for themselves before they were even over.

My bet is that the 1959 revisions were a great contribution to the Hardy Boys' longevity. It sounds like the books were stripped down to their essence. Talk about uncelebrated. If McFarlane was at the bottom of the literary barrel, how about the anonymous hack who had to go in and clean up his work! Whoever it was, I'm on their side. Snobbish though every critic may be, you can't argue with those books' success. I don't mean success at selling copies; I mean success at captivating children, generation after generation.

Harry Potter had a similar ability to suck children into an imaginary realm and get them reading. But its popularity was more intense and perhaps short-lived. The Hardy Boys' effect has been more diffuse but extraordinarily durable. Maybe in 15 years someone will cut the Harry Potter books down to size and turn them into perennials too.

PeterisPonNov 26, 2019

"If I feed all 7 books of Harry Potter into an AI, and only that, and then it spits out something - That's clearly a derivative work." does not match the current legal interpretation in the industry.

The general assumption is that machine learning models trained on some data are (usually - details matter) not considered derivative work from that data; so unless you have specific contractual restrictions (e.g. you got the date bacause you have a contract with the data owner saying what you'll do/not do with the models derived from it) then copyright does not prohibit you from using and distributing these models. That's the case even if it's trained on a particular dataset with a single, clear copyright owner.

It probably starts with old precedent on copyrightability of statistics derived from creative work - things like word frequency, most common words, etc are not considered derivative works.

Then we have statistical language models, of the kind that were used in statistical machine translation before the neural approaches overtook everything - and again, the established interpretation there is that statical models trained on a corpus are not considered derivative work from that data, because they essentially are a trivial extension of word sequence frequency counts... but they already are in the category of "feed all 7 books of Harry Potter into an AI, and only that, and then it spits out something", e.g. a simple hidden Markov model or trigram language model from Harry Potter books will easily hallucinate (very lousy quality) Potter-themed text, but the model that can do that is not considered derivative work.

Though this all may vary in different jurisdictions.

benjismithonDec 18, 2020

YES! These are pretty much exactly the methods I used when I developed my project http://prosecraft.io

You can see the emotional story arc -- the shapes of the stories -- for more than 16,000 books.

I train a Word2Vec model on the vocabulary of all those books (almost 1.5 billion words) and then I use a clustering algorithm to score all those words on a sentiment scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is the most negative and 10 is the most positive). Then I break the books into 50 equal-sized chunks and aggregate the positive and negative scores for each chunk.

You can click on any of the chart segments to see a word cloud of all the words that contributed to the positive and negative sentiment of that chunk. You can really see the ups and downs of the stories, as the protagonists struggle to overcome their obstacles, when you look at those charts!

Here are a few of my favorite example books to show people:

The Hobbit


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Animal Farm


I first encountered this method not through Vonnegut but through the "Hedonometer" project, at the University of Vermont Computational Story Lab. They use this technique on the twitter firehose, to measure the overall emotional arc of the world, as expressed in social media.


There's an excellent episode of the podcast Lexicon Valley where they discuss the hedonometer project, with the researchers at UVM who developed it...


SwizeconJuly 2, 2015

Most civilized countries already have something very similar - social security. Everyone who works pays into the system that distributes that money among those who are unemployed.

It's a type of insurance if you will. If I participate in the system, I can be reasonably sure that were I to lose my job, I wouldn't end up on the streets.

A spectacular example of why this is a good thing is J.K Rowling who was able to write Harry Potter because the British welfare system kept her in reasonably good shape after she lost her job -> http://imgur.com/gallery/FIQYq

I've never understood the exact differences between basic income and social security, but it fundamentally feels like such a safety net should exist.

paulpauperonFeb 9, 2017

This is good advice, but I've seen huge successes by authors and article writers who violate these rules (the recent trend of long literary fiction such as 'City on Fire', which is 900 pages). Nowadays, the trend is towards longer, 'epic' fiction with post-modern themes, whereas in Vonnegut's day (along with Heinlein, Asimov etc.) 'short' was better. Up until as recently as the 90's, 'short' was ideal, but all that changed. Look at Harry Potter and other popular books...all very long. It also deepens on the audience and the purpose...if you're trying to convey technical information , fluff is undesirable

bluGillonMay 10, 2021

Closer to the later for most authors. Though every few dozen years there is another Harry Potter that everyone in the world buys and reads. For most you need to target those voracious readers and what they are willing to pay for - but be ever on the lookout as to how you can jump to the Harry Potter world where everyone buys your books.

Harry Potter was good (in the first few anyway), but if you like that type of thing there are ton of much better books that never made it.

rotwonNov 14, 2010

"Nowhere near as bad as Rowling, who is an awful writer, but still pretty bad. To be fair to Rowling her first book actually introduced some good ideas, the rest were pretty much universally crap."

What? Excuse me, are you serious? Rowling is a very good writer. In terms of style and plotting, the latter of which isn't always perfect, but definitely not as awful as you make out. And why on earth are you measuring her in terms of "ideas" such as historical context, she wrote a series of children and teen's books, which happen to possess a cross-over appeal to adults due to their quality. Harry Potter isn't hard science fiction, and I do find your seeming inability to find simple pleasure in reading such a (in my view) charming series quite disheartening.

__sonSep 6, 2017

A lot of people don't want their kids reading Harry Potter

XichekolasonOct 24, 2007

I have in fact never read any of these, and have honestly only heard of The World is Flat (by way of the entire shelf at Border's once dedicated to it).

I'm not saying I would never read them however. In fact, I just added How to Win Friends and Influence People to my list, after several recommendations I saw for it here as well as from a friend.

What I am saying is that roughly all books start at zero in my mind, and get positive points whenever they are recommended to me by people I know or respect. A listing on the NYT list is like getting -5 points. (FWIW, Oprah's Book Club is more like -10.)

I'm not saying everyone should choose their books like I do, but that is what works for me. I would like to say that any book that deals with current politics or current leaders is nothing more than thinly veiled marketing, and no one is missing out by not reading those. Real history has to be written after the fact, and I'm sure that when it is, I will enjoy it, but no book about a current candidate will be anything more than another campaign outlet.

Edit: Oh and I almost forgot... everything I just said aside, I often do resist reading a book that I know I will enjoy just to be different (like Harry Potter, which I'm avoiding for another decade). It's not a crime to avoid the herd, and I'm sure everyone does it in their own way. It's hard to think for yourself, if you do not question authority (of the masses)... to paraphrase one of my favorite quotes.

noelcetaonFeb 6, 2020

True, but in most cases, you won't write Harry Potter - you just want to drive leads from people searching for process management solutions, haha.

What you did mention IS an actual strategy though. The idea is, you coin a new term or strategy, and if you PR the content enough, the term will have a ton of searches (and you'll rank #1). More often than not, though, you have to be a big fish to really pull this off

tokenadultonSep 24, 2010

My children like the George R. R. Martin books, the Philip Pullman books, the Harry Potter series, and other books much in that genre category. They also read "classic" literature as they get older, for example Oliver Twist or Tom Sawyer. Two of my sons have really liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I have never read) and I really liked The Chosen by Chaim Potok (which I reread a few years ago, and still thought was very good).

e40onNov 7, 2011

My child (11) goes to a school in a top tier CA elementary school, and he has never carried a single school book. Homework problems are all photocopies of typed up problem sets.

I take that back, the books he carries are the ones he reads for pleasure (the Harry Potter books are really huge, too). Once I get my Kindle Fire, I'm giving him my old Kindle, which should help with that.

chrisvassellionAug 20, 2015

Nice, that's exactly what I'm going for! Part of my philosophy with the app was to make my studying of Japanese as efficient as it could possibly be. I tried to shave out all of the time spent doing tasks that don't contribute to my actual learning, like trying to draw kanji, count strokes, manually type out flashcards, etc.

As for the clippings, those are all user-supplied. For example, I love classic JRPGs, and FFVI is my favorite. If you google around a bit, you can find the script for the Japanese version of FFVI. Import the script into Nihongo, and you can pre-study the words as you play along. You can also filter the flashcards down to just the words that show up more than once, so if you're not ready to study everything, you can just focus on the important words. It also works great if you want to study song lyrics, and I even used it to read Harry Potter in Japanese (thanks J.K. Rowling for putting out DRM-free books!)

Unfortunately, I don't have any plans for Android or the web right now, since this is a solo side-project for me, and I just don't have the time. But I'd love to do it in the future!

jwonMar 29, 2007

The book analogy falls apart here, because only a limited number of people are accepted to YC or TS, while a (practically) unlimited number of people can read Harry Potter. The existence of two YC-like programs doesn't significantly decrease the amount of interest per program, especially since you can apply to both. It does, however, significantly increase (approx double) the number of entrepreneurs funded, and the competition may encourage YC to improve its program further.

As for your book example comment, if somebody wrote Henry Potter, I imagine lots of people would read it. The story in each new Harry Potter book isn't new and exciting either... it's the same story, new details. Also, just because Harry Potter was the most popular series with that story line doesn't mean there's no demand for other similar books.

druckenonMar 12, 2012


Unlike physical representations of function which make sense to be patentable due to the risk of being copied, stolen and possibly improved upon before use or distribution, and unlike software licences which add or enable function into mechanical form, any form of creative art derives its value in the public domain from the public itself.

Therefore, it makes little sense to treat art as property or to put patents and software licences under the same umbrella as copyright.

If copyright for creative arts did not exist, art would very much exist, and if anything would thrive even more. For example, why would anyone go to someone other than J.K. Rowling for a Harry Potter book? Even if it were "better" by some people's measure than her books, it still would not be J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. There is no ability to add a strict/objective improvement on creative works - this is a critical difference between form and function.

edanmonFeb 20, 2014

I'll reiterate something another poster said, since it isnt' getting enough credit:

Read HP:MoR.

It's a fanfic of Harry Potter, written by the same Eliezer Yudkowsky who wrote much of Less Wrong. It was specifically written to convey the feeling of "what it means to be a rationalist".

For those who aren't into Harry Potter or into Fanfiction (like me), I can tell you this: Suprisingly, it is one of the best stories I've ever read. And I'm talking just as a story, nevermind the other value you can get form it, which is a good introduction to the "rationalist" community.

I'd argue that the BEST way to understand what is going on at LessWrong is to read HP:MoR, as it was intended to be such an intro and succeeds masterfully, while being amazingly fun.

wiredfoolonApr 14, 2018

That is really hard. My oldest was reading at roughly that spread, and finding books that were emotionally approriate but also engaging at his reading level was difficult. It took a long time for him to read Harry Potter because it was just too dark. It didn’t help that he’d tear through trilogies in a day or two. You might win once or twice, but a week later you're in the same boat again.

roenxionDec 15, 2019

Popularity can be said to be independent of the quality of the work - popularity is linked to fashions. Quintessential concept of large followings not being so concerned about what they follow.

So the Bach v Potter argument is really arguing about whether a typical Harry Potter fan is more motivated by fashion or intrinsic interest. We know Bach isn't fashionable because the music has survived something like 300 years of musical fashions ebbing and flowing.

On a purely technical ground, the great works are usually interesting examples of a particular ... something ... and often capture the culture in a unique way. Eg, Don Quixote still gets read because it introduced a tonne of literary techniques with style and really hits a note at the peak of the Spanish empire. Shakespeare defined a big portion of the English lexicon. Jane Austin is an exemplary example of concise, relevant and interesting storytelling (she packs a lot into a sentence). Tolkien tied together cultures through their languages while setting the standard for what high fantasy worlds should look like with an unreasonable amount of worldbuilding. The Harry Potter series is certainly well written and a really good example of a certain genre, but it isn't obvious if that is enough to compete with all the other well written books out there. It certainly isn't the first of its kind and it isn't clear it showcases any literary tricks. It is a hard argument to say it captures anything about the culture of the day. It looks like one of a very large number of good books that will struggle to be remembered with the passing of time.

esoteric_wombatonJan 14, 2016

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is a solid choice. It gets dark, but so does Harry Potter, so fair game. I would say late grade school for the first book, adolescent for books 2 and 3.

Tamora Pierce has written a number of kid appropriate fantasy books with solid writing and strong female characters. I have seen countless grade school girls get hooked on her work. Some of her books just start to get into more mature relationship themes, but it's enough to embarrass your kid a bit, not scar them.

As a child I enjoyed C.S. Lewis, but was personally affronted when I got to the last Narnia book and discovered that good story had been compromised for christian allegory. Lewis won't make your child a bible thumped any more than Pullman will make them an atheist. Just make sure you know what your kid is reading, and find opportunities to discus the material with them critically!

Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series is another excellent option. I believe when I read it in grade school I found the pacing too slow, so I skipped ahead a lot and inferred a number of plot points. Nonetheless, I'm certain I enjoyed it the first time, it influenced my view of fantasy literature, and I have returned to reread the series multiple times since.

The Hobbit is a great kids book.

Alison Croggon's Pellinor series is less well known, but perfect for pre/early teens that love fantasy.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede feature a princess who runs away from home to work for a dragon. Solid writing, strong female characters, Pratchett-esque subversion of fantasy tropes. Fun and appropriate for grade school kids.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

That's off the top of my head. Of these books I consider Pullman, Le Guin, and Tolkien to be literature (worth an adult's time), while the others are just fun and well written.

kevinpetonOct 27, 2013

There was a lawsuit over a guide to Harry Potter that Rowling won, but she won it because the guide copied too much from her books. They were later able to publish it by cutting down on the quotations.


The courts acknowledge that reference guides to fictional worlds are either non-infringing or transformative fair use. You can't copyright fictional facts either, only the expression of them.

PaulRobinsononJan 14, 2020

Far more than 50 for most of these.

The first run of the first edition of any book is a prized edition for collectors, but quite a lot of first editions actually go into library systems.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the UK title of Sorcerer's Stone), had a first run of 500 copies. 300 of those went into libraries where they of course were not kept in pristine condition. As a result a fine edition goes for a fair few quid - tens of thousands of dollars, and potentially more.

So, public libraries often have lots of copies of popular books, and may even have several first editions in their collection. They won't be worth much in their usual library state, so anybody thinking of reading this and hoping to steal them: please don't.

jayhuangonApr 9, 2015

Some of my favourite books or books currently on my wishlist (in no particular order).
Many of these have been mentioned in other comments:

* Harry Potter series (thankfully I read this as a kid when I had more time)

* Thinking, Fast and Slow

* How to Win Friends and Influence People

* David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

* Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

* The Martian: A Novel

* How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

* Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

* Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

* Outliers: The Story of Success

* The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out

* The Martian's Daughter: A Memoir

* Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

* Ghost in the Wires: My Adventure as the World's Most Wanted Hacker

* The Better Angels of our Future

* Daemon

onion2konSep 24, 2020

Yeah, the way people like JK Rowling have been hounded for not agreeing on every point with some people is very depressing to see, considering that she has been quite supportive in the past of the very groups that are hounding her.

She has changed a lot since writing Harry Potter. It's obvious that she no longer believes in supporting marginalised groups or telling people that it's OK to be who you want to be. Her recent work is extremely political and designed to further marginalise people who are already marginalised - she's literally just had a book published that's about a serial killer who dresses as a woman to approach and attack other women, which isn't even slightly veiled as an attack on the trans community.

If that's how she thinks now then she has every right to be like that, but everyone else has the right to point out she's being an asshole.

As always, there's an XKCD for this - https://xkcd.com/1357/

shaderonFeb 26, 2009

J. K. Rowling did most of her draft work on lined paper:

"There is only one thing that annoys me about living in Edinburgh - well, two, but I'm pretty much resigned to the weather now. Why is it so difficult to buy paper in the middle of town? What is a writer who likes to write longhand supposed to do when she hits her stride and then realises, to her horror, that she has covered every bit of blank paper in her bag? Forty-five minutes it took me, this morning, to find somewhere that would sell me some normal, lined paper. And there's a university here! What do the students use? Don't tell me laptops, it makes me feel like something out of the eighteenth century."
-J. K. Rowling

Source: http://www.writerswrite.com/wblog.php?wblog=410061

According to Wikipedia, she did the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone on a manual typewriter.

mattkrauseonApr 6, 2021

The derivative work has to be literally derived from the original "such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted." (per 17 USC 101). https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/101

The merger and scenes a faire doctrine permit lots of overlap in terms of themes, tropes and set dressing. You could certainly write a coming-of-age story set in a magical boarding school; indeed, Harry Potter is neither the first nor the last such novel. One of the classic cases is Walker v. Time Life. The two works, which were found to be non-infringing, both start with a double murder of two cops (one Black, one white) in the South Bronx, both feature demoralized Irish-American cops, and both have similar tropes (rats, cop-talk, etc). A reviewer might reasonably describe it as derivative (and a few did, I think), but not legally so.

What you probably couldn't do is publish the (non-parodic) story of Perry Hotter and his substantially-similar adventures at Pigworts, though that's also absolutely spoiling for a trademark fight.

Music gets weird because it a) seems like there are a lot of possible note sequences but b) there aren't really.

nikdaheratikonMay 5, 2017

>Forcing someone to pay for someone elses expenses is application of force. "For the greater good" is immoral.

What a load of self-serving, B.S. Public tax-payer funded health care is not some form of slavery for everyone who pays their taxes and doesn't get sick. And considering the author of Harry Potter benefited greatly from both health care services and other public benefits while writing her books, I think you don't have a leg to stand on there.

More to the point, you don't like the system, you're free to leave Germany, or whatever other country. But if you want to stay, you gotta pay your taxes. It's not "immoral" it's just your decision. The big difference between Germany now, and East Germany of 40 years ago, is you actually can leave anytime you want.

qdogonApr 11, 2012

Anti-competitive and price-fixing are two different things in this case.

Essentially all suppliers (publishers) agreed to set a price on their goods, that's a cartel.

We like to think of books such as Harry Potter when considering publishing, but Harry Potter is a unique item because it has more or less unparalleled popularity. Other fiction books aren't really in competition with Harry Potter, people don't normally say "I am going to either purchase Harry Potter or Hunger Games". They generally purchase both if interested.

Now consider something that is much more of a commodity: Cookbooks. It's quite easy to find a couple of cookbooks from competing publishers, and if one new type of cookbook proves popular (Gluten-free Cooking!), most other publishers will come out with a competing cookbook. Great you say, sounds like competition! Except they have agreed to sell all their cookbooks at $10, so we, the consumers,
now have a plethora of books to choose from, but only at one price. That is very, very illegal.

If the different companies had independently decided to change how they charge for books, ok, but their meetings and apparent coordination not just of the agency model, but the actual price makes this a cartel.

The anti-competitive piece is more about Apple making sure Amazon could not undercut the price for competition. Apple wanted 30% profits, no matter the price, and couldn't do that with Amazon in the mix. Apple could have just signed an exclusivity deal for certain books or something, but instead it wanted all books this way, which made it get involved with the publisher's coordinating. Conspiring with the publishers to specifically target a single player (Amazon) is apparently illegal, although I don't know much about that part so much.

If you usually filled up your car at the local station and suddenly an App Station opened across the street and all gas everywhere was suddenly 30% more expensive, the anti-competitive nature would be readily apparent.

ScottBursononAug 28, 2015

But that's exactly the difference between copyright and patent: copyright covers the expression of an idea, but patent covers the idea itself. J.K. Rowling can't sue me if I write a book that's just like Harry Potter except that the places, characters, and storyline are all different, and all that remains is that it's a book about kids growing up learning about magic at a weird school. On the other hand, if it were possible to patent such an idea, and Rowling had done so, then it wouldn't matter that I had changed all those things: the idea would still be there.

So for copyright, the absence of substantial similarity is a straightforward defense, but it couldn't work that way for patents.

I agree about the podcasting patent. There are a few cases where so many people have independently invented the thing that its obviousness is overwhelmingly clear. I don't know how often that happens, though.

moshezadkaonNov 5, 2010

When I read this, I could not stop thinking about Harry Potter & The Methods of Rationality, and how HP calls out Dumbledore out for "pretending to be wise".

See http://lesswrong.com/lw/yp/pretending_to_be_wise/ for an explanation -- the post above is a clever take on that. Instead of refusing to pass judgement, it's giving advice that, as the people who did think of it as wise said, "is bullshit if you take it at face value" -- it's meant to serve as a counter-balance to the exact opposites of those, which are obviously also good advice, often given.

By saying a thing, and implying you also believe its opposite, you can never be wrong.

I don't really affiliate myself with the rationalist movement, but I think they have developed a number of useful tools to learn to call people out on trying to bullshit you.

ronnochonJuly 2, 2010

This is also discussed in Methods of Rationality, chapter 25 (Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fanfic): http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/1/Harry_Potter_and_the_M...

esotericaonOct 16, 2019

Taxing an entire spectrum of economic activity for the express purpose of discouraging certain kinds of speech (e.g. pro-China content) is anti free speech.

> Disincentivize this blatant attack on of our freedom of speech.

I'll quote you right here since you keep insisting you're not talking about free speech.

> Games are not permitted to promote LGBT acceptance.

I see lots of games that have LGBT characters. Isn't that what the Gamer Gaters keep whining about? That companies keep "virtue signaling" by pandering to minority groups?

But China isn't the only regressive society in the world. Corporations also sometimes avoid overtly endorsing progressive perspectives to avoid offending domestic conservatives. Should we also tax business activity in Alabama so companies aren't afraid to make LGBT-friendly games to cater to red states? The government isn't in the business of deciding which speech should be discouraged and which should be encouraged.

> China should not be able to control society outside of its own walls.

If you choose not to consume certain pieces of foreign media because you disagree with its philosophy or some other part of it are you also violating their country's sovereignty? E.g. if you decide not to read Harry Potter because the British slang confuses you, are you committing an unethical act by unduly pressuring British publishers to produce more America-friendly content?

> They are left with true and unfettered western culture. A culture that flies in the face of fascist narratives.

So much to unpack here

man1shonApr 23, 2010

This is pretty sensible. If India passed any draconion law, then it would be a trouble for the citizens who are already pissed off by high-prices of content that is pirated.

e.g. The price of buying a track is pretty high. $0.90 for a track in US is acceptable, but not in India where standard of living is not like other countries.

The chief reason piracy is a hit in India is due to stupid pricing. If a book costs $10, then it will surely be pirated by a lot number of people. Classical example was "Harry Potter" books. It was priced at 700INR IIRC. Not everyone can buy it. Pirated books were available at 150-200INR and sold like hot cakes.

Moral of the story:
Fix your damn price and see the sales shoot up.

smsm42onMay 8, 2018

This is harmless - probably true, nobody would die or suffer harm from having irrelevant content in the manual. We could splice full seven books of Harry Potter into it, and provided it is clearly marked up, it won't cause any serious harm. But glibc technical manuals are not exactly the place for RMS - or anybody else - to wage political advocacy campaigns, criticize US federal government or joke on the topics unrelated to the technical content. It's not harmful (which is a very high bar), but it's also not appropriate. Do we want to see political debate and advocacy in glibc manuals, commit messages, code comments and other places? Probably not. There are ample venues for this - and especially for a person with the name recognition RMS deservedly enjoys - to advocate anything he likes. He doesn't need the venue of glibc manuals for that, and shouldn't use it.

NotSwiftonJuly 14, 2021

I happen to like the Harry Potter series. Yes, they are children books. There was a point when I wondered if it was worth reading the next one, but once I started reading it was immediately really fun to read.

The movies are also amazing. Most movies that are based on books are really inferior to the books. But the authors of the Harry Potter movies did an extremely good job.

Just remembering Alan Rickman for his role as Snape does not give him full credit. He played in a lot of other movies [0] and he did a lot of theatrical work of which there is no real record.

[0] https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000614/

wallfloweronDec 1, 2017

If you really want to learn a language, you can. However, throw your assumptions about learning a language in X months or Y years. It's really up to your actions. And it gets harder until you learn your first language, then you can "ladder" (learn a 3rd language by using your 2nd language, not your 1st language).

There is a lot of snake oil sold out there. Similar to self-help, they all sell the wishful idea that you can learn language without strain or effort. That is not the case... if you are over the age of about nine. Before the age of nine, almost every human has the ability to pick up multiple languages without effort. As you transition into adulthood, that ability diminishes, until it is an effort. Yes, there are people who can pick up a language without effort like my friend in Canada who can speak many languages after just having spent about a month or two in a place where they speak it. However, for the vast majority, it is not going to be easy.

"Ultimately, it's not about the number of months or years [that you study], but the number of minutes every day that you devote to this challenge. These minutes are what truly count."

-Benny Lewis, "Fluent in 3 Months"

Remember language is to communicate. If you can communicate, express emotions, tell people about your day, ask people about their life that might be enough. Yes, you might not know the 10 ways to express the nuances of an emotion like excitement. But you might know the one generic word.

Reading Harry Potter or the original novels that are so popular that they were translated into English in your new language might take more time. Ask yourself if you really want to be able to do that.

Going to see a comedy show in your 2nd language is not going to be fun. You'll be knocked off your presumed language level ability perch. You likely won't understand anything, likely. That is because humor is quite possible the highest form of any language.

apexalphaonApr 9, 2018

Besides the other posts about simply comsuming as much English I'd like to offer my tip that helped me a lot:

In England there is (/ was?) a tradition of making middle and high school students read increasingly more difficult books throughout ages 11 - 18. There are entire book series written with this concept in mind. These are excellent to pick up.

Harry Potter is a good example of this: the first Harry Potter book was written for 11/12 year olds and the books become longer and more mature with every next book.

Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban was the first book I've ever read in English when I was 14 or so and since then I always try to read books in English if the original is.

_1100onJuly 13, 2018

I grok. I have neither read this, nor have I read any Harry Potter (much to the chagrin of many of my friends, I'm sorry, I've tried).

This sums up a fairly universal behavior that I think we all tend to take part in, and also see others taking part in when we all spot a problem but don't take action because we have the luxury (i.e. removed from any real chance of harm) to watch the problem be solved by anybody else. Then we use this position of luxurious inaction to judge and complain.

I'm surprised by the reactions I see here though. I'm not invested in the subject of this post, but I can see the hurt of this person in their post. It also appears that they are not bailing, but simply allowing others to try and do better, with suggestions to boot.

And here we sit, justifying our luxurious anger at a person so exhausted from doing free work that they have to walk away from what I assume is a passion of theirs.

petercooperonNov 21, 2012

The complaint and flagging was about it being against the "ethos and general topic" not a lack of "mystery."

A lack of mystery could merely make something dull or obvious rather than off topic or against the ethos of the site. Dullness or obviousness is rarely an impediment to reaching the HN front page (cf. "On Being a Junior Developer.")

Nonetheless, I found it interesting. If I were to want mystery, however, I'd read Harry Potter instead of HN.

wflemingonJan 14, 2020

The NYPL is a big library system! Currently it seems they have at least 166 copies of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone[0]. Probably more: I think these are only the copies of the standard edition, and they also seem to have a few copies of an illustrated edition, some special editions, etc., plus of course translations.

[0]: https://catalog.nypl.org/search~S1?/Xharry+potter+and+the+so...,

JtsummersonAug 27, 2020

Thanks for the encouragement.

I selected Harry Potter because I know the stories decently (read the books whenever book 7 came out, saw all the movies at least once each, maybe twice for a couple). But I’m not familiar enough to be able to read the Spanish version and really just be recalling the English version (why I’m avoiding translations of my favorite authors, I know the books too well).

And yeah, I’m skipping the dictionary while reading. I tried that, it was awful. I’m identifying words (sometimes asking my wife) and looking them up after finishing a chapter. I plan to reread the book (possibly restart before completing) to see how much of what’s new has stuck. I already have homework since I’m working through a college Spanish textbook and have signed up for online courses (weekly, but it’s practice and I’m getting to hear the Argentine accent which is the one I need to understand most, my wife is from there).

After this book, I’ll probably continue picking up the rest of the series (we want a bilingual library anyways for when we have kids), and then some non-fiction. Ideally I want to find some non-fiction histories or technical content in Spanish by native Spanish writers. I’m also trying to read Spanish-language news, but I haven’t made it a regular habit yet.

Miner49eronJuly 20, 2012

He read the Harry Potter books when he was 6?!

the_afonJune 16, 2020

In science, engineering and coding, I agree!

However, I felt the context of this conversation was self-improvement though. In this particular context, it's easier to get things done without reading any motivational books/articles (in fact, most people get things done without reading about how to self motivate), and the contrary -- reading self-improvement articles -- doesn't mean anything if you don't do the actual work.

Let me quote the initial post of this subthread, which is the sentiment I agree with:

> "The thing about working on yourself is that it’s actually work. Reading an article, or a book on behaviour, self-improvement and what else doesn’t actually change you any more than reading Harry Potter does."

nihilocratonNov 25, 2008

I like Ender's Game as well (haven't read Harry Potter), but in retrospect, the characters are a little cartoony and unbelievable compared to what I've seen in "real" literature. We like to read about unreal characters, true, but it makes it hard for the reader to relate to these characters or to the plot they are going through.

I'll say how I've always felt about sci-fi: the universe and the concepts in play are more important than any of the traditional literary mechanisms such as plot, character development, etc.. I feel that this guy is just comparing the character of Ender on the level of the "real" literature I mention above. By those standards, characters like King Arthur or Siegfried are ridiculous charicatures, devoid of any true humanity.

CocaKoalaonOct 22, 2014

Please list some. I can easily think of books which follow the plot you outlined; I have a much harder time thinking of books which follow the plot you outlined where the main character remains normal through the duration (as opposed to finding some innate quality within themselves which helps them triumph over hardship).

edit: I mean, Harry Potter fits the bill you outlined, but is explicitly called out by the parent post as a half wizard.

endtimeonSep 27, 2010

>they seem to find it rather uncontroversial to assert that anyone who thinks that death is ultimately good, and not bad, is 'pretending to be wise'.

Eliezer talked about this at at the Singularity Summit...I can't find the slides, but his subsequent update of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (yes, really) pretty much said the same thing. The relevant part starts around halfway down this chapter: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/39/Harry_Potter_and_the_...

I think this is a pretty common position among the futurist/transhumanist/singularitarian community. The standard inductive argument is basically "I want to be alive tomorrow, and tomorrow I will feel the same way. Therefore, I will never want to die."

Edit: Oh, the other point that is often made is that if you grew up on a planet where everyone randomly got hit over the head with a baseball bat every few minutes, there would probably be people who talk about how this is a good thing, because it helps you greater appreciate the bat-free minutes and helps you stay on your toes, etc. But, other things being equal, as an Earthling you probably wouldn't want to go and live on that world. Likewise, if you came form a society where people didn't die, and someone offered you the opportunity to completely cease to exist one day, you probably wouldn't take it.

waterhouseonAug 28, 2020

> Things as simple as font resizing are 30x slower than on a Kindle

It's not a constant factor. This is best understood as a bug. Here's what the reviewer demonstrated: If you change the font size, then the interface locks up and you can't do anything, until the backend has generated new page images for the entire PDF—no matter how many pages there are. He showed that, while it was fast for a small document, it locked up for about 50 seconds when resizing the font on The Count of Monte Cristo (a large novel, perhaps 1200 pages). Furthermore, he said that if, during that time, you changed any of the other settings (resizing again, changing line spacing, etc.), it would take another 50 seconds, and another if you pressed two of the buttons, and so on. It is very clear that no QA person (whose reports are heeded) tested out those operations on a decent-sized novel or technical manual. (If they tried Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—not the largest book in the series—then, going by word count, it would have locked up for 20.5 seconds.)

A sane viewer app—one of which the reviewer demonstrated—would redraw the current page, then give control back to the user, while continuing to redraw other pages in the background. It's a bit tricky, because until you render the previous pages at some level, it might not be clear where the page break for the current page would be; but you could choose an arbitrary point, use that temporarily, and eventually correct it when rendering catches up.

The reviewer did show convincingly that the viewer app is very lacking in features or basic polish. (Another example: You can zoom into a page, selecting a smaller section of it to view. However, you cannot drag this view around the page; if you want to see elsewhere on the page at the same magnification, you must undo the zoom, then select a new region to zoom into.) This is odd for an e-ink device, whose homepage has a section titled "An eye-friendly reading experience: Comfortably read PDFs or ebooks for hours on end without backlight, glare, or eye strain."

forrestthewoodsonDec 19, 2020

I’d go for something a little more tiered. First Harry Potter book came out in 1997. Do I think publishers or printing press companies should be allowed to sell Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone without giving Rowling money? No I do not.

But I wouldn’t extend that past 50 years. And I might set compulsory licensing of some kind. Particularly for redistribution of existing work. I think some type of gradient between 20 to 50 or 30 to 50 makes sense.

I also like the idea of having copyright expire after 10 years but require an increasing annual fee to extend. This would allow abandoned IP to recirculate but still give creators control over their work if it’s worth their time and money. I’d make the fee growth non-linear so that very few things are worth extending beyond 20 or 30 years. It’s a variant of “use it or lose it”.

jeromeconFeb 12, 2011

How was that code derived? Does it get its form from copyrighted code Sony owns the rights to? If so I believe it should enjoy copyright protection.

We're seeing a nearly chaotic upheaval in how business is done in modern times, largely because technology is progressing so fast. This can confuse many of the issues at hand. However, I think it can help to view things using older more well understood models. For example, let's look at books. Harry Potter is a copyright protected work which appears to have given much value to both readers and author/rights holders alike. Each page of that book enjoys copyright protection; tearing out a page and adding words, making other adjustments etc., then posting the revised product online would violate copyright. If we can see the logic to that then I think it can help us to gain perspective when reflecting on the Sony incident.

arethuzaonNov 8, 2017

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books and who is fairly wealthy has an interesting moral stance on paying tax:

"... I am indebted to the British welfare state; the very one that Mr. Cameron would like to replace with charity handouts. When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become under John Major’s Government, was there to break the fall. I cannot help feeling, therefore, that it would have been contemptible to scarper for the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque. This, if you like, is my notion of patriotism..."


sokoloffonSep 28, 2020

While there are kernels of uncomfortable truth in the article, I think there's at least equal parts begging the question.

"The kinds of opportunists who are attracted solely to wealth and status have no principles at all beyond accumulation of these two objects." Well, yes, by definition, but it's not clear that the definition is useful. Iff those people exist, that's how they'll act is used to not-so-subtly suggest that these people actually exist and they're taking "your" promotion unless you defend.

"I can do anything I want for three years and it won't show up in the metrics!" No, you can do anything you want and it won't show up in the SEC/Wall Street reported metrics, but you better believe Amazon has faster-acting internal metrics than that.

'"the codebase is such a mess this team can't ship anything until we spend three months refactoring" is really bad delivery. An opportunist would say "we need to work toward paying off the technical debt"' A pragmatist or realist would also say the same thing rather than demand an embargo on shipping features for three-months for what might be seen as (and might be) navel-gazing.

It's an enjoyable read, but in a similar vein as Harry Potter is an enjoyable read. Maybe it will provoke some thinking that's applicable to your work life, but it's more entertaining than educational, IMO.

tn13onAug 9, 2016

Reminds of me Kipling's poem whose meaning goes something like this:

> The implication, of course, was that the Empire existed not for the benefit — economic or strategic or otherwise — of Britain, itself, but in order that primitive peoples, incapable of self-government, could, with British guidance, eventually become civilized (and Christianized) [1]

The author is either writing some kind of bad sarcasm or simple falling prey to the above kind of complex.

I don't want to assign motives but western civilization should learn that just because you don't understand other cultures that does not mean they are stupid, retarded or some how disadvantaged. Provide some data or it is just the prejudice. Japanese people have achieved a lot in short time in fact lot more than almost all their Asian peers. They have achieved this while using their language.

Author should have spent some time learning the Japanese culture and being one of them instead of being judgemental. Consider this line about Manga

> Young adults here read comic books for the same reason children do elsewhere: because they’re fun, funny, and not too hard. Sure, a few deal with “real” issues, but it’s not like we’re talking To Kill a Mockingbird. Who doesn’t like ninjas and pirates? No one in Japan, apparently.

Clearly the author is not familiar with manga culture and has not bothered to read one. I am from India, I have read Harry Potter, Song of Ice and Fire, Mahabharata, Ramayana and Death Note or Naruto. Japanese Manga and Anime both have significant depth, characters which have shades of gray and as an Asian I can relate with Manga characters and story themes lot better than Harry potter which I find too superficial.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man%27s_Burden

shawndumasonDec 21, 2010

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

chrismcbonJan 1, 2014

5 years is WAY to short. Harry Potter was published in 97, and the film was released in 01. They paid a million dollars for the rights. In your world they would wait a year or two and do it for free. A recent study claimed there were few books on Amazon older than 25 years. So that sounds like a good length.I'm not sure what the length should be, BUT the current length which is longer than the average human life span, is too long.

jbob2000onOct 30, 2020

You’re conflating software with “the physical medium used to store and run software”. Computers, like the paper that books are printed on, are scarce, but the software or story, is not.

I can recite Harry Potter without the book, the story has no scarcity to it. Similarly, I can write a for loop without reading it’s structure from a hard drive.

sambeauonFeb 19, 2012

I don't understand this bit: Under both system of copyright and copyfree work, J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of book, became a billionaire

JK Rowling became a billionaire through licensing her characters to film-makers, toy-makers, etc. a method that is totally dependent on intellectual property.

Am I missing something?

weegeeonApr 10, 2008

I was lucky enough to have a history professor in high school who taught in such a way that opened our eyes to more than one way of seeing any historic event. He listed sources for us to read from around the world. There was also a lot of optional reading, this source is more difficult than this other source. If you're not interested, stick with Miller, if you want more depth, read Blum, etc. I took from that class a new interest in history as well as current events. Of course, this was in the 1980s before the media became so readily available via the net. It's almost at a saturation point. You can get information so easily, why even bother getting it in the first place? I can always do it later, and so on. This might be a common attitude among todays students. I have a 12 year old nephew who is heavily shielded from the outside world by his parents. His father won't let him read Harry Potter because someone dies in the book. It's sickening. When I was 12 I was reading Stephen King and loving every minute of it. Shielding your kids from the world isn't necessary at age 12.

chipotle_coyoteonMar 3, 2021

Pirating novels also, well, should make people feel at least a little bad. I think there's this perception -- and, candidly, I think it's a perception that sites like TorrentFreak (where the linked article is on) push -- that Greedy Big Corporate Publishers take all the money and the creator doesn't get anything to speak of from an individual single sale. I can't speak to all industries, but in fiction publishing, this is absolutely, unequivocally not true.

- First, you really do get per-unit royalties, and it's not "just a few cents"; even with traditional publishers, ebook royalties are 25% or more. (With my publisher, I get 50% if you buy directly from them and 35% if you buy on other ebook stores.)

- Second, the vast, vast majority of fiction books sell in the thousands. Not millions, not even hundreds of thousands, and way more often than you think not in the tens of thousands. For a small press, a title that sells 5000 copies across its lifetime might qualify as a runaway best seller.

- And third, contracts for future books often depend on how well previous books sell. A friend of mine published a book a few years ago that sold decently and was even nominated for a Nebula Award. Its sequel was well-reviewed but didn't sell as well, and even though it was meant as a trilogy, the publisher doesn't seem interested in the third book.

So don't use the sales of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or the like as a yardstick for how piracy affects fiction writers. A few thousand "lost sales" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Gender Essentialism is a rounding error; a few thousand "lost sales" of my novel Kismet would literally double the title's revenue if they were converted to real sales.

zwischenzugonJune 9, 2012

I don't think reading Harry Potter books is a good thing. I'd rather they watched decent TV.

I learned so much from TV, watched hours of it every day, hung around with a variety of types (none of them "productive") and barely read anything until I was 16. It didn't stop me from achieving highly by conventional measures of academic, business and general "productivity".

I hate the idea that children need to be managed to have the right friends. They need to figure stuff out themselves; let them have the friends they want, provided there's no abuse or damaging behaviour.

Let kids be kids!

thetrononSep 16, 2012

I find that when I've been working late my mind is a mess of racing thoughts and it's impossible to get to sleep quickly.

What I have been doing lately is listening to audiobooks, which really help to prevent my thoughts from jumping around. My books of choice have been the Harry Potter series (the ones read by Stephen Fry, of course) - his voice is really soothing, and the books are (generally) not too loud, or varying in volume. I find that generally I fall asleep within about 10-15 minutes of starting.

The worst thing is that I struggle to get to sleep without it now.

electromagneticonJan 7, 2011

I remember watching, IIRC, pornucopia with Katie Morgan. In one of the scenes she's talking about how mainstream pornography came to a start. The black and white silent-film clip showed is of a man stealing three women's clothes as they skinny dip and blackmails them demanding sex. They agree on condition that it's through a glory hole. He agrees and goes to do his thing. The girls grab a stray donkey off the beach and back it up against the glory hole.

I saw women exploiting a man for his stupidity when he's horny. I saw glory hole sex from like the 1910's. I saw beastiality and the debasement of the man.

You can still see all these things today in porn. Given that the internet basically created the Clothed-Female-Naked-Male genre, I'd contend that the author of the article really has no clue about porn.

For all the violence against women, there's equal amounts of violent porn against men. For every one debasing a woman, there's on debasing a man. For one humiliating a woman, there's one humiliating a man (I mean there's actually porn videos where there's a guy tied up and blind folded naked and a group of women laugh at his junk).

The Internet has done for porn what the printing press did for the written word. You went from only the elitist males in society being able to write a book to virtually anyone from any background being able to become world famous. I mean look at J.K. Rowlings backstory for when she wrote Harry Potter and you can hardly say she had any of the elitist connections of early writers. Similarly we've gone from only big studios producing porn, to anyone with a half-decent video camera... or even just a cell phone.

smnrchrdsonApr 27, 2020

> We have attributed each post to its user by linking it to the original thread.

It is still not legal. You can attribute Harry Potter to J. K. Rowling all you want. It still won't make it legal to republish her books.

> if you think of it, a lot of original content from Reddit is shared around, we have just done that

Businesses are held to a higher standard that random strangers with pseudonyms on the internet. For one, unlike 14-year-olds on twitter, a bank is supposed to have its metaphorical legal shit together.

If an organization does not understand and comply with such widely-known laws as copyright, what are the odds that they understand and comply with thousands of obscure laws and regulations pertaining to financial institutions? Will it be just a matter of time until a regulator knocks on your door, does an audit, and learns that the company has violated dozens of laws and needs to be shut down immediately?

I would be very concerned about trusting my money with a financial institution who seems to have a tendency to skirt, bend, and outright break the laws.

nicolas314onAug 30, 2017

Did the same with my first son with all Harry Potter books, which came out as he grew up. When my second son was born he caught up with the early books by watching the movies then participating to our reading sessions. I acted all voices when reading, and we sometimes would re-enact a complete scene all together, improvising lines to fit with the story and acting with any kind of props we could put our hands on.

My sons are grown-ups now, how I miss these times.

TheOtherHobbesonMar 27, 2015

I think they're overrated - for teens. I know why we inflict them on kids, but they're hard to appreciate until you're an adult.

I know a super-smart fourteen year old. He tells me The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are the best books he's read.

When I was in my teens I was reading:

Herman Hesse
Thomas Mann
John Barth (which shows how old I am...)
John Irving
John Updike
Doris Lessing
A lot of SF, classic/mainstream and otherwise
Literal piles of electronic and computer hobby mags
OMNI magazine
Articles in Encyclopedia Britannica about tensor analysis and simultaneity which I totally failed to understand
A buy-weekly-and-keep popular subscription encyclopedia I talked my parents into getting for me.

Of those, OMNI made the biggest impression because it hit an art/science/futurism sweet spot that I haven't seen copied since. (Mondo 2000 was on a different moon of the same planet. Wired is a very poor imitation.)

The buy-weekly encyclopedia was unexpectedly useful too, because it covered things like art history and politics I'd never have thought about otherwise.

I think 14 is as much about curiosity, creativity and emotions as raw intellect. So if you're just creating a reading list about stuff to think about in a clever way, you're going to be missing a lot of potential for more rounded development.

I'd think about experiences as well as books. Go to sports. Go to an opera. Go to art galleries. Go see bands. Travel and have adventures. Go to a political debate. Go see some classical Greek tragedy or comedy. Couch surf with strangers and take the kid along. Go hiking a long way from the Internet. Teach some survival skills.

If the 14 yo doesn't want to have the fam along, offer free tickets and travel for them and friends. (Not so much for the travel...)

And so on. Leave the compiler theory books for later.

DanBConNov 3, 2018

I agree with you, but Harry Potter was first published in 1997. That makes it outside the 20 year window that this article is focusing on.

In the UK we have the Mann Booker prize. It's a big deal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booker_Prize

> The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade.

But the sales figures for the books are tiny.



mokslyonJune 16, 2020

The thing about working on yourself is that it’s actually work. Reading an article, or a book on behaviour, self-improvement and what else doesn’t actually change you any more than reading Harry Potter does.

It’s the years of applying Zen Buddhism, scheduling your chores or staring at the mirror telling yourself you’re a great person that changes you.

I know because I recently recorded from a major depression and anxiety, and everything that I’ve done that has actually helped, like lying to myself in the mirror, or convincing myself no-one on the train was actually judging me, took 6+ months to have a real lasting effect.

It’s the same with distractions. Just look at your screen time spent on your smartphone today. It’s probably a couple of hours by the time you go to bed. Like it is for the rest of us. Most of that time is frankly wasted, you know it. I know it. But reading a self-improvement article about how cutting down screen time is healthy for us isn’t actually going to change our behaviour one bit. Maybe for a day or two, but not next week and certainly not next month.

alttagonMar 20, 2012

Odd. This was perhaps one of the earliest Sci-Fi books I read (along with many of the Doctor Who books.)

I'm fairly certain I first read it in middle school, which would have made me about 10, but may have been as late as the start of high school, making me about 13 (yes, I was young, graduating at 16). I followed the next couple of books in the series, but couldn't get into them to the same extent. I have Ender's Game on my shelf at home (along with Ender's Shadow, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Hegemon), and have actively encouraged my 11-year-old son to read them. He's not quite ready yet (by his own reckoning), but he will be soon.

As others have pointed out, the descriptions of violence don't compare at all to "Hunger Games" (or more particularly, the following two books in that series). The Harry Potter series, particularly the last three books, were violent as well (though not to the level of "Mockingjay") ... to the extent that we won't permit our children to watch them, yet, although even my 9-year-old has read all of them.

I read "Ender's Game" again in high school, and a third time in my early twenties. One of the fascinating things about good books is that the parts that stick with you change as your experience and outlook on life changes.

My recollection from the curriculum at my middle school included "Animal Farm", which also has messages on multiple levels; my younger sister was required to read "Tunnel In the Sky" (by Heinlein; she hated it, but I enjoyed it); my middle school coursework also included "Lord of the Flies", "Great Gatsby" and "Of Mice and Men", all of which also have violent sequences.

Part of what makes these books classics (although even having read them a couple of time, I still don't like the last three on that list) is that they capture the human existence—and like it or not, the nature of humanity includes violence, overcoming violence, and the occasional necessity of violence.

anikdasonJuly 1, 2018

I really appreciate your comprehensive suggestion. It definitely have opened up options for me. Among all your suggestions I think I would go with

> - Some "classics" can be considered middle grade (warning: some of these reflect racist and colonialist 19th and early 20thC patterns of thought): Robinson Crusoe; Peter Pan; the Jungle Book; Alice in Wonderland; Black Beauty (not racist, it's about a horse); Dr. Doolittle; Just So Stories

> - The Harry Potter series starts off at an advanced middle grade reading level and gradually increases to a young adult reading level

> - Another thing that might be fun would be books of myths from various cultures. I remember reading a big book of Norse myths and another of Greek myths around age 8-9. You could probably start with a collection from a culture you're already familiar with, which could assist with understanding.

Also, thank you for the complement about my writing!

mstipeticonApr 13, 2016


Well our business model would be recent, in-copyright books in this format. For instance, reading Harry Potter in this interface is something we could imagine being useful. Other than that, we think this tool might be useful in the education system, we can provide a lot of added value there.

Some language combinations are unfortunately underrepresented, but we've just built a tool that matches translations automatically, so that should change soon. Currently we are focusing on English-German combination since that's what we can check manually while we work out the kinks in the tool, and then we will spread out to other languages.

mellingonJune 12, 2015

I read a couple Harry Potter books in Spanish a decade ago. It's always helpful to read. Those books are a little hard for a beginner. I made words list for each chapter, which I lost. I think it's helpful to study the words then read chapter.

I don't suppose there are digital copies that can be parsed floating around?

rowanG077onJuly 2, 2021

And such a thing has never been achieved with code. Besides very often the texts such an ai creates are non-sensical. And they are very short. Writing a few pages of text would equivalent to small tool of a few hundred lines. Or about the same as building a wooden shed. You don't need much skill for that. Come back when an AI can write multiple internally consistent books such as LOTR and the Dilation or the Harry Potter series. That's the scale of architecting a system.

dohonFeb 22, 2017

My subjective opinion is that a reader would learn more from a person that went to discover a new topic and wrote down the steps and knowledge acquired along the way. The reader is essentially taking the same steps, learning the same things. If however an expert would write about the same topic, she will have hard time to follow the same pattern.

I believe that J.K. Rowling used the same pattern for her Harry Potter books. She started writing them for children and then each book followed the same kids to their adulthood.

devchixonFeb 2, 2021

>I bought the Harry Potter books because of the world she built, not because of her writing ability.

Risible. What made that world if not the writing? The Harry Potter Wikipedia contains all the substantial plots, characters, worlds they inhabit. Same world. Pay for that, would you? Read that for pleasure, would you?

abraxaszonSep 2, 2013

I'm originally from France, and I used three methods to improve my english:
1) Reading in english. back in high school, when I was still a beginner, my go-to books in english were the Harry Potter series: not because I have a particular fancy for the books, but because I'd already read them in French so I could guess the meaning of most words without a dictionary. I actually extended this method to Spanish and Latin, pretty successfully.

2) Watch movies. I started with french subtitles, then switched to english subtitles. I stayed with english subtitles for quite a while as I thought I wasn't ready to remove them. Then I spent 6 months abroad and did not have access to subtitles, so I was forced to watch movies in english without subtitles. I had to replay a lot of scenes on my first couple tries, but picked it up quickly.

3) The single most important thing I did to improve my english is .. to stop speaking french. That's right. I've been leaving in the US for about 2 years now, and I avoid french speaking people like the plague. And if for some reason I can't avoid it, then I speak english with them. No french. See, a lot of the foreigners I've seen who struggle with the language tend to stick with other foreigners from their country. That's the worst possible thing to do if you want to improve your english. I've seen people who've been in the US for 8 years and can still barely speak english: they don't need to since they almost never actually speak it in their community.

Now I don't know if that works for everyone. I've met a couple other people who've used a similar strategy, and obtained similar results, but that's still not a very large sample.

ComputerGuruonMay 28, 2015

Off topic: I have been reading Harry Potter in French as my gateway to French literature. My love for French actually started with The Count of Monte Cristo which made want to learn French just so as to read the original Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.

Obviously, my French (starting from zero) a mere year or so later isn't good enough to read something like Alexandre Dumas' masterpiece, but I figured if I started with a book I've literally read dozens of times in English that I always know what the next sentence will say, well, that would be a good place to start.

AndrewLiptakonJune 9, 2020

A bunch of books: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (as well as several of the sequels), American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, and a bunch of others.

tzsonJune 2, 2017


"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" [1]

"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Collectivism" [2]

"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" [3]

"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Order of Psycho-epistemology" [4]

"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince" [5]

"Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" [6]

[1] http://the-toast.net/2014/06/02/ayn-rands-harry-potter-chamb...

[2] http://the-toast.net/2014/06/18/ayn-rands-harry-potter-priso...

[3] http://the-toast.net/2014/07/29/ayn-rands-harry-potter/

[4] http://the-toast.net/2014/09/10/ayn-rands-harry-potter-order...

[5] http://the-toast.net/2015/02/12/ayn-rands-harry-potter-half-...

[6] http://the-toast.net/2015/04/09/ayn-rands-harry-potter-and-t...

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