Recommended Books

This is a curated list of books that I recommend to people coming from computer science, engineering or other quantitative backgrounds and looking to deepen their understanding of some important themes of knowledge.

I organized the list using a bottom-up approach, starting with what I consider are building blocks (Themes 1-5) for thinking about more complex questions (Themes 6-10).

Under each theme I used a double asterisk (**) to mark books which I think are absolute must-reads. Items marked with a single asterisk (*) I thought were interesting and/or important and those unmarked I thought were less important and therefore only recommend as supplementary (this is all very subjective, naturally).

Many of the weak positions and widespread misconceptions I've encountered within the scope of themes 6-10 I thought were deeply rooted in poor understanding of core ideas from themes 1-5. I therefore recommend coming to grips with themes 1-5 before moving on to the rest.

Theme 1: Cosmology and Theoretical Physics

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality Brian Greene Cosmology, Space and Time, Ontology

The Elegant Universe Brian Greene Cosmology, Theoretical Physics

A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes Stephen Hawking Cosmology, History of Science, Classic

A Universe From Nothing Lawrence M. Krauss Cosmology, Theoretical Physics

Theme 2: Natural Selection

The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins Natural Selection, Classic

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution Nick Lane Natural Selection

The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene Richard Dawkins Natural Selection

Theme 3: Epistomology and the Scientific Method

The Fabric of Reality David Deutsch Epistomology, Pancomputationlism

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World David Deutsch Epistomology, Pancomputationlism

Bad Science Ben Goldacre Epistomology

A Short History Of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson History of Science, Classic

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition Thomas S. Kuhn Epistomology

Theme 4: Neuroscience

In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind Eric R. Kandel Neuroscience, History of Science

The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Oliver Sacks Neuroscience

Fundamentals of Computational Neuroscience Thomas Trappenberg Computational Neuroscience

Theme 5: Cognitive Science

Thinking, Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman Cognitive Science, Classic

Irrationality Stuart Sutherland Rationality, Epistomology, Cognition, Cognitive Biases

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Anthropology

Theme 6: Strong AI and Functionalism

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid Douglas R. Hofstadter Intelligence, Functionalism, Strong AI, Classic

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies Nick Bostrom Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed Ray Kurzweil Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI

Theme 7: Philosophy of Mind

Brain-wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy Patricia Smith Churchland Philosophy, Neuroscience

Consciousness Explained Daniel C. Dennett Consciousness, Functionalism

Theme 8: Theology

The Invention of Religion Alexander Drake Cognitive Science, Theology

Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds Justin L. Barrett Cognitive Science, Theology

Theme 9: Morality

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values Sam Harris Morality

Theme 10: Ontology

Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality Max Tegmark Ontology, Pancomputationalism