Recommended Reads

March 6, 2016

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’ve 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’ve 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).

I’ve found that many weak positions and widespread misconceptions about some of the big questions (Themes 6-10) are deeply rooted in a poor understanding of some fundamentals (Themes 1-5). I therefore recommend getting on top of the first half of these themes before venturing to the second.

Theme 1: Cosmology and Theoretical Physics

  1. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality **
    Brian Greene
    Tags: Cosmology, Space and Time, Ontology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=yZujlUD1oAAC
  2. The Elegant Universe *
    Brian Greene
    Tags: Cosmology, Theoretical Physics
    https://books.google.com/books?id=MNHzwnEYi40C
  3. A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes *
    Stephen Hawking
    Tags: Cosmology, History of Science, Classic
    https://books.google.com/books?id=9ysba1A1UF8C
  4. A Universe From Nothing
    Lawrence M. Krauss
    Tags: Cosmology, Theoretical Physics
    https://books.google.com/books?id=gnthuPl-hjQC

Theme 2: Natural Selection

  1. The Selfish Gene **
    Richard Dawkins
    Tags: Natural Selection, Classic
    https://books.google.com/books?id=rVvJSAAACAAJ
  2. Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
    Nick Lane
    Tags: Natural Selection
    https://books.google.com/books?id=sQBesPE3ELYC
  3. The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene
    Richard Dawkins
    Tags: Natural Selection
    https://books.google.com/books?id=vsIZAgAAQBAJ

Theme 3: Epistomology and the Scientific Method

  1. The Fabric of Reality **
    David Deutsch
    Tags: Epistomology, Pancomputationlism
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Z7uFxViR19oC
  2. The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World **
    David Deutsch
    Tags: Epistomology, Pancomputationlism
    https://books.google.com/books?id=WFZl7YvsiuIC
  3. Bad Science *
    Ben Goldacre
    Tags: Epistomology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Gv1NQubrGNIC
  4. A Short History Of Nearly Everything *
    Bill Bryson
    Tags: History of Science, Classic
    https://books.google.com/books?id=m3Yfj-KWgCEC
  5. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition
    Thomas S. Kuhn
    Tags: Epistomology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=3eP5Y_OOuzwC

Theme 4: Neuroscience

  1. In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind **
    Eric R. Kandel
    Tags: Neuroscience, History of Science
    https://books.google.com/books?id=PFnRwWXzypgC
  2. The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat *
    Oliver Sacks
    Tags: Neuroscience
    https://books.google.com/books?id=6KxItwAACAAJ
  3. Fundamentals of Computational Neuroscience
    Thomas Trappenberg
    Tags: Computational Neuroscience
    https://books.google.com/books?id=1xSLktiRAX4C

Theme 5: Cognitive Science

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow **
    Daniel Kahneman
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Classic
    https://books.google.com/books?id=AV9x8XakdV0C
  2. Irrationality **
    Stuart Sutherland
    Tags: Rationality, Epistomology, Cognition, Cognitive Biases
    https://books.google.com/books?id=jK9PPgAACAAJ
  3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind *
    Yuval Noah Harari
    Tags: Anthropology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=FmyBAwAAQBAJ

Theme 6: Strong AI and Functionalism

  1. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid **
    Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Tags: Intelligence, Functionalism, Strong AI, Classic
    https://books.google.com/books?id=grzEQgAACAAJ
  2. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies **
    Nick Bostrom
    Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI
    https://books.google.com/books?id=7_H8AwAAQBAJ
  3. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed *
    Ray Kurzweil
    Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI
    https://books.google.com/books?id=3vY7nwEACAAJ

Theme 7: Philosophy of Mind

  1. Brain-wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy **
    Patricia Smith Churchland
    Tags: Philosophy, Neuroscience
    https://books.google.com/books?id=vGY1BkA-gyYC
  2. Consciousness Explained
    Daniel C. Dennett
    Tags: Consciousness, Functionalism
    https://books.google.com/books?id=d2P_QS6AwgoC

Theme 8: Theology

  1. The Invention of Religion **
    Alexander Drake
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Theology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=GFzfoQEACAAJ
  2. Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds *
    Justin L. Barrett
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Theology
    https://books.google.com/books?id=8ZeiuAAACAAJ

Theme 9: Morality

  1. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values **
    Sam Harris
    Tags: Morality
    https://books.google.com/books?id=5FRW30QaDQwC

Theme 10: Ontology

  1. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality **
    Max Tegmark
    Tags: Ontology, Pancomputationalism
    https://books.google.com/books?id=NZo7AAAAQBAJ

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