Books Read (Sep ‘08—present)

The Humbling

Philip Roth

3 stars

The Humbling

Philip Roth

3 stars

Managing Oneself (re-reading)

Peter F Drucker

4 stars

Managing Oneself (re-reading)

Peter F Drucker

4 stars

Business Adventures

John Brooks

5 stars

Business Adventures

John Brooks

5 stars

The Lessons of History

Will & Ariel Durant

5 stars

The Lessons of History

Will & Ariel Durant

5 stars

How to Lie with Statistics

Darrell Huff

3 stars

How to Lie with Statistics

Darrell Huff

3 stars

Thinking and Deciding

Jonathan Baron

4 stars

Thinking and Deciding

Jonathan Baron

4 stars

How to Read a Book

Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren

3 stars

How to Read a Book

Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren

3 stars

Descartes’ Error

Antonio Damasio

5 stars

Descartes’ Error

Antonio Damasio

5 stars

Against Method

Paul Feyerabend

4 stars

Against Method

Paul Feyerabend

4 stars

Antifragile

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

5 stars

Antifragile

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

5 stars

The Drunkard’s Walk

Leonard Mlodinow

4 stars

The Drunkard’s Walk

Leonard Mlodinow

4 stars

Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

Julia Annas

4 stars

Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction

Julia Annas

4 stars

Getting Things Done

David Allen

3 stars

Getting Things Done

David Allen

3 stars

The Meaning of Human Existence

Edward O. Wilson

4 stars

The Meaning of Human Existence

Edward O. Wilson

4 stars

Red Doc>

Anne Carson

5 stars

Red Doc>

Anne Carson

5 stars

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Sarah Bakewell

4 stars

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Sarah Bakewell

4 stars

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas S. Kuhn

5 stars

What differentiated these various schools was one or another failure of method—they were all “scientific”—but what we shall come to call their incommensurable ways of seeing the world and of practicing science in it. Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific believe, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time. (p. 4)

Few people who are not actually practitioners of a mature science realize how much mop-up work of this sort a paradigm 
leaves to be done or quite how fascinating such work can prove  in the execution. And these points need to be understood. Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. (p. 24)

We have already seen, however, that one of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion 
for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. To a great extentthese are the only problems that the community will admit as scientific or encourage its members to undertake. Other problems, including many that had previously been standard, are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time. A paradigm can, for that matter, even insulate the community from those socially important problems that are not reducible to the puzzle form, because they cannot be stated in terms of the conceptual and instrumental tools the paradigm supplies. Such problems can be a distraction, a lesson brilliantly illustrated by several facets of seventeenth-century Baconianism and by some of the contemporary social sciences. One of the reasons why normal science seems to progress so rapidly is that its practitioners concentrate on problems that only their own lack of ingenuity should keep them from solving. (p. 37)

The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other. (p. 77)

But need there be any such goal? Can we not account for both science’s existence and its success in terms of evolution from the community’s state of knowledge at any given time? Does it really help to imagine that there is some one full, objective, true account of nature and that the proper measure of scientific achievement is the extent to which it brings us closer to that ultimate goal? If we can learn to substitute evolution-from-what-we-do-know for evolution-toward-what-we-wish-to-know, a number of vexing problems may vanish in the process. (p. 171)

To translate a theory or worldview into one’s own language is not to make it one’s own. For that one must go native, discover that one is thinking and working in, not simply translating out of, a language that was previously foreign. That transition is not, however, one that an individual may make or refrain from making by deliberation and choice, however good his reasons for wishing to do so. Instead, at some point in the process of learning to translate, he finds that the transition has occurred, that he has slipped into the new language without a decision having been made. Or else, like many of those who first encountered, say, relativity or quantum mechanics in their middle years, he finds himself fully persuaded of the new view but nevertheless unable to internalize it and be at home in the world it helps to shape. Intellectually such a man has made his choice but the conversion required if it is to be effective eludes him. He may use the new theory nonetheless, but he will do so as a, foreigner in a foreign environment, an alternative available to him only because there are natives already there. His work is parasitic on theirs, for he lacks the constellation of mental sets which future members of the community will acquire through education. (p. 204)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas S. Kuhn

5 stars

  • What differentiated these various schools was one or another failure of method—they were all “scientific”—but what we shall come to call their incommensurable ways of seeing the world and of practicing science in it. Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific believe, else there would be no science. But they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. An apparently arbitrary element, compounded of personal and historical accident, is always a formative ingredient of the beliefs espoused by a given scientific community at a given time. (p. 4)

  • Few people who are not actually practitioners of a mature science realize how much mop-up work of this sort a paradigm leaves to be done or quite how fascinating such work can prove in the execution. And these points need to be understood. Mopping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others. (p. 24)

  • We have already seen, however, that one of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. To a great extentthese are the only problems that the community will admit as scientific or encourage its members to undertake. Other problems, including many that had previously been standard, are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time. A paradigm can, for that matter, even insulate the community from those socially important problems that are not reducible to the puzzle form, because they cannot be stated in terms of the conceptual and instrumental tools the paradigm supplies. Such problems can be a distraction, a lesson brilliantly illustrated by several facets of seventeenth-century Baconianism and by some of the contemporary social sciences. One of the reasons why normal science seems to progress so rapidly is that its practitioners concentrate on problems that only their own lack of ingenuity should keep them from solving. (p. 37)

  • The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other. (p. 77)

  • But need there be any such goal? Can we not account for both science’s existence and its success in terms of evolution from the community’s state of knowledge at any given time? Does it really help to imagine that there is some one full, objective, true account of nature and that the proper measure of scientific achievement is the extent to which it brings us closer to that ultimate goal? If we can learn to substitute evolution-from-what-we-do-know for evolution-toward-what-we-wish-to-know, a number of vexing problems may vanish in the process. (p. 171)

  • To translate a theory or worldview into one’s own language is not to make it one’s own. For that one must go native, discover that one is thinking and working in, not simply translating out of, a language that was previously foreign. That transition is not, however, one that an individual may make or refrain from making by deliberation and choice, however good his reasons for wishing to do so. Instead, at some point in the process of learning to translate, he finds that the transition has occurred, that he has slipped into the new language without a decision having been made. Or else, like many of those who first encountered, say, relativity or quantum mechanics in their middle years, he finds himself fully persuaded of the new view but nevertheless unable to internalize it and be at home in the world it helps to shape. Intellectually such a man has made his choice but the conversion required if it is to be effective eludes him. He may use the new theory nonetheless, but he will do so as a, foreigner in a foreign environment, an alternative available to him only because there are natives already there. His work is parasitic on theirs, for he lacks the constellation of mental sets which future members of the community will acquire through education. (p. 204)

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Truman Capote

4 stars

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Truman Capote

4 stars

The Passion of Michel Foucault

James Miller

5 stars

“No one converses with me beside myself and my voice reaches me as the voice of one dying. With the beloved voice, with thee the last remembered breath of human happiness, let me discourse, even if it is only for another hour. Because of thee I delude myself as to my solitude and lie my way back to multiplicity and love, for my heart shies away from believing that love is dead. I cannot bear the icy shivers of loneliest solitude. It compels me to speak as though I were two.” –Nietzsche

To surrender one’s customary inhibitions and descend into what Heidegger called the “unthought,” the thinker had first to “learn to exist in the nameless.” To accomplish this paradoxical task, it was not philosophy but poetry and art that might light the way. “Language,” as Heidegger famously asserts, “is the house of Being”; but the metaphor is deceptive. For to inhabit, however contemplatively, the world revealed by the language of Sade, for example, was as likely to disturb as it was to comfort. “Concealed in the step back,” away from logic and conscious action, is “a thinking that is shattered.” Probing beyond the limits of reason, thinking sooner or later finds itself without statute or rule, structure or order, and face-to-face with nothing. (pp. 49-50)

This “great and rare” art could only be practiced by “those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason, and even weaknesses delight the eye. Here a large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of original nature has been removed—both times through long practice and daily work at it. Here the ugliness that could not be removed is concealed; there it has been reinterpreted and made sublime…. In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small.“ By freely applying the power of the will to sculpting and "styling” a self, one might cast into bold relief one’s “higher necessity,” and thereby turn even the most “dreadful accident” of fate into a thing of beauty. To become master of what one was, “to compel one’s chaos to become form"—that, as 
Nietzsche put it, "is the grand ambition here.” (pp. 90-91)

As every student of philosophy is taught, Kant maintained that our experience of the world could arise only on the basis of certain a priori categories: "Though all our knowledge begins with experience,” declared Kant, “it does not follow that it all arises out of experience.” […] By thus focusing philosophy on the capacities of the human being. Kant abandoned the view, shared by thinkers as different as Plato and Locke, that our concepts and categories for understanding the world, in order to be “true,” must conform to some independently existing reality. (p. 139)


The task of philosophy in the wake of Kant is thus twofold: first, it must examine the “historical a prioris” of possible experience through an empirical investigation of their tangled and often buried de facto roots in customs, habits, social institutions, scientific disciplines, and the specific language-games and styles of reasoning that informed each of these different domains. […]

The second part of the twofold task of philosophy is to explore, without Kant’s inhibitions, the frontiers of possible experience. By exercising the transcendental freedom that Kant himself established as one basis of critique, one might also obtain a critical perspective on the “dark, firm net” of custom and habit, and elaborate what Foucault later called an “ontology of ourselves. "And one might do this most forcefully, as Foucault cryptically writes in his thesis, by moving from "an interrogation of the limit and of transgression” toward “an interrogation of the return of the self.”

Only one thinker, Foucault concludes in 1960, has so far grasped the full implications of this twofold task—Friedrich Nietzsche: “The trajectory of the question, What is Man?,  in the field of philosophy, culminates in the challenging and disarming response: the Overman.“ (p. 142)

An “epitome,” as Foucault defines it, is “an epistemological space specific to a particular period,” a general form of thinking and theorizing that establishes “what ideas can appear, what sciences can be constituted, what experiences can be reflected in philosophies, what rationalities can be formed, only, perhaps to dissolve and vanish soon afterwards.” (p. 150)

Marx’s new man was to be a creature of joyful harmony, beyond the cruel conflicts between master and slave, boss and worker—a figure of Promethean freedom and universal understanding, embodying in thought, labor, and love the beatific essence of the entire species. For a "humanism of the Marxist type,” as Foucault remarked in a 1978 interview, the problem was “to recover our ‘lost’ identity, to liberate our imprisoned nature, our truth at bottom.” With the end of alienation—and triumph of communism—what Marx called “the real individual” would stand forth, whole at last.
 
Nietzsche’s new man, by contrast, was to be a creature of destructive creativity, beyond good and evil—a figure of blinding power and daimonic fury, uninhibited by the yearning of ordinary mortals for happiness, justice, or pity “For me,” Foucault explained in 1978, “what must be produced is not,” as in Marx, “the man identical with himself, such as nature has designated him, or according to his essence. .. .It is a question, rather, of the destruction of what we are, and of the creation of something totally other—a total innovation.” (p. 174)

“Once I was struck by a car in the street. I was walking. And for maybe two seconds I had the impression that I was dying and it was really a very, very intense pleasure. The weather was wonderful. It was seven o’clock during the summer. The sun was descending. The sky was very wonderful and blue and so on. It was, it still is now, one of my best memories.” (p. 306)

“I think that the central issue of philosophy’ and critical thought since the eighteenth century, has been, still is, and will, I hope, remain the question, What is this Reason that we use? What are its historical effects? What are its limits, and what are its dangers? How can we exist as rational beings, fortunately committed to practicing a rationality that is unfortunately crisscrossed by intrinsic dangers? One should remain as dose to this question as possible, keeping in mind that it is extremely difficult to resolve.“ (p. 337)

Nietzsche: “Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unnoticed memoir.” (p. 372)

[Foucault’s] will to know was unflinching and unrelenting. Pushing his mind and body repeatedly to the breaking point, he set a standard for the philosophical life that would be dangerous, if not impossible, for most human beings to emulate. If nothing else, his lifework, I think, proves the wisdom of Nietzsche’s adage that the ‘love of truth is terrible and mighty.’ (p. 385)

The Passion of Michel Foucault

James Miller

5 stars

  • “No one converses with me beside myself and my voice reaches me as the voice of one dying. With the beloved voice, with thee the last remembered breath of human happiness, let me discourse, even if it is only for another hour. Because of thee I delude myself as to my solitude and lie my way back to multiplicity and love, for my heart shies away from believing that love is dead. I cannot bear the icy shivers of loneliest solitude. It compels me to speak as though I were two.” –Nietzsche

  • To surrender one’s customary inhibitions and descend into what Heidegger called the “unthought,” the thinker had first to “learn to exist in the nameless.” To accomplish this paradoxical task, it was not philosophy but poetry and art that might light the way. “Language,” as Heidegger famously asserts, “is the house of Being”; but the metaphor is deceptive. For to inhabit, however contemplatively, the world revealed by the language of Sade, for example, was as likely to disturb as it was to comfort. “Concealed in the step back,” away from logic and conscious action, is “a thinking that is shattered.” Probing beyond the limits of reason, thinking sooner or later finds itself without statute or rule, structure or order, and face-to-face with nothing. (pp. 49-50)

  • This “great and rare” art could only be practiced by “those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason, and even weaknesses delight the eye. Here a large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of original nature has been removed—both times through long practice and daily work at it. Here the ugliness that could not be removed is concealed; there it has been reinterpreted and made sublime…. In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small.“ By freely applying the power of the will to sculpting and "styling” a self, one might cast into bold relief one’s “higher necessity,” and thereby turn even the most “dreadful accident” of fate into a thing of beauty. To become master of what one was, “to compel one’s chaos to become form"—that, as Nietzsche put it, "is the grand ambition here.” (pp. 90-91)

  • As every student of philosophy is taught, Kant maintained that our experience of the world could arise only on the basis of certain a priori categories: "Though all our knowledge begins with experience,” declared Kant, “it does not follow that it all arises out of experience.” […] By thus focusing philosophy on the capacities of the human being. Kant abandoned the view, shared by thinkers as different as Plato and Locke, that our concepts and categories for understanding the world, in order to be “true,” must conform to some independently existing reality. (p. 139)

  • The task of philosophy in the wake of Kant is thus twofold: first, it must examine the “historical a prioris” of possible experience through an empirical investigation of their tangled and often buried de facto roots in customs, habits, social institutions, scientific disciplines, and the specific language-games and styles of reasoning that informed each of these different domains. […]

    The second part of the twofold task of philosophy is to explore, without Kant’s inhibitions, the frontiers of possible experience. By exercising the transcendental freedom that Kant himself established as one basis of critique, one might also obtain a critical perspective on the “dark, firm net” of custom and habit, and elaborate what Foucault later called an “ontology of ourselves. "And one might do this most forcefully, as Foucault cryptically writes in his thesis, by moving from "an interrogation of the limit and of transgression” toward “an interrogation of the return of the self.”

    Only one thinker, Foucault concludes in 1960, has so far grasped the full implications of this twofold task—Friedrich Nietzsche: “The trajectory of the question, What is Man?, in the field of philosophy, culminates in the challenging and disarming response: the Overman.“ (p. 142)

  • An “epitome,” as Foucault defines it, is “an epistemological space specific to a particular period,” a general form of thinking and theorizing that establishes “what ideas can appear, what sciences can be constituted, what experiences can be reflected in philosophies, what rationalities can be formed, only, perhaps to dissolve and vanish soon afterwards.” (p. 150)

  • Marx’s new man was to be a creature of joyful harmony, beyond the cruel conflicts between master and slave, boss and worker—a figure of Promethean freedom and universal understanding, embodying in thought, labor, and love the beatific essence of the entire species. For a "humanism of the Marxist type,” as Foucault remarked in a 1978 interview, the problem was “to recover our ‘lost’ identity, to liberate our imprisoned nature, our truth at bottom.” With the end of alienation—and triumph of communism—what Marx called “the real individual” would stand forth, whole at last.

    Nietzsche’s new man, by contrast, was to be a creature of destructive creativity, beyond good and evil—a figure of blinding power and daimonic fury, uninhibited by the yearning of ordinary mortals for happiness, justice, or pity “For me,” Foucault explained in 1978, “what must be produced is not,” as in Marx, “the man identical with himself, such as nature has designated him, or according to his essence. .. .It is a question, rather, of the destruction of what we are, and of the creation of something totally other—a total innovation.” (p. 174)

  • “Once I was struck by a car in the street. I was walking. And for maybe two seconds I had the impression that I was dying and it was really a very, very intense pleasure. The weather was wonderful. It was seven o’clock during the summer. The sun was descending. The sky was very wonderful and blue and so on. It was, it still is now, one of my best memories.” (p. 306)

  • “I think that the central issue of philosophy’ and critical thought since the eighteenth century, has been, still is, and will, I hope, remain the question, What is this Reason that we use? What are its historical effects? What are its limits, and what are its dangers? How can we exist as rational beings, fortunately committed to practicing a rationality that is unfortunately crisscrossed by intrinsic dangers? One should remain as dose to this question as possible, keeping in mind that it is extremely difficult to resolve.“ (p. 337)

  • Nietzsche: “Gradually it has become clear to me what every great philosophy so far has been: namely, the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unnoticed memoir.” (p. 372)

  • [Foucault’s] will to know was unflinching and unrelenting. Pushing his mind and body repeatedly to the breaking point, he set a standard for the philosophical life that would be dangerous, if not impossible, for most human beings to emulate. If nothing else, his lifework, I think, proves the wisdom of Nietzsche’s adage that the ‘love of truth is terrible and mighty.’ (p. 385)

American Pastoral

Philip Roth

5 stars

American Pastoral

Philip Roth

5 stars

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini

3 stars

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini

3 stars

Drawing A Hypothesis

Nikolaus Gansterer

2 stars

Drawing A Hypothesis

Nikolaus Gansterer

2 stars

The Information

James Gleick

4 stars

“It is information, words, instructions…. If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.” (pp. 8-9)

For a while, until it became impractical, the telegraph companies tried to maintain a record of every message. This was information storage without precedent. (p. 149)

By the turn of the century, the telephone industry surpassed the telegraph by every measure— number of messages, miles of wire, capital invested— and telephone usage was doubling every few years. There was no mystery about why: anyone could use a telephone. The only skills required were talking and listening: no writing, no codes, no keypads. Everyone responded to the sound of the human voice; it conveyed not just words but feeling. (p. 188)

The telegraph demanded literacy; the telephone embraced orality. A message sent by telegraph had first to be written, encoded, and tapped out by a trained intermediary. To employ the telephone, one just talked. A child could use it. For that very reason it seemed like a toy. In fact, it seemed like a familiar toy, made from tin cylinders and string. The telephone left no permanent record. The Telephone had no future as a newspaper name. Business people thought it unserious. Where the telegraph dealt in facts and numbers, the telephone appealed to emotions. (p. 189)

The scattered members using telephones numbered half a million by 1890; by 1914, 10 million. (p. 191)

In 1908 John J. Carty, who became the first head of the Bell Laboratories, offered an information-based analysis to show how the telephone had shaped the New York skyline— arguing that the telephone, as much as the elevator, had made skyscrapers possible.

It may sound ridiculous to say that Bell and his successors were the fathers of modern commercial architecture— of the skyscraper. But wait a minute. Take the Singer Building, the Flatiron Building, the Broad Exchange, the Trinity, or any of the giant office buildings. How many messages do you suppose go in and out of those buildings every day? Suppose there was no telephone and every message had to be carried by a personal messenger? How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices? Such structures would be an economic impossibility. (p. 192)

Telephone books soon represented the most comprehensive listings of, and directories to, human populations ever attempted. (p. 194)

The first telephone operators were teenage boys, cheaply hired from the ranks of telegraph messengers, but exchanges everywhere discovered that boys were wild, given to clowning and practical jokes, and more likely to be found wrestling on the floor than sitting on stools to perform the exacting, repetitive work of a switchboard operator. A new source of cheap labor was available, and by 1881 virtually every telephone operator was a woman. In Cincinnati, for example, W. H. Eckert reported hiring sixty-six “young ladies” who were “very much superior” to boys: “They are steadier, do not drink beer, and are always on hand.” He hardly needed to add that the company could pay a woman as little as or less than a teenage boy. (pp. 194-195)

Along with another new technology, the typewriter, the telephone switchboard catalyzed the introduction of women into the white-collar workforce… (p. 195)

A conundrum that at least smelled similar had lately appeared in physics, too: Werner Heisenberg’s new uncertainty principle. When Turing learned about that, he expressed it in terms of self-reference: “It used to be supposed in Science that if everything was known about the Universe at any particular moment then we can predict what it will be through all the future.… More modern science however has come to the conclusion that when we are dealing with atoms and electrons we are quite unable to know the exact state of them; our instruments being made of atoms and electrons themselves.” (p. 212)

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, imprinted the second law on the popular imagination by reveling in its bleakness: “Although mechanical energy is indestructible,” he declared in 1862, “there is a universal tendency to its dissipation, which produces gradual augmentation and diffusion of heat, cessation of motion, and exhaustion of potential energy through the material universe. The result of this would be a state of universal rest and death.” (p. 271).

Suppose the box of gas is divided by a diaphragm. The gas on side A is hotter than the gas on side B— that is, the A molecules are moving faster, with greater energy. As soon as the divider is removed, the molecules begin to mix; the fast collide with the slow; energy is exchanged; and after some time the gas reaches a uniform temperature. The mystery is this: Why can the process not be reversed? In Newton’s equations of motion, time can have a plus sign or a minus sign; the mathematics works either way. In the real world past and future cannot be interchanged so easily. (p. 273).

Schrödinger felt that evading the second law for a while, or seeming to, is exactly why a living creature “appears so enigmatic.” (p. 283)

In other words, the organism sucks orderliness from its surroundings. (p. 283)

The genetic code performed a function with uncanny similarities to the metamathematical code invented by Gödel for his philosophical purposes. Gödel’s code substitutes plain numbers for mathematical expressions and operations; the genetic code uses triplets of nucleotides to represent amino acids. (p. 295)

“Look,” he told Judson, “let me give you an example. If you went to a biologist twenty years ago and asked him, How do you make a protein, he would have said, Well, that’s a horrible problem, I don’t know … but the important question is where do you get the energy to make the peptide bond. Whereas the molecular biologist would have said, That’s not the problem, the important problem is where do you get the instructions to assemble the sequence of amino acids, and to hell with the energy; the energy will look after itself.” (p. 299).

In his first book— published in 1976, meant for a broad audience, provocatively titled The Selfish Gene— he set off decades of debate by declaring: “We are survival machines— robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” He said this was a truth he had known for years.

Genes, not organisms, are the true units of natural selection. They began as “replicators”— molecules formed accidentally in the primordial soup, with the unusual property of making copies of themselves.

They are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines. (p. 301-302)

No one gene makes an organism. Insects and plants and animals are collectives, communal vehicles, cooperative assemblies of a multitude of genes, each playing its part in the organism’s development. It is a complex ensemble in which each gene interacts with thousands of others in a hierarchy of effects extending through both space and time. The body is a colony of genes. (p. 305)

Are there genes for such things? Not if a gene is a particular strand of DNA that expresses a protein. Strictly speaking, one cannot say there are genes for almost anything— not even eye color. Instead, one should say that differences in genes tend to cause differences in phenotype (the actualized organism). (p. 306)

The American neurophysiologist Roger Sperry had put forward a similar notion several years earlier, arguing that ideas are “just as real” as the neurons they inhabit. Ideas have power, he said.

Ideas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas. They interact with each other and with other mental forces in the same brain, in neighboring brains, and thanks to global communication, in far distant, foreign brains. And they also interact with the external surroundings to produce in toto a burstwise advance in evolution that is far beyond anything to hit the evolutionary scene yet.…(p. 311)

His rule is “All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities.” Wherever there is life, there must be replicators. (p. 311)

“Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” he wrote. They compete with one another for limited resources: brain time or bandwidth. They compete most of all for attention. (p. 312)

When Dawkins first floated the meme meme, Nicholas Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist, said immediately that these entities should be considered “living structures, not just metaphorically but technically”:

When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn’t just a way of talking— the meme for, say, “belief in life after death” is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over. (p. 315)

When a jingle lingers in our ears, or a fad turns fashion upside down, or a hoax dominates the global chatter for months and vanishes as swiftly as it came, who is master and who is slave? (p. 323)

Asking whether a number is interesting is the inverse of asking whether it is random. If the number n can be computed by an algorithm that is relatively short, then n is interesting. If not, it is random. (p. 340)

The sense of when we are— the ability to see the past spread out before one; the internalization of mental time charts; the appreciation of anachronism— came with the shift to print. (p. 400)

In 2007 this database revealed something that had eluded distinguished critics and listeners: that more than one hundred recordings released by the late English pianist Joyce Hatto— music by Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, and others— were actually stolen performances by other pianists. (p. 420)

The Information

James Gleick

4 stars

  • “It is information, words, instructions…. If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.” (pp. 8-9)

  • For a while, until it became impractical, the telegraph companies tried to maintain a record of every message. This was information storage without precedent. (p. 149)

  • By the turn of the century, the telephone industry surpassed the telegraph by every measure— number of messages, miles of wire, capital invested— and telephone usage was doubling every few years. There was no mystery about why: anyone could use a telephone. The only skills required were talking and listening: no writing, no codes, no keypads. Everyone responded to the sound of the human voice; it conveyed not just words but feeling. (p. 188)

  • The telegraph demanded literacy; the telephone embraced orality. A message sent by telegraph had first to be written, encoded, and tapped out by a trained intermediary. To employ the telephone, one just talked. A child could use it. For that very reason it seemed like a toy. In fact, it seemed like a familiar toy, made from tin cylinders and string. The telephone left no permanent record. The Telephone had no future as a newspaper name. Business people thought it unserious. Where the telegraph dealt in facts and numbers, the telephone appealed to emotions. (p. 189)

  • The scattered members using telephones numbered half a million by 1890; by 1914, 10 million. (p. 191)

  • In 1908 John J. Carty, who became the first head of the Bell Laboratories, offered an information-based analysis to show how the telephone had shaped the New York skyline— arguing that the telephone, as much as the elevator, had made skyscrapers possible.

    It may sound ridiculous to say that Bell and his successors were the fathers of modern commercial architecture— of the skyscraper. But wait a minute. Take the Singer Building, the Flatiron Building, the Broad Exchange, the Trinity, or any of the giant office buildings. How many messages do you suppose go in and out of those buildings every day? Suppose there was no telephone and every message had to be carried by a personal messenger? How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices? Such structures would be an economic impossibility. (p. 192)
  • Telephone books soon represented the most comprehensive listings of, and directories to, human populations ever attempted. (p. 194)

  • The first telephone operators were teenage boys, cheaply hired from the ranks of telegraph messengers, but exchanges everywhere discovered that boys were wild, given to clowning and practical jokes, and more likely to be found wrestling on the floor than sitting on stools to perform the exacting, repetitive work of a switchboard operator. A new source of cheap labor was available, and by 1881 virtually every telephone operator was a woman. In Cincinnati, for example, W. H. Eckert reported hiring sixty-six “young ladies” who were “very much superior” to boys: “They are steadier, do not drink beer, and are always on hand.” He hardly needed to add that the company could pay a woman as little as or less than a teenage boy. (pp. 194-195)

  • Along with another new technology, the typewriter, the telephone switchboard catalyzed the introduction of women into the white-collar workforce… (p. 195)

  • A conundrum that at least smelled similar had lately appeared in physics, too: Werner Heisenberg’s new uncertainty principle. When Turing learned about that, he expressed it in terms of self-reference: “It used to be supposed in Science that if everything was known about the Universe at any particular moment then we can predict what it will be through all the future.… More modern science however has come to the conclusion that when we are dealing with atoms and electrons we are quite unable to know the exact state of them; our instruments being made of atoms and electrons themselves.” (p. 212)

  • William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, imprinted the second law on the popular imagination by reveling in its bleakness: “Although mechanical energy is indestructible,” he declared in 1862, “there is a universal tendency to its dissipation, which produces gradual augmentation and diffusion of heat, cessation of motion, and exhaustion of potential energy through the material universe. The result of this would be a state of universal rest and death.” (p. 271).

  • Suppose the box of gas is divided by a diaphragm. The gas on side A is hotter than the gas on side B— that is, the A molecules are moving faster, with greater energy. As soon as the divider is removed, the molecules begin to mix; the fast collide with the slow; energy is exchanged; and after some time the gas reaches a uniform temperature. The mystery is this: Why can the process not be reversed? In Newton’s equations of motion, time can have a plus sign or a minus sign; the mathematics works either way. In the real world past and future cannot be interchanged so easily. (p. 273).

  • Schrödinger felt that evading the second law for a while, or seeming to, is exactly why a living creature “appears so enigmatic.” (p. 283)

  • In other words, the organism sucks orderliness from its surroundings. (p. 283)

  • The genetic code performed a function with uncanny similarities to the metamathematical code invented by Gödel for his philosophical purposes. Gödel’s code substitutes plain numbers for mathematical expressions and operations; the genetic code uses triplets of nucleotides to represent amino acids. (p. 295)

  • “Look,” he told Judson, “let me give you an example. If you went to a biologist twenty years ago and asked him, How do you make a protein, he would have said, Well, that’s a horrible problem, I don’t know … but the important question is where do you get the energy to make the peptide bond. Whereas the molecular biologist would have said, That’s not the problem, the important problem is where do you get the instructions to assemble the sequence of amino acids, and to hell with the energy; the energy will look after itself.” (p. 299).

  • In his first book— published in 1976, meant for a broad audience, provocatively titled The Selfish Gene— he set off decades of debate by declaring: “We are survival machines— robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” He said this was a truth he had known for years.

    Genes, not organisms, are the true units of natural selection. They began as “replicators”— molecules formed accidentally in the primordial soup, with the unusual property of making copies of themselves.

    They are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines. (p. 301-302)
  • No one gene makes an organism. Insects and plants and animals are collectives, communal vehicles, cooperative assemblies of a multitude of genes, each playing its part in the organism’s development. It is a complex ensemble in which each gene interacts with thousands of others in a hierarchy of effects extending through both space and time. The body is a colony of genes. (p. 305)

  • Are there genes for such things? Not if a gene is a particular strand of DNA that expresses a protein. Strictly speaking, one cannot say there are genes for almost anything— not even eye color. Instead, one should say that differences in genes tend to cause differences in phenotype (the actualized organism). (p. 306)

  • The American neurophysiologist Roger Sperry had put forward a similar notion several years earlier, arguing that ideas are “just as real” as the neurons they inhabit. Ideas have power, he said.

    Ideas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas. They interact with each other and with other mental forces in the same brain, in neighboring brains, and thanks to global communication, in far distant, foreign brains. And they also interact with the external surroundings to produce in toto a burstwise advance in evolution that is far beyond anything to hit the evolutionary scene yet.…(p. 311)
  • His rule is “All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities.” Wherever there is life, there must be replicators. (p. 311)

  • “Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” he wrote. They compete with one another for limited resources: brain time or bandwidth. They compete most of all for attention. (p. 312)

  • When Dawkins first floated the meme meme, Nicholas Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist, said immediately that these entities should be considered “living structures, not just metaphorically but technically”:

    When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn’t just a way of talking— the meme for, say, “belief in life after death” is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over. (p. 315)
  • When a jingle lingers in our ears, or a fad turns fashion upside down, or a hoax dominates the global chatter for months and vanishes as swiftly as it came, who is master and who is slave? (p. 323)

  • Asking whether a number is interesting is the inverse of asking whether it is random. If the number n can be computed by an algorithm that is relatively short, then n is interesting. If not, it is random. (p. 340)

  • The sense of when we are— the ability to see the past spread out before one; the internalization of mental time charts; the appreciation of anachronism— came with the shift to print. (p. 400)

  • In 2007 this database revealed something that had eluded distinguished critics and listeners: that more than one hundred recordings released by the late English pianist Joyce Hatto— music by Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, and others— were actually stolen performances by other pianists. (p. 420)

Herakleitos and Diogenes

Translated by Guy Davenport

4 stars

Herakleitos and Diogenes

Translated by Guy Davenport

4 stars

Superintelligence

Nick Bostrom

3 stars

Superintelligence

Nick Bostrom

3 stars

Meditations

Marcus Aurelius

3 stars

Meditations

Marcus Aurelius

3 stars

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You are

Alan Watts

2 stars

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You are

Alan Watts

2 stars

Sex at Dawn

Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

5 stars

Sex at Dawn

Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

5 stars

Monogamy

Adam Phillips

3 stars

Monogamy

Adam Phillips

3 stars

Chronicles: Volume 1

Bob Dylan

5 stars

Chronicles: Volume 1

Bob Dylan

5 stars

The New Topping Book

Dossie Easton & Janet W. Hardy

4 stars

The New Topping Book

Dossie Easton & Janet W. Hardy

4 stars

Against Love

Laura Kipnis

5 stars

Against Love

Laura Kipnis

5 stars

Sonic Alchemy

David N. Howard

3 stars

Sonic Alchemy

David N. Howard

3 stars

Tinkers

Paul Harding

3 stars

Tinkers

Paul Harding

3 stars

The Martian

Andy Weir

4 stars

The Martian

Andy Weir

4 stars

Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes

5 stars

Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes

5 stars

Zero to One

Peter Thiel

5 stars

Zero to One

Peter Thiel

5 stars

Badass: Making Users Awesome

Kathy Sierra

4 stars

Badass: Making Users Awesome

Kathy Sierra

4 stars

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

David Graeber

4 stars

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

David Graeber

4 stars

The Dwarf

Par Lagerkvist

4 stars

The Dwarf

Par Lagerkvist

4 stars

The Age of Cryptocurrency

Paul Vigna & Michael J. Casey

4 stars

The Age of Cryptocurrency

Paul Vigna & Michael J. Casey

4 stars

The Box

Marc Levinson

3 stars

The Box

Marc Levinson

3 stars

Indignation

Philip Roth

5 stars

Indignation

Philip Roth

5 stars

Death by Meeting

Patrick Lencioni

1 star

Death by Meeting

Patrick Lencioni

1 star

Seeking Wisdom

Peter Bevelin

4 stars

Seeking Wisdom

Peter Bevelin

4 stars

The Golden Mean

Nick Bantock

4 stars

The Golden Mean

Nick Bantock

4 stars

Sabine’s Notebook

Nick Bantock

4 stars

Sabine’s Notebook

Nick Bantock

4 stars

Griffin & Sabine

Nick Bantock

4 stars

Griffin & Sabine

Nick Bantock

4 stars

The Saga of Gösta Berling

Selma Lagerlöf

2 stars

The Saga of Gösta Berling

Selma Lagerlöf

2 stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer

5 stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer

5 stars

The Mezzanine

Nicholson Baker

3 stars

The Mezzanine

Nicholson Baker

3 stars

Doctor Glas

Hjalmar Söderberg

4 stars

Doctor Glas

Hjalmar Söderberg

4 stars

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

Catherine Millet

4 stars

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

Catherine Millet

4 stars

Anarchists in the Boardroom

Liam Barrington-Bush

2 stars

Anarchists in the Boardroom

Liam Barrington-Bush

2 stars

The Innovator’s DNA

Jeff Dyer

3 stars

The Innovator’s DNA

Jeff Dyer

3 stars

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Barbara Ehrenreich

5 stars

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Barbara Ehrenreich

5 stars

The Harvard Psychedelic Club

Don Lattin

3 stars

The Harvard Psychedelic Club

Don Lattin

3 stars

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz

4 stars

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz

4 stars

The Innovator’s Solution

Clayton Christensen

5 stars

The Innovator’s Solution

Clayton Christensen

5 stars

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan Haidt

5 stars

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan Haidt

5 stars

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Dan Millman

4 stars

Way of the Peaceful Warrior

Dan Millman

4 stars

The Personal MBA

Josh Kaufman

3 stars

The Personal MBA

Josh Kaufman

3 stars

Levels of Life

Julian Barnes

3 stars

Levels of Life

Julian Barnes

3 stars

Future Perfect

Steven Johnson

3 stars

Future Perfect

Steven Johnson

3 stars

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

4 stars

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

4 stars

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Robert T. Kiyosaki

2 stars

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Robert T. Kiyosaki

2 stars

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick M. Lencioni

4 stars

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick M. Lencioni

4 stars

Let My People Go Surfing

Yvon Chouinard

4 stars

Let My People Go Surfing

Yvon Chouinard

4 stars

World War Z

Max Brooks

4 stars

World War Z

Max Brooks

4 stars

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths

John Gray

4 stars

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths

John Gray

4 stars

Ten Billion

Stephen Emmott

3 stars

Ten Billion

Stephen Emmott

3 stars

The Guardians

Sarah Manguso

3 stars

The Guardians

Sarah Manguso

3 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

3 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

3 stars

Blind

Sophie Calle

4 stars

Blind

Sophie Calle

4 stars

The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester

3 stars

The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester

3 stars

The Tao of Wu

The RZA

3 stars

The Tao of Wu

The RZA

3 stars

UX for Lean Startups

Laura Klein

4 stars

UX for Lean Startups

Laura Klein

4 stars

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

4 stars

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

4 stars

Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky

4 stars

Rules for Radicals

Saul Alinsky

4 stars

Creative Collaborations

Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar, and Paul Kaiser

4 stars

Creative Collaborations

Marc Downie, Shelley Eshkar, and Paul Kaiser

4 stars

Old Masters

Thomas Bernhard

3 stars

Old Masters

Thomas Bernhard

3 stars

The Comfort of Strangers

Ian McEwan

3 stars

The Comfort of Strangers

Ian McEwan

3 stars

Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents

Ellen Ullman

4 stars

Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents

Ellen Ullman

4 stars

Beautiful Evidence

Edward Tufte

5 stars

Beautiful Evidence

Edward Tufte

5 stars

The Design of Everyday Things

Donald A. Norman

4 stars

The Design of Everyday Things

Donald A. Norman

4 stars

Designing with the Mind in Mind

Jeff Johnson

2 stars

Designing with the Mind in Mind

Jeff Johnson

2 stars

Why We Buy

Paco Underhill

3 stars

Why We Buy

Paco Underhill

3 stars

Web Form Design

Luke Wroblewski

3 stars

Web Form Design

Luke Wroblewski

3 stars

Designing for People

Henry Dreyfuss

5 stars

Designing for People

Henry Dreyfuss

5 stars

Buddhism Without Beliefs

Stephen Batchelor

4 stars

Buddhism Without Beliefs

Stephen Batchelor

4 stars

Catching the Big Fish

David Lynch

3 stars

Catching the Big Fish

David Lynch

3 stars

Recipes for Systemic Change

Bryan Boyer, Justin W. Cook & Marco Steinberg

4 stars

Recipes for Systemic Change

Bryan Boyer, Justin W. Cook & Marco Steinberg

4 stars

The Unexpected Universe

Loren Eiseley

5 stars

The Unexpected Universe

Loren Eiseley

5 stars

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

3 stars

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

3 stars

Designing Design

Kenya Hara

5 stars

Designing Design

Kenya Hara

5 stars

Next Nature: Nature Changes Along with Us

Koert Van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink

4 stars

Next Nature: Nature Changes Along with Us

Koert Van Mensvoort and Hendrik-Jan Grievink

4 stars

A Mathematician’s Lament

Paul Lockhart

5 stars

A Mathematician’s Lament

Paul Lockhart

5 stars

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Scott McCloud

5 stars

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Scott McCloud

5 stars

Universal Methods of Design

Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington

3 stars

Universal Methods of Design

Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington

3 stars

Small Houses

Claudia Hildner

5 stars

Small Houses

Claudia Hildner

5 stars

100 Diagrams That Changed the World

Scott Christianson

4 stars

100 Diagrams That Changed the World

Scott Christianson

4 stars

Shaping Things

Bruce Sterling

4 stars

Shaping Things

Bruce Sterling

4 stars

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Donella H. Meadows

4 stars

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Donella H. Meadows

4 stars

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design

Alan Cooper

5 stars

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design

Alan Cooper

5 stars

Sophie Calle: The Address Book

Sophie Calle

5 stars

Sophie Calle: The Address Book

Sophie Calle

5 stars

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Alan Cooper

5 stars

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Alan Cooper

5 stars

Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

Kay Larson

4 stars

Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

Kay Larson

4 stars

A Year With Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary

Brian Eno

5 stars

A Year With Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary

Brian Eno

5 stars

Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

Paul Graham

4 stars

Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

Paul Graham

4 stars

The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth

Joseph Turow

4 stars

The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth

Joseph Turow

4 stars

The Men in My Life

Vivian Gornick

4 stars

The Men in My Life

Vivian Gornick

4 stars

Antigonick

Anne Carson

3 stars

Antigonick

Anne Carson

3 stars

Scientific Advertising

Claude C Hopkins

4 stars

Scientific Advertising

Claude C Hopkins

4 stars

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clayton M. Christensen

5 stars

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Clayton M. Christensen

5 stars

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Cormac McCarthy

5 stars

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Cormac McCarthy

5 stars

It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be
Paul Arden

4 stars

It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be

Paul Arden

4 stars

Managing Oneself
Peter Ferdinand Drucker
4 stars

Managing Oneself

Peter Ferdinand Drucker

4 stars

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories

Truman Capote

4 stars

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories

Truman Capote

4 stars

The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes

4 stars

The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes

4 stars

How to Read Wittgenstein

Ray Monk

3 stars

How to Read Wittgenstein

Ray Monk

3 stars

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott

5 stars

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott

5 stars

The 48 Laws of Power

Robert Greene

5 stars

The 48 Laws of Power

Robert Greene

5 stars

Designing Interactions

Bill Moggridge

5 stars

Designing Interactions

Bill Moggridge

5 stars

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

William Styron

4 stars

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

William Styron

4 stars

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson

4 stars

Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson

4 stars

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

Brant Cooper

4 stars

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

Brant Cooper

4 stars

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

5 stars

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

5 stars

The Human Stain

Philip Roth

4 stars

The Human Stain

Philip Roth

4 stars

On the Shortness of Life

Seneca

5 stars

On the Shortness of Life

Seneca

5 stars

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Clayton M. Christensen

5 stars

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Clayton M. Christensen

5 stars

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries

4 stars

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries

4 stars

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

4 stars

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

4 stars

Understanding Design

Kees Dorst

3 stars

Understanding Design

Kees Dorst

3 stars

Function, Restraint, and Subversion in Typography

J. Namdev Hardisty

4 stars

Function, Restraint, and Subversion in Typography

J. Namdev Hardisty

4 stars

A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Roland Barthes

2 stars

A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

Roland Barthes

2 stars

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain De Botton

4 stars

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Alain De Botton

4 stars

101 Things I Learned in Business School

Michael W. Preis

2 stars

101 Things I Learned in Business School

Michael W. Preis

2 stars

Dying Inside

Robert Silverberg

3 stars

Dying Inside

Robert Silverberg

3 stars

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Andrew Bolton

4 stars

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Andrew Bolton

4 stars

The Timeless Way of Building

Christopher Alexander

4 stars

The Timeless Way of Building

Christopher Alexander

4 stars

Thinking Architecture

Peter Zumthor

4 stars

Thinking Architecture

Peter Zumthor

4 stars

Venus in Furs

Leopold von Sacher Masoch

4 stars

Venus in Furs

Leopold von Sacher Masoch

4 stars

End of the Affair

Graham Greene

3 stars

End of the Affair

Graham Greene

3 stars

The Art of Looking Sideways

Alan Fletcher

4 stars

The Art of Looking Sideways

Alan Fletcher

4 stars

The Invention of Morel

Adolfo Bioy Casares

3 stars

The Invention of Morel

Adolfo Bioy Casares

3 stars

The Art of Travel

Alain De Botton

4 stars

The Art of Travel

Alain De Botton

4 stars

Ariel

Sylvia Plath

3 stars

Ariel

Sylvia Plath

3 stars

Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

Stephen Few

5 stars

Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data

Stephen Few

5 stars

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

4 stars

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

William B. Irvine

4 stars

Wetlands

Charlotte Roche

3 stars

Wetlands

Charlotte Roche

3 stars

Eating the Dinosaur

Chuck Klosterman

4 stars

Eating the Dinosaur

Chuck Klosterman

4 stars

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug

4 stars

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

Steve Krug

4 stars

The Medium is the Massage

Marshall McLuhan

4 stars

The Medium is the Massage

Marshall McLuhan

4 stars

Metaphors We Live By

George Lakoff

4 stars

Metaphors We Live By

George Lakoff

4 stars

Dan Flavin: A Retrospective

Michael Govan

3 stars

Dan Flavin: A Retrospective

Michael Govan

3 stars

If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters

Wolfgang Tillmans

2 stars

If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters

Wolfgang Tillmans

2 stars

The Voice Imitator

Thomas Bernhard

2 stars

The Voice Imitator

Thomas Bernhard

2 stars

Notes on the Synthesis of Form

Christopher Alexander

5 stars

Notes on the Synthesis of Form

Christopher Alexander

5 stars

101 Things I Learned in Fashion School

Alfredo Cabrera

4 stars

101 Things I Learned in Fashion School

Alfredo Cabrera

4 stars

Unknown Halsman

Oliver Halsman Rosenberg

4 stars

Unknown Halsman

Oliver Halsman Rosenberg

4 stars

Design: A Very Short Introduction

John Heskett

3 stars

Design: A Very Short Introduction

John Heskett

3 stars

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Steven Johnson

4 stars

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Steven Johnson

4 stars

Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design

Khoi Vinh

3 stars

Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design

Khoi Vinh

3 stars

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

Klaus Klemp

4 stars

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

Klaus Klemp

4 stars

Grid Systems in Graphic Design

Josef Muller-Brockmann

4 stars

Grid Systems in Graphic Design

Josef Muller-Brockmann

4 stars

I Wonder

Marian Bantjes

4 stars

I Wonder

Marian Bantjes

4 stars

The Vignelli Canon

Massimo Vignelli

4 stars

The Vignelli Canon

Massimo Vignelli

4 stars

C

Tom McCarthy

2 stars

C

Tom McCarthy

2 stars

Unspecial Effects for Graphic Designers

Bob Gill

3 stars

Unspecial Effects for Graphic Designers

Bob Gill

3 stars

Typographic Systems of Design

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Typographic Systems of Design

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation

Kristin Knox

4 stars

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation

Kristin Knox

4 stars

Exquisite Pain

Sophie Calle

3 stars

Exquisite Pain

Sophie Calle

3 stars

Looker

Richard Kern

4 stars

Looker

Richard Kern

4 stars

Art Direction Explained, At Last!

Steven Heller

4 stars

Art Direction Explained, At Last!

Steven Heller

4 stars

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

Matthew Frederick

5 stars

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

Matthew Frederick

5 stars

Designers Don’t Read

Austin Howe

4 stars

Designers Don’t Read

Austin Howe

4 stars

Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design

Paola Antonelli

4 stars

Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design

Paola Antonelli

4 stars

A General Theory of Love

Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon

3 stars

A General Theory of Love

Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon

3 stars

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Edward R. Tufte

5 stars

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Edward R. Tufte

5 stars

Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

Erik Spiekermann

3 stars

Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

Erik Spiekermann

3 stars

Designed by Peter Saville

Peter Saville

5 stars

Designed by Peter Saville

Peter Saville

5 stars

White

Kenya Hara

3 stars

White

Kenya Hara

3 stars

Appointment with Sigmund Freud

Sophie Calle

4 stars

Appointment with Sigmund Freud

Sophie Calle

4 stars

Detail In Typography

Jost Hochuli

4 stars

Detail In Typography

Jost Hochuli

4 stars

The Design of Design

Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

4 stars

The Design of Design

Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

4 stars

Rework

Jason Fried

4 stars

Rework

Jason Fried

4 stars

Geometry of Design

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Geometry of Design

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Visual Grammar

Christian Leborg

3 stars

Visual Grammar

Christian Leborg

3 stars

Economy of the Unlost

Anne Carson

3 stars

Economy of the Unlost

Anne Carson

3 stars

Graphic Design: The New Basics

Ellen Lupton

3 stars

Graphic Design: The New Basics

Ellen Lupton

3 stars

Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Grid Systems: Principles of Organizing Type

Kimberly Elam

4 stars

Civilization and Its Discontents

Sigmund Freud

4 stars

Civilization and Its Discontents

Sigmund Freud

4 stars

The Laws of Simplicity

John Maeda

2 stars

The Laws of Simplicity

John Maeda

2 stars

Everyman

Philip Roth

4 stars

Everyman

Philip Roth

4 stars

The Eye

Vladimir Nabokov

3 stars

The Eye

Vladimir Nabokov

3 stars

Eros the Bittersweet

Anne Carson

4 stars

Eros the Bittersweet

Anne Carson

4 stars

Getting Real

Jason Fried

4 stars

Getting Real

Jason Fried

4 stars

Take Care of Yourself

Sophie Calle

5 stars

Take Care of Yourself

Sophie Calle

5 stars

The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus

Cyril Connolly

2 stars

The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus

Cyril Connolly

2 stars

Short Talks

Anne Carson

3 stars

Short Talks

Anne Carson

3 stars

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Anne Carson

5 stars

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Anne Carson

5 stars

The Black Swan

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

3 stars

The Black Swan

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

3 stars

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Matthew B. Crawford

5 stars

Shop Class as Soulcraft

Matthew B. Crawford

5 stars

The Consolations of Philosophy

Alain De Botton

4 stars

The Consolations of Philosophy

Alain De Botton

4 stars

What Are Intellectuals Good For?

George Scialabba

3 stars

What Are Intellectuals Good For?

George Scialabba

3 stars

Decreation

Anne Carson

4 stars

Decreation

Anne Carson

4 stars

Glass, Irony and God

Anne Carson

3 stars

Glass, Irony and God

Anne Carson

3 stars

Nox

Anne Carson

5 stars

Nox

Anne Carson

5 stars

Men in the Off Hours

Anne Carson

5 stars

Men in the Off Hours

Anne Carson

5 stars

Double Game

Sophie Calle

4 stars

Double Game

Sophie Calle

4 stars

Maxims

La Rochefoucauld

5 stars

Maxims

La Rochefoucauld

5 stars

Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field

Helen Armstrong

3 stars

Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field

Helen Armstrong

3 stars

The Architecture of Happiness

Alain De Botton

4 stars

The Architecture of Happiness

Alain De Botton

4 stars

Interaction of Color

Josef Albers

3 stars

Interaction of Color

Josef Albers

3 stars

Thinking with Type

Ellen Lupton

4 stars

Thinking with Type

Ellen Lupton

4 stars

Designing Visual Interfaces

Kevin Mullet

3 stars

Designing Visual Interfaces

Kevin Mullet

3 stars

Life and Times of Michael K: A Novel

J. M. Coetzee

2 stars

Life and Times of Michael K: A Novel

J. M. Coetzee

2 stars

The Basketball Diaries

Jim Carroll

3 stars

The Basketball Diaries

Jim Carroll

3 stars

Angels

Denis Johnson

4 stars

Angels

Denis Johnson

4 stars

Laughable Loves

Milan Kundera

2 stars

Laughable Loves

Milan Kundera

2 stars

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace

5 stars

Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace

5 stars

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

David Foster Wallace

5 stars

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

David Foster Wallace

5 stars

Oblivion

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

Oblivion

David Foster Wallace

4 stars

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Richard P. Feynman

4 stars

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Richard P. Feynman

4 stars

The Game

Neil Strauss

3 stars

The Game

Neil Strauss

3 stars

The Coming Insurrection

The Invisible Committee

1 star

The Coming Insurrection

The Invisible Committee

1 star

Stoner

John Williams

5 stars

Stoner

John Williams

5 stars

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

Lawrence Weschler

5 stars

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

Lawrence Weschler

5 stars

Hatred of Democracy

Jacques Rancière

4 stars

Hatred of Democracy

Jacques Rancière

4 stars

The Beauty of the Husband

Anne Carson

3 stars

The Beauty of the Husband

Anne Carson

3 stars

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

David Shields

4 stars

The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead

David Shields

4 stars

Self-Made Man

Norah Vincent

4 stars

Self-Made Man

Norah Vincent

4 stars

On Love

Alain de Botton

3 stars

On Love

Alain de Botton

3 stars

Status Anxiety

Alain De Botton

5 stars

Status Anxiety

Alain De Botton

5 stars

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Richard C. Lewontin

3 stars

Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA

Richard C. Lewontin

3 stars

Plainwater

Anne Carson

4 stars

Plainwater

Anne Carson

4 stars

Autobiography of Red

Anne Carson

5 stars

Autobiography of Red

Anne Carson

5 stars

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

Alex Ross

4 stars

The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century

Alex Ross

4 stars

White Teeth

Zadie Smith

4 stars

White Teeth

Zadie Smith

4 stars

The Dying Animal

Philip Roth

4 stars

The Dying Animal

Philip Roth

4 stars

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz

5 stars

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz

5 stars

Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time

Stephen A. Mitchell

4 stars

Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time

Stephen A. Mitchell

4 stars

On Beauty

Zadie Smith

4 stars

On Beauty

Zadie Smith

4 stars

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Richard Rorty

4 stars

Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature

Richard Rorty

4 stars

The Moviegoer

Walker Percy

1 star

The Moviegoer

Walker Percy

1 star

Mating

Norman Rush

3 stars

Mating

Norman Rush

3 stars

God Is Dead

Ron Currie Jr.

2 stars

God Is Dead

Ron Currie Jr.

2 stars

Violence

Slavoj Zizek

4 stars

Violence

Slavoj Zizek

4 stars