A compilation of the book reviews I've written, as well as a few other books that I haven't written reviews of but recommend.

Non Fiction

Philosophy

Free Will - Sam Harris Growing up, I dismissed the issue of free will as something that people worry about when they have too much time on their hands. Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and doctor, attempts (and mostly succeeds) at giving the question of free will the scientific treatment through various experiments and clinical findings, rather than pure speculation. Less than a hundred pages long, and well worth it for the food for thought.

Psychology

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman A book that will show you just how human you actually are. The author won a Nobel Prize for his work and it really is that important, going through many different heuristics and biases that we unconsciously use and that can lead us astray. A great look at the limitations of our own psychology.

The Design of Everyday Things - Don Norman Fantastic book, almost 30 years old but still extremely relevant. This is applied psychology at its best.

What Every BODY Is Saying - Don Navarro A book about body language. Pretty straightforward, worth reading if you aren't a natural at this already.

How To Win Friends And Influence People - Dale Carnegie Cheesy title, but to be fair it was written 80 years ago. It's a 300 page listicle giving instruction in the basic people skills that most people should know but somehow manage to get to adulthood without learning them all most of the time. Worth reading if only to make sure you're not a social moron like me.

Philosophy of Science (Epistemology)

Fooled By Randomness - Nassim Nicholas Taleb This is the first of a trilogy that the author calls 'Incerto'. This first book speaks about the role of uncertainty in investment. I actually read it after the second book of the trilogy (The Black Swan, below) and I'd say it's safe to skip. The Black Swan applies the same idea as this, except to more general applications than just investment, and is a strictly better analysis of the same idea.

The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb The second of Taleb's "Incerto" trilogy. A philosophical essay on the nature of uncertainty and unpredictability. This taught me more about the boundaries of statistics than my degree did, as well as a whole new way to look at risk, both to mitigate it and take advantage of it.

The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver A more rigorous, mathematical treatment to the question of uncertainty (when compared to the Black Swan), Silver goes through several case studies - weather, stocks, sport, poker, elections - illustration the statistical tools used in each field, and where the state of the art is today. The book was written after Silver successfully predicted the results of 49/50 states in the 2008 US presidential election, so he certainly knows what he's talking about.

Finance

The Intelligent Investor - Benjamin Graham and Jason Zweig This is THE book to read if you know nothing about investing and want to change that. Comprehensive and deep, I walked away from this finally feeling like I knew what the hell to do with my savings (whenever I have some).

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - Burton G. Malkiel Similar to 'The Intelligent Investor' mentioned above but a little less comprehensive and a little more recent. Good as a follow up to reinforce a lot of the same ideas, the core theme being that stock traders do no better than selecting stocks by throwing a dart while blindfolded. So don't give them your money.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis A book alleging that with the onslaught of ever faster computers and telecommunications lines, high frequency traders have been fleecing the common folk. A fun read, but definitely don't read it without also reading...

Flash Boys: Not So Fast: An Insider's Guide to High Frequency Trading - Peter Kovac A book that thoroughly demolishes the premise of the prior book, and is actually written by someone with a clue. While I wouldn't recommend Flash Boys by itself, if you read this as a companion, you'll learn a lot about a) the value of not believing everything you read and b) how the underlying infrastructure of the stock market works, and what happens between hitting buy and actually getting your shares.

Writing

The Elements of Style - Strunk and White Short little handbook full of rules about good writing. The rules are arguably subjective, but if you choose to follow them they will greatly tighten up your writing. I need to read this one again, it's so compact and short that I've forgotten a lot of it since I read it in 2015.

History

Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days Of The War On Drugs - Johann Hari A book that examines the origins, history and future of the war on drugs. A fascinating read and one I recommend everyone reads before commenting on drug policy.

The Better Angels Of Our Nature - Steven Pinker A book that spans much of human history, and examines the declining trend in violence over time as well as the forces responsible for that trend.

Fiction

Speculative Fiction

Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein This book was really controversial when it was written in 1961, and for good reason, as it, through the eyes of a clueless Martian protagonist, reevaluates such institutions as religion, money, monogamy, and the fear of death.

Accelerando - Charles Stross This book twisted my conception of what the future could be with each new paragraph - and it's freely available online.

Literary Fiction

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace I don't even know how to describe this sprawling, epic, encyclopaedic novel. It explores the lives of people at a tennis academy (DFW was himself a tennis star) and a nearby rehabilitation centre. I think the best review I can give is to embed his speech 'This is Water':


Done? Now imagine 1000 pages of that sort of insight.

Other Book Reviews

A Theory of Fun - Raph Koster This book was a pretty interesting essay on what makes games fun, but ultimately I didn't find it a very fulfilling read and didn't get much out of it. Good for those clueless about gaming as a pasttime, but you probably aren't in that boat if you're reading it.