Inspired by Visakan Veerasamy (@visakanv) and Patrick Collison (@patrickc).

This is a list of books, essays, papers, and talks that live rent-free in my head, in roughly the order I consumed them.

Got a recommendation? Send me an e-mail.


  • dozens in the Geronimo Stilton series

  • Ripley's Believe It or Not! Optical Illusions by L. C. Casterline

  • The Holy Bible by various authors

  • Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese [LINK]

  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

    — Have yet to finish the rest of the books

  • The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

    — I haven't read the rest of the series to this day, unfortunately.

  • Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection by Isaac Asimov

  • The PhD Grind by Philip J. Guo

  • Sterile by u/flossdaily [LINK]

    — Not really a book, but one of the first Reddit stories I have ever read

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  • 🚫 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

    — This is actually an anti-recommendation. I hated this book when I was a kid because Ender to me was just so insufferable. Probably why I also couldn't finish Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (HPMOR)

  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter

  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

  • (that thing with lots of bad economics that shall not be named)

  • (that thing about bread that shall not be named)

  • 1984 by George Orwell

  • Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

    — Absorbed through osmosis

  • The Tao of Programming by Geoffrey James

  • Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy

    — I finished this book enraged: angry that I will never take part in such a deep subculture due to the accident of my birth. In many ways, that anger still guides my decision-making to this day (Apr 2024).

  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson

  • Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

  • The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene

  • Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

  • 🚫 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    — It was around this time when I realised that I'm not at fault when books aren't engaging. I went through this and promptly forgot everything in it, though it did help me appreciate some of the lore in the Dishonored series of games

  • The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins

  • The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman

  • The World of Mathematics, vols. I-IV by James R. Newman

  • Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

  • How to Become A Straight-A Student by Cal Newport

  • Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    — This informed my initial views on autism and mental health in general.

  • Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John Drury Clark

  • Mort by Terry Pratchett

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

  • Human Compatible by Stuart Russell

  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte

  • Recoltes et Semailles by Alexander Grothendieck

  • Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

  • Ready Player One by Ernst Cline

  • How to Solve It by George Polya

  • Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, vol. I by George Polya

  • Mathematical Problem Solving by Alan Schoenfeld

  • The Princeton Companion to Mathematics by various authors

    — Definitely not the entire book, probably ~10 sections only

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

  • Startup Playbook by Sam Altman

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel

  • Inadequate Equilibria by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock

  • Focusing by Eugene Gendlin

    — Absorbed through osmosis

  • The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

  • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

    — This is an example of a book that could have been a blog post. I basically stopped reading once it was clear that he was just going to repeat the same thing about checklists being important all throughout.

  • How to Measure Anything by Douglas W. Hubbard

  • The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect by Judea Pearl

  • Competing Against Time by George Stalk

  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    — Like The Checklist Manifesto, this could have been a blog post

  • Seeing Like A State by James C. Scott

    — Absorbed through osmosis

  • Worm by James McCrae (wildbow)

  • Mother of Learning by Domagoj Kurmaic (nobody103)

  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

  • The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing by Steven Pinker

  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

    — I didn't really finish this, but the metanarrative point about story-truth vs happening-truth has never left me

  • Liber Augmen by John David Pressman [LINK]

    — Not really a book per-se, but is long and self-contained enough to qualify as one

  • Playing to Win by David Sirlin

  • Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster

  • Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King

    — This is probably the only one in the water supply that actually talks about the mechanics of storytelling; compare On Writing by Stephen King

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

  • With a Single Spell by Lawrence Watt-Evans

  • Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction by Quentin Skinner

  • Naming and Necessity by Saul Kripke

  • Great Founder Theory by Samo Burja

    — If I could sleep with a book under my pillow for the rest of my life, this will probably be it.

  • Talent by Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross

  • Friendly Ambitious Nerd by Visakan Veerasamy

  • CFAR Handbook by Duncan Sabien

  • Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows

    — I hunted and pecked through this book in a hurry for the 2020 Mars Society City Design Competition. Would love to re-read this in more detail.

  • How To Industrialize Mars: A Strategy For Self-Sufficiency by Casey Handmer

  • No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz

    — Absorbed through osmosis

  • The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm by Lewis Dartnell

  • Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

  • Pricing Money by J. D. A. Wiseman

    — Not even a quarter of the way in, but this is probably the most down-to-earth finance book I have encountered so far.

  • Behavior: The Control of Perception by Will Powers

    — Haven't finished this yet, but I feel like I've gotten a good handle on perceptual control theory (PCT) already from what I've seen.

  • The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Textbooks / Papers

  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics, vols. I-III by Richard Feynman

  • Calculus by Michael Spivak

  • The Elements, books I-IV by Euclid

  • Probability: The Logic of Science by E. T. Jaynes

    — first four chapters (i.e. just enough to make the early parts of LessWrong comprehensible to a high school student)

  • Assimil Deutsche ohne Mühe

  • Learn Python The Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw

    — This was probably my first proper programming book: before this I was duct taping tutorials all over the internet to learn the ropes

  • Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! by Miran Lipovača

    — My second proper programming book

  • Mathematics: Its Content, Methods and Meaning by Andrej Kolmogorov

    — My first introduction to Soviet-style math and what I used to prepare myself before entering uni

  • The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance (1993) by K. Anders Ericsson

  • The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance: Its Development, Organization, and Content by various authors

  • On the statistics of individual variations of productivity in research laboratories (1957) by William Shockley

    (from blogpost)

    Shockely [sic] suggest that producing a paper is tantamount to clearing every one of a sequence of hurdles. He specifically lists:

    1. ability to think of a good problem
    2. ability to work on it
    3. ability to recognize a worthwhile result
    4. ability to make a decision as to when to stop and write up the results
    5. ability to write adequately
    6. ability to profit constructively from criticism
    7. determination to submit the paper to a journal
    8. persistence in making changes (if necessary as a result of journal action).

    Shockley then posits, what if the odds of a person clearing hurdle $i$ from the list of 8 above is $p_i$? Then the rate of publishing papers for this individual should be proportional to $p_1 p_2 p_3 \dots p_8$. This gives the multiplication of random variables needed to explain the lognormal distribution of productivity…

  • Age and Outstanding Achievement: What Do We Know After a Century of Research? (1988) by Dean Keith Simonton

  • Concrete Mathematics by Donald Knuth et al.

    — Have yet to finish this book, but each of the five or so chapters I've read has changed how I solve problems

  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Science by Harold Abelson and Gerald Jay Sussman

    — Only the first two chapters, but I suspect I have learned 80% of the important stuff in this book via osmosis

  • Game Design Patterns by Robert Nystrom

    — Finding a use for as many patterns in this book while I was learning .NET/C# for Unity was the single biggest speedup in my ability to create games

  • Assimil Le Russe sans Peine

  • Conceptual Mathematics: A First Introduction to Categories by F. William Lawvere and Stephen Schanuel

  • Proofs and Refutations: The Logic of Mathematical Discovery by Imre Lakatos

  • The Art and Craft of Problem Solving by Paul Zeitz

  • General Chemistry by Linus Pauling

  • The physicist's toolkit (1987) by Martin H. Krieger [DOI: 10.1119/1.14929]

    — Contains a comprehensive table of problem solving heuristics used by physicists

  • On the Impossibility of Supersized Machines (2017) by Ben Garfinkel, Max Tegmark, et al.

  • ANSI Common LISP by Paul Graham

  • Spacetime Physics: Introduction to Special Relativity

    — Probably the best one to this day. Don't pick up a relativity textbook that refuses to use four-momentum from the very beginning.

  • Introduction to Tonal Theory by Peter Westergaard

  • Mathematical Physics: A Modern Introduction to Its Foundations by Sadri Hassani

  • JavaScript Allongé by Reginald Braithwaite

  • From parametricity to conservation laws, via Noether's theorem (2014) by Robert Atkey

  • Homotopy Type Theory: Univalent Foundations of Mathematics by various authors

  • Electricity and Magnetism by Edward Mills Purcell

  • Ordinary Differential Equations by Paul R. Halmos

  • Vector Calculus, Linear Algebra and Differential Forms by John Hubbard and Barbara Burke Hubbard

    — I probably have yet to do ~50% of this book's exercises but I didn't know linear algebra until I went through this

  • An Introduction to the Meaning and Structure of Physics by Leon N. Cooper

  • A Survey of Geometric Algebra and Geometric Calculus (2017) by Alan Macdonald

  • Assimil Le Nouveau Français sans Peine

    — On the backburner for now.

  • French for Reading by Karl C. Sandberg

  • Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann

  • Exploratory Data Analysis by John W. Tukey

    — Fun fact: I have never taken a formal statistics class. This was my first proper introduction to the subject (distinct from probability theory) and I only read it in the Year of Our Lord 2024

  • A Mathematical Theory of Communication (1948) by Claude Shannon

    — I didn't know why it took me so long to read it, but it was well worth it

  • Assimil Le Japonais Sans Peine

Essays / Shorts

Paul Graham

  • How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham

    — Probably my first.

  • Taste for Makers by Paul Graham

  • The Age of the Essay by Paul Graham

  • Why Nerds Are Unpopular by Paul Graham

  • What You’ll Wish You’d Known by Paul Graham

  • What You Can’t Say by Paul Graham

  • Beating the Averages by Paul Graham

  • Cities and Ambition by Paul Graham

  • Relentlessly Resourceful by Paul Graham

  • Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham

  • Schlep Blindness by Paul Graham

  • Startup = Growth by Paul Graham

  • Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham

  • The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius by Paul Graham

Gwern Branwen

  • The Melancholy of Subculture Society by Gwern Branwen

  • Death Note: L, Anonymity & Eluding Entropy by Gwern Branwen

  • Laws of Tech: Commoditize Your Complement by Gwern Branwen

  • Spaced Repetition & Learning by Gwern Branwen

  • Nootropics by Gwern Branwen

  • GPT-2 Neural Network Poetry by Gwern Branwen and Shawn Presser

    — This was probably what convinced me that transfomers will change everything.

Scott Alexander

  • Introduction to Game Theory sequence by Scott Alexander (yvain)

  • Nonfiction Writing Advice by Scott Alexander

    — And more to be found here.

  • Biodeterminist’s Guide to Parenting by Scott Alexander

  • Going from California with an Aching in my Heart by Scott Alexander

    — This essay was probably one of the biggest reasons why moving to the Bay Area became a decade-long (futile) endeavour for me. Curse you, Scott, and your eloquent tribute to your friends!

  • Eight Short Studies on Excuses by Scott Alexander

  • …And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes by Scott Alexander

  • The Categories Were Made for Man, Not Man Made for The Categories by Scott Alexander

  • The Noncentral Fallacy: The Worst Argument in the World? by Scott Alexander

  • I Can Tolerate Everything Except the Outgroup by Scott Alexander

  • Social Justice and Words, Words, Words by Scott Alexander

  • The Parable of the Talents by Scott Alexander

    — Of all the jewels in Scott's vast treasure chest of writings, this remains the most precious to me.

  • Meditations on Moloch by Scott Alexander

  • God Help Us, Let’s Try to Understand Friston on Free Energy by Scott Alexander

  • Untitled by Scott Alexander

Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Beisutsukai series by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Politics is the Mind-Killer by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • That Alien Message by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Guessing the Teacher's Password by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • The Bottom Line by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • How An Algorithm Feels From Inside by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Is That Your True Rejection? by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Lost Purposes by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Truly a Part of You by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • How to Convince Me That 2 + 2 = 3 by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Your Strength as a Rationalist by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Privileging the Hypothesis by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Einstein's Arrogance by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • To Spread Science, Keep It Secret by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Schools Proliferating Without Evidence by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Policy Debates Should Not Appear One-Sided by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Something to Protect by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • Beyond the Reach of God by Eliezer Yudkowsky

    — I would guess that this essay is probably where people should start if they want to understand why they're having such impassable value disagreements with Eliezer

  • The Rocket Alignment Problem by Eliezer Yudkowsky

  • My April Fools Day Confession by Eliezer Yudkowsky [LINK]

    — aka the 'dath ilan' post

  • The Abridged Guide to Intelligent Characters series by Eliezer Yudkowsky [LINK]


  • Who Can Name the Bigger Number? by Scott Aronson

  • The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

  • They're Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson

  • Want to Remember Everything You'll Ever Learn? Surrender to This Algorithm by Gary Wolf

    — On Supermemo and Piotr Wozniak; introduced me to spaced repetition

  • Effective learning: twenty rules of formulating knowledge by Piotr Wozniak

  • The Interpreter by John Colapinto

    — a New Yorker essay on Dan Everett’s attempts to decipher the Pirahã language

  • How to become a GOOD Theoretical Physicist by Gerard 't Hooft

  • The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov

  • Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut

  • The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke

  • Nightfall by Isaac Asimov

  • A Mathematician's Lament by Paul Lockhart

  • You and Your Research by Richard Hamming

  • How To Become A Hacker by Eric S. Raymond

  • Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

  • Exhalation by Ted Chiang

  • As We May Think by Vannevar Bush

  • A brief rant on the future of interaction design by Bret Victor

  • Umeshisms by Scott Aronson

    If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re spending too much time in airports.

  • There’s no speed limit, by Derek Sivers

  • There’s more to mathematics than rigour and proofs by Terrence Tao

  • Dysfunctional Attitudes and Behaviors by Charles Wells

    — In mathematics, that is.

  • Career Advice by Scott Adams

    If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

    1. Become the best at one specific thing.
    2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
  • Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years by Peter Norvig

  • Separating Programming Sheep from Non-Programming Goats by Jeff Atwood

  • Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns by Steve Yegge

    — This planted the seed in me that would later blossom into a decade-long snobbery re functional programming

  • Epistemic Viciousness in the Martial Arts by Gillian Russell

  • A Mathematician's Apology by G. H. Hardy

  • The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences by Eugene Wigner

  • Reality has a surprising amount of detail by John Salvatier [LINK]

  • The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant by Nick Bostrom

  • 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly

  • A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy by Clay Shirky

  • Geeks, MOPs, and sociopaths in subculture evolution by David Chapman

  • Half-assing it with everything you've got by Nate Soares [LINK]

  • Scientology Training Routines by Perry Scott [LINK]

  • Nakatomi Space by Geoff Manaugh

  • Zetetic Explanation by Benjamin Ross Hoffman [LINK]

  • A Formalist Manifesto by Mencius Moldbug (Curtis Yarvin)

  • The Art of Being Right by Arthur Schopenhauer

  • EWD831: Why numbering should start at zero by Edsger W. Dijkstra

  • My Family's Slave by Alex Tizon

  • The Mathematics of Beauty by Christian Rudder [LINK]

  • Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby

  • The Two Cultures of Mathematics by Timothy Gowers

  • What should a professional mathematician know? by Barry Mazur

    — the basis of my four intuitions essay

  • From Set Theory to Type Theory by Michael Shulman [LINK]

    — This was one of the most memorable essays I read during my category theory phase

  • Did Earlier Thoughts Inspire Grothendieck? by Frans Oort

  • An Introduction to Westergaard's Tonal Theory by Stephen Peles

  • u/a1988eli comments on the AskReddit thread: "What do insanely wealthy people buy, that ordinary people know nothing about?" [LINK]

  • Alcohol creates common knowledge by Qiaochu Yuan [LINK]

  • Ads Don't Work That Way by Kevin Simler

  • Doesn't Matter, Warm Fuzzies by Kevin Simler

    Why do humans dress up in funny clothes and perform elaborate actions with no tangible effects?

    Remember, we're not just human beings — we're apes. Why do apes do this?

    A study of ritual in ten lessons.

  • There Is No Antimemetics Division by Sam Hughes (qntm)

  • How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron [LINK]

  • About Writing: Cause, Effect and Power by James McCrae (wildbow) [LINK]

  • Open loops in fiction by Kaj Sotala

  • Stuck In The Middle With Bruce by John F. Rizzo

  • Luck and the Entrepreneur: The four kinds of luck by Marc Andreessen

  • The Trauma Narrative by Aella

  • 17776 by Jon Bois

    — Not quite your usual story, but honestly the most important work of fiction I have ever 'experienced'. I aspire to create a spiritual successor to it one day.

  • To Get Good, Go After The Metagame by Cedric Chin [LINK]

  • 95%-ile isn’t that good by Dan Luu [LINK]

  • The Rage of Research by Laura Deming

  • Searching for Outliers by Ben Kuhn

  • Clojure from the ground up series by Kyle Kingsbury (aphyr)

  • What is Wrong with Our Thoughts? A Neo-Positivist Credo by David Stove

  • The Things They Carried - A work of fiction by Tim O'Brien by u/TracingWoodgrains [LINK]

  • Most of What You Read on the Internet is Written by Insane People by u/DinoInNameOnly [LINK]

  • The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics by jaibot

  • Mental Strength in Judo, Mental Strength in Life by Cedric Chin [LINK]

  • Introducing Austral: A Systems Language with Linear Types and Capabilities by Fernando Borretti (eudoxia0)

  • Are you serious? by Visakan Veerasamy

  • We were voyagers by Visakan Veerasamy

  • Coping strategies for the serial project hoarder by Simon Willison [LINK]

    — As of 2024, GitHub Issues has been slowly but surely eating my entire life due to this essay

Talks / Lectures

  • The Character of Physical Law, lectures I-VII by Richard Feynman

  • Stephen Krashen: Language Acquisition and Comprehensible Input by Stephen Krashen [LINK]

  • The Unanswered Question lecture series by Leonard Bernstein

    — The question being: "Whither music?"

  • Brienne Strohl on Hacking Memory by Brienne Strohl [LINK]

  • What Bodies Think About: Bioelectric Computation Outside the Nervous System by Michael Levin [LINK]

  • F for Fake: How to Structure a Video Essay from Every Frame a Painting [LINK]

  • The Future of Mathematics? by Kevin Buzzard [LINK]

  • Geometric Algebra series by Alan Macdonald

  • Geometric Calculus series by Alan Macdonald

  • Brandon Sanderson's 2016 BYU 318R Creative Writing lectures

  • Simple Made Easy by Rich Hickey [LINK]

  • Fun is the Future: Mastering Gamification by Gabe Zichermann [LINK]

  • Everything is a Remix series by Kirby Ferguson

  • On "Quitting" YouTube by Marques Brownlee (MKBHD)

    — This is basically a video version of Jói Sigurdsson's The Spiderweb Entrepreneur [LINK], i.e. what scaling a solo business really looks like