Xah's Top Ten Book Recommendations

By Xah Lee. Date: ,

This page is about the top 10 pop books i've read that i felt the general crowd should read too, or something like that.

Most of my awake time are spent reading. If you don't read books, then perhaps i cannot change you. But if you do read, i'd be happy if you just pick up one book today among my recommendations.

Why I am not a Christian , by Bertrand Russell. Buy at amazon

Bertrand Russell is a Nobel prize recipient in literature. However, he is more renowned for his work in mathematics, philosophy, and peace-keeping social activities. Bertrand Russell is a rationalist. In this collection of works, he tells the reasons he is not a Christian, and other essays related to every-day life.

Online version, annotated by me at: Why I'm not a Christian

Basic Economics , by Thomas Sowell. Buy at amazon

There are few questions about money that i do not understand. For example, why is it that currencies are of different value among countries? If money is made of paper, why cannot the government just print more? Yes, that creates what's called “inflation”, or raising prices, but exactly how and what is the effect? Surely if i can just print a $100 bill, i would benefit. What happens if a government keeps printing ever larger bills? Is there some international agreement? What is a stock market? How it works exactly? Why the rent in New York is several times higher than other cities? Why those top managers of big companies have a salary of few hundred thousand dollars? Just exactly what is their skill? The President of United States also gets pretty high salary. How's that determined?

These and other basic questions form the subject Economics, which i was only faintly familiar. In mid 2001, i decided to read a basic text book on economics. I found Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics to be a eye opener. In easy-reading English, he penetrates many myths in daily life that i was also mistaken. The answers to the above questions are very simple.

If you are in the software industry and is a proponent of Open Source or FreeSoftware, then you should read Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics. In Thomas Sowell's works, there's this underlying theme. That is, there are many supposed ideals, visions, or justice beliefs that are rather unfounded or can turn into juggernauts. He calls it “Visions of the Anointed”.

I'm well acquainted with mathematics, studies of logic, and literature as well. But when it comes to personal finance, i was a simpleton. Since about 2000, i have started to read much books and websites about financial matters, getting to know the basics of money, banks, interests, stocks, bounds, mutual funds, … what they are and how they work. Among the population, there are great many who also are clueless about basic economics and personal finance. The earlier you get to know the basics, the better. It is those who are ignorant about financial matters, or don't even care about it such as the many “non-greedy” engineering types, who are hurting because money matters, and money matters a lot. Hurting themselves notwithstanding, but they are hurting the world due to their ignorance. Sometimes i am proud of the fact that i have little interest in piling up money, or to negotiate for personal gain in situations such as employment interview. I was very wrong to think of financial matters based on the concept of “greed”, and i know many engineering geeks are in the same boat as me. This book helps a lot: The Wall Street Journal Guide to understanding money and investing Buy at amazon, by Kenneth M. Morris et al. This little booklet is like a 2 day crash course on money, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, for those who have little idea what they are.

There's the book: How to buy stock Buy at amazon, by Louis Engel and Henry R. Hecht. It's not a “How To Get Rich Quick revealed”, nor “Theories of Stocks Trading”, but a excellent book on what is stocks: why are there stocks, how company creates them, what purpose they serve, how they are traded, why buy them, what to expect… some of the fundamental issues.

See also: Reading Notes on Basic Economics

Law 101: Everything you need to know about the American legal system Buy at amazon (2000), by Jay M. Feinman.

How much do you know about law? What is criminal law? What is civil law? How they get created? By what principle they are created? What if you don't like a particular law or regulation? What if you are treated unfairly by someone? What about disagreement with your employer or landlord or bank? Well, you need to know the basics rules of your community. You need to know the basic rules of your family, likewise the basic rules of your country. If you are a citizen of United States of America then this is a good book. Get a basic and practical understanding of the system. Do not cry unfair this or bitch politician that. The world's ways are made by people, like you and me. If you are not the lowest scum of society who cannot possibly worry about law, then knowing the basics of law benefits you for life.

Influence: the psychology of persuasion Buy at amazon (1998), by Robert B. Cialdini.

This is a book on the psychological play that happens in everyday life.

You need to read this book to stop being brainwashed in everyday life, like right now. I know you are puzzled. You are puzzled about who brainwashed you, in what ways they brainwash you, and whether i'm a nut case. Precisely, because you don't know much about social psychology at all. Cialdini's book explains.

Viewed personally this book helps you to strike a better deal in job interviews or stop being a unconscious victim of unscrupulous salesmen. Viewed socially it explains the formation of mass scale human woes, such as the rise of Adolf Hitler in World War 2 or the WASP aggression.

Intimate Behavior : A Zoologist's Classic Study of Human Intimacy Buy at amazon (1997), by Desmond Morris.

“Look at me… i have a penis, a big one too. … stay put, more to cum… i'm going to create the most beautiful splash on your face.”

Do you know why women develop big breasts and hips? Of course it's biology, but why didn't men got big hips? Why is it the female race who wear skirts? Woman's breasts and men's penises are disproportionally huge in comparison to other animals. Does size truly matter?

See also: Reading Notes on 〈Intimate Behavior〉.