Book Recommendations

Table of Contents

I read a lot so this list is perpetually incomplete.


Robert Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

This book takes place in the 2080s and is basically about a computer engineer from Luna who narrates how he led a revolution that won independence from Terra. Unlike most revolutionary fiction, it focuses substantially on the logistics and theory of revolution and governance, and, like the equally fantastic Starship Troopers, it spends a fair amount of time discussing political philosophy. This book also serves to showcase some interesting cultural adaptations that have occurred on the moon. I find the concepts of polyandrous line marriages and tight community justice to be pretty intriguing.

Cory Doctorow: Little Brother

This book is great. It follows a teenage hacker in San Francisco after a massive terrorist attack and his efforts to fight back against the DHS. This is one of those fiction books that is not quite fiction, there are some significant parallels between Little Brother's dystopian San Francisco and the post-911 USA. Also, unlike most people who write hacker protagonists, the author really knows his shit and explains computer stuff in a really accessible fashion. It's published under a copyleft license so you can either buy a hard copy or download it for free.

Ben Bova: The Grand Tour Series

Bova's Grand Tour is a voluminous science fiction series that begins at an indeterminate time around the turn of the turn of the millennium and follows a diverse cast of characters centuries into the future, documenting humanity's expansion into the solar system. Because a lot of the events of the series happened in what is now the past, it seems pretty anachronistic at times, though personally I rather enjoy that feeling of dislocation. My main gripe with what I've read of the series is that the science behind the constant, underlying theme of climate catastrophe in the books is rather unrealistically optimistic, though that is not big deal. This series is pretty disjointed, so you can read it in almost any order you wish, though there are several mini-series' within the Grand Tour that you should read in order. Personally, I prefer to read it mostly chronologically, as subsequent books tend to subtly build upon each other.

Robert Heinlein: Have Spacesuit – Will Travel

An unusually autodidactic protagonist from a generic Midwestern town teaches himself about science and electronics by fixing a spacesuit before going on a bizarre and surreal inter-galactic adventure. It's basically a less existential, hard science version of The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.

Walter M. Miller Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Written under the shadow of nuclear annihilation, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the first great masterpieces of post-apocalyptic fiction. The book is made up of three largely independent stories spanning a thousand-odd years following the monks of the Order of Blessed Leibowitz. This monastic order was created shortly after modern civilisation was destroyed in a nuclear holocaust with the aim of preserving knowledge so that future generations might rebuild without repeating the mistakes of the past. It's an extremely engaging book with some weighty undertones and was supposedly part of what inspired Stewart Brand to found the Long Now Foundation.

Scott Alexander: Unsong

By speaking scripture sufficiently far from the Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 unintentionally exploited a buffer-overflow vulnerability in the universe's mathematical substrate, cracking open the sky, and bringing magic and miracles flooding back. If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Good Omens or Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita then you'll enjoy Unsong. Like HPMoR, Unsong is in the public domain. The official site is at, there's an Audiobook version, and a number of people have made Epubs of it.


Brian Kernighan & Dennis Ritchie: The C Programming Language 2nd Edition

The K&R book is an true classic and in my opinion is the absolute best book for learning about C programming, particularly for users of Unix-like OSs. My only complaint is that certain sections, particularly those dealing with enums, unions, and preprocessor functions could benefit from slightly more in-depth explanations.

Theodore Kaczynski: Industrial Society and Its Future

Though the Unabomber's methods were rather unhinged, his 30 page manifesto is an extremely lucid and well thought out explanation of his beliefs and an important work in primitivist circles. While I largely disagree with Ted's thesis, I believe that he raises some excellent points about the downsides of industrial civilisation and makes an effective argument against the pervasive ideology of progress.

William Kamkwamba: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

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Last Modified: 2021-08-12 Thu 15:08