The Reading List

This is a continually updated post for what I’m reading at the moment, and short reviews of books I’ve read recently. Yes, I know reading this many books at the same time probably isn’t as productive as reading linearly. This what happens when you book binge on Amazon.

Thinking, fast and slow

Looking through Bill Gates’ summer reading list was a bit of motivation for starting this one. If Bill is reading this one, I definitely should be too! And it’s a fantastic, though extremely stodgy, read. I’ve become a little stuck around 120 pages in, but so far I’ve been learning about  brain’s systems for making decisions. System 1 is the autopilot, with all your base ‘fight or flight’ reactions, whilst System 2 is the methodical, (slightly more) rational mind. There’s a number of fun examples of cognitive failures attributed to System 1 [for example: “A bat and a ball together cost £1.10. The bat costs £1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”] and in depth discussions of how and why our brains react strongly to priming and other seemingly irrelevant factors.


The Evolution of Cooperation

It’s a book based on a series of experiments run using an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma game, looking at how the best strategies work, and how cooperation comes about from initial distrust and a dominating incentive to defect.

I’m only about 1/4 of the way through, but it’s really interesting to read about the success of different strategies, and how ‘niceness’ works in practice. Although written in the 80’s (and I’m sure there have been many more thorough experiments in iterated PD games) it’s readable even in a layman’s perspective. No advanced mathematical knowledge or previous experience of game theory is necessary.


Maverick!: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace

I’m only 40 pages into this one, but at the moment, it’s chronological biography of Semco – a manufacturing company in Brazil, run by Ricardo Semler. Apart from a hugely cheesy cover, the book is extremely engaging. I bought it mainly on Quora recommendation, but it should prove to be an enlightening read.


Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

I’ve read a few Seth Godin books, and like most, this one skips around a lot. Essentially this takes a lot of the work from ‘Tribes’ and “Stop Stealing Dreams’ and combines them to create a book about the ‘linchpins’ within companies and society, and how to become one.


Books I’ve finished recently:

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

The is simultaneously the best fiction book I’ve read in the past year and the first fan-fiction book i’ve dared to read. Eliezer Yudkowsky is a research fellow at the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence and writes about human rationality. What better background for a fiction author?! It’s a fantastic look through the eyes of Harry Potter as a hyper intelligent, super rational 11 year old with a background in Muggle science and an ambition for world domination. At 454,000 words, it’s one of the heftiest things I lugged around on my Kindle, and finished whilst on holiday. Seriously, read it if you liked the likes of Artemis Fowl or others as a kid. It’s awesome!