6. The Discourses (Machiavelli)
8. Rare Earth
10. Night comes to the Cretaceous
11. Microbe Hunters
14. Project Orion
15. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
16. Godstalk, P. C. Hodgell
17. Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
18. On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers
19. His Share of Glory, Cyril Kornbluth
21. The Secret History, Procopius
And you might be interested in my last booklist.
If you like Kornbluth, his ‘Not This August’ is available free on-line at gutenberg canada:
An old favorite!
Once upon a time, Not This August was on my list of books that were in library catalogs but couldn’t be found – copies were often missing. There were a few other books like that – they tended to have certain political stances, or more exactly tend to offend people with certain political stances.
Could you give us some more details about which books these were?
At the first pages of the story, the Soviets are invading El Paso, and nuclear weapons still are not used, there is still Chicago and other cities. Is it set in alternate timeline where nuclear weapons were never discovered or somewhat rendered unusable? If not, my WSOD is broken at the start.
I always wonder if the commies ever reflect on the level of popularity, faith and zeal, they have enjoyed over the last century and a half.
And if any of them ever came to any conclusion when balancing all that “commitment to the cause” with the yields obtained.
Also, see PZ Myers on “The Marching Morons” for lols
Are you trying to tease me into posting my incredibly long list of all the people in public life that are utterly worthless?
That would be fun. And I think you’d have fun too 🙂 Go for it.
Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing that list. It would make for entertaining reading.
Wouldn’t it be better to post short list of public people who are not worthless?
Easier, but it more-or-less implies that everyone not on the list is some kind of idiot or bounder, which is not really true. Some people are really mixed: dead right on some things, toxic crazy on other things. Certainly in many cases I don’t know enough to have a valid opinion.
I’m not sure PZ Myers is really a “public figure” but he is amazingly stupid.
No, PZ is not “stupid”. He is about average for his position, perhaps with some upside in the verbal part. His common opinions are routinely stupid though, thanks to PZ’s extreme version of Marxist-Leninist ideology.
PZ is a basically smart guy who holds stupid opinions. I work with a large number of people like this, it’s not uncommon, unfortunately.
If PZ had figured out some new and interesting things, discovered something, was a fount of sharp analysis, I could agree with you. I haven’t seen any of that. Looks like a schmuck to me.
But there certainly have been many people that fulfilled those criteria while at the same time having opinions that were seriously, provably, practically wrong.
Christmas comes early this year.
Ooh. I know this one! True!
I found War Before Civilization incredibly insightful. The guy can write, too.
“Similarly, copper and bronzes axes from the Late Neolithic and Bronze Ages, formerly referred to as battle axes, are no longer classified as weapons but are considered a form of money. The 5,000-year-old Austrian glacier mummy recently reported in the news was found with one of these moneys mischievously hafted as an ax. He also had with him a dagger, a bow, and some arrows; presumably these were his small change.”
I remember that exact line, and loved it.
#4 “the first great decipherment of an ancient script”. What a ludicrously ambiguous claim. It reminds me of some of the absurd labels I saw when I visited the Smithsonian decades ago.
It’s a little puzzling but maybe it is connected with the lack of bilingual texts such as the Rosetta stone that helped with the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics. But I don’t think that the decipherment of Hittite relied much on bilingual texts.
“#4 “the first great decipherment of an ancient script”. What a ludicrously ambiguous claim. It reminds me of some of the absurd labels I saw when I visited the Smithsonian decades ago.”
Yeah, editorial blurbs are rather notorious for indulging in puffing….Of course, that being said, cracking Mayan was a pretty impressive accomplishment.
RE: The Smithsonian,
Always liked the The Air and Space Museum. Looking at the Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module makes even my cynical heart swell a bit….
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius…..
I used to give copies of Suetonius to all my staff at Christmas. Later I gave out copies of “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”.
Is “Introduction to Algorithms” better than Knuth’s TAoCP?
And if you’re going to have two books featuring Orion, then why not the third – Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem”; for my money, just as good as “Cryptonomicon” and maybe a little better.
TAoCP is a landmark work that no one has actually read. I joke, slightly, but in 2016 I don’t know who the target audience really is. If you’re a working programmer without much exposure to math or theory, the math & theory is presented much too briefly for you to really learn it. If you’re a mathematician who wants to learn about algorithms & programming, the math & theory is mostly going to be things you already know (or elementary extensions / uses of things you already know) and the MIX assembly language stuff is, in practice, useless and needlessly obscures what is going on.
The best analogy I can think of would be using Russel & Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica to learn math. It’s way too low-level to be of practical use, even if it was a hugely influential work.
Intro to Algorithms focuses on asymptotic analysis of computational complexity (the key, fundamental idea in the field of algorithms, one that was pioneered / popularized by Knuth – Cormen et al. just present it better) and they use a significantly more readable pseudocode to present the algorithms.
TAoCP is the book(s) people put on their shelves to signal that they are “serious” computer programmers; Intro to Algorithms is the book that anyone who went through a half-decent or better computer science curriculum actually used in their classes.
I got the Intro to Algorithms book at someone here’s rec not too long ago. Haven’t cracked it.
I’m pretty sure I used Knuth as a reference guide for hash table implementation in early 2000’s (although its possible that was from Numerical Recipes in C which i definitely used for FFT). Both those books have been in boxes from house moves 10+ years ago, so I can’t check. I think the C++ STL made it’s way into GCC about 2000 (although briefly searching on-line isn’t answering that) and that obviated the need for home-spinning so much.
That reminds me that no one had a good recommendation on a serious treatment of wavelets. I was looking for something equivalent to Dym&McKean on Fourier Series and Integrals.
Both those books are notoriously difficult. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greg Cochran struggled with Intro to algorithms, and i doubt he’d be able to understand Knuth’s book.
I would recommend http://infolab.stanford.edu/~ullman/focs.html as a prerequisite to the cormen book.
Come on, Knuth is easy to understand.
If nothing else, it’s always amusing to see that those working in algorithms are utterly terrible programmers. Possibly not as bad as physicists or suchlike, but still.
What do you think of this book? According to this review, it seems interesting.
“Is g heritable? In a certain sense, yes. In the 1950s, a series of reports suggested a strong genetic component. Of these, twin studies were the most definitive. When identical twins who had been reared together — i.e., with shared genes and shared environments — were tested in the early fifties, psychologists had found a striking degree of concordance in their IQs, with a correlation value of 0.86. In the late eighties, when identical twins who were separated at birth and reared separately were tested, the correlation fell to 0.74 — still a striking number.
I am sorry for the format of the comment. It is not very clear. The title of the book is: “The Gene: An Intimate History”.
Mukherjee is a moron. Next question?
He’s suggested that gene interactions are real important in IQ [epistatic rather than additive effects] but he is incorrect. If new to the field, it could take as much as an afternoon to find that out.
Thank you for the answer.
Greg is totally right. The book is a joke and the author is surprisingly incompetent describing various aspects in the history of genetics. (Yes, I read the book)
I bought a copy of His Share of Glory two years ago, and even when Kornbluth was writing a short story under a pseudonym to fill space in a magazine, he was pretty damn good.
The internet has evolved some wonderful resources that allow readers of non fiction to find the best books at great prices. Millennials don’t know how good they have it. Back in my day I had to travel to the few really good used book stores that were sparsely located around the country.
Now you click on Amazon books and not only do you have every book often at great prices but they are delivered to your doorstep. The reviews can be very useful as well. I used to have to buy four books to find one really good one because I didn’t know until I started reading which book was well written and scholarly and which one wasn’t. Sometimes you get a sense to a book that it was a good read but there are some ideological slants that you don’t completely buy. There might be 243 reviews of a popular book over at Amazon and you don’t want to read all of them but what is very useful is reading the highly recommended negative reviews of a book to find the flaws in a book that the writer might be artfully hiding.
Razib Khan at his blog Gene Expressions over at Unz Review has a list of a couple hundred of the best non fiction books he has read and like Greg Cochran’s 20 books they are the best of the best and he links them up to Amazon books as well. Scroll down and you will find them in red on the right side of his blog.
I can’t forget to mention kindle although I am an old fogey who likes to have the real book. Thanks Greg for your guidance. I read Anubis Gates by Tim Powers that Greg recommended last year and it was a wonderful read. That book would make a great movie.
rare Earth is obolete, wrong and not up-to-date
Please elaborate! 🙂
I’ve always thought The Secret History was overrated. Although it does illustrate just how little we ought to trust both official histories and the people who write them. Procopius seems to have believed that Justinian and Theodora were demons in human form – actual demons, not just people acting in ways he abhorred. Which is insane. His public history reveals nothing of this. So the public version is lies, and the private version is delusional.
I thought it was funny.
A fine Christmas list. Here’s mine:
H.P. LOVECRAFT: TALES
THE BLANK SLATE
EMPIRES OF THE WORD
WHY MEN RULE
I HENRY IV
Left one out:
THE RIGHTEOUS MIND
A fine Christmas list. Here’s mine:
ALBION’S SEED, Fischer
H.P. LOVECRAFT: TALES (LIBRARY OF AMERICA)
HUMAN ACCOMPLISHMENT, Murray
THE COUP, Updike
THE BLANK SLATE, Pinker
AMBROSE BIERCE (LIBRARY OF AMERICA)
EMPIRES OF THE WORD, Ostler
WHY MEN RULE, Goldberg
I HENRY IV
THE RIGHTEOUS MIND, Haidt
I correspond with four of those authors. speaking of: long ago, in Steve Sailer’s closed list, I was explaining that almost all of modern science/mathematics was invented by Europeans and their diaspora, with a significant & surprising amount from Ashkenazi Jews, and some, not a lot, from China, India, And Japan. Very little from other populations. I was surprised at the big fraction of the members that really did not know that: I came up with some numbers on real Nobel prizes and such and mostly beat down resistance.
I’m not suggesting that one of those four authors is Charles Murray, but…..I am curious as to what Greg and others think of his approach to the dissemination of information about group differences in IQ. I’m not referring to “The Bell Curve,” but instead to the way he presents the evidence to the general public in speeches and interviews. It’s no so much that what he says is necessarily wrong, but that he couches what he says in such a way as to blunt the force and implications of what is being communicated and gives the appearance of being a bit paternalistic. As an example, look at the Brainwash episode on race that was uploaded to YouTube (Greg also appears in some very interesting segments). Throughout his segments of the interview, Dr. Murray sort of soft sells the data, but has to change tactics a bit at towards the end (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOnQPXuU81Q&t=33m57s). You’ll notice that Dr. Murray continues to try and convince people that the heritability of IQ is “uninteresting,” but then shifts mien when shown a video of a Norwegian social scientist completely dismissing the influence of genes.
I have respect for Charles Murray and I believe he has shown a great deal of bravery (relatively well-known public intellectual bravery, not necessarily Normandy Landings bravery) and am not looking to declare open season (although his claim during the promotion of “Coming Apart” that he purposely chooses to live outside of the beltway with the common folk did not help him anticipate the Trump phenomenon or react well to it).
I can understand why Dr. Murray has taken the approach that he has and i’m not suggesting that if I were in his position I would behave differently. Nevertheless, I do wonder if his approach is, in the main, furthering the cause of the elucidation of population genetics.
what do you think explains this relative underachievment of east asians in spite of their good standardized test scores?
Excellent non-fiction selections there, Mr.Cochran. If you’d like to follow up Grousset with something a little more readable, I highly recommend Lamb’s THE MARCH OF THE BARBARIANS:
It reads like Grousset’s book as written by Robert E. Howard (Lamb was a big influence on REH).
Out of Tim Powers’ more recent books, I highly recommend DECLARE. Only he could link Philby’s search for Irem to the Berlin Wall and make it believable.
Seconded for DECLARE. Tim Powers is a national treasure.
Breaking the Maya Code is a great book. If you don’t read books the PBS doc on same subject is also great.
Constant Battles: Myth of the Noble Savage by Steven LeBlanc is good. Also this site has some good articles. http://www.dieoff.org/
Is this a ranked list? 😀