Favorite Authors and Books

This is only about 1% complete. Before long I'll have to add some fancy code to make it manageable.


Entry-Level Science and Philosophy

Favorite Authors

Richard Dawkins

Good ones to start with are the seminal The Selfish Gene and the little gem River out of Eden.

Daniel Dennett

Dennett is in my opinion the greatest living philosopher. My favorites are Consciousness Explained, Darwin's Dangerous Idea and the collection The Mind's Eye which he and Douglas Hofstadter edited and contributed to.

Jared Diamond

If you still haven't read Gun's Germs and Steel, get right at it! Also highly recommend The Third Chimpanzee which is, of course, us!

Roger Penrose

One of the greatest living physicists with an extraordinary gift for writing. If you really want to understand modern physics, I recommend The Road to Reality, but it's hard work. There's also the somewhat easier The Emperor's New Mind which brilliantly explains much of modern science and mathematics in order to then be able to present his radical but unlikely hypothesis of how the human mind works. For physics read Penrose, for the mind read Pinker and Dennett!

Stephen Pinker

His book The Language Instinct is the best single book on the nature of human language and How the Mind Works does an extraordinary job of covering the current scientific framework for understanding the mind. He has followed up the themes in each of these two foundational books with sequels and then turned them into two "trilogies" by bringing their themes together in The Stuff of Thought.


Speculative Fiction is Fiction in which the author has changed some of the rules of how the world or even the universe work. Sometimes this is done to provide an alternative background designed to bring out important insights in logic, human psychology or sociology, or other possibilities which would be harder to see in a familiar context. Good Speculative Fiction is not idle fantasy, it is intended to make the reader think and come to important new understandings, often of themselves. All of the fiction below is Speculative Fiction.

Science Fiction is that sub-genre of Speculative Fiction which uses known or possible science in interesting ways to create the story. As Stephen Hawking said: It’s really the only fiction that is realistic about our true position in the universe as a whole. Most of the fiction below is Science Fiction, some exploring the Hard Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) and some exploring the Soft Sciences (Psychology, Sociology). In both cases the fiction has to be consistent with known science at the time of writing, although it can extend what is known with conjecture. A few of the works below are Hard Fantasy, i.e. Speculative Fiction which is NOT consistent with known science, often taking places in an alternative universe. The departures can be profound, but they must be internally consistent.

Favorite Authors

Greg Bear

My favorites are Blood Music and Moving Mars.

Cory Doctorow

All of Cory's books are available free on the Web. I've bought physical copies of my favorites for the pleasure of lending and re-reading. If you want a really great fast read, check out Little Brother.

Robert Forward

Forward may not be a great writer in terms of literary quality but his ideas are extraordinary. If you like super-hard SF you'll love him!

Charles Sheffield

Too many favorites to choose from!

Neil Stephenson

My favorites are Diamond Age and Snow Crash but I love all of his work!

Charles Stross

An extraordinary and diverse writer! I particularly like Singularity Sky and Accelerando which is available as a free download. I can't believe how much I'm liking his geeky, Lovecraftian "Laundry" stories, beginning with The Atrocity Archives.

John Varley

An extraordinary stylist. I especially like his short stories, which are always out of print because publishers never print enough. The collections of his stories are The Persistence of Vision, Picnic on Nearside and Blue Champagne. If you can find 'em, buy 'em; otherwise borrow 'em.

Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge is God. I read everything he writes and can't believe how good it all is.

Ursula Le Guin

Especially The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.

Theodore Sturgeon

Especially his short stories and the two novels Venus Plus X and Godbody

Eliezer Yudkowsky

Yudkowsky's Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is the best work of fiction I've read in at least ten years. It made me examine all of my understanding of science, logic and more while simultaneously being vastly entertaining. It's based on the premise that the seemingly impossible world of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books is real, only Yudkowsky takes it seriously as a scientist would. Rowling's books are designed to teach children how to read, Yudkowsky's book is designed to teach you how to think! Highly Recommended, and it's free on-line! (I recommend downloading the epub or mobi version for easy reading on your favorite device - I read it on my phone.)

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