A Nerd’s Guide to Reading

Recommendations for (almost) every Genre


“A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.”

    -Edward Teller

25 Popular Science books that will change the way you think

  1. 1.Chaos: Making a New Science - James Gleick

  1. 2.Free Will - Sam Harris

  1. 3.A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking

  1. 4.The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  1. 5.The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins

  1. 6.A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons - Robert M. Sapolsky

  1. 7.Cosmos - Carl Sagan

  1. 8.Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid - Douglas Hofstadter

  1. 9.Ideas and Opinions - Albert Einstein

  1. 10.Wider than the Sky: the phenomenal gift of consciousness - Gerald Edelman

  1. 11.What Do You Care What Other People Think? - Richard Feynman

  1. 12.Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved - Frans de Waal

  1. 13.Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society (The New Science of Memes) - Aaron Lynch

  1. 14.The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing - Richard Dawkins

  1. 15.The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What it Means to be Alive - Brian Christian

  1. 16.Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

  1. 17.Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandaries - Neil deGrasse Tyson

  1. 18.Tipping Point: How Little Things can make a Big Difference

  1. 19.From Poison Arrows to Prozac: How Deadly Toxins Changed Our Lives Forever

  1. 20.The Theory That Would Not Die - Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

  1. 21.Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Penny Le Couteur

  1. 22.The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer - Siddhartha Mukherjee

  1. 23.Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

  1. 24.Hyperspace - Michio Kaku

  1. 25.Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain - Oliver Sacks

James Gleick’s bestseller introduces the story of one of the most significant waves of scientific knowledge in our time. Gleick makes chaos theory not only fascinating but also accessible, and opens our eyes to a surprising new view of the universe. 

It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.

Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?

A black swan is an event, positive or negative, that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences. In this groundbreaking and prophetic book, Taleb shows in a playful way that Black Swan events explain almost everything about our world, and yet we—especially the experts—are blind to them.

Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology.

"I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead, I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla," writes Robert Sapolsky in this witty and riveting chronicle of a scientist's coming-of-age in remote Africa.

The best-selling science book ever published in the English language, COSMOS is a magnificent overview of the past, present, and future of science. Brilliant and provocative, it traces today's knowledge and scientific methods to their historical roots, blending science and philosophy in a wholly energetic and irresistible way.

This book concerns the nature of “maps” or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too can computers attain human intelligence.

A collection of Albert Einstein's popular writings, gathered under the supervision of Einstein himself. The selections range from his earliest days as a theoretical physicist to his death in 1955; from such subjects as relativity, nuclear war or peace, and religion and science, to human rights, economics, and government.

Edelman puts forward the theory of neuronal group selection, also known as Neural Darwinism. The book also makes a distinction between primary consciousness and higher-order consciousness.

This volume presents the adventures of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Readers learn the inner workings of the Rogers Commission, the stupifying realities of bureaucratic obfuscation, and the confusion and misjudgement that have plagued NASA in recent years.

"It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and Philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality.

This book explores the notion that an idea which can influence human behavior may blindly evolve the capacity to influence its own prevalence in the human population by motivating its human hosts to engage in behavior that spreads the idea.

Boasting almost one hundred pieces, The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a breathtaking celebration of the finest writing by scientists--the best such collection in print--packed with scintillating essays on everything from "The Discovery of Lucy" to "The Terror and Vastness of the Universe."

Each year, the AI community convenes to administer the famous Turing test, pitting sophisticated software programs against humans to determine if a computer can “think.” The machine that most often fools the judges wins the Most Human Computer Award. But there is also a prize, strange and intriguing, for the “Most Human Human.”

A tour of the mind that explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our behavior.

Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics. The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by explaining the gory details of what would happen to your body if you fell into one.

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

Curare poison, first used to tip the arrows of native South Americans,  was to become the cornerstone of modern anesthetics and went on to provide the key to how we understand the nervous system, leading to drugs as diverse as indigestion pills and Prozac. More recently it has led to our understanding of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Bayes' rule appears to be a straightforward, one-line theorem: by updating our initial beliefs with objective new information, we get a new and improved belief. To its adherents, it is an elegant statement about learning from experience. To its opponents, it is subjectivity run amok.

This is the fascinating account of seventeen groups of molecules that have greatly influenced the course of history.

A magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? How much do parents really matter? These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask, but Freakonomics studies the riddles of everyday life and reaches conclusions that turn conventional wisdom on its head.

A roller coaster of an intellectual ride through the extraordinary world of black holes, wormholes, parallel universes, higher dimensions and time travel.

Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat.  But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does—humans are a musical species.