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Author Topic: A Quest for Knowledge
trip9
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I come to everyone on these forums with a request. I know it's somewhat selfish to ask this of you all because I know I'm not an active member, but over the past few years I've been an on and off lurker, and every time I visit Hatrack community I'm astounded by the intelligent, positive, and mature discussions that I find here (a welcome change from the people who hide behind the anonymity of the internet and make fools of themselves that you can find on most message boards). So when I was thinking of the best place to ask this, I slapped myself for not thinking of Hatrack River sooner.

Anyways, on to what I'm bothering you for. I'm a chronic learner, whenever I'm bored I hop on the internet and try and educate myself about whatever I'm currently interested in. Lately I've been thinking about how little I really know about so many things, and how there's no better time to start educating myself than now. So here's my request: What are some good books to increase your knowledge, and help get that all important extra leg-up in life?

I'm looking for pretty much any topics, these were some of the ones that first came to mind:

-Economy (I was thinking Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, anybody recommend it?)
-History: I know this is super broad, but I believe in the thinking that history repeats itself, so what I'm most intested in is something that may be able to give interesting insight into modern times, if that makes any sense.
-World Affairs
-Social Improvement

I'm currently reading the classic "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, and "Think & Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and they both seem to be fairly common sense, but good reads nonetheless.

I appreciate everyone's time, and hope that maybe this thread will inspire other people to pick up a book and learn something new. Thanks Hatrack!

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fugu13
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Freakonomics is okay, but not really about learning economics. I'd start with "The Armchair Economist" for a good, fun understanding.

For world affairs, get a subscription to the Financial Times (or regularly visit their website).

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Sean Monahan
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Guns, Germs, and Steel would cover a little of all your bullet points.

ETA: And, it's in OCS's top four must-reads.

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Epictetus
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Not having them in front of me, I apologize for a lack of authors:

The History of the World in Six Glasses
May it Please the Court
1066 The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry
A History of God and/or A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong (History of Myth is a bit of an easier read)
Any or all of the Dialogues of Plato
The Book of Insults (if you're at all curious how great historical figures used wit and invective against their opponents.)

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Tatiana
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I like "The Character of Physical Law" by Richard P. Feynman. It explains for laymen the best of anything I've ever read how our most basic knowledge of reality is mathematical. And it's just a good read.

"Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter is a great romp through logic, artificial intelligence, and chaos theory with information about DNA replication, music, art, Zen koans, and a thousand different subjects that all play notes in his central theme. It's a masterpiece. My paperback copy is loose-leaf now from how many times I've dipped into it.

"The Brothers Karamazov", "Crime and Punishment", and "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. These three novels from the best novelist ever to write are must-reads for anyone who wants to be educated. Dostoyevsky is sort of an angel-demon who sees the human heart in all its purity and depravity, and depicts it faithfully in his books. So much darkness is there, and then he just pours on the light. If regular books are 120V then early OSC is like 440V and Dostoyevsky is more like 35kV. Give him 100 pages, though, since some of his stuff starts out slowly. Those 19th c. educated-class people had more time to devote, so their stuff was paced slower than ours is today.

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Strider
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quote:
"Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter is a great romp through logic, artificial intelligence, and chaos theory with information about DNA replication, music, art, Zen koans, and a thousand different subjects that all play notes in his central theme. It's a masterpiece. My paperback copy is loose-leaf now from how many times I've dipped into it.
It's also a pretty difficult read. That might be one to put on the backburner. It's also not exactly in trip's requested subject areas. I agree it's an absolutely amazing book though.
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Starsnuffer
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Cosmos by Carl Sagan!
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/

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Starsnuffer
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Oh, my suggestions are about astronomy, not what you actually asked for, but you should read them anyway.
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Tatiana
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Strider, I usually read it by jumping around from topic to topic, rather than straight through. I do the "homework" when he suggests it, so that gives it a concrete foundation, and makes it all make sense. Read like that, it isn't difficult and it's a whole lot of fun. All of his wordplay, and ideaplay, is so funny and delightful, don't you think? I absolutely adore this book.

I think I answered the spirit of trip9's request rather than the letter. I answered "what are the great books that I need to read but I don't know yet that I need to read them?" I didn't restrict it to his categories but just listed what I have found to be the greatest books overall, for anyone with a quest for knowledge.

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trip9
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I just wanted to thank you guys for your recommendations, I'm definitely looking forward to delving into some of these. Guns, Germs, and Steel is definitely gonna be on my top reading list, and I'll definitely be checking out the others. And yes, I'm open to ALL books that can help further my knowledge, not just restricted to the topics I had originally posted. Thanks again everyone, keep 'em coming!
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TL
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Not exactly what you asked for. But recently I've been having a lot of fun with this really cool thing.
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adenam
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Just came across this quote from Ben Franklin, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest".
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
Not exactly what you asked for. But recently I've been having a lot of fun with this really cool thing.

Awesome!
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Samprimary
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http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/index.html

http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html

http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html

Yeah, I'm an angstrom away from being a fanboi but, honestly, these books are mind-blowing in the good way.

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ludosti
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
Not exactly what you asked for. But recently I've been having a lot of fun with this really cool thing.

Wow! That does look really fun!
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by trip9:
And yes, I'm open to ALL books that can help further my knowledge, not just restricted to the topics I had originally posted. Thanks again everyone, keep 'em coming!

In that case, I'll also suggest "The Ancestor's Tale" by Richard Dawkins. A reverse tour through the evolution of life on earth.
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SenojRetep
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Yeah, I'm an angstrom away from being a fanboi but, honestly, these books are mind-blowing in the good way.

What do you like about them? I found Tipping Point and Blink teasing, but ultimately unsatisfying. It's like he'd walk up to interesting points and then miss them by *that* much. I haven't read Outliers yet, but from observing my wife's reactions I think it'll probably be par for the course.

Not a book, but the recently launched Foreign Policy online magazine has (IMO) useful, thoughtful articles, generally with an unbiased and pragmatic bent.

In a similar vein I would recommend:
Post American World by Fareed Zakaria
America and the World by Brent Scocroft and Zbignew Brzezinski
The Ends of the Earth by Robert Kaplan
From the Shadows by Robert Gates

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The White Whale
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I would suggest a list of three books on granular materials. I've read the first, am in the middle of the second, and will read the third next:

Sand

Dirt

Salt

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theamazeeaz
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The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. It's more about economies (saving money) than economy- and more something you page through in bed than read. You come out with a different way of thinking about, money, life, what's important, how to reuse things, and how to do research.
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Strider
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quote:
Strider, I usually read it by jumping around from topic to topic, rather than straight through. I do the "homework" when he suggests it, so that gives it a concrete foundation, and makes it all make sense. Read like that, it isn't difficult and it's a whole lot of fun. All of his wordplay, and ideaplay, is so funny and delightful, don't you think? I absolutely adore this book.
oh, i'm not arguing with you there Tatiana, I think the book is absolutely brilliant. It just wouldn't have been the first book I'd have thought to suggest given trip's criteria.

On a related note, did you see this xkcd from last week?

http://xkcd.com/555/

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