Best book you've ever read

Note; this is off-topic chat.

What is the best book you’ve ever read? (Doesn’t have to be mnemonics)
Preferably pick one fiction and one non fiction.

Best non fiction book I’ve ever read is definitely “A new rational guide to living”. No contest. If I could only read and share one book for the rest of my life, it would be this one.

Basically, it explains that emotions are caused by activating events, which are interpreted by your belief system. There are both rational responses to events, and irrational ones. You tell yourself things that cause you to feel a certain way. Rightfully calling something unfortunate is different from calling it horrible and how it shouldn’t have happened.

Couple days ago something happened personally, and I started thinking those things “oh how horrible, how could this have happened, etc”. Then I caught myself and realized; “Nothing really changed, did it? It’s unfortunate that it happened, but that’s all it is; it’s not ‘horrible’ etc”

It’s a bit difficult to explain, I’ll post my whole notes when I finish them.

A New Rational Guide to Living
Best nonfiction book I’ve ever read. No contest. Extremely recommended.

Share what book has influenced your life the most? What is the best book you’ve read? Which book should everyone read? Why and how did it influence your life?


I just read the author’s Wikipedia page and he looks like an interesting thinker. I’ll check it out.

I’m going to have to think a little bit before I answer this question.

Whenever I read fiction, I read two or three chapters and then something annoys me and I don’t pick it up again, unless it’s Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.

The Art of Memory by Frances Yates was great. I’ve mostly been reading books about programming for the past couple of years (tutorials), so it might take some time to think or something that really stands out.

Fiction: The Silmarillion.
Ever wondered how Tolkien was easily able to make those numerous comments to past events in LOTR and Hobbit without ever contradicting himself? It’s because he had already pre-written THE COMPLETE F***ING HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE (with all its mythology and those AWESOME maps) before starting to write LOTR. And that’s not all - he created that universe merely to “explain” the background of Elvish languages he had created! However, it’s more like a mythological history book, and some don’t like it because “It’s hard to read.” Respect, Tolkien!

Non-fiction: Garantiert erfolgreich lernen. Wie Sie Ihre Lese- und Lernfähigkeit steigern by Christian Grüning (it has no English translation I’m afraid.)
It taught me how to study more effectively. For me its most helpful thing was training myself to find keywords in text/lecture/… and then structurizing them into Mind Map. I talk more about this book here.

Thanks for you contributions.

Josh: That book happens to have two authors, Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper.

It’s interesting what you said about fiction. I usually know within the first 15 seconds of reading a book whether I like it or not(and thus whether I’ll read it or not). Now I consciously choose not to read fiction books except very rarely; they’re mostly useless. Sure, you get to experience life through another persons viewpoint, and that does have some use. I’ve read enough fiction in the past to be open minded and be able to see through anothers point of view. Still read it from time to time, when people that I hold in high regard recommend one.

My favorite fiction would as of now be “Blood Meridian”. Just pure masculinity. It’s a very good read.

I’ve also read Yates’ book, didn’t find it that interesting. At the time I was much more interested in the applications of mnemonics rather than the rare and ancient references to its use though. I’m sure it was well written for the purpose that it was written for, it just didn’t match my interests at the time.

R30: The only reason I haven’t read any of Tolkiens books is whenever I pick them up(at the library or so), the font is so ******* small. I’ve read longer and larger books; War and Peace for example. Couldn’t read past one page of Tolkiens though, and now I just dislike them whenever I see them, even if they’re in larger font. I might try to read the Silmarillion sometime in the future though.

As Carl Sagan said: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

Glad you found a study book that you could glean good info from. Sometimes all you can do is read a bunch of texts on the same subject, and see which one relates to your ‘style’ or ‘personality’ the best. I’ve found mine as well.

All: My notes are usually 10-15% of the length of whatever I’m reading, so they would be 20-30 pages for ‘Rational Living’. Will have to somehow condense them into a shorter length to make it easier to share. As my friend said a couple days ago; “I can perfectly grasp the concept and the idea, but I can’t figure out a way to share it in words.”

Which book has influenced your life the most? In what way? How has it helped you?


That would probably be this Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking. It set me off on this path when I was about 18.

The book changed my life, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it. I’d recommend different ones on a similar topic.

Other books that were highly influential for various reasons:

I once read a biography Joshua Slocum that set me off on an obsession to sail around the world. I immediately went to a bookstore to look for books on how to sail, where I found a book called The Seagoing Hitchhiker’s Handbook: Roaming the Earth on Other People’s Yachts. I ended up catching a ride around the world on an 80’ sailboat, but had to bail about 800 miles down the coast of Mexico, because the situation became too shady. I spent a long time on and off the road for the next 10 years due to that, and taught myself how to use computers along the way, because I needed to make a living while not being tied down to a location. If I hadn’t read that Joshua Slocum biography, my life would have been completely different.

Later, Mind Performance Hacks introduced me to memory techniques, so that book helped get me to this point.

Very interesting. Most people don’t actually act on what they read, it’s amazing as to what lengths you went after reading that one. I suppose you were likely ‘predisposed’ towards that type of mindset(freedom, independence), and that book just pushed you ‘over the edge’ as they say.

Yeah, there are plenty of ‘little’ decisions that would have changed how your entire life turned out. When I first came to America at age 10, my mom had the choice to send me back a grade(so I could learn english and not have to learn much new stuff), or just send me to normal class with one for ESL(which she did). If she chose differently, practically nothing would have been the same. Friends, books, mindset, skills, knowledge. Everything would be completely different.

It’s all just tiny decisions.


PS: Looks like ‘recent posts and comments’ on peoples pages don’t update that often.

Another example of ‘tiny decisions’ is Eminem. Well, technically that one is because of genetics. When he was a teen, he swallowed a whole bottle of Tylenol. Would have died if he didn’t have a strong gag reflex. No music. No fame. No money. No one would have known he existed.

I tend to fully dive into anything that catches my interest. If one is going to do something, one might as well put 100% into it. I can’t say that I am always successful with it, but it’s my general approach. :slight_smile:

If I hadn’t injured my hands, I might still have “sail around the world” on my list of things to accomplish someday. It probably isn’t realistic with the injuries.

Small decisions and events change everything…

Are you referring to the pages linked to from the main navbar? I’ll check to see if the server-side caching is turned on. It shouldn’t be doing that for logged-in users – only for people who aren’t logged in.

I mean people’s main account pages.

Sail around the world is still on my ‘bucket list’. Or maybe ‘fly’.


Those profile queries are cached. I just switched it from 5 minutes to 1 minute. If you notice it taking longer than 120 seconds to update, let me know and I’ll see how it performs without caching. It’s easy for the server to send text files (html) to browsers, but every time it goes to the database to get info, it slows things down. The caching there makes sure that even if a bot hits the page 1,000 in a short period of time, it won’t hit the database for that query more than once per minute.

There are many good books. Thor Heyerdahl was another inspiration.

Traveling isn’t extremely expensive if you use hostels and other methods. Maybe couchsurfing, WWOOFing, etc. Flights are probably the largest expense.

Hyperion + The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Selfish Gene

That’s near the top of my “to-read” list. Also Ancestor’s Tale, and The Extended Phenotype. I read 1-3 chapters of each, but I keep getting distracted.

Steven Hawking’s ’ A Brief History of Time’ has influenced me the most since 2003. Not necessarily the best I’ve read. But very impactful. So, if I had to choose 1 book, I would go for that (with Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ as a runner-up)

About fiction, I can’t remember. I haven’t really read any fiction book in the last decade (except an occasional speed-read of some short 2-page stories). I tried to once read Tolkien’s Silmarillion but the plot was complicated, and I am not really in the fiction mindset, except for occasional songs that sing about science fiction (e.g. Blind Guardian’s record ‘Nightfall in middle Earth’ which was about Silmarillion, and also the british prog rock band Marillion who got their name from the same Tolkien’s book and had some great tales about Grendel+Beowolf in their early days)

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Ah yes, Nodas. I have that one within 10 feet of me. A dual book of A Brief History of Time and The Universe In A Nutshell. Very insightful. Shows you just how incredible the universe is.


Bateman, I also have Hawking’s ‘The Universe In A Nutshell’ in hardcover, but it’s probably a decade since I’ve read that. It has some very fancy images though, like Hawking flying in space in his wheel-chair near a black hole. (at least in my greek edition, called ‘Το σύμπαν σε ένα καρυδότσουφλο). I’ve also reviewed a lot some Penrose’s book like Emperor’s New Mind or Large, Small and Human mind, even though I don’t agree much with Penrose&Hammeroff’s microtubules’ conjecture. Consciousness is a very ambiguous topic and discussions are very easy to loose track and train of thought if you start with very decent new mind-philosophers like Chalmers or John Searle or even A.I.-ers like Kurzweil or Marvin Minsky. That’s why I prefer to read stuff from actual neuroscientists like Crick’s Astonishing Hypothesis, or Gerald Edelman or a few Susan Greenfield or Ramachadran articles, if I want to read about a few brain functions.

@ Josh, I also have Ancestor’s Tale, which is way too lengthy, and I probably won’t finish that without speedreading. At least I managed to read it’s very useful wiki’s_Tale
There are so many ancestors already.

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Here are my notes for half a chapter(this book takes a long time to read, and even a single chapter is lifechanging(note; originally wrote it on paper, just recently transferred it to onenote));

"Irrational Idea 9: The idea that people and things should turn out better than they do and that you must view it as awful and horrible if you do not find any good solutions to life’s grim realities.

This is an idiotic idea for several reasons;
1. No reason exists why people should/must behave as they do just because you don’t want them to.
2. When things go wrong or people act unpleasantly, it’s never as bad as you make it seem. It may be unfortunate and it may affect you adversely, but not as “Things shouldn’t occur this way”.
3. Even if people harm you or events go badly, no good comes out of whining about it and being upset. You make it less likely that you’ll help the people or change things if you’re upset.
4. No matter how wise your counsel, people are still independent individuals and may ignore you completely. As such, there is no reason to get upset over things you cannot control.
5. Focusing and upsetting about other people sidetracks you from growing your own self, and working toward your own goals.
6. The notion that a perfect solution exists to any of lifes problems is unlikely; it’s far better to take a good compromise than wait for the ‘perfect’ moment.
7. Mistakes are rarely actually catastrophic, except in your own head.
Perfectionism is a self-defeating philosophy in this imperfect world filled with fallible beings. Even if you achieve perfection, there is no chance of staying at that level. "

This is how most chapters of this book go; they introduce an irrational idea that most people have, then they dissect why it’s so irrational. After, they give some examples of people with that irrational idea coming to them, and how they fixed it.

As I’ve said, even a single chapter, a single idea being shown how irrational it is can be completely lifechanging. This book is a must-read.

One thing that I really took away is the fact that whatever happens, at worst it’s ‘really bad’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘annoying’, and ‘uncomfortable’. But it can never be anything outside the realm of ‘‘bad’’. We often make bad events seem ‘beyond bad’, we make them out to be outside the realm of reality in our minds. We often say things ‘mustn’t/shouldn’t’ occur’, but why shouldn’t they? Just because you don’t want it to be that way? There is no reason why people should behave or events should occur a different way just because you want them to.


As it stands, this maxim:

There is no reason why people should behave or events should occur a different way just because you want them to.

is dangerously close to what Daniel Dennett refers to as a “deepity.” A deepity is a very specific kind of statement which can be interpreted in two different ways: one of the interpretations is true, but trivially true. The other interpretation would be very intriguing if it were true, but is false. Accidental equivocation will lead a person to catch a glimpse of the truth of the trivial statement as well as the profundity of the false statement and mistake the maxim for a profound truth on these grounds.

The phrases “there is no reason” and “just because you want them to” are incompatible, as the single reason of “just wanting them to” is equated with the entire set of possible reasons (all of which are purportedly false) why “people should behave or events should occur in a different way.”

So the only logical statement made by the maximum is “People should not behave differently nor should events occur differently just because you want them to.” That’s true, but I would classify it as a trivial truth. No one seriously believes that any person who wants to be the president should therefore be the president, for instance. So it’s true, but who cares?

But there is also an entirely different claim that may appear to be confirmed if the trivial truth above is successfully argued for. That is the claim that “there is no reason why people should behave or events should occur in a different way.” It is the logical equivalent of the belief that no matter what people do, and no matter what events occur, the situations that arise will be the best possible situations, which is indefensible for all except the hard determinist who equates “the best possible situation” with “the worst possible situation” as well as “the only possible situation,” and the Theist who believes that whatever occurs is in line with the will of the divine. But unless this book is developing either one or the other of those lines, the claim isn’t being defended.

Anyway, there may be interesting points and solid argumentation in the book, but that maxim is no good.

That exact wording may not have been in the book, these are notes. While it may be trivial, it’s responding to the irrational belief that a lot of people have; “The idea that people and things should turn out better than they do and that you must view it as awful and horrible if you do not find any good solutions to life’s grim realities.”

Thanks for your contribution,


My mind is thoughfull. I like lifeshifting. When you change your whole point of view. It is realy nice to read this post.
About 50 years ago, this conversation wouldn’t be possible. I wonder how it will be in the future. Maybe we will be connected by some kind of thoughts transmition. Never mind.

I will add my 2015 book list:
Napoleon Hill - The law of success
David J. Schwarz - Magic of thinking big
Stephen R. Covey - 7 habits of successfol people
Takashi Kojima - The japanese abacus it’s use and theory
Napoleon Hill - Think and grow rich
Daniel Carnegie - How to win friends and influence people
The spark
Daniel Smith - How to think like Sherlock Holmes
Kikujiro Wadamori - Mnemotechnics. New theories and laws for memorizing, and their practical application to the cultivation of the memory

These books changed my perception.

Best regards,

The best books I have read this year:
You are now less dumb by David McRaney
This book will literally change your view of humans and yourself.

Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing by Andrew Smart.
You will learn why the best thinkers shared the habit of doing “nothing”.

Also the Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton.
Read it if you want to learn what a Psychopath really is.

Wisdom of Psychopaths was a very good book.

I’ve read most of those, Napoleon Hill - The law of success
Stephen R. Covey - 7 habits of successfol people
Napoleon Hill - Think and grow rich
Daniel Carnegie - How to win friends and influence people
Daniel Smith - How to think like Sherlock Holmes

Daniel Carnegies gives the most practical advice, the most useful advice. Napoleon hill is more mindset oriented, which is important to learn(PS: A book that recently came out, that I HIGHLY recommend is Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich)