The best books on chaos and disorder

Why am I passionate about this?

My work has always been interested in the ways in which systems can be disrupted and subverted by taking radical fresh approaches to them, even where the prevailing view is that overturning them can only lead to the dreaded chaos.


I wrote...

An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

By Stuart Walton,

Book cover of An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

What is my book about?

A study of chaos, disorder, mayhem and confusion in history, philosophy, religion, and the arts, asking whether order is always preferable to everything being in a mess.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Chaos Imagined: Literature, Art, Science

Stuart Walton Why did I love this book?

A comprehensive, elegantly written survey of the territory from a genuine polymath, Chaos Imagined considers the philosophical issues raised by the turn to disorder and chance in everything from cutting-edge artistic movements to mathematical chaos theory. Meisel moves with agile ease from historical narrative to considerations of some quite knotty theoretical problems in a style that is genuinely readable and elegant, rather than academically abstruse. He is as assured on avant-garde art movements as he is on the more elusive aspects of western philosophy.

By Martin Meisel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chaos Imagined as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stories we tell in our attempt to make sense of the world-our myths and religion, literature and philosophy, science and art-are the comforting vehicles we use to transmit ideas of order. But beneath the quest for order lies the uneasy dread of fundamental disorder. True chaos is hard to imagine and even harder to represent. In this book, Martin Meisel considers the long effort to conjure, depict, and rationalize extreme disorder, with all the passion, excitement, and compromises the act provokes. Meisel builds a rough history from major social, psychological, and cosmological turning points in the imagining of chaos.…


Book cover of The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences

Stuart Walton Why did I love this book?

Foucault’s groundbreaking work from the 1960s looks at how systems of order and classification came into being during the age of rationalism with Descartes, culminating in the 18th-century Enlightenment’s project of subjecting every field of knowledge to its own self-enclosed order. It remains of the great works of theoretical synthesis, patiently dissecting the structures of knowledge, of order and priority, that western learning continues to take for granted. At half a century’s distance, Foucault is the one French thinker whose legacy remains intact for his lucidity, polemical edge, and refusal of esoteric linguistic games.

By Michel Foucault,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Order of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When one defines "order" as a sorting of priorities, it becomes beautifully clear as to what Foucault is doing here. With virtuoso showmanship, he weaves an intensely complex history of thought. He dips into literature, art, economics and even biology in The Order of Things, possibly one of the most significant, yet most overlooked, works of the twentieth century. Eclipsed by his later work on power and discourse, nonetheless it was The Order of Things that established Foucault's reputation as an intellectual giant. Pirouetting around the outer edge of language, Foucault unsettles the surface of literary writing. In describing the…


Book cover of Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science

Stuart Walton Why did I love this book?

In a study of great conceptual daring, Hayles examines the links between scientific chaos theory and the representations of disorder in modern literature, from Stanislaw Lem to Doris Lessing. She is more or less unique in the present day in being able to align hard science with contemporary aesthetics, a world away from the half-digested appropriation of scientific chatter by those who love nothing better than an algorithm. Her grasp of contemporary theory is sound, and her readings of modern literature are sensitive and enlightening.

By N. Katherine Hayles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chaos Bound as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

N. Katherine Hayles here investigates parallels between contemporary literature and critical theory and the science of chaos. She finds in both scientific and literary discourse new interpretations of chaos, which is seen no longer as disorder but as a locus of maximum information and complexity. She examines structures and themes of disorder in The Education of Henry Adams, Doris Lessing's Golden Notebook, and works by Stanislaw Lem. Hayles shows how the writings of poststructuralist theorists including Barthes, Lyotard, Derrida, Serres, and de Man incorporate central features of chaos theory.


Book cover of Gravity's Rainbow

Stuart Walton Why did I love this book?

In this monumental novel of 1973, Pynchon envisions a world that has surrendered, in the late stages of the second world war, to eruptive cognitive and moral chaos. The writing is tirelessly explosive, exhilarating, occasionally obscene, and formally liberating. Sustained over 900 pages, it is hard to encapsulate the degree to which this writing deliberately unmoors its readers from the expectations of traditional narrative and character development. No creative writing manual will teach you to write like this, and yet Pynchon’s work inspired David Foster Wallace and others of America’s recent literary golden age. I wouldn’t like to have to defend the sexual presumptions in Gravity’s Rainbow before a modern-day tribunal, but the relentless energy of the writing reflects a world that has come unhinged from its ethical bearings. 

By Thomas Pynchon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Gravity's Rainbow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by many as the major experimental nov el of the post-war period, Gravity''s Rainbow is a bizarre co mic masterpiece in which linguistic virtuosity creates a who le other world. '


Book cover of The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus

Stuart Walton Why did I love this book?

A very early effort at a blood-soaked Roman tragedy written (at least partly) by England’s poet laureate. It throws its characters into a boiling cauldron of destructive evil, devising ghastly ways of killing most of them, and features one of the Elizabethan theatre’s most uncompromising villainous monsters, the racially profiled Aaron. It is customary among Shakespeare scholars to try to disown Titus for its lurid gratuitousness, but it does contain some fine poetic writing, brief flashes of the riches to come, and an anticipation of the subtler malevolence that would come to dominate the English stage in the succeeding Jacobean era. Those inclined to celebrate chaos as a purely constructive force might profit from lingering amid Shakespeare’s horrors.

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The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

By Kay Freeman,

Book cover of The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

Kay Freeman Author Of Hitman's Honey

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired art professor Tequila aficionado Weightlifter Owned by Standard Poodle Blues lover

Kay's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

It began with a dying husband, and it ended in a dynasty.

It took away her husband’s pain on his deathbed, kept her from losing the family farm, gave her the power to build a thriving business, but it’s illegal to grow in every state in the country in 1978.

It even brings her first love from high school back; the only problem is that he works for the FBI. Will their occupations implode their romance, or will the opposite happen?

A second chance at love, opposites attract, rags to riches heroine trope story.

The Flower Queen: A 1970's Suspense Romance

By Kay Freeman,

What is this book about?

It began with a dying husband and it ended in a dynasty.

It took away her husband’s pain on his deathbed, kept her from losing the family farm, gave her the power to build a thriving business, but it’s illegal to grow in every state in the country in 1978. It even brings her first love from high school back; the only problem he works for the FBI. Will their occupations implode their romance or will the opposite happen? A second chance at love, opposites attract , rags to riches heroine trope story.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in chaos theory, William Shakespeare, and Europe?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about chaos theory, William Shakespeare, and Europe.

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