The best books about "thinking skills"

Martin Cohen Author Of Rethinking Thinking: Problem Solving from Sun Tzu to Google
By Martin Cohen

The Books I Picked & Why

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why this book?

What I like about this book is that it deals with big ideas in very plain language, and is packed full of practical experiments and examples. This is all the more remarkable as the book actually started out as a 'post-hippy,' 1970s academic paper, entitled "Belief in the Law of Small Numbers," in which Daniel Kahneman and his lifelong collaborator, Amos Tversky, set out eleven "cognitive illusions" that affect human judgment. The book went on to define a whole new field, which can't be said for everyone! Its weakness is, I think, an insistence that being irrational is bad. Not always!


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Thought Experiments

By Roy A. Sorensen

Book cover of Thought Experiments

Why this book?

This is the book that got me thinking about thought experiments. It really opened up my eyes to a whole new way of thinking – mainly by introducing me to the wonderfully playful, indeed modern style of writing that Galileo used to present his groundbreaking scientific theories – way back in seventeenth-century Italy!

Sorenson is a philosophy professor and goes on a bit, but his book was also groundbreaking in a way. My own books owe him a debt and for scholarly types, he also suggests a general theory "of" thought experiments: meaning what they are, how they work, and what is good - and bad - about them.


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What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles

By Raymond M. Smullyan

Book cover of What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles

Why this book?

Raymond Smullyan is a riddler, a puzzler, well-known for various Knights and Knaves puzzles, a type of logic game where some characters can only answer questions truthfully, and others only falsely. However, I recommend this book as here he offers not only logical tricks but many insights too. One section offers the World's shortest explanation of Gödel's theorem which is a magnificent achievement but frankly, reminds me why I like long explanations sometimes.

Basically, this is an examination of boolean logic, which is (rather boringly) a branch of algebra in which all operations are either true or false, and relationships are expressed with logical operators such as and, or, or not. So it’s serious stuff, but also pretty funny along the way.


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Alice in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll, Illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer

Book cover of Alice in Wonderland

Why this book?

We all know this book as a children's bookor maybe just secondhand as a cultural reference. What few of us think of the book as being is as a brilliant work of the philosophy of maths, language, and self-reference. Yet Lewis Carroll in fact was a mathematician and what is unique about his writing is how he hides his learning with such wit and elegance, that, well, we all forget the book is actually serious stuff.


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Chaos: Making a New Science

By James Gleick

Book cover of Chaos: Making a New Science

Why this book?

This is a book about "non-linear" thinking. I like this kind of weird stuff. 

Research in psychology shows that the human mind struggles to understand non-linear relationships. Our brains seem to like the rather dull and predictable story of simple relationships. Ones like "you drive quicker, you arrive sooner" or maybe "the more books you read, the brainer you become."  But real life is not following these laws! Take dieting: if you eat less food you don't necessarily get thinner - maybe your metabolism slows down instead. Maybe you skip breakfast but start snacking late at night. "It's complicated."


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