The best books to help you to think logically

Who am I?

I became a scientist because I enjoyed the puzzles in Scientific American. I loved the notion that through mere thought, one could solve a question that at first glance seemed impossible to solve. When I had to design methods to detect ephemeral failures in electronic circuits underlying a mainframe computer, I created a puzzle having occasional liars. When I thought about ways to understand global wars, I constructed a puzzle about bullies in a playground. Some of my puzzles have been very computational, some purely paper and pencil. Over the years, my puzzles have appeared in Scientific American, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and the Communications of the ACM.


I wrote...

The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco

By Dennis E. Shasha,

Book cover of The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco

What is my book about?

Dr. Ecco is a mathematical detective. People come to him from all over the planet and pose questions that require logic and/or mathematics to solve, some of which involve danger. Unlike other detective novels, the reader has exactly the information that Dr. Ecco has, so you can match wits with the Greenwich Village detective.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

Dennis E. Shasha Why did I love this book?

Abraham Lincoln famously had little formal education but was capable of sophisticated logical thinking in his arguments. He credits his ability to form his arguments to his encounter with Euclid’s writings about geometry. He felt in awe by the notion of “demonstration” and went on to apply that notion to his compelling arguments about the injustice and hypocrisy of slavery. 

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume presents nearly 250 of Lincoln's most important speeches, state papers, and letters in their entirety. Here are not only the masterpieces,the Gettysburg Address, the Inaugural Addresses, the 1858 Republican Convention Speech, the Emancipation Proclamation,but hundreds of lesser-known gems. Alfred Kazin has written that Lincoln was "not just the greatest writer among our Presidents . . . but the most telling and unforgettable of all American'public' writer-speakers," and it's never been cleaner than in this comprehensive edition.


Book cover of Mathematical Puzzles: A Connoisseur's Collection

Dennis E. Shasha Why did I love this book?

Peter Winkler is an outstanding theoretical computer scientist, which is another way of saying that he is a mathematician who loves combinatorics and logic. He brings the precision and clarity of a mathematician to both the presentation and the solutions of his puzzles. The book consists of great puzzles from the centuries. Professor Winkler has excellent taste.

By Peter Winkler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Collected over several years by Peter Winkler, of Bell Labs, dozens of elegant, intriguing challenges are presented in Mathematical Puzzles. The answers are easy to explain, but without this book, devilishly hard to find. Creative reasoning is the key to these puzzles. No involved computation or higher mathematics is necessary, but your ability to construct a mathematical proof will be severly tested--even if you are a professional mathematician. For the truly adventurous, there is even a chapter on unsolved puzzles.


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

Dennis E. Shasha Why did I love this book?

Raymond Smullyan is a professor, a magician, and an author. In this book, he combines humor with logic and a flair for magic in a set of ingenious puzzles. Though the puzzles initially appear to be quirky and light-hearted, they evolve towards some of the deepest topics in modern logic, including the undecidability of even simple fields of mathematics. You will enjoy a sense of wonder at both the puzzles and their solutions.

By Raymond M. Smullyan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked What Is the Name of This Book? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The most original, most profound, and most humorous collection of recreational logic and math problems ever written." — Martin Gardner, Scientific American
"The value of the book lies in the wealth of ingenious puzzles. They afford amusement, vigorous exercise, and instruction." — Willard Van Orman Quine, The New York Times Book Review
If you're intrigued by puzzles and paradoxes, these 200 mind-bending logic puzzles, riddles, and diversions will thrill you with challenges to your powers of reason and common sense. Raymond M. Smullyan — a celebrated mathematician, logician, magician, and author — presents a logical labyrinth of more than 200…


Book cover of How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method

Dennis E. Shasha Why did I love this book?

In this book, George Polya explains some techniques for solving problems. While this might sound too much like a textbook, the book features puzzles and their solution and a systematic guide as to how to find such a solution. He shows that mathematics is an empirical science, full of experimentation and dead ends, but, with a little luck, crowned with a solution. 

By George Polya,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Solve It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A perennial bestseller by eminent mathematician G. Polya, How to Solve It will show anyone in any field how to think straight. In lucid and appealing prose, Polya reveals how the mathematical method of demonstrating a proof or finding an unknown can be of help in attacking any problem that can be "reasoned" out--from building a bridge to winning a game of anagrams. Generations of readers have relished Polya's deft--indeed, brilliant--instructions on stripping away irrelevancies and going straight to the heart of the problem.


Book cover of Syntactic Structures

Dennis E. Shasha Why did I love this book?

In the history of science, fields of studies have evolved from empirical to principled. In linguistics, field linguists had understood the need to construct grammars of languages they encountered. Noam Chomsky understood the need to place grammars into a mathematical hierarchy of formalisms, showing through brilliant counter-examples which grammatical constructs could be handled by each formalism. For example, Chomsky showed that finite state automata model noun phrases beautifully but fail with if-then sentences. He showed that context-free grammars handle if-then, but fail at passive constructions. The book offered a new way to think about language.

By Noam Chomsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Noam Chomsky's first book on syntactic structures is one of the first serious attempts on the part of a linguist to construct within the tradition of scientific theory-construction a comprehensive theory of language which may be understood in the same sense that a chemical, biological theory is understood by experts in those fields. It is not a mere reorganization of the data into a new kind of library catalogue, nor another specualtive philosophy about the nature of man and language, but rather a rigorus explication of our intuitions about our language in terms of an overt axiom system, the theorems…


You might also like...

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in recreational mathematics, math, and politics?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about recreational mathematics, math, and politics.

Recreational Mathematics Explore 10 books about recreational mathematics
Math Explore 241 books about math
Politics Explore 687 books about politics