The best books to help you to think logically

Dennis E. Shasha Author Of The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco
By Dennis E. Shasha

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.

The books I picked & why

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Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Book cover of Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

Why 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. 


Mathematical Puzzles: A Connoisseur's Collection

By Peter Winkler,

Book cover of Mathematical Puzzles: A Connoisseur's Collection

Why 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.


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 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.


How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method

By George Polya,

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

Why 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. 


Syntactic Structures

By Noam Chomsky,

Book cover of Syntactic Structures

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in recreational mathematics, math, and politics?

5,215 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 8 books about recreational mathematics
Math Explore 99 books about math
Politics Explore 308 books about politics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension, Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of Paradoxes, and The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems if you like this list.