100 books like Can Fish Count? What Animals Reveal about Our Uniquely Mathematical Minds

By Brian Butterworth,

Here are 100 books that Can Fish Count? What Animals Reveal about Our Uniquely Mathematical Minds fans have personally recommended if you like Can Fish Count? What Animals Reveal about Our Uniquely Mathematical Minds. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Solaris

Eric Kay Author Of Above Dark Waters

From my list on Sci-Fi mindbenders that will have you questioning everything.

Why am I passionate about this?

For twenty years, I have worked with the data dungeons of large corporations. A synergy of people, systems, and IT. An organism that no one designed but grew haphazardly over the years. A cybernetic system. I have been a database admin, analyst, and data visualizer, and most recently, I was employed as a data scientist for a large Fortune 500 corporation. There, I am currently researching how to use large language models and which business questions can tolerate the fuzzy answers and hallucinations they bring. Despite loving these mindbenders, most of my writing features strong themes of Exploration, Technology, and Optimism (ETO).

Eric's book list on Sci-Fi mindbenders that will have you questioning everything

Eric Kay Why did Eric love this book?

For a novel on the list, I have only read once, and a long time ago, I still keep thinking about this. It asks: Can we learn about the universe without first learning about ourselves?

It also goes into the limits of science. There are simply things science cannot tell us. The planet’s colloid sea is nonlinear, the math unsolvable, and the alien is potentially hostile. I choose to believe the planet is attempting to heal some deep-forgotten hurt of the narrator. What is the purpose of bringing up a disastrous relationship? To heal or learn? Or perhaps the alien is simply toying with them?

I read it soon after changing my life's trajectory and attempting to be more peaceful, creative, contemplative, and less frantic or consumptive. I need to read this again.

By Stanislaw Lem, Steve Cox (translator), Joanna Kilmartin (translator)

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Solaris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface he is forced to confront a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others suffer from the same affliction and speculation rises among scientists that the Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates incarnate memories, but its purpose in doing so remains a mystery . . .

Solaris raises a question that has been at the heart of human experience and literature for centuries: can we truly understand the universe around us without first understanding what…


Book cover of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Lars Chittka Author Of The Mind of a Bee

From my list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London and also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary. I've been fascinated by the strange world of insects since childhood and after taking the first glance into a beehive, I was hooked – I instantly knew that I was looking into a form of alien civilization. Since becoming a scientist, I have explored their strange perceptual worlds as well as their intelligence, and most recently the question of their consciousness. I hope you find wonderful insights in the books that I have suggested and a new respect for the animal minds that surround us. 

Lars' book list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses

Lars Chittka Why did Lars love this book?

This captivating book dismantles the prevalent notion that various facets of human intelligence are exclusive to our species.

Through a compelling array of examples spanning the animal kingdom, the author illuminates how skills like crafting tools, understanding mental perspectives, recognizing oneself, and even exhibiting cultural practices are not confined to humans and their nearest kin. Instead, these abilities have independently emerged in a diverse array of other creatures.

Consequently, the book serves as a stimulating challenge to the idea of human superiority, offering numerous indications that when an animal's environment demands it, evolution is inclined to yield intelligent behavior in a myriad of manifestations.

By Frans de Waal,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition-in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos-to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you…


Book cover of Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

Lars Chittka Author Of The Mind of a Bee

From my list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London and also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary. I've been fascinated by the strange world of insects since childhood and after taking the first glance into a beehive, I was hooked – I instantly knew that I was looking into a form of alien civilization. Since becoming a scientist, I have explored their strange perceptual worlds as well as their intelligence, and most recently the question of their consciousness. I hope you find wonderful insights in the books that I have suggested and a new respect for the animal minds that surround us. 

Lars' book list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses

Lars Chittka Why did Lars love this book?

Cephalopods, which encompass creatures like squids, cuttlefish, and octopuses, stand as some of nature's most peculiar inhabitants.

Without bones or outer shells, they possess the remarkable ability to alter their shape, almost resembling characters from Gary Larson's extraterrestrial sketches. What sets them apart further is their exceptional intelligence, a trait not commonly associated with their mollusk cousins like snails and oysters.

Godfrey-Smith puts forth a compelling argument suggesting that intelligent life may have independently evolved multiple times right here on our home planet. He contemplates whether consciousness, once believed to be a solely human attribute, emerged early in the animal kingdom's evolutionary journey, serving as a vital mechanism for interpreting sensory information, evading predators, and sourcing sustenance.

By Peter Godfrey-Smith,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Other Minds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Brilliant' Guardian 'Fascinating and often delightful' The Times

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 ROYAL SOCIETY SCIENCE BOOK PRIZE

What if intelligent life on Earth evolved not once, but twice? The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

In Other Minds, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a distinguished philosopher of science and a skilled scuba diver, tells a bold new story of how nature became aware of itself - a story that largely occurs in the ocean, where animals first appeared.

Tracking the mind's fitful development from unruly clumps of seaborne cells to…


Book cover of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals about Human Stupidity

Lars Chittka Author Of The Mind of a Bee

From my list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary College of the University of London and also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary. I've been fascinated by the strange world of insects since childhood and after taking the first glance into a beehive, I was hooked – I instantly knew that I was looking into a form of alien civilization. Since becoming a scientist, I have explored their strange perceptual worlds as well as their intelligence, and most recently the question of their consciousness. I hope you find wonderful insights in the books that I have suggested and a new respect for the animal minds that surround us. 

Lars' book list on animal intelligence – from aliens to octopuses

Lars Chittka Why did Lars love this book?

This book is a captivating journey through the diverse minds that inhabit our planet, blending beauty, deep contemplation, and a touch of humor.

Justin Gregg astutely observes that while many facets of human intelligence echo in various forms across the animal kingdom, from insects to narwhals, humans undeniably possess a unique brilliance. However, this intelligence is shaped by our evolutionary past, and it's a double-edged sword. We may wield great intelligence, yet we often struggle to use it in the best interests of our planet, lacking a sufficiently long-term perspective.

Gregg's remarkable work serves as a poignant reminder that if we don't step up our efforts quickly, we might once again find ourselves surrendering Earth to the dominion of creatures we consider less intelligent, like insects.

By Justin Gregg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This funny, "extraordinary and thought-provoking" (The Wall Street Journal) book asks whether we are in fact the superior species. As it turns out, the truth is stranger—and far more interesting—than we have been led to believe.

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal overturns everything we thought we knew about human intelligence, and asks the question: would humans be better off as narwhals? Or some other, less brainy species? There’s a good argument to be made that humans might be a less successful animal species precisely because of our amazing, complex intelligence.  

All our unique gifts like language, math, and science do…


Book cover of The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life

Tim Harford Author Of The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics

From my list on think clearly about data.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tim Harford is the author of nine books, including The Undercover Economist and The Data Detective, and the host of the Cautionary Tales podcast. He presents the BBC Radio programs More or Less, Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy, and How To Vaccinate The World. Tim is a senior columnist for the Financial Times, a member of Nuffield College, Oxford, and the only journalist to have been made an honorary fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.

Tim's book list on think clearly about data

Tim Harford Why did Tim love this book?

I should declare an interest here: I present a BBC Radio show that Blastland and Dilnot created. This book was effectively my “how to” manual on the way into the studio that they had vacated. It’s a wise and varied guide to the power and the pitfalls of data, poetically written and full of subtle wisdoms.

By Michael Blastland, Andrew Dilnot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Strunk and White of statistics team up to help the average person navigate the numbers in the news

Drawing on their hugely popular BBC Radio 4 show More or Less, journalist Michael Blastland and internationally known economist Andrew Dilnot delight, amuse, and convert American mathphobes by showing how our everyday experiences make sense of numbers.

The radical premise of The Numbers Game is to show how much we already know and give practical ways to use our knowledge to become cannier consumers of the media. If you've ever wondered what "average" really means, whether the scare stories about cancer…


Book cover of Number: The Language of Science

Joseph Mazur Author Of The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time

From my list on narrative merit in mathematics and science.

Why am I passionate about this?

Meaningful communications with people through life, books, and films have always given me a certain kind of mental nirvana of being transported to a place of delight. I see fine writing as an informative and entertaining conversation with a stranger I just met on a plane who has interesting things to say about the world. Books of narrative merit in mathematics and science are my strangers eager to be met. For me, the best narratives are those that bring me to places I have never been, to tell me things I have not known, and to keep me reading with the feeling of being alive in a human experience.

Joseph's book list on narrative merit in mathematics and science

Joseph Mazur Why did Joseph love this book?

More than any other, this book influenced me most about wanting to study mathematics. Of course, I was young at the time and strongly partial to Einstein’s remark, “This is beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands.” Many years later, when I exhaustively tried to find the book in any bookstore I passed, it was out of print. So I suggested it to my publisher, who immediately acquired the rights and republished it under my editing guidelines. It is the quintessential lure into mathematics for readers of any age.   

By Tobias Dantzig,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands."—Albert Einstein

Number is an eloquent, accessible tour de force that reveals how the concept of number evolved from prehistoric times through the twentieth century.  Renowned professor of mathematics Tobias Dantzig shows that the development of math—from the invention of counting to the discovery of infinity—is a profoundly human story that progressed by “trying and erring, by groping and stumbling.” He shows how commerce, war, and religion led to advances in math, and he recounts the stories of individuals whose breakthroughs expanded the…


Book cover of How Much Is a Million?

Joseph D'Agnese Author Of Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

From my list on helping your kids fall in love with math.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a boy, Joseph D’Agnese grew up absolutely convinced that he was terrible at two school subjects: math and science. Lo and behold—he ended up making a career writing about both! For more than seven years, he edited a children’s math magazine for Scholastic, and was rewarded for his work by multiple Educational Press Association Awards. His children's book about the Fibonacci Sequence, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci, is available in five languages worldwide, and as a classroom DVD. Blockhead is an Honor Book for the Mathical Book Prize—the first-ever prize for math-themed children's books. Joe’s work in science journalism has been featured twice in the prestigious annual anthology, Best American Science Writing.

Joseph's book list on helping your kids fall in love with math

Joseph D'Agnese Why did Joseph love this book?

Big numbers are just as amazing to kids as dinosaurs, and for the same reason. They’re so incredibly huge that they boggle the mind. This book helps kids comprehend big numbers using everyday objects and scenarios. If a million kids sat on each other’s shoulders, how high would they be able to reach? How long would it take to count to a million? Once they master a million, your kid will be well on their way to tackling quadrillions, nonillions, and, heaven help us, decillions!

By David M. Schwartz, Steven Kellogg (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Much Is a Million? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

“A jubilant, original picture book.” —Booklist (starred review)

Ever wonder just what a million of something means? How about a billion? Or a trillion? Marvelosissimo the mathematical magician can teach you!

How Much Is a Million? knocks complex numbers down to size in a fun, humorous way, helping children conceptualize a difficult mathematical concept. It's a math class you'll never forget.

This classic picture book is an ALA Notable Book, a Reading Rainbow Feature Selection, and a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book for Illustration.

The repackage of this fun look at math concepts includes a letter from the author that…


Book cover of Organizing from the Inside Out

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Author Of Edit Your Life: A Handbook for Living with Intention in a Messy World

From my list on inspiring you to change your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an American author and writing teacher for both Harvard and Oxford’s online writing programs. I am also a mother of two who lived three years in a tiny backyard guest house with my family in an effort to focus more on what we love. Editing books is a practice I have honed over decades, and when my family was stuck in a living situation that felt unsustainable, the clearest way forward was for me to ask myself how I might edit our way out of it. It worked! In this book, I share the most valuable eight principles that we learned through the process.

Elisabeth's book list on inspiring you to change your life

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did Elisabeth love this book?

This book is a gem! This book is a gem! Its common sense about organizing is sound and wonderfully useful.

It is humbly written, sweetly funny, and applicable to many areas of life. It is the book I reread whenever I am stressed out, the book whose principles have impacted how I teach, write, parent, and organize my home and my life.

By Julie Morgenstern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Organizing from the Inside Out as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling guide to putting things in order. Put America's #1 organizer to work for you.

Getting organized is a skill that anyone can learn, and there's no better teacher than America's organizing queen, Julie Morgenstern, as hundreds of thousands of readers have learned. Drawing on her years of experience as a professional organizer, Morgenstern outlines a simple organizing plan that starts with understanding your individual goals, natural habits, and psychological needs, so that you can work with your priorities and personality rather than against them. The basic steps-Analyze, Strategize, Attack-can be applied to any space or…


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

Steven S. Skiena Author Of The Algorithm Design Manual

From my list on mathematical and algorithmic thinking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, and have spent the past thirty years thinking/teaching/writing about algorithms. Algorithms are the really cool thing about computer science, for they form the ideas behind any interesting computer program. And algorithms turn out to be the ideas behind many interesting aspects of life that have nothing to do with computers. I have written six books on algorithms, programming, gambling, and history –including the ranking of the historical significance of all the people in Wikipedia.

Steven's book list on mathematical and algorithmic thinking

Steven S. Skiena Why did Steven love this book?

Polya was a great mathematician who knew what counted (after all, he made major contributions to combinatorics, the mathematics of counting). He thought hard about what he was doing when working on problems in mathematics, developing a mental process that lead to creative breakthroughs and solutions. Polya’s problem-solving method is broadly applicable to domains other than mathematics, and this book features many nice puzzles to improve your thinking.

Algorithm design is challenging because it often requires flashes of sudden insight which seem to come out of the blue. But there is a way of thinking about problems that make such flashes more likely to happen. I try to teach this thought process in my books, but Polya got there first.


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 The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why

Gary Chartrand Author Of Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

From my list on if you want to be a mathematician.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have enjoyed mathematics and writing since I’ve been a kid, not only enjoying doing research in mathematics but assisting others to appreciate and enjoy mathematics. Along the way, I’ve gained an interest in the history of mathematics and the mathematicians who created mathematics. Perhaps most important, my primary goal has been to show others how enjoyable mathematics can be. Mathematics has given me the marvelous opportunity to meet and work with other mathematicians who have a similar passion for mathematics.

Gary's book list on if you want to be a mathematician

Gary Chartrand Why did Gary love this book?

Have you ever been to a mathematics lecture where the speaker wore a tuxedo and baffled the audience with his mystifying knowledge of numbers? Well, I have and the speaker was Arthur Benjamin, who combined mathematics and magic. He even displayed this knowledge with Stephen Colbert on his earlier show The Colbert Report. It is our good fortune that he describes much of this mathematical wizardry in this fascinating book. 

By Arthur Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller Arthur Benjamin . . . joyfully shows you how to make nature's numbers dance." ,Bill Nye The Magic of Math is the math book you wish you had in school. Using a delightful assortment of examples,from ice-cream scoops and poker hands to measuring mountains and making magic squares,this book revels in key mathematical fields including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and calculus, plus Fibonacci numbers, infinity, and, of course, mathematical magic tricks. Known throughout the world as the mathemagician," Arthur Benjamin mixes mathematics and magic to make the subject fun, attractive, and easy to understand for math…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in math, octopus, and mathematicians?

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