100 books like How Not to Be Wrong

By Jordan Ellenberg,

Here are 100 books that How Not to Be Wrong fans have personally recommended if you like How Not to Be Wrong. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Yehonathan Sharvit Author Of Data-Oriented Programming

From my list on become a great developer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I boast a two-decade-long career in the software industry. Over the years, I have diligently honed my programming skills across a multitude of languages, including JavaScript, C++, Java, Ruby, and Clojure. Throughout my career, I have taken on various management roles, from Team Leader to VP of Engineering. No matter the role, the thing I have enjoyed the most is to make complex topics easy to understand.

Yehonathan's book list on become a great developer

Yehonathan Sharvit Why did Yehonathan love this book?

This book profoundly influenced my thinking process, combining the worlds of mathematics, art, and music. I was captivated by how the book explores the deep connections between Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, Escher’s art, and Bach’s art of counterpoint.

The book’s puzzles and thought experiments pushed me to think more abstractly and critically. Despite being dense, I found it incredibly rewarding and eye-opening. I recommend this book to anyone interested in logic, creativity, and the nature of human thought. It’s a masterpiece!

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.


Book cover of Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Author Of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

From my list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my forthcoming novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions.

Kirsten's book list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Why did Kirsten love this book?

In the mood for a graphic novel starring Bertrand Russell and a supporting cast of famous thinkers like Whitehead, Frege, Gödel, and Wittgenstein? Logicomix is for you!

Flip to Chapter Six, “Incompleteness,” for a peek of Vienna in the 1930s. The logic and philosophy illustrated throughout provide a great context for the work of Vienna’s famous philosophical circle led by Moritz Schlick, whose 1936 murder provides a chilling contrast to the intellectual pursuits of that time.

By Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliantly illustrated tale of reason, insanity, love and truth recounts the story of Bertrand Russell's life. Raised by his paternal grandparents, young Russell was never told the whereabouts of his parents. Driven by a desire for knowledge of his own history, he attempted to force the world to yield to his yearnings: for truth, clarity and resolve. As he grew older, and increasingly sophisticated as a philosopher and mathematician, Russell strove to create an objective language with which to describe the world - one free of the biases and slippages of the written word. At the same time, he…


Book cover of Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality

Mark Ronan Author Of Symmetry and the Monster: One of the Greatest Quests of Mathematics

From my list on books that make maths interesting.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a full professor of mathematics for over 30 years, I have been engaged in research and teaching. Research can be difficult to describe to non-experts, but some important advances in mathematics can be explained to an interested public without the need for specialist knowledge, as I have done. 

Mark's book list on books that make maths interesting

Mark Ronan Why did Mark love this book?

Frenkel came from the Soviet Union, where discrimination against Jews made it impossible for him to get into Moscow State University. During the oral exam they sent two graduate students to question him, pick holes in his responses, and ensure he failed. He turned to an informal network of Soviet mathematicians for help.

Like him, they were denied serious employment in the field, but after the 'cold war' against the Soviet Union, Harvard invited him to take a fellowship that later turned into a permanent job. Years later, when his old tormentor from Moscow State arrives to give a talk, he confronts the man in a lecture room with first-hand evidence of allegations against the system. Faced with a victim, the Russian mathematician's denials rang hollow. 

This book reaches beyond mathematics to anyone of independent thought in an environment where it is not permitted to step out of line or,…

By Edward Frenkel,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Love and Math as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Science BestsellerWhat if you had to take an art class in which you were only taught how to paint a fence? What if you were never shown the paintings of van Gogh and Picasso, weren't even told they existed? Alas, this is how math is taught, and so for most of us it becomes the intellectual equivalent of watching paint dry.In Love and Math , renowned mathematician Edward Frenkel reveals a side of math we've never seen, suffused with all the beauty and elegance of a work of art. In this heartfelt and passionate book, Frenkel…


Book cover of Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

Amir Alexander Author Of Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World

From my list on the power and wonder of mathematics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written four books (so far) about the surprising ways mathematics pervades human culture, religion, and even politics. The five books I recommend here, each in its own way, shows how mathematics is very much a part of our lives, even if we don’t always notice it. Thanks to books like these, you do not have to be a mathematician to appreciate how this seemingly abstract field shapes our very human world.

Amir's book list on the power and wonder of mathematics

Amir Alexander Why did Amir love this book?

That Steven Strogatz, Cornell Professor and longtime New York Times columnist, is unsurpassed as an expositor of mathematics, goes without saying. No one can make the abstract and technical appear simple and intuitive like Strogatz. In Infinite Powers he takes on the Calculus -- the central pillar of modern mathematics that is also the bane of many a high-school student. It is an immensely powerful field, and at its core is a concept that is both counter-intuitive and paradoxical: the infinite.

The roots of the calculus, we learn, go back to the ancient Greeks, whose notions of the infinite were put to powerful mathematical use by Archimedes. Strogatz continues with Galielo’s dynamics and Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, before reaching the turning point: The discovery of the Calculus by Newton and Leibniz. This leads straight to a discussion of differential equations, which are responsible for so much of what makes…

By Steven Strogatz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus—how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better. 
 
Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number—infinity—to tackle real-world problems,…


Book cover of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World

Richard Hoshino Author Of The Math Olympian

From my list on mathematics and life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have devoted my entire career to mathematics, and have a life filled with meaning and purpose through my roles as an educator, researcher, and consultant. I teach at the Vancouver campus of Northeastern University and am the owner and principal of Hoshino Math Services, a boutique math consulting firm. 

Richard's book list on mathematics and life

Richard Hoshino Why did Richard love this book?

The author explains the importance of abstraction in logic, demonstrating its three main components: paths made of long chains of logic, packages made of a collection of concepts structured into a new compound unit, and pivots to build bridges to previously disconnected places.

Eugenia Cheng does an excellent job of abstracting principles of logic to better understand challenging real-world societal issues such as affirmative action and cancer screening. I found it quite compelling to understand how and why she came to her positions on various issues, through her axiom that "avoiding false negatives is more important than avoiding false positives." I appreciated the expertise by which she weaved numerous hard topics, in both mathematics and social justice, into a coherent and compelling narrative.

By Eugenia Cheng,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Art of Logic in an Illogical World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How both logical and emotional reasoning can help us live better in our post-truth world

In a world where fake news stories change election outcomes, has rationality become futile? In The Art of Logic in an Illogical World, Eugenia Cheng throws a lifeline to readers drowning in the illogic of contemporary life. Cheng is a mathematician, so she knows how to make an airtight argument. But even for her, logic sometimes falls prey to emotion, which is why she still fears flying and eats more cookies than she should. If a mathematician can't be logical, what are we to do?…


Book cover of The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

Ran Spiegler Author Of The Curious Culture of Economic Theory

From my list on scholarly and popular-science books that both pros and amateurs can enjoy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic researcher and an avid non-fiction reader. There are many popular books on science or music, but it’s much harder to find texts that manage to occupy the space between popular and professional writing. I’ve always been looking for this kind of book, whether on physics, music, AI, or math – even when I knew that as a non-pro, I wouldn’t be able to understand everything. In my new book I’ve been trying to accomplish something similar: A book that can intrigue readers who are not professional economic theorists, that they will find interesting even if they can’t follow everything.

Ran's book list on scholarly and popular-science books that both pros and amateurs can enjoy

Ran Spiegler Why did Ran love this book?

In the ongoing debates over artificial general intelligence (AGI), Judea Pearl is taking a firm stand: He argues that an intelligent robot should be able to reason about causality and that the currently fashionable approaches to AI miss this aspect.

A celebrated AI researcher and a Turing Prize laureate, Pearl has developed an amazingly original approach to this problem. This book is a high-end popular exposition of his approach.

But it’s so much more than that. It’s a history of statistics and its conflicted attitude to causality. It’s a story of heroes (or villains?) in this history. And it’s a scientific autobiography that describes Pearl’s journey. Pearl likes picking fights with the AI community, statisticians, or economists. He’s boastful, provocative, extremely intelligent, and knows how to tell a story.

By Judea Pearl, Dana MacKenzie,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Book of Why as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Wonderful ... illuminating and fun to read'
- Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

'"Pearl's accomplishments over the last 30 years have provided the theoretical basis for progress in artificial intelligence and have redefined the term "thinking machine"'
- Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, Inc.

The influential book in how causality revolutionized science and the world, by the pioneer of artificial intelligence

'Correlation does not imply causation.' This mantra was invoked by scientists for decades in order to avoid taking positions as to whether one thing caused another, such as smoking…


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 Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Michael L. Littman Author Of Code to Joy: Why Everyone Should Learn a Little Programming

From my list on computing and why it’s important and interesting.

Why am I passionate about this?

Saying just the right words in just the right way can cause a box of electronics to behave however you want it to behave… that’s an idea that has captivated me ever since I first played around with a computer at Radio Shack back in 1979. I’m always on the lookout for compelling ways to convey the topic to people who are open-minded, but maybe turned off by things that are overly technical. I teach computer science and study artificial intelligence as a way of expanding what we can get computers to do on our behalf.

Michael's book list on computing and why it’s important and interesting

Michael L. Littman Why did Michael love this book?

I always find myself applying algorithmic thinking in my everyday life—it affects the way I put away dishes, navigate to the store, and organize my to-do lists. And I think others could benefit from that mindset.

So, when I read this book, my reaction was "Yes! That's what I want people to know. I just wish I could have said it that well!" The authors (who I know, but didn't know they wrote a book together), did a fantastic job of selecting algorithms with deep human connections. Really! And they explain them just right, without getting too mathematical but while still hitting the key ideas with clarity and accuracy. Fantastic!

By Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Algorithms to Live By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives.

In this dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show us how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. Modern life is constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? The authors explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal…


Book cover of The Art of Computer Programming: Volume 3: Sorting and Searching

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?

Knuth’s unique mix of playfulness and rigor came to define computer science as an intellectual discipline: computer science didn’t really have anything to do with computers, but everything to do with a particular way of seeing the world.  Just browse and wonder at the beauty and precision achieved in these books.   

Volume 3 (Sorting and Searching) is my personal favorite, and I encourage you to start there. During the pandemic, I finally got around to reading Volume 4A (Combinatorial Algorithms), which was published thirty plus years after Volume 3. It was the same feeling I had watching the movie The Phantom Menace years after growing up with the original Star Wars trilogy. I had forgotten just how unique and distinctive Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming is.

By Donald Knuth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The bible of all fundamental algorithms and the work that taught many of today's software developers most of what they know about computer programming.



-Byte, September 1995



I can't begin to tell you how many pleasurable hours of study and recreation they have afforded me! I have pored over them in cars, restaurants, at work, at home... and even at a Little League game when my son wasn't in the line-up.



-Charles Long



If you think you're a really good programmer... read [Knuth's] Art of Computer Programming... You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole…


Book cover of Adventures of a Mathematician

Thomas A. Garrity Author Of All the Math You Missed: (But Need to Know for Graduate School)

From my list on for mathematical inspiration.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love mathematics and truly believe that “Functions Describe the World.” I'm deeply satisfied that I've spent my professional life discovering new mathematics and explaining known mathematics to others. I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Austin, got my PhD from Brown University, then spent three years as a G.C. Evans Instructor at Rice University, before moving to Williams, where I've been ever since. Besides writing All the Math You Missed (But Need to Know for Graduate School), I've also written Algebraic Geometry: A Problem Solving Approach (with a number of co-authors) and Electricity and Magnetism for Mathematicians: A Guided Path from Maxwell’s Equations to Yang-Mills, and a number of research articles.  

Thomas' book list on for mathematical inspiration

Thomas A. Garrity Why did Thomas love this book?

Ulam was a Polish mathematical prodigy, publishing significant mathematics by the time he was 20. He was part of the rich Polish math community centered around Stefan Banach. Unlike most, he was heading to the United States in 1939 (with his younger brother) when Germany invaded Poland. All the rest of his family were murdered by the Nazis. He on the other hand ended up in Los Alamos, providing critical help on the Manhattan Project. Later in life, he wrote this book, his autobiography. Based on his history, one could well think that it would be a book full of tragic grief. Instead, it is a pean to the joys of doing mathematics and of living a life full of mathematics, without downplaying the horrors of the mid-twentieth century. 

By S. M. Ulam,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Adventures of a Mathematician as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This autobiography of mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, one of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century, tells a story rich with amazingly prophetic speculations and peppered with lively anecdotes. As a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1944 on, Ulam helped to precipitate some of the most dramatic changes of the postwar world. He was among the first to use and advocate computers for scientific research, originated ideas for the nuclear propulsion of space vehicles, and made fundamental contributions to many of today's most challenging mathematical projects. With his wide-ranging interests, Ulam never emphasized the importance of his…


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