100 books like Inside The Centre

By Ray Monk,

Here are 100 books that Inside The Centre fans have personally recommended if you like Inside The Centre. 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 Alan Turing's Manchester

Andrew Hodges Author Of Alan Turing: The Enigma

From my list on Alan Turing’s world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a mathematician, based at Oxford University, following up the ideas of the Nobel prizewinner Roger Penrose on fundamental physics.  But I am best known for writing a biography of Alan Turing, the founder of computer science. I did this at a time when he was almost unknown to the public, long before computers invaded popular culture. And it meant giving a serious account of two kinds of secret history: the codebreaking of the Second World War and the life of an unapologetic gay man. Since then I have also created a supporting website. When I was drawn to find out about Alan Turing, it was not only because he was a mathematician. I seized the chance to bring together many themes from science, history, and human life. This broad approach is reflected in my recommendations. I am choosing books that hint at the great scope of themes related to Turing’s life and work.

Andrew's book list on Alan Turing’s world

Andrew Hodges Why did Andrew love this book?

My first pick is the one most directly about Alan Turing himself. After 1950 his attention turned mainly to his new theory of mathematical biology, but his death in 1954 left most of this work unpublished.  His ideas were 20 or more years ahead of their time and few people could assess them. Jonathan Swinton is a leading expert in this field, and has been studying Turing’s manuscripts for 30 years. But his book has a much broader range: he adds so much on the culture of Manchester and its region, with a particular focus on women both as protagonists and observers. He has also illustrated his story with a wealth of pictures.

By Jonathan Swinton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Alan Turing's Manchester as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Manchester is proud of Alan Turing but does it deserve to be? Dr Jonathan Swinton explores the complexity of the city that Alan Turing encountered in 1948. He goes well beyond Turing as a mathematician, to cover wire-women, Wittgenstein and the daisy. This is a richly illustrated account of lives lived - and one life ended tragically early - in a post-war Manchester busy creating the computer. This is a book about the people one might have met in Turing s Manchester. It records the patronage of older men, triumphant from the successful prosecution of a scientific war, who could…


Book cover of Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

Andrew Hodges Author Of Alan Turing: The Enigma

From my list on Alan Turing’s world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a mathematician, based at Oxford University, following up the ideas of the Nobel prizewinner Roger Penrose on fundamental physics.  But I am best known for writing a biography of Alan Turing, the founder of computer science. I did this at a time when he was almost unknown to the public, long before computers invaded popular culture. And it meant giving a serious account of two kinds of secret history: the codebreaking of the Second World War and the life of an unapologetic gay man. Since then I have also created a supporting website. When I was drawn to find out about Alan Turing, it was not only because he was a mathematician. I seized the chance to bring together many themes from science, history, and human life. This broad approach is reflected in my recommendations. I am choosing books that hint at the great scope of themes related to Turing’s life and work.

Andrew's book list on Alan Turing’s world

Andrew Hodges Why did Andrew love this book?

My second choice relates more subtly to Turing’s sudden end in 1954. In 1955, Turing’s colleague Max Newman gave a talk on logic in his honour. This greatly impressed a student, Roger Penrose, who was also studying the quantum mechanics and relativity that had first fascinated the young Turing. Years later, Penrose announced an astonishing thesis relating logic and physics. This book explains the theory he developed. It claims that the brain must exploit quantum-mechanical physics that no computer can emulate. Turing famously promoted the prospects for computer-based Artificial Intelligence, but he would have taken this anti-AI thesis more seriously than any other argument: it takes up his own interests and develops his own kind of thinking. 

Penrose’s books are not about science, they are actually doing scientific thinking. His humour and wonderful pictures enhance the direct personal engagement. The theory is highly controversial but has set a remarkable twenty-first-century…

By Roger Penrose,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The motivation for this book arose, in part, from a need for detailed replies to a number of queries and criticisms from readers of the author's previous book, The Emperor's New Mind , many of whom have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid the conclusion that there must be something non-computational involved in thinking. Penrose searches for a means, within the constraints of the hard facts of science, whereby a scientifically describable brain might be able to perform the needed non-computational actions. He develops the argument of how quantum effects might have a fundamental relevance to consciousness and to non-computable…


Book cover of Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes

Andrew Hodges Author Of Alan Turing: The Enigma

From my list on Alan Turing’s world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a mathematician, based at Oxford University, following up the ideas of the Nobel prizewinner Roger Penrose on fundamental physics.  But I am best known for writing a biography of Alan Turing, the founder of computer science. I did this at a time when he was almost unknown to the public, long before computers invaded popular culture. And it meant giving a serious account of two kinds of secret history: the codebreaking of the Second World War and the life of an unapologetic gay man. Since then I have also created a supporting website. When I was drawn to find out about Alan Turing, it was not only because he was a mathematician. I seized the chance to bring together many themes from science, history, and human life. This broad approach is reflected in my recommendations. I am choosing books that hint at the great scope of themes related to Turing’s life and work.

Andrew's book list on Alan Turing’s world

Andrew Hodges Why did Andrew love this book?

My fourth pick is another biography, of the economist John Maynard Keynes. Richard Davenport-Hines has divided up his account into ‘seven lives’. Yet by taking his personal life and sexual identity seriously, Davenport-Hines achieves an outstanding unification. Seriousness is not solemnity: readers will find here a delightful story about Keynes admiring Alan Turing’s fingernails at King’s College, Cambridge. There is much more to illustrate the extraordinary King’s College ambiance in which Turing found his home, and deeper connections: in late 1946, both were crossing the Atlantic, Keynes to rescue the British economy, Turing on his start-up of the computer industry. Keynesian economics are newly relevant now, but the liberal élite culture in which it was hatched may still surprise readers. When Turing started war work at Bletchley Park, he wrote to Keynes’s circle that Dillwyn Knox was ‘his boss’. Did he know, as Richard Davenport-Hines explains, that Knox had been…

By Richard Davenport-Hines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the bestselling and award-winning author of 'An English Affair', a dazzlingly original thematic biography which throws fresh light on the greatest economist of the twentieth century.

John Maynard Keynes is the man who saved Britain from financial crisis not once but twice - over the course of two World Wars. He remains a highly influential figure, nearly 70 years after his death. But who was he?

In this entertaining biography, Richard Davenport-Hines gives us the man behind the economics: the connoisseur, intellectual, public official and statesman who was equally at ease socialising with the Bloomsbury Group as he was…


Book cover of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Manil Suri Author Of The Big Bang of Numbers: How to Build the Universe Using Only Math

From my list on to make you fall in love with mathematics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a mathematics professor who ended up writing the internationally bestselling novel The Death of Vishnu (along with two follow-ups) and became better known as an author. For the past decade and a half, I’ve been using my storytelling skills to make mathematics more accessible (and enjoyable!) to a broad audience. Being a novelist has helped me look at mathematics in a new light, and realize the subject is not so much about the calculations feared by so many, but rather, about ideas. We can all enjoy such ideas, and thereby learn to understand, appreciate, and even love math. 

Manil's book list on to make you fall in love with mathematics

Manil Suri Why did Manil love this book?

A primary reason to love math is because of its usefulness. This book shows two sides of math’s applicability, since it is so ubiquitously used in various algorithms.

On the one hand, such usage can be good, because statistical inferences can make our life easier and enrich it. On the other, when these are not properly designed or monitored, it can lead to catastrophic consequences. Mathematics is a powerful force, as powerful as wind or fire, and needs to be harnessed just as carefully.

Cathy O’Neil’s message in this book spoke deeply to me, reminding me that I need to be always vigilant about the subject I love not being deployed carelessly.  

By Cathy O’Neil,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Weapons of Math Destruction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A manual for the 21st-century citizen... accessible, refreshingly critical, relevant and urgent' - Financial Times

'Fascinating and deeply disturbing' - Yuval Noah Harari, Guardian Books of the Year

In this New York Times bestseller, Cathy O'Neil, one of the first champions of algorithmic accountability, sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life -- and threaten to rip apart our social fabric.

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives - where we go to school, whether we get a loan, how much we pay for insurance - are being made…


Book cover of Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center

Andrew Zangwill Author Of A Mind Over Matter: Philip Anderson and the Physics of the Very Many

From my list on biographies of physicists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a physics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Ten years ago, I switched my research focus from solid-state physics to the history of that subject. This was fertile ground because professional historians of science had almost completely ignored solid-state physics. I began my new career by writing two journal articles about the physicist Walter Kohn and his discovery of what became the most accurate method known to calculate the properties of solids. This experience led me to broaden my perspective and ultimately produce a biography of the theoretical physicist Philip Anderson. My next book will be a historical-sociological study of self-identity and disciplinary boundaries within the community of physicists.  

Andrew's book list on biographies of physicists

Andrew Zangwill Why did Andrew love this book?

The brilliant and enigmatic Robert Oppenheimer was the man who led the effort to create the atomic bomb at Los Alamos during World War II.  I value this biography because author Ray Monk does full justice to his subject’s science—the science that put Oppenheimer’s  Berkeley research group at the center of American theoretical physics in the 1930s. Best of all, Monk’s elegant writing makes even familiar episodes come alive. I felt I was watching a car crash in slow motion as I read how Oppenheimer’s complex personality and political naivete led him to underestimate his political enemies and wind up stripped of his security clearance and his influence as a government advisor.  

By Ray Monk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An unforgettable story of discovery and unimaginable destruction and a major biography of one of America’s most brilliant—and most divisive—scientists, Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center vividly illuminates the man who would go down in history as “the father of the atomic bomb.” Oppenheimer’s talent and drive secured him a place in the pantheon of great physicists and carried him to the laboratories where the secrets of the universe revealed themselves. But they also led him to contribute to the development of the deadliest weapon on earth, a discovery he soon came to fear. His attempts to resist the…


Book cover of Disturbing the Universe

Brian Hall Author Of The Stone Loves the World

From my list on exploring the galaxy.

Why am I passionate about this?

A child of scientists, I grew up planning to be a physicist, but became a novelist instead. Since I straddle the worlds of science and literature, I’ve always valued good science writing. It’s a rare talent to be able to inform and excite the general reader while not oversimplifying the science. I particularly thrill to books about exploring other planets and star systems, because when I was a teenager I read a lot of science fiction, and wished more than anything that someday, when I was much older, I would find myself on a rocket headed for, say, a colony on Mars.

Brian's book list on exploring the galaxy

Brian Hall Why did Brian love this book?

Freeman Dyson, who died last year at the age of 96, was one of the world's leading physicists. He was also one of the worlds leading mathematicians. Later in life, he became one of the world’s leading astronomers. He was passionately concerned with the ethics of science and the perils of human politics. He also read a lot of literature and had interesting things to say about it, and could write better than many novelists. In 1979, at the age of 56, he published Disturbing the Universe: part autobiography, part window into the mind of a scientist, part essayistic rumination. There’s no other book like it. Listing the titles of the chapters covering his life until age 23 hints at the book’s richness and unpredictability: “The Magic City,” “The Redemption of Faust,” “The Children’s Crudade,” “The Blood of a Poet.” In the book’s final third, Dyson addresses issues related…

By Freeman Dyson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Spanning the years from World War II, when he was a civilian statistician in the operations research section of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, through his studies with Hans Bethe at Cornell University, his early friendship with Richard Feynman, and his postgraduate work with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Freeman Dyson has composed an autobiography unlike any other. Dyson evocatively conveys the thrill of a deep engagement with the world-be it as scientist, citizen, student, or parent. Detailing a unique career not limited to his ground-breaking work in physics, Dyson discusses his interest in minimizing loss of life in war, in…


Book cover of The Green Glass Sea

Rebecca Langston-George Author Of The Booth Brothers: Drama, Fame, and the Death of President Lincoln

From my list on little-known US history for children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught for more than 26 years in classes ranging from first grade through college. No matter the age of the students, I used children’s books to introduce topics in history. I never shied away from using a picture book with older students and often found they were more engaged in a picture book than in an article. I also used historical fiction as a hook to lure students into picking up a related non-fiction book. In fact, historical fiction was the gateway that taught this writer of 13 nonfiction children’s books to love non-fiction history. 

Rebecca's book list on little-known US history for children

Rebecca Langston-George Why did Rebecca love this book?

This Scott O’Dell Award winner is historical fiction for middle grade readers.

Set in the New Mexico desert during World War II, Dewey and Suze become unlikely friends when their parents work on the top secret “gadget.” The gadget’s scheduled test lights up the pre-dawn sky for miles around but is explained away as an explosion at a munitions outpost.

A few weeks later Suze’s family takes Dewey with them to visit the green glass sea of Trinitite, a new mineral created as a result of the atomic bomb’s test. Readers will feel the humanity of how war affects us all. Readers who prefer fiction over nonfiction might find this a gateway to interest them in picking up a nonfiction title on WWII or the atomic bomb. 

By Ellen Klages,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Green Glass Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A heartfelt story of a budding friendship in the thick of the war--winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

It's 1943, and eleven-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is en route to New Mexico to live with her mathematician father. Soon she arrives at a town that, officially, doesn't exist. It is called Los Alamos, and it is abuzz with activity, as scientists and mathematicians from all over America and Europe work on the biggest secret of all--"the gadget." None of them--not J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project; not the mathematicians and scientists; and least of all, Dewey--know…


Book cover of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Joel Bakan Author Of The New Corporation: How "Good" Corporations Are Bad for Democracy

From my list on revealing the inhumanity of authoritarianism and fascism.

Why am I passionate about this?

A decade ago, we could not have imagined a world where democracy would be in existential crisis. Perhaps it’s overly dramatic to think that way – I hope so – but it does seem realistic at this moment. That is why I am so passionate about wanting to defend democracy and the kind of society it makes possible and why I am so drawn to works that express that passion through artful writing and story-telling. With authoritarian and totalitarian regimes dangerously on the rise, books that demonstrate the profound inhumanity and injustice of such regimes and how they extinguish democracy and human rights are needed now more than ever.

Joel's book list on revealing the inhumanity of authoritarianism and fascism

Joel Bakan Why did Joel love this book?

It is no surprise this book won a Pulitzer Prize. Particularly compelling is how, through a deeply personal and beautifully crafted story of a complex life and mind, it offers profound insight into the uneasy relationship among politics, science, war, and morality.

Oppenheimer, one of the greatest and most influential physicists of the 20th century, spearheaded not only the invention of the atomic bomb but also the quantum theory that made it possible and the policies governing its use and development. A left-wing thinker and sometimes communist sympathizer in his youth, and driven throughout his life by strong humanistic impulses, his work on the atomic bomb was motivated by a desire to defeat fascism in Europe.

Yet, in his work thereafter – which included opposing the development of the much more powerful hydrogen bomb – he was tragically undone by another authoritarian force: McCarthyism. The multiple Oscar-award winning film based…

By Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked American Prometheus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Physicist and polymath, 'father of the atom bomb' J. Robert Oppenheimer was the most famous scientist of his generation. Already a notable young physicist before WWII, during the race to split the atom, 'Oppie' galvanized an extraordinary team of international scientists while keeping the FBI at bay. As the man who more than any other inaugurated the atomic age, he became one of the iconic figures of the last century, the embodiment of his own observation that 'physicists have known sin'.

Years later, haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer became a staunch opponent of plans to develop the hydrogen bomb.…


Book cover of Uncommon Sense

Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus Author Of An Atomic Love Story: The Extraordinary Women in Robert Oppenheimer's Life

From my list on the race to build the first atomic bomb.

Why are we passionate about this?

Shirley Streshinsky was 11 years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Many scientists were responsible, but only Robert Oppenheimer was labeled “Father of the Atomic Bomb”. At twenty-nine while living in San Francisco she crowded into an auditorium at U.C. Berkeley to hear him speak. She left knowing she would write about him. Patricia Klaus has been a Modern British historian for years, the story of Robert Oppenheimer and the women he loved opened new worlds for her: the history of science and the discovery of fission in 1938. Her father was a pilot in the 509th Bomb Wing that had dropped the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

Shirley's book list on the race to build the first atomic bomb

Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus Why did Shirley love this book?

This is a collection of Oppenheimer’s essays and speeches, a good thing to read to get a sense of the man himself, how he thinks, how he handles language.

How he struggles to suggest how civilization might begin to cope with the reality that new weapons now exist capable of annihilating civilization... “unless we show,” he says, ”urged by our own example and conviction, that we regard nuclear armament as a transitory, dangerous and degrading phase of the world’s history.”

He said that forty years ago, and counting.

By J Robert Oppenheimer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

J. Robert Oppenheimer, a leading physicist in the Manhattan Project, recognized that scientific inquiry and discovery could no longer be separated from their effect on political decision-making, social responsibility, and human endeavor in general. He openly addressed issues of common concern and as a scientist accepted the responsibility brought about by nuclear physics and the atom bomb. In this collection of essays and speeches, Oppenheimer discusses the shift in scientific awareness and its impact on education, the question of openness in a society forced to keep secrets, the conflict between individual concerns and public and political necessity, the future of…


Book cover of Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth-Century American Intellectual History

Suzanna Sherry Author Of Beyond All Reason: The Radical Assault on Truth in American Law

From my list on why liberals should fear “woke” culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a liberal all my life: I went to my first protest march by myself when I was 13 and cast my first vote for George McGovern. I’ve also been an academic most of my life, studying and teaching at multiple colleges and universities. Over the last decade I’ve watched the animating principles of both academia and liberalism – the spirit of free inquiry and the willingness to debate ideas – descend into an authoritarian conformism that brooks no dissent. I hope that these books can persuade people to fight against these trends before it’s too late: “Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

Suzanna's book list on why liberals should fear “woke” culture

Suzanna Sherry Why did Suzanna love this book?

Like Stone’s book, this is a book about history, not wokeness. It’s not an easy read, but it’s worth the effort.

It recounts the triumph of scientific reasoning and liberal tolerance over several decades in the mid-twentieth century. That triumph was largely brought about by the “secularization” of American culture, spearheaded by Jewish intellectuals.

I read it long before wokeness was a thing – it was published in 1996 – and found it interesting but not particularly relevant to anything I was thinking about. But when wokeness came along, it suddenly hit me that this new religion was taking us backwards, back to the beginning of Hollinger’s story.

If that trend continues, we are in danger of losing the gains that science and tolerance have produced.

By David A. Hollinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Science, Jews, and Secular Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This remarkable group of essays described the "culture wars" that consolidated a new, secular ethos in mid-twentieth-century American academia and generated the fresh energies needed for a wide range of scientific and cultural enter-prises. Focusing on the decades from the 1930s through the 1960s, David Hollinger discusses the scientists, social scientists, philosophers, and historians who fought the Christian biases that had kept Jews from fully participating in American intellectual life. Today social critics take for granted the comparatively open outlook developed by these men (and men they were, mostly), and charge that their cosmopolitanism was not sufficiently multicultural. Yet Hollinger…


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