100 books like Reality+

By David J. Chalmers,

Here are 100 books that Reality+ fans have personally recommended if you like Reality+. 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 Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them

Matt Zandstra Author Of PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice: Mastering OO Enhancements, Design Patterns, and Essential Development Tools

From my list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down.

Why am I passionate about this?

Software developers love to question the assumptions that underpin their practice. Some of the most exciting phases of my career have come about as a result of such questions. Often they are revolutionary in the literal sense that they ask you to turn your thinking upside down – to design systems from the bottom up rather than the top down, for example, or to write your tests before your components. I may not adopt every practice, but each challenge enriches the conceptual world in which I work. Over the years, I have come to look for similar shifts and inversions across other subject areas. Here are some recommendations from my reading.

Matt's book list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down

Matt Zandstra Why did Matt love this book?

I must have read a hundred books about story structure over the years. Somehow, perhaps because of some story-related blind spot on my part, none of them ever seemed to stick.

My problem was always the middle. Middles can sag. It seems that a story's interior becomes little more than the wasteland a protagonist must traverse to get from the mystery of a beginning to the ultimate challenge of an ending.

Yorke's Into The Woods celebrates the middle. He reminds us that the essential crux of a story lies in its midpoint. Right at the heart of an effective story, he argues, lies a fundamental transformation, a change so great that the protagonist emerges with new powers into a new world.

Furthermore, by analysing stories in five acts rather than three, he allows for an elegant symmetry in which the first and fifth, second, and fourth acts mirror one another.…

By John Yorke,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Into The Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The best book on the subject I've read. Quite brilliant' Tony Jordan, creator/writer, Life on Mars, Hustle

We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way? John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers' Academy, has brought a vast array of drama to British screens. Here he takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms - one that echoes the fairytale journey into the woods and, like any great art, comes from deep within. From ancient…


Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Craig Nelson Author Of V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

From my list on history that will wake you up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent twenty years as a book publishing executive learning how the trade works before launching myself as a full-time author wanting to make the world a better place. My books use state-of-the-art scholarship for history you can read on the beach, and focus on ‘hinge’ moments, great turnings of the world, as well as on forgotten and unsung heroes.

Craig's book list on history that will wake you up

Craig Nelson Why did Craig love this book?

What ideas do you have about what the first peoples were like, and how human society developed?

Maybe you’ve even read the popular authors on this topic such as Diamond, Harari, Pinker, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Prepare to have all of your notions and received opinions upended and turned to dust by David Graeber (a man universally acknowledged as a genius) and the book he worked on for the last ten years of his life, which brings revolutionary ideas to 30,000 years of civilization.

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Book cover of Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

George Fisher Author Of Beware Euphoria: The Moral Roots and Racial Myths of America's War on Drugs

From my list on profound books on the history of the penitentiary and of its hopes and disappointments.

Why am I passionate about this?

At age eighteen, as a part-time employee of a prisoners’ rights group, I visited an archipelago of decrepit prisons, all relics of an earlier age. My job was gathering inmates’ accounts of bucket toilets, unheated cells, bugs, molds, and rats. Soon after, I began reading and writing about prison reform and its history. And in the many decades since, whether practicing or teaching criminal law, I never lost sight of prisons and their problems. Several of these five books fed my young fascination with prison reform. All of them still challenge me to imagine true and enduring reform.

George's book list on profound books on the history of the penitentiary and of its hopes and disappointments

George Fisher Why did George love this book?

Though Foucault’s book appeared at almost the same moment as Ignatieff’s, Foucault painted a far darker image of early penitentiaries. He cast them not as places of reform but as instruments of disciplinary control, rendering inmates docile and amenable to the monastic repression and routine of schools and factories.

Foucault’s book taught me decades ago that history is crafted, not discovered, and that skilled chroniclers can weave very different plotlines from similar facts.

By Michel Foucault,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Discipline and Punish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant work from the most influential philosopher since Sartre.

In this indispensable work, a brilliant thinker suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner's body to his soul.


Book cover of Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence

Matt Zandstra Author Of PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice: Mastering OO Enhancements, Design Patterns, and Essential Development Tools

From my list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down.

Why am I passionate about this?

Software developers love to question the assumptions that underpin their practice. Some of the most exciting phases of my career have come about as a result of such questions. Often they are revolutionary in the literal sense that they ask you to turn your thinking upside down – to design systems from the bottom up rather than the top down, for example, or to write your tests before your components. I may not adopt every practice, but each challenge enriches the conceptual world in which I work. Over the years, I have come to look for similar shifts and inversions across other subject areas. Here are some recommendations from my reading.

Matt's book list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down

Matt Zandstra Why did Matt love this book?

As a coder and a lifelong SF reader, I am fascinated by AI. I've even written a LLM chat client named Shelley. Fascination, though, is not the same as uncritical fanboyism.

It is tempting to treat AI as a natural or magical apparition. Crawford's book turns this illusion on its head and explores AI literally from the ground up, beginning with its vast hunger for natural resources. She describes a similar hunger for training data as well as the implicit (or disguised) biases underlying the systems of classification that drive an AI's "understanding" of the world. 

This is not a book about the future of AI so much as a particular map of the state of the project – a look into the wizard's booth. It offers an essential first step in considering what is to come and how we might negotiate it.

By Kate Crawford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The hidden costs of artificial intelligence-from natural resources and labor to privacy, equality, and freedom

"This study argues that [artificial intelligence] is neither artificial nor particularly intelligent. . . . A fascinating history of the data on which machine-learning systems are trained."-New Yorker

"A valuable corrective to much of the hype surrounding AI and a useful instruction manual for the future."-John Thornhill, Financial Times

"It's a masterpiece, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it."-Karen Hao, senior editor, MIT Tech Review

What happens when artificial intelligence saturates political life and depletes the planet? How is AI shaping our…


Book cover of The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves

Joshua L. Rosenbloom Author Of Quantitative Economic History: The Good of Counting

From my list on understanding the modern capitalist economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been studying, writing, and teaching economic history for nearly four decades. I was drawn to the field because it let me combine my passion for understanding how the past and present are connected with my fascination with the insights derived from the natural sciences. When I started studying economic history, the discipline was still relatively new, having grown out of pioneering research in the 1950s and 1960s by a small band of innovative scholars. During my career, I have met many of these intellectual giants personally, and I have watched the discipline of economic history mature and grow in both its methods and intellectual scope.

Joshua's book list on understanding the modern capitalist economy

Joshua L. Rosenbloom Why did Joshua love this book?

The modern world is defined by the relentless pace of technological change. But what is technology and how in the world does progress occur? Economists often treat the process of innovation as a “black box” out of which new products and processes emerge. Arthur opens the lid of this box and provides an eye-opening set of insights about how things work inside the box, and how that affects the rate and direction of innovation.

By W. Brian Arthur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“More than anything else technology creates our world. It creates our wealth, our economy, our very way of being,” says W. Brian Arthur. Yet despite technology’s irrefutable importance in our daily lives, until now its major questions have gone unanswered. Where do new technologies come from? What constitutes innovation, and how is it achieved? Does technology, like biological life, evolve? In this groundbreaking work, pioneering technology thinker and economist W. Brian Arthur answers these questions and more, setting forth a boldly original way of thinking about technology.

The Nature of Technology is an elegant and powerful theory of technology’s origins…


Book cover of The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

Wyman Wicket Author Of 23 Skiddoo: Way Back Beyond Across the Stars

From my list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a free man of flesh-and-blood I trust in time-tested verities and traditions; as a spiritual entity I am a man of faith; and as a thinking being I explore in my writing the malleability of consciousness and reality. Through a broad range of experiences I offer images for the minds of readers in novels of a twisted magical realism. I seek the mysteries of God, the beauty of poetry, and the freedom to explore all and everything. I am an American State National who critiques modern society, culture, and politics as an independent scholar who will not be silenced. Awaken, oh human beans, from normative conditioning and screen-gazing complacency!

Wyman's book list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans

Wyman Wicket Why did Wyman love this book?

An open mind and creative imagination are needed to explore reality. In making sense of the most significant science fiction writer of the 20th century, Philip K. Dick, we might refer to the dying words of his Berkeley buddy, Jack Spicer: “My vocabulary did this to me.” Like a Zen stone mason in a hall of mirrors, Dick often seems to depart from the most inscrutable of semantic pebbles. Exegesis offers us a lexical labyrinth infused with the most profound heuristic paranoia, to yield a vast shifting matrix of uncountable speculative origins. Anyone who reads this book and does not write at least one of their own, even as a prophylactic, is indeed “duller than the fattest weed on the wharf of Lethe.” (Paraphrased from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5)

By Philip K. Dick, Pamela Jackson (editor), Jonathan Lethem (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters, and story sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality and perception, the malleability of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine.

Edited and introduced by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, this will be the definitive presentation of Dick's brilliant, and epic, final work. In The Exegesis, Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom what he called "2-3-74", a postmodern visionary experience of…


Book cover of We Have Never Been Modern

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm Author Of The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences

From my list on to shatter the myth of modernity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning historian and philosopher of the human sciences. But I got here by means of an unusually varied path: working for a private investigator, practicing in a Buddhist monastery, being shot at, hiking a volcano off the coast of Africa, being jumped by a gang in Amsterdam, snowboarding in the Pyrenees, piloting a boat down the canals of Bourgogne, playing bass guitar in a punk band, and once I almost died from scarlet fever. Throughout my journey, I have lived and studied in five countries, acquired ten languages, and attended renowned universities (Oxford, Harvard, and Stanford), all while seeking ways to make the world a better place.

Jason's book list on to shatter the myth of modernity

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm Why did Jason love this book?

The late French philosopher Bruno Latour was infamous for his iconoclastic work in the history and sociology of science and technology.

If you read only one of his books, I’d say go for We Have Never Been Modern because it cuts to the heart of things by disrupting the conventional understanding of modernity as a clear separation between nature and culture. Latour argues that even as “moderns” have been rhetorically invested in this particular bifurcation of the world, nature-culture hybrids are continually proliferating.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself, why are cities not considered natural landscapes? Or why are animals always presumed to be without culture? Or what does it even mean to be modern? Then this is the book for you.

By Bruno Latour, Catherine Porter (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked We Have Never Been Modern as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the rise of science, we moderns believe, the world changed irrevocably, separating us forever from our primitive, premodern ancestors. But if we were to let go of this fond conviction, Bruno Latour asks, what would the world look like? His book, an anthropology of science, shows us how much of modernity is actually a matter of faith.

What does it mean to be modern? What difference does the scientific method make? The difference, Latour explains, is in our careful distinctions between nature and society, between human and thing, distinctions that our benighted ancestors, in their world of alchemy, astrology,…


Book cover of The Age of AI: And Our Human Future

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Author Of The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations

From my list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist. My work at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, St. Antony’s College, and the World Economic Forum (as a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Complex Risks) focuses on transdisciplinarity, with an emphasis on the interplay between philosophy, neuroscience, strategic culture, applied history, technology, and global security. I am particularly interested in the exponential growth of disruptive technologies, and how they have the potential to both foster and hinder the progress of human civilization. My mission is rooted in finding transdisciplinary solutions to identify, predict and manage frontier risks, both here on earth and in Outer Space.

Nayef's book list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did Nayef love this book?

This book is a timely primer on the promise and peril of artificial intelligence (AI) authored by an unlikely coalition of insightful thinkers: a 100-year-old diplomat, a former Google chief executive, and an M.I.T. professor.

They present an interesting overview of the range of AI technologies and their likely impact on many spheres of life, from medicine and the military to health care and urban development.

The result is an accessible, thought-provoking book that asks important questions about the role of machine learning in changing human society, for good and ill.

By Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Three of the world’s most accomplished and deep thinkers come together to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the way it is transforming human society—and what this technology means for us all.

An AI learned to win chess by making moves human grand masters had never conceived. Another AI discovered a new antibiotic by analyzing molecular properties human scientists did not understand. Now, AI-powered jets are defeating experienced human pilots in simulated dogfights. AI is coming online in searching, streaming, medicine, education, and many other fields and, in so doing, transforming how humans are experiencing reality.

In The Age of AI,…


Book cover of Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech

Gabriella Rosen Kellerman Author Of Tomorrowmind: Thriving at Work with Resilience, Creativity, and Connection—Now and in an Uncertain Future

From my list on how work is changing and what it means for workers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve devoted my career to helping people achieve their potential and improve their wellbeing. One of the greatest challenges we’re all facing today is the highly unnatural world of work in which we all must perform. I’ve been fortunate both to lead large teams in this environment and to guide the Fortune 1000 on how to help their people thrive in its midst. Achieving sustainable peak performance requires that we understand what we are up against. This book list is a great place to start!

Gabriella's book list on how work is changing and what it means for workers

Gabriella Rosen Kellerman Why did Gabriella love this book?

Future Politics takes the conversation to the societal level, looking at how technology will change the fabric of our communities. Susskind brings an expert eye to a sweeping body of knowledge and resists simple narratives. This book is dense, but worth the effort for those looking to understand the dynamics that will shape society as we know it, for better and for worse.

Susskind is a scholar of history and politics and brings that love of fundamental political questions to this work. I enjoy how he anchors modern questions about the implications of technology for freedom, for example, in much older debates about freedom and the State.

By Jamie Susskind,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Politics in the Twentieth Century was dominated by a single question: how much of our collective life should be determined by the state, and what should be left to the market and civil society?

Now the debate is different: to what extent should our lives be directed and controlled by powerful digital systems - and on what terms?

Digital technologies - from artificial intelligence to blockchain, from robotics to virtual reality - are transforming the way we live together. Those who control the most powerful technologies are increasingly able to control the rest of us. As time goes on, these…


Book cover of Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine

Martin Erwig Author Of Once Upon an Algorithm: How Stories Explain Computing

From my list on computer science without coding.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of computer science at Oregon State University. My research focus is on programming languages, but I also work on computer science education and outreach. I grew up in Germany and moved to the United States in 2000. Since computer science is a fairly new and not widely understood discipline, I am interested in explaining its core ideas to the general public. I believe that in order to attract a more diverse set of people to the field we should emphasize that coding is only a small part of computer science.

Martin's book list on computer science without coding

Martin Erwig Why did Martin love this book?

This book is about the design of artifacts that are used by humans. It discusses, in particular, how specific features of cognitive artifacts can support or impede their effective use. The physical artifacts discussed in this book provide concrete illustrations for some abstract computer science notions such as types. I have used some of the examples successfully in talks about computer science for the general audience. A focus of this book is on representations, which plays an important role in many areas of computer science. If you enjoy the examples discussed in this book and like to think about representations, then you are thinking like a computer scientist. 

By Donald A. Norman, Tamara Dunaeff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Things That Make Us Smart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Things That Make Us Smart, Donald A. Norman explores the complex interaction between human thought and the technology it creates, arguing for the development of machines that fit our minds, rather than minds that must conform to the machine.Humans have always worked with objects to extend our cognitive powers, from counting on our fingers to designing massive supercomputers. But advanced technology does more than merely assist with thought and memory,the machines we create begin to shape how we think and, at times, even what we value. Norman, in exploring this complex relationship between humans and machines, gives us the…


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