The most recommended chaos theory books

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to chaos theory, and here are their favorite chaos theory books.
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Book cover of Divine Action and Modern Science

Brendan Sweetman Author Of Evolution, Chance, and God: Understanding the Relationship Between Evolution and Religion

From my list on religion, evolution, and chance.

Who am I?

I'm a teacher, philosopher, writer, Professor of Philosophy, and holder of the Sullivan Chair in Philosophy at Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. I'm the author/editor of sixteen books on such topics as religion and science, religion and politics, contemporary European philosophy, and political philosophy. I'm particularly interested in how religion and science, especially evolution, can be shown to be compatible with each other, as well as in developing an argument that there is no chance operating in nature (including in biology). My book and the books below explore these fascinating topics from almost every possible angle, and should whet readers’ appetites for further thinking about these intriguing matters!

Brendan's book list on religion, evolution, and chance

Brendan Sweetman Why did Brendan love this book?

This book considers the relationship between the natural sciences and the concept of God acting in the world. Nicholas Saunders examines the Biblical motivations for asserting a continuing notion of divine action and identifies several different theological approaches to the problem. He considers their theoretical relationships with the laws of nature, indeterminism, and probabilistic causation. His radical critiques of current attempts to reconcile special divine action with quantum theory, chaos theory, and quantum chaos are especially interesting, though he will not convince everyone! Saunders provocatively suggests that we are still far from a satisfactory account of how God might act in a manner that is consonant with modern science despite the copious recent scholarship in this area.

By Nicholas Saunders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Divine Action and Modern Science as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Divine Action and Modern Science considers the relationship between the natural sciences and the concept of God acting in the world. Nicholas Saunders examines the Biblical motivations for asserting a continuing notion of divine action and identifies several different theological approaches to the problem. He considers their theoretical relationships with the laws of nature, indeterminism, and probabilistic causation. His book then embarks on a radical critique of current attempts to reconcile special divine action with quantum theory, chaos theory and quantum chaos. As well as considering the implications of these problems for common interpretations of divine action, Saunders also surveys…


Book cover of Chaos Imagined: Literature, Art, Science

Stuart Walton Author Of An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

From my list on chaos and disorder.

Who am I?

My work has always been interested in the ways in which systems can be disrupted and subverted by taking radical fresh approaches to them, even where the prevailing view is that overturning them can only lead to the dreaded chaos.

Stuart's book list on chaos and disorder

Stuart Walton Why did Stuart love this book?

A comprehensive, elegantly written survey of the territory from a genuine polymath, Chaos Imagined considers the philosophical issues raised by the turn to disorder and chance in everything from cutting-edge artistic movements to mathematical chaos theory. Meisel moves with agile ease from historical narrative to considerations of some quite knotty theoretical problems in a style that is genuinely readable and elegant, rather than academically abstruse. He is as assured on avant-garde art movements as he is on the more elusive aspects of western philosophy.

By Martin Meisel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The stories we tell in our attempt to make sense of the world-our myths and religion, literature and philosophy, science and art-are the comforting vehicles we use to transmit ideas of order. But beneath the quest for order lies the uneasy dread of fundamental disorder. True chaos is hard to imagine and even harder to represent. In this book, Martin Meisel considers the long effort to conjure, depict, and rationalize extreme disorder, with all the passion, excitement, and compromises the act provokes. Meisel builds a rough history from major social, psychological, and cosmological turning points in the imagining of chaos.…


Book cover of Chaos: Making a New Science

Martin Cohen Author Of Rethinking Thinking: Problem Solving from Sun Tzu to Google

From my list on thinking skills.

Who am I?

Most of my books (101 Philosophy Problems, Wittgenstein's Beetle, Critical Thinking for Dummies, and so on) are on thinking skills, in the broad sense. However, I'm always a bit uncomfortable when I'm presented as an expert on thinking, as people tend to imagine I must have some brainy strategies for thinking better when my interest is also in the ways we "think badly." Because logic is really a blunt tool, compared to the brilliant insights that come with intuition. Yet how do you train your intuition? So the books I've chosen here are all ones that I've found don't so much tell you how to think, but actually get you thinking. And that's always been my aim in my books too.

Martin's book list on thinking skills

Martin Cohen Why did Martin love this book?

This is a book about "non-linear" thinking. I like this kind of weird stuff. 

Research in psychology shows that the human mind struggles to understand non-linear relationships. Our brains seem to like the rather dull and predictable story of simple relationships. Ones like "you drive quicker, you arrive sooner" or maybe "the more books you read, the brainer you become."  But real life is not following these laws! Take dieting: if you eat less food you don't necessarily get thinner - maybe your metabolism slows down instead. Maybe you skip breakfast but start snacking late at night. "It's complicated."

By James Gleick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uncover one of the most exciting frontiers of modern physics in this fascinating, insightful and accessible overview of Chaos theory.

'An exceedingly readable introduction to a new intellectual world' Observer

From the turbulence of the weather to the complicated rythmns of the human heart, 'chaos' is at the centre of our day to day lives. Cutting across several scientific disciplines, James Gleick explores and elucidates the science of the unpredicatable with an immensely readable narrative style and flair.

'An awe-inspiring book. Reading Chaos gave me the sensation that someone had just found the light-switch' Douglas Adams


Book cover of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World

Bettina von Stamm Author Of The Other Side of Growth: An Innovator's Responsibilities in an Emerging World

From my list on today’s complex world and help our planet.

Who am I?

As an innovation expert for over 30 years, I've been cautioning about the "dark side" of innovation and emphasized the importance of sustainability. Though in light of the urgency of our planet's situation, we need to shift our focus from sustainability to regeneration. The unprecedented complexity and connectedness of today’s world demand thinking in systems, and the kind of innovation that leads to the transformation of our current social and economic systems so we can live in harmony with nature. This requires us to question who we collaborate with, what we value, and how we create value. We need to work together differently, with different leadership, and to change our own ways of thinking.

Bettina's book list on today’s complex world and help our planet

Bettina von Stamm Why did Bettina love this book?

In her book, first published in 1999, Meg Wheatley was the first to bring together three topics that have always been close to my heart: leadership, innovation, and complexity theory. 

I also happen to believe that deeply understanding these three is necessary for coping, let alone thriving, in the context of the 21st century. This is the book to start the journey with.

Her thoughts express what I communicate with my writing: the urgency to innovate innovation, a delight in embracing uncertainty and complexity, and the need for leadership approaches to evolve.

By Margaret J. Wheatley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The new edition of the bestselling, acclaimed, and influential guide to applying the new science to organizations and management. In this new edition, Margaret Wheatley describes how the new science radically alters our understanding of the world and how it can teach us to live and work well together in these chaotic times.
 
We live in a time of chaos, rich in potential for new possibilities. A new world is being born. We need new ideas, new ways of seeing, and new relationships to help us now. New science—the new discoveries in biology, chaos theory, and quantum physics that are…


Book cover of The Golden Apples of the Sun

Phil Giunta Author Of Testing the Prisoner

From my list on ordinary people thrown into bizarre and extraordinary circumstances.

Who am I?

Two themes run through my book recommendations. First is the lone protagonist against impossible odds. Don’t we all feel this way from time to time in our lives? I’m no exception and still have the scars to prove it, which is why my first novel was intended to promote awareness and prevention of child abuse and domestic violence. Secondly, I’ve had an affinity for speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal) since I was a child so it only stands to reason that I would be inspired by the likes of Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, and other masters of these genres.

Phil's book list on ordinary people thrown into bizarre and extraordinary circumstances

Phil Giunta Why did Phil love this book?

The variety of subjects covered in this collection of 22 short stories demonstrates Bradbury's prowess as a master craftsman and the reason why I count him among my literary heroes. 

More than a few of these tales have become legendary, including “A Sound of Thunder.” Bradbury's premise of how the death of a butterfly in prehistoric times could have drastic changes in the future is a variation on the famous “butterfly effect” and a fine example of the relationship between chaos theory and the physics of time travel.
For me, the most incredible story in the collection is “The Fog Horn” in which an elusive sea monster attacks a lighthouse after being attracted by its foghorn for years. This story was the inspiration for the 1953 film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

By Ray D. Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Golden Apples of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ray Bradbury is a modern cultural treasure. His disarming simplicity of style underlies a towering body of work unmatched in metaphorical power by any other American storyteller. And here, presented in a new trade edition, are thirty-two of his most famous tales--prime examples of the poignant and mysterious poetry which Bradbury uniquely uncovers in the depths of the human soul, the otherwordly portraits of outré fascination which spring from the canvas of one of the century's great men of imagination. From a lonely coastal lighthouse to a sixty-million-year-old safary, from the pouring rain of Venus to the ominous silence of…


Book cover of Models of Society and Complex Systems

Charles H. Anderton Author Of Principles of Conflict Economics: The Political Economy of War, Terrorism, Genocide, and Peace

From my list on the economics of conflict and peace.

Who am I?

Like many people, I am deeply troubled by the death and destruction from violent conflict. When I began my graduate work in economics at Cornell University, I was allowed to apply my economics learning to the problem of war. When I began teaching at Holy Cross College, my colleagues encouraged me to offer courses on the economics of war and peace. After many years of teaching, I compiled Principles of Conflict Economics (with John Carter) to serve as a textbook on economic aspects of conflict. I hope the book might encourage other economics professors and students to learn more about war and how to resolve conflicts nonviolently.

Charles' book list on the economics of conflict and peace

Charles H. Anderton Why did Charles love this book?

I appreciated how this book took on the challenge of applying advanced mathematical modeling and simulation techniques to gain new insights into the social evolution of norms and institutions in societies, which is a critical topic in many fields, including conflict and peace economics.

I learned much from the book’s coverage of selected conflict and peace topics such as riots, revolutions, the 2010 Arab Spring movement, and the social evolution of cooperation. I especially like how the mathematical models in the book are described intuitively using wonderfully imaginative diagrams.

In this way, both the mathematically and non-mathematically inclined can come away with a richer understanding of human behavior in dynamically changing social systems.

By Sebastian Ille,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Models of Society and Complex Systems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Models of Society and Complex Systems introduces readers to a variety of different mathematical tools used for modelling human behaviour and interactions, and the complex social dynamics that drive institutions, conflict, and coordination. What laws govern human affairs? How can we make sense of the complexity of societies and how do individual actions, characteristics, and beliefs interact? Social systems follow regularities which allow us to answer these questions using different mathematical approaches.

This book emphasises both theory and application. It systematically introduces mathematical approaches, such as evolutionary and spatial game theory, social network analysis, agent-based modelling, and chaos theory. It…


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.

Who am I?

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 Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science

Stuart Walton Author Of An Excursion Through Chaos: Disorder Under the Heavens

From my list on chaos and disorder.

Who am I?

My work has always been interested in the ways in which systems can be disrupted and subverted by taking radical fresh approaches to them, even where the prevailing view is that overturning them can only lead to the dreaded chaos.

Stuart's book list on chaos and disorder

Stuart Walton Why did Stuart love this book?

In a study of great conceptual daring, Hayles examines the links between scientific chaos theory and the representations of disorder in modern literature, from Stanislaw Lem to Doris Lessing. She is more or less unique in the present day in being able to align hard science with contemporary aesthetics, a world away from the half-digested appropriation of scientific chatter by those who love nothing better than an algorithm. Her grasp of contemporary theory is sound, and her readings of modern literature are sensitive and enlightening.

By N. Katherine Hayles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

N. Katherine Hayles here investigates parallels between contemporary literature and critical theory and the science of chaos. She finds in both scientific and literary discourse new interpretations of chaos, which is seen no longer as disorder but as a locus of maximum information and complexity. She examines structures and themes of disorder in The Education of Henry Adams, Doris Lessing's Golden Notebook, and works by Stanislaw Lem. Hayles shows how the writings of poststructuralist theorists including Barthes, Lyotard, Derrida, Serres, and de Man incorporate central features of chaos theory.


Book cover of Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems

Yuha Jung Author Of Transforming Museum Management: Evidence-Based Change through Open Systems Theory

From my list on encouraging readers to question the status quo.

Who am I?

My areas of expertise are museum management and arts administration. More specifically, I study structures of arts organizations and how they are connected or disconnected to their communities and larger societies using the systems theory and concept of mutual causality. In the process, I point out where the systems (i.e., museums) become stagnant and find a leverage point to address that stagnation by bringing in new input and different ways of thinking about the culture and structure of the organization. In most of my research, I try to find blindspots of following or doing “what was just there (i.e., status quo)” instead of evaluating what it did and how it can be improved. 

Yuha's book list on encouraging readers to question the status quo

Yuha Jung Why did Yuha love this book?

This book spoke to me as a scholar of systems theory and due to my upbringing in Buddhist culture. Macy discusses how core teachings of interdependence in Buddhism and the mutual causation concept of general systems theory are similar. This book emphasizes the interdependent relationships among different people, things, societies, and ecosystems as mutually affecting and not unidirectional, leading to and encouraging collective action toward mutual benefits. I also love this book because it can introduce readers to philosophical thoughts that are other than Western, which we tend to be bombarded with in academic publications and education in the US. 

By Joanna Macy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book brings important new dimensions to the interface between contemporary Western science and ancient Eastern wisdom. Here for the first time the concepts and insights of general systems theory are presented in tandem with those of the Buddha. Remarkable convergences appear between core Buddhist teachings and the systems view of reality, arising in our century from biology and extending into the social and cognitive sciences. Giving a cogent introduction to both bodies of thought, and a fresh interpretation of the Buddha’s core teaching of dependent co-arising, this book shows how their common perspective on causality can inform our lives.…