The most recommended thought experiment books

Who picked these books? Meet our 18 experts.

18 authors created a book list connected to thought experiment, and here are their favorite thought experiment books.
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Book cover of Tuck Everlasting

Jill K. Sayre Author Of The Fairies of Turtle Creek

From my list on realistic fiction with a dollop of magic.

Who am I?

Like most writers, I am extremely interested in the “what if” factor. What if food ingredients could make a person feel specific emotions? What if drinking from a spring in the woods could give you a superpower? What if fairies really do take care of and grow all plants and trees in the world? I love to read and write about ordinary people, living everyday life, who encounter threads of magic. Influenced by reading books in the genre of “magical realism,” I love to explore how a dab of magic can be used in realistic fiction to emotionally affect the characters and story arc.

Jill's book list on realistic fiction with a dollop of magic

Jill K. Sayre Why did Jill love this book?

So, this book was made into two movies, the first in 1981 and the other in 2002, but I first experienced this story by reading the book when I was a young girl in sixth grade in 1978. I remember reading the epilogue over and over again—it broke my heart to think how the greed of one man could ruin something so magical. I pondered whether it was a blessing or a curse to live forever, and the town of Treegap felt like it could exist in any wooded place. Whenever I find myself in a thick forest, I still search for springs that bubble up from the ground, taking me right back to those emotions when reading this great classic.

By Natalie Babbitt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Tuck Everlasting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Winnie Foster is in the woods, thinking of running away from home, when she sees a boy drinking from a spring. Winnie wants a drink too, but before she can take a sip, she is kidnapped by the boy, Jesse Tuck, and his family. She learns that the Tuck family are blessed with - or doomed to - eternal life since drinking from the spring, and they wander from place to place trying to live as inconspicuously as they can. Now Winnie knows their secret. But what does immortality really mean? And can the Tucks help her understand before it's…


Book cover of God's Debris

Christopher Riley Author Of Where Once We Stood: Stories of The Apollo Astronauts Who Walked On The Moon

From my list on making sense of our existence in the Universe.

Who am I?

I am a film director and producer, specialising in science and history. I write books between making films. 

Christopher's book list on making sense of our existence in the Universe

Christopher Riley Why did Christopher love this book?

I like short books that don’t feel too daunting to read. This very readable, brief tale, described by Adams as a thought experiment wrapped in a story, reminds us how to see the world differently. Something we could all do with, to challenge our prejudices and lift us from our echo chambers. 

By Scott Adams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explore the mysteries and magic of the cosmos with the acclaimed creator of Dilbert. 

God's Debris is the first non-Dilbert, non-humor book by best-selling author Scott Adams. Adams describes God's Debris as a thought experiment wrapped in a story. It's designed to make your brain spin around inside your skull.

 Imagine that you meet a very old man who—you eventually realize—knows literally everything. Imagine that he explains for you the great mysteries of life: quantum physics, evolution, God, gravity, light psychic phenomenon, and probability—in a way so simple, so novel, and so compelling that it all fits together and makes…


Book cover of Baby Loves Quantum Physics!

Chris Ferrie Author Of Quantum Physics for Babies

From my list on quantum physics to grow up on.

Who am I?

I am a professor of quantum physics—the most notoriously complicated science humans have ever invented. While the likes of Albert Einstein commented on how difficult quantum physics is to understand, I disagree! Ever since my mum asked me—back while I was a university student—to explain to her what I was studying, I’ve been on a mission to make quantum physics as widely accessible as possible. Science belongs to us all and we should all have an opportunity to appreciate it!

Chris' book list on quantum physics to grow up on

Chris Ferrie Why did Chris love this book?

Baby Loves Quantum Physics is a cute book about Schrodinger’s Cat, which was featured in a “thought-experiment” nearly 100 years ago about what quantum physics ought to look to big things like humans or cats. The illustrations are engaging for young readers and the language is pitched at a suitable level. This a great step on baby’s quantum quest!

By Ruth Spiro, Irene Chan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Baby Loves Quantum Physics! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Big, brainy science for the littlest listeners.

Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book engages readers in a game of hide-and-seek with Schrodinger's famous feline. Can cat be awake and asleep at the same time? Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby's sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Baby Loves Science series introduces highly intellectual science concepts to the littlest learners.


Book cover of After Blood-Soaked Centuries of Supposed Progress & Advance

Joseph Ridgwell Author Of The Heist And Other Tales

From Joseph's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author King of the literary underground

Joseph's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joseph Ridgwell Why did Joseph love this book?

Wallingford’s Poet Laureate (and half shaman half devil’s footman) shares poems written while tripping, breathing, working, drinking, smoking, pondering, loafing, and lying around star-gazing. Poems as postcards, thought experiments, mantras, musings, reveries, songs & plans.

Mahoney tells us what we don’t want to hear, and what we can hardly believe, and awakens the soul-searcher in all of us. 

Book cover of Reasons and Persons

David Edmonds Author Of Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

From my list on read before you turn 25.

Who am I?

David Edmonds is a philosopher, podcaster, and curry fanatic. A distinguished research fellow at Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, he is the author of many books including Wittgenstein’s Poker (with John Eidinow), The Murder of Professor Schlick, Would You Kill The Fat Man?, and Undercover Robot (with Bertie Fraser). If you eat at his local restaurant, The Curry Paradise, he recommends you order the Edmonds Biriani.

David's book list on read before you turn 25

David Edmonds Why did David love this book?

Arguably the greatest work of moral philosophy of the 20th Century.  It’s rich with vivid thought experiments – including Parfit’s famous tele-transporter, which can make an exact copy of us and transport us to another planet. Is this copy of me the same person as me? The book makes us question some of our deepest assumptions - such as what it means to say that David Edmonds today is identical to David Edmonds yesterday or tomorrow. Parfit was my first supervisor, and I’m now writing his biography.

By Derek Parfit,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book challenges, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity. The author claims that we have a false view of our own nature; that it is often rational to act against our own best interests; that most of us have moral views that are directly self-defeating; and that, when we consider future generations the conclusions will often be disturbing. He concludes that moral non-religious moral
philosophy is a young subject, with a promising but unpredictable future.


Book cover of Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

Maddalena Bearzi Author Of Stranded: Finding Nature in Uncertain Times

From my list on what animals feel and think.

Who am I?

I have been passionate about nature since childhood. In my youth, I spent many summers on a pristine shore in Sardinia, snorkeling in a sea full of life. Later on, I became a scientist, conservationist, and author. My research on dolphins in California represents one of the longest studies worldwide. I co-wrote Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins, authored Dolphin Confidential, and Stranded, and written for many media, including National Geographic. My goal is to share my love for nature and what I have learned from it, with the hope to instill a deeper appreciation for wildlife and involve others in the protection of our planet.

Maddalena's book list on what animals feel and think

Maddalena Bearzi Why did Maddalena love this book?

I couldn’t conclude this selection without citing this book by Marc Bekoff.

Marc has dedicated most of his life to teaching others animal compassion and respect. In Animals Matter, this Colorado-based author and renowned scientist, explains how non-human animals have many of the same feelings we do. And he teaches us how to respect and love other beings we share the planet with.

The author is informative and at the same time easy to understand for the general public. Icing on the cake, Jane Goodall wrote the foreword of this book. So, read, enjoy, and share!

By Marc Bekoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nonhuman animals have many of the same feelings we do. They get hurt, they suffer, they are happy, and they take care of each other. Marc Bekoff, a renowned biologist specializing in animal minds and emotions, guides readers from high school age up—including older adults who want a basic introduction to the topic—in looking at scientific research, philosophical ideas, and humane values that argue for the ethical and compassionate treatment of animals. Citing the latest scientific studies and tackling controversies with conviction, he zeroes in on the important questions, inviting reader participation with “thought experiments” and ideas for action. Among…


Book cover of A Primer for Forgetting: Getting Past the Past

Guy Beiner Author Of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

From my list on forgetting.

Who am I?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.

Guy's book list on forgetting

Guy Beiner Why did Guy love this book?

A fascinating collection of miscellanea, which constitute ‘a thought experiment seeking out places where forgetting is more useful than memory’. Thoroughly entertaining and full of eye-opening anecdotes.

By Lewis Hyde,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Primer for Forgetting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We live in a culture that prizes memory - how much we can store, the quality of what's preserved, how we might better document and retain the moments of our life while fighting off the nightmare of losing all that we have experienced. But what if forgetfulness were seen not as something to fear, but rather as a blessing, a balm, a path to peace and forgiveness?

A Primer for Forgetting is a remarkable experiment in scholarship, autobiography and social criticism. It forges a new vision of forgetfulness by assembling fragments of art and writing from the ancient world to…


Book cover of Schrödinger's Caterpillar

Mark Roman and Corben Duke Author Of The Worst Man on Mars

From my list on thigh-slappingly funny science fiction.

Who are we?

Who, apart from the innately humorless, doesn’t like a good laugh? We do, whether it’s at Mark Roman’s opera singing or at Corben Duke’s naked balloon dance. We also enjoy funny science fiction books. We’ve tried writing them, too, but it’s devilishly difficult. So, time and time again, we turn to the masters in the field to see how they did it, studying the words they used, the way they joined them together, and where they inserted the punctuation marks. Most instructive. Here are our top five and their funny SF books.

Mark's book list on thigh-slappingly funny science fiction

Mark Roman and Corben Duke Why did Mark love this book?

Here's a little-known gem that is clever and witty, packed with funny incidents and terrible puns. It’s about downsizing consultant Graham Paint who owns the eponymous insect. Much to his inconvenience, the caterpillar (which, like its namesake cat, exists in a state of quantum uncertainty) starts spawning alternative realities, each with their own copy of Graham – causing havoc for him, and the police. The storyline has echoes of the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, but is much funnier and smarter. Oh, and check out the book’s trailer on YouTube.

By Zane Stumpo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Graham Paint is a downsizing consultant, and sick of it. One morning he misses his bus when he stops to put a strange caterpillar in a matchbox. As the bus passes he's shocked to spot himself inside. Like Schroedinger's Cat in the famous quantum thought experiment, the caterpillar has spawned parallel possibilities. This comic novel explores Graham's search for a better life among the various overlapping alternatives. Another clone, Grim Dupeint, is a loathsome international arms dealer. Graham infiltrates Grim's corporation, then embezzles cash for charity. When a furious Grim realises, Graham throws him overboard from his luxury yacht and…


Book cover of Thought Experiments

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 the book that got me thinking about thought experiments. It really opened up my eyes to a whole new way of thinking – mainly by introducing me to the wonderfully playful, indeed modern style of writing that Galileo used to present his groundbreaking scientific theories – way back in seventeenth-century Italy!

Sorenson is a philosophy professor and goes on a bit, but his book was also groundbreaking in a way. My own books owe him a debt and for scholarly types, he also suggests a general theory "of" thought experiments: meaning what they are, how they work, and what is good - and bad - about them.

By Roy A. Sorensen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this book, Roy Sorensen presents the first general theory of the thought experiment. He analyses a wide variety of thought experiments, ranging from aesthetics to zoology, and explores what thought experiments are, how they work, and what their positive and negative aspects are. Sorensen also sets his theory within an evolutionary framework and integrates recent advances in experimental psychology and the history of science.


Book cover of Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology

Paul E. Smaldino Author Of Modeling Social Behavior: Mathematical and Agent-Based Models of Social Dynamics and Cultural Evolution

From my list on (human) behavior that reward working through the math.

Who am I?

I am fascinated with the relationship between our individual behaviors and the social structures and institutions in which we live—and how these influence each over time. I think this sort of understanding is important if we want to consider the kind of world we want to live in, and how we might get there from where we are. I take insights from many disciplines, from physics and biology to the cognitive and social sciences, from philosophy and art to mathematics and engineering. I am currently a professor of cognitive and information sciences at the University of California, Merced, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. 

Paul's book list on (human) behavior that reward working through the math

Paul E. Smaldino Why did Paul love this book?

Strictly speaking, there is very little math in this short book, but it nevertheless details precise models that yield loads of insight.

Using simple machines with sensors and motors, Braitenberg shows us how easy it is to generate behaviors that look purposeful and even emotional, and how hard it would be to guess how those behaviors were generated if we didn’t already know. This is a book I come back to again and again, not only for its valuable lessons, but also for its beautiful prose.

The models in this may be fictions, but, as Braitenberg advises, fiction is a necessary part of science “as long as our brains are only minuscule fragments of the universe, much too small to hold all the facts of the world but not too idle to speculate about them.” 

By Valentino Braitenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These imaginative thought experiments are the inventions of one of the world's eminent brain researchers.

These imaginative thought experiments are the inventions of one of the world's eminent brain researchers. They are "vehicles," a series of hypothetical, self-operating machines that exhibit increasingly intricate if not always successful or civilized "behavior." Each of the vehicles in the series incorporates the essential features of all the earlier models and along the way they come to embody aggression, love, logic, manifestations of foresight, concept formation, creative thinking, personality, and free will. In a section of extensive biological notes, Braitenberg locates many elements of…