The Top 5 Books On Everything

Good books are of course far better than almost anything you can read in a magazine or find on the Internet. They are also of double the benefit when the reader actually interacts with them, e.g. by writing a review. I have about 25 of these on my two blogs, but they still come very far from encompassing all the best stuff I’ve read.

The problem with writing a review is that they are very time-consuming. A post on on current affairs, in which I can find quotes and links to material on the click of a button, takes far less time and effort than leafing through a tome or trying to locate some important passage in a Kindle book. Reader response rates tend to be fairly modest too. It goes without mention that one is expected to actually read the book too.

So, books reviews are very useful. Both for personal development, to better internalize its lessons through rephrase and summary, as well as for the benefit of laypersons who may be inspired to read the book too – or at least to correctly quote its arguments, while pretending to have read it, and not come off as a fool or a fraud. (For instance, I am personally convinced that 95% of The Bell Curve’s confident critics have never even touched it). But they’re taxing on time and stamina. How to resolve this?

I think I have a solution. Henceforth, instead of reviewing books individually – as I tended to do beforehand – I will review them in taxonomic bunches. I will also only review the best books in their class as reviewing bad books is the most horrid of chores, and useless to boot. After all, going by Pareto, probably something like 80% of the more useful and relevant information on any subject is contained in 20% of the books on it; there is thus an inherent advantage in only focusing on the top 5 or so.

To this end, I have compiled a list of “top books” on various subjects, theories, and themes that will hopefully appear as blog posts in the not too distant future. If they are in italics, it means I have yet to read the book in question. Note that only English language books or books with more or less accessible English language translations cay be included. Please feel free to provide suggestions for the ?’s, to suggest alternatives for any book on the lists you think unworthy, and to suggest lists of books on topics of your own expertise.

Hacking Life

Top 5 Books Every (American) Man Has To Read

  1. The Lucifer Principle (Howard Bloom)
  2. The Game (Neil Strauss)
  3. The Bell Curve (Charles Murray & Richard Herrnstein)
  4. The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
  5. The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene), OR The Prince (Niccolò Machiavelli)

Comment: If you are a pasty-faced nerd who doesn’t get laid and doesn’t have much money, these books will open your ideas to what’s wrong with you like few others. They will not tell you how to “get big, get rich, get chicks” – for that, see below – but they will quickly set you on the straight and narrow.

(1) explains why you live in a social hierarchy and always will; the only question is where you’ll be on the pyramid. (2) explains why being a nice guy won’t get you laid, despite what your mom and beta friends tell you. While (3) is most (in)famous for exposing some inconvenient racial realities, its even more fascinating findings are that IQ more than anything else determines your life chances, and its theory of “cognitive stratification” is simply the most cogent and elegant explanation for the path US society is on. (4) is brimming with insights on how to act under capitalism. (5) are the right attitudes to keep in mind when politicking, regardless of whether you’re office plankton or a Congressman.

Top 5 Books Every American Man Has To Takes Notes On

  1. The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss)
  2. Starting Strength (Mark Rippetoe), OR Power to the People! (Pavel Tsasouline), OR The Four Hour Body (Tim Ferriss)
  3. Bang! (Roosh V), AND Day Bang (Roosh V), OR The Layguide (anon.)
  4. The Paleo Solution (Robb Wolf), OR The Four Hour Body (Tim Ferriss)
  5. ? – How to improve IQ? It is largely set by genetics, but can surely be tweaked upwards with mental exercises and nootropic drugs. I do not know of a good book on this subject, most likely because I’ve never experienced serious limiting factors in this area.

Comment: Not everyone is has the genetics or intuitive understandings necessary to succeed in life. These guides show how it is done. Online, follow Life Hacker.

The Lucky Gods

It is considered that wealth, health, and love are all vital towards a fulfilling life. Some power and a sense of spiritual purpose wouldn’t go amiss either. How do you go about acquiring these?

Top 5 Books on Wealth

  1. The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss)
  2. The $100 Start-up (Chris Guillebeau)
  3. The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: I think (1) contains virtually all the basics on how to become a member of the “New Rich”: Improving efficiency via exploitation of the 80/20 Principle and Parkinson’s Law; Creating “muses”, i.e. automated revenue streams; Exploiting geoarbitrage; Going on permanent semi-retirement. Excellent! (3) will show you how to NOT lose money, e.g. by ignoring financial “experts”.

Top 5 Books on Health

  1. The Four Hour Body (Tim Ferriss)
  2. The Paleo Solution (Robb Wolf)
  3. Starting Strength (Mark Rippetoe), OR, Power to the People! (Pavel Tsasouline), OR Convict Conditioning (Paul Wade)
  4. Fantastic Voyage (Ray Kurzweil & Terry Grossman)
  5. Emergency! (Neil Strauss)

Comment: The first three books are about how to stay in excellent physical form (once you get fit enough check out Crossfit). (4) is about increasing longevity, while (5) may lower the chances your life is cut short during some disaster. Useful online resources include Bodybuilding, Longecity.

Top 5 Books on Game

  1. The Game (Style)
  2. Bang! (Roosh V), AND Day Bang (Roosh V)
  3. Rules of the Game (Style)
  4. The Layguide (anon.)
  5. The Mystery Method (Mystery)

Comment: (1) is the classic that popularized game. (2) are detailed, no-nonsense guides to its application; I would recommend reading them immediately after The Game. (3) is more of an all-round self-improvement exercise book, with tips on stuff like posture and voice. (4) has a ton of information on patterns. (5) is a description of real social dynamics as per its inventor. Online, read Heartiste and Roosh.

Top 5 Books on Power

  1. The Prince (Niccolò Machiavelli)
  2. The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene)
  3. ? Influence (Robert B. Cialdini)
  4. ? Art of Seduction (Robert Greene)
  5. ?

Comment: (1) is the oldest classic, and (2) is standard throughout business schools. Suggestions for other books welcome.

Top 5 Books on Conversation

  1. Frogs into Princes (Richard Bandler & John Grinder)
  2. Conversationally Speaking (Alan Garner)
  3. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
  4. ? The Art of Seduction (Robert Greene)
  5. ? Something on motivational speaking, tones, etc

Comment: This is a priority development area, tying in as it does with both Power and Game. (1) is NLP. (3) is a classic.

Top 5 Books on Spirit

  1. The Secret (Rhonda Byrne)
  2. San Manuel Bueno, Martyr (Miguel de Unamuno)
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: Not an expert on this yet, and not high priority. Online, Zen Habits.

Understanding the World

Top 5 Books on HBD and Evolutionary Biology

  1. Mean Genes (Terry Burnham)
  2. The Bell Curve (Charles Murray & Richard Herrnstein)
  3. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins)
  4. The G Factor (Arthur Jensen)
  5. Race, Evolution, and Behavior (Philippe Rushton)

Comment: These books cover a huge percentage of the most relevant findings on gender and racial differences, how they came to be, and why they are important.

Top 10 Books for Understanding the Future

  1. Secular Cycles (Peter Turchin), OR Introduction to Social Macrodynamics (Andrei Korotayev, Artemy Malkov, & Daria Khaltourina)
  2. Limits to Growth (Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, & Dennis Meadows)
  3. Beyond Oil (Kenneth Deffeyes)
  4. Six Degrees (Mark Lynas)
  5. The Singularity is Near (Ray Kurzweil)
  6. Race, Evolution, and Behavior (Philippe Rushton)
  7. The Clash of Civilizations (Samuel Huntington)
  8. The End of History (Francis Fukuyama)
  9. ? Future Shock (Alvin Toffler)
  10. The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Comment: To appreciate the future, one needs a sense of the forces that drive historical processes such as war, prosperity, civil strife… (1) is perhaps the best guide, introducing us to cliodynamics – the mathematical modeling of history. This transitions smoothly into (2), the mathematical modeling of future ecological and social processes. (3)-(6) are concise introductions to four major realities of today without which accurate predictions are impossible: Energy depletion; Anthropogenic climate change; Accelerating technological change; Human Biodiversity. (7)-(9) are different paradigms through which to view political and social developments; they may have legions of critics, but all of them have been hugely influential. (10) is a cautionary reminder that your predictions will be wrong, so don’t bank on them.

Top 5 Futurist Books

  1. Preparing for the 21st century (Paul Kennedy)
  2. Global Catastrophes and Trends (Vaclav Smil)
  3. The World in 2050 (Laurence S. Smith)
  4. ? The Next 100 Years (George Friedman), The Meaning of the 21st century (James Martin), Our Final Hour (Martin Rees)
  5. ?

Comment: These are the brave souls who tried to gather the strands and predict what the next century will look like. (1)-(3) are well-thought out and excellent; and suggestions in (4) are rather slapdash efforts best avoided.

Top 10 Books on “Big History”

  1. Secular Cycles (Peter Turchin)
  2. The Decline of the West (Oswald Spengler)
  3. A History of the World (John Roberts)
  4. Maps of Time (David Christian)
  5. A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
  6. Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond)
  7. Capitalism and Material Life, 1400–1800 (Fernand Braudel)
  8. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (Paul Kennedy)
  9. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (David Landes)
  10. The Great Divergence (Kenneth Pomeranz)

Comment: (1) asserts that history can be modeled; (2), the reverse. The next three books are the biggest big picture histories, from the very beginnings of humanity (5) or even the Big Bang (3), (4) to the present day. (6)-(10) are influential accounts dealing with the question of why some countries became rich and powerful, while others remained poor and got colonized.

Top 5 Peak Oil Books

  1. Beyond Oil (Kenneth Deffeyes)
  2. Oil 101 (Morgan Downey)
  3. Twilight in the Desert (Matt Simmons)
  4. The Party’s Over (Richard Heinberg)
  5. The Last Oil Shock (David Strahan)


Top 5 Books on Global Energetics

  1. Energy at the Crossroads (Vaclav Smil)
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 10 AGW Books

  1. The Ages of Gaia (James Lovelock)
  2. Six Degrees (Mark Lynas)
  3. The Last Generation (Fred Pierce)
  4. ? Under A Green Sky (Peter Ward)
  5. ? Something about geoengineering, maybe…
  6. ? Alternate view?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?


Top 5 Collapse Books

  1. The Collapse of Civilizations (Joseph Tainter)
  2. Limits to Growth (Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, & Dennis Meadows)
  3. Collapse (Jared Diamond)
  4. The Long Descent (John Michael Greer), OR Our Ecotechnic Future (John Michael Greer)
  5. The World Without Us (Alan Weisman)


Top 5

  1. ?


Specialized Subjects

Top 15 Books of Classical Political Economy

  1. The Prince (Niccolò Machiavelli)
  2. Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes)
  3. Two Treatises on Government (John Locke)
  4. The Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith)
  5. Discourse on Inequality (Jean-Jacques Rousseau), AND On Social Contract (Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
  6. Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville)
  7. National System of Political Economy (Friedrich List)
  8. Essay On Population (Thomas Malthus)
  9. Principles of Political Economy (David Ricardo)
  10. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx), AND The Marx-Engels Reader (Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels) OR Das Kapital (Karl Marx)
  11. Theory of the Leisure Class (Thorstein Veblen)
  12. Imperialism (John Hobson)
  13. Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism (Vladimir Lenin)
  14. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Max Weber)
  15. The Worldly Philosophers (Richard Heilbroner)


Top 15 Books of Modern Political Economy

  1. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (John Maynard Keynes)
  2. The Prison Notebooks (Antonio Gramsci)
  3. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (Joseph Schumpeter)
  4. The Great Transformation (Karl Polanyi)
  5. The Road to Serfdom (Friedrich Hayek)
  6. Imagined Communities (Benedict Arnold)
  7. The Rise and Decline of Nations (Mancur Olson)
  8. The End of History (Francis Fukuyama)
  9. The Clash of Civilizations (Samuel Huntington)
  10. ?
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?

Comment: Much harder to identify great books by modern political economists… much of their stuff is in articles, journals, etc…

Top 5 Books on Economics

  1. Just Capital (Adair Turner)
  2. Wealth of Nations (Adam Smith)
  3. micro/macroeconomics textbook…
  4. ? Liar’s Poker (Michael Lewis)
  5. The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
  6. ? Peddling Prosperity (Paul Krugman)
  7. ? The Second Law of Economics (Reiner Kummel)
  8. ? IQ and the Wealth of Nations (Richard Lynn & Tatu Vanhanen)
  9. ? The Ascent of Money (Niall Ferguson)
  10. ?

Top 5 Books of Western Civilization

  1. Odyssey
  2. Aeneid
  3. Holy Bible
  4. Faust (Goethe), OR Doctor Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)
  5. ? Don Quixote


Top 5 Books of Russian Civilization

  1. Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales (ed. Serge A. Zenkovsky)
  2. The Brothers Karamazov (Fedor Dostoevsky)
  3. ? Fathers and Sons, Oblomov, Woe from Wit, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, War and Peace, Dead Souls, Dr. Zhivago, Eugene Onegin, The Gulag Archipelago, A Hero of our Time, The Master and Margarita, Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina – hard to decide which of these to include…
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: One wishes to include Pushkin’s poems, e.g. Ruslan and Ludmila, but it just doesn’t translate…

Top 5 Books of Children’s Fantasy

  1. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)
  2. Harry Potter (J. K. Rowling)
  3. Redwall (Brian Jacques)
  4. The Deptford Mice (Robin Jarvis)
  5. ?


Top 15 Fantasy Series

  1. Cthulhu Mythos (H. P. Lovecraft)
  2. Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  3. Earthsea (Ursula Le Guin)
  4. The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)
  5. A Song of Ice and Fire (George R. R. Martin)
  6. The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
  7. The First Law (Joe Abercrombie)
  8. Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)
  9. ?
  10. ?
  11. ?
  12. ?
  13. ?
  14. ?
  15. ?

Comment: Always looking for more recommendations here. Also Sublime Oblivion (Anatoly Karlin), not yet written.

Top 5 Cyberpunk Books

  1. Neuromancer
  2. True Names
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 5 Sci-Fi Books

  1. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  2. ? A Fire Upon the Deep
  3. Solaris (Stanislaw Lem)
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 5 Victorian Sci-fi

  1. The Time Machine
  2. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: Separate section for Jules Verne and Wells and others, to be filled in later.

Top 5 Books on the Post-Apocalypse

  1. A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller)
  2. The Stand (Stephen King)
  3. The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
  4. Metro 2033 (Dmitry Glukhovsky)
  5. ?


Top 5 Existentialist Books

  1. Labyrinths (Jorge Luis Borges), OR Ficciones  (Jorge Luis Borges)
  2. The Stranger (Albert Camus), OR The Plague (Albert Camus)
  3. Brothers Karamazov (Fedor Dostoevsky)
  4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  5. Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr (Miguel de Unamuno)


Top 5 Books on the Eastern Front

  1. Absolute War (Chris Bellamy)
  2. The Road to Stalingrad (John Erickson), AND The Road to Berlin (John Erickson)
  3. When Titans Clashed (David Glantz)
  4. Russia and the USSR In the Wars of the 20th Century (Grigory Krivosheev)
  5. Russia’s War (Richard Overy)

Comment: Rüdiger Overmans unfortunately not available in translation. Avoid Anthony Beevor.

Top 5 Books on Eurasianism

  1. Europe and Mankind (Nikolay Trubetzkoy)
  2. Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe (Lev Gumilev)
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. Foundations of Geopolitics (Alexander Dugin)

Comment: Frankly, almost none of the key works on Eurasianism are available in English, so that rule is dropped here.

Top 5 Dystopia Books

  1. We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)
  2. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  3. 1984 (George Orwell)
  4. ? Fahrenheit 451, The Time Machine – Wells?
  5. ?


Top 5 Books about children killing each other

  1. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
  2. Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
  3. Knights of the 40 Islands (Sergey Lukyanenko)
  4. The Running Man (Richard Bachman)
  5. The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

Comment: Note that (3) doesn’t yet have an English translation.

Top 5 Books on the Arctic

  1. The World in 2050 (Laurence C. Smith)
  2. The Future History of the Arctic (Charles Emmerson)
  3. Red Arctic (John McCannon)
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 10 Books on Russian Politics & Society

  1. The Return (Daniel Treisman)
  2. From The First Person (Vladimir Putin, transl. Catherine Fitzpatrick)
  3. After Putin’s Russia (Stephen Wegren Dale Herspring)
  4. Godfather of the Kremlin (Paul Khlebnikov)
  5. Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories (Viktor Pelevin, transl. Andrew Bromfield)
  6. Armageddon Averted (Stephen Kotkin)
  7. Virtual Politics (Andrew Wilson)
  8. The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia (Mark Ames)
  9. The Oligarchs (David Hoffman)
  10. ?

Comment: Also Putin: A Biography (Anatoly Karlin), not yet written.

Top 5 Zombie Books

  1. The Zombie Survival Guide (Max Brooks)
  2. Cell (Stephen King)
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: Pretty much it, AFAIK. Zombies are only good on film.

Useful Skillz

Top 5 Books on Writing

  1. On Writing (Stephen King)
  2. The Elements of Style (Strunk & White)
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 5 Resources on Language Learning

  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?

Comment: Online, Fluent in 3 Months.

Top 5 Survivalism Books

  1. Emergency! (Neil Strauss)
  2. SAS Survival Handbook
  3. Surviving in Argentina
  4. Reinventing Collapse (Dmitry Orlov)
  5. ?


Top 5 Resources on “Rambling”

  1. conversationally speaking
  2. Cracked
  3. Guinness Book of Records
  4. Everyone misses you when you’re dead
  5. ?


Top 5 Resources for Learning Chinese

  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?


Top 5 Poker Books

  1. The Theory of Poker (David Sklansky)
  2. No Limit Hold’Em (David Sklansky)
  3. The Little Green Book (Phil Gordon)
  4. Poker Tells Essentials (Joe Navarro)
  5. Harrington on Tournaments Vol. 1-3 (Dan Harrington)


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