But I found Diamond himself even more fascinating then his story; I mean here was a man who had collected studies from multiple diverse fields, dedicated years of his life to piecing them together and refining his understanding until eventually he had this deeply profound underlying theory about humanity and the evolution of its civilizations. This was science! Or was it? I realized I wasn’t quite clear on what counts as science and Science with a capital S and just how we do the amazing things we do today that we take completely for granted. Luckily some quick googling showed me that Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything probably had the answer and that it was meant to be a pretty good book.
In my opinion, ASHNE isn’t merely good – IMO it is far and away the best book I have ever read.
I can honestly say it changed my life and how I look at the world which I can’t honestly say about any thing else; book or otherwise. In fact its one of those books that made me deeply angry that I hadn’t found it earlier. If I had read it when I was younger I would most definitely have made different choices and I would probably now be pursuing a meaningful career in an obscure field of academia.
Either way I was 2 for 2 and the Pop-Sci addiction was most definitely on. Bryson covered the age of modern science perfectly but what about what came before – especially Maths! I couldn’t find a Bryson-like comprehensive and ascessible history so instead I settled for the The Tiger that Isn’t by Andrew Dilnot. It wasn’t as joyously exciting as Bryson – it is about statistics after all – but it was still entertaining, hugely insightful and more than all that extremely relevant. 3 for 3.
So now I decided to apply this knowledge of statistics further by reading up on Economics – this naturally led me to Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It wasn’t what I was expecting – a study of small scale human incentives rather then a massive exploration of the Economy - but at the same time it was better then I could have dreamed. While reading the sequel Superfreakonomics the authors casually mentioned that Malcom Gladwell was the best author currently writing.
So I tried Gladwell’s third book Outliers; a study on success and how someone becomes successful. He’s not a scientist so he doesn’t qualify his observation or provide possible alterative conclusions but for all that it was a stunning book. What I find to be a true measure of Gladwells phenomenal skill as an author is that while I was very interested in the summary and subject matter of Outliers I wasn’t particularly interested in the theme of his first and most popular book – The Tipping Point – which was in my opinion a study on the creation of memes. But based purely on the strength of Outliers I read it anyway and it was at least every bit as breath taking as Outliers. His ability to find and tie-in fascinating research with his theme is second to none and his conclusions are usually supremely uplifting.
So where do I go from here?
As we are all probably quantitative folk I was thinking of listing these books in descending order of preference but as I have read both the Freakonomics and Outliers and the Tipping point within 6 days of eachother they have just blended into one super awesome book in my head.
Edited by Sheep the Evicted, 09 March 2012 - 03:35 PM.