Best Explainers on Different Subjects

by JMiller1 min read18th Mar 201524 comments


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There are many recommended reading threads on lesswrong. Some examples include: MathTextbooks and Rationality.

I am looking to compile another such thread, this time aimed at "exceptional explainers" and their works. For example, I find Richard Feynman's QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter to be one such book.

Please list out other authors and books which you think are wonderfully written, in such a way that maximizes communication and explanation to laypeople in the given field. For example:

Physics: Richard Feynman - QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.

Thank you,




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I tried this earlier, with Great Explanations.

And you should also have mentioned Best Textbooks on every Subject.

Thanks Gunnar. Luke may not have linked his thread, because I did so in the OP.

Oh yeah, the old problem of the visibilty of single-word links.

Thanks, Luke. I'll be checking your physics recommendations out soon.

I appreciate the initiative to send meta-sources rather than single pieces.

Geometrical Vectors builds a visual intuition and vocabulary for dealing with vector analysis. It is a non-standard approach but very useful for visually oriented people,

For an exceedingly well written intro to crypto I'd recommend The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking by Simon Singh

When I got around to a final year security comp sci module it turned out that most of the information had been covered in The code book.

Awesome, I'll be checking this out for sure. I recently began studying computer security; do you have any more recommendations?

Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography is a classic and his other books are also recommended.

Peter Briscoe's Reading the Map of Knowledge is a helpful short monograph on helping you optimize your learning and research into different fields. It is meant for librarians and lay people alike.

Another one on computing: The Elements of Computing Systems. This book explains how computers work by teaching you to build a computer from scratch, staring with logic gates. By the end you have a working (emulation of) a computer, every component of which you built. It's great if you already know how to program and want to learn how computers work at a lower level.

"Code" by Petzold is a wonderful book which explains how a computer worksl

"Mainstream and Formal epistemology" - Hendricks is an incredible book and should be read by most.

I always recommend Flatland to anyone interested in visualizing extra dimensions.

[-][anonymous]6y 2

Harry Lindgren's Recreational problems in geometric dissections and how to solve them is good for visualizing flat transformations and doesn't require much previous knowledge to understand.

Added to my reading list, thanks!

Metacademy is a knowledge graph of machine learning.

Visual Group Theory is a really well-written book on group theory.

some others I found worthwhile checking:

Human and Animal Behavioral Biology - Robert Sapolsky

General Relativity - Bertrand Russell - ABC of relativity

For LWers I believe Yudkowsky>Feynman>Drescher in explaining Quantum Physics by analogy.

Memetics, from the standpoint of engineering effective memes -> Made to Stick

Memetics, as a discipline, field of knowledge -> Tim Tyler

Anything he talks about - Steve Pinker

Zoology - Dawkins

Cognitive Neuroscience -> I have delved long and hard in this field and have yet to find a good explainer. Jeff Hawkins and Terrence Deacon are ok.

Winning -> Randy Pausch

Biotech trends -> Juan Enriquez

Statistical trends in humans -> Hans Rosling

Computing: The Pattern On The Stone by Daniel Hillis. It's shorter and seemingly more focused on principles than the Petzold book Code, which I can't compare further because I stopped reading early (low information density).

"Thinking Physics is Gedanken Physics" is a brilliantly intuitive approach to physics from mechanics to relativity.

I would recommend William Poundstone's Prisoner's Dilemma as an intro to game theory.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

'Pollination ecology' by Faegri and van dear Pijl makes sense of flower diversity and possibly evolution, though perhaps is heavish for an intro.