Chris Anderson's Must-Reads
The author of the bestselling manifesto Free recommends a few of his favorite books—at no charge.
Out of Controlby Kevin Kelly
“This book is now a decade and half old, but it's still mind-blowing.”
This book is now a decade and half old, but it's still mind-blowing. It describes how much of the world around us is not planned, or even plan-able, but simply emergent phenomena, governed by probability and chance. Shit happens.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
“Ariely shows how and why our poor broken mammalian brains lead us into temptation.”
We are idiots. If that weren't already obvious, Ariely shows how and why our poor broken mammalian brains lead us into temptation, and explains why $2.99 works on us even though we've been to college.
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“This is the precursor to The Black Swan and is, I think, a stronger book.”
This is the precursor to The Black Swan and is, I think, a stronger book. Our brains are pattern-matching machines, and we tend to see signal in noise, imagining meaning where there is usually none. Yesterday's astrology is today's stock-market analysis—connecting random dots may produce a story, but that doesn't make it true.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
“One of the only works of fiction I've read in years… a terrific bit of sci-fi.”
This is the only fiction book on my list; indeed, it's one of the only works of fiction I've read in years. It's a terrific bit of sci-fi, imaging what might happen when our totally networked world meets a really smart computer virus. It's not what the virus can do to computers that's so chilling; it's what computers can control in the physical world. Code can kill.
Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
“Johnson turns this into a gripping detective story.”
Nothing has saved more lives than statistics. Modern medicine gets its power from double-blind clinical trials that allows us to overcome anecdote, superstition, and human bias and let the numbers tell us what really works. One of the first examples of this was how a doctor figured out how cholera was spreading in 19th-century London, by plotting cases on a map and seeing a well at the center. Johnson turns this into a gripping detective story.
Chris Anderson is editor in chief of Wired Magazine and the author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More and the new Free: The Future of a Radical Price. He was previously at The Economist and before that in the world of science, starting in physics and ending at the science journals Nature and Science.