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December 13, 2004
  • Brain of the Firm – Stafford Beer. The most approachable book about the self-organising nature of complex systems.
  • Silence – John Cage. Music as philosophy (with lots of Zen wit).
  • The Evolution of Cooperation – Robert Axelrod. How time changes relationship: a
    message of hope.
  • The Clock of the Long Now – Stewart Brand. Why we need to think long.
  • Managing the Commons – Garrett Hardin and John Baden. Structural observations
    about shared resources.
  • A New Kind of Science – Stephen Wolfram. Controversial and exciting new approach to
    the genesis of complex systems.
  • Grooming Gossip and the Evolution of Language – Robin Dunbar. The origins and
    limits of human community.
  • The Mystery of Capital – Hernando de Soto. Why capitalism can’t be planted just
  • Labyrinths – Jorge Luis Borges. The ultimate “what if?” book.
  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent – John Reader. The story of Africa beginning 4
    million BC.
  • Animal Architecture – Karl von Frisch. One of the best “beauty of nature” books
    academic jaw-dropper.
  • Contingency Irony and Solidarity – Richard Rorty. A great work of modern
    pragmatism: the antidote to Derrida.
  • Peter the Great – Robert K. Massie. Superb biography of a giant located somewhere
    between Ghengis Khan Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin.
  • Roll Jordan Roll: The World Slaves Built – Eugene D. Genovese. The unexpected
    richness and lasting importance of slave culture in America.
  • Folk Song Style and Culture – Alan Lomax. An extraordinary theory that singing style
    is indicative of social structure by the pioneer collector of world music.
  • The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins. Even if you think you know what this is about
    it’s worth reading. The atheist’s defence.
  • Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville. He guessed at the best of it warned
    of the worst of it and was right on both counts.
  • Guns Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond. Compelling account of the physical factors
    shaping world history.

For information about any of these books visit at

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