November 2023

Books From Elon Musk's Reading List That Could Change Your Life

— When not occupied with pursuits such as rocket building, tunneling under Los Angeles, or launching cars into space, Elon Musk devotes a significant amount of time to reading.
Books From Elon Musk's Reading List That Could Change Your Life
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Elon Musk is a fascinating figure, known for his ambitious plans and innovative ideas. But what does the man behind SpaceX and Tesla read in his free time? In this blog post, we will explore Elon Musk's reading list, and see what insights we can gain into his thought process and interests. From science fiction to philosophy, Musk's reading choices are as diverse as they are intriguing.

Our favourite quote from A Storm of Swords

Every man must die, Jon Snow. But first he must live.

Here is the third volume in George R. R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. As a whole, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Magic, mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill these pages and transport us to a world unlike any we have ever experienced. Already hailed as a classic, George R. R. Martin’s stunning series is destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

A STORM OF SWORDS

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .

But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others--a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . . .

Our favourite quote from The Lord of the Rings

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

Our favourite quote from A Game of Thrones

... a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.

Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.

Yet a more immediate threat lurks to the south, where Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, has died under mysterious circumstances. Now Robert is riding north to Winterfell, bringing his queen, the lovely but cold Cersei, his son, the cruel, vainglorious Prince Joffrey, and the queen’s brothers Jaime and Tyrion of the powerful and wealthy House Lannister—the first a swordsman without equal, the second a dwarf whose stunted stature belies a brilliant mind. All are heading for Winterfell and a fateful encounter that will change the course of kingdoms.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Prince Viserys, heir of the fallen House Targaryen, which once ruled all of Westeros, schemes to reclaim the throne with an army of barbarian Dothraki—whose loyalty he will purchase in the only coin left to him: his beautiful yet innocent sister, Daenerys.

Our favourite quote from Life 3.0

Your synapses store all your knowledge and skills as roughly 100 terabytes’ worth of information, while your DNA stores merely about a gigabyte, barely enough to store a single movie download.

How will Artificial Intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and our very sense of being human? The rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology--and there's nobody better qualified or situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor who's helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.

How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today's kids? How can we make future AI systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will AI help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?

What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn't shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues--from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel offers unique guidance for digital entrepreneurs in his book Zero to One.

Technology has stagnated, according to Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook. Thiel contends that the most valuable and game-changing startups produce something new, while the majority of new businesses make incremental improvements to already established products. The world is changed from zero to one by them.

The only way for humanity to advance is through creating new things, which is also the best way to make money. 

Our favourite quote from Zero to One

The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we're too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. Tomorrow's champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today's marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

Dune is a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert that was first published in 1965. The novel is set in the distant future, in a feudal society where noble houses control the planet Arrakis, the only source of the valuable substance known as "spice." The story follows the journey of Paul Atreides, the son of the Duke of Arrakis, as he navigates the treacherous political landscape of Arrakis and learns the truth about his own destiny. Dune is a complex and epic tale that explores themes of politics, religion, and ecology, and is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time.

Our favourite quote from Dune

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert’s classic masterpiece—a triumph of the imagination and one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for....

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Our favourite quote from Look to Windward

There's an old Sysan saying that the soup of life is salty enough without adding tears to it.

The Twin Novae battle had been one of the last of the Idiran war, and one of the most horrific: desperate to avert their inevitable defeat, the Idirans had induced not one but two suns to explode, snuffing out worlds and biospheres teeming with sentient life. They were attacks of incredible proportion -- gigadeathcrimes. But the war ended, and life went on.

Now, eight hundred years later, light from the first explosion is about to reach the Masaq' Orbital, home to the Culture's most adventurous and decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent and to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event.

Also journeying to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel. In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart, most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star and self-exiled dissident, the honored Composer Ziller.

Ziller claims he will do anything to avoid a meeting with Major Quilan, who he suspects has come to murder him. But the Major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident, as part of a conspiracy more ambitious than even he can know -- a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he cannot remember it.

Hailed by SFX magazine as "an excellent hopping-on point if you've never read a Banks SF novel before," Look to Windward is an awe-inspiring immersion into the wildly original, vividly realized civilization that Banks calls the Culture.

Our favourite quote from Excession

The fifth Culture book from the awesome imagination of Iain M. Banks, a modern master of science fiction.

Two and a half millennia ago, the artifact appeared in a remote corner of space, beside a trillion-year-old dying sun from a different universe. It was a perfect black-body sphere, and it did nothing. Then it disappeared.

Our favourite quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.

Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!

Our favourite quote from Daemon

Daniel Suarez's New York Times bestselling debut high-tech thriller is “so frightening even the government has taken note” (Entertainment Weekly).

Daemons: computer programs that silently run in the background, waiting for a specific event or time to execute. They power almost every service. They make our networked world possible. But they also make it vulnerable...

When the obituary of legendary computer game architect Matthew Sobol appears online, a previously dormant daemon activates, initiating a chain of events that begins to unravel our interconnected world. This daemon reads news headlines, recruits human followers, and orders assassinations. With Sobol’s secrets buried with him, and as new layers of his daemon are unleashed, it’s up to Detective Peter Sebeck to stop a self-replicating virtual killer before it achieves its ultimate purpose—one that goes far beyond anything Sebeck could have imagined...

Our favourite quote from The Age of Napoleon

On August 26 the Assembly responded by conferring French citizenship upon Joseph Priestley, Jeremy Bentham, William Wilberforce, Anacharsis Cloots, Johann Pestalozzi, Thaddeus Kosciusko, Friedrich Schiller, George Washington, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.

A comprehensive, integral account of European life, society, politics, arts, science, philosophy, economics, manners, and morals of the epoch.

Our favourite quote from The Hydrogen Sonata

One should never mistake pattern for meaning.

The Gzilt, an ancient tribe structured on military principles but almost perversely benign, helped establish the Culture ten thousand years ago and were almost one of its founding societies, only electing not to join at the last moment. They've decided to take the well-worn road of millions of previous civilizations and travel to Sublime, raising themselves to a new and nearly immeasurably more rich and complicated existence.

However, the Regimental High Command is destroyed during the preparations. Vyr Cossont, a Lieutenant Commander (reserve), appears to have been implicated, and she is now sought - dead, not alive. Cossont must execute the last task handed to her by the High Command with the help of an ancient, reconditioned android and a dubious Culture avatar. She has to track down the Culture's oldest resident, a guy over 9,000 years old who could know something about what occurred all those years ago.

The closing days of the Gzilt civilization appear to be the most dangerous.

Our favourite quote from Use of Weapons

Zakalwe, in all human societies we have ever reviewed, in every age and every state, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this simple fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots.

The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.

The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.

The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, USE OF WEAPONS is a masterpiece of science fiction.

Our favourite quote from Foundation

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. Only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humanity, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls this sanctuary the Foundation. But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. And mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and live as slaves—or take a stand for freedom and risk total destruction.

Our favourite quote from Human Compatible

A leading artificial intelligence researcher lays out a new approach to AI that will enable us to coexist successfully with increasingly intelligent machines.

In the popular imagination, superhuman artificial intelligence is an approaching tidal wave that threatens not just jobs and human relationships, but civilization itself. Conflict between humans and machines is seen as inevitable and its outcome all too predictable.

In this groundbreaking book, distinguished AI researcher Stuart Russell argues that this scenario can be avoided, but only if we rethink AI from the ground up. Russell begins by exploring the idea of intelligence in humans and in machines. He describes the near-term benefits we can expect, from intelligent personal assistants to vastly accelerated scientific research, and outlines the AI breakthroughs that still have to happen before we reach superhuman AI. He also spells out the ways humans are already finding to misuse AI, from lethal autonomous weapons to viral sabotage.

If the predicted breakthroughs occur and superhuman AI emerges, we will have created entities far more powerful than ourselves. How can we ensure they never, ever, have power over us? Russell suggests that we can rebuild AI on a new foundation, according to which machines are designed to be inherently uncertain about the human preferences they are required to satisfy. Such machines would be humble, altruistic, and committed to pursue our objectives, not theirs. This new foundation would allow us to create machines that are provably deferential and provably beneficial.

In a 2014 editorial co-authored with Stephen Hawking, Russell wrote, "Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last." Solving the problem of control over AI is not just possible; it is the key that unlocks a future of unlimited promise.

Our favourite quote from Ignition!

Ignition! is the inside story of the Cold War era search for a rocket propellant that could be trusted to take man into space. A favorite of Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, listeners will want to tune into this "really good book on rocket[s]," available for the first time in audio.

Ignition! is the story of the search for a rocket propellant which could be trusted to take man into space. This search was a hazardous enterprise carried out by rival labs who worked against the known laws of nature, with no guarantee of success or safety.

Acclaimed scientist and sci-fi author John Drury Clark writes with irreverent and eyewitness immediacy about the development of the explosive fuels strong enough to negate the relentless restraints of gravity. The resulting volume is as much a memoir as a work of history, sharing a behind-the-scenes view of an enterprise that eventually took men to the moon, missiles to the planets, and satellites to outer space. A classic work in the history of science, listeners will want to get their hands on this influential classic, available for the first time in decades.

Steve Jobs was an influential figure in the global electronics industry from the introduction of the first home computers to the smartphone revolution. His discoveries, interests, and sometimes even his flaws affected how we use computers today. Understanding Jobs' life can help you comprehend how the current information landscape operates.

The authoritative work on Steve Jobs' life is widely regarded to be Walter Isaacson's biography. He had complete access to Jobs and his acquaintances, and there were no restrictions on what he may learn. As a result, a close-up portrayal of a man whose passions left an impression on the world is created. He was thoughtful and heartless, perceptive and blind.

Our favourite quote from Steve Jobs

If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently. (Steve Jobs)

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

Our favourite quote from Lying

Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.

As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. Acts of adultery and other personal betrayals, financial fraud, government corruption—even murder and genocide—generally require an additional moral defect: a willingness to lie.

In Lying, best-selling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on "white" lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process.

Our favourite quote from The Machine Stops

“You talk as if a god had made the Machine," cried the other. "I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but not everything.”

The Machine Stops is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928.

After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories. In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.

The book is particularly notable for predicting new technologies such as instant messaging and the internet.

Our favourite quote from Benjamin Franklin

Knowledge, he realized, “was obtained rather by the use of the ear than of the tongue.”

In this authoritative and engrossing full-scale biography, Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Einstein and Steve Jobs, shows how the most fascinating of America's founders helped define our national character.

Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders. He explores the wit behind Poor Richard’s Almanac and the wisdom behind the Declaration of Independence, the new nation’s alliance with France, the treaty that ended the Revolution, and the compromises that created a near-perfect Constitution.

In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin’s amazing life, showing how he helped to forge the American national identity and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century.

Our favourite quote from Superintelligence

Far from being the smartest possible biological species, we are probably better thought of as the stupidest possible biological species capable of starting a technological civilization - a niche we filled because we got there first, not because we are in any sense optimally adapted to it.

Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us? Nick Bostrom lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life.

The human brain has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that our species owes its dominant position. If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful - possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the species itself, so would the fate of humankind depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.

But we have one advantage: we get to make the first move. Will it be possible to construct a seed Artificial Intelligence, to engineer initial conditions so as to make an intelligence explosion survivable? How could one achieve a controlled detonation?

This profoundly ambitious and original book breaks down a vast track of difficult intellectual terrain. After an utterly engrossing journey that takes us to the frontiers of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life, we find in Nick Bostrom's work nothing less than a reconceptualization of the essential task of our time.

Our favourite quote from Capital

There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Capital, one of Marx's major and most influential works, was the product of thirty years close study of the capitalist mode of production in England, the most advanced industrial society of his day. This new translation of Volume One, the only volume to be completed and edited by Marx himself, avoids some of the mistakes that have marred earlier versions and seeks to do justice to the literary qualities of the work. The introduction is by Ernest Mandel, author of Late Capitalism, one of the only comprehensive attempts to develop the theoretical legacy of Capital.

Our favourite quote from The Wealth of Nations

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.

This seminal work on political economy and the foundation of the modern market economy was originally published in 1776. Rich in historical background and acute observations of the 18th-century scene, Adam Smith's masterpiece of economic analysis is also an insightful work of political philosophy. Its revolutionary concepts, including the notion that self-interest stimulates the healthiest economic conditions for all, remain influential with politicians and economists alike.

Our favourite quote from Howard Hughes

The life that inspired the major motion picture The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.

Howard Hughes has always fascinated the public with his mixture of secrecy, dashing lifestyle, and reclusiveness. This is the book that breaks through the image to get at the man. Originally published under the title Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes. 80 photographs

Our favourite quote from Catherine the Great

The love of power and the power to attract love were not easy to reconcile.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

Our favourite quote from The Founders

A definitive, deeply reported look at the origin of PayPal and its founding team, including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Max Levchin, and others whose stories have never before been told. They have defined the modern world. This experience defined them.

Today, PayPal’s founders and earliest employees are considered the technology industry’s most powerful network. Since leaving PayPal, they have formed, funded, and advised the leading companies of our era, including Tesla, Facebook, YouTube, SpaceX, Yelp, Palantir, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Airbnb, among many others. They defined 21st-century innovation and entrepreneurship—and still shape that template today. Their names stir passions; they’re as controversial as they are admired.

Yet for all their influence, the story of how they first connected and cut their start-up teeth has gone untold. Before igniting the commercial space race or jumpstarting social media’s rise, they were the unknown creators of a scrappy online payment company called PayPal. It would grow to become one of the world’s foremost companies, but that success was anything but certain. From the outset, the team faced industry skeptics, bruising competition, internal strife, the emergence of widespread online fraud, and the devastating dot-com bust of the 2000s.

In The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley, award-winning author and biographer Jimmy Soni pulls back the curtain on PayPal’s turbulent early days. With hundreds of interviews and unprecedented access to thousands of pages of internal material, Soni shows how the seeds of so much of what shapes our world today—fast-scaling digital start-ups, cashless currency concepts, mobile money transfer—were planted two decades ago. He also reveals the countless individuals whose stories never made the front pages nor earned banner headlines—but whose contributions were vital to PayPal’s success.

The Founders is a story of iteration and inventiveness, one that casts a long and powerful shadow over modern life. Jimmy Soni’s narrative offers deep insight into how this once-in-a-generation assemblage of talent came to work together and how that collaboration changed our world forever.

Our favourite quote from Lord of the Flies

Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us.

It all begins with a letter. Fall in love with Penguin Drop Caps, a new series of twenty-six collectible and hardcover editions, each with a type cover showcasing a gorgeously illustrated letter of the alphabet. In a design collaboration between Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, the series features unique cover art by Hische, a superstar in the world of type design and illustration, whose work has appeared everywhere from Tiffany & Co. to Wes Anderson's recent film Moonrise Kingdom to Penguin's own bestsellers Committed and Rules of Civility. With exclusive designs that have never before appeared on Hische's hugely popular Daily Drop Cap blog, the Penguin Drop Caps series launches with six perennial favorites to give as elegant gifts, or to showcase on your own shelves.

G is for Golding. At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable tale about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.”

The best introduction to grownup sci-fi

When my Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, and I were kids, we fell in love with computing. But software wasn't the first thing we bonded over. It was Robert Heinlein. 

I met Paul around the time I had finished reading all of the science fiction writer’s early books. Those novels were adventure stories with titles like Rocket Ship Galileo and Space Cadet. They weren’t labeled children’s books, but they appealed to kids. The plots were very straightforward. They always had a simple moral and involved a little bit of cool technology and a little bit of romance. I loved them. 

Then, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I got into the Heinlein novels that were meant for adults—but I didn’t know it. Starship Troopers was set in the future but drew parallels with the Cold War. Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress went even deeper into Heinlein’s philosophy of life and his concerns about the future. They were dark and ambiguous. You didn’t always know who the hero was. "This is not the Heinlein I’ve been reading,” I thought. “What happened to the guy?” 

I met Paul around the same time, and we got to know each other by talking about sci-fi. I thought I had read a lot of it, but Paul way outdid me. (To be fair, he did have the advantage of being two grades ahead of me in school.) I had one bookshelf filled with science fiction. He probably had eight. Paul explained that the Heinlein books I had stumbled on weren’t children’s stories—they had messages and were supposed to help you think about the real world. That was news to me as a young teenager. 

Eventually we started looking for other shared interests. Our school acquired a computer, and we said to each other, “How does this thing work? Let’s try and make it do something.” 

Of all the sci-fi I read as a teenager, Stranger in a Strange Land is my favorite. It was published in 1961 and is Heinlein’s most popular book. It’s about a human named Michael Valentine Smith, who’s raised on Mars by Martians and then returns to Earth as a young adult. Because he grew up on Mars, he has psychic abilities and is super-intelligent. After some early adventures, including an escape from the facility where he’s being studied by scientists, he becomes fascinated by the world’s religions. In the novel’s futuristic setting, religions are more politically powerful than they are today, and Smith decides to start his own. 

He calls it the Church of All Worlds, and through it, Heinlein predicted a lot of the hippie culture that was to come later in the 1960s. Smith’s adherents learn to “grok” things, a Martian term meaning to understand something by becoming one with it. (The idea of grokking got picked up in popular culture and became, at least for a while, a term you heard a lot even outside the context of the book.) Smith’s followers live in communes, which struck me as pretty out-there when I read it as a teenager. 

I love sci-fi that pushes your thinking about what’s possible in the future. In Heinlein’s case, hippie culture isn’t the only thing he predicted. Among other things, Stranger in a Strange Land and other works of his mention what he called a “hydraulic bed”—what we now know as a waterbed. He also does the classic sci-fi thing of using an obviously fictional setting to ask profound questions about human nature. 

Heinlein isn’t known as a particularly humorous writer, but Stranger in a Strange Land definitely has some funny parts. Early in the novel, for example, a nurse offers Michael a glass of water. To her, it’s a simple gesture, but it has a lot of meaning for him because water is so scarce on Mars. He thanks her: “May you always drink deep.” After they both take a sip, she can’t figure out why he “seemed content to sink back, as if he had accomplished something important.” 

I’m glad I stumbled on Stranger and Heinlein’s other grown-up novels when I did. Everything I had read before them had a tidy ending. though the ending is unclear. It’s up to us to decide what happens next, just like in real life.

Our favourite quote from Stranger in a Strange Land

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love.

Our favourite quote from Consider Phlebas

Experience as well as common sense indicated that the most reliable method of avoiding self-extinction was not to equip oneself with the means to accomplish it in the first place.

The first book in Iain M. Banks's seminal science fiction series, The Culture. Consider Phlebas introduces readers to the utopian conglomeration of human and alien races that explores the nature of war, morality, and the limitless bounds of mankind's imagination.

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

Our favourite quote from The Big Picture

Illusions can be pleasant, but the rewards of truth are enormously better.

The instant New York Times bestseller about humanity's place in the universe—and how we understand it.

“Vivid...impressive....Splendidly informative.”—The New York Times

“Succeeds spectacularly.”—Science

“A tour de force.”—Salon

Already internationally acclaimed for his elegant, lucid writing on the most challenging notions in modern physics, Sean Carroll is emerging as one of the greatest humanist thinkers of his generation as he brings his extraordinary intellect to bear not only on Higgs bosons and extra dimensions but now also on our deepest personal questions: Where are we? Who are we? Are our emotions, our beliefs, and our hopes and dreams ultimately meaningless out there in the void? Do human purpose and meaning fit into a scientific worldview?

In short chapters filled with intriguing historical anecdotes, personal asides, and rigorous exposition, readers learn the difference between how the world works at the quantum level, the cosmic level, and the human level—and then how each connects to the other. Carroll's presentation of the principles that have guided the scientific revolution from Darwin and Einstein to the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe is dazzlingly unique.  

Carroll shows how an avalanche of discoveries in the past few hundred years has changed our world and what really matters to us. Our lives are dwarfed like never before by the immensity of space and time, but they are redeemed by our capacity to comprehend it and give it meaning.

The Big Picture is an unprecedented scientific worldview, a tour de force that will sit on shelves alongside the works of Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, and E. O. Wilson for years to come.

Our favourite quote from The Player of Games

Gurgeh is one of the best Game Players to emerge from the Culture, which is a human/machine symbiotic civilization. Every board, computer, and strategy are in your hands. Gurgeh, bored with success, travels to the ruthless and opulent Empire of Azad to participate in their fantastic game...a game so complicated, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Gurgeh accepts the game, as well as the challenge of his life - and maybe his death - despite being mocked, blackmailed, and almost assassinated

Our favourite quote from Deep Learning

An introduction to a broad range of topics in deep learning, covering mathematical and conceptual background, deep learning techniques used in industry, and research perspectives.

Deep learning is a form of machine learning that enables computers to learn from experience and understand the world in terms of a hierarchy of concepts. Because the computer gathers knowledge from experience, there is no need for a human computer operator to formally specify all the knowledge that the computer needs. The hierarchy of concepts allows the computer to learn complicated concepts by building them out of simpler ones; a graph of these hierarchies would be many layers deep. This book introduces a broad range of topics in deep learning.

The text offers mathematical and conceptual background, covering relevant concepts in linear algebra, probability theory and information theory, numerical computation, and machine learning. It describes deep learning techniques used by practitioners in industry, including deep feedforward networks, regularization, optimization algorithms, convolutional networks, sequence modeling, and practical methodology; and it surveys such applications as natural language processing, speech recognition, computer vision, online recommendation systems, bioinformatics, and videogames. Finally, the book offers research perspectives, covering such theoretical topics as linear factor models, autoencoders, representation learning, structured probabilistic models, Monte Carlo methods, the partition function, approximate inference, and deep generative models.

Deep Learning can be used by undergraduate or graduate students planning careers in either industry or research, and by software engineers who want to begin using deep learning in their products or platforms. A website offers supplementary material for both readers and instructors.

Our favourite quote from On War

War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.

Carl von Clausewitz's On War has been called, "not simply the greatest, but the only truly great book on war." It is an extraordinary attempt to construct an all-embracing theory of how war works. Its coherence and ambition are unmatched by other military literature. On War is full of sharp observation, biting irony, and memorable phrases, the most famous being, "War is a continuation of politics by other means."

Our favourite quote from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, "modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean." He won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, a record that still stands. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work.

It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people--a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic--who become the rebel movement's leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution's ultimate success.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

Our favourite quote from Our Final Invention

A powerful AI system tasked with ensuring your safety might imprison you at home. If you asked for happiness, it might hook you up to a life support and ceaselessly stimulate your brain's pleasure centers. If you don't provide the AI with a very big library of preferred behaviors or an ironclad means for it to deduce what behavior you prefer, you'll be stuck with whatever it comes up with. And since it's a highly complex system, you may never understand it well enough to make sure you've got it right.

Elon Musk named Our Final Invention one of 5 books everyone should read about the future.

In as little as a decade, artificial intelligence could match and then surpass human intelligence. Corporations and government agencies around the world are pouring billions into achieving AI's Holy Grail―human-level intelligence. Once AI has attained it, scientists argue, it will have survival drives much like our own. We may be forced to compete with a rival more cunning, more powerful, and more alien than we can imagine.

Through profiles of tech visionaries, industry watchdogs, and groundbreaking AI systems, James Barrat's Our Final Invention explores the perils of the heedless pursuit of advanced AI. Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. Can we coexist with beings whose intelligence dwarfs our own? And will they allow us to?

Our favourite quote from The Fault in Our Stars

As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Our favourite quote from A Dance with Dragons

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.

Don’t miss the thrilling sneak peek of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Six, The Winds of Winter

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers the fifth book in his landmark series—as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.

A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance—beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.

Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

From all corners, bitter conflicts reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all.

Our favourite quote from God Emperor of Dune

Most civilisation is based on cowardice. It's so easy to civilize by teaching cowardice. You water down the standards which would lead to bravery. You restrain the will. You regulate the appetites. You fence in the horizons. You make a law for every movement. You deny the existence of chaos. You teach even the children to breathe slowly. You tame.

Book Four in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time

Millennia have passed on Arrakis, and the once-desert planet is green with life. Leto Atreides, the son of the world’s savior, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, is still alive but far from human. To preserve humanity’s future, he sacrificed his own by merging with a sandworm, granting him near immortality as God Emperor of Dune for the past thirty-five hundred years.

Leto’s rule is not a benevolent one. His transformation has made not only his appearance but his morality inhuman. A rebellion, led by Siona, a member of the Atreides family, has risen to oppose the despot’s rule. But Siona is unaware that Leto’s vision of a Golden Path for humanity requires her to fulfill a destiny she never wanted—or could possibly conceive....

Our favourite quote from Foundation and Empire

Isaac Asimov's Foundation books are considered one of the greatest works of science fiction. They chronicle the battle of a brave group of men and women to maintain humanity's light against an unstoppable tide of evil and violence, and they are unsurpassed for their unique combination of constant action, bold ideas, and comprehensive world-building.

The Foundation has withstood the avarice and brutality of its neighboring warrior-planets thanks to its founding father, the renowned psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and superior science and technology. But now it must battle the Empire, which, even in its final throes, is the most powerful force in the galaxy. When an ambitious commander aiming to restore the Empire's glory directs the enormous Imperial fleet against the Foundation, Hari Seldon's predictions become the sole chance for the little world of intellectuals and scientists.

But not even Hari Seldon could have imagined the advent of The Mule, a mutant intellect with a power larger than a dozen combat fleets... a power capable of turning even the most defiant human into an obedient slave.

Our favourite quote from A Clash of Kings

People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up.

George R. R. Martin, a writer of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination, has created a landmark of fantasy fiction. In his widely acclaimed A Game of Thrones, he introduced us to an extraordinary world of wonder, intrigue, and adventure. Now, in the eagerly awaited second volume in this epic saga, he once again proves himself a master myth-maker, setting a standard against which all other fantasy novels will be measured for years to come.

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead . . . victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel . . . and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.

Audacious, inventive, brilliantly imagined, A Clash of Kings is a novel of dazzling beauty and boundless enchantment—a tale of pure excitement you will never forget.

Our favourite quote from Second Foundation

An unsurpassed blend of nonstop action, daring ideas, and extensive world-building, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels chronicle the struggle of a courageous group of men and women dedicated to preserving humanity’s light in a galaxy plunged into a nightmare of ignorance and violence thirty thousand years long.

After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies.

The fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret. As its scientists gird for a final showdown with the Mule, the survivors of the First Foundation begin their desperate search. They too want the Second Foundation destroyed . . . before it destroys them.

Our favourite quote from A Feast for Crows

My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.

Few books have captivated the imagination and won the devotion and praise of readers and critics everywhere as has George R. R. Martin’s monumental epic cycle of high fantasy. Now, in A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth book of his landmark series, as a kingdom torn asunder finds itself at last on the brink of peace . . . only to be launched on an even more terrifying course of destruction.

A FEAST FOR CROWS

It seems too good to be true. After centuries of bitter strife and fatal treachery, the seven powers dividing the land have decimated one another into an uneasy truce. Or so it appears. . . . With the death of the monstrous King Joffrey, Cersei is ruling as regent in King’s Landing. Robb Stark’s demise has broken the back of the Northern rebels, and his siblings are scattered throughout the kingdom like seeds on barren soil. Few legitimate claims to the once desperately sought Iron Throne still exist—or they are held in hands too weak or too distant to wield them effectively. The war, which raged out of control for so long, has burned itself out.

But as in the aftermath of any climactic struggle, it is not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters start to gather, picking over the bones of the dead and fighting for the spoils of the soon-to-be dead. Now in the Seven Kingdoms, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed, while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—are seen emerging from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges ahead.

It is a time when the wise and the ambitious, the deceitful and the strong will acquire the skills, the power, and the magic to survive the stark and terrible times that lie before them. It is a time for nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages to come together and stake their fortunes . . . and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

Our favourite quote from If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens ... Where is Everybody?

Believing the world is calm because we have never seen it otherwise is like taking the attitude of a man who jumps off the top of a tall building and figures that, since 29 of the 30 floors have passed without incident, he is going to be okay.

Given the fact that there are perhaps 400 billion stars in our Galaxy alone, and perhaps 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, it stands to reason that somewhere out there, in the 14-billion-year-old cosmos, there is or once was a civilization at least as advanced as our own. The sheer enormity of the numbers almost demands that we accept the truth of this hypothesis. Why, then, have we encountered no evidence, no messages, no artifacts of these extraterrestrials?

In this second, significantly revised and expanded edition of his widely popular book, Webb discusses in detail the (for now!) 75 most cogent and intriguing solutions to Fermi's famous paradox: If the numbers strongly point to the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, why have we found no evidence of them?

Reviews from the first edition:

"Amidst the plethora of books that treat the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, this one by Webb … is outstanding. … Each solution is presented in a very logical, interesting, thorough manner with accompanying explanations and notes that the intelligent layperson can understand. Webb digs into the issues … by considering a very broad set of in-depth solutions that he addresses through an interesting and challenging mode of presentation that stretches the mind. … An excellent book for anyone who has ever asked ‘Are we alone?’." (W. E. Howard III, Choice, March, 2003)

"Fifty ideas are presented … that reveal a clearly reasoned examination of what is known as ‘The Fermi Paradox’. … For anyone who enjoys a good detective story, or using their thinking faculties and stretching the imagination to the limits … ‘Where is everybody’ will be enormously informative and entertaining. … Read this book, and whatever your views are about life elsewhere in the Universe, your appreciation for how special life is here on Earth will be enhanced! A worthy addition to any personal library." (Philip Bridle, BBC Radio, March, 2003)

Since gaining a BSc in physics from the University of Bristol and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester, Stephen Webb has worked in a variety of universities in the UK. He is a regular contributor to the Yearbook of Astronomy series and has published an undergraduate textbook on distance determination in astronomy and cosmology as well as several popular science books. His interest in the Fermi paradox combines lifelong interests in both science and science fiction.

Our favourite quote from Matter

Even galaxy-spanning anarchist utopias of stupefying full-spectrum civilisational power have turf wars within their unacknowledged militaries.

In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one man it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.

Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilizations throughout the greater galaxy.

Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - might be a dangerous strategy, however. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.

MATTER is a novel of dazzling wit and serious purpose. An extraordinary feat of storytelling and breathtaking invention on a grand scale, it is a tour de force from a writer who has turned science fiction on its head.

Our favourite quote from Chapterhouse

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.

Frank Herbert's Final Novel in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time.

The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. The remnants of the Old Empire have been consumed by the violent matriarchal cult known as the Honored Matres. Only one faction remains a viable threat to their total conquest—the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power.

Under the leadership of Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, the Bene Gesserit have colonized a green world on the planet Chapterhouse and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile. And once they’ve mastered breeding sandworms, the Sisterhood will control the production of the greatest commodity in the known galaxy—the spice melange. But their true weapon remains a man who has lived countless lifetimes—a man who served under the God Emperor Paul Muad’Dib....

Our favourite quote from Das Kapital

Education is free. Freedom of education shall be enjoyed under the condition fixed by law and under the supreme control of the state.

One of the most notorious works of modern times, as well as one of the most influential, Capital is an incisive critique of private property and the social relations it generates. Living in exile in England, where this work was largely written, Marx drew on a wide-ranging knowledge of its society to support his analysis and generate fresh insights. Arguing that capitalism would create an ever-increasing division in wealth and welfare, he predicted its abolition and replacement by a system with common ownership of the means of production. Capital rapidly acquired readership among the leaders of social democratic parties, particularly in Russia and Germany, and ultimately throughout the world, to become a work described by Marx's friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels as 'the Bible of the Working Class'.

Our favourite quote from Foundation's Edge

You show me someone who can't understand people and I'll show you someone who has built up a false image of himself.

Now, 498 years after its founding, the Foundation seemed to be following the Seldon Plan perfectly. Too perfectly. Now an impossible planet -- with impossible powers -- threatens to upset the Seldon Plan for good unless two men, sworn enemies, can work together to save it!

Our favourite quote from Twelve Against the Gods

It is when the pirates count their booty, that they become mere thieves.

"It's really quite good." - Elon Musk

Twelve Against the Gods was an instant bestseller when it first published in 1929. In his trademark journalist style, author William Bolitho details the lives of twelve great adventurers―Alexander the Great, Casanova, Christopher Columbus, Mahomet, Lola Montez, Cagliostro (and Seraphina), Charles XII of Sweden, Napoleon I, Lucius Sergius Catiline, Napoleon III, Isadora Duncan, and Woodrow Wilson. Bolitho shines light on both the struggles and successes that made these figures so iconic, and demonstrates how they all battled convention and conformity to achieve enduring fame and notoriety.

“We are born adventurers,” Bolitho writes, “and the love of adventures never leaves us till we are very old; old, timid men, in whose interest it is that adventure should quite die out. This is why all the poets are on one side, and all the laws on the other; for laws are made by, and usually for, old men." Though his essays are nearly one hundred years old, they encompass the timeless values of perseverance, bravery, and strength of spirit that have proven to resonate with the pioneers and thought leaders of today.

Our favourite quote from Screw Business As Usual

“For those who think business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. Surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that" - Ray Anderson, founder of Interface Inc.”

Can we bring more meaning to our lives and help change the world at the same time? Richard Branson, at his brilliant and motivating best, reveals how with his exciting new vision for the future. It is time to turn capitalism upside down – to shift our values, to switch from a profit focus to caring for people, communities and the planet.

With inspiration for everyone, Screw Business As Usual shows how easy it is for both businesses and individuals to embark on a whole new way of doing things, solving major problems and turning our work into something we both love and are proud of.

Our favourite quote from Waiting for Godot

The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.

From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Theatre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama. As Clive Barnes wrote, “Time catches up with genius … Waiting for Godot is one of the masterpieces of the century.”

The story revolves around two seemingly homeless men waiting for someone—or something—named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree, inhabiting a drama spun of their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning. Beckett’s language pioneered an expressionistic minimalism that captured the existential post-World War II Europe. His play remains one of the most magical and beautiful allegories of our time.

Our favourite quote from Heretics of Dune

The surest way to keep a secret is to make someone think they already know the answer.

Book Five in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time

Leto Atreides, the God Emperor of Dune, is dead. In the fifteen hundred years since his passing, the Empire has fallen into ruin. The great Scattering saw millions abandon the crumbling civilization and spread out beyond the reaches of known space. The planet Arrakis—now called Rakis—has reverted to its desert climate, and its great sandworms are dying.

Now the Lost Ones are returning home in pursuit of power. And as these factions vie for control over the remnants of the Empire, a girl named Sheeana rises to prominence in the wastelands of Rakis, sending religious fervor throughout the galaxy. For she possesses the abilities of the Fremen sandriders—fulfilling a prophecy foretold by the late God Emperor....

Our favourite quote from Foundation and Earth

Where is the world whose people don't prefer a comfortable, warm, and well-worn belief, however illogical, to the chilly winds of uncertainty?

The Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov are among the great masterworks of science fiction. An ingenious blend of nonstop action, daring ideas, and extensive world-building, they chronicle the struggle of a courageous group of men and women determined to shield enlightened humanity from a ceaseless threat of darkness and ultimate annihilation.

Golan Trevize, former Councilman of the First Foundation, has chosen the future, and it is Gaia. A superorganism, Gaia is a holistic planet with a common consciousness so intensely united that every dewdrop, every pebble, every being, can speak for all—and feel for all. It is a realm in which privacy is not only undesirable, it is incomprehensible.

But is it the right choice for the destiny of mankind? While Trevize feels it is, that is not enough. He must know.

Trevize believes the answer lies at the site of humanity’s roots: fabled Earth . . . if it still exists. For no one is sure where the planet of Gaia’s first settlers is to be found in the immense wilderness of the Galaxy. Nor can anyone explain why no record of Earth has been preserved, no mention of it made anywhere in Gaia’s vast world-memory. It is an enigma Trevize is determined to resolve, and a quest he is determined to undertake, at any cost.

Our favourite quote from Forward the Foundation

Intuition is the art, peculiar to the human mind, of working out the correct answer from data that is, in itself, incomplete or even, perhaps, misleading.

Here, from a grand master of science fiction, is the long-awaited final novel of the greatest science fiction series ever told. Completed just before his death, Forward the Foundation is the crowning achievement of a great writer’s life, a stirring testament to the creative genius of Isaac Asimov.

As Hari Seldon struggles to perfect his revolutionary theory of psychohistory and ensure a place for humanity among the stars, the great Galactic Empire totters on the brink of apocalyptic collapse. Caught in the maelstrom are Seldon and all he holds dear, pawns in the struggle for dominance. Whoever can control Seldon will control psychohistory—and with it the future of the Galaxy.

Among those seeking to turn psychohistory into the greatest weapon known to man are a populist political demagogue, the weak-willed Emperor Cleon I, and a ruthless militaristic general. In his last act of service to humankind, Hari Seldon must somehow save his life’s work from their grasp as he searches for its true heirs—a search that begins with his own granddaughter and the dream of a new Foundation.

Our favourite quote from Prelude to Foundation

Why, he wondered, did so many people spend their lives not trying to find answers to questions—not even thinking of questions to begin with? Was there anything more exciting in life than seeking answers?

This daring story of humanity’s future introduces one of the great masterworks of science fiction: the Foundation novels of Isaac Asimov. Unsurpassed for their unique blend of nonstop action, bold ideas, and extensive world-building, they chronicle the struggle of a courageous group of people to save civilization from a relentless tide of darkness and violence—beginning with one exceptional man.

It is the year 12,020 G.E. and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor. Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity. Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall—those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future.

Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction. Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity. For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire . . . the man who holds the key to the future—an apocalyptic power to be known forever after as the Foundation.

Our favourite quote from Children of Dune

The gift of words is the gift of deception and illusion.

Book Three in the Magnificent Dune Chronicles—the Bestselling Science Fiction Adventure of All Time

The Children of Dune are twin siblings Leto and Ghanima Atreides, whose father, the Emperor Paul Muad’Dib, disappeared in the desert wastelands of Arrakis nine years ago. Like their father, the twins possess supernormal abilities—making them valuable to their manipulative aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.

Facing treason and rebellion on two fronts, Alia’s rule is not absolute. The displaced House Corrino is plotting to regain the throne while the fanatical Fremen are being provoked into open revolt by the enigmatic figure known only as The Preacher. Alia believes that by obtaining the secrets of the twins’ prophetic visions, she can maintain control over her dynasty.

But Leto and Ghanima have their own plans for their visions—and their destinies....

Our favourite quote from Structures

When you climb the tower of a cathedral it becomes shorter, as a result of your added weight, by a very, very tiny amount, but it really does become shorter.

In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose.

For anyone who has ever wondered why suspension bridges don't collapse under eight lanes of traffic, how dams hold back--or give way under--thousands of gallons of water, or what principles guide the design of a skyscraper, a bias-cut dress, or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions.

Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down is an informal explanation of the basic forces that hold together the ordinary and essential things of this world--from buildings and bodies to flying aircraft and eggshells. In a style that combines wit, a masterful command of his subject, and an encyclopedic range of reference, Gordon includes such chapters as "How to Design a Worm" and "The Advantage of Being a Beam," offering humorous insights in human and natural creation.

Architects and engineers will appreciate the clear and cogent explanations of the concepts of stress, shear, torsion, fracture, and compression. If you're building a house, a sailboat, or a catapult, here is a handy tool for understanding the mechanics of joinery, floors, ceilings, hulls, masts--or flying buttresses.

Without jargon or oversimplification, Structures opens up the marvels of technology to anyone interested in the foundations of our everyday lives.

Our favourite quote from Merchants of Doubt

While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense in a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence.

For understandable reasons, Merchants of Doubt has been acclaimed and criticized all around the world. The unsettling story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades is told in this book, with "brutal clarity" (Huffington Post). The same people who assert that the science of global warming is "unsettled" also deny research tying smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. One tobacco executive wrote, "Doubt is our product." It was provided by these "experts." The film Merchants of Doubt pulls the rug out from under this bleak area of American science.

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Elon Musk's reading list is a fascinating glimpse into his thinking. His choices in literature reflect a wide range of interests and a thirst for knowledge. Whether you're a fan of Musk's work or simply curious about what he reads, his reading list is sure to offer something of interest.

There is nothing quite like ignorance combined with a driving need to succeed to force rapid learning.