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10 Books OR Articles You Read That You Are Grateful For

Books are the greatest technology we ever invented. The gathering, recording, and sharing of information and ideas has always been our species' competitive advantage.

*All excerpts are taken from Wikipedia.

    1. The Lord of The Rings

    'The Lord of the Rings is an epic high-fantasy novel by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in Middle-earth, intended to be Earth at some time in the distant past, the story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 children's book The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling books ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

    The title refers to the story's main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power given to Men, Dwarves, and Elves, in his campaign to conquer all of Middle-earth. From homely beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land reminiscent of the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth, following the quest to destroy the One Ring mainly through the eyes of the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin.'

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy will always have a precious place in my reading history. The first book was translated into Turkish when I just started learning English. The book captivated me so much that I got the other books in the series in English--this was way before Amazon and easy international shipping--and I spent long hours trying to understand what the book said with a dictionary at hand.

    That kindled my love for literature and English. If you consider that I am a professional writer of English and married to an American, that little book about the journey two hobbits took to save the world started the journey that made me who I am as well.

    2. God Created the Integers

    'God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History is a 2005 anthology, edited by Stephen Hawking, of "excerpts from thirty-one of the most important works in the history of mathematics."

    The title of the book is a reference to a quotation attributed to mathematician Leopold Kronecker, who once wrote that "God made the integers; all else is the work of man."'

    This is another book I spent hundreds of hours working through. By working the theorems inside, trying to prove them myself, and trying to understand how math progressed, I acquired mathematical and critical thinking skills that aided me through my life.

    3. Guns, Germs, and Steel

    'The book attempts to explain why Eurasian and North African civilizations have survived and conquered others, while arguing against the idea that Eurasian hegemony is due to any form of Eurasian intellectual, moral, or inherent genetic superiority. Diamond argues that the gaps in power and technology between human societies originate primarily in environmental differences, which are amplified by various positive feedback loops. When cultural or genetic differences have favored Eurasians (for example, written language or the development among Eurasians of resistance to endemic diseases), he asserts that these advantages occurred because of the influence of geography on societies and cultures (for example, by facilitating commerce and trade between different cultures) and were not inherent in the Eurasian genomes.'

    This great book kindled my interest in anthropology, psychology, and history and taught me to look at the world with a broader perspective. I based a lot of my own thinking models on the insights I gathered from reading this excellent book.

    4. Philosophy: Who Needs It

    'Philosophy: Who Needs It is a collection of essays by the philosopher Ayn Rand, published posthumously in 1982. It was the last book on which Rand worked during her lifetime.

    The title essay is an address given to the graduating class of the United States Military Academy on March 6, 1974, in which Rand argues that philosophy plays a central role in all human activities, that every action or thought has certain assumptions, and that humans need to examine those assumptions to live a full, meaningful life. Another speech included is "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World", which was delivered at college appearances in 1960.

    The remaining chapters are reprints of articles Rand published in the 1970s, primarily in her periodical The Ayn Rand Letter.'

    In this book, Rand's main argument is that if you don't work on creating your own philosophy, your own way of thinking, somebody else will do it for you, and you will be at the mercy of factors you don't understand and have no control over. That book gave me the courage to see myself as a thinking man, and changed my mindset from a learner to a thinker.

    5. The Blind Watchmaker

    'The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins, in which the author presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on his first book, The Selfish Gene. (Both books espouse the gene-centric view of evolution.)'

    This book was a fast read, but I have spent countless hours thinking about evolutionary biology since then. My main interest has always been behavioral science, but I always seek out an evolutionary reason as the first principle.

    6. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

    'On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a memoir by American author Stephen King that describes his experiences as a writer and his advice for aspiring writers. Originally published in 2000 by Charles Scribner's Sons, it was King's first book after he was involved in a car accident a year earlier. Scribner has published two expanded editions: The 10th Anniversary Edition (2010) has an updated reading list from King; and the 20th Anniversary Edition (2020) adds contributions from King's two sons, Joe Hill and Owen.

    The book is organized into five sections: "C.V.", where King highlights events in his life that influenced his writing; "What Writing Is", where King urges the reader to take writing seriously; "Toolbox", discussing English mechanics; "On Writing", where King details his advice to aspiring writers; and "On Living: A Postscript", where he describes his roadside accident and how it affected his life.'

    I used to write in Turkish, but for various reasons, I always found it a little bit unfulfilling. One day, I decided that I was going to start focusing on writing in English, and this is the first book I got after my decision. I even wrote to Mr. King himself and got a reply, which gave me tremendous hope and courage to tackle this enormous task of being a writer in a second language.

    7. American Gods

    'American Gods (2001) is a fantasy novel by British author Neil Gaiman. The novel is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow.

    Shadow is an ex-convict who is released from prison three days early when his wife Laura is killed in a car accident. Shadow is devastated by her death, and is distraught to learn that she died alongside his best friend Robbie, with whom she had been having an affair. He takes a job as a bodyguard for a mysterious con man, Mr. Wednesday, and travels with him across the United States, visiting Wednesday's acquaintances. Shadow meets a leprechaun named Mad Sweeney, who gives Shadow a magical gold coin after Shadow beats him in a fight. Shadow later tosses the coin into his wife's grave at her funeral, inadvertently bringing her back from the dead as a semi-living revenant. Shadow meets Czernobog and the Zorya Sisters. One of the sisters gives Shadow a silver coin, coming from the moon, that will protect him. Shadow learns that Wednesday is an incarnation of Odin the All-Father, and that he is recruiting American manifestations of the Old Gods, whose powers have waned as their believers have decreased in number, to participate in a battle against the New American Gods – manifestations of modern life and technology, such as the Internet, media, and modern means of transport. Shadow meets many of Wednesday's allies, including Mr. Nancy (Anansi), Easter (Ēostre), Whiskey Jack (Wisakedjak) and John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed).'

    The American Gods taught me storytelling and started a deep interest in mythology. I read American Gods once every couple of years.

    8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a comedy science fiction franchise created by Douglas Adams. Originally a 1978 radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4, it was later adapted to other formats, including novels, stage shows, comic books, a 1981 TV series, a 1984 text-based computer game, and 2005 feature film.

    The various versions follow the same basic plot but they are in many places mutually contradictory, as Adams rewrote the story substantially for each new adaptation. Throughout all versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, following the destruction of the Earth by the Vogons (a race of unpleasant and bureaucratic aliens) to make way for an intergalactic bypass. Dent's adventures intersect with several other characters: Ford Prefect (an alien and researcher for the eponymous guidebook who rescues Dent from Earth's destruction), Zaphod Beeblebrox (Ford's eccentric semi-cousin and the Galactic President who has stolen the Heart of Gold — a spacecraft equipped with Infinite Improbability Drive), the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Trillian (formerly known as Tricia McMillan) who is a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and who — thanks to Beeblebrox's intervention — is the only other human survivor of Earth's destruction.'

    I was incredibly serious as a young man and had a teeny-tiny sense of humour. I was living intensely in my own head. Then I read this book, and started being more open, but more importantly, I understood the importance of communication, comedy, and what comedy is doing for humanity. This understanding led to a character change and started a deep admiration of comedy writing.

    9. The Power of Myth

    'The Power of Myth is a book based on the 1988 PBS documentary Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. The documentary was originally broadcast as six one-hour conversations between mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) and journalist Bill Moyers. It remains one of the most popular series in the history of American public television.

    The companion book for the series, The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers, and editor Betty Sue Flowers), was released in 1988 at the same time the series aired on PBS. In the editor's note to The Power of Myth, Flowers credits Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as "the Doubleday editor, whose interest in the ideas of Joseph Campbell was the prime mover in the publication of this book." The book follows the format of the documentary and provides additional discussions not included in the original six-hour release. Chapters:

    1-Myth and the Modern World

    2-The Journey Inward

    3-The First Storytellers

    4-Sacrifice and Bliss

    5-The Hero's Adventure

    6-The Gift of the Goddess

    7-Tales of Love and Marriage

    8-Masks of Eternity

    9-The Tale of Buddha'

    A lot of people started thinking of humans as storytellers and everything we have ever created as stories, but for me it started with Joseph Campbell. I devoutly studied and thought about "The Power of Myth" and Campbell's other works.

    10. Thinking, Fast and Slow

    'Thinking, Fast and Slow is a 2011 book by psychologist Daniel Kahneman.

    The book's main thesis is that of a dichotomy between two modes of thought: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The book delineates rational and non-rational motivations or triggers associated with each type of thinking process, and how they complement each other, starting with Kahneman's own research on loss aversion. From framing choices to people's tendency to replace a difficult question with one which is easy to answer, the book summarizes several decades of research to suggest that people have too much confidence in human judgement. Kahneman performed his own research, often in collaboration with Amos Tversky, which enriched his experience to write the book. It covers different phases of his career: his early work concerning cognitive biases, his work on prospect theory and happiness, and with the Israel Defense Forces.'

    Remember when I said that behavioral science is my main focus? My interest in behavioral science and behavioral economics started with this book, and I have studied anything written by Kahneman since. As a side effect of studying Kahneman and other intellectuals he was thinking about, I have a great understanding and admiration of the Jewish intellectual heritage, and feel at home when I am with them.

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