Ask HN: What should I read next?

38 points by anavette 4 days ago

Between books, need something to read.

What's the best, most unexpectedly-excellent book you've read lately?

Any genre goes. No text too niche or too odd.

credit_guy 4 days ago

Here's two books that will change the way you understand the non-Western world.

1. Coup d'Etat A Practical Handbook. I know, you never intend to organize a coup, why would you need a practical handbook? Well, coups or attempted coups are surprisingly frequent. Wikipedia has a list [1] of 60 attempted coups worldwide since 2010, a stunning 18 of which (30%) were successful.

2. The Dictator's Handbook. Yet another handbook. I think these titles, with their weird attempt of humor, are quite unfortunate. It's a shame. The content is great, but I wonder how many people don't buy the book because they feel insulted by the idea that they'd ever need a handbook to be a dictator. I know I felt that way. Well, don't take that title as an insult, just ignore it. The majority of the countries worldwide are led by dictators. It's quite important to understand how they think. This way it's easier to understand what's going on in the world.


alexashka 4 days ago

Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

“Man is something that shall be overcome. Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman — a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”

“You say 'I' and you are proud of this word. But greater than this- although you will not believe in it - is your body and its great intelligence, which does not say 'I' but performs 'I'.”

  • wry_discontent 4 days ago

    I thought The Gay Science was much better than Zarathustra. I feel like I got a lot more insights out of it. If you go into Nietzsche with Zarathustra I think you'd be kinda confused about his whole schtick.

wobbly_bush 4 days ago

If you are open to fiction - I came across an entire genre called LitRPG which is combination of RPG-game style elements in the form of a book. It is mostly written by young gamers so the writing quality is pretty basic but various authors explore different gaming-related creative elements very well. Couple of books to start with in this genre are "Defiance of the fall" and "Dungeon Crawler Carl". The latter is even better as an audiobook vs regular book.

cainxinth 4 days ago

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Recently got around to finally reading it. I know Snow Crash is considered his best sci-fi novel (and it’s amazing, too), but I think I liked this one even better.

Snow Crash is funny and weird and action packed, but its light-hearted tone diffuses the tension. The Diamond Age, by contrast, had a lot of hair-raising moments and characters I was really invested in.

  • xmonkee 4 days ago

    I always thought Cryptonomicon would be the go-to stephenson recommendation for nerds, but I guess it reads very dated now.

    • hjkl0 2 days ago

      I recently re-read it after reading it for the first time in the early ‘00s.

      I think it holds up very well, as a testament to the time it was written in. It was also quite prophetic. There was a lot that went over my head back then.

    • sn9 4 days ago

      It's still great.

      I think Stephenson's one of those authors where it's worth going through his work in order of publication starting with Snow Crash.

    • sprkwd 3 days ago

      Can call it historical fiction now.

  • in9 4 days ago

    just started reading Anathem. Not sure how I feel about it, nor if this was a good book to start reading Neal Stephenson. But time will tell :D

    • kipple 4 days ago

      FWIW I picked up & put down Anathem a few different times before it "clicked" for me — the made up words made it hard to get into at first. But now it's one of my favorite Stephenson novels.

      A less-steep place to start with him might be:

      - Snowcrash

      - The Diamond Age

      - Seveneves

      • sprkwd 3 days ago

        I really like Seveneves, but I do feel like it’s the beginning of a larger piece.

        • kipple 3 days ago

          Agreed. I think it itself could've been split into two books, and could easily merit a sequel or two.

          But I suppose wanting more is better than the opposite?

  • wry_discontent 4 days ago

    I read Cryptonomicon and liked it okay, but I have not been able to get into the other Stephenson books I tried to read.

  • grantc 4 days ago

    I like that Snow Crash doesn't take itself too seriously. Reamde was also a not too heavy Stephenson read.

  • jvanderbot 4 days ago

    I know I'm on the outside here, but I think Snow Crash is dumb, campy and cartoony.

    Diamond Age and Anathem are far better.

    • herculity275 4 days ago

      Its campiness and cartooniness are very much intentional - nobody names their main character Hiro Protagonist without some very deliberate stylistic choices.

simonblack 3 days ago

Murder Mysteries.

Agatha Christie's 'Hercule Poirot Series' books are always good. (Actually most of the Agatha Christie's crime series are good.) Bear in mind that most of those are set in the 1920s-1930s period.

01arjuna 3 days ago

This book came out not too long ago and is really good. Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

What does a misanthropic octopus have in common with Tova, a widowed aquarium employee? Not much, until a friendship develops following a daring tank rescue, and Marcellus McSquiddles happily uses all eight of his tentacles, his three hearts, plus his sharp brain, to solve the soul-scarring mystery of Tova’s son Erik’s disappearance thirty years ago. Utterly original, funny, wise, and heartwarming (be warned: there’ll be tears as well as giggles), Remarkably Bright Creatures will have readers falling hard for an acerbic invertebrate whose intervention in his new friend’s life sets her up for healing lessons in love, loss, and family. —Vannessa Cronin, Amazon Editor

billfruit 4 days ago

The Count of Monte Cristo, it is over 1300+ pages in the English translation I read, and it is fun and interesting read, almost every single page of it.

  • daltont 3 days ago

    Reading it now. I'm reading an abridged e-book. Read somewhere that the Penguin Classics unabridged translation is preferred however.

  • 0xJRS 4 days ago

    I love TCMC, its my favorite story, but I enjoy reading the abridged version more. I find that every time I read the unabridged I end up feeling like it was slightly too long.

    • throwawaysalome 4 days ago

      Your love be real. I can't imagine reading TCMC more than once, and you've read the abridged at least once, and the unabridged at least twice.

  • anavette 3 days ago

    This one is a fave, thanks for reminding me.

TylerLives 4 days ago

The Ancient City - Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges

If you're interested in what life in ancient Greece / Rome was like. The author does a very good job at not going into too much detail and boring the reader, while still telling you all the important events and changes that took place.

  • unraveller 3 days ago

    Amazing book, it explains so much about the deep layers of our culture that it can make modern usage of terms seem hollow.

    For another epic collection of history tidbits for the following period check out From Dawn to Decadence - Jacques Barzun

  • anavette 3 days ago

    Has been on my list! Will move it up. Thanks

wisie 17 hours ago

Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency by Andy Greenberg

The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock.

Enjoyed both a lot over the Christmas break.

serjester 4 days ago

Personally I’m a sucker for a beat-the-odds survival story and 438 days is in a tier of it’s own. It takes a special kind of human to survive in the open ocean for over a year.

With no exaggeration, everyone I’ve recommended it to finished it the same day they started it.

  • hot_gril 4 days ago

    The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933) is one of those. Supposedly was passed around Jewish ghettos during WW2.

WillAdams 4 days ago

_The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo_ by Tom Reiss, and Gabriel Stoian (Translator)

It was an interesting look at this period of history, and even more fascinating insight into the wellspring from which Dumas drew for his stories.

It's esp. interesting when contrasted w/ the pastiche of _The Count of Monte Cristo_ by Steven Brust, _The Baron of Magister Valley_, which I also highly recommend if you're interested in literate fantasy.

wry_discontent 4 days ago

I read a lot, usually history but I've been getting back into fiction

I really liked The Three Body Problem, I've over a thousand pages in the last month in this series. I also enjoyed The Poppy War and Dune.

The best nonfiction I read recently was Blackshirts and Reds and A People's History of the Supreme Court.

It's not quite HN material, but I also absolutely loved The Nix. It's a book I described to my friends as "nothing happens" by which I mean all character stuff.

vlod 4 days ago

After numerous attempts at getting through Snow Crash (pretty good), finally finished it last night.

Next is Blindsight by Peter Watt [0], which looks interesting.


  • kipple 4 days ago

    Hah! I came here to recommend Blindsight. "vampires in space" sounded silly, but it was unexpectedly intelligent and creative — some real mind-opening perspectives on consciousness.

    Meanwhile, I've read every Neal Stephenson & William Gibson book multiple times... anyone have suggestions for other authors to read, before I just loop again?

    • ZeroGravitas 4 days ago

      I've never seen anyone else make the comparison but I always felt Umberto Eco books were in a similar niche to Neal Stephenson. With long asides into esoteric details and real history.

      • ZeroGravitas 3 days ago

        While checking to see if anyone else had made this connection, I discovered that Neal used to feature a quote on his website of a reviewer describing him as "like Umberto Eco without the charm".

        • kipple 3 days ago

          Lol, well I'm sold — will check out Eco

    • vlod 4 days ago

      I found "Blindsight" via this [0] video. I'm planning to read "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. LeGuin" after that (also from that video). Might be worth checking out for some ideas.


  • sprkwd 3 days ago

    Blindsight is an incredible read.

  • xmonkee 4 days ago

    Blindsight is amazing, if a little scary

    • deepspace 4 days ago

      More than a little scary. To me, it was scarier than most horror novels. But brilliant writing, and very thought provoking.

DylanSp 4 days ago

Shattered Sword, by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan Parshall. An in-depth analysis of the battle of Midway, primarily from the Japanese perspective, covering everything from the organizational culture of the IJN and its impact on Japanese doctrine and planning to the minute-by-minute events of the battle.

jboynyc 4 days ago

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut.

dunefox 4 days ago

If you like horror: The Great God Pan by Machen. If you like Scifi: Dune or Children of Time/...

3minus1 4 days ago

The Selfish Gene by Dawkins is a fascinating (to me mind-blowing) look at biology and evolution. There are some subtle popular misunderstandings about evolution that he thoroughly debunks.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Kahneman is basically a summary of his life's research in behavioral economics and is super fascinating. There has been some scrutiny about some of the claims but still an amazing, enlightening book.

Expecting Better by Osler is basically a summary of things to expect with pregnancy but she takes skeptical view to any and all conventional wisdom and summarizes the actual research behind various recommendations. Very educational and refreshing read for me.

sandreas 4 days ago


  Patrick Rothfuss - Kingkiller Chronicles
  Naomi Novik - Scholomance
  Michael J. Sullivan - Riyria
  Ilona Andrews - many books
Caution: Be aware that the last book of the Kingkiller Chronicles "the doors of stone" is not out yet and may never happen[1], so although it is one of the greatest fantasy books of all time (in my opinion), it's kind of unsatisfying after part 2 :-)


  • w0m 4 days ago

    Re: Kingkiller Chronicles

    I'll second it probably the best Fantasy I've read. The sequal is still solid.

    <3 Pat but I wouldn't expect the series to be finished at this point.

    • johnthedebs 4 days ago

      Adding my vote here too. I recently finished listening to the audiobooks for the fourth time. I don't read (listen to) a crazy amount of fiction, but probably much more than most people, and this series is far and away the best I have read.

      I'm not holding out hope for a third book, but what a nice surprise it would be.

      • sandreas 3 days ago

        I did not believe that he'll finish the series since I got my hands on the first two books, because it already was 7 years after the first release. In my opinion his novel "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" is not worth the money and he had lost his flow. That would have been a pity, but kind of ok-ish - nobody is perfect.

        More recently I feel confirmed (and a little shocked), since I've read about his shady behaviour regarding his "charity" work, as well as plans of releasing and reading chapter 1 and then not delivering for more than 8 months.

        I can't believe there are still fans standing by him and still spending their money for his very shady purposes... I would not recommend to do so.

        And yet "The name of the wind" (part 1) and "The wise man's fear" (part 2) are still the best fantasy I've ever read so far.

vector_rotcev 3 days ago

There is No Antimemetics Division. You'll love it.

hot_gril 4 days ago

1. The Aeneid 2. Romans

ilrwbwrkhv 4 days ago

4000 weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

skibidibipiti 4 days ago

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a really good political action adventure sci-fi novel with aliens and techno science magicy stuff.

mindracer 4 days ago

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is excellent

warrenm 4 days ago

Stealth of Nations


Thinking Fast and Slow

Without Remorse

Cuckoo's Egg

The Intellectual Lives of Children

Why Johnny Still Can't Read or Write or Understand Math


Amusing Ourselves to Death

Leviathan (Dolin)

  • wry_discontent 4 days ago

    Second Amusing Ourselves to Death. Fantastic book, especially when paired with Inventing Reality or Manufacturing Consent.

sprkwd 3 days ago

Providence, Alan Moore