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Books Education

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Books You Wish You Had Read Earlier? 437

Reader joshtops writes: Hey, community. Could you folks please name some books that you wish you had read earlier -- especially because these books presumbably had an impact on your life. The books could be from any genre or year.
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Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Books You Wish You Had Read Earlier?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:06PM (#54569753)

    Grays Sports Almanac 1950-2000... back in 1990

  • Dune (Score:5, Insightful)

    by berchca ( 414155 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:06PM (#54569755) Homepage

    Shocking how much more to it than the movie/tv versions. In fact, they only serve as spoilers.

    • The same thing is true of Harry Potter. I did love the movies, but years later my son and I read all of the books together. It's amazing how much more is in the books than was in the movies. There are whole storylines that were just dropped in the movies. I do understand the reasoning - making a "Completely Textually Accurate Harry Potter" movie would have made each movie 8 hours long and very boring - but the books have so much more depth to them compared to the movies.

  • The book I wish I had read earlier...

    My Diary.

  • by Diss Champ ( 934796 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:07PM (#54569765)

    Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

    By the time I'd read it I had figured most of it out, but if I'd read it earlier I could have saved some time getting there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Along these lines, "That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships" By Deborah Tannen

      It is amazing how improving your ability to communicate increases your effectiveness and makes habit 5 from the 7 habits much more achievable

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:27PM (#54570627)

      Executive summary:
      0. The usual stuff about why all other self-help books are crap but this one isn't.
      1. Be proactive
      blablabla
      2. Begin with the end in mind
      goal-oriented blablabla
      3. Put things first
      prioritize blabla
      4. Think win-win
      the others are your partners pretty easy, eh?
      skip two virtues, something about communicating in emphatic ways, etc. not really important, fuck it
      7. Sharpen the saw
      take a break and never stop learning, etc. blabla

      $$$ SUCCESS
        easy-peasy

      • #1 habit of highly ineffective people: Don't bother understanding it, just get someone else to produce an executive summary for you.

  • The Bible (Score:5, Funny)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:07PM (#54569771)

    Definitely The Bible. Doesn't matter which version. I was well into my 30s before I started sacrificing chickens after accidentally touching women during menstruation.

    • Re:The Bible (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @04:53PM (#54571427)

      Let me suck some of the humor out of this moment with a fact check: chickens weren't part of the Jewish sacrificial system during Biblical times.

      As far as animals were concerned, sheep, goats, oxen, and bulls were regularly sacrificed, with different ones being used for different types of sacrifices. Doves were an acceptable sacrifice in some cases, though I believe they were only used when the person offering the sacrifice couldn't afford the appropriate animal.

      Also, if memory serves, touching a woman during menstruation merely made you ritually unclean until evening, at which point you'd take a bath and then be back to ritually clean again. I don't recall it requiring a sacrifice, though I've only read the Bible cover-to-cover maybe a dozen times so far, so I could be mistaken.

    • Same for me as well, with exceptions.

      The version is not relevant, as what I was looking for is manuscript evidence, the oldest and most accurate, with the least distortions.

      Next was reading from the original languages for as complete an understanding as possible: sentence diagramming, defining jargon, categorical exploration of subjects/jargon, adopting the viewpoint of the writers and readers at the time the documents were written and read.

      Last was putting away all of the preconceived notions given by beli

      • most pastors are full of shit, most Christians are not trying to find God only support for their legalistic thinking, and every single atheist I have ever met is fighting a straw man and not the Bible.

        I think most atheists are not trying to fight the Bible, but rather the beliefs professed by those full-of-shit pastors and Christians you mention, who in turn hide behind the Bible to shield themselves from criticism of those beliefs. The kind of in-depth analysis of the actual text you describe is a great way to pierce that shield, and one I've frequently seen used; not quite to the impressive degree of detail you describe, but atheists knowing the Bible better than the believers that hide behind it is a

    • by kubajz ( 964091 )
      I wish I had read the Bible earlier, but it strongly discouraged in our country. Once I got to it, it profoundly changed how I think about life, how external events influence me, and throughout the years, it has had immense impact on my character, dealing with my selfishness. Without these changes, I doubt I would have finished my Ph.D., my marriage would likely not be that amazing and our business partnership would not work so well. It is a long explanation that is impractical to put in Slashdot comments b
  • Best books I've read (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    All the Adventures of a Curious Character (on Richard Feynman) by Ralph Leighton
    The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  • by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:09PM (#54569809) Homepage

    Rereading Daniel Dennett's "Conscious Explained" now... really opened my eyes to what consciousness is and isn't.

    (I reference it in my own comic on dealing with mortality, as plugged in my sig)

    • anyone that's going to dig in to Dennett's explanation of consciousness should also consider two epistemological works by rudolf steiner:

      The Philosophy of Freedom - Some results of introspective observation following the methods of Natural Science:

      http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/... [rsarchive.org]

      and

      The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception

      http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/... [rsarchive.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:10PM (#54569817)

    I first encountered Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy in adulthood and I immediately wished someone had introduced it to me in middle school. For the purposes of this discussion, it's about a kid who keeps getting moved from one society into another. Each time he assimilates into a new group he notices the strengths and weaknesses of the new culture. Most of the coming-of-age books I was exposed to glorified the misfit and tried to reassure the reader that it's OK to be different. Citizen of the Galaxy doesn't bother with that at all---the protagonist integrates more-or-less successfully into every society he joins and he never gets angsty about not fitting in. This would have been a good thing to read when I was younger.

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @05:15PM (#54571639)
      Another important aspect to "Citizen of the Galaxy" is the emphasis that each of those societies were different for a reason. Each of them had come up with rules, both official and unofficial, which allowed them to survive and prosper in their environment. None of them had necessarily found the _best_ solutions, but they'd found solutions that worked well enough for them. It's important to learn that context matters. You can't just ignore a rule because it seems stupid to you unless you truly understand why that rule existed in the first place, and you can't take rules that worked in one situation and blindly apply them to an entirely different situation.

      (This is perhaps something to keep in mind before reading just one or two Heinlein books and deciding based on the society of the protagonists that Heinlein was a fascist or a hippie or a communist or a libertarian or a cannibal.)
  • Before I ended up working for a psychopath.

  • Down and Out (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell.

    While 1984 is better known, Down and Out is much more relevant especially today.

  • The User Manual (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob Riggs ( 6418 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:11PM (#54569829) Homepage Journal
    RTFM. Wiser words were never acronymized.
  • by lq_x_pl ( 822011 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:11PM (#54569833)
    by Dale Carnegie.
    Seriously.
    There's a thousand fantastic resources available on how to be a better programmer. Accruing technical acumen has always been the easiest part of navigating my career. Knowing how to work with humans has always been tricky. I wish I would have read this book back in high school.
  • by eagle52997 ( 691489 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:12PM (#54569839) Journal
    I'm currently on Green Mars (book two) and absolutely loved Red Mars (book one). Book Three is called Blue Mars. The first books was so good, and so timely with this topic, that I felt compelled to post. I read a lof ot Arthur C. Clarke as a kid, and wish I had read this trilogy when it first came out. The topics related to life back on Earth are so prescient, it is hard to believe the first book is nearly 25 years old. I'm definitely hooked, and will be reading more of Kim Stanley Robinson in the future.
  • by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:12PM (#54569853) Homepage

    No... don't. Everyone in our college clique who read it became fantastically unsuccessful. I only got a half way into the first book and somehow managed to salvage my life.

    I'd read the The Book of the SubGenius instead. At least then you'll know how to fail upward.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Aw, that's a shame. It's a really funny series. Now, there's not much I'd take seriously in there (other than maybe a little glee in occasionally being subversive), but I've read it repeatedly without it ruining my life.

  • Scifi/Fantasy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:13PM (#54569865)

    Kind of wish that I'd read Ringworld earlier, didn't get to anything Niven until I was already in my 30s. It's interesting to see what all Niven did with works in other genres like in the scripts he wrote for Star Trek: The Animated Series that included characters from N-Space.

  • Atlas Shrugged (Score:5, Insightful)

    by al0ha ( 1262684 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:16PM (#54569893) Journal
    I was left with two distinct ideas after reading this book that I'd wished I'd had 20 years earlier.
    1) It's damn ok, if not mandatory, that a person feel good about making money off their talents
    2) Pure unabashed capitalism is an extreme philosophy.
    • Re:Atlas Shrugged (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:23PM (#54569967) Homepage

      Never understood that selection. The Fountainhead is an incredible book. It explains the basic principles incredibly well. And it does so without all the obvious stupid mistakes Rand makes in Atlas Shrugged. Shrugged was obviously written by someone with first hand experience in the problems with Communism but had no idea of how to do Capitalism correctly.

      Don't tell anyone to read Atlas Shrugged, it just makes them stupider. Point them at The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand's true masterpiece.

      • Atlas Shrugged is a powerful book, I think her philosophy is flawed, but she makes a strong statement and case. Never read Fountainhead to know if it is even better.

        The main problem with Atlas Shrugged is that it needed a strong editor. Rand tends to prattle on a lot, there are parts of the book that you could just skip over 20 pages and not have missed anything important. Overall well written though.

    • I was left with two distinct ideas after reading this book that I'd wished I'd had 20 years earlier. 1) It's damn ok, if not mandatory, that a person feel good about making money off their talents 2) Pure unabashed capitalism is an extreme philosophy.

      Anthem by Rand as well.

    • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:10PM (#54570489) Journal

      "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." - John Rogers

      Seriously, anything by Ayn Rand is the last thing a teenager should read. It's the terrible advice you could get at an impressionable age from that kid that all the adults agree you shouldn't hang out with, dressed up with big words, bound in a respectable-looking book, and coming from an "adult." It's an old man in a lab coat giving you heroin in a pharmacist's bottle.

  • by fgrieu ( 596228 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:17PM (#54569901)

    The Naked Ape (a Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal), by Desmond Morris, 1967.

    The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, 1976.

    These give clues about what we are, and why.

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Nice. Selfish Gene would be on my list. I'll be sure to check out Naked Ape.

      In that sciencey/origins set I'd add:
      * Before the Dawn (using genetic information to trace human development and migration)
      * Song of the Dodo (about extinction)
      * Guns, Germs, and Steel (about geography influencing civilization's development)
      * any of the Leaky or Johanssen books about Lucy, Lucy's child, etc. - as much fun for the bickering between the camps as for the developing understanding of early human/pre-human evolution

  • By the time I read it at age 14 I thought the main character was a whiny annoying little prick. If I had read it 1-2 years earlier it would have been profound.
  • by koavf ( 1099649 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:18PM (#54569919)
    Perennially relevant to critical thinking about power. Similarly, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World can explain how we make ourselves slaves. Follow up with Amusing Ourselves to Death.
    • I second this. I was in my 30s before I finally read 1984 and it is like a handbook to recognizing political flim-flam.
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People [wikipedia.org]

    The Four Agreements [wikipedia.org]

    Meditation [wikipedia.org] related literature including Buddha's Brain [rickhanson.net] and Wherever You Go, There You Are [amazon.com]

    Also "The Bible" and "The Torah", but so that I can properly address the cognitive distortions of the Christian/God-centric mindset as needed in an authoritative manner.
  • by cogeek ( 2425448 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:22PM (#54569947)
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand One Second After by William R. Forstchen Both equally relative with everything that's happening these days.
  • I actually read it at exactly the right time, maybe I was around 14-15 years old. Helped me put some things in context and get some good priorities in life, helped me get where I am now.

  • by imatter ( 2749965 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:23PM (#54569959)
    Because if I had started it 20 years ago instead of 15 I might have finished it by now.
  • There are plenty of great books that I wish I had read earlier:

    1. Masterminds of Programming
    2. Infinite Jest
    3. The Sun Also Rises

    are just a few examples. However, the one that came to mind first was Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. I really tried to stay away from it because I heard so many people say that it was a great book. I didn't want to read it just out of spite.

    When I finally read it, I really enjoyed it and it helped me think through some things differently that I did not expect.

  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:26PM (#54569993) Homepage Journal

    This book would have changed my world had I read it when I was four. But now that I'm 44, not so much.

    Yaz

    • This book would have changed my world had I read it when I was four. But now that I'm 44, not so much.

      Yaz

      Then you must not be part of the illuminati and understand the secret hidden message about the book and the new world order.

  • I wish I would have started to read this book when I was younger as I would have had the stamina and attention span to finish it. I think that everyone should read the little prince early as it makes less sense to an adult who reads it for the first time. I was fortunate that I read Enders game the year it was published. All his other stuff, which I have also read, is mostly spiritual crap.
  • by drnb ( 2434720 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:27PM (#54570005)
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books.
  • Preferably the day it came out, as I was using C++ at the time.
  • There is more to read than you can but go for it anyway!

    Bill Gates' twee The Road Ahead is definitely a book that should not be on your list. That dweeb completely missed the importance of the internet.

    Suggestions
    1984
    Brave New World
    Paris in the Twentieth Century
    , by Jules Verne
    The Elements of Style
    , by Strunk & White
    The English Language | A User's Guide

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:31PM (#54570065) Homepage

    Bad Science should be basic requirement in all high schools. People need to understand the difference between good science and bad science. Too many people think good science is bad, and bad science is good.

  • Contact and GEB (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Volfied ( 307532 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:32PM (#54570073)

    Contact by Carl Sagan
    and
    Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

  • https://www.amazon.com/Never-S... [amazon.com]

      Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

    Interesting read, and you end up with Tactical Listening skills. Changes how you view negotiation situations completely. And everything is a negotiation in life. ;)

  • The Data Warehouse Toolkit: The Definitive Guide to Dimensional Modeling

    I don't have the energy/drive to plow through tech books, absorbing their sweet, sweet knowledge I did 20 years ago.

    I'll still get there, but with significantly more breaks and annoyance at not being done already.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:36PM (#54570105)

    If you are an engineer, manager or other technical career.... OR a MANAGER of anybody who falls into those categories, this should be *required* reading every few years.

    Truths I've learned from this book include...

    "If one woman can make a baby in 9 months... Then let's get 9 to make one it 1 month..." is a logical fallacy often used by management.

    "Technical teams should be clearly scoped and fairly small or the amount of effort required for communications and coordination will consume more resources than the actual work. "

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:37PM (#54570115) Homepage Journal

    Only the classics, i.e.
    TAoCP (Donald Knuth)
    GEB (Douglas Hofstadter)
    The Illuminatus! trilogy (Robert Shea & Robert A. Wilson)

  • Taleb's 4-part Incerto series (see http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/247576/incerto-4-book-bundle-by-nassim-nicholas-taleb/9780812997699/ [penguinrandomhouse.com]) is fantastic reading. Changes your perspective on the nature of randomness and how much control we actually have over our system and our environment. Not just control, but how little information we even have about the situation! (it is easy to get "fooled by randomness"). Antifragile is particularly a very good concept we should follow in all of our systems; it occ

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:38PM (#54570123)
    If I had read it before college I am certain I would have learned even more during my years there. As role models go, one can do a lot worse than Richard Feynman. :-)
    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      I read Surely You're Joking as a high-school junior, and loved it so much I decided to major in physics. I spent most of my college years feeling like I was continually failing to live up to Feynman's example, but not knowing how to get more out of it, because when it comes down to it, few people are as dynamic as that guy. So, you may have missed out on a better college experience, but you might have also just missed out on four years of feeling guilty and inadequate.

  • "Most Secret War" by R. V. Jones
    https://www.amazon.com/Most-Se... [amazon.com]

    A story of doing vital technology on the time scales of total war. This book should be read by anyone who cares about practical innovation.

  • If there is such a book
  • Dianetics (Score:4, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @02:45PM (#54570189) Homepage Journal
    Dianetics. I had money before I read it.
  • dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet GoliathOct 15, 2001
    by J. David Kuo

    Ideally in 1995.

  • I wish I had read this [wikipedia.org] *before* I had to repair my motorcycle because it, in fact, did not help me fix it.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:05PM (#54570427)

    The Elements of Style [amazon.com].

    It's not actually a book I wish I'd read early, it was a book I did read early and have been grateful for ever since!

    It's a short, clear, concise book as you would hope for from a book to help improve your writing. It has many small points that really stick with you, in my case for decades.

    For some reason the Kindle edition (linked to above) seems to be totally free at the moment so you have no excuse not to grab it! The paperback itself is fairly small if you prefer paper.

  • by Quirkz ( 1206400 ) <rossNO@SPAMquirkz.com> on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:11PM (#54570495) Homepage

    What I really wish I'd read more of earlier are financial books. How to handle money, how to budget, how to eliminate debt or be much more careful about using it than the average American is, how to invest, how to plan for retirement, all of those things.

    I'm not really attached to these, but they're examples of a few reference points that made a difference to me in terms of how I thought about my finances:

    * a Dave Ramsey book (they're all kind of redundant) - for budgeting, saving, and month-to-month financial management
    * The Millionaire Next Door - some framework for understanding what habits contribute to wealth, and which ones don't
    * The Four Pillars of Investing - a lot of history and basic investing environment
    * The Intelligent Investor - a more detailed perspective on investing and history

  • by setvik ( 1054420 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:16PM (#54570531)

    Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by the media theorist and NYU prof Neil Postman.

    Read it a week ago after letting it languish on my bookshelf since college. Really wished I had read it ages ago! I'd have a lot more books than TV series under my belt.

    Postman prophetically saw how TV would drastically reduce both our individual and our culture's collective capacity for critical thought and intelligent discourse by conditioning us to expect entertainment in every sphere of our lives (not just TV). In this important book, he sounded the alarm bell for American democracy. And his warning is even more relevant and critical today in our binge-watching, distractable, and social-media driven culture.

    Here's a snippet from Postman's own forward:

    "... What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture... As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

    This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right."

  • by jrronimo ( 978486 ) on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @03:21PM (#54570565)
    Perhaps I'm just a bad geek, but I've found Lord of the Rings a little challenging to finish, though it's been a while since I've tried. I find that people who read it when they were younger (or had it read to them young) have a reverence for it I just don't quite share, but I feel a little like I'm missing out.
  • "A Demon Haunted World" and "Pale Blue Dot" by Carl Sagan are two I wish I'd read in my teens or early 20's.
  • by segwonk ( 1064462 ) <jwinn@earthlink.net> on Wednesday June 07, 2017 @04:37PM (#54571265)
    The book that has by far influenced me the most is George Orwell's 1984. I read it when I was a teenager (~15'ish), though I don't think I would have appreciated it more if I had read it earlier. It's pretty dark, and its adult themes would have been harder to grok.

    I'm in my mid-forties now, and it has influenced and informed my opposition to a surveillance state ever since. I remember thinking how awful it was that Winston would go out into the forest with his lover, thinking he was alone -- but they were STILL able to record him out there. As others have said, 1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual.

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