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Sam Harris

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Samuel Harris is an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including rationality, religion, ethics, free will, neuroscience, meditation, philosophy of mind, politics, terrorism, and artificial intelligence
20 books on this list
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Superintelligence
Paths, Dangers, Strategies
by Nick Bostrom (Apr 30, 2016)
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A New York Times bestseller 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...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
There’s another work of philosophy here. Sort of philosophy/science that I’ve been greatly influenced by of late.The philosopher, Nick Bostrom, wrote a book called “Superintelligence,” which has impressed many people for the thoroughness with which he has argued that we have a serious problem looming with respect to the birth of intelligent machines.     source
This book is also recommended by
Elon MuskSam AltmanWill MacAskill
Waking Up
A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion
by Sam Harris (Jun 16, 2015)
Goodreads Rating
For the millions of Americans who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris’s latest New York Times bestseller is a guide to meditation as a rational practice informed by neuroscience and psychology.From Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, Waking Up is for the twenty percent of Americans who foll...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
I suspect many of you want recommendations on books about meditation and spiritual experience. There’s no book out there that is free of the superstition and religiosity you tend to get with books aboutBuddhism or Advaita Vedanta, the Hindu teachings of non-duality. I can’t really recommend those books without caveat. I wrote the book that I think needed to exist, “Waking Up,” which was my last book. I am reluctant to include my own book in a list of books everyone should read, however. But there was a reason why I wrote that book, because there’s really no book I could point rational people, students of science, critics of religious mumbo jumbo, with a clear conscience.     source
This book is also recommended by
Naval RavikantSusan Cain
Hitch-22
A Memoir
by Christopher Hitchens (Jun 03, 2011)
Goodreads Rating
Over the course of his 60 years, Christopher Hitchens has been a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has been both a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the U.S. war against Islamic extremism in Iraq. He has been both a foreign correspondent in some of the world's most dangerous places and a legendary...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
If you haven’t read Christopher Hitchens, you should. He was a brilliant writer and also a brilliant speaker. You can get the benefit of both his voice and his writing if you listen to his audiobooks, the ones he read himself. “God is NotGreat,” and “Hitch-22” are two of those. I don’t know if he read any of the others. But it’s great listening.     source
God Is Not Great
How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens (Apr 06, 2009)
Goodreads Rating
Whether you're a lifelong believer, a devout atheist, or someone who remains uncertain about the role of religion in our lives, this insightful manifesto will engage you with its provocative ideas.With a close and studied reading of the major religious texts, Christopher Hitchens documents the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of d...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
If you haven’t read Christopher Hitchens, you should. He was a brilliant writer and also a brilliant speaker. You can get the benefit of both his voice and his writing if you listen to his audiobooks, the ones he read himself. “God is NotGreat,” and “Hitch-22” are two of those. I don’t know if he read any of the others. But it’s great listening.     source
The Qur'an
by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (Jun 15, 2008)
Goodreads Rating
One of the most influential books in the history of literature, recognized as the greatest literary masterpiece in Arabic, the Qur'an is the supreme authority and living source of all Islamic teaching, the sacred text that sets out the creed, rituals, ethics, and laws of Islam. Yet despite the growing interest in Islamic teachings and culture, ther...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
I think everyone should read the Holy Koran.Very few of you have read the Koran. Many of you have heard me make unpleasant assertions about it. Read it. It’s much shorter than the Bible. You can read it in a weekend and you will be informed about the central doctrines of Islam in a way that you may not be and it’s good to be informed, given how much influence these ideas have currently in our world.     source
This book is also recommended by
Naeemul Haqueİyad el-BaghdadiKevin Kelly
Stumbling on Happiness
by Daniel Gilbert (Mar 20, 2007)
Goodreads Rating
• Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink? • Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? • Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? • Why do pigeons seem to have s...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
There’s a lot to be said for having kids and that really is not a rejoinder to the research that suggests that people are made, for a very long time, reliably less happy as parents. You can find this in Daniel Gilbert’s work on effective forecasting, which he summarised in a book “Stumbling upon happiness,” which is also a good book which I recommend.     source
This book is also recommended by
Maria PopovaDerek Sivers
Machete Season
by Jean Hatzfeld (Apr 18, 2006)
Goodreads Rating
Categories: NonfictionHistory
During the spring of 1994, in a tiny country called Rwanda, some 800,000 people were hacked to death, one by one, by their neighbors in a gruesome civil war. Several years later, journalist Jean Hatzfeld traveled to Rwanda to interview ten participants in the killings, eliciting extraordinary testimony from these men about the genocide they perpetr...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
If you want to see what it’s like when things go about as wrong as they can go, read “Machete Season,” which is a short book about the Rwandan genocide that is, if I recall correctly, entirely borne of interviews with some of the main perpetrators of this genocide. So not merely the people who were swinging the machetes, but the people who were running those gangs and enforcing people’s membership therein.They invite you in there and they give you the full tour. It is uncanny that circumstances can come together culturally, neurophysiologically and otherwise so as to produce this kind of behaviour again with a clear conscience. So it is a short book and a very sobering one worth reading, if you can stomach that sort of thing.     source
The Last Word
by Thomas Nagel (Oct 31, 2001)
Goodreads Rating
If there is such a thing as reason, it has to be universal. Reason must reflect objective principles whose validity is independent of our point of view - principles that anyone with enough intelligence ought to be able to recognize as correct. But this universality of reason is what relativists and subjectivists deny in ever-increasing numbers. And...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
Nagle is a very fine writer, a very clear. Just as a style of communication, I think he’s worth going to school on. I would recommend you read his little book, “The Last Word,” which champions rationality in a very compelling way.     source
The Anatomy of Disgust
by William Ian Miller (Sep 30, 1998)
Goodreads Rating
William Miller details our anxious relation to basic life processes; eating, excreting, fornicating, decaying, and dying. But disgust pushes beyond the flesh to vivify the larger social order with the idiom it commandeers from the sights, smells, tastes, feels, and sounds of fleshly physicality. Disgust and contempt, Miller argues, play crucial pol...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
There’s a writer – William Ian Miller –who I think is unfairly neglected. He writes some fascinating books. Several have been on negative emotions. One book is entitled “Humiliation,” which was a great read. Just on the phenomenon of being humiliated and differentiating it from embarrassment and other similar emotions. He also wrote a book on disgust called “The Anatomy of Disgust,” which is also fun.These are very interdisciplinary books. He is a lawyer, I believe or a professor of law. But he goes deep into the relevant sociology and these are cool books.      source
The Flight of the Garuda
The Dzogchen Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism
by Keith Dowman (Sep 01, 1994)
Goodreads Rating
Flight of the Garuda conveys the heart advice of one of the most beloved masters of Tibet. The itinerant yogi Shabkar communicates the essence of the Dzogchen teachings through song both poetic and poignant.Along with Shabka's songs, Keith Dowman has translated four other seminal Dzogchen texts, including one by Patrul Rinpoche that is new to this ...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
There’s one book called The Flight of the Garuda, which I think is especially beautiful and wise.And among the Hindus who teach Advaita Vedanta, the non-dual teachings of yogic meditation that really just talks about pure consciousness and the illusion of the self – don’t be confused about the assertion of the existence of the big Self, capital S. They’re just talking about awareness in that case.      source
Reasons and Persons
by Derek Parfit (Dec 31, 1985)
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Challenging, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity, Derek Parfit claims that we have a false view about our own nature. It is often rational to act against our own best interests, he argues, and most of us have moral views that are self-defeating. We often act wrongly, althou...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
I also recommend Derek Parfit’s book, “Reasons and Persons,” which is just brilliant and written as though by an alien intelligence. It’s a deeply strange book filled with thought experiments that bend your intuitions left and right.It’s just a truly strange and unique document and incredibly insightful about morality and questions of identity and well worth reading if you are of a philosophical cast of mind.     source
This book is also recommended by
Will MacAskill
A History of Western Philosophy
by Bertrand Russell (Oct 30, 1967)
Goodreads Rating
Since its first publication in 1945 Lord Russell's A History of Western Philosophy has been universally acclaimed as the outstanding one-volume work on the subject—unparalleled in its comprehensiveness, its clarity, its erudition, its grace and wit. In seventy-six chapters he traces philosophy from the rise of Greek civilization to the emergence of...
Sam Harris
Jul 08, 2015
One book I recommend on philosophy, just to get your bearings, is Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy.” Bertrand Russell, as you surely know, is one of the great philosophers of his time and just a remarkably clear thinker and writer. Just a great example of how English should be written and just a great voice to have in your head as a result. Being a philosopher himself, he was quite opinionated about the very schools and traditions in philosophy. It’s a fun read, provided you care about the history of Western philosophy.     source
Behave
The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
by Robert M. Sapolsky (Apr 30, 2018)
Goodreads Rating
The New York Times bestseller"It's no exaggeration to say that Behave is one of the best nonfiction books I've ever read." --David P. Barash, The Wall Street Journal "It has my vote for science book of the year." --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times"Hands-down one of the best books I've read in years. I loved it." --Dina Temple-Raston, The Washington...
Sam Harris
I highly recommend. It really is the most accessible discussion of brain science you will find.     source
This book is also recommended by
Marc AndreessenVinod Khosla
Our Final Invention
Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era
by James Barrat (Oct 01, 2013)
Goodreads Rating
In as little as a decade, artificial intelligence could match, then surpass human intelligence. Corporations & 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 ...
Sam Harris
Good.     source
This book is also recommended by
Elon Musk
On Having No Head
by Douglas Edison Harding (Jul 08, 2013)
Goodreads Rating
'Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down... I forgot my name, my humanness, my thingness, all that could be called me or mine. Past and future dropped away... Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.' Thus Douglas Harding describes his first experience of headlessness, or no self. ...
Sam Harris
A very useful little volume.     source
Mortal Questions
by Thomas Nagel (Mar 29, 2012)
Goodreads Rating
Thomas Nagel's Mortal Questions explores some fundamental issues concerning the meaning, nature and value of human life. Questions about our attitudes to death, sexual behaviour, social inequality, war and political power are shown to lead to more obviously philosophical problems about personal identity, consciousness, freedom, and value. This orig...
Sam Harris
There are some very good essays in there that were very influential in philosophy and should be more influential in the culture, generally.     source
The Beginning of Infinity
Explanations That Transform the World
by David Deutsch (Dec 31, 2011)
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The New York Times bestseller: A provocative, imaginative exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge"Dazzling." - Steven Pinker, The GuardianIn this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe--and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all s...
Sam Harris
Greatly expanded my sense of the potential power of human knowledge.     source
I Am That
by Nisargadatta Maharaj (Aug 19, 1999)
Goodreads Rating
This collection of the timeless teachings of one of the greatest sages of India, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, is a testament to the uniqueness of the seer's life and work and is regarded by many as a "modern spiritual classic".I Am That preserves Maharaj's dialogues with the followers who came from around the world seeking his guidance in destroying f...
Sam Harris
He said a few crazy things, as many gurus do. But if you stick to what he was claiming about the nature of experience, I think you’re on firm ground.     source
Humiliation
And Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence
by William Ian Miller (May 04, 1995)
Goodreads Rating
How do we feel when our friend turns up with a holiday present and we have nothing ready to give in exchange? What lies behind our small social panics and the maneuvers we use, to avoid losing face? Recognizing how much we care about how others see us, this wise and witty book tackles the complex subject of humiliation and the emotions that keep us...
Sam Harris
Just on the phenomenon of being humiliated and differentiating it from embarrassment and other similar emotions.     source
In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote (Feb 01, 1994)
Goodreads Rating
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, ...
Sam Harris
If you just want to forget about the future and lose yourself in the book that forever changed how narrative nonfiction is written, read In Cold Blood.     source
This book is also recommended by
Ben Shapiro