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Steven Pinker


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Steven Pinker is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.
25 books on this list
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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...
Steven Pinker
This 21st-century statement of the ideals of the Enlightenment offers fresh insight on a vast number of topics, including the workings of human cognition, the ways of science, and the drivers of progress.     source
Whole Earth Discipline
Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary
by Stewart Brand (Sep 28, 2010)
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"Incredible book . . . Best I've read this year." --Jack Dorsey, via Twitter...
Steven Pinker
Children of the 1970s will appreciate the title, an allusion to the author's groundbreaking 'Whole Earth Catalog,' which merged technology with the counterculture and encouraged global consciousness with the breathtaking earthrise photograph on the cover.     source
This book is also recommended by
Marc Andreessen
One Two Three . . . Infinity
Facts and Speculations of Science (Dover Books on Mathematics)
by George Gamow (Aug 31, 1988)
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". . . full of intellectual treats and tricks, of whimsy and deep scientific philosophy. It is highbrow entertainment at its best, a teasing challenge to all who aspire to think about the universe." — New York Herald TribuneOne of the world's foremost nuclear physicists (celebrated for his theory of radioactive decay, among other accomplishments), ...
Steven Pinker
A delightful introduction to number theory, Einstein’s theory of relativity, higher dimensions, and other mathematical and scientific topics.     source
Knowledge And Decisions
by Thomas Sowell (Oct 04, 1996)
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With a new preface by the author, this reissue of Thomas Sowell's classic study of decision making updates his seminal work in the context of The Vision of the Annointed, Sowell, one of America's most celebrated public intellectuals, describes in concrete detail how knowledge is shared and disseminated throughout modern society. He warns that socie...
The 100 Deadliest Episodes in Human History
by Matthew White (May 12, 2013)
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Categories: HistoryNonfiction
Evangelists of human progress meet their opposite in Matthew White's epic examination of history's one hundred most violent events, or, in White's piquant phrasing, "the numbers that people want to argue about." Reaching back to the Second Persian War in 480 BCE and moving chronologically through history, White surrounds hard facts (time and place)...
Steven Pinker
This chronicle of history’s hundred deadliest wars and massacres, including death tolls, is a good way to settle bets (who was worse, Genghis Khan or Hitler?), brush up your history, and marvel at the cruelty and stupidity of our species.     source
The Nurture Assumption
Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated
by Judith Rich Harris (Feb 24, 2009)
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This groundbreaking book, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times notable pick, rattled the psychological establishment when it was first published in 1998 by claiming that parents have little impact on their children's development. In this tenth anniversary edition of The Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris has updated material throughout and p...
Steven Pinker
A grandmother from New Jersey uses genetics, ethnography, and child psychology to refute the dogma that parents shape their children's intelligence and personality.     source
Speaking Our Minds
by Thom Scott-Phillips (Nov 16, 2014)
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Language is an essential part of what makes us human. Where did it come from? How did it develop into the complex system we know today? And what can an evolutionary perspective tell us about the nature of language and communication?Drawing on a range of disciplines including cognitive science, linguistics, anthropology and evolutionary biology, Spe...
Steven Pinker
Mar 25, 2015
An interesting new book on the evolution of language: Speaking Our Minds | Thom Scott-Phillips     source
Eye, Brain, and Vision
by David H. Hubel (Jul 31, 1988)
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This work examines the mechanisms by which we perceive colour, depth and movement, and the function of the fibres connecting the two halves of the brain. The author describes how the visual circuits develop before birth and discusses the unexpected consequences of visual deprivation early in life. He describes current knowledge concerning the highe...
Steven Pinker
Sep 25, 2013
Hubel wrote a gorgeous & crystal-clear book on vision: Also one w/ collaborator Torsten Wiesel     source
The Evolution of Human Sexuality
by Donald Symons (Feb 04, 1981)
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Nature versus nurture - nowhere is the debate more heated than in the areas of sex and sex differences. The Evolution of Human Sexuality adds fuel to the fire. Symons's thesis is that some of the typical differences between men and women in sexual behaviors, attitudes and feelings are innate: identical rearing of males and females will not result i...
Steven Pinker
The founding document of evolutionary psychology, filled with insights about sex and the sexes, and more relevant than ever with #metoo.     source
How You Say It
Why You Talk the Way You Do―And What It Says About You
by Katherine D. Kinzler (Jul 21, 2020)
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From “one of the most brilliant young psychologists of her generation” (Paul Bloom), a groundbreaking examination of how speech causes some of our deepest social divides—and how it can help us overcome them....
Steven Pinker
Jul 14, 2020
A fascinating new book on language and social relations by Katherine Kinzler | How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do―And What It Says About You via @amazon     source
The Blind Watchmaker
Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design
by Richard Dawkins (Sep 27, 2015)
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Categories: ScienceNonfiction
The Blind Watchmaker is the seminal text for understanding evolution today. In the eighteenth century, theologian William Paley developed a famous metaphor for creationism: that of the skilled watchmaker. In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins crafts an elegant riposte to show that the complex process of Darwinian natural selection is unconscious...
Steven Pinker
Perhaps the best display of expository scientific prose of the twentieth century.     source
This book is also recommended by
Jerry CoyneCharlie Munger
Clear and Simple as the Truth
Writing Classic Prose - Second Edition
by Francis-Noël Thomas (Mar 19, 2011)
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For more than a decade, Clear and Simple as the Truth has guided readers to consider style not as an elegant accessory of effective prose but as its very heart. Francis-No�l Thomas and Mark Turner present writing as an intellectual activity, not a passive application of verbal skills. In classic style, the motive is truth, the purpose is presentati...
Steven Pinker
Perhaps the best analysis of writing style.     source
An exciting book that takes travel writing to a new frontier ! Wouldnt it be a great adventure, said kayak voyager Jim Payne, to copy a rowboat trip that famous naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau took in 1839 on the Concord River? It sounded easy, but once upon the restless waters in a kayak that has a habit of tipping over, Payne has m...
Steven Pinker
Sep 05, 2010
Enjoyable book about kayaking adventures by Jim Payne (author of the excellent A History of Force)     source
The Strategy of Conflict
With a New Preface by the Author
by Thomas C. Schelling (May 14, 1981)
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A series of closely interrelated essays on game theory, this book deals with an area in which progress has been least satisfactory--the situations where there is a common interest as well as conflict between adversaries: negotiations, war and threats of war, criminal deterrence, extortion, tacit bargaining. It proposes enlightening similarities bet...
Enemies, A Love Story
by Isaac Singer (Apr 01, 1988)
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Categories: Fiction
Almost before he knows it, Herman Broder, refugee and survivor of World War II, has three wives: Yadwiga, the Polish peasant who hid him from the Nazis; Masha , his beautiful and neurotic true love; and Tamara, his first wife, miraculously returned from the dead. Astonished by each new complication, and yet resigned to a life of evasion, Herman nav...
Steven Pinker
About a holocaust survivor who ends up with three wives. Every scene is a goldmine of insight about human nature.     source
Heavens on Earth
The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia
by Michael Shermer (Jan 09, 2018)
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In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans' belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality by radical life extentionists, extropians, transhumanists, cryonicists, and mind uploaders, along with utopians who have attempted to create heaven on earth. For millennia, religi...
Steven Pinker
Feb 16, 2018
My (other) favorite book of the year: @MichaelShermer 's Heavens on Earth - a deep, poignant, & often hilarious look at the secular quest for immortality. Michael Shermer     source
It's Better Than It Looks
Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear
by Gregg Easterbrook (Mar 05, 2019)
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Is civilization teetering on the edge of a cliff? Or are we just climbing higher than ever?Most people who read the news would tell you that 2017 is one of the worst years in recent memory. We're facing a series of deeply troubling, even existential problems: fascism, terrorism, environmental collapse, racial and economic inequality, and more.Yet t...
Steven Pinker
Feb 26, 2018
Gregg Easterbrook's new book "It's Better Than it Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear" is a different and complementary take on progress. I'm learning a lot from it and recommend it highly.     source
The Science of Words
by George A. Miller (Apr 01, 1996)
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This text entertains and enlightens readers about the relations between words, languages, thought, and the human brain....
The Language Hoax
by John H. McWhorter (Apr 28, 2014)
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Japanese has a term that covers both green and blue. Russian has separate terms for dark and light blue. Does this mean that Russians perceive these colors differently from Japanese people? Does language control and limit the way we think, such that each language gives its speakers a different "worldview"?This short, opinionated book addresses the ...
Steven Pinker
Jul 21, 2014
The Language Hoax: John McWhorter- Excellent book on the popular but misguided idea that language determines thought     source
You Say You Want a Revolution
by Daniel Chirot (Mar 03, 2020)
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Why most modern revolutions have ended in bloodshed and failure--and what lessons they hold for today's world of growing extremismWhy have so many of the iconic revolutions of modern times ended in bloody tragedies? And what lessons can be drawn from these failures today, in a world where political extremism is on the rise and rational reform based...
Steven Pinker
Mar 09, 2020
I've learned a lot from Daniel Chirot's books on autocrats, genocide, & the Enlightenment. His new book on radical revolution is especially timely. He discusses it here w @michaelshermer     source
36 Arguments for the Existence of God
A Work of Fiction (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (Feb 01, 2011)
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From the author of The Mind-Body Problem: a witty and intoxicating novel of ideas that plunges into the great debate between faith and reason. At the center is Cass Seltzer, a professor of psychology whose book, The Varieties of Religious Illusion, has become a surprise best seller. Dubbed the atheist with a soul, he wins over the stunning Lucinda ...
Steven Pinker
Jan 11, 2020
When it came out 10 years ago I said it was the best book either of us had ever written. Authors are always proudest of their latest, but this remains a masterpiece: Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Goldstein     source
Retreat from Doomsday
The Obsolescence of Major War
by John Mueller (Jan 01, 2010)
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Despite large stockpiles of deadly arms and some significant ideological differences, the developed world has been at peace for a longer continuous period than ever before. Arguing that this state of affairs is no accident, this book offers a detailed history of public policies and attitudes to war in modern times. The author sets out to show that,...
The Myth of Martyrdom
What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers
by Adam Lankford (Jan 22, 2013)
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A startling look at the deepest, darkest secrets that terrorists pray you'll never know For decades, experts from the most powerful governments and prestigious universities around the world have told us that suicide bombers are psychologically normal men and women driven by a single-minded purpose: self-sacrifice. As it turns out, this claim origin...
Steven Pinker
Oct 08, 2015
Excellent book by Adam Lankford: The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, ...     source
The Mental Life of Modernism
Why Poetry, Painting, and Music Changed at the Turn of the Twentieth Century (The MIT Press)
by Samuel Jay Keyser (Mar 03, 2020)
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An argument that Modernism is a cognitive phenomenon rather than a cultural one.At the beginning of the twentieth century, poetry, music, and painting all underwent a sea change. Poetry abandoned rhyme and meter; music ceased to be tonally centered; and painting no longer aimed at faithful representation. These artistic developments have been attri...
Steven Pinker
Feb 27, 2020
Fascinating, important new book by friend & former colleague.     source
The Theocons
Secular America Under Siege
by Damon Linker (Sep 04, 2007)
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An essential history of the influential men who have spearheaded the movement to erode the wall separating church and state.Beginning as far-left radicals during the 1960s, the theocons in Damon Linkers book (including Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and George Weigel) gradually transitioned to conservatism when they grew frustrated with the f...
Steven Pinker
Feb 08, 2017
Excellent book on an intellectual foundation of Bannonism- The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege by Damon Linker     source