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My non-fiction reading list for the rest of 2016

August 1, 2016

Back in April I ordered several books on Amazon, including three non-fiction books for myself. And back in June I ordered several more books on Amazon, including three more non-fiction books for myself.

And today I finally made an agreement with myself; to actually read those 6 non-fiction books over the coming weeks. And to have read them all before the end of this year. As I plan to take notes while reading each book I estimate that I need about 3 weeks of reading, before sleep, to work through all six of them. Most likely with additional reading on a Sunday, to catch up.

I plan to read the books in the order given below. Each section has a link to Amazon. Note that I might get a small amount of money if you buy anything on Amazon if you follow one of those links. However, I am not paid in any other way for listing those books; they are my own personal choice.

Why Evolution Is True

For the past few months I've gotten into too many arguments with creationists on Facebook. Now there is a good way to waste a lot of time. Or to quote Hugh Laurie's character Gregory House (season 4, episode 2):

Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people.

However, the good that came from all this is that I got very interested in learning more about evolution. I did some Googling to get a list of recommended books. One book that got often mentioned was "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry A. Coyne.

I had already been reading several entries on the Why Evolution Is True blog via the Flipboard iOS app on the iPad and really enjoyed those posts. So adding this book to my Amazon order the 20th of April was a no brainer.

Moreover, I hope this book will provide me with sufficient background to tackle "Evolution" by Douglas J. Futuyma.

Buy on Amazon: Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne; paperback; Penguin Books; reprint edition, January 26, 2010; ISBN-10: 0143116649; ISBN-13: 978-0143116646.

The Genius of Birds

A book I discovered via several articles on Flipboard is "The Genius of Birds" by Jennifer Ackerman, which I also ordered the 20th of April. And about a month later Alice found a baby bird near our house. It was a bit ugly looking, and at first I mistook it for a Great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) chick, a very common bird around our house. But somewhat later we found out it is actually a Clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi).

The bird is quite the rascal, and it has been great, so far, to observe its antics. I wish I had read the book before we got in in our care. On the other hand, by the time I am going to read this book we most likely have released the bird back into the wild, so it might allow me reminisce; think back about all its antics.

I ordered the hardcover which has a dust jacket with two fantastic illustrations by Eunike Nugroho.

Buy on Amazon: The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman; hardcover; Penguin Press, April 12, 2016; ISBN-13: 978-1594205217; ISBN-10: 1594205213.

Your Inner Fish

Another book I saw recommended a lot when looking for books on evolution is "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shubin, the paleontologist and professor of anatomy who co-discovered Tiktaalik, the "fish with hands". So I ordered that one as well, the 20th of April.

Buy on Amazon: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin; paperback; Vintage; 1 reprint edition, January 6, 2009; ISBN-10: 0307277453; ISBN-13: 978-0307277459.

The Master Algorithm

In the beginning of June I read about Bill Gates recommending two books on AI to get up to speed on artificial intelligence. "The Master Algorithm" is one of those books. When I was studying at Utrecht University I followed several courses related to artificial neural networks and genetic algorithms. Last year I took two edX courses to get back into machine learning: "Introduction to Big Data with Apache Spark" and "Scalable Machine Learning". For each I got a final grade of 100%. So I ordered this book the 10th of June.

And I hope this book, and the next one on this list, will give me a broader view of this fascinating field so I can decide on what to focus on next. Maybe for a possible course, or just self-study with a good text book.

Buy on Amazon: The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedro Domingos; hardcover; Basic Books, September 22, 2015; ISBN-10: 0465065708; ISBN-13: 978-0465065707.


The other book recommended by Bill Gates is "Superintelligence" by Nick Bostrom. Also ordered the 10th of June.

Buy on Amazon: Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Pedro Domingos; hardcover; Basic Books, September 22, 2015; ISBN-10: 0465065708; ISBN-13: 978-0465065707.

Lab Girl

With a 9 year old daughter, Alice, who is interested in science, inventing, experimenting, collecting and keeping animals; reading, as her father, planning to read the memoir of a woman in science sounds like a good idea. I ordered this book the 10th of June as well.

Buy on Amazon: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren; hardcover; Knopf, April 5, 2016; ISBN-10: 1101874937 ISBN-13: 978-1101874936.