T Nation

Nerdy Meathead Reading List

I know we have the reading thread but I figured a collection of reading lists from the nerdy meatheads here would be great reference material.

I’ll go with my recommendations


  1. The God Equation by Michio Kaku
  2. The hidden Reality by Brian Greene
  3. *Fundamentals of aerodynamics * by John D Anderson (lol)
  4. A brief History of Time Stephen Hawking
  5. “How Not to be wrong: The power of Mathematical Thinking” Jordan Ellenberg
  6. Moonwalking with Einstein Joshua Foer
  7. The Clockwork Universe Edward Dolnick


  1. The Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
  2. “Farewell to Arms” Hemingway
  3. “Never Let me Go” Kazuo Ishiguro
  4. “White Noise” Don Delillo
  5. Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  6. Going After Cacciato Tim O’Brien
  7. “The Grapes of Wrath” John Steinbeck
  8. Firestarter Stephen King

There are more but I think this is a good start.


Quiet- Susan Cain
Thinking fast and slow- khanneman
Influence- cialdini
Noise- khanneman, sunstein, sibony (the writing isn’t great but content is)
On writing- king
Doughnut economics- raworth
Homo deus- harari
20 letters to a friend- Alliluyeva

A tale of two cities- dickens
Fathers and children- turngev
Curtain- Christie
Crime and punishment- Dostoyevsky
The idiot- Dostoyevsky
The brothers karamazov- Dostoyevsky
Great expectations- dickens
Brave new world- Huxley(this is the only sci fi book I’ve actually enjoyed)
Anthem- rand
One day in the life of Ivan denisovich- Solzhenitsyn

None of these are in any particular order.

@cyclonengineer i cannot stand Conrad. I’ve read heart of darkness and lord Jim and both were awful. His writing style reminds me of a student trying to impress an English teacher

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The Virtue of Selfishness and We the Living - Ayn Rand

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Its romantic literature so all the pieces of that era tend to follow that same vein. I didn’t really like Heart of Darkness on first read, but subsequent reads showed me why it’s a masterpiece. It’s especially prescient to this era as many people are put on pedestals but come to find out they are hardly worthy of being footstools (influencers in particular come to mind).

A couple more for the list
“Stiff: The curious life of cadavers” - Mary Roach

Fight club - Chuck Phalaniuk

“The Screwtape Letters” CS Lewis

Most things written by Edgar Allen Poe

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ooh! I loved this one!

“The Right Stuff” Tom Wolfe
“The kid Who Climbed Everest” - Bear Grylls

95% of what I read is non-fiction, but on really niche topics so it’s hard to offer general recommendations. I think anyone interested in the history of technology would appreciate these:

  1. Skunk Works by Ben Rich
  2. The Dead Hand by David Hoffman
  3. Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
  4. Longitude by Dava Sobel
  5. The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager

For fiction I’d recommend Metro 2033, but not the sequels.


I have been wanting to read Skunk Works. That’s about the Lockheed Martin advance Division right?

Longitude was good too.

Yep, written by a former director who was responsible for developing the F-117. I’m not much of an aviation geek, but the F-117, U-2 and especially the SR-71 are absolutely incredible machines and he covers all of them. It’s a quick and enjoyable read, I must’ve read it at least 3 times.

Some fun facts (spoiler alert):

  • much of the titanium used to build SR-71’s (which were 90%+ titanium) was acquired from the USSR by various dummy corporations operated by the CIA.
  • the inspiration for building the first stealth aircraft was the discovery of obscure mathematical models for reducing radar signatures which were published by a Soviet scientist, Pyotr Ufimtsev. The Soviet government considered this research to have no military or economic value so he was free to publish it internationally, where Lockheed found it and utilised it in the design of the F-117.

Given your interests, I think you might enjoy Three Body Problem

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Thanks, I’ll check it out

I don’t think “nerdiness” is prerequisite to picking up any of these titles. I can at least say I earned weird comments from strangers when reading some of these in public.

The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt
The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault
Range by David Epstein
The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche
Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshanna Zuboff

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig
The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov

I very much like all of these. But I think there are some books many should read, even if I’m not their biggest fan, such as Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. And of course like many here, I do read books on more niche topics that I don’t feel are worth recommending here.

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The nerdy was mostly a self deprecating dig at my own weirdness.

Your list is excellent.

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@anna_5588 I have read half of your nonfiction list and some of your fiction list. A surprising overlap, considering!

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Training related: Muscle by Sam Fussell
Fiction: Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg and most books by Haruki Murakami
Non fiction: Andre Agassi’s autobiography

Since all of you are avid readers, I realized I have 2014 model kindle paper white (I just replaced it with a new one this spring) in working condition I am will to send to anyone in the US for shipping cost.

It’s the 4 gb model but still holds thousands of books.

Fiction: light hearted but thoughtful:
All of Kurt Vonnegut’s work.

Fiction: serious, historical, and thoughtful:
Ken Follet, “fall of giants” and “winter of the world”. Theres a third book in that series called “edge of eternity” but I couldn’t get into it.

God I miss reading. With 4 kids it’s a rare treat now.


Haha, no judgement. There’s certainly a difference between the books listed here and what most people read nowadays, if they even pick up a book at all. Plus I think I’m also a little weird.

I’m going to try to pick up another of Don DeLilo’s books sometime this year like you suggested. So many books, so little time. Otherwise I’ve only read the works by Hemingway and Conrad on your list. Both in high school. I remember absolutely nothing about Heart of Darkness, so that probably says something.

Vonnegut is great. My closest friend from college is a diehard, and I was honored when she asked me to go with her to get her first tattoo, which is dedicated to his work. That same friend accompanied me for my wisdom teeth removal, and after I woke up we started talking about Vonnegut’s books. I don’t know why I felt compelled to share those details.

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Slaughterhouse 5 was great

Vonnegut tattoo… imagining the possibilities… can you elaborate?