These are books I recommend:

I Ching.

The oldest and greatest divinatory tool. More than an oracle, the I Ching is a map of the universe. I've consulted the I Ching since I was sixteen, and its subtle language has permeated throughout my perceptions. It's like having a baffling Yoda-like creature to bounce your hunches off. It pranks on you if you consult it too often.

The Iliad, by Homer

The Odyssey, by Homer
Especially the translations by Robert Fagles, and by Robert Fitzgerald.

The greatest two poems ever written. Contrasted with this modern age, where poetry is largely irrelevant, these poems built an entire civilization, and stood as the index of its values. The Iliad is about the obligations of war and the terrible consequences of a single man's anger, but it is so much more than that. I have the Iliad (and the Odyssey) read on audio tape, and I play them just as I am going to sleep. A number of times, I have woken up in the middle of the night weeping because the section of the poem playing is so moving. When Hector and Andromache comfort each other on the tower in Troy, when Odysseus finds so many dead companions in Hades,Agamemnon's description of Achilles' funeral, and his comparison with his own death, when Odysseus reveals himself to his father, Laertes; all of these scenes are more powerful than anything else in literature. Homer created an aesthetic, and nobody else has ever come near achieving it.

The Elements, by Euclid

Forget every nitpicking mistake found in here by quibblers over the last two millenia. The Elements is a unique human document, and a profound work of Genius. Can you imagine a contemporary mathematician writing a textbook that will still be in use in 4000 AD? Read the Elements. Read the Elements. Euclid shows a sophisticated algebra of geometric forms a millenium before Al-Khowarizmi invented symbolic algebra. And, for those of you who are math-phobic, Euclid doesn't even get to numbers until Book 6 or 7.

Ever visit a public high school and see what passes for Geometry these days? No wonder undergrads can't do proofs anymore. A century ago, anyone who wanted to learn math began with The Elements. Since then, there have been many changes in what mathematics has become, but nobody has come up with an elemental approach that incorporates the landscape of modern mathematics the way Euclid has done with the mathematics of his time. Let's face it: the current pedagogy of mathematics is fucked. If a government think tank were given the task of making math-phobic as many US citizens as possible, I'm sure it would decide it didn't need to change the status quo. No wonder I'm so nostalgiac for Euclid, now more than ever. And, for those of you who have heard the term without knowing fully what it means: Non-Euclidean Geometry doesn't refute the Geometry of The Elements, but takes a beautiful system and makes it even more beautiful. Non-Euclidean Geometry takes nothing away from Euclid, but complements it.

Any Stories about Mullah Nasrudin, especially

    Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin

    Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin, both by Idries Shah

The Divine Comedy, by Dante Aligheri




Al-Muqaddimah, by Abd-ar-Rahman Abû Zayd ibn Khaldûn

The first work of historiography ever written. ibn Khaldûn is the sanest kind of Aristotelian, a Sufi, and a very unique rationalist in that for him, men and djinn coexist. His theory of history is fascinating, and greatly informs my view of the 21st century. For him, the human world is divided into wild people, and civilized people; for him, the Bedouin and the medieval urban Muslim are the two polar extremes. The city people generate wealth, culture, technology, and reason. They lose their moral fiber through decadent living, and become fat, weak, lazy, and sinful. Meanwhile, the wild people are hungry, wiry and pious. They are closer to God because they do not have the distractions the city people do. Eventually, the wild people sack the cities. Their genetic stock fortifies the indolent urban gene pool, their piety reinvigorates the religious life of the city, and their austerity reforms the city. On the other hand, the town people teach reason, science, technology and culture to the wild people, and get them to be less savage and cruel. After a few generations, the invaders and the urbans are indistinguishable from each other, and a new crop of wild people come and sack the cities. This is the cycle of history. Very compelling.

The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli

The New Science of Giambattista Vico, by Giambattista Vico

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, by Jan Potocki

Let us praise the Great Sheikh of the Gomelez, upon whose mention may there be peace. We are all in his service, so let us succeed in our Great Work. The highest of the sciences is mathematics, and the highest mathematics is analysis. Thus saith Diego Hervas.

The Poetry and Prose of William Blake, by William Blake

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, by Edgar Allan Poe: The Brief Cruise of this Latter Vessel in the Antarctic Ocean; Her Capture, and of the Massacre of Her Crew, among a Group of Islands in the 84th Parallel of the Southern Lattitude, together with the Incredible Adventures and Discoveries still further South, to which that Distressing Calamity gave Rise. influential Comprising the Details of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board of the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas-- with an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivors; Their Shipwreck, and Subsequent Horrible Sufferings, from Famine; Their Deliverance by Means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; 1838

The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, by Karl Marx

The Marx-Engels Reader, by Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels

Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah, by Capt. Sir Richard F. Burton

Flowers of Evil, by Charles Baudelaire

Paris Spleen, by Charles Baudelaire

Curve Tracing, by Percival Frost

Maldoror, and the Complete Works, by le Comte de Lautréamont, Isidore Ducasse (real name of Lautrémont). Alexis Lykiard translation

The Pearl, A Journal of Facetiæ and Voluptuous Readingg

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand

Algebra : An Elementary Textbook for the Higher Classes of Secondary Schools and for Colleges, by George Chrystal

Compare this to your high school algebra textbook, and weep for mankind.

The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

A Course of Modern Analysis, by E. T. Whittaker and G. N. Watson

Answer any of the old Tripos questions successfully, and win a dream date with Moly. Email me for details.

The Law is for All, by Aleister Crowley

Book Four, by Aleister Crowley

777, by Aleister Crowley

Magick in Theory and Practice, by Aleister Crowley

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

1905, by Leon Davidovich Trotsky

Poems, by Wilfred Owen

Ulysses, by James Joyce

Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse

Journey to the East, by Hermann Hesse

You Can't Win, by Jack Black

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne

House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

Elementary Mathematics from an Advanced Standpoint (2 vols.), by Felix Klein

The Story of the Eye, by Georges Bataille

This book, a work of Surrealist pornography, taught me more about sexual fantasies than anything else I've ever read. No sexual fantasy is criminal. Our fantasies are limited only by our imaginations, and Bataille's imagination is unbounded. Mentioning the specifics of this book, separated from Bataille's hallucinatory prose, would kill the power that his book unleashes. Read it. You can read the whole thing in one sitting. Then make your own sexual fantasies into a similarly thrilling adventure.

The Complete Books of Charles Fort

    The Book of the Damned

    New Lands


    Wild Talents

The first time I read The Book of the Damned, I got a little over 100 pages into the book, when a voice from my subconscious mind told me that, if I read any more of the book, I would go stark raving mad. I put it away. A year later, I picked it up again, and read it in full. The only other book that has had that effect on me is VALIS, by Philip K. Dick. Fort is fully aware of what he is doing to his reader, and he enjoys twisting the knife. Imagine that fully real things are red, and that fully imaginary things are yellow. Fort asks us at what shade of orange are we going to reject things, because they are all orange, none red, and none yellow. Follow him if you can.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

Tropic of Capricorn, by Henry Miller

The World of Sex, by Henry Miller

ABC of Reading, by Ezra Pound

Anything by H. P. Lovecraft, escpecially:

    At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels

    The Dunwich Horror and Others

    Best of H. P. Lovecraft, The: Bloodcurling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

Anything by Clark Ashton Smith, especially:

    Tales of Zothique

    Genius Loci

    The Book of Hyperborea

    Rendezvous in Averoigne

    Eldritch Dark

The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-four, by George Orwell

Sexual Revolution, by Wilhelm Reich

Mass Psychology of Fascism, by Wilhelm Reich

Character Analysis, by Wilhelm Reich

The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution, by Petr D. Ouspensky

IG Farben, by Richard Sasuly

The Dada Painters and Poets, edited by Robert Motherwell

Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

Nine Stories, by J. D. Salinger

How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff

The Story of O, by Pauline Réage

Anything by J. R. R. Tolkien, especially:

    The Hobbit

    The Fellowship of the Ring

    The Two Towers

    The Return of the King

    The Silmarillion

    Unfinished Tales

Howl, and Other Poems, by Allen Ginsberg

On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

A Coney Island of the Mind, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Synchronicity, by Carl Gustav Jung

Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies, by Carl Gustav Jung

Mandala Symbolism, by Carl Gustav Jung

Survival in Auschwitz, by Primo Levi

The Banquet Years, by Roger Shattuck

Anything by William S. Burroughs, especially:

    Naked Lunch

    Ticket That Exploded

The Sot-Weed Factor, by John Barth

The Morning of the Magicians, by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier

Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein, unabridged 1991 version

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey

Kesey's Garage Sale, by Ken Kesey

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine l'Engle

Anything by Thomas Pynchon, especially:


    Slow Learner

    Crying of Lot 49

    Gravity's Rainbow

Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., especially:

    Cat's Cradle

    Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death

    Breakfast of Champions

In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan

Trout Fishing in America, by Richard Brautigan

The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, by Richard Brautigan

The Berkeley Student Revolt: Facts and Interpretations

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The Basketball Diaries, by Jim Carroll

Beautiful Losers, by Leonard Cohen

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, by Richard Fariña

Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord

Kolyma Tales, by Varlam Shalamov

The Men in the Jungle, by Norman Spinrad

Bug Jack Barron, by Norman Spinrad

The Revolution of Everyday Life, by Raoul Vaneigem

Anything by Carlos Castaneda, especially:

    The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge

    A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan

    Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan

    Tales of Power

    The Second Ring of Power

    The Eagle's Gift

    The Fire From Within

    The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of don Juan

    The Art of Dreaming

The Politics of War, by Gabriel Kolko

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe

The Atrocity Exhibition, by J. G. Ballard

Crash, by J. G. Ballard

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, by Hunter S. Thompson

Situationist International Anthology

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Ringolevio, by Emmett Grogan

The Center of the Cyclone, by John C. Lilly

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956, 3 volumes, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Anything by Samuel R. Delany, especially:


    The Motion of Light in Water

    The Mad Man


I am obsessed with Delany, and I probably always will be. I still bite my fingernails because of him. I first read Dhalgren at 19, while living in Philadelphia, living in a city for the first time, no plans, no goals, no ambitions. I was in my own Bellona, squatting with fellow scorpions, having the magical edges of my reality dictated to me by this incredible book. Dhalgren is real in a way that most of my life hasn't been, and when I feel nostalgia, what I miss is the psychotopographies of Bellona as laid out in Dhalgren. It is the greatest novel about a city ever written; any one of the Surrealists (Breton especially) would slit his throat to write a book half as good, but wouldn't have the balls to stomach the finished result. The Motion of Light in Water taught me as much about sex as Henry Miller has, but in a totally different direction. And The Mad Man took what I'd learned so far to fascinating extremes. The Mad Man is a dare; a gauntlet thrown down in the age of AIDS, guaranteed to scare the shit out of just about everyone. And Hogg? Someday I will go to jail for owning a copy of Hogg, but it will be worth it. If all of my friends read Hogg on my recommendation, 90% would stop being my friend, and I wouldn't need them anyway.

Strange Unsolved Mysteries, by Margaret Ronan

House of Evil and Other Strange Unsolved Mysteries, by Margaret Ronan

The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell

Wartime, by Paul Fussell

The Illuminatus! trilogy, by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea

    The Eye in the Pyramid

    The Golden Apple


Prometheus Rising, by Robert Anton Wilson

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, and Six More, by Roald Dahl

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams

A Course in Mathematics for Students of Physics , by Paul Bamberg and Shlomo Sternberg

Symplectic Techniques in Physics, by Victor Guillemin and Shlomo Sternberg

Group Theory and Physics, by Shlomo Sternberg

UBIK, by Philip K. Dick

Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner, Darkly, by Philip K. Dick

VALIS, by Philip K. Dick

The Book of the SubGenius, by J. R. “Bob” Dobbs

Revelation X: The “Bob” Apocryphon, by J. R. “Bob” Dobbs

Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion , by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain

Blood Meridian; or The Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy

To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret Plans, by Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Speaker for the Dead

Seventh Son

Red Prophet

A Little Book on the Human Shadow, by Robert Bly

Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy, by Peter Lamborn Wilson

Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam, by Peter Lamborn Wilson

Tales of Beatnik Glory, by Ed Sanders

T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, by Hakim Bey

Archaic Revival, The: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History, by Terence McKenna

True Hallucinations, by Terence McKenna

Deterring Democracy, by Noam Chomsky

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

If You really Loved Me..., by Toby Green

The Men's Room, by Toby Green

Visual Complex Analysis, by Tristan Needham

The best undergraduate math book ever written. I get very emotional when I think about this book. If you understand first-year calculus, this book will make sense, and you are morally obliged to read it!! The sad thing about mathematics is it takes a lot of drudgery to get to the good parts. Complex Analysis iiss the good part. This is what you've been waiting for all of your life. Here it is! This book represents everything I love about mathematics. If Professor Needham were in charge of math pedagogy for the USA, we'd all like math.

Elementary Real and Complex Analysis, by Georgi Shilov

Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times, by Morris Kline

The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, by Otto Neugebauer

Mathematics: Its Content, Methods, and Meaning (an anthology)

A Tour of the Calculus, by David Berlinski

Anything by Richard P. Feynman, especially:

    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman

    What Do You Care What Other People Think: Further Adventures of a Curious Character

    Six Easy Pieces

    Six Not-So-Easy Pieces

    Lectures on Physics

Last Train to Memphis, by Peter Guralnick

Careless Love, by Peter Guralnick

Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus

Invisible Republic, by Greil Marcus

Invisible Republic is the greatest description of the mystery of rock and roll ever put into prose. Rock is an ancient mystery religion-- insight, gnosis emerges when the terror and strangeness has been absorbed and transmogrified. Lead into gold, the wound of Amfortas healed, the mountain rooted down by the mole. The first time I heard Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes , I felt that terror. I was afraid of Tiny Montgomery, of Silly Nilly, of the Coachman. I knew that there was no relief for me until the world of the Basement Tapes was as real as the four walls of my bedroom. Now that it has become that familiar, there still is no relief. Rock and roll means never shaking the hell hound on your trail, no relief from the exasperated humiliation of begging Mrs. Henry to look your way and pump you a few. The ironic, elusive fantasy of the Million Dollar Bash always somewhere in the near future, with Rosemary waiting there to put it to you plain as day, and give it to you for a song.

Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll, by Nick Tosches

Peacemaking Among Primates, by Frans de Waal

A Treatise on Plane and Advanced Geometry, by E. W. Hobson

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