Steven Pinker's favorite books

  • The Beginning of Infinity

    The Beginning of Infinity

    The Beginning of Infinity

    David Deutsch
    Science
    4.15 (5,578)

    The New York Times bestseller: A provocative, imaginative exploration of the nature and progress of knowledge “Dazzling.” – Steven Pinker, The Guardian In 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 successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress—which he argues is potentially boundless—can and cannot happen. Hugely ambitious and highly original, The Beginning of Infinity explores and establishes deep connections between the laws of nature, the human condition, knowledge, and the possibility for progress.

    Steven Pinker

    A major inspiration

     — Source

  • The Nurture Assumption

    The Nurture Assumption

    The Nurture Assumption

    Judith Rich Harris
    Psychology
    4.11 (1,560)

    A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK How much credit do parents deserve when their children turn out welt? How much blame when they turn out badly? Judith Rich Harris has a message that will change parents' lives: The "nurture assumption" -- the belief that what makes children turn out the way they do, aside from their genes, is the way their parents bring them up -- is nothing more than a cultural myth. This electrifying book explodes some of our unquestioned beliefs about children and parents and gives us a radically new view of childhood. Harris looks with a fresh eye at the real lives of real children to show that it is what they experience outside the home, in the company of their peers, that matters most, Parents don't socialize children; children socialize children. With eloquence and humor, Judith Harris explains why parents have little power to determine the sort of people their children will become. The Nurture Assumption is an important and entertaining work that brings together insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, primatology, and evolutionary biology to offer a startling new view of who we are and how we got that way.

    Steven Pinker

    A major influence on my own book The Blank Slate.

     — Source

  • Enemies, A Love Story
    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps my favorite contemporary novel by someone Im not married to.

     — Source

  • The Blind Watchmaker
    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps the best display of expository scientific prose of the twentieth century. It gave me the idea to try my hand ... and had a strong influence on my own writing.

     — Source

  • The Mental Life of Modernism

    The Mental Life of Modernism

    The Mental Life of Modernism

    Samuel Jay Keyser
    Science
    3.88 (8)

    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 attributed to cultural factors ranging from the Industrial Revolution and the technical innovation of photography to Freudian psychoanalysis. In this book, Samuel Jay Keyser argues that the stylistic innovations of Western modernism reflect not a cultural shift but a cognitive one. Behind modernism is the same cognitive phenomenon that led to the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century: the brain coming up against its natural limitations. Keyser argues that the transformation in poetry, music, and painting (the so-called sister arts) is the result of the abandonment of a natural aesthetic based on a set of rules shared between artist and audience, and that this is virtually the same cognitive shift that occurred when scientists abandoned the mechanical philosophy of the Galilean revolution. The cultural explanations for Modernism may still be relevant, but they are epiphenomenal rather than causal. Artists felt that traditional forms of art had been exhausted, and they began to resort to private formats—Easter eggs with hidden and often inaccessible meaning. Keyser proposes that when artists discarded their natural rule-governed aesthetic, it marked a cognitive shift; general intelligence took over from hardwired proclivity. Artists used a different part of the brain to create, and audiences were forced to play catch up.

    Steven Pinker

    Fascinating, important new book by friend & former colleague Samuel Jay Keyser: The Mental Life of Modernism

    Feb 28, 2020 — Source

  • The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    The Evolution of Human Sexuality

    Donald Symons
    Psychology

    Anthropology, Sexual Studies, Psychology, Sociology, Gender and Cultural Studies

    Steven Pinker

    The founding document of evolutionary psychology, filled with insights about sex and the sexes, and more relevant than ever with #metoo.

     — Source

  • One Two Three . . . Infinity
    Steven Pinker

    I read it as a young adult, but its informative for old adults too.

     — Source

  • Whole Earth Discipline

    Whole Earth Discipline

    Whole Earth Discipline

    Stewart Brand
    Business & Economics
    4.13 (1,143)

    Discusses the ways in which climate change will affect the next half century and explores such topics as the green potential of cities, the virtues of nuclear engineering, and the sustainability of genetically modified crops.

    Steven Pinker

    Recommended read on One Grand Book

     — Source

  • Clear and Simple as the Truth
    Steven Pinker

    Perhaps the best analysis of writing style, and a major inspiration for my own The Sense of Style.

     — Source

  • Atrocities
    Steven Pinker

    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

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