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The Hacker News Top books of 2023

Hi, welcome to the brand new website, HN Reads. I enjoy reading Hacker News and I love buying books (and reading), and I also love data, so what better than doing some processing of data about books to find some interesting results?! It also gives me the opportunity to write about books that I find interesting.

Here are the top 40 books recommended by HN readers in 2023.

How I generated this list:

  • get stories that contain the word “book”, but not “macbook”, “chromebook”, etc. That were posted in 2023, and also try to only get “ask HN” stories, by excluding stories that have a url in them.
  • get the comments for the stories
  • for each comment, use the OpenAI gpt3.5 chat API to extract a list of book details in json format:
 	 	{"match":"xxx","title":"xxx", "author":"xxx", "link":"xxx"},
  • standardise titles, e.g. “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” is converted
    to “Gödel, Escher, Bach”. Any leading “the” is also removed. I end up with a title
    column and an orig_title column in my data. If there are that have the same title, but different subtitles, for example “Javascript: the good parts” and “Javascript: the Definitive Guide”, this isn’t too much of a problem, as the authors are different.
  • aggregate the resulting information. There was some manual adjustment to standardise
    the book titles and authors names, for example Gödel was sometimes spelled “Godel”
    and Douglas Hofstadter was sometimes returned as “Douglas R. Hofstadter”.

I also shared some details about this process at my blog.

It’s nice to see one of my favourite series appearing on this list, the Hyperion Cantos. I don’t usually go for books with horror elements, but the story is so good, and the science
fiction elements are cool too.

A couple of controversial figures don’t rank in the top 40 of 2023: Elon Musk’s new biography
wasn’t recommended once in an “Ask HN” about books, although there were plenty of stories
on Hacker News about him and Isaacson’s book. Also Ayn Rand’s books weren’t mentioned often
enough in 2023 to make the list.

Without further delay, here’s the list:

See footnote for info on affiliate links.1

# Title Author Count First Mention
1 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman 26 34231811
2 Designing Data-Intensive Applications Martin Kleppmann 18 34231811
3 Gödel, Escher, Bach Douglas Hofstadter 18 34440923
4 The C Programming Language Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis M. Ritchie 17 35933845
5 How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie 15 34310435
6 The Mythical Man-Month Frederick P. Brooks Jr. 14 34333293
7 How to Solve It George Pólya 14 34441085
8 Principles of Mathematical Analysis Walter Rudin 13 34311378
9 The Elements of Computing Systems Noam Nisan, Shimon Schocken 13 34412400
10 Calculus Michael Spivak 13 34441489
11 Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Charles Petzold 12 34476530
12 Crafting Interpreters Robert Nystrom 11 34231811
13 Peopleware Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister 11 35930473
14 Eloquent JavaScript Marijn Haverbeke 10 34412355
15 Elements Euclid 10 34440894
16 The Art of Computer Programming Donald E. Knuth 10 34442163
17 Blindsight Peter Watts 10 35054030
18 The E-Myth Revisited Michael E. Gerber 10 35169069
19 The Pragmatic Programmer Andrew Hunt, David Thomas 10 35966675
20 Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools Alfred V. Aho, Monica S. Lam, Ravi Sethi, Jeffrey D. Ullman 10 36146877
21 High Output Management Andrew S. Grove 9 34262064
22 Concrete Mathematics Ronald L. Graham, Donald E. Knuth, Oren Patashnik 9 34441399
23 Never Split the Difference Chris Voss 9 35171863
24 The Phoenix Project Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford 8 34312721
25 The Art of Electronics Paul Horowitz, Winfield Hill 8 34475069
26 Dune Frank Herbert 8 35053380
27 Hyperion Dan Simmons 8 35054030
28 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams 8 35399641
29 Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau 7 34231811
30 Automate the Boring Stuff with Python Al Sweigart 7 34412667
31 The Design of Everyday Things Don Norman 7 34439374
32 Calculus Made Easy Silvanus P. Thompson 7 34440860
33 Linear Algebra Done Right Sheldon Axler 7 34440972
34 The Three-Body Problem Cixin Liu 7 34606380
35 Children of Time Adrian Tchaikovsky 7 34611775
36 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni 7 34627776
37 Bobiverse Dennis E. Taylor 7 35053380
38 Founders at Work Jessica Livingston 7 35170064
39 Neuromancer William Gibson 7 35393643
40 Design Patterns Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John Vlissides 7 35930659

The Almost-Made-It list

Originally I wanted to publish a top 50, but there are too many ties. I chose to finish at 40 items, as that’s the cutoff between books that were mentioned 7 times and those that were mentioned 6 or fewer times. The following 29 books have been mentioned 5 or 6 times.

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