Home     Archive     Tags     About        RSS
Favorite Books of 2012

Here's a list of our favorite books read in 2012.

  • The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don't by Nate Silver

    Nate proposes you look at life and all other stochastic things probabilistically. His well grounded weltanschauung is likely due to his having spent years as a full time poker player. If you use or make forecasts, you should read this book.

  • The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

    If you'd like an explanation of Bayes Theorem, go somewhere else, as this book relegates the definition of Bayes Theorem to the appendix. This is a history book -- the history of Bayes Theorem -- written in a most entertaining sort of way.

  • The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick by Benoit B. Mandelbrot (review by Stefan)

    Mandelbrot did what few people have the courage to do, he pursued only the things that really interested him. His uncle thought he was nuts to be interested in things like the statistics of word frequencies. Most people thought he was wasting his talents. None of it deterred him. His dream was to become the "Kepler of Complexity" and I think he succeeded. His analysis of financial time series data showed that the simple random walk model is hopelessly flawed. He found that instead of Gaussian distributions, financial markets should be modeled using Levy stable distributions with infinite variance, in other words "Fat tailed distributions". In this case I think he was probably more like Copernicus than Kepler, showing the world that a new model fits the facts better than the old. But people still cling to the old model. He developed fractal geometry as a way to measure roughness. In the real world roughness is everywhere from clouds, to coastlines, mountains, river drainages, and the stock market. If you want to study these things you need a way to measure them and Mandelbrot showed that fractal geometry is the way to do it. He is probably best known for the Mandelbrot set. He found it by looking at what happens when you iterate a function over and over, feeding the output back into the input. He first looked at the problem in the 1940's but didn't make progress until almost forty years later when he used computers to draw pictures of what was going on. The stunning complexity of the pictures is still something to wonder at. The use of computers in mathematics is an area that he pioneered, especially the use of computer graphics. From the book however I got the impression that he never really learned how to program a computer and always had to find someone to do the programming for him. This is a little surprising since he spent many years working at IBM. All of these things are described very nicely in the book which is highly recommend.

  • Problems and Snapshots from the World of Probability by Blom and Holst and Sandell (review by Stefan)

    This book has an amazing range of probability problems. Most of them are very challenging. Some of the solution techniques used are very powerful. I would say this is not a book for beginners. You need a fairly good understanding of probability and the somewhat nebulous quality of "mathematical maturity" to really appreciate this book. If you can work through this book your probability Kung Fu will be unstoppable.

  • 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans by Karl Pillemer

    A book everyone should read, especially the young. Biggest surprises: If you don't like what you're doing, stop now, and switch to something you love. Don't decide on a job or career based on money, choose it based on your interest. Enjoy life now, you go from zero to 90 in a flash.

  • Everything I Know About Business I learned from the Grateful Dead : the Ten Most Innovative Lessons From a Long, Strange Trip by Barry Barnes

    This is simply the best business book we've ever read, and we've read many. It's ironic that the best businessman (Jerry Garcia) was a guy that saw business as a necessary evil to do what he loved to do.

  • The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell

    If you'd like to be healthier and avoid cancer and heart disease, this book is for you. It recommends a plant based diet, which we've adopted. Don't fall into the trap that exercise keeps you healthy, it's the diet that's most important.

  • The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend by Peter Ackroyd and Thomas Malory and Stuart Kolakovic

    This is a new translation of Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century work "Le Morte d'Arthur". It's highly imaginative and great bedtime reading. The part on the quest for the Holy Grail is especially recommended.

  • To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

    Does a great job of portraying the insanity of war. The time at the start of this war was surprisingly similar to today.

  • Favorite film: Kumare

    There is a wonderful message in this film. You do not need to seek a guru to help solve your problems. The guru is inside you. We all (or most of us at least) have direct access to God, but we usually don't realize it.

  • Favorite image: Falling Bear

    Falling Bear was one of our fellow citizens of Boulder County, Colorado. He was hit by a vehicle this year. Our world is diminished without him.

© 2010-2012 Stefan Hollos and Richard Hollos

blog comments powered by Disqus