What are the best books ever published in the history of the universe?

8th February, 2021

Well, I don’t know. But The Week kindly asked me to send a list of my ‘best books’ and I wasn’t sure how to interpret the question. So here goes!

Getting Things Done by Edwin Bliss. I stumbled upon this book a boy and it opened my mind to the then-radical idea that you could use time badly, or wisely. Bliss’s book is written for a world of filing cabinets and secretaries, so these days I’d recommend instead David Allen’s book with the same title – although Bliss’s version is available on cassette!

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. I’m always willing to be whisked away to a fantasy world, and Le Guin’s is among the wisest, most original, and most beautifully portrayed. It is hard to think of a grand theme that isn’t explored somewhere in the Earthsea trilogy, but always with subtlety and humanity.

Dragon Warriors by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson. This is not a story – it’s a set of rules for playing a wonderful game of the imagination. I read this book at the age of 12 and was transported. I’m  proud to be a nerdy game-player – and fortunate that these days I even get to play with Dave and Oliver themselves.

Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff. An introduction to game theory – the use of mathematics to understand cooperative and competitive interactions, from tennis to business to the cold war. This was the book that turned me into an economist. It’s full of clever counterintuitions and memorable stories.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. Used wisely, statistics can show us truths about the world that we can’t see in any other way. But the statistics have to be collected and analysed with everyone in mind, not just a default white male. This is a powerful, insightful book.

Humble Pi by Matt Parker. I love maths, and I love stories about things going wrong. Planes crash, lakes disappear down misplaced mine shafts, and marketing campaigns go terribly awry. Matt Parker’s book is hilarious, in a way that belies the depth and importance of his message.

My new book, “The Data Detective” is published in the US/Canada on 2nd February.

“Nobody makes the statistics of everyday life more fascinating and enjoyable than Tim Harford.”- Bill Bryson

“This entertaining, engrossing book about the power of numbers, logic and genuine curiosity”- Maria Konnikova

I’ve set up a storefront on Bookshop in the United States and the United Kingdom – have a look and see all my recommendations; Bookshop is set up to support local independent retailers.

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