What books or bodies of work, not about EA or EA cause areas, might be beneficial to EAs?

post by arikr · 2019-06-11T22:22:06.045Z · score: 7 (5 votes) · EA · GW · 10 comments

Inspired by mike_mclaren's comment: "Thanks for posting this. Posts introducing books or other bodies of work not explicitly about EA or an EA cause area, but that introduce or explain relevant ideas from disparate disciplines, seem valuable and I would like to see more."

What books or other bodies of work, not explicitly about EA or an EA cause area, might be interesting or beneficial to EAs?


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by DavidNash · 2019-06-14T11:43:46.854Z · score: 8 (3 votes) · EA · GW

The books on this list by conceptually are quite useful. The ones I've read and thought are useful I've listed below.


Thinking Fast and Slow

The Undercover Economist

The Righteous Mind

Predictably Irrational

The Better Angels of our Nature



The Signal and the Noise

Some others I have found useful

4DX - How to execute plans efficiently (meant more for people in charge of orgs or teams but still applicable to individuals)

Good Strategy/Bad Strategy - Summary of a useful strategy framework

The Charisma Myth

Lean Startup

The Art of Gathering

The Art of Community

You Are Not So Smart

Also two EA reading lists that cover poverty, future generations, animal welfare, psychology, productivity, career/business and advocacy.

List 1

List 2

comment by Linch · 2019-06-14T08:19:05.146Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Obvious point: While EAs are special in some important ways, there are many more ways in which EAs aren't that special. So if you want to be effective at what you do, then often generally good advice/resources for your field would be helpful.

Eg, if you want to be good at accounting, the best books on accounting continue to be useful as an "EA accountant", if you want to be good at entrepreneurship/programming/social skills/research, the generally useful resources are still good for those things.

Books I found helpful:


The Productivity Project

Code Complete

Designing Data-Intensive Applications

Anathem (fiction)

Books that have the potential to be helpful, but I did not personally find dramatically helpful:

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Deep Work

The Signal and the Noise

Crucial Conversations

The Art of Learning [2]



[2] https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WCMQyOBo7ROx012CkIIzQ7rklBecaRzRhxusPDh3wBY/edit

comment by Linch · 2019-06-18T08:38:57.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

Facebook post that has a longer list (though the framing's slightly different. "potentially lifechanging" rather than useful):


comment by Misha_Yagudin · 2019-06-13T15:47:20.706Z · score: 4 (3 votes) · EA · GW

80K's All the evidence-based advice we found on how to be successful in any job (link).

comment by Jakob_J · 2019-06-14T17:10:50.483Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for posting! I have an analytic background and have therefore found it particularly useful to shore up on "soft skills" from books like:

Working with emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman

Daring greatly, Brené Brown

The wilderness, Brené Brown

I also read articles and listen to podcasts from Harvard Business Review on emotional intelligence, leadership, and management.

comment by lucy.ea8 · 2019-06-14T15:13:25.245Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

Hunger and Public Action by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze


Demographic and human capital scenarios for the 21st century


comment by aarongertler · 2019-06-14T05:13:40.092Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for asking this question! We like having brief questions like this on the Forum as a way to easily gather knowledge from a lot of different users.

However, I strongly recommend that anyone who wants to write a question post like this use our "Ask Question" feature. You can find that option right above the "New Post" button. It lets you create a specialized post with space for two different types of response (answers, and comments on the question that aren't answers). Here's an example [EA · GW].

comment by G Gordon Worley III (gworley3) · 2019-06-12T18:29:13.669Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

Although related, EA has grown and includes many people who don't share the rationalist/LW most prevalent among EAs concerned with x-risk, so LessWrong and especially the Sequences are probably worth mentioning.

comment by anonymous_ea · 2019-06-12T20:27:28.996Z · score: 5 (4 votes) · EA · GW

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality can be for inspiring an EA-like mood, as well as for introducing the idea of thinking ways that can be helpful for EAs (although some ways of thinking that end up being effectively promoted are anti-EA to varying degrees).

comment by arikr · 2019-06-11T22:29:58.129Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · EA · GW

My suggestions so far:

  • “The Secret of Our Success” https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/ZpuYSQaLd5uMEoSxK/link-book-review-the-secret-of-our-success-or-slate-star
  • “Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/FuztztEKAAfWqpYTY/link-why-generalists-triumph-in-a-specialized-world

Other suggestions and brief summary of what you'll get out of them:

  • “SPIN Selling” and “To Sell is Human.” Sales seems to be an often undervalued but important skill, these are good "how" and "why" books, respectively.
  • “Feeling Good Together” about why marriage counseling generally doesn’t work and how to have good relationships
  • “Why We Sleep” about the benefits of sleep
  • “Trust Surrender Receive” about MDMA and how many of our challenges come via trauma
  • “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” about how to enable a team to be productive and collaborate well
  • “Don’t Shoot The Dog” about reinforcement learning and animal training (you'll see positive and negative reinforcement everywhere after you read this book)
  • “How To Get Lucky” about how to be luckier and have more good things happen for you