Top-notch essays, blogs, and other reading

UPDATED 16 Jan ’14


I really like reading certain blogs* online. Specifically, my favorites tend to be ones that (a) are written by a single author with a lot of life experience, and (b) where each entry is more or less standalone and about a topic, rather than a “life update”, “news update” or even an advertisement for some other thing (“hey look at this cool weight loss/time-saving tool”). I just finished a tech internship where I spent a lot of time reading such blogs. Here are some of my favorites:

Paul Graham:

Paul Graham’s famous in the Silicon Valley startup world, but I was only barely familiar with him when I moved out to San Francisco. I hear he’s really good at Lisp and at seeding startups via Y Combinator, but as far as I’m concerned, his biggest contribution to the world is through his essays. By this point, I think I’ve actually read all ~150 of his essays. A handful of my favorites: Writing, BrieflyHow to Do What You LoveYou Weren’t Meant to Have a BossHackers and Painters (I often underestimate how good this one in between re-reads) — Why Nerds are Unpopular  — Lies We Tell Kids — What You Can’t Say  — Good and Bad Procrastination

Joel on Software:

Joel Spolsky (Microsoft Excel, Fog Creek Software, Stack Overflow) is another big name in the software world after Paul Graham, but he focuses more on the nuts-and-bolts of how to make good software, how to build good teams, how to engineer things well, how to have a positive and productive environment. He doesn’t go into the history-changing stuff that Paul meanders into. He’s also a lot funnier! Some favorites highlighted:

The Joel Test — Getting Things Done When You’re Only A Grunt (SO useful in my current position, and I’ll look to it as I play the “long game”)– Strategy Letter III: Let Me Go Back —  Things You Should Never Do, Part I (a great treatise on a big software development mistake) — The Law of Leaky Abstractions — and many other good ones.

The UnStudent:  

Mikhail Klassen has great ideas about how grad school is like entrepreneurship. See his manifesto: and his summary on astrobetter:

Nomadic Matt:

For my 22 day trip to Europe, I depended on Nomadic Matt for all of my questions and intuition, and I was not disappointed. One good article of a jillion:

Matt Might:

Perspectives on academia that I find really down-to-earth. Some favorites:

Stephen Bond:

“Why I’m no longer a skeptic”: a really insightful analysis of unchecked privilege masquerading as solidarity.

“Ender’s game”: on gratification, and similar these as above.


Other Essays —

Atul Gawande‘s blogs are some of the best things I have ever read. Please sit down and read these two if you have gotten this far: Slow Ideas and Letting Go

A Mathematician’s Lament: Paul Lockhart wrote this essay

Politics and the English Language, George Orwell

Cargo Cult Science, Richard Feynman

Edward Murrow‘s speech, 1958:

Mr. X (Carl Sagan) — interesting, but I can’t confirm any of it yet:


I would love for the comments section to fill up with other readings that you have found meaningful. Please leave comments letting me know what you liked and what I might like!


* In this context, “blog” means any website that contains content that has been added to over time in discrete chunks, regardless of its platform or how it looks. Wikis, news aggregators, other things are excluded.

One Response to “ “Top-notch essays, blogs, and other reading”

  1. tom says:

    It just occurred to me that every single author I reference above is male; most are male and white.

    So in my quest for perspective, I’ve somehow shoehorned myself into a small corner of the human experience. Readers, if you can help me broaden my reading horizons here, I’d be incredibly grateful.

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