I can has engineer-mind?
March 23, 2008 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Any good books to help develop an analytic mind?

I'm finding myself in a place where I've got some energy to devote to being more mentally well-rounded.
Being able to understand engineering, or investing, or law, it doesn't necessarily matter.
Any books/other resources that you read and found helpful to continue developing your thinking skills to solve problems.
posted by lilithim to Education (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
This may be more general than you had in mind. You might take a look at Asking the Right Question: A Guide To Critical Thinking. (Earlier editions are widely available, used, at bargain prices.) Disclaimer: I bought it on the recommendation of an engineering management professor but have not read much of it yet. However, I learned some important things about critical thinking from him and see many of the same themes in this book.

In the same vein, you may find value in this AskMe question about critical thinking.

I will be interested in the more specific subject matter recommendations to follow...
posted by Snerd at 10:52 AM on March 23, 2008

When I was about 20-years-old I received a subscription to Skeptic magazine. It definitely helped me calibrate my bullshit detector and learn quite a bit about critical and scientific thinking. I haven't touched an issue in 10-years, but hopefully it's still just as good. You can usually find them at any good newsstand, or barring that, Barnes and Noble.
posted by wfrgms at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2008

Martin Gardner's collections of his "Mathematical Games" columns are a very good place to start.
posted by Class Goat at 11:21 AM on March 23, 2008

How to Solve It is a great book about general problem-solving techniques (despite the word "mathematical" in the full title). I find myself applying his heuristics to all sorts of situations:

What is the unknown?
What is the data?
Do you know a related problem?
posted by findango at 12:37 PM on March 23, 2008

2nd "Mathematical Games", add Godel, Escher, Bach and Metamagical Themas. Might make your head explode. Any Edward Tufte. These books get your brain a'thinking.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:06 PM on March 23, 2008

Inevitable Illusions by Massimo Piatelli-Palmerini. I tried unsuccesfully to find a link. I liked the book and it was on how easy it is to fool the mind and think illogically. Easy to read, if you can find it.
posted by francesca too at 2:17 PM on March 23, 2008

I think a book like Freakonomics might help, the author looks at ordinary, average things and illustrates the most bizzare connections and ideas.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:32 PM on March 23, 2008

"Conjectures and Refutations" by Karl Popper.
posted by eccnineten at 3:41 PM on March 23, 2008

An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald Weinberg is a good one.

From Amazon: "Originally published in 1975 and reprinted more than twenty times over a quarter century -- and now available for the first time from Dorset House Publishing -- the text uses clear writing and basic algebraic principles to explore new approaches to projects, products, organizations, and virtually any kind of system.

Scientists, engineers, organization leaders, managers, doctors, students, and thinkers of all disciplines can use this book to dispel the mental fog that clouds problem-solving. As author Gerald M. Weinberg writes in the new preface to the Silver Anniversary Edition, "I haven’t changed my conviction that most people don’t think nearly as well as they could had they been taught some principles of thinking.”
posted by frankie_stubbs at 4:56 PM on March 23, 2008

Game Theory by Morton Davis is also one I thought was helpful.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 5:10 PM on March 23, 2008

Books by Raymond Smullyan have interesting logic puzzles that are great mental exercises, they are lean more towards rational reasoning than critical thinking though.
posted by phyrewerx at 6:04 PM on March 23, 2008

Seconding Raymond Smullyan -- try What is the Name of this Book and Alice in Puzzleland.
posted by peacheater at 6:11 PM on March 23, 2008

Try reading John Allen Paulos: his book Innumeracy has a new edition out. You might also be amused by A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper .
posted by sgmax at 7:37 PM on March 23, 2008

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