Some books I found helpful...


Adams, Douglas The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Pan, 1979  Essential reading for anyone who doesn't yet know "the answer to the world, the universe and everything".

Adams, Richard Watership Down
Puffin, 1973
A major inspiration to me in revealing the limits to our perception of large numbers, through the eyes of an appealing colony of rabbits.

Blanchard, K and Johnson, S The One Minute Manager Berkeley Books, 1982
One minute is about the amount of time I have for modern management techniques — but provided you keep them in balance there are lots of good ideas here.

Living with Risk The British Medical Association Guide John Wiley, 1987
A well illustrated guide to putting the relative risks of modern life into rational perspective.

Capra, Fritjof The Tao of Physics Flamingo 1976
The classic account of the extraordinary parallels between contemporary physics and traditional Eastern Mysticism. Typically, I read the sequel, The Turning Point Flamingo, 1983 first.

Dawkins, Richard The Blind Watchmaker
Another highly accessible book by a prominent scientist. Intended to be a definitive answer to those who question Darwinian evolution it incorporates some of the most beautiful descriptions ever written of the incredible refinement of biological systems.

de Bono, Edward Lateral Thinking Penguin 1970
De Bono's ideas only seem obvious when you know them. The richness and variety of his insights into the generation of new ideas is itself indicative of their efficacy. I always find his books stimulating. e.g. Teaching Thinking Pelican, 1994

Eliot, George Middlemarch Penguin Classics (originally 1871)
I read Middlemarch relatively recently but before the television dramatisation and was fascinated to find that George Eliot had been thinking about the impact of technology on human values more than a century ago. What's more she knew the answers.

Ellul, Jacques The Technological Society Vintage 1964 (Originally La Technique ou l'enjou du siècle 1954)
Jacques Ellul was a professor in the Faculty of Law at Bordeaux University who had been a leader of the French Resistance. His book describes what he saw as the tragedy of a civilisation in which traditional human values were being relentlessly usurped by the alien forces of technique. He may have been too gloomy and overstated his case, but I'm not sure.

Evans, Christopher The Mighty Micro Victor Gollancz, London 1979
I include this out of nostalgia because it was the book which more than any other introduced the British public to the computer revolution, just in time for the Sinclair ZX80, a real computer for £99!

Feynman, Richard P Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character. Bantam, 1986.
Nobel prize-winning theoretical physicist, bongo drummer, painter of nudes, adventurer, teacher, storyteller — a true generalist and one of the great personalities of theoretical physics describes an astonishingly varied selection of incidents from his personal and scientific life with boyish glee.

Gleick, James Chaos Heineman 1988
There is much more to chaos theory than pretty patterns and butterflies’ wings affecting the weather on Mars; it is fundamental to the emerging understanding of the relations between causes and effects. Good material if you believe that the world can’t be modelled in simple formulae.

Gould, Steven Jay Wonderful Life - The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History Hutchinson Radius 1990
A fascinating account of recent fossil discoveries that confounded all expectations and showed that there was a vastly greater diversity of life forms when animals first began to emerge than there is today, most of the prototypes having been eliminated by natural selection. Gould goes on to a typically far-reaching discussion of how new things in general develop. His books of essays are also excellent.

Gribben, John In Search of Schrödinger's Cat Corgi, 1984
A brilliantly lucid account of quantum physics by a scientist and professional writer. Purely as a historical account of the emergence of a fantastic new idea it makes for thrilling reading. As an account of how the scientific community now view the world we live in it is more stimulating and astonishing than any fiction.

Hawking, Stephen A Brief History of Time Bantam,
It is sometimes thought smart to say that this is the best seller nobody finishes. Nobody, however, quite manages to shrug off the symbolism of someone who can't speak explaining such profundities so clearly. Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays Bantam, 1993 is also a fascinating read.

Levi, Primo The Periodic Table Abacus, London 1986
A work of superb artistry by a chemist who survived Auschwitz. Levi gives us deft little glimpses of his world in astonishingly contrasted chapters — each taking a different chemical element as its theme. A major inspiration.

Magee, Brian Popper Fontana, London, 1973
Not just a concise and lucid account of the work of a man whom Sir Peter Medawer, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, described as, ‘incomparably the greatest philosopher of science that has ever been’, but an illustration of how a skilful writer can make knowledge accessible to people who haven’t the time or energy to plough through the original texts.

Mill, John Stuart On Liberty Penguin Classics (Originally 1859)
‘The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others...’ The classic account of the importance of individual liberty.

Morrell, David The Art of General Practice Livingstone, 1965
Of the descriptions of general practice I have come across, this is the one I most consistently identify with.

Munthe, Axel The Story of San Michele
An extraordinarily poetic autobiography by an outstanding doctor and man, which enjoyed great popularity earlier this century. The autonomy society allowed to such practitioners in the past obviously stimulated some to greatness, whilst it undeniably allowed others to sink.

Parkinson, C Northcote Parkinson's Law or The Pursuit of Happiness John Murray, 1958
Funny and readable. 'Parkinson’s law' is now part of our language but we haven’t learned a thing.

Penrose, Roger The Emperor's New Mind - concerning computers, minds, and the laws of physics Vintage, 1990
Roger Penrose’s classic argument, using impeccable science, that there are elements of mystery in the workings of the human mind which distinguish it fundamentally from any machine we can conceive of constructing. Reading it I was conscious that I had reached the same conclusion from an entirely different approach.

Philip Rhodes The Value of Medicine George Allen and Unwin, 1976
A scholarly, thoughtful and unusually objective account by a doctor of the purpose of medicine in the modern world. Professor Rhodes was Dean of St Thomas’s Hospital and later of the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Adelaide. He was the first to encourage my efforts towards this book when he later became Postgraduate Dean at Southampton Medical School.

Pirsig, Robert M Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
An indescribable exploration of the interface between art and technology. My copy has got green high-lighter on almost every page — would whoever I lent it to please let me have it back! I also enjoyed Lila - an inquiry into morals, Pirsig’s eagerly awaited second book which appeared in 1991.

Skrabanek, Petr and McCormick, James Follies and Fallacies in Medicine Tarragon Press, 1990
A brilliant, sustained and funny assault on fashionable but unscientific preoccupations in medicine. Rare common sense.

Stoppard, Tom Hapgood Faber and Faber, 1988
Act 1 scene 2 of this rather baffling play contains a brilliantly lucid account of the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics — which Richard Feynman described as the only mystery. I include this as another example of how we can gain understanding from a blend of art and science.

Toffler, Alvin The Third Wave Pan, 1980
Toffler followed Future Shock (which I didn’t read) with this detailed analysis of where a society goes when it no longer needs most of its members to be working in industry.

Wood, Barbara Alias Papa - A Life of Fritz Schumaker Oxford Paperbacks, 1984
The brilliant economist who left Hitler’s Germany before the outbreak of war because, unlike his family and friends (and Time magazine), he could not accept what was being done to truth. Originally the epitome of an establishment figure, he was one of the intellectual giants whose authority formed the backbone of the alternative world view as it emerged in the early nineteen seventies.

Having decided to include this list I found I could make it neither short nor complete — two corollaries from what I have said in the text. Thus, although I have included most of the books I have read carefully and found helpful, I am sure I’ve forgotten others and left out far more into which I only dipped. I have not attempted to include countless magazine and newspaper articles (for example I have subscribed to New Scientist weekly for most of my adult life). Nor items gleaned from radio, television or other media. Nor the professional books and journals which are the staple of my trade. I haven’t mentioned the many, massive computer manuals that have taught me a succession of languages and programs over the past fourteen years, nor the books about design, gardening, music and all the other things that have contributed to my life. Finally, the reader may be surprised to learn that I have read a little about writing, language, and English.





Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Our Distorted
View of the World

Chapter 3
The Distorted View of the Specialist

Chapter 4
The Myth of the Ideal World

Chapter 5

Chapter 6
Everything in Life is Relative

Chapter 7

Chapter 8
The Ocean of Congruity

Chapter 9
Making Progress

Chapter 10
Nature Favours the Generalist

Chapter 11
Good Intentions

Chapter 12

Chapter 13