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Brian's Bookshelf

"Yeah, I'm Brian. I'm the Blinkered Empiricist. (Oh, and I like purple!)"

Science and Maths - thinking, origins, and nature. Key authors: Dennett, Hofstadter, Jaynes, Penrose

Nature - plants, and where they grow; ethnobotany

Photography & Light - how to see and take pictures

Music - the music of the spheres, and some ordinary music as well

Words - words in theory and practice, from Pinker to Safire

This & That - almost all nonfiction; food and fun


As described in the "Commercial" bit, I get a commission from Amazon for any books you buy from them through my website. Apart from that, I have no financial interest in the book business.

Commercial corner

In Association with Amazon.com Amazon.co.jp Associate
Get Japanese books from Amazon.co.jp. Here's the Guide for non-Japanese readers.

I'm happy to recommend Amazon.com for buying books online. So happy, I've entered into this neat agreement so that if you buy books from them by clicking on buttons on my site I get a modest commission.
You can click on the logo above to go to their home page, or use the search boxes below to find any book. But I hope you'll want to read my recommendations!

The stuff about this deal is all in the open, of course - it's at Amazon.com associates.

NB Any purchase you make at Amazon.com is between you and them, under the normal conditions. Please check that you have indeed arrived at the book you expected. If you click on my "Daniel Dennett" link which I've screwed up, and accidentally purchase* "Knitting your goldfish a willy-warmer" don't expect me to make a refund. (Actually, Amazon will, I think.) Any prices I mention are rough guides, based on what I paid, wherever, whenever. Don't assume the current price will be the same. Although I think Amazon.com generally give a good deal on in-print books, obviously I can't guarantee they have the best price on any particular book.

* Read about one I bought by accident

Where to look for books...

First and foremost: Your Local Bookshop (or bookstore, or honyasan, or libreria, or whatever.)

They won't be able to compete with Amazon on price or range, but they'll have the real smelly-paper objects, that you can handle. And you'll always find things you weren't looking for. Other than that, here are a few suggestions, particularly aimed at people like me who don't have an English-language bookshop close at hand.

USA Daedalus books offers many exceptional bargains: high quality books at remaindered prices, and a good range of CDs as well. I recommend getting the paper catalog. I haven't actually used the website, but by all accounts it's not particularly friendly. (Specially recommended for Brits who are unlikely to be able to browse in an American bookstore.)

USA Strand Bookstore - I believe they have no website. Like Daedalus, they will send you a paper catalog (a copy I have here boasts "8 miles of books"), and as with Daedalus, it keeps coming, whether you order books or not. How do these people stay in business? They have some general bargains, and are good for the arts and collector's books. Email them strand@strandbooks.com or contact by fax at +1 212 473 2591 to ask for a catalog.
Update February 2001 It seems Strand do now have a website, at www.strandbooks.com.

UKThe Good Book Guide has been producing a regular magazine of book reviews for some twenty years, I think. I subscribed for a number of years, until I found I simply had more books to read than time to read them. It costs around 25 pounds a year for twelve issues: this is much more than a catalogue, containing a large number of mini-reviews and some longer articles. It's very rare in my experience for them to recommend a book which turns out a dud. Having some difficulty tracking down their website at the moment ... update later.




Can there be anyone left on the planet who hasn't heard of "Earth's biggest bookstore"?
I have found them a good place to get books, but I also think they provide a tremendous resource, most of all with the Readers' Reviews: one of the best places to find opinions possibly totally different from mine. (Honestly, I think this was the reason I thought it worthwhile putting together the links to individual books.) It's also very easy to look at other books by the same author, or other books purchased by people who bought the book you're looking at. For better or for worse, the original USA Amazon.com and the UK offshoot are completely independent. That is, you'll find different editions, different reader comments, and different prices for the same book. Amazon.co.jp, on the other hand, sells both Japanese and foreign books, but the whole site is basically in Japanese only (Amazon.co.jp help).

Want an out-of-print book?
This is the time to turn away from Amazon, and look for an independent bookseller - in some ways this is the aspect of the book business the Internet has had the largest effect on: now if there are seven copies of a rare book and seven people in the world who want to read it, they can find each other.

Canadaabebooks.com aka ABE. ABE are one of several outfits that act as clearing-houses for independent booksellers, so you can find someone who wants to sell the book, and contact them directly, or buy through ABE. I've now made a number of successful purchases through ABE, though in the end the service you get will depend on the individual bookshop at the other end.
I've provided ABE search boxes with the keywords already filled in: just click "Go" to search. You can also modify the keywords for a different search.

For completeness, here are a couple more used book search sites. My not-very-systematic comparisons, searching for a particular book, suggest that ABE may have the biggest selection. To a certain extent (like dictionaries) they all feed off each other, but for hard-to-find books, you may as well try them all.

What's with all the flags?
I think it's often helpful to know where bookshops are or where authors come from. Sometimes it may be easier to get a British-published book from Amazon.co.uk, or an American one from Amazon.com. This can also work in reverse, as it were. Several very good books I've had from Daedalus have turned out to be the American edition of a British book, which basically didn't cross the Atlantic very well, and got remaindered. Also, though I think this is changing, US prices are often very significantly lower, as when computer books in particular get marked up at £1=$1.

Note about CRC Press and intellectual terrorism

The immensely useful MathWorld website by Eric Weisstein mathworld.wolfram.com is at least for the time being unavailable, because of a terrorist lawsuit brought by CRC Press. Basically, having agreed to publish a paper version of his website, without (obviously) mentioning this in advance, they then turned round and claimed the website infringed their copyright. Any links to MathWorld give the same page, where you can read details. I urge you very strongly not to buy any books at all from this publisher.

November 2001

The MathWorld website is now available again, though it appears that Weisstein has been forced by these dishonest thugs to hand over a copyright of all future contributions to the website, and has also paid them money in order to get his own website back. I see no reason ever to do business with them - it is also a warning never to sign a contract without reading it very carefully.


Searching for books

Just type keywords in the box - usually the main words of the title and the author's surname. At Amazon.com you can also type in the ISBN, if you know it, with or without hyphens.

Search at Amazon.com:
Search for out of print books at ABE:


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