Suggested Reading

by Tim O'Reilly
July 2003

Suggested, that is, if you want to understand my thinking. You might enjoy these books in any case!

  • Rissa Kerguelen, by F.M. Busby. A science-fiction book I read at about the time I was starting the company, and that influenced me deeply. One key idea is the role of entrepreneurship as a "subversive force." In a world dominated by large companies, it is the smaller companies that keep freedom alive, with economics at least one of the battlegrounds.

    Another critical idea is that of "the long view"--the idea that some developments take years, and that you cannot control them, but can set them in motion, gauge their direction, and meet up with them years later. (In the story, this view is enforced by the logistics of star travel at near-light speeds, with years elapsing on the outside while months elapse for the travellers.)

    This book gave me the courage to submerge myself in the details of a fundamentally trivial business (technical writing) and to let go of my earlier hopes of writing deep books that would change the world.

  • Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Witter Bynner. My personal religious philosophy, stressing the rightness of what is. "The way to do is to be."

  • Islandia, by Austin Tappan Wright. A utopian novel written in the 1930's, about an imaginary country where technology has not yet hastened the pace of life, and where people find time to nurture relationships and the land they live on. Also a novel of "the long view."

  • On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Not in the same exalted category as the other three books. I wouldn't say it influenced me at all, since my principles of writing were established long before I read it. However, it does capture many things that I believe about writing, and since we are currently in the writing business, it's a worthwhile read.