These are the things that have most influenced my work and thinking; the things that I return to and share with others again and again.
Rare words, sentences entangled and translated, prose wrought and wrangled, ridiculous rhymes.
An obvious classic I read only recently — it blew me away with its majestic language and vortex of ideas.
One of the greatest hip-hop albums ever, perfect for the effortless chill (belying technical mastery) of both its beats and bravura lyrics.
What it is: a writing community? A strange wiki? An experiment in collective publishing. Yes! Also, one of teenage-me's favorite places to read random things.
Incredible piece about unusual, delightful words used to describe the natural world.
Wonderful book by Doug Hofstadter about obsession with language and translation (and much more accessible than GEB).
Love language? You'll love this website — it's chock full of crazy collections of words wonderful and obscure.
Not rap's, or even Eminem's best effort — but listening to this burned CD-R on repeat shaped my middle school rhyme-fiend aspirations.
Opening up a landscape of technical possibility and complexities of the world.
I've found no other book as (relatively) old and short as this one that's as packed full with creativity; it takes big ideas and makes them at once fun and comprehensible — no mean feat!
Idea ”that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain the conditions for life on the planet.” Helpful new perspective on the world and our place it in.
Fascinating deep dive into the possibilities, and potential implications, of plant intelligence.
An amazing true-crime hacker mystery; the first book that introduced me to the strange magic of computers and those who can manipulate them.
Super cool project writeup, involving both the “archaeology of writing” (fascinating in its own right) and the intricate technical challenges and evolution of a tricky engineering problem.
“A system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself.” This idea of a self-contained, self-perpetuating system has fascinating implications for evolutionary and computational biology.
Clear and concise introduction to the power of systems thinking.
See also: Complex system.
“The study of sound within a landscape or seascape and its effect on organisms…[and] how…different sound sources interact across spatial scales and through time.” I love the idea of studying scientifically the effects of something largely invisible and relegated to the background.
Recollections and reconceptions, spine-tingling awe-inpiring mind-expanding fruits of multifold imaginations.
Of the several fantasy series (Harry Potter; Redwall, Narnia) I read as a kid, this trilogy holds up best. Incredibly fun and inventive.
My introduction to magical realism and Latin American literature; read at the end of high school, still a favorite.
The original transmedia dopeness? Virtuosic animation + the most classic of classical music = an awe-inspiring image-sound experience.
Wonderful remembrance of a secret childhood world, and meditation on things that live in our equally fragile technologies and imaginations.
Both virtuosic creative writing and conceptual brilliance woven from short vignettes about imagined cities.
The album that really made me “get” jazz. A perfect emotive storm, a mood-enveloping time-stopping touchstone.
My sister's all-time favorite and thus a film I've watched more times than any other; a fantastical journey embedded in my psyche.
An album full of genius songs, a thirty-minute mystifying music-vid indulgence, and the establishment of a mad genius.
Generating interesting work, synthesizing fruits of past and present, and pushing things forth out into the world.
If you want to write consistently, this single piece of advice (mixed with a dab of habit-building persistence) will get you most of the way there — a simple yet essential tool.
Short introduction to the unique brand of creative synthesis and academic collaboration/invention that goes on at the MIT Media Lab.
Today this would be “kid with an iPhone”; nearly a century ago it was a masterwork of motion-picture collage, self-reflective filmic statement, and moving portrait of a living city.
Short but important manifesto for doing work that actually matters.
The timeless classic hip-hop version of above; the samples and combinations more subtle, seamlessly woven.
See also: Girl Talk — Feed the Animals.
Great introduction to the important (if practically problemetic and inevitably-internal-conflict-inducing) concept of effective altruism.
Awesome short overview of how exploring the edges of ideas leads us to new ones.
It's okay to let your ideas die or languish, even good ones. This collection of one brilliant writer's abandoned projects is both comforting and tantalizing.
Speculation, worldbuilding, radical thinking about our collective future.
Foundation fostering long-term thinking; home to a great seminar series and several fascinating ongoing projects changing how we think about time, and how we can preserve knowledge, language, nature and more.
See also: Clock of the Long Now
“A neologism for a futuristic object, characteristic to the Internet of Things, that can be tracked through space and time throughout its lifetime. They are essentially virtual master objects that can, at various times, have physical incarnations of themselves.” Blurring lines between single objects and their Platonic ideals; confounding ideas of manufacturing and persistence.
Proposing a new nonfiction genre of pieces on awe-inspiring large-scale infrastructure and logistics: the “systemic sublime”.
Genre-defying brilliance, introducing me to unexpected insight and intrigue threaded throughout the world.
Hard to categorize, this memoir-cum-travelogue chronicles Cortazar's strange highway-bound road trip adventure.
One of the only cassette tapes I owned; an early introduction to the sweet and wacky melding of jazz and hip-hop.
“Cultural laboratory re-imagining possible futures at the interstices of art, science, nature and everyday life.” There's a wealth of weird cool stuff here; it's hard to describe so…just dig in!
First baffling, then brilliant; opened the door for me to see the power of nonlinear narrative and the potential rewards in expectations confused and reconfigured.
Proof that hip-hop is not one thing, but many, marvelous ones, inhabited by dazzling varieties of genius.
“An absurdist, pseudo-scientific literary trope…One attempt at a definition might be to say that ‘pataphysics is…the science of imaginary solutions.” Hilariously perplexing and intriguing Oulipean philosophy!
See also: Oulipo.
A quintessentially weird film, in which space and sound as much as image paint a strange and satisfying world.
“An unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” One of my favorite activities!
See also: Psychogeography.
Amazing blog on urbanism and architecture and the built environment, but also the fascinating intersections of those fields with things like literature, technology, and more.
See also: Cryptoforests and Spatial Folklore.
Machinations of business; vectors of transaction; the how and why of making a living in useful and sustainable ways (or trying to!)
Incredible look at eight ways to create value with digital products in a world of infinite abundance.
Patrick is a prolific writer on topics from software development to online business to content marketing to career advice; his material is pretty uniformly precise, thorough, and helpful.
I love writing that catalogs or taxonomizes an interesting concept, and this is one of the best, mapping out a fascinating variety of forms of capital (and corresponding currencies) far beyond our usual conception of the term.
“A system of organization where the elements of the organization are unranked (non-hierarchical) or where they possess the potential to be ranked a number of different ways.” Sort of the less annoying generalized idea behind something like holacracy. I love thinking about how abstract structures can be articulated and mapped out in useful ways.
Of many Kickstarter advice synopses, this is probably the best concise once I've read, from a company with a nice variety of simply yet highly successful products.
Great news board / discussion forum with a focus on technology and entrepreneurship.
See also: YCombinator's “Requests for Startups”.
“A multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change [that] emphasizes the world-system (and not nation states) as the primary (but not exclusive) unit of social analysis.” Unusual way of thinking about the complex economic relationships that permeate the world.
Peeking beneath the surfaces, structures, and assumptions of how things are made and displayed.
Beautiful look at designing for the web — assumptions, challenges, and possibilities for building on the world's most important, flexible, and oft-vexing medium.
Maybe the coolest personal portfolio site ever — and on top of that, full of tremendously important thinking about design, tool-making, creativity, and understanding complex systems.
See also: Explorable Explanations.
See also: Up and Down the Ladder of Abstraction.
Interesting look at game design principles through types of fun and types of players.
“In medieval Latin…a compilation of excerpts from other writings…literally a gathering of flowers, or collection of fine extracts from the body of a larger work.” Evocative word holding some part of the interesting origins of collaged and compiled writing.
Into the weeds with an insanely detailed speculative investigation of how world-class physical product manufacture actually happens. Best “how the sausage is made” post I can think of.
Lots of great work and thoughtful essays around publishing, photography, digital creation and more.
See also: Subcompact Publishing.
See also: Post-Artifact Books and Publishing.
“A graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art.” Interesting rhetorical device; calls to mind the work of Sol Lewitt and various transmedia experiments. Love the simple idea of evoking one type of thing via another.
First example I can recall of an entirely new (old!) approach to set-design and filmscape aesthetics; still striking.
See also: M.
“A theory of communication and social semiotics [that] describes communication practices in terms of the textual, aural, linguistic, spatial, and visual resources - or modes - used to compose messages.” Useful way of thinking about how we can design and create by combining different modes of communication.
Thinking about living; thinking about thinking; analyzing and annotating oneself and sharing the process with others.
It would be too easy to call Ben Franklin a genius; more importantly, he was a man who was good at not only thinking, but going from ideas to reality.
See also: Junto (club).
Awesome personal catalog of ideas, beliefs, and more. Also includes his own “personal canon”! Super-well-realized ongoing open-source reflection; a useful template for us all.
Ostensibly about improvisational theater; but also actually about education, creativity, and much more from a very creative and perceptive teacher.
A blog post, a journal entry, a notebook, a brilliant example of thinking out loud, collecting reflections on business and creativity into something special.
Collected reading and writing notes, both wonderfully presented and expertly curated.
Great example of an awesome “personal canon”; inspiration for this very page!
Great example of a personal meta-website, with other sites and projects that unfold upon closer exploration, from someone who happens to have a very many interesting projects.
Timeline of a life in writing with powerful thoughts on learning, mentorship, and pursuing creative work.
Exploring interesting things with other interesting people.
Conceptually dense, self-referential, always intriguing, and home to both one of the web's consistently great thinkers and (more recently) a bevy of thought-provoking guest posts.
See also: The Calculus of Grit.
See also: The Epic Story of Container Shipping.
A “front porch for the Internet” and awesome community and associated website for people to share memories, reflections, and conversation.
See also: A Community of Possibilities.
Great advice on creating great events, from some of the best in the “creating great events” business.
One of the single most impressive creative projects I've encountered, both for its remarkable scope and vision, and the cool ecosystem developed around it to share Paul's findings.
Awesome premise: a self-directed community for pursuing higher learning; very inspirational to how I think about “Self Starter's Guide” and my own learning goals.
“Freely-flowing group conversation in which participants attempt to reach a common understanding…” Interesting framework for productive group interactions — learning, communicating, problem-solving and more.
One of the all-time great group blogs, by a cadre a whip-smart and highly creative writer-thinkers. Its output has waned in recent years, but remains home to several of my all-time favorite ideas.
See also: the future of media? bet on events.
See also: the art of working in public.
See also: what are the new liberal arts?.
See also: stock and flow.