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Recommended Reading

Brodie, Richard. Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme (Integral Press, 1996). My own book, the first book published on the science of memetics. I highly recommend it, but then, I guess I'm a little biased. Warning: contains a live mind virus! You can read the introduction for free right now, or Click HERE to order paperback!

evolution of memes

Blackmore, Susan. The Meme Machine (Oxford, 1999). In the most exciting memetics book to come out in years, Susan Blackmore extends the memetics model back into its murky origins and out into an uncertain future. If there were just one really pithy idea in here to make me think about whole new applications of memetics, I'd tell you to buy this book. If it was just a fleshed-out summary of the best ideas in memetics, including Dennett's, Dawkins's, and my own, I'd tell you to buy this book. If it simply related the academic origins of cultural evolution to modern memetic theory, I'd tell you to buy this book. But Blackmore does all this and more. The Meme Machine is a must-read for anyone serious about memetics. Was the evolution of altruism, one of the most hotly debated topics in evolutionary biology, actually driven by meme evolution? Blackmore makes a case that it might have been. How about our big brains? More than just a survival aid, Blackmore shows how brain size selection might have been driven by -- you guessed it -- memes! This book is such a work of thought and love that I can even forgive Dr. Blackmore for dismissing my entire philosophy of life in two words (p. 241). As Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Blackmore's background in the study of parapsychology gives her a good step or two outside the ivory tower, which seems valuable to gain a healthy perspective on memetics. And she ends her book as I did mine, with an unavoidable inquiry into the meaning of life. If self is an illusion -- if ego is merely an artifact of evolution -- what is to be done? While she doesn't purport to come up with the answer, she, like me, suggests that we all ask ourselves the question. Click HERE to order hardcover!

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. The Evolving Self (HarperCollins, 1993). Dr. C presents his thoughts on the future as seen through the theory of memetic evolution, with some breakthrough ideas about how individuals can work alone or together to combat unchecked meme evolution. Together with his earlier book Flow, it gives abundant insight into the true secrets of existence. Click HERE to order paperback!

biological evolution

Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker (Norton, 1986). A convincing argument for evolution of species by natural selection, including merciless attacks on creationists and other non-Darwinian heretics. Click HERE to order paperback!

Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Basic Books, 1995). The executive summary of the state of the art in evolutionary biology. If you’ve only got a couple of hours to learn about evolution, this is the book to read. Click HERE to order paperback!

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene, New Edition (Oxford University Press, 1989). Brilliant explanation of the selfish-gene concept. The first book to describe the concept of the meme. Click HERE to order paperback!

Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Simon & Schuster, 1995). A lucid, thorough, and brilliant exploration of universal Darwinism: how evolution by natural selection can and does apply to all aspects of the universe. Click HERE to order paperback!

Plotkin, Henry. Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge (Harvard University Press, 1993). Meaty and intellectual exploration of the evolutionary basis of knowledge and learning, a subject known as evolutionary epistemology. Click HERE to order hardcover! Click HERE to order paperback!

computer evolution

Drexler, K. Eric. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (Anchor, 1987). The founder of the field of nanotechnology wrote this masterpiece, surely one of the best science books ever written on any subject. He even has a few paragraphs on memes! As you read this book, you find yourself drawn into Drexler's excitement about the technological utopia he predicts. We will live forever, be disease-free, and have nanomachines do everything for us. That is, until the nanoviruses appear... Click HERE to order paperback!

Levy, Steven. Artificial Life (Vintage Books, 1992). Levy presents a fascinating roundup of the state of the art in this new field of computer science, complete with interviews with some colorful personalities and their pet projects. A must for cyberculture groupies and followers of cutting-edge thought. Click HERE to order paperback!

evolutionary psychology

Bloom, Howard. The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995). A look at how memetic "superorganisms" evolve to take advantage of man's animal instincts, chief among them the "us-vs.-them" instinct. Comparing present society to past and primate, Bloom leaves us wondering if we've come very far and worrying about where we're going. Click HERE to order hardcover! Click HERE to order paperback!

Buss, David M. The Evolution of Desire (Basic Books, 1994). A clear exposition of the mating-strategy aspect of evolutionary psychology, backed up by impressive academic studies. Don't you want to know what the most effective tactics are for men and women at singles bars? They are quite different. Click HERE to order paperback!

Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology (Pantheon, 1994). Incisive examination of the divergent evolution of male and female mating strategies, combined with a biography of Darwin. Click HERE to order paperback!

men’s and women’s roles

Gray, John. Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus (HarperCollins, 1992). A practical, straightforward book explaining the differences in men’s and women’s needs and communication styles in relationships. Click HERE to order hardcover!

cultural viruses

Bulgatz, Joseph. Ponzi Schemes, Invaders from Mars, & More Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Harmony Books, 1992). Amazing stories of historical mind viruses. The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. Click HERE to order paperback!

Gage, Randy. How To Build A Multilevel Money Machine: The Science of Network Marketing (Gage Research, 1998). If you are in multi-level marketing (MLM), you probably already know about Randy Gage. He has analyzed, through firsthand experience, the factors necessary to be a success in what I predict is the business of the future, and they aren't necessarily what you might guess. Do you try to sell product first and only then recruit distributors? Randy says that's the wrong approach. Do you look for "natural" salesmen to put in your downline? Randy says don't do it! Surprising? Randy Gage understands the nature of the business and what it takes to succeed in it: self-replication. I don't know anyone writing about MLM who understands this better than Randy. Click HERE to order hardcover!

McKay, Charles et al. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Confusion De Confusiones (John Wiley & Sons, 1996). More mass hysteria and faddish mind viruses. This one is still in print. Click HERE to order paperback!

Rushkoff, Douglas. Media Virus! (Ballantine Books, 1994). Interesting exploration of the evolution of television and speculation on the use of Trojan horses to bundle hidden agendas with palatable memes. Click HERE to order paperback!

cults and programming

Butterfield, Stephen. Amway: The Cult of Free Enterprise (South End, 1985). An admittedly biased inside look at the world's most successful Multilevel Marketing (MLM) business, written by an ex-Amway member with a bitter taste in his mouth. Butterfield describes how the virus works in great detail, from the pressure to marry to the far-off dream of owning a Winnebago. Click HERE to order paperback!

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Revised Edition (Quill, 1993). Mind-boggling, easy-to-read book about psychological techniques being used every day to influence people’s minds. If you liked Chapter 8, you’ll love this book. This book, in fact is so useful and so easy to read that I almost didn't include it here because I didn't want people reading it and learning how to manipulate me better. But my good nature won out and I put it here so people could read it and see what they're up against. But if you're in sales or politics, do me a favor and don't read it. Click HERE to order paperback!

Hogan, Kevin. The Psychology of Persuasion: How To Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking (Pelican, 1996). If you're looking for an overview of how to manip—er, I mean influence people, or Chapter 7 of my Virus of the Mind ("How To Start a Cult") was your favorite, then you won't want to waste a moment before ordering hypnotherapy guru Kevin Hogan's outstanding book on the psychology of persuasion. If reading this doesn't make you hungry for more about NLP, brainwashing, sales trickery, and more I'll be surprised. This is a great first book on persuasion to read, and even if you think you know it all you may be surprised at the perspective Dr. Hogan puts on it. Click HERE to order hardcover!

Key, Wilson Brian. The Age of Manipulation: The Con in Confidence, The Sin in Sincere (Madison, 1993). Dr. Key's fourth book on subliminal advertising is worth the purchase price just for the pictures: liquor ads with blatantly obvious erect penises drawn into the stream of pouring gin, "sex" airbrushed into practically everywhere, and even a McDonalds ad with a hand dipping an unforgivably phallic "Chicken Tender" into sauce. Key hypothesizes that the male homosexual taboo is at play in many of these ads. When we perceive these images subliminally but repress them, he says, it creates an irrational attraction to the advertisement. He showed some of these ads to Inuits, almost all of whom saw the penises immediately and burst out laughing. Americans only saw the images immediately 5% of the time. Although Key doesn't use the word "meme," he is thinking along the memetic paradigm as he uses Madison Avenue's sneaky tactics to enlighten readers about the vulnerable nature of their minds. A well written and erudite book. Click HERE to order paperback!

McWilliams, Peter. Life 102: What to Do When Your Guru Sues You (Prelude Press, 1994). The author of several best-selling self-improvement books recounts the events that led to his being brainwashed into spending 15 years in and giving $1 million to a cult. If you've ever participated in any large-group awareness trainings (LGATs), you'll be stunned at what you recognize. Click HERE to order hardcover!


Cleary, Thomas. Unlocking the Zen Koan; A New Translation of the Zen Classic Wumenguan, 2nd ed. (North Atlantic, 1997). A superb explanation of Zen introduces a brilliant translation of the Wumenguan, the most famous book of Zen riddle-lessons. Thomas Cleary has a rare ability to explain Eastern thought to the Western mind, not by dumbing it down, but by wising us up. Highly, highly recommended. Click HERE to order paperback!

Hofstadter, Douglas R. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Basic, 1999). If you haven't read what some people consider the greatest book ever written, take the opportunity to buy your very own copy of the 20th anniversary edition of this Pulitzer-prize-winning classic of art, science and philosophy. It's difficult to imagine anyone reading this masterpiece and not becoming entranced by the beauty of science, the science of beauty, the Zen of illogic, the logic of Zen, and the mystical threads that weave together the life of even the most rational of skeptics. This is one of my favorite books of all time. To quote futurist and boy genius Eliezer Yudkowsky in his review of GEB: "It is a terrible thing to contemplate that 150,000 people die every day without having read this book. Don't let it happen to you.". Click HERE to order paperback!

Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Bantam, 1974). Autobiographical narrative of the author’s inquiry into the nature of reality, distinctions, and sanity. Starts like a travelogue, but takes a sharp turn into the philosophical in Chapter 6. Click HERE to order paperback!


Dennett, Daniel C. Consciousness Explained (Little, Brown, 1991). A masterwork about the nature of human thought with an excellent section on memes by one of the world's foremost philosophers and cognitive scientists. This book won The New York Times Book of the Year. Click HERE to order paperback!

Dennett, Daniel C. Kinds of Minds : Toward an Understanding of Consciousness (HarperCollins, 1996). If you find yourself tempted by the attractive but flawed ideas of "scientists" who talk about quantum physics, poetry, and consciousness all in the same breath, stop what you're doing right now and read this short masterpiece by one of the clearest thinkers on the planet. Dennett has made a career of ruthlessly debunking well-meaning writers who claim that, for whatever reason, Darwinism isn't sufficient to explain one aspect or another of evolution. Well, it is, and here's how. Click HERE to order hardcover!

Stewart, Ian and Cohen, Jack. Figments of Reality (Cambridge University Press, 1997). How could a game with such simple rules, such as evolution by natural selection, produce such complexity? Well, chess has simple rules and we still don't know a sure-fire way to play and win every game. The idea that simple rules may interact to produce wonderful complexity—"simplexity"—is only one of the brain-bending ideas authors Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart gush forth with in this rich and entertaining popular science book. The flip side of "simplexity" is "complicity"—a game where the very act of playing the game changes the rules. Hmm...this looks like evolution again! It's a wonderful exploration of the science behind evolution cast into many different allegories and scenarios, including comical heated discussions among the eight-sexed Zarathustrans, an invention of the authors that does beautifully at reflecting our own egocentric assumptions about the nature of reality -- and the figments of reality. Click HERE to order paperback!

life purpose

Brodie, Richard. Getting Past OK: A Straightforward Guide to Having a Fantastic Life (Warner Books, 1995). How to use the art of mental reprogramming to transform your quality of life, told through the author’s personal life experiences and illustrated with Eggbert cartoons. Click HERE to order paperback!

Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning (Washington Square Press, 1984). Moving, thoughtful, and persuasive argument for having a life purpose told through firsthand accounts of life in Nazi death camps. Click HERE to order paperback

Maslow, A.H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (Penguin, 1971). Very difficult reading about the nature of self-actualization and higher human values, but if you like authoritative credentials, you can’t get much better than Maslow’s. Click HERE to order paperback!


Asimov, Isaac. Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation (Bantam, reprint). In his Foundation Trilogy (later to be extended in additional books), the prolific science fiction/fact writer Isaac Asimov told a story of a small group of people who secretly steered the course of history using technology that we would now recognize as an outgrowth of memetics. By recognizing group psychology and the effect of various memes on populations, they were able (Asimov creates) to shorten the intergalactic Dark Ages by millennia. Is such a thing possible? We are seeing the beginnings of attempts at memetic engineering today. Advertisers are designing memes that are becoming fairly effective at penetrating populations, in hope that they will carry with them a message influencing consumer buying behavior. Have you heard someone say "I love ya, man!" lately? Anheuser-Busch is delighted if you have. More broadly, I'm seeing a steady trickle of organizations copying and mutating successful Profit Viruses (MLMs) and Power Viruses (cults). It's an interesting question whether the population as a whole will ever build up an "immunity" to this kind of thing, or whether the evolutionary-psychology buttons of lust, power, fear, and so on are too powerful to overcome. Who knows? There may have been a small group of Illuminati steering us for millennia past without us even knowing... Click HERE to order Foundation! Click HERE to order Foundation and Empire Click HERE to order Second Foundation! (all paperback).

Barnes, John. Kaleidoscope Century (Tor, 1996). It's the (not-so?) far future and Earth has been transformed into a battleground for viruses of the mind, commonly known as Memes with a capital M. Our hero and his fellow commandos work as mercenaries in the employ of one Meme or another, surfing through life as they struggle to re-create memories periodically lost to them--the price they pay for a secret treatment that gives them eternal youth. Can an all-American boy find love and happiness in a universe where an innocent conversation may leave you infected by a mind virus such as One True, doomed to spend the rest of your existence in its service? Not the tightest or best SF ever written, but a graphic illustration of one possible outcome of meme evolution. Click HERE to order paperback!

Halperin, James L. The Truth Machine (Ballantine, 1996). First-time author Jim Halperin knows how to spread memes. He first put the entire text of this speculative novel on the Web as freeware, then micropublished The Truth Machine himself in hardcover (doing an excellent job, I must say) prior to Random House making his baby their lead title for Fall '96. Now Warner Brothers has bought the movie rights. What's the magic of this book? For the memeticist, anything dealing with a fundamental change in the way ideas are communicated is prime reading material. Halperin builds an all-too-credible future around the premise of the invention of an infallible lie detector. (Trenchantly, the Truth Machine's creator is not just any inventor but the world's greatest computer programmer. It stands to reason that such a device would be largely software. And it's about time us programmers got something - we've had a hell of a time!) Halperin's style reminds me of a cross between Heinlein and Crichton. His main strength is the believability of the near-future setting, complete with amusing "news bulletins" about future current events. Neither plot nor characters are complex, but this is definitely a can't-put-it-down novel, as the societal and personal forces set in motion by the invention of the Truth Machine play out to their climax in a Hellenic foreordainment. Click HERE to order hardcover!

Halperin, James L. The First Immortal (Del Rey, 1998) You can tell right away that James L. Halperin's second novel is a winner if you flip to the back and see "Virus of the Mind" in his list of recommended reading. Any believable account of the future must be based on a solid understanding of what makes ideas spread. In this, Halperin succeeds. The First Immortal is a shockingly believable account of a future in which people live essentially forever, thanks to cryonics (freezing one's body) and nanotechnology. As the likelihood of resuscitation from freezing grows, the idea of preserving one's body in hopes of eventual revival becomes less and less loony. I finished this book seriously thinking about getting myself frozen. Halperin's writing has matured and you'll find The First Immortal as fast-paced as his first novel The Truth Machine but with considerably richer characters. An unapologetic optimist, he paints a scintillating utopian picture of the future - perhaps enough to launch the cryonics meme into full orbit. Click HERE to order hardcover!

Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash (Spectra, 1993). More than a dozen people recommended this science-fiction novel to me as a work of fiction dealing with memes, so I finally read it. I .have to say it's one of the best SF novels I have ever read. Stephenson really seems to grok viruses of the mind, and paints a future in which cultural viruses such as franchising, religious cults, pizza delivery, and the Mafia have spread wildly at the expense of today's laws and governments. Meanwhile, is someone trying to come up with the perfect designer virus that will allow them to take over the world? This fast-paced, literate story is a must-read. Click HERE to order paperback!

Stephenson, Neal. The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (Bantam, 1996). I haven't been a Fan of anyone for a long time. But I am now officially a Neal Stephenson Fan. Stephenson, who is my age and lives in my town and whom I am looking forward to meeting as soon as both of us can clear our schedules sufficiently, is a Good Writer who Gets Memetics. Such folks are rare as a sunny day in Seattle in April, and as such ought to be cherished, nourished, and all their books bought by the dozen and given to everyone you know with more than three firing neurons left. The "Diamond Age" of the title refers to the diamond fibers used in building materials in the coming age of nanotechnology (see Drexler, Engines Of Creation). The Primer refers to a one-on-one Artificial-Intelligence (AI) teaching tool that could conceivably solve what Stephenson and I both perceive as the biggest underlying problem in the world today: how to give any and all children the best possible education. As in Snow Crash, Stephenson illuminates a future as likely as any and as shocking to our complacent selves as it is realistic. The world of The Diamond Age is one in which deliberate memetic engineering has given birth to designed cultures, most noteworthy the neo-Victorians, in which philosopher-kings worthy of Plato decide not what values are True, or God-Given, but what values make up a workable society. When a bootleg copy of the Primer accidentally falls into the hands of slum urchin Nell, she embarks on a solitary Pygmallion-esque adventure, her transformation a metaphor for the awakening of infant billions to higher consciousness. While the pages don't turn nearly as quickly as those of the fast-paced and comic Snow Crash, these pages are to be savored. Great literature isn't so much in the reading as in the recollecting. This is a book the memetic engineers of the next millennium will all have on their shelves. Click HERE to order paperback!


Feynman, Richard P. 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman': Adventures of a Curious Character (Bantam, 1990). Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel prize in physics and member of the Los Alamos them that built The Bomb, shares what it's like to live life at Level 3 in this hilarious and touching autobiographical collection of anecdotes. I laughed out loud a dozen times while reading this short book, which covers everything from how he fooled people into thinking he was even smarter than he really was to how he learned to pick up Las Vegas showgirls. One of my favorite books ever. Click HERE to order paperback! And if you loved this one and are hungry for more, read the sequel, 'What Do You Care What Other People Think?' : Further Adventures of a Curious Character (Bantam, 1992). The highlight is a detailed description of his solving of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, demonstrated by dipping a defective O-ring in ice-water on national TV. Click HERE to order paperback!


Gitomer, Jeffrey. Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless: How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know (Bard, 1998). How much money do companies spend trying to make customers "satisfied" rather than trying to make them loyal? Gitomer says it's way too much. Would you rather, he asks, have a wife who's satisfied or one who's loyal? Hopefully both, but if you had to choose...? It's the attention to clarity of purpose that puts Gitomer's latest book (he is also author of the bestselling Sales Bible) into Meme Update. Gitomer talks about ways to have your customers spread memes that increase your business -- in other words get them talking about you. Not only does he fill the book with hilarious anecdotes of bad customer service, which alone make it worth the read, but he also practices what he preaches. if you ever get a chance to meet him you will find a blunt, laughing guy raised in the streets of Philly who is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. The quote I gladly gave him for his book jacket says "I wish everyone I did business with would read this book." Well I do. And you know, it's not so often I read a book that changes me. This one did. I hope I'm a little more aware of all the little things I can do to make people's experience of being with me one they value and talk about. Click HERE to order hardcover!

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Last Edited: March 19, 2008
© 1996-2008 Richard Brodie. All rights reserved.