Recommended Books and Readings


  • Horace Freeland Judson, The Search for Solutions, 1980. Some really great stories about how scientists solve problems. There are many lessons to take home here.
  • W.I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation, 1953. A favorite of Art Winfree. It was required reading for those desiring to work in his lab. It seems a bit dated and chauvinistic today.
  • John R. Platt, The Excitement of Science, 1962. A thoughtful discussion of what makes and drives a scientist, the obstacles to new science, and the role of science in society. TEoS is the source of many of the ideas used in this course.
  • G. Belsky and T. Gilovich 1999. Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes – and how to correct them. Simon & Schuster, New York.
  • Laurence Gonzales, 2004. Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. There’s something about giving yourself up to a problem that allows you to solve it.


  • Henry Ernest Dudney (edited by Martin Gardner), 536 Puzzles & Curious Problems, 1967. Many of the problems are 100 years old. While the quality varies, there are some real gems and classics here. Most of the puzzles can be solved relatively quickly (i.e., < 1 hour and typically < 15 minutes).
  • Martin Gardner, My Best Mathematical and Logic Puzzles, 1994. Classic Gardner. A wide variety of puzzles with a strong visual component. Very detailed solutions.
  • Martin Gardner, aha! Insight, 1978. Lots of unusual puzzles, some with multiple answers.

Puzzle Solving:

  • James L. Adams, Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, various editions beginning in 1974. A classic and well deserving of its reputation and phenomenal sales.
  • G. Polya, How to Solve It, 2nd ed., 1957. This is THE problem solving book, although it is very much from a mathematician's perspective.
  • G. Polya,  Induction and Analogy in Mathematics  and Patterns of Plausible Inference. These go into more detail than How to Solve It on the same themes. I prefer the smaller book, but these have some good problems in them.
  • Zbigniew Michalewicz & David B. Fogel 2004 How to Solve It: Modern Heuristics, 2nd Edition, Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Despite the similar title to Polya's book, this is a very different book. This one is about developing computer algorithms to solve problems, but along the way there are some great puzzles for humans to solve.

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