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Appendix B  Reading list

In my class we start the semester by reading popular books about complexity science. They provide a pleasant way to get a big picture of the field and start to see connections between topics.

One problem with these books is that they are written for a non-technical audience, so after a while the students get frustrated by the vagueness and hand-waving. That’s what this book is for.

The other problem is that students can’t read 30 books in a week, or even a semester. Instead, I provide one copy of each book and ask the students to pick one, read the first chapter, write a summary, and post it on the class web page.

During the next class session, the students swap books. Each student reads the summary written by the previous student, then reads the next chapter, and writes a summary.

After a few iterations, we have a class discussion where students report what they have read so far and we look for connections. For example, one student might present a topic, then another student suggests a related topic and explains the relationship. I draw the topics and the relationships between them on the board (see

We repeat this exercise until we have seen what there is to see, or we are impatient to get down to business.

You can see the list of books, and read the summaries my students wrote, at

Here are the books:

  • Axelrod, Complexity of Cooperation.
  • Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation.
  • Bak, How Nature Works.
  • Barabasi, Linked.
  • Buchanan, Nexus.
  • Epstein and Axtell, Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up.
  • Fisher, The Perfect Swarm.
  • Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature.
  • Goodwin, How the Leopard Changed Its Spots.
  • Holland, Hidden Order.
  • Johnson, Emergence.
  • Kelly, Out of Control.
  • Kluger, Simplexity.
  • Levy, Artificial Life.
  • Lewin, Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos.
  • Mitchell, Complexity: A Guided Tour.
  • Mitchell Waldrop: Complexity, the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos.
  • Resnick, Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams.
  • Rucker, The Lifebox, The Seashell, and the Soul.
  • Sawyer, Social Emergence: Societies As Complex Systems.
  • Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehaviors.
  • Schiff, Cellular Automata: A Discrete View of the World.
  • Strogatz, Sync.
  • Watts, Six Degrees.
  • Wolfram, A New Kind Of Science.

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