This a list of books that we have found interesting and useful for learning more about recent research and thoughts on complex systems.

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Introduction Books


My introduction to “Complexity Science”. Easy and fun read. Not very technical.


Introduction to Chaos theory. Similar in style to “Complexity”. Easy and fun to read.

Best "Next Level" Books

"Exploring Complexity"Prigogine

"Evolving Hierarchical Systems"Slathe

"The Sciences of the Artificial"Simon

"Grammatical Man"Campbell

Mostly information theory


Biological base – life systems

Good "Next Level" Books

"Signs of Life"Sole and Goodwin

"At Home in the Universe"Kauffman

Similar to “Investigations” by Kauffman, but written earlier.

"A New Kind of Science"Wolfram

Very large book. Received mixed reviews, but we liked it. Could have used some editing. Jury is out, but we think he may be onto something here. Could change the world of science in the long run.

Non-Technical System Exploration

"Seeing Systems"Oshy

Social systems emphasis. Easy “light” read, but contains some good “real world” insights from years of field work with people based systems.

"The Tipping Point"Gladwill

Contains some interesting insights into systems even though it is mostly anecdotal.

More "Technical" Books

"Adaptation in Natural & Artificial Systems"Holland

"Emergent Computation"Forest Et al.

Summary of a conference. Very interesting papers on computer system use of emergence and complexity.

"Hidden Order"Holland


"The Recursive Universe"Poundstone

Mostly analyzes Conway’s Artificial Life program and different permutations of structures that form in it.

"Modeling Complex Systems"Boccara

Uses mathematical models

"Parallel Distributed Processing" Vol I & IIRumelhart, McClelland

Dense, but interesting papers on distributed processing. The future success of artificial intelligence will be based on ideas in this area.

"The Economy as an evolving Complex System"Arthur, Durlanf, et al.

Summary of papers. Very dense reading.

Evolution and Memes

"Darwins Dangerous Idea"Dennett

"Darwin among the machines"Dyson

"The Selfish Gene"Dawkins

"The Extended Phenotype"Dawkins

"The Electric Meme"Aunger

"The Dreams of Reason"Pagels

"The Lucifer Principle"Bloom

A dark but entertaining view of history from a systems point of view. Not very technical.

Information Theory

"An Introduction to Information Theory"Pierce

"Programming the Universe"Seth Lloyd

"Decoding the Universe"Seife

"The mathematical Theory of Communication"Shannon & Weaver

Very technical and dense. From two of the pioneers of information theory.

More Systems Books

"The Systems View of the World"Laszlo

"The End of Certainty"Prigogine

"The Elegant Universe"Greene

"What Shape is a Snowflake"Ian Stewart

"On Intelligence"Hawkins

"The Minds I"Hofstadter and Dennett

"The Meme Machine"Blackmore

"The Moral Animal"Wright


"Flesh and Machines"Brooks

"On Numbers and Games"Conway

"An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms"Mitchell

"The evolution of civilizations"Quigley

"Increasing Returns and Path Dependence in the Economy"Arthur

"Fractals and Chaos"Mandelbrot

"The Essence of Chaos"Washington

"Applied Chaos Theory"Ambel

"Complex Systems Dynamics"Weishbeech

"Hierarchy Theory: The Challenge of Complex Systems"Braziller

"Hierarchy Theory: A Vision Vocabulary and Epistemology"Ahl and Allen

"Godel, Esher and Bach "Hotstadter

A mix of math, concepts in logic and story telling. Relates to some system concepts and consciousness. Very good book.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"Persig

One of our favorite books of all time. Philosophical. Intertwines story with discussion of philosophy. Interesting intro to holistic thinking.


Intertwines philosophy with story in a similar manner as “Zen..” His concept of Dynamic and Static quality is related to the balance of chaos and order that is a very creative process in systems.

"Fearful Symmetry"Zee

Very interesting book discussing the evolution of our understanding of particle physics. Emphasizes the importance of symmetry to this process.