[5,000M Subsidy] Which books in this list will I "really like"?
21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Yuval Noah Harari)
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge)
A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin)
Artemis (Andy Weir)
Ball Lightning (Liu Cixin)
Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
Eversion (Alastair Reynolds)
Leviathan Wakes (James S.A. Corey)
Midnight Riot (Ben Aaronovitch)
On Basilisk Station (David Weber)
Senlin Ascends (Josiah Bancroft)
The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold)
The Dresden Files (Jim Butcher)
The Mote in Gods Eye (Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven)
The One Who Eats Monsters (Casey Matthews)
The Tale of Hodja Nasreddin: Disturber of the Peace (Leonid Solovyov)
The Two Year Emperor (David K. Storrs)
The Year of the Flood (Margaret Atwood)
Theft of Fire (Devon Eriksen)

I'm hoping Manifold can help me find (another) book that I'll really like!

In January, I started a bounty market with prizes for books I finished, "really liked", or loved. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky was the first book I "really liked" and won 2,000M. This is an unlinked market to predict which other entries will win at least that much.

Conditions to Resolve a Book YES

I've got a list of some books I've read, broken down into categories of how much I liked them. When I finish a book (or series*), I'll do a head-to-head comparison with the books on that list and give a gut-level "did I like it better?" vote. Given this information, I'll choose a category that I subjectively think it fits into. If it falls into the "Books I Really Liked" category (or higher), it will resolve as YES. Otherwise it resolves as NO.

It's worth pointing out that it took me a few books this year until I found one that I really liked - Three Body Problem, Permutation City, Small Gods, and Player of Games all came in as "okay" for me before Children of Time won the first 2,000M prize. Consider the base rate while trading!

If I don't get to a book by market close (1 year), it will resolve as N/A.

*Books that are part of a series will be evaluated as a series. That is to say, if book 1 of the series was just okay, but book 2 of the series was extremely good such that I feel the series as a whole is "really liked", then it would resolve YES. (Probably not important in practice, but this will short-circuit the moment I "really like" a series - even if later books make me think the series was bad, I will resolve YES after I finish a book that made me "really like" it, and I won't un-resolve to NO later)

Reading Order

I reserve the right to read the books in any order I want to, but I will generally use this schedule:

  • First priority is the book with the most unique traders.

  • Every fourth book I read will be chosen using a random number generator among all possibilities.

  • Every once in a while, I'll probably pick the book I'm most excited about reading next, though I'll try to do this more rarely (once or twice this year).

(You might wonder: why not read the book with the highest probability to really like? Because if I do that, it distorts this market - voting NO on a book will make it more likely to N/A, because it makes it less likely that I eventually get to reading it. Hopefully this algorithm gives incentive to find the true probabilities for each book.)

To get a sense of my reading speed based on the year so far, I apparently read 6 books in 10 weeks. You can use that for projections about which books in this market are likely to N/A.

Adding Options to the Market

I'd, of course, be delighted for more suggestions to add to this market. However, since y'all don't know which books I've read, it might be prudent to ask in the comments before you add an option. If I've already read the book, it will resolve as N/A. If you want to add one yourself without asking, do it at your own risk!

Some Notes on My Taste:

Fantasy and Science Fiction are my most-read genres, with a side of popular non-fiction.  I’ve done a write-up of some books I’ve read and what I thought about them in this doc

I’ve got a bad pattern with a lot of books that I’d ostensibly like where if they don’t grab my attention in approximately the first 20 minutes of reading I tend to lose steam and not come back to the book.  I’ve gotten lots of recommendations from friends for various books that I just don’t quite get started on (Lies of Locke Lamora, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, many others). So it's possible you'll want to lean towards things that start stronger, but then again maybe I'll push through slower starts because of the incentive in these markets!

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FYI - just remembered that every fourth book is supposed to be randomly chosen, rather than going by most traders. So the next book will actually be randomly chosen!

@ChrisPrichard you have "The Year of the Flood" listed. Does that mean you've read and liked "Oryx and Crake"?

@becauseyoudo I haven't read it before! In fact, I don't think I've read anything by Margaret Atwood before.

@ChrisPrichard then you might want to switch out "The Year of the Flood" Book 2 with "Oryx and Crake" Book 1 of the MaddAddam trilogy.

@becauseyoudo Woah - good catch. I didn't pay attention that it was the second book in a series. I don't normally read out of order, but from looking at the suggestion from the original bounty market, it does appear that that's what the suggester intended!

I guess I might do what they suggested, assuming it's not madness, and start with the second book in the series. I think I've never done that before, so maybe that'll be a novel experience?

Another contender falls!  I wasn’t that into Snow Crash, though I can see how some people could be drawn in.  I think I liked it better than I liked The Three Body Problem series, but other than that it’s been my least favorite so far to come from the bounty market.

My head-to-head comparison count:

“Really liked” - Liked it better than 0 / 16 books.

“Good” - Liked it better than 0 / 9 books.

“Okay” - Liked it better than 2 / 9 books.

Catch 22 is up next, with A Fire Upon the Deep to follow, unless something else manages to secure more unique traders in the meantime.

Some spoilered thoughts on Snow Crash:

Unfortunately, I just never got hooked.  I wasn’t very curious about the “mystery” of what was going on with Snow Crash, and didn’t find the explanation very compelling or satisfying.  I didn’t really get invested in the characters, which meant I wasn’t on the edge of my seat for how things were going to turn out for them.

I almost wonder if the book just had too much going on?  Like, it spent a fair amount of time diving into characters like Uncle Enzo, the “rat-things”, Vitaly Chernobol, etc, and I felt like it was hard for me to even keep track of what different people were trying to get what different outcomes?  This isn’t a complaint I normally have about complex books with lots of different characters - I “really like” A Song of Ice and Fire, and that has a comical number of characters that have different goals, so maybe this isn’t actually the root of my apathy?

Snow Crash has a very heavy “style” to it, which I didn’t especially like or dislike.  It did make it an “experience” to read in the sense that I haven’t much read something like it?  I did appreciate that when a chapter was from a different character’s point of view it felt very different to inhabit that worldview.  Not many authors really nail that well.

Y.T.’s story was the one I got most invested in - probably she was my favorite character.  For a while, I almost got hooked, when Uncle Enzo was using her for various missions.  But Hiro’s chapters around then just kinda dragged for me - really diving into mythology that I just couldn’t get myself to be interested in.

This is such a bleak review!  I didn’t dislike it that much, but I can tell that I’d have definitely stopped early if it wasn’t for this market.

@ChrisPrichard yeahhhh eat it snow crash

@ChrisPrichard FWIW, I listened to Catch 22 as an audiobook recently and it seemed to work better than when I read it

@AlQuinn if he had a hard time with empathising with snow crash characters, I think catch 22 is doomed (but I'd be delighted to be wrong, catch 22 is one of my favourite books)

@ChrisPrichard Snow Crash's post-cyberpunk ethos really feels really dated. While Y.T. is very much still a cyberpunk character, Hiro seems like he's just over it. The patented Stephenson shitty ending couldn't have helped your review.

@becauseyoudo while yeah, obviosuly it's a 30 year old book, some scenes are forever embedded in my mind, like the bit where the automatic cleaners slide in and literally suck up the shittiest jobs that are left.

Cordelia’s Honor (Lois McMaster Bujold)

This was originally published as two novels and a short story, but I’m not very confident the first book alone is worthy of “really like”. The second book won the Hugo and Locus awards, and it was originally conceived of as a single novel.

@lalaithion It looks like that book is Shards of Honor and Barrayar combined, right? I've definitely read those, and indeed, the whole Vorkosigan saga easily falls into my "really like", so this is a great recommendation!

@ChrisPrichard Oops, sorry! Totally missed that when I looked at your google doc.

Resolved The Expanse series option as N/A because Leviathan Wakes is already on the list and I will be evaluating the whole series when I go for that option (as specified in the description).

Catch 22 and Snow Crash have an equal number of unique traders, but at the moment Snow Crash has ~50% more mana riding on the answer. So I'll be reading Snow Crash next!

(This reading order is so strange for me.)

Stories of Your Life and Others is a weird one to review - I suppose I should have expected that from a collection of short stories.  Some of the stories on their own would have been “really good” by my estimation, but the majority of them fell into my “okay” or “good” categories.  I’ve decided to place it in my “Good” category, which is one step lower than “Really Liked” (which is what this market is trying to predict).

As I’ve been doing recently, here’s my head-to-head comparison count in my list of books I’ve read:

“Really liked” - Liked it better than 0 / 15 books.

“Good” - Liked it better than 2 / 7 books.

“Okay” - Liked it better than 4 / 8 books.

This comparison was way harder than usual!  Did I like this collection of stories better than I liked Small Gods?  That’s… a very strange comparison to make!  Almost like saying “Read Spinning Silver and The Three Body Problem as one unit”, and trying to see if that one unit was “better” than Mort.  I tried to just go by my gut instinct, but at least I can see it wasn’t in danger of ending up in the “really liked” category, so this was a relatively easy “no” resolution.

Some spoilered thoughts on the book:

This review is much longer than the others I’ve written for Manifold because I sort of splatted my thoughts down about each story.  A common theme among many of them was that I found the endings of the stories unsatisfying / uninteresting.  I noticed that in my reviews of some previous books on Manifold (which I won’t mention by title here, to avoid spoilers).  Apparently how a given book ends colors a lot about how I think about and enjoy the work.

I was impressed at how different the stories were - not just in content but in tone and style.  I didn’t expect that, and it was a lot of fun!

Tower of Babylon

Very unsatisfying for me!  My guess is that the author wanted to explore what it would be like to have a tower like that - how a society could develop on it and thrive, perhaps?  But to me, it felt like it was building to something.  Like all the discussion of climbing the tower was meant to increase the dramatic tension for an interesting reveal; something that would make the journey worth it.  The “seal cylinder” answer just wasn’t interesting enough to justify it, at least from my perspective.  I think probably it just wasn’t what I was expecting, and the story felt like it cut off right when it would have been interesting to me.  How does their society react to this revelation?  What happens to the people who live on the tower?


This was almost great!  Very Flowers for Algernon, which I definitely “really like”.  I particularly liked how this exploration of increasing intelligence went sort of meta - being able to understand and control his own mental processes.

But the ending was so disappointing!  I was definitely excited for the showdown with the other super-intelligent person, and Chiang did manage to convincingly show why they’d even be at odds rather than work together (at least at a surface level that I was willing to accept).  But it just felt sort of “magical” that the other guy managed to win the fight.  I realize that super-intelligent beings are going to have solutions that feel “magical” to humans, but it doesn’t mean it makes for an interesting story!  It felt like a lot of interesting promise was built up and then the author said “and then rocks fell and the protagonist died”.  Not quite that bad, I guess, but it didn’t really land for me.

Division by Zero

Didn’t make a strong impression on me one way or the other.  In particular, I wasn’t really interested in Carl, and didn’t really understand the journey the author was taking him on.  I did like the format, though - alternating viewports with mathematical history (though I already knew all that history).

Story of Your Life

I hadn’t seen Arrival (or read this yet), though someone at some point had already spoiled me on the idea of experiencing time in a non-linear way, so that might have damaged the experience a bit.  I liked this story, though I didn’t “really like” it?  Strangely, by far the most interesting parts to me were actually all of the interludes with the main character’s child.  The way they mixed up the timeline of experiences was… meditative?... for me, and definitely helped the non-chronological feeling land.

Yeah, looking back on it, I think I like it more than I’d originally thought.  The ending was fine; it maybe fits well that a species of aliens that thinks so differently from humans wouldn’t be clear about what they were doing or why they were doing it.  I’ll probably watch the movie now.

Seventy-Two Letters

I think this one felt longer than it was interesting, and maybe trying to explore too many ideas?  Like, perhaps I was really interested in the “how do we continue human life” part, but I’m not sure how it was served by having the conflict with the sculptor's guild or whatever.  I thought it was okay, I guess?

The Evolution of Human Science

Super short, but great!  I love this sort of thing where it’s written less like a story and more like a journal article or something like that.  Reminded me a lot of "MMAcevedo" by qntm, which is also great!

Hell Is the Absence of God

This was one of the better ones from my perspective, though for me it was more about the world-building around these angels.  The idea of an angel coming down and causing a bunch of collateral damage (while helping some people) was so compelling I feel like I want to create a D&D adventure or something like that where this is true, and explore it more.  Stories like this make me realize that I don’t dislike “world building” - I just dislike almost all worlds that authors build, and sometimes, rarely, an author creates a world where I’m like “wait - I want to read more just about the world itself, rather than the characters you’ve designed”.

I was less into the particular characters here, though Neil was by far the most interesting.  Trying to find a way to love God just to be able to be with his wife was a compelling problem.  The ending was again mostly unsatisfying, though it has grown on me a bit since I first finished it.  In particular I feel like Janice’s arc just kinda petered out to nothing.

Liking What You See: A Documentary

Probably my favorite story in the book!  I loved seeing all the different perspectives on how society should use a technology like calliagnosia.  I feel like it would be good fodder for a book club.

Some suggestions:

  • I think you would like Castles in the Air by John Longley (https://www.castlesbook.org/) since you liked GEB and it has a similar concept, albeit more narrowly focused on just the philosophy of mathematics.

  • I think you would like Charles Stross' Laundry Series. The first book in publication order is The Atrocity Archives, but it's a long series that changes in tone, so you may prefer to start at The Rhesus Chart (author's reading order: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2020/10/the-laundry-files-an-updated-c.html).

  • I suspect you would find Neoreaction a Basilisk by Elizabeth Sandifer to be interesting and would get something from it, though I'm not sure "like" is the appropriate term. The author gave a book talk on it that captures the spirit well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Oy0uuTEiOY

@jesyspa I haven't read any of those! At least Castles in the Air would be eligable for bonuses in the original bounty market, for a book that's outside my normal reading areas.

A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge)
bought Ṁ25 A Deepness in the Sk... YES

I'm confident if you liked children of time you will LOVE this book.

So lest I look like a hater for so many no bets--looking at the previous market, Chris didn't read a winner until his 4th book. Doesn't that suggest a naive base rate of 25%? Why are most books here higher?

bought Ṁ10 The Peace War (Verno... NO

@Vocateur I wish there was a "buy NO on everything" button. I think base rates are even lower than 25% (he's only put like 8 books ever in this category, right?) but it's time consuming to bet them all down.

I'm spiritually YES on Blindsight but I'm actually NO on everything.

@Fion Yeah - hard to tell where the base rate should be, though to be clear, I think there are now 20 books in either "Books I Really Liked" or "Favorite Books" categories. The problem is that I haven't been very exhaustive about books that would have ended up in lower categories. Partially, no doubt, because I hardly remember reading (or trying to read) them.

If you've read more than 80 books in your life, that suggests that this market is more than a little bit overheated!

Though maybe we're better at picking new books for you than you are for yourself? So...take it with a grain of salt. But I still feel like 25% is the thing!

I like the algorithm for choosing the next book, since it leads to selecting controversial choices like Artemis so we can better learn your preferences. Hope you don't mind but I also created this market to see how far this will go.

@fwbt Yeah - I was noticing the "sort by controversial" result I'm getting here, with a hint of "sort by books lots of people on Manifold have read". I wonder if that'll make it hard for less well known books to break through? Well, in any case, that's sort of why I added the "every fourth book is random", and "I get to pick, too" clauses!

(I don't mind at all about the other market! I'll refrain from voting in it because I'm much more in control of how many books I read.)

@ChrisPrichard Oh yeah - I'd thought about adding another way for books to get to the top: I'd pick the book that has the most mana riding on it. I don't think there's an easy way to get that sorting out of manifold, but it would allow a book that a smaller number of people disagreed strongly on to rise to the top.

For now it doesn't seem like that would get a much different sort than # of unique traders, but it might change the betting incentives if people want to manipulate which book is next in the queue.