Personal Canon

Inspired by Duncan Graham’s canon, and transitively, by David Cole’s, here is a list of people and works that have inspired me. Individually beautiful and interesting; together they make me who I am.

This is a work in progress.




  • Conor McBride
  • Simon Peyton-Jones
  • John Carmack
  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (and Classical Mechanics) — I somehow discovered SICP at around the same time as Gödel, Escher, Bach (must have found a list of classics online). Though it’s an introductory book, it goes deep.


  • Scott Aaronson writes about quantum computing.
  • Richard Feynman — For his tireless push to simplify and understand (then explain). “Surely you’re Joking” is a template for living a good life while doing good, intellectual work. Also great: What Problems to Solve.
  • Maxwell’s Equations / General Relativity / QED

Business of Software



  • The Sopranos, The Wire, The West Wing, Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul, and Succession are my favorite TV shows.
  • Anything by Wes Anderson


  • Bret Victor — Inventing on Principle is a classic closely related to my interests, but it’s just one example of consistently great work from Bret.
  • Bertrand Russell
  • You and Your Research — Richard Hamming