Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter is a most wittily written work. It’s rather long (at 700+ pages) but it is the most interesting informative book I have ever read. Note that I use “informative” rather than “nonfiction,” as half the chapters are nonfiction and the other half fiction—the fiction is where most of the fascination is at.
It is also where the self-descriptor of the book kicks in: “A metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll”—a writer whose nonsensical style any follower of this blog should know. Indeed, Hofstadter’s dialogs (the fiction parts) consist of absurd, comical scenes which are intended to both inform and amuse. And the nonfiction parts are good as well, covering a gamut of subjects, a nice dab into everything. The three people listed in the title, after all, are a mathematician, an artist, and a composer. Some major points of discussion include Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, logic, and Artificial Intelligence.
What’s more amusing is the subtle humor present in many of the nonfiction parts. Even in one of the most serious parts of any book—the bibliography—Hofstadter manages to squeeze in an imaginary work titled Copper, Silver, Gold: an Indestructible Metallic Alloy. This is alluded to several times in the fictional parts of the book, and is of course an imitation of the book’s own title: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. The supposed author of Copper, Silver, Gold is Egbert B. Gebstadter, whose initials match those of “Eternal Golden Braid,” and Gebstadter is of course a spoof of Hofstadter. Moreover, to contrast Hofstadter’s publisher Basic Books, Gebstadter publishes with Acidic Books.