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For me, there are three main works on memes.

It was because of Douglas Hofstadter that I first heard of memes. Back in high school, I read Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach at the recommendation of a friend, and enjoyed it a lot. Later, I picked up another book of his, Metamagical Themas, a collection of columns originally published in Scientific American. One of these, On Viral Sentences and Self-Replicating Structures, has a long discussion of memes, starting with a history of the idea of memes, and several references.

At the time, the idea of memes was interesting to me, but I didn't follow up on it until later, and by accident. I had wanted to learn something about evolution, and had picked up Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker. Eventually I realized that this was the same Dawkins that Hofstadter had referred to in his column, and so picked up the earlier The Selfish Gene. Late in the book, in Memes: the new replicators, Dawkins coins the word “meme” and makes the analogy between memes and genes.

Even later, I ran into Richard Brodie's book Virus of the Mind while browsing in a bookstore. Although I was initially put off by the tacky and attention-getting cover, it turned out to be simply a demonstration of Brodie's understanding of memes, and in the end I found the content to be very engaging and thought-provoking. About that same time, one or two other popular books on memes came out, but cursory looks didn't leave me very interested in them. Based on the timing, I assume there was some other book or event that led to these books coming out all at once, but I don't know what it was.

* * *

There are a number of other, more recent books specifically about memes. I haven't read any of them, but naturally I've looked at them, and although they seem to be perfectly fine books, I haven't been able to find anything that adds to what I already know. So, for now, I recommend that you seek the original.


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@ March (2000)
o February (2003)