Though its title brings to mind the hubris of Frankenstein, Steve Grand's Creation: Life and How to Make It is just humble enough to keep its readers hooked. Best known as the developer of the Creatures series of artificial-life software, Grand has quite a following among devotees of playful complexity.
The book ranges from deep ruminations on the nature of life and mind (artificial and biological) to fairly concrete advice for future creators, and his writing is just as elegant and compelling as his software. Sometimes his cleverness gets the best of him, but for the most part, his wordplay is used to serve his ideas, which are thought-provoking even for readers who have no intention of creating life.
Many will be surprised at the strength of Grand's antireductionism, but he makes his case vigorously and may win a few converts to the emergent-phenomena camp. Creation is essential reading for those of us who want to think through the consequences of our actions before we imitate Frankenstein's mistake. --Rob Lightner