Novels, technical books, papers?
Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong. I’ve been interested in religion lately, mostly from a historical perspective. In the past I’ve read mostly Buddhist stuff (and I was raised Catholic) but I realized that I know almost nothing about Islam, so this seemed like a nice introductory book. I think I found it at a thrift store. So far, the book is great, very approachable but also factual. Clears up many misconceptions I had about Islam, and it seems to me like the Quran is a very modern religious text (more so than the Old Testament, in any case). When I finish this I’ll probably be looking for another, more in-depth book on Islam, or maybe I’ll get a copy of the Quran itself.
I’m also reading A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. Never read it before, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Slowing moving through Buddhism Without Beliefs, which is okay. Not sure what I think of it yet, but that link goes to a nice review.
Oh I also got a copy of bitemyapp’s Haskell Book but I’ve only read the introduction so far. Looking forward to working through it.
If you want then to go abruptly toward the other side of the spectrum, I’ll dare to suggest reading Sam Harris https://amzn.com/0393327655 or Richard Dawkins.
Oh yeah, I was very atheist for about 6 years, I even started the RIT Skeptics club in college. But I eventually came to the conclusion that Dawkinsesque atheism is really just another form of religion. Atheism, after all, is a theological position on the question of the existence of god: it is the claim that god doesn’t exist, and the proof of a negative cannot be arrived at via logic, it must be axiomatically taken in the manner of belief. The only purely logical position is agnosticism, which is how I prefer to align myself. In fact, in Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor basically describes an agnostic Buddhism, which is pretty cool.
So I think that Harris' and Dawkins' treatment of religion as inherently anti-rationalist is way too simplistic. This interview with Karen Armstrong explains really well. Also, I don’t agree with Harris when he says (I paraphrase) ISIL is motivated to violence by the Islamic doctrine primarily
There’s also nontheism which just considers the whole god-or-not question silly and refuses to even consider it.
Atheism, after all, is a theological position on the question of the existence of god: it is the claim that god doesn’t exist, and the proof of a negative cannot be arrived at via logic, it must be axiomatically taken in the manner of belief.
Atheism is actually the lack of a belief in God/Gods, not the positive position that God does not exist. Most atheists, Dawkins and Harris included, acknowledge that they are technically agnostic atheists. But the distinction is unimportant or even meaningless because “gnostic atheism” is such a ridiculous position, as you point out.
I agree that Harris' views on religion (and Islam in particular) are overly simplistic, but his atheism isn’t irrational.
Mmm, well I guess I was confused and wasn’t aware Dawkins/Harris made the distinction of “gnostic atheism” and “agnostic atheism”, so thanks for the clarification :)
Would you say you are also an agnostic on the question of whether dragons exist, and that the belief that they do not exist is a theological one? How about on the question of whether a dragon exists in my garage?
Dragons are not in the category of theology, they would be in the category of biology, which is largely an empirical science. The question “do dragons exist?” is only answerable if you find a real dragon. Since we haven’t found a dragon, we say “we have no evidence that dragons exist.” This does not mean that dragons do not exist, this means that dragons might exist, we just haven’t found any evidence of them. Same goes for bigfoot, sasquatch, lochness monster, whatever. This is how I arrive at agnosticism, because you can’t prove a negative (i.e. the claim that god/sasquatch doesn’t exist can’t be proven) and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (which ironically is a Sagan saying).
Now I’m definitely not the type of person to believe in dragons because someone faked footprints in the flour, nor will I be attending church and praying all day. But I do believe there is value in maintaining a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world, which I find in Buddhism. I also find that sentiment in my friends and loved ones. Others might find it in religion, praying to Allah multiple times a day, and I don’t have a problem with that.
Also, the topic of “god as a corporeal entity” is rather useless, in my opinion, and dealing with religion and god etc. via empiricism will never yield a useful answer. Instead of using empirical reasoning, we have to use something else; I don’t know what that “something else” is (yet), but I really like the way Buddhism approaches spirituality, meaning, and the human condition. The Kyoto School philosophers really challenged me to think of “god” not as a corporeal entity or an “Absolute Truth” like some Western philosophers might (Hagel and Descartes come to mind) but as an “Absolute Nothingness”, which is really hard to think about but is very fascinating. Almost in line with Nietzsche’s abgrund or “groundless ground” for reason. I think the Kyoto philosophers got me interested in the history of religion, because now I want to know where the idea of “god as corporeal” came from originally.
(Sorry for the long, soap-box reply. I don’t wanna get off topic in Lobsters, just wanted to clarify what I meant. Maybe we could take this to private messages if you want to discuss more in depth)
I can see how that makes sense starting from theism - from the reverse, it’s hard to see why there would be a separate category for theology, with different standards of evidence. Thanks.
Because standards of evidence are only applicable with respect to the mode of evaluation. You wouldn’t look at a mathematical proof and say “well the p-value isn’t >0.05, so this isn’t true”. Logical proofs have their own standards, just like statistics has its own standards, and empiricism has its own standards. When it comes to meaning-of-life questions, empiricism is one possible way of evaluating the questions, but I and many others find it inadequate. Instead of empiricism we could use existentialist or phenomenological ideas, as they were popular in the 20th century with Sartre and others, but historically religion has been the most-used method of evaluating meaning-of-life questions, so I think that’s important.
Ooh, Karen Armstrong! I read Fields of Blood and would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in the history of religion. That book on Islam looks interesting, too, thanks.
Oh, man, I love A Tale of Two Cities! I haven’t read it in a long time. Maybe I should re-read it next. You should also see the movie(s) once you’re done.
I’m lusting for the Haskell Book too. I probably will buy it soon.
I’m about half way through Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and it’s completely blowing my mind.
That book is incredible. If you’re into that sort of thing, I’d also recommend The Story of the Human Body
The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick.
The Man In The High Castle
This is my first time reading something by PKD and so far so good! It’s also weird reading a book that is set on the street that I work on.
The TV show on Amazon Prime was interesting to watch after reading the book, worth checking out if you liked it.
I like PKD, but i really couldnt get into this one. I really enjoyed “a scanner darkly” though.
The Brothers Karamazov, Unix Text Processing, and the Python documentation. Because I enjoy suffering, apparently.
There is something Grand Inquisitorial about Unix, yes.
Let’s see. Currently reading:
Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: Surprisingly good book, there’s a reason it’s so widely recommended, and doing about a chapter every few days I would highly support. Reading it all at once just seems wrong.
Taking Sex Differences Seriously: Slowly plodding through this one, had high hopes. Author has slipped into anecdata a few times, and the actual studies/statistics used to back things up are sometimes a bit old. Is very different from gender theory I’ve seen in other places, nearly reactionary.
The Windup Girl: Every bit as good as the Pump Six anthology by the same author. If you want a counterpoint to the singularity folks jerking off, read this or some other Bacigalupi. Another one that’s good to digest a chapter or two on and enjoy.
The windup girl is a superb read.
Im currently on “a stranger in a strange land”.
I love ZATAOMM. Read it when I was way too young to really take it in and consequently always had a feeling that it was just … a bit dull. Re-read it 20+ years later and it totally fell into place. So many applications in so many places.
I’m reading shitty Space Opera, and I’m not afraid to admit it!
My reading list is currently:
Started my Girlfriend on The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but our personal library here in VA is currently missing The Restaurant at The End of The Universe, so I’m gonna try to nab my copy of the Ultimate Edition for her when I’m back in KY.
You are my new blacksmith friend! The Complete Modern Blacksmith is another good one! I recently took a class, came out with this. Also just got my anvil mounted!
trying to grasp functional programming after doing imperative for ~4 years, also learning haskell so i can do cool things with xmonad
I really enjoy Land of Lisp. There’s an on-going GSoC project to revive CLisp. I hope it succeeds.
I use SBCL nowadays as CLISP has segfaulted on me many times. Exciting.
I looked at Real World Ocaml on Amazon after seeing your list, and found ‘OCaml from the Very Beginning’ as a place to start in the reviews. It’s been really great so far. Not sure where you are at with Real World, but if you are looking for something more basic, I’d recommend it.
Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks.
It is quite a revelation to me how a lot of the typographical marks we use in programming (mostly as metacharacters) originated. For example, the ampersand (&) can be traced back all the way to an abbreviation of “et” in a shorthard notation used by the secretary of Cicero.
This book lays out the history of several such characters in an engaging and enjoyable way. Also, it has very well-done typography itself. Would recommend.
Currently focusing on:
A few other in-progress books were put on hold until I finish these two. Really enjoying G.E.B. in a style of reading a small chunk each day, rather than my more common style of reading for 4+ hours once a week.
GEB is fun, but I can never really figure out what it’s about… that consciousness and self-awareness arises from recursion and self-reference?
A text doesn’t need a clear and simple point in order to hold interesting ideas, but I think your summary is a pretty decent one.
The not-really-about-one-topic aspect is why I’m enjoying it. After clearing a large backlog of nonfiction books that had a very specific focus and a few novels, it’s a refreshing change to just read a smart individual jumping conversationally around between a bunch of interesting topics. I’m sure if every book I read for a while took this approach I’d get sick of it, but at the moment it’s been fun.
Coincidence! I am at the library as I type this.
These are the books I’m about to check out (treeware only, I’m old and old-fashioned):
Réseaux de neurones and Neural Networks and Qualitative Physics to practice, learn, and improve the little I know about the subject. The former book looks like a pretty standard cookbook on the subject, but the latter has an interesting mathematical physics slant. I’m not sure yet where this is going!
Méthodes numériques et optimisation, a bog-standard numerical analysis text. I wanted a treeware copy to remind myself how to perform certain things such as conjugate gradients.
La planète R. This one turned out to be a hidden gem. It was in the popular mathematics section, but turns out that it delves into some pretty deep topics, such as Lindemann’s proof of the transcendence of pi. The rest of it reads like a standard real analysis text, but I am enjoying the slant that they give the whole topic.
Tensors, Relativity, and Cosmology. Although I am pretty comfortable with differential geometry, I’ve never really understood general relativity. This book seems to think that the entire point of differential geometry is relativity (of course physicists would believe that), so I am hoping for something to click here. If not, I think I’ll try to track down General Relativity for Mathematicians.
In addition to these library books, I am still reading Alexandrescu’s The D Programming Language. What an amazing book. I recommend it to anyone, even if you never have any intention of programming in D. There is much insight about programming and language design here, which Alexandrescu has acquired with years of experience working with C++ and D and partly designing them.
I am not as boring as this list sounds. :-) I am on the lookout for some good non-nerd ficition, i.e. not science fiction, not fantasy, or any other non-nerd topics, e.g. history, romance, philosophy. I recently read the Peculiar Children trilogy and some Natsume Soseki novels. Any recommendations?
edit: I just failed at getting another non-nerd book: Transperceneige, the comic that was the basis for the movie. I couldn’t stomach the movie because I hate graphic violence (had to turn it off), but perhaps the story is good enough that I’ll be able to stomach it in printed format.
You’ll love HPMOR then. That book made the whole HP series worth reading.
Thanks for the link. Saw it long time back, and thought I’d read it when I’m halfway through the HP series.
Now’s the time :)
I’m excited for you. HPMOR is the best.
I’ve been reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” on and off. I’m um… not entirely convinced. This isn’t helped by the fact that I’m very skeptical of a lot of psych research and don’t really know how to sort the wheat from the chaff.
I’ve also been reading “Something Coming Through” by Paul McAuley. I’m enjoying it but find I’m wondering where it’s going.
“Thinking, Fast and Slow” has brilliant content, but it’s a very dry book. It could have been written in just a few dozen pages. You can skim it and get all the important info. But yes, it has brilliant insights about our psych.
“Thinking, Fast and Slow” has brilliant content, but it’s a very dry
I agree with that! But not with:
It could have been written in just a few dozen pages.
Although I think it’s too dry & too long (I’m about 50% through) I think
that is a gross exaggeration. I don’t think it would nearly as
convincing if it was just “a few dozen pages”. I completely agree it
could well be shorter though!
You can skim it and get all the important info. But yes, it has
brilliant insights about our psych.
This is exactly the opposite of my experience. I find it an interesting read, I just don’t trust the content it’s reporting on, which makes it very hard to treat it as having brilliant insights.
@DRMacIver, what are the things you don’t trust in the book? Can you elaborate?
Just started The Confusion by Neal Stephenson, and it’s really fun
I really loved Anathema. Been meaning to read Snow Crash as I’ve heard it’s his best…
IMO “diamond age” is his best; “snow crash” had a lot of nice ideas but the novel as a whole was a bit weak
Hah, I disagree with that completely. I thought Snow Crash was a great novel, and The Diamond Age was the one with a lot of nice ideas but a bit weak as a novel. Especially the ending, but of course Stephenson is weak at endings.
I’ve been reading The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. It was first published in French in 1939, and remains the best general overview of the subject to this day.
The entire book is fascinating, but I especially loved reading about the heroism of Ban Chao in the Tarim Basin, ~1st century CE. His wiki page does not do him justice – he managed to subjugate the barbarian hordes of the steppe as no other general could, bringing relative peace and stability to the oasis kingdoms in China’s “wild west”.
More OCaml : Algorithms, Methods & Diversions by John Whitington and Handbook of Practical Logic and Automated Reasoning by John Harrison. Both are excellent. The former has been a good introduction to OCaml for people familiar with functional programming and what I’ve got through of the latter has been a pleasant refresher on logic. I’m excited to start getting to the juicy parts of Handbook where you start getting to implementing an actual theorem prover.
I recently picked up ‘engineering a compiler’, I haven’t read it from cover to cover, but using it as a reference has been super helpful - the chapter on IR was very well written.
How are you finding it so far?
I’m mostly interested in the topics it covers that are not in the Dragon Book or in “Crafting a Compiler”; SSA form and related analyses, instruction selection and scheduling, etc. The book is okay, but I would’ve liked something with more real code; the pseudo-code on ILOC is straight-forward enough, but I find that my biggest difficulty in compiler construction is not so much the actual compilation process itself, but the overall organization of the project.
Just started No Place to Hide thanks to your comment! It’s been on my shelf untouched for a while.
Somewhat disparate and weird….
A rambling through what is available on http://govhack.org.nz/2015-data/
And looking at introductory stuff on FPGA’s. (ps: In the category of “Learn programming language X the hard way”, anybody have any suggestions for “Learning VHDL?”)
“Learning VHDL/Verilog The Hard Way” would be great, but I don’t know of anything.
There is “FPGAs? Now What?” from XESS (VHDL, Xilinx toolchain, specific Xess board): http://www.xess.com/static/media/appnotes/FpgasNowWhatBook.pdf
And there is “Free Rangle VHDL” (VHDL, Xilinx, but also simulation and language-general stuff: http://www.gstitt.ece.ufl.edu/vhdl/refs/free_range_vhdl.pdf
I haven’t completely read either of these. I learned the more complete digital logic “stack” via the MIT 6.111 course (notes online at, eg, http://web.mit.edu/6.111/www/f2015/index.html).
Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide
I’m getting more & more interested in running long distances, and running (at least) one marathon is something I’ve always wanted to do.
Introduction to Functional Programming using Haskell
Haven’t picked up Haskell in more than a year, so this felt like a good time to get back to it.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
I really believe the Stoics stumbled on something amazing that’s still not mainstream on our days, which is an utter shame.
A guide to the good life is a Beautiful introduction to the topic. If you are interested in more literature there’s a nicely curated list on /r/stoicism, and few podcasts that are nice. I truly recommend the Meditations next! And I loved Seneca’s letters.
Thanks for the resources! I’ve read Meditations and On The Shortness of Life already, being the former my favourite so far.
Right now, I’m reading What Computers Still Can’t Do, only 6% through it, but so far it’s a sort of application of Heidegger and some other philosophers to argue that teaching computers common sense is a next to impossible task that will require jumping quite a few more hurdles than most people think. I think I found this book from reading Understanding Computers and Cognition, another good read on the topic.
I like the way you phrased that, “will require jumping quite a few more hurdles than most people think”.
In fact, Dreyfus himself seems to think that true AI is indirectly achievable by simulating the chemical reactions of a human brain:
In general, by accepting the fundamental assumptions that the nervous system is part of the physical world, and that all physical processes can be described in a mathematical formalism which can in turn be manipulated by a digital computer, one can arrive at the strong claim that the behavior which results from human “information processing,” whether directly formalizable or not, can always be indirectly reproduced on a digital machine. (“What Computers Can’t Do” 194-95)
I like the simulation approach because it bypasses the need to understand how consciousness works. There is The Human Brain Project which is probably too ambitious, but I also have high hopes for the OpenWorm project making progress in this area.
Book 7 of the Wheel of Time
I’m reading Difference and Givenness by Levi Bryant, a book on philosophy. My goal this year is to read Difference and Repetition, and this is one of many books I’m reading to help me in preparation for that.
I have just started reading software foundations - by Benjamin C. Pierce - loving learning Coq.
I’m currently skim reading An Introduction to Mathematical Logic - by Richard E. Hodel - honestly not enjoying it so much, it is quite heavy reading, but I have a big pile of logic books to read through afterwards.
My long term goal is to learn type theory, but trying to read through Types and Programming Languages - by Benjamin C. Pierece was a bit too hard for me at this point, so I am trying to get more lighter exposure elsewhere first - starting with filling in misses holes in my math skills.
Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” my first of hers. Excellent so far, reminds me of Saramago in the present-dystopian genre or what have you.
The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. I’m taking a break from computer books this week.
Is it as good as the Prince of Thorns?
I find Jal (the protagonist of the second trilogy) more likable than Jorg. The writing is just as good. Given the somewhat weird way the first trilogy ended, I’m interested to see whether this one suffers the same issue or not.
just started book 1 of the mapp and lucia series; if experience is any guide i’ll probably chain-read my way through all six books
I started reading SuperBetter, and I’ve ordered Level Up Your Life. I’m apparently at a place in my life where I need to read self-help books.
Also, I’m trying to get myself some math skills, through the No Bullshit Guide to Maths and Physics. I need more maths. Recently motivation has been an issue, so, that probably explains the self-help books.
Do you know Ivan? He’s a buddy of mine from university. How did you discover his book?
I don’t. A friend of mine who is a member of this fine site pointed me to the book. I think it is excellent so far, but I’m really quite early in. I think it will help me get what i lack and maybe hopefully push me further.
Started reading “Exercices in Programming Style”, really good so far.
My current reading list is:
nemesis games by james s a corey, and introduction to algorithms by cormen et al
This has been a very approachable explanation both of the theory of phaselock loops, the different implementations, and also a good section on debugging them.
I have a personal aspiration to work at one of the Antarctic research bases so I have a collection of books written by past employees there. I’ve come back around to this one which I haven’t read in a few years. It’s really interesting hearing about both the operation of the research program and the social effects of living in such a constrained environment.
I go away for the weekend most weeks and listen to audiobooks during the two and a half hour drive each way. This last weekend I was listening to This Sceptred Isle, a history of Great Britain from 55 BCE to 1900 CE. I’m moving to Wales this fall and find that knowing some of the national background helps with feeling settled in an new area.
More “this month” than “this week”:
Tend to have a few on the go in parallax. Just started DBC Pierre’s Lights Out In Wonderland in the foreground; in the middle distance I’m working through Fred Vargas' Un Peu Plus Loin Sur La Droite with Google Translate to hand, really trying to understand every word; and Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate is gradually rolling along at the foot of that ol' mountain range.
Novels: codex alera by Jim butcher
Tech: the docker book, functional programming in js
Papers: slowly going trough “bananas and lenses etc etc” it is sitting slightly out of my grasp
Novel: Mistborn - Brandon Sanderson on Audible
Paper: I read a paper on an abstraction called a tope, I didn’t really get it though. It’s part of my dive into data validation
Technical Books: How to solve problems - George Polya. There’s some interesting tidbits, but I’m half-way and the heuristics seem overly specific to mathematics.
I’d started working out a library for topes in Rust, but it hasn’t been a priority. Let me know if that sounds interesting to you!
RHCSA/RHCE Red Hat Linux Certification Study Guide, Seventh Edition
And The Long War
Google’s Site Reliability Engineering book, from O'Reilly, is a fascinating and practical read if you run large scale web services.
I just finished Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and it was lovely. Read it out loud to your kids and lovers.
Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality. I bought this book in high school, and tried to read it then, with the hopes that I would learn something more about higher math and physics. When I read it then, I found it difficult, and gave up a few chapters in. I’m hoping that now that I have somewhat more math under my belt, and perhaps a bit more maturity, I can give this thick tome another shot.
I’m currently reading Learn You Some Erlang, and Programming Phoenix, both of which are wonderful.
I’ve got a couple books:
Fiction: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Nonfiction: Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
And every now and then I read some of the You Don’t Know JS books, by Kyle Simpson
I really liked the you don’t know JS series, I breezed through it, and then last year we got the chance to have one week training with the author. He uses too many if else’s and for loops for my tastes, and he’s incredibly opinionated but truly, truly inspiring.
the ones on this, objects & proto and async are great.
Right now I’m reading:
In Search of Certainty, by Mark Burgess. Second reading for this book, after letting the ideas sit with me for about a year after my first reading. Very interesting.
The Art of Monitoring, by James Turnbull. This one I’m mostly reading with the laptop next to me, so I can try out ideas, so it’s slow going. But very interesting so far, and its release this month was very timely for me as I’m working on a bunch of monitoring problems at $DAYJOB.
The View from the Cheap Seats, a collection of mostly-short non-fiction essays and speeches by Neil Gaiman. I love all of Gaiman’s writing, and actually enjoy his non-fiction writing and speaking more than his fiction. And reading one or two essays at the end of the day is very refreshing, relative to the technical books. :)
Normally I’d also have a fiction book going at the same time, but I’m between novels and nothing’s inspiring me right now.
Finished on Emotional Intelligence - By Daniel Goleman
A must read.
Into thin Air - By Jon Krakauer
Book is absolutely amazing