It’s been several months, here’s the social distancing edition.
Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket. I’m not normally a big reader of sports books but this was a present and is thoroughly wonderful. Also ended up being well timed since there’s no cricket on at the moment.
Agency by William Gibson. His latest, probably doesn’t need an introduction, and so far as good as you would expect.
Designing Data Intensive Applications. I’ve had this book since it was in early access several years ago and it’s fantastic: but I’ve never actually read it cover to cover. Highly recommended for good all-round coverage of databases, data processing and distributed systems.
Recently finished: The Lean Startup, and Becoming a Technical Leader.
A few of my friends and I have organized a virtual book club, and are reading Camus’ The Plauge, and even though it’s not that much, I’ve been reading it more attentively so that one can discuss it’s themes.
Besides that, I plan to read a bit more “R in a Nutshell” and “The Art of Prolog”.
That’s cool - all three of those books have been on my “buy these books” list for quite a while. Having a virtual book club sounds like a really fun idea!
Two of the books can be found online for free (Plauge, Art of Prolog), if you don’t mind reading them digitally.
And I have to say, I was a bit sceptical but a book club is a really good way to force someone to read, who like me would rather be too lazy without some kind of soft deadline. And with the right people it’s also quite fun to discuss various interpretation, especially if the book has philosophical undertones.
I tend to prefer reading paper paper books, and I currently have enough in my backlog that reading digitally is something I’d rather not put up with. That said, it’s nice that the option’s there.
Working my way through The Soul of a New Machine.
I read this last year after blowing through “Halt and Catch Fire.” It’s a great look into a 1980s computer company and how engineers, when faced with a seemingly impossible task, will be pushed to the brink to meet a deadline.
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, which feels at least marginally fitting given the situation.
The C Programming Language, because I keep starting it and never finishing, and now I have time so there’s no excuse.
Educated, by Tara Westover, which is a fascinating account of a woman who grew up in a very strict religious family.
also Salad Love by David Bex. I haven’t made a lot of the salads, but the design is just so nice :)
I’ve just finished Ed Snowden’s, Permanent Record, and I’m trying to start Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century .
How was Snowden’s book? I was interested in reading it, but I’ve watched so many interviews with him I wondered if it’s just all those same stories put into a book.
It is exactly how you think it would be seeing as you’ve watched his interviews. It gives a lot of detail about the build up to June of 2013. He covers a wide range of topics. For example: there are chapters about his time in the army, geneva, tokyo. Writing a book that covers every aspect of your life, including relationships with your family, porn, and all things that could be considered embarrassing is brave for anyone, let alone someone wanted by the American government. I can’t recommend it enough!
I recently finished reading Nightmare Express By Isidore Haiblum. It’s a very strange, obscure, pulp sf-horror book from the 70s with a great cover. It reminds me a bit of The Illuminatus! Trilogy in that it switches POV characters constantly, giving each POV character a unique writing style associated with a specific genre, and uses unexpected POV shifts as a tension-building technique. Ultimately, it’s a series of interesting SFnal ideas & wonderfully evocative nightmare imagery loosely tied together with an uninteresting & fairly predictable plot, so I can’t completely recommend it.
I just started on Mary Roach’s Stiff – a breezy pop-sci book about corpses – and Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren – a densely stylistically experimental book considered to be one of the most influential members of science fiction’s New Wave movement.
I’m still working through Hyneck’s The UFO Experience – the book that coined the term “close encounters of the third kind”. Hyneck is among the most sensible ufologists, but he doesn’t have the stylistic flair of Vallee or Keel & he’s writing for an audience that hasn’t even heard of Vallee or Keel (so he’s painstakingly explaining all the basic statistical stuff that serious ufologists use to filter out dubious reports, going over patterns in sighting frequency that anybody with a passing interest in the subject already knows, etc.). Basically, it’s a slog for me because I’ve already better versions of most of this material, though it was very important when it first came out because serious UFO research by serious scientists simply wasn’t getting published for popular audiences before the mid-70s & so most people at the time had no idea that there were close encounters that weren’t associated with contactee cults.
A couple weeks ago, I finished Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell. I’d highly recommend it to anybody with a passing interest in the 80s horror paperback market. It’s breezy and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and it demonstrates a lot of deep research into the subject matter. It also has glossy high-resolution reproductions of a lot of covers, along with little bios of cover artists (who generally aren’t even credited, and are therefore basically unknown). Off the back of the popularity of this book, Hendrix has managed to spearhead a campaign to get new printings of some of the stuff covered, with introductions & remastered cover art. Marketing for genre fiction has gotten a major case of literary fiction envy lately, which (aside from a couple inspired choices, like VanderMeer’s Annihilation series’ botanical theme) has led to dull, uninteresting cover art that does nothing to distinguish science fiction & horror books from their more mundane brethren, so it’s great to see a little bit of the old magic coming back.
The Secrets of Consulting.
Getting Things Done, hopefully. (A re-read.)
My morning pages from the last month or so.
Still meandering through Britain’s War Machine. It’s a refreshing / contrarian take on the current view of Britain “standing alone” after Dunkirk, instead positing that Britain’s leaders felt well-positioned to fight on as an Empire. It took Japan’s entry into the war to end that attitude.
The SSTV handbook (free PDF) about slow-scan television, that is, transmitting images through audio. A bit outdated, but still inspiring.
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. His Mars trilogy is a monumental work of hard science fiction. It’s become one of my favourites.
Also A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s beautifully written but distressing in its unfortunate realism.
Aaah I was thinking I should pick up Blue Mars soon. Love those books, but they are heavy (in the best way)! I found I needed to breathe between reading each one…
Haha, yes, they require quite a bit of work from the reader, and could potentially benefit from some editing. But on the other hand, they’re unmatched in the level of detail and scope.
Going through Andrew Yang’s “War on Normal People”.
Finish at least three chapters of Unit Testing Principles Practices and Patterns
I started reading Brian Kernighan’s UNIX: A History and a Memoir, which I learned about either here or hacker news, I forget which.
I am still working through Systems Performance. The Solaris stuff isn’t useful to me, but it would probably better be named as “Practical things to know to diagnose Linux systems performance issues.” I’ve found it a great overview of practical OS interactions with various systems (memory, networking, etc).
Barbarians at the Gate, a great read.
pthreads from O’Reilly. I finished the K&R book, and this one is helping me put that knowledge into a specific context which I find very helpful.
Also, Grass Crown, the second book in the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough. She is a tremendous writer. The books are so in depth into Roman life but the characters are so real that it just takes you along. All 1,000+ pages.
I just finished Black Swan and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Now reading A Gentleman in Moscow.
Godel, Escher, Bach: Part of a book club that is faltering, but keeping up with the book regardless
Working Effectively with Legacy Code: Seems to be heavily focused on OO codebases, but there are some good ideas in here
I’m in the middle of Cloud Atlas and so far it’s far better than the film – something I didn’t think possible because the music really sold the film for me.
The Trial - Kafka: https://books.j11g.com/search.php?id=420
just finished a song for a new day, and recommend it very highly. deals with a near-future post-apocalyptic world where a pandemic has made congregation illegal, and where a couple of large corporations have absorbed everything.
I guess I’ll add it to the non-fiction pile, thanks
Reading - as you might expect these days - Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World. It seems to me learning about our past might help in understanding our present a little better.