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Book recommendation for the holidays?


Care to recommend some books for this upcoming holiday season? Doesn' t have to be software related.

Just wanted to know if I could get my hands on some cool readings.

words of wisdom from a dude in LA
Friday, November 28, 2003

Brining Down The House - Ben Mezrich
*  Its about 6 MIT students taking Las Vegas for millions.  If you like gambling, this is kind of a cool story.

How the Universe Got Its Spots - Janna Levin
* A discussion about astro/quantum physics.  Pretty cool, if you like that kinda stuff

Janson Directive - Robert Ludlum
* A super spy novel, very entertaining.

I just got back from vacation and I picked up several books before I left.  These three certainly stood out.

Friday, November 28, 2003

I second "Bringing Down The House". Mind you, i'm Canadian too...hmmm..something about gambling? :)

Friday, November 28, 2003

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson!

Friday, November 28, 2003

Take your pick depending on how you feel:

The Existential Pleasures of Engineering -- makes the astonishing claim that engineering is a profession that has contributed positively to humanity.

Bee Season -- about a little girl who is very good at spelling bees. You'll see.

Dina Sudahay
Friday, November 28, 2003

"The Nature Of Power - The Essential Noam Chomsky".
A collection of discussions (questions and answers) with Noam Chomsky.

I am a very right wing conservative sort of person, respectful of the neccessity of organised control and authority etc etc...  But this book had a huge impression on me.

Also, I assume you have already read "Godel Escher Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid".  It is objectively the best book ever written :)

Or if you want some inspiration "In Search Of Excellence", read, amount other stories, about how 15 engineers in a hotel room changed the design of an airoplane from prop to jet in a week, only to then run down to a model shop, buy some wood and build a scale model all before their deadline to present the design to the US Air Force.


Friday, November 28, 2003

Noam Chomsky is great, but after reading him you might not want to return to work in January... You mean the corporations really are opressing me, and offshoring is a win-win situation because they get cheaper labor in India AND here?

Another interesting book is Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. She took $500 and headed to a town or city and took a bottom-of-the-barrel type job and just saw what that lifestyle is like, how well she could survive and so on. She said the most interesting thing was that while she was educated (she's a writer for Harpers) nobody ever told her she was "too smart for this job."

Godel Escher Bach is definately on my to-read list. So is Bringing Down the House. Another book on my to-read list is Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Clifford Stoll. A math teacher turned sysadmin who noticed some suspicious behaviour and helped track down an international hacker.

I really enjoyed Sources of Power by Steve Klein about how decisions are made in high pressure situations. He was commissioned by the military to study this, and comes to some interesting conclusions & has some good insights. A great read. I recommend it to everyone.

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman is excellent if you're interested in design.

A Random Walk Down Wallstreet is a great investment book (I think Joel agrees with me here). Really makes a strong case for buying no load index funds and not trying to beat the dow.
Friday, November 28, 2003

You say 'win-win' situation because "they" (they corporations in US and overseas) win. Isn't that a win-lose situation for us individuals? I guess we'll all just buy stocks and get rich while watching TV instead of by designing things.

Friday, November 28, 2003

I meant the corporation wins in two ways. Really it's a lose-lose situation for everyone but them.
Friday, November 28, 2003

I read Ehrenreich's book ("Nickel and Dimed").  It was OK, but a bit too preachy for my taste.

The following book covers some of the same material, but this one is a lot funnier:

The book is called, "A Working Stiff's Manifesto: A Memoir of Thirty Jobs I Quit, Nine That Fired Me, and Three I Can't Remember", by Iain Levison.

I also maintain a page with book reviews.  If someone is really, really interested, you can Google my name and find my homepage.

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, November 28, 2003

Interesting. I read some extremely right wing reviews of Ehrenreich's book. One guy seemed to have not even read it, another read it and disagreed with about 5% of what she said, but disagreed vehemently with it.

I really enjoyed Ehrenreich's book, an interesting glimpse into lower class life from my middle class background. I mentioned it because of the Noam Chomsky recommendation, I think people who like Noam might like this book.

I'll check out that Levison book.
Friday, November 28, 2003

Here are some. I prefer fiction.

Foucalt's Pendulum (Umberto Eco)

I dislike teleological explanations. I liked this book for that reason.

Vitals (Greg Bear)

A cool paranoid sci-fi type book. I read it in one sitting, which I suppose is some kind of recommendation.

<Any of his novels> (Peter Ackroyd)

I've enjoyed them all.

The Grand Babylon Hotel (Arnold Bennett)

It won't take you long to read it, so do.

Design and Evolution of C++ (Bjare Stroustrup)

The various tradeoffs are described well. You'll either appreciate C++ more, or appreciate the justifiable things that make it bad :)

(If you're going to read Mr Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach, I suggest you do so before you get too old. It struck me as a young man's book. Fortunately, I'm a young man, so I quite enjoyed it; I intend to reread it again aged 35.)

Insert half smiley here.
Friday, November 28, 2003

Barbarians at the Gate : The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Fascinating book about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. A bit dated now but one of those books that's hard to put down.

Interaction Architect
Friday, November 28, 2003

If you're interested at a glimpse of lower class life I seriously recommend "Down and out in Paris and London" by George Orwell.

Friday, November 28, 2003

As opposed to rereading any book for the first time, I suppose.

Insert half smiley here.
Friday, November 28, 2003

Foucault's Pendulum is great, especially if you're into esoteric Christian mythos things, like Templars and Rosecrutians. It also makes you look smart when you read it.

Having seen The Name of the Rose, I see a similar theme in Eco's works... But I don't want to spoil the end for you.
Friday, November 28, 2003

My attempts to read Foucault's Pendulum failed both times. It's extremely difficult for me to understand what's going on.

words of wisdom from a dude in LA
Saturday, November 29, 2003

OK, I'm up with that assessment.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

I too had no success with Foucault's Pendulum

There were al the interesting little diagrams in the book - but had no luck following the story :(

Another book by the same author - "Name of the Rose" is pretty good. The movie , with Sean Connery, is excellento.

Great visuals.

Ram Dass
Saturday, November 29, 2003

I admit that, though I loved Foucault's Pendulum, I didn't really "get" the plot arc the first time through the book. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is easier to follow, but I found it rather dry. Chattaqua, to me, was an opportunity to interrupt the plot and ramble on for a while.

Though I admit that the end was mind blowing... Not that I remember the end anymore.
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Someone wrote a guide to The Name of the Rose, I think it's called "The Key to the Name of the Rose" and I wish someone would do the same for Foucault's Pendulum.
Saturday, November 29, 2003

I loved Foucault's Pendulum. It was difficult to follow in passages but the overall story made it worth trudging through those. Perhaps some of the clarity is lost in the translation from Italian. I read one other of Eco's - The Island of the Day Before. I put it down half way through and never picked it up again.

If you like humor, I would recommend any of Carl Hiaasen's books - but his earlier one's are the funniest. Skin Tight and Tourist Season were my favs.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Any books with short stories by Italo Calvino. The Emperor's New Mind by Penrose. I never got Godel, Escher,  Bach: I got really bored after 100 pages.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Bhagwad Gita .
The great Hindu spiritual book . Will tell you the reason for your existence.

indian programmer
Saturday, November 29, 2003

_Trainspotting_, by Irving Welsh. An amazing novel, and signifigantly more in depth than the movie, which really only focused on Rent Boy. The sequel, _Porno_, is also quite good (and a lot more coherent). I felt like I was coming home to old friends when I read it.

_The Crow Road_ by Iain Banks. His best book. If you have a strong stomach and a dark streak, his first book, _The Wasp Factory_ is excellent and disturbing.

_Natural Capitalism_ by Paul Hawken et al. Inspiring, thought provoking, well researched and well annotated. Proof positive that envronmental solutions are less expensive and more economically efficient than non-enviornmental solutions.

If you like children's literature, I am very fond of the _A Series of Unfortunate Events_ books by Lemony Snicket, the first being _A Bad Beginning_. There are something like 15 of them.


Tim Sullivan
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Mmm yes, children's literature.

- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
- Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too and Amphigorey Also by Edward Gorey

More adult but easy to read:

- The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis
- The Big Book of the Unexplained ('true' stories of weird happenings illustrated by famous underground cartoonists -- there is an entire 'Big Book' series, all of which are worth the time and money spent and will really educate you on arcane weirdness and trivia)

All time favorites:
- The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens
- Hawthorne, Tales and Sketches (or any other anthology of Hawthorne)
- Moby Dick
- Complete Short Stories, Mark Twain
- A New Model of the Universe, P.D. Ouspensky

X. J. Scott
Saturday, November 29, 2003

There's always the great Hithchiker's Guide books, by Douglas Adams. Thought the first couple are the best, all of themare quite good.

Also quite humorous is Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchet (hmm, Ispelled that wrong).

Dan Simmon's Illium is extremely, and while it ends relatively well, it does have a concluding sequel planned and not out.

Similarly, George R. Martin's series, A Song of Ice and Fire, beginning with A Clash of Kings,is one of the most amazing works of fantasy thatI've read in a very long time.

Mike Swieton
Saturday, November 29, 2003

The HitchHikers Guide is best enjoyed as it was intended to be consumed - The Radio Drama !!!!!!! Then go play the video game on DNA's website.

After 4 books written as half hour episodes with rediculous cliffhangers, I was surpised when Mostly Harmless was not only coherent, but had a fairly sophisticated plot involving time travel and continuity and all that.

Speaking of children's books, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy was excellent. You'll find this in both the sci-fi/fantasy section and children's section. I listened to the audio dramatization of these and enjoyed them tremendously.
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Sophies World by Jostein Gardener is an outstanding read.

It is really a very effective lesson in the history of philisophical thought barely disguised as a novel.

Ged Byrne
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Second Iain Banks. He also writes sci-fi under the name
Iain M. Banks, "Player of Games" and "Excession" are two of my favourites. One of the best. Irving Welsh too, although strangely I've read all his books except "Trainspotting".

If you like Calvino, Primo Levi's short stories are good too ("Periodic Table" is one favourite collection). He was an Auschwitz survivor, so he has some auto-biographical works too. "Tartar Steppe" by Dino Buzzati is another good book by an Italian author. Also Baricco, "Ocean Sea" for example, although I prefer "City", almost Banks in style.

"Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them" by Al Franken was entertaining, although the politics/people can be hard to follow, not knowing who they all are - perhaps just as well. I'm sure it offends many people, but that's what political satire is for.

In science I read many books, at the moment trying to find a good one on consciousness - tried both Pinker's "How the Mind Works" (a little trite in places but some good explanations of the basics) and Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens" (feels like it should be good but very convoluted langauge). Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is, of course, shallow in the sense he's covering a lot of ground, but a surprisingly good read. Sobel's "Longitude" stands out. "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation" by Judson is a gem with lines like "Dear Dr. Tatiana, I'm a European praying mantis, and I've noticed I enjoy sex more if I bite my lovers' heads off first. Because when I decapitate them they go into to most thrilling spasms". There's a serious side to it too.

History. Of recent reads Beevor's "Stalingrad" was good. Robert Grave's "Goodbye to All That" is good as autobiography/history. Norwich's "Byzantium" trilogy of books is very well written. Herodotus remains as good as ever (as a story or history?) and Seutonius "Twelve Caesars".

A short list, so much to read, so little time.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Read the lyrics, "Caught somewhere in time" by Iron Maiden

Caught somewhere in time
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Memiors of a Geisha by Arthur Golden was great. So was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Arthur Berendt.

Is someone taking notes?
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I'll second Pratchett's and Gamen's 'Good Omens.'

Ged Byrne
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I have to join in recommending Foucault's Pendulum.  Once I started, I couldn't put it down except to go peek out the front window to make sure there weren't any creepy people watching me.  That's part of the fun of this book.  Eco's work is so well researched and so well written that you get tricked into believing what he's telling you.  You get this feeling like you're reading things that you're not supposed to know.  It's like you've wandered into some forbidden room in the Vatican's library and found a scroll signed by Jesus in 20 A.D. stating that he paid the Romans 80 pieces of silver and they agreed to crucify Judas Iscariot in his place and keep it a secret.  After that, you get the feeling that somebody knows you've seen the document and they're determined to make sure you don't live to tell the tale.

More recommendations:

The White Plague by Frank Herbert - Unfortunately, it's out of print, but it shouldn't be too hard to find at a used book store.  I'm actually surprised they haven't re-released it because of the current hubbub about biological terrorism.  This book is probably more relevant now than it was in 1982 when it was published.

Necessary Illusions:  Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges - This is a collection of short stories that are full of puzzles, paradoxes, arcana, and philosophical ponderings.  If you like Eco, you'll love Borges.

Lies My Teacher Told Me:  Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen

Onion Girl by Charles de Lint - Fantasy and magic in a modern urban setting.

Matt Latourette
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I loved Microserfs. Can anyone recommend any other books like it?

Crap, it'll be Monday again
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Ah, Douglas Coupland. If I'm not mistaken, he's the man who coined the terms Brain Candy and Generation X.

Full name:
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I'll second "Down and out in Paris and London".
Anyway, I would probably recommend anything by George Orwell.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

"Ah, Douglas Coupland. If I'm not mistaken, he's the man who coined the terms Brain Candy and Generation X."

Yes.  He's quite good at that.  He was also the originator of the terms "McJob" and "Veal-Fattening Pens."

Matt Latourette
Sunday, November 30, 2003

"Interface" by Stephen Bury
"Cryptonomicon" by Neal Stephenson

"Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman"
by James Gleick
"The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time"
by Jonathan Weiner
"The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution"
by Stuart A. Kauffman

"Hardwired" by Walter Jon Williams
"Neuromancer" by William Gibson
"The Eye of the World" by Robert Jordan

"The Brain Makers" by H. P. Newquist
"The Internet Bubble"
by Anthony B. Perkins & Michael C. Perkins

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, December 1, 2003

"Independent People," by Halldor Laxness. Bleak but brilliant novel that won the author the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature.

"Norwegian Wood," by Haruki Murakami. Actually anything by Murakami would be good, including the surrealistic "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle." I love his writing, although his characters start feeling a bit too similar if you read more than a few of his novels.

Monday, December 1, 2003

"The Language Instinct" by Stephen Pinker, followed by "How the Mind Works" also by Stephen Pinker.

Excellent reads.

Mr Jack
Monday, December 1, 2003

The next books on my want-to-read list:

The Art of Computer Programming Volumes 1-3
3:16 Bible Verses Illuminated

both by Don Knuth.

Jim Rankin
Monday, December 1, 2003

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