Books I've bought this summer

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I went to lunch with a former colleague and kindred spirit. After catching on things the topic of conversation turned to books. He asked what I'd been reading lately; we sometimes share simillar tastes and interests in books.

This summer, triggered by some gift certificates desparetely in need of redepmtion from, I've purchased quite a few books. Oh, and having free 2nd-day shipping makes buying a single book so ... easy.

My friend asked that I post a list on my blog so he could get some ideas. Here it goes roughly in order of purchase:

Squeak: Learn Programming with Robots
I bought this book because I thought it would be useful to try and get Caleb interested in programming. He's just starting fourth grade this year. I first began programming at age eight (Basic on a TI 99/4A) and purchased my first programming book—on Turbo Pascal—when I was in the 4th grade. (It took me a while, conceptually, to grasp how Pascal worked since it didn't have line numbers.)
The 4-Hour Workweek
Reads, especially at first, somewhat like an infomercial, which was a bit off putting. But the chapters on working more efficiently by changing your email habits are potentially worth the price of the book alone. The basic ideas of coming up with a product, testing the response with inexpensive online advertising, and then outsourcing fulfillment seems reasonable. Now if I only had a good idea... :-)
A New Kind of Science
Written by the author of Mathematica, as a review in Library Journal noted, "had this been written by a lesser scientist, many academics might have dismissed it as the work of a crank." Looking at the Amazon customer reviews half are positive and half are negative—many do dismiss it in large part because they claim (and I'm inclined to agree) that the author exaggerates the importance of his work. Still the subject of cellular automata is interesting, and setting aside the author's grand notions of his own importance there is plenty I found interesting. Although I'm sure I would have found it just as interesting if the book were half its ~1,200-page size.
Cross Site Scripting Attacks: XSS Exploits and Defense
This book should absoultely be required reading for anyone involved with creating, maintaining, administering, securing, managing or, heck, even using websites. The book seems like it was rushed to press—an above average number of blatantly obvious copy-editing blunders—but all of that can be overlooked since this is (for the time being) the definitive work on the subject and one that more people sorely need to understand.
The Last Light of the Sun
This is one of Guy Gavriel Kay's newer books that I hadn't already read. To be honest, I still haven't. I'm saving it for a rainy or snowy weekend this fall/winter when I can curl up and consume it fondly in one sitting.
Shaman's Crossing
Forest Mage
These are the first two books of Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy. While not quite at the same level that The Farseer, Live Ship Traders, and Tawny Man trilogies were I still found this book to be fun to read. Hobb continues her tradition of being extremely hard on her characters. The second book explores an unusual theme—weight gain—but I'll forgo saying anymore so as not to unduly spoil both the end of the first and the second books. Recommended if you're a Hobb fan or enjoy non-cliche fantasy.
Google Maps Hacks
Beginning Google Maps Applications with PHP and Ajax
I bought these two books to get a handle on integrating Google Maps in a website I've been working on-again/off-again on.
Kick Start Your Success: Four Powerful Steps to Get What You Want Out of Your Life, Career, and Business
Mostly affirmational commonsense, but a quick read that at 80% off was worth the purchase and the time.
The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
One of my favorite acquisitions of the summer, the title could be trimmed by three words and still been very descriptive. The book starts out strong—looking at two very different ways of analyizing a situation (ex post [looking backward] and ex ante [looking forward]) and the resulting future incentives—and keeps going from there.
Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
I purchased this book based on a recommendation in a blog post at Mormon Momma. Haven't gotten around to reading it yet. (I sometimes worry that my precocious daughter might end up on the receiving side in a couple of years when she is in Jr. High.)
Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics
I'm a sucker for mathematical & math history books written for a lay audience. If you don't already know who Bernhard Riemann is, haven't heard of his famous zeta function, or have an interest in prime numbers, you probably wouldn't be interested in this book.
The Dangerous Book for Boys
I bought this to share with Caleb & Jacob. They love it.
Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail
Meghan enjoys math in school. (Actually she enjoys school period.) She's starting the 5th grade this year. Between the end of elementary and junior high far too many girls lose interest in math. This book, written by Danica McKellar (most likely remembered for starring in The Wonder Years) ought to be a proactive anecdote. Meghan loves this book. Highly recommended if you have a daughter between the ages of eight and eighteen.
Aristotle for Everybody
I ordered this book based on Will's review.
Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World
I probably should be buying books on hip-languages like Ruby (& Rails etc. ;-) but Erlang and the whole notion of concurrent programming interests me more than what might be more immediately marketable on a resume.
RESTful Web Services
The world needs more REST and less SOAP...
A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
I just finished reading this tonight. Wow. Very thought provoking. It seeks to find an answer for how and why, after thousands of years of human history, mankind finally escaped the Malthusian trap at the turn of the 19th-century with the Industrial Revolution in England...
Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist
Written by Tyler Cowan, author of my favorite econ blog. It's next on my list to read now that I finished Farewell to Alms.
Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe
This s a collection of essays by physicist Freeman Dyson that arrived Wednesday.
Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart
On pre-order.
The Sunrise Lands
Also on pre-order, this book is the first in what I expect will be in a new trilogy telling the story of the first generation to come to adulthood post-Change. This is a followup to Dies the Fire, The Protector's War, and A Meeting at Corvallis. For anyone who enjoys alternate-history I recommend all of these books.

I'm taking two business trips in September so I'll need to buy some more books soon...

—Michael A. Cleverly


anna: [ mail | www | link ]

I can't remember if I've actually read Odd Girl Out or just heard so much about it in my youth education classes at the U... either way, I may need to be borrowing it from you at some point. I hear it's a must read if you have adolescent girls or work with them. (they can be so vicious!)

Sat, 01 Sep 2007, 08:28

Eric: [ mail | www | link ]

So do you still have your TI 99/4A? I taught myself BASIC in 8th grade, there's lots of fond memories there.

I still have both of mine, I'm going to sell them cheap. You can have first dibs if you want.

Fri, 07 Sep 2007, 21:27

Becca: [ mail | www | link ]

Hmm, looks like a few in there I wouldn't mind borrowing!

Wed, 12 Sep 2007, 05:50

Alan: [ mail | www | link ]

Thanks for posting the list. I am enjoying Super Crunchers right now and have a few of the other books on the way. Most are books I would have never picked up on my own. I look forward to others book lists.

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