Tag Archives | Books

What have I been reading?

Reading list

Books I want to read this year. List is in no particular order. I’ll select from the list based on whim. Let’s all gather round the glow of our screens in December to see how many I managed to read. 

Lonely Planets (David Grinspoon) – Finished

Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success (Ken Segall) – Finished

Chocky (John Wyndham) – Finished

The Geek Manifesto (Mark Henderson) – Finished

By Light Alone (Adam Roberts) – currently reading

Solaris Rising (Various) – partially read. Short stories.

Manhattan in Reverse (Peter F. Hamilton) – partially read. Short stories.

The Fabric of the Cosmos (Brian Green) – partially read

The Devine Wind (Kerry Emanuel) – partially read

Paradox (Jim Al-Khalili)

Why Beauty is Truth (Ian Stewart)

The Rough Guide to the Future (Jon Turney) – Finished

The Equations: Icons Of Knowledge (Sander Bias)

Very Special Relativity (Sander Bias)

It Must Be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science (Graham Farmelo)

The Quantum Universe (Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw)

Why Does E=mc² (Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw) – Finished.

Calculus Made Easy (Silvanus P. Thompson)

China: Illustrated History (Patricia Buckley Ebrey)

America: A Narrative History (George Brown Tindall, David Emory Shi)

The Seven Basic Plots (Christopher Booker)

Writing Fiction: A Guide For The Narrative Craft (Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French)

Reading Like A Writer (Francine Prose)

How Not To Write A Novel (Howard Mittlemark, Sandra Newman)

The Etymologicon  (Mark Forsyth)

Snuff (Terry Pratchett) – Finished

Dodger (Terry Pratchett)

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter)

Starmaker (Olaf Stapledon)

Odd John (Olaf Stapledon)

Last And First Men (Olaf Stapledon)

Jack Glass (Adam Roberts)

Novelists Boot Camp (Todd A. Stone)

God: The Failed Hypothesis (Victor J. Stenger)

The Comprehensible Cosmos (Victor J. Stenger)

Irreligion (John Allen Paulos)

The Universe (john Gribbin)

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots (Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, Jon Warshawsky)

Consider Her Ways (John Wyndham)

Land Of The Headless (Adam Roberts)

Gradisil (Adam Roberts)

50 Mathematical Ideas You Really Need To Know (Tony Crilly)

50 Philosophy Ideas You Really Need To Know (Ben Dupré)

50 Physics Ideas You Really Need To Know (Joanne Baker)

Logic: A Very Short Introduction (Graham Priest)

Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction (Timothy Gowers)

Guerrilla Home Recording (Karl Coryat)







2011 Science book per month challenge

Inspired by Ian Sales idea, I’ve decided to read a popular science book each month in 2011. The list of the 12 books (which is changing as the year goes on!):

  1. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution – Finished
  2. Why Evolution is True
  3. Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes – Currently Reading
  4. Four Laws That Drive The Universe – Finished
  5. Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life
  6. Why Beauty is Truth
  7. The Rough Guide To The Future
  8. Future Files: A Brief History Of The Next 50 Years
  9. An Optimist’s Tour of the Future – Finished
  10. The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True
  11. How It Ends: From You to the Universe
  12. The Fabric of the Cosmos – Partially Read

I’ve added a 13th book. Coincidently this book comprises 12 essays so I could read 1 per month alongside the other 12 books. The 13th (or zeroth as I’ll call it) is:


Like the new Amazon Kindle

Had a play with Ian Moran’s new Amazon Kindle this morning. Very nice indeed. It has the same screen as my Sony PRS-505 eInk reader. The new Kindle is much better to look at than the previous model. If I was buying an eInk device in the UK I’d get the new Kindle. The Sony PRS-300 has a better form factor I think, but the Kindle Store and the easy access to content trumps it in the UK. In North America the Sony Store might make me choose the Sony over the Kindle.

Amazon Associates link above.

Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-88 by Michael Palin

Just finished reading the 2nd volume of Michael Palin’s diaries. A good, interesting read. They cover the period from 1980 to 1988. Indeed, this volume finishes on the evening before Palin embarks on his trip for Around the world in 80 days. I’m not sure this volume is as interesting as the original volume. Both volumes are certainly worth reading.

I’ve been keeping a diary of my own for the last while as a result of reading this volume. I’m doing it electronically in MacJournal. Really enjoying it. It’s a very cathartic process getting the events of the day documented as one of the last things before bed. It’s also good practice for writing in general and contributes words towards meeting the one million that David Gerold reckons you need to get under your belt as practise, if you want to be a writer. See tip 4 here. I’ve been writing a lot recently. In the journal, in various fiction projects in Scrivener, and in documents for work. I like writing.

Back to programming basics

I bought myself a copy of the Pragmamatic Programmers Learn To Program book. I’ve decided to go back to basics and make sure I have a good foundation in the basics of programming before trying to build some applications I want for the Macintosh and iPhone.

Not because I have tried to build the applications and failed. I haven’t. No, I just want to build the foundations first before moving on to meaningful stuff. Sort of fill in some of the knowledge you’d get from doing a formal programming course at College or in first year University; but by self study. What is that term about a house built on sand…

In addition to the Learn To Program book, which uses the Ruby language for its examples and exercises, I’ve also got two entry level Objective-C books that I will be studying at the same time. These are Programming in Objective-C 2.0 by Kochan and Learn Objective-C on the Mac by Dalrymple & Knaster.

I’m going to use all three of the books at the same time by reading a chapter at a time from each. Is this sensible? Who knows? I’ll get back to you on that in a month 🙂

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

Just finished reading Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. It is a very good book indeed. I read it in print form (on the Sony Reader) and as an Audio book. Skipping between the formats depending on what I was doing. The audio book version is read by Obama. He could have a good career as a voice actor in 8 years after his Presidency 🙂

The book itself is a very good manifesto for a fair and tolerant society. Parts of it moved me close to tears, whilst other parts made me laugh out loud. Not at the ideas but rather at the prose and the turn of phrase used. The only part of the book I disagree with is the chapter on Faith. Obama is a Christian and he outlines why he took this path after a wide ranging exposure to many religious, spiritual and secular ideas in his youth. Whist I can understand at the intellectual level his decision to be baptised as a Christian, I find myself disappointed that he did. I’m perfectly willing to admit that this is my bias and prejudice showing through. With that bias fully acknowledged, It has to be said that Obama presents a good case for why secularists should not expect people of faith to park their beliefs at the door. He also points out however that the religious cannot base their argument on recourse to God’s Will or scripture and expect to carry the argument. Arguments in a democracy have to be open and acceptable to all members of the society, whether religious or not. UPDATE: See video below in which Obama talks about this subject. This is much like the text in the book. This book is highly recommended. Either in print or audio book form.

The world will be a shinier place on 5th November 2008 if Barack Obama is the President Elect of the USA.

Obama quote on schools from The Audacity of Hope

I’m reading Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope at the minute. The following excerpt struck me:

Sometimes we need both cultural transformation and government action – a change in values and a change in policy – to promote the kind of society we want. The state of our inner-city schools is a case in point. All the money in the world won’t boost student achievement if parents make no effort to instil in their children the values of hard work and delayed gratification. But when we as a society pretend that poor children will fulfil their potential in dilapidated, unsafe schools with outdated equipment and teachers who aren’t trained in the subjects they teach, we are perpetrating a lie on these children, and on ourselves. We are betraying our values.

I work in an area related the UK Building Schools for the Future programme. I think that the money being spent modernising schools is money well spent. For the reasons outlined by Barack Obama in the quoted text above.

The book is highly recommended.

Audiobooks and reading

I’ve discovered an interesting thing with audiobooks and real books (both paper and electronic). If I try to read a book via audiobook for the first time then I find it hard to sustain my interest. On the other hand if I use an audiobook edition as a way to reread a book I’ve actually read (i.e. the words on a page) then I like it a lot. I think that’s how I will use audiobooks. As a way of rereading books I’ve physically read before.

Journey to the Ants – Hölldobler and Wilson

Just ordered a copy of Journey to the Ants by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson. It’s a book about how ants evolved and how they live in various habitats and colonies. This book seems to be a more accessible study of the subject of ants than their academic focused The Ants. The latter is £116 on Amazon UK! I’m really interested in the topic of social insects and eusocial societies. As witnessed by my posts here on Hellstrom’s Hive and Stephen Baxter’s Destiny’s Children books.

JournayToTheAnts.jpg Click picture for larger view