“The developer stands before her source code editor in the same way the author confronts the blank page. There’s an idea for what is to be created, and the (daunting) knowledge that there are a billion possible ways to go about it. To proceed, each relies on one part training to three parts creative intuition. They may also share a healthy impatience for the ways things ‘have always been done’ and a generative desire to break conventions. When the module is finished or the pages complete, their quality is judged against many of the same standards: elegance, concision, cohesion; the discovery of symmetries where none were seen to exist. Yes, even beauty.”
– J. Bradford Hipps, NYT May 21, 2016
J. Bradford Hipps’ recent NYT column on the value of literature for programming encouraged us to examine Earthling reading habits. What we discovered was a great list of books ranging from classics to web serials to insightful nonfiction. Take a look and add some of these titles to your summer reading list.
The Fifties by David Halberstam
An accessible and captivating nonfiction book. Halberstam is an incredible researcher and writer. Aside from learning a lot about America in the fifties, the book provides profoundly relevant context for understanding our current social, economic and political landscape. This understanding is even more important now as current politicians use political rhetoric based partly on nostalgia for this era.
Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto
A small-ish scale farmer chronicles his attempts to save a variety of peach he grows that is absolutely delicious but doesn’t travel that well and doesn’t meet consumer expectations of appearance (tends to stay yellow rather than blush red). It’s a very moving story of his internal conflict, as he is torn between wanting to save his livelihood and wanting to save something he feels is worth eating, and it sheds a lot of light on the way our food system operates. Sounds dry but is actually a wonderful read. Odessa Piper, the founder of L’Etoile Restaurant, must have also read the book because Masumoto Farms peaches found their way onto the menu there a few years after the book was published.
The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision for the Future by Steve Case
I’m a big fan of non-fiction books about technology trends and found this one to have some wonderful insight. The author, Steve Case, founded AOL back in 1985 and since then has been involved in many cutting edge technologies. In this book, he builds off of his learned knowledge from the past to make predictions for the third wave of technology in the future economy.
In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente
This is a recursive Fairy Tale where in the middle of one tale another tale is told that might lead to another tale being told until they end and return to the previous tale. It is an amazing piece of work to weave them all together.
Worm (A web serial) by J.McCrae
An introverted teenage girl with an unconventional superpower, Taylor goes out in costume to find escape from a deeply unhappy and frustrated civilian life. Her first attempt at taking down a supervillain sees her mistaken for one, thrusting her into the midst of the local ‘cape’ scene’s politics, unwritten rules, and ambiguous morals. As she risks life and limb, Taylor faces the dilemma of having to do the wrong things for the right reasons.
Lexicon: A Novel by Max Barry
It takes on big ideas (linguistics, manipulation) but this is actually a really fun thriller and a quick read. The main character is a super smart girl recruited to a kind of secret society of linguists planning to take over the world with the power of language. This is the kind of book that makes you feel smart and entertained at the same time.
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
Follows a historian writing about his grandparent’s frontier life and how it parallels his own. This book is interesting both from a historic perspective of what a frontier marriage might have looked like, but also as a deeper look into marriage, family, and relationships that transcend time.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
i haven’t been gripped by a book like i was by this one in a long time, it even made me cry twice! it’s a legend told by the legendary figure himself. the character development is fascinating as you learn about all the flaws of the hero and how his adventures may not have been as grand as he made them out to be.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A very funny book that provides a memorable and accurate description of life in New Orleans.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
It’s one of two books that inspired the name of our son. Incredible warmth, sadness and humanity from a character who finds himself caught between multiple worlds and struggles to find a place he can belong.