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Books I recommend

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years ago



TCP/IP Network Administration, second edition

by Craig Hunt




Thankfully, I don't have to spend a lot of time down it the guts of TCP/IP network administration but when I do need to go there, this book generally comes up trumps for me.


High Performance Linux Clusters

by Joseph D. Sloan

Useful overview of the entire field covering OSCAR, Rocks, OpenMosix, MPI...If you need a survey in order to decide what routes to take through the Linux Clustering Architecure maze, this book is for you.




Buddhism Plain and Simple

by Steve Hagen

A useful accompaniament to Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor (below). Features an visual puzzle (a picture of a cow) that stumped me.




Buddhism Without Beliefs

by Stephen Batchelor

A useful accompaniament to Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen above. It is interesting the extent to which you can peel laters of various Buddhist traditions and get down to a non-Deistic core which is all about achieving personal contentment throught non-attachment and what might be termed "tactical" altruism.





e: THe Story of a Number

by Eli Maor


PI gets all the attention but e is much more interesting in my opinion. Popping up everywhere from interest rates to geometry to music to natural sciences, its everywhere.


The math occasionally gets a bit heavy but its mostly shoved off into the appendices where it can be safely ignored.


Fascinating stuff.





The Fabric of Reality

by David Deutsch


Amazon UK

Amazon US


Heavy going at times (in terms of content and in terms of prose) but worth it. The parallel universe approach to making sense of quantum dynamics gets a thorough run out.



Information: The New Language of Science

by Hans Christian von Baeyer


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A nice, easy read overview of how information may be a more fundamental part of science than it is generally considered to be. By this I mean, it may have a role down in the deep theories of what makes a universe, well, a universe. I think of it like this: without the ability to differentiate one thing from another thing, there can be no reality. If the universe was just a uniform distribution of empty vacuum with no atomic matter, dark matter or dark energy there would be essentially nothing. Things can only form when some part of reality is different from some other part of reality: this is an atom, that is an X-ray. This is hydrogen, that is oxygen...that sort of thing. As soon as things are differentiable..you have information. In that sense, information is a fundamental aspect of reality.





Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (Penguin Modern Classics)

by Jorge Luis Borges


Amazon UK

Amazon US


Borges has the soul of a geek. In fact, he reads like a

spanish-speaking, lisp programming, XML dochead with a background in

epistemology. Fascinating.



.NET and J2EE Interoperability Toolkit

by S. Guest


Amazon UK

Amazon US


Useful overview of the patterns and techniques applicable to .NET/J2EE interop.



E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

by David Bodanis

Amazon UK

Amazon US


Very readable history of the whole energy=mass thing. Contains some

interesting nuggets about Einstein and some scary nuggets about the

history of radioactivity research. I will never look at toothpaste or

a cookbook in quite the same way again.


Slaughterhouse Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

Amazon UK

Amazon US


A weird but oddly gripping read. More effective at communicating the

horrors of war than any amount of blood and guts action writing.


The Man Who Knew Infinity: Life of the Genius Ramanujan

by Robert Kanigel


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A very readable look at the life of one of Mathematics purest, rawest, geniuses.


A Mathematician's Apology

by G.H. Hardy


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A short and bitter sweet look at the life of a pure mathematician by a

pure mathematician.


Mother Tongue

by Bill Bryson


Amazon UK

Amazon US


This book is brimful of excellent not-many-people-know-that factoids

about the English language. Examples : Shakespeare is responsible for

the phrase "to back a horse". There are about 150 words in English

that got there because of typos in dictionaries (ha!). "demit" is the

antonym of "commit" which, unfortunately, has fallen into

disuse. Instead, we geeks have to say "roll back" as the opposite of

"commit". What a shame.


My favourite new word out of this book?

Catachresis. Yummy.



Algorithmics - The spirit of computing

by by David Harel


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A very readable 30 thousand feet tour of formal correctness,

efficiency, intractability, universality, undecidability, parallelism

and probabilistic methods. In other words, big chunks of Computer

Science in a digestable 400 pages or so.



Ingenious Ireland

by Mary Mulvihill


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A county by county breakdown of scientific shenanigans in Ireland over

the centuries.


It turns out that the mathematician


Stokes - he of 'Navier Stokes Equations' fame. (shudder). Was born

just down the road from where I live in Sligo.


Even closer to home (Collooney) is the birthplace of William Higgins

who invented the chemical notation for Oxygen.


Down in Cork, an accountant by the name of Percy Ludgate had the

designs for a computer in 1909. Like the well known Babbage machine,

it was never built but it contained some fundamental innovatations

such as the concept of a subroutine. Who would have thought that

expunging gotos began with an Irish accountant?


Its hard to put this book down once you dip into it.



The man who loved only numbers

by Paul Hoffman

Amazon UK

Amazon US


An engaging bio of Paul Erdos, the eccentric mathematician. His field,

graph theory is particularly relevant on the platform known as the

Web. In particular the concept of an "Erdos number" invented by his

colleagues is an early example of what today would probably be called

"social sofware".



Information Rules

by Carl Shapiro & Hal Varian


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A sobering analysis of the economic realities of the software and

e-content businesses. Anybody on the receiving end of vendor pitches

about "open systems" and "zero lockin" and "standards based" design

needs to read this book.


There are only so many business models for software and yes, they

pretty much all involve maximising your switching costs and squeezing

you for recurring revenue. Remember, their business model is not your

business model.


That all fine and good. Its the realities of capitalism. I'm all for

it. But I'm also all for customers being cognisant of the rules

of the game. This book spells them out.



The Tipping Point

by Malcom Gladwell

Amazon UK

Amazon US



An interesting and easy read. Some times things reach a point and

then...bang, all is changed. Obviously really, once you see it

written down. When reading about connectors and mavens, I found myself

buttoning people I knew into those categories. The organisational

magic number stuff is very interesting too. I will never be able to

look at the number 150 again without thinking about it.


The Social Life of Information

by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid

Amazon UK

Amazon US



Interesting sanity check on the information technology

revolution. Information, its production, desimmination and use are all

extremely social phenomena. Failure to cater for 'soft' issues in IT

can lead to unexpected negative consequences.


The Monk and the Philosopher

by Jean-Francois Revel & Mathiew Ricard


Amazon UK

Amazon US



An engaging series of conversations beteen a father and a son who

happen to be western philosopher and Tibetan Buddhist monk



East meets west stuff on epistomology, consciousness, morality etc.








Metamagical Themas - Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern

by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Amazon UK

Amazon US


Great collection of essays from the full vista of Hofstadter's

interests. From Rubic Cubes to chaos to AI to number numbness. A great

to dip into which always gives me something to think about.


The Search for the Perfect Language

by Umberto Eco

Amazon UK


Amazon US


A scholarly tour through the most prominent attempts at constructing

perfect languages over the centuries. Reading this book will make you

appreciate the complexities of language and may even lead to an

appreciation of those irregular verbs that drove you wild in school.


Godel, Escher, Bach

by Douglas Hofstadter

Amazon UK


Amazon US


Wonderful. As a kid in first year comp. sci., this book was an eye

opener. It provided validation of a suspicion I had that computing -

especially software - could just as easily be housed in the Arts




by William Gibson

Amazon UK


Amazon US


Just read it. Drop everything and read it NOW.


Programming Python

by Mark Lutz, Laura Lewin, Frank Willson

Amazon UK


Amazon US


A classic. The first edition of this got me started with Python many

years ago. Back then it was one of only two books available on

Python. How things have changed.


Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language

by Stephen Pinker

Amazon UK


Amazon US


An engaging tour (I flicked some of the detail) around human language

and its rules. I have a newfound appreciation for irregular verbs and

a boxload of new "not many people know that" factoids.


Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy

by Simon Blackburn

Amazon UK


Amazon US


A wonderful hypertexted dictionary. Impossible to put down because any

term you look up, probably is within 6 degrees of separation of every

other term and the hypertext will get you there.


Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics

by George Johnson

Amazon UK


Amazon US


A bio of Murray Gell-Mann. Very readable. Fascinating insights into

the mans personality as well as his work. I'd recommend reading it

back-to-back with Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics



Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics

by James Gleick


Amazon UK

Amazon US


A bio of the great Richard Feynman. Very accomplishes as you would

expect from Gleick. I'd recommend reading it back-to-back with Strange



Enterprise Integration Patterns : Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions


by Gregor Hohpe, Bobby Woolf

Amazon UK

Amazon US


In case you had not noticed, software integration using XML messaging

is basically how Enterprise Application Integration will be done for

the forseable future. Web Services, SOAP, REST, Tuple Spaces, SOA,

ESB, Indigo, MDB - take your pick. Messaging is *not* about

objects. Messaging is *not* about databases. Messaging is *not* about

two phase commit ACID transactions. If you are an object guy or a

database guy struggling to get to grips with messaging, this book is

for you.








Chaos - Making a new science


by James Gleick

Amazon UK

Amazon US


This was the first book I read about chaos theory. In 96 I think. For

a few years before that I had been coding up fractals and fernleaves

for display on a 32 bit TI graphics chip we used at work.


A great easy reading introduction and some great plates.










by Neal Stephenson

Amazon UK

Amazon US


A book about war and science and math and money. The only novel I have

ever read that contains a perl script. Whats not to like?








Naming and Necessity


by Saul Kripke

Amazon UK

Amazon US



Thinking about URIs versus URNs? Contemplating a bout of nominalism?

Planning an argument with a logical positivist? This book is for you.


Kripke is one of those exacerbating thinkers (like Chomsky) who

says/writes intriguing stuff on some subject and then moves off to

think about other stuff, leaving a trail of debate in their wake.


In Kripke's case, he questions a whole bunch of generally accepted

stuff from Russell and Frege to do with names and what names really



Its fascinating to read this stuff with one eye on URIs and the other

on URNs:-)

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