Reading for July and August:

  • Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy.
  • Robert C. Martin, Clean Code.
  • Robert C. Martin, The Clean Coder.
  • Kent Beck, Test Driven Development.
  • Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, Algorithms to Live By.

Partially Reads:

  • Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon.

First, on the “Partially Reads” list. I thought it would be good for me to read a classic. Unfortunately, it must have been a little too good for me. God, the Grapes of Wrath is depressing. A little more than half way in, they finally get to California and paradise turns out to be hell. No doubt Steinbeck is brilliant. There were a few laugh out loud moments in the midst of all the depression-era mayhem. But I couldn’t take it any more. Times are already depressing enough. Maybe some day I’ll read the second half.

I also took a crack at Altered Carbon, wanting to see where science fiction has gone since reading Dune last spring. It got rave reviews. The fly leaf said that there was a movie contract out on it. It would probably make a good movie. But in the end it wasn’t compelling enough to keep reading the last 100 pages. At least, not for me. I just didn’t care what happened to the lead character any more. If they ever make the movie, I’ll probably watch it when it gets to DVD and find out.

On to the ones I did read all the way to the end.

I found Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway, her latest reflection on bumbling through life, on the “new arrivals” shelf at the library. It’s an easy afternoon’s read. Lamott is entertaining and thoughtful, as always. She’s still funny, but it seems as if this year’s Lamott is growing sadder. If your looking for a trip down Schadenfreude Lane, this is it.

The Robert Martin and Kent Beck books are, admittedly, not what you’d call summer beach reading. But for a coder, they’re also classics. They’re not easy reads, but I’m glad to have read them, and I’ll keep them handy as long as I continue coding.

The highlight of the summer was Algorithms to Live By. As it turns out, many of the problems we spend an inordinate amount of time agonizing over have already been solved mathematically. For example, if you need to hire a secretary, interview the first 37% of the candidates without hiring, then hire the first candidate that’s better than the best candidate in that first 37%. You have a 36% chance of hiring the best applicant possible, which as it turns out are the best odds possible anyway. By far the most useful chapters for me were those about caching (where to save stuff so you can find it), and packet loss (how to handle email overload). The chapters on guessing the odds of things were also pretty good. I feel pretty confident that I won $2 by not buying a powerball ticket last week.