- “Tao-teching” by Lao Tzu – since it’s a very short book with many very
different translations, I read a couple. One by Stephen Mitchell and one by
Red Pine, which also has commentaries. It’s interesting to contrast the
different translations – they’re very different! I found the English in
Mitchell’s more flowy, though Red Pine seems to approach accuracy very
academically and collects from multiple sources, so his may be the closer to
the original (?). In any case, it’s quite a unique book which tries to convey
the Tao without explicitly saying what it is. It’s curious to find a bunch of
advice in it that withstood the test of time because it’s being told by
self-help gurus and materials to this day.
- “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline – an original fantasy sci-fi story about
a dystopian future where people find solace in an engrossing VR simulation,
and a group of protagonists with an RPG-like quest. Full of references to
games, movies and geek culture from the 1980s, so somewhat earlier than my
time. I imagine it really speaks to folks of a certain age though. Not bad for
a sci-fi book, overall.
- “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World” by Daniel
Yergin – an epic treatise of energy – oil, coal, natural gas, solar, wind,
etc. Covers many aspects including history and geo-politics in many parts of
the world, economics, the transportation market and much more. At over 800
pages it’s long-winded and a bit repetitive in places, but overall a very
well-written and interesting book.
- “Gorilla, My Love” by Toni Cade Bambara – a collection of short stories
about the lives of blacks in Brooklyn, told from the vantage point of a young
girl. In theory, sounds great. In practice, however, there’s a strong mismatch
between this book’s artistic style and what I prefer reading; I didn’t like
the writing at all. Some stories are nice, but many are borderline unreadable
- “Deep Learning with Python” by Francois Chollet – a very good introduction
to deep learning and the Keras library. I really like the intuitions and
hard-won experience shared by the author for choosing the right kinds of model
for a given problem. That said, the book avoids getting into math and
describing the inner workings of DNNs in too much detail; I understand it’s a
deliberate choice and respect it, but IMHO it makes it more suitable for
complete beginners than for folks interested in getting to the next level.
- “A Crack in Creation” by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg – some of the
pioneers of CRISPR technology discuss its origins, developments and possible
future. Very interesting topic, and the book is well written. I personally
found the biology parts much more interesting than the ethics parts and would
have liked there to be more detail. Will have to look for more technical
literature, I guess.
- “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein – finally got to read this
iconic work of sci-fi and grok the origins of the word “grok”. Though it’s
occasionally tiresome, overall it’s a brilliant book. Unfortunately, the
blatant sexism and chauvinism stands out and would likely get a much different
reception if published today. It’s always amusing to see how unimaginative
future predictions of technology are, and how much they reflect the scientific
know-how at the time of publishing. In this book people easily travel to Mars
and have flying cars, but still use public pay phones and cassette tapes.
- “How Linux Works, 2nd ed.” by Brian Ward – an intermediate-level book
describing how the Linux operating system works, aimed at power users and
system administrators, with some basic detours into programming. I would be
happy if it went into more depth on some topics, but that would probably blow
the size up 10x so I understand the author’s constraints. Chapter 8 on
resource management/utilization was my favorite.
- “Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are
Changing Life on Earth” by Juan Enriquez & Steve Gullans – nice snapshot of
the current state of bioscience and how recent advances in technology skew
human evolution. Unfortunately, too much focus is given to speculation, ethics
and other meta-topics; I’d prefer more discussion of actual science.
- “Billions and Billions” by Carl Sagan