Book Reviews

The Art of Computer Programming, Knuth

An incredibly in depth analysis of various data structures and algorithms. Great to read for pleasure, but I wouldn't recommend it for practitioners who 'just' want a description of Red Black trees. Use the mobile book for that instead.

Drive, Daniel Pink

Economics is built on the premise that people are rational actors. Unfortunately they don't actually behave like that. Consider this experiment. An experimenter takes a pair of people and gives one person $10. They get to choose how much to give to the other person. If the other person refuses this amount, they both get nothing. It turns out that the receiver will refuse amounts below about $2, and take $0 instead. This is irrational.

He claims that carrot and stick rewards do not necessarily work, and there is research that shows that cash rewards remove people's intrinsic motivation, even if they offer short term benefits.

Liar's Poker, Michael Lewis

An account of City excesses during the 1980's. A mix of of lifestyle porn--who wouldn't like the idea of grabbing a Concord flight to head to the US office on a whim--wrapped up in a traditional tragedy narrative.

This Accursed Land, Lennard Bickel

A benchmark against which 'tough' expeditions should be measured.

South: The Story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 expedition

An excellent account of an epic polar exploration.

The Pleasures of Counting, Körner

A beautifully written book. Körner writes about practical applications of maths, and reading it is like sitting next to a really interesting, smart person at a dinner. A must read.

Magic Ink

Magic Ink is a book length article by Bret Victor on the web about interaction design.

Hamming, Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

Meta. About how to do things well, not the things themselves. Very good.

Murphy et al, Site Reliability Engineering

A concrete report on how Google runs services at scale. Good for bootstrapping SaaS operations capability..

Westrum, Sidewinder: Creative Missile Development At China Lake

A success report about creating new/innovative things in a big organization.

Rumelt, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters

Why what most companies call 'strategy', isn't.

Demming, The New Economics

About quality. An old book that isn't that well written but which has great content.

Unix Haters Handbook

This book taught me that computers can be a lot better than they are at the moment. First published in 1994, and still in-general true today.

Papert, Mindstorms

Another old classic from the 6502 era imagining what computers could be.

Waldrop, The Dream Machine

How one person (Licklider) created the environment that spawned the Internet.

Leveson, Engineering a Safer World: Systems Thinking Applied to Safety

Building reliable systems from a safety critical point of view. An excellent model for incident postmortems in 'normal' (QM) quality environments too.

Anderson, Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems