Holiday Reading

Posted by Piers Cawley on Jul 7, 2007

Mmm… back from Scotland with a chunk of reading done:

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. Mmm… top notch stuff. Wraps up the series perfectly.

The Book Thief. Wow! Seriously… wow. Whatever you do, don’t read the last chapter of this in public. I was a wreck. Beautiful. Sad. Really Sad. Life affirming stuff. Read it.

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree. Nick Hornby writes exceedingly good litcrit/columns.

Compilers: Principles, Techniques and Tools aka The Dragon Book. Good, crunchy computer science full of stuff I’ve skirted around learning for ages now. I’m still far from finished with this book. It does feel old fashioned though, and a little light on techniques for implementing highly dynamic languages.

Programming Language Pragmatics. More seriously crunchy computer science; I’ve only really skimmed the surface of this one so far, but I’m liking it a lot so far.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Another wow. What’s not to like? Golden Age Comic book history. Close up magic and escape artistry. Nazis! Citizen Kane! Astonishing, page turning, storytelling. No wonder it won a Pulitzer. It might well make you cry too (though not as much as The Book Thief)

The Essential Turing. You know how everyone who knows anything about computing tells you that Alan Turing was a genius? They’re right. I knew they were right before I read On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem (the first paper in this book and the only one I’ve read so far), but the paper drove home how much of a genius he was. The way he bootstraps from the idea of the Turing Machine to a Universal Turing Machine is just beautiful - one minute he’s describing the basic workings of a seemingly simple machine and a few conventions he intends to use and then within a few pages he’s implementing a Universal Turing Machine and describing it using the kind Higher Order Functions that get ‘metaprogrammers’ so excited whenever the come across a language like Ruby. Great, great stuff.