Books

As a way both to hold myself accountable (read more, etc. etc.) and to share my thoughts on what I’ve read, I leave some thoughts here on each book I finish.

Currently Reading

The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses by Dan Carlin


Past Reads


  • Unix: A History and a Memoir by Brian Kernighan

    For over a year, I’ve been looking for a book that could give me some background on how Unix and its adjacent technologies came to be. This book achieved that goal perfectly, all in well under 200 pages. It was a pleasant, quick read that brought new color to a lot of the technologies I use daily, including the text editor with which I composed this writeup (Vim). The author was a member of Bell Labs during the development of Unix and C (and many more tools), and personally contributed to several technologies you may have used or at least heard of, such as Awk.

    This was one of the best books I’ve read recently; I’d highly recommend it to anyone who uses Linux or other Unix-inspired software – like the MacOS command line – regularly.


  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

    I had hoped this book would help build a foundational understanding of, well, the elements of good cooking. It does lay some foundation, but unfortunately it spends most of its time on anecdotes and other “reinforcement” of the concepts, to its overall detriment. There isn’t much of a conceptual basis presented – the concepts (salt, fat, acid, and head) are repeated often, but I wouldn’t say they come with much evidence. I left unconvinced that this was really the most important knowledge in the kitchen; more chemistry and maybe research on taste would have gone a long way.

    I found it tough to get through, but I did get some takeaways that will benefit me in my efforts to cook more. Overall, better than simply reading recipes, but I made little progress in mastering the elements of good cooking.


  • Deep Learning with Python by François Chollet

    An excellent primer on practical deep learning, using the Keras package in Python. I’ve begun the book and failed to finish it a few times before, but this time I powered through. It’s far from riveting, but Chollet really does a great job explaining a difficult topic in an intuitive way, and the walkthroughs are mostly quite clear. From what I’ve heard, this book is the gold standard for getting started with deep learning, and I can see why.


  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-world Problems by Randall Munroe

    This was a fun, quick read. Randall Munroe is the author of the widely beloved online comic XKCD, and his books have a very similar tone – mostly funny, but occasionally educational.

    For the kind of people who are interested in science and technology, this book is a nice change-of-pace from the dry reading they probably spend most of their time on.


  • Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company by Owen Linzmayer

    This book was published well before Apple became what we know it as today: the iPod had just become popular and the iPhone didn’t even exist. That makes this book really refreshing because it doesn’t have the hindsight bias of anything published in the iPhone era. And because Apple is treated like a normal company, Steve Jobs is treated like a normal person – in particular, held to the standards of a normal person. And it does not go well for Steve in this account.

    This book is also a good reminder that Apple actually was an innovator before the iPhone, but in areas most people have forgotten. Overall, I’d strongly recommend it.