It’s November now and summer has definitely drawn to a close, I read some great books this summer. Here’s what I read:
Where Wizards Stay Up Late is a history of the founding of the internet. It chronicles the people, places and projects that lead to the internet as we know it today.
As I was reading this I was also spending some time in TCP/IP Illustrated and the RFC for HTTP (and 2.0!) and it gave me a deep appreciation for how much thoughtful work has been done all along the stack.
With so much constant excitement about the future and what’s next I appreciated looking back at how things came to be. Where Wizards Stay Up Late gave me an appreciation Licklider, one of the earliest visionaries of what the web could be.
I have friends that LOVE Watchmen, and having never read through a graphic novel they encouraged me to start here. It was not at all what I thought it was going to be.
Watchmen is a complicated story about living in times of constant war and stress. It’s told in a universe where there are superheros but nothing is fantastical.
I expected that this would be a bright, quick read but it was not. I’m glad I didn’t come into reading it with any expectations, it’s worth letting the story tell itself at its own pace and not have any idea where it’s going to go.
I was fortunate to have not seen the movie or even the trailer until after I completed the book. The movie a disappointment after the deepness of the book.
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind is book about the way our mind works and about living a good life. It’s very personal and I highly recommend it.
Masters of Doom is the story of John Carmack and John Romero and the founding of id software. I loved it because you can see the intelligence of both people and they were able to bring together their talents to make amazing things. One of my favorite quotes, from towards the end of the book:
In the information age, the barriers [to entry into programming] just aren't there. The barriers are self imposed. If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don't need millions of dollars of capitalization. You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it. We slept on floors. We waded across rivers.
It’s also a story of how even two really smart people with common interests can drift apart and end up seeing the world differently.
Shortly after finishing the book, I watched John Carmack’s keynote from Quake Con 2013 and was again impressed with his clarity of intelligence. Carmack is especially interesting to me right because of his involvement with Oculus VR
Coders at Work some of the best programmers of our time. The book is a series of interviews with the author, Peter Seibel, asking each person many of the same questions. I found this book to be highly quotable and I think I’ve related stories from each interview to coworkers or friends. I especially enjoyed the interview with Jamie Zawinski (jwz). He thinks like I do:
"I find that getting something on the screen as soon as possible really helps focus the problem for me. It helps me decide what to work on next. Because if you're just looking at that big to-do list it's like, eh, I don't know which one I should do—does it matter which one I do? But if there's something you can actually look at, even if it's just the debug output of your mailbox parser, it's like, OK, there!"