Rakhim.org

I'm Rakhim: a programmer, teacher, writer and podcaster.

Bookshelf

Here are some of the books I have read lately.

2018

Endymion

Endymion, by Dan Simmons

It's one of those books that I actually hope won't be made into a movie any time soon, since it's so good and the universe is so humongous, I can't imagine a non-disappointing movie adaptation. (another one of those is the Chronicles of Amber series by Roger Zelazny). Endymion is 3rd in the Hyperion Cantos, and because the story is so much further in time from the original 2 parts of Hyperion, I hesitated before starting it. I just didn't expect it to be as good. I thought "well, all the good parts are over now, and the civilisation has ended". Deeper religious connotations didn't attract me either. But oh man was I wrong! Endymion is on par with the first two books. It feels extremely natural and authentic. I guess the whole cantos should be considered as one huge book, that's it. It's different, though. Unlike the first two books, there aren't that many characters to keep track of. The story is simpler indeed, but it's still intriguing in its complexity. If you like space operas, I highly recommend it.

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan B. Peterson

One of the most important books for me as far as non-fiction goes. Philosophy, religion and psychology under the mask of a self-help book.

Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change

Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, by Victor Papanek

I got somewhat sad after reading this book. It's wonderful, but the contrast between the ideas and values expressed in it and the reality of our disposable, badly designed world are striking. 'Sustainable' became a gimmick, a filler word for presentations just like 'organic' or 'natural'. Why would anything be not sustainable? Why would anyone design something non sensible? Why can anybody not feel responsibility when designing things? Well, let's party while we can, I guess…

The Pursuit of Perfect

The Pursuit of Perfect, by Tal Ben-Shahar

Many people call themselves perfectionists, but, to be honest, most of them aren't in most cases. But every once in a while there is a time, a certain set of circumstances where you can't do anything but strive for the impossible. This is a great little book about perfectionism. And yes, I will end this sentence with a comma,

So Good They Can't Ignore You

So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport

A nicely written case against the 'follow your passion' advice with a well-defined career-building strategy. As many non-fiction sel-help books, could be at least 10 times shorter, but hey, it's pretty good.

The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys

The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys, by James Fadiman

This is a fascinating topic, and there's a lot of BS floating around it. This book is one of the good ones.


2017

Creativity, Inc

Creativity, Inc, by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant

I didn't expect it to be this interesting and insightful. Great book. Recommended to anyone in the creative and managerial industry.

Sophie's World

Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder

A beautiful and gentle overview of philosophy. Nice read.

Algorithms to Live By

Algorithms to Live By, by Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths

One of the few books that successfully brings CS into everyday life. We need more books like this. An audiobook is also available, but this one is better on paper.

You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart, by David McRaney

More like a series of blog posts than a cohesive narration, but still a fantastic book about most common cognitive gotchas.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It's one of those things that make perfect sense once you think about it. Great book, very important premise and a short and concise explanation. Can't recommend enough.

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M. Sapolsky

What a great book! A lot of interesting research and anecdotal data. Changes your perception of human behavior quite a bit. There's also an audio version narrated by the author. And a series of free Stanford lectures available on Youtube.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

It's a great book. I wish it was shorter though.

The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White

I wish everybody read this book. The surprising thing is that many aspects and recommendations apply to virtually any language, not specifically English.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

It was a great 5 minute TED talk, but making a book out of it is meh. Very repetitive and self-conscious. Nothing new here.

The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine

The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine, by Charles Petzold

I guess you can't go wrong with Charles Petzold. This book is excellent and highly recommended to anyone interested in computing. Must read for computer science students and software developers.

Accidental Gods

Accidental Gods, by Andrew Busey

Pretty cool idea, a somewhat rushed execution.


2016

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer

One of the good ones. If you're interested in mindfulness and the nature of consciousness, check this out.

You're It! On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found

You're It! On Hiding, Seeking, and Being Found, by Alan Watts

Love it. Can't get enough. The series of lectures by Alan Watts did shape a lot of my life.

Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives

Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening from the Alan Watts Audio Archives, by Alan Watts

Words are tools to hide truth. I can't say much about these recordings and books by Alan Watts. It wouldn't be fair to do so.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson

One of those cases when a nonfiction book can be 10 times shorter, but you don't really want it to be, since is's so fun and interesting. Author's style is fantastic.

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

First fantasy since LOTR that pulled me in mercilessly.

Mindfulness for Beginners

Mindfulness for Beginners, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

This book is hugely popular for the reasons I can't really understand. It's… okay, I guess. But I don't really think it is "for beginners".

Mindfulness in Plain English

Mindfulness in Plain English, by Henepola Gunaratana

One of the best books on mindfulness. No frills, no BS, straight to the point. I guess, if you could pick one book in the topic, I'd go for this one.


2015

The Power of Now

The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

You have to ignore (or interpret) some parts, but in general there is no doubt Eckhart Tolle is an enlightened being.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, by Sam Harris

Good, concise and straight-forward exploration of spirituality. Loved it.

10% Happier

10% Happier, by Dan Harris

Nice and entertaining introduction to the ideas of mindfulness and meditation.

Code

Code, by Charles Petzold

Woah, what a ride! An excellent explanation of how computers work, starting from scratch. Really, from scratch.

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas

Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas, by Seymour Papert

The only regret I have is not reading this book 5 years earlier. Also, not every single teacher on the planet did read this — what a shame.

Hyperion

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

One of the best and definitely the scariest space opera. The universe Dan Simmons had created is enchanting.

The Fall of Hyperion

The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons

Absolutely brilliant!

Lock In

Lock In, by John Scalzi

Somewhat simple, but still great. I guess we'll see a mediocre Hollywood adaptation (or a TV show perhaps) soon.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Loved it! Geeky, nostalgic, lots of action and lots of cool ideas. The pace is great, and it's hard to pull off in a book this large.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness, by Scott Jurek, Steve Friedman

This was a great motivation when I started running, but it's a very niche book.

Born to Run

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

Fascinating stories and science behind epic runners. If you're getting into running or just interested — check this out.

House of Suns

House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds

One of the best sci-fi and deep space opera books for me. If you love space and scientifically ~accurate fiction — do explore Alastair Reynolds' worlds.

The Martian

The Martian, by Andy Weir

When an engineer or a scientist decides to write science fiction, it's usually either very bad or very good. This one is very good.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki

Good' but can be around 500 times shorter.

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, by Ash Maurya

I prefer and recommend this over the canonical "Lean Startup"

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

Of course, you can't not read The Lean Startup if you… actually, in any case! Do read it!


Before 2015

I didn't really track books before 2015. Here is a short list of some books I really loved and remembered from that ancient past. Everything else is lost and forgotten forever.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard Feynman

Feynman was a Teacher. This book is as fantastic as the man himself.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, by Brian Greene

String theory for the masses. This is how popular science books should be like: interesting, enchanting, inviting.

The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman

Must read not only for designers, but for software developers too, even if you develop backend exclusively. I wish everybody read it really.

A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

Talking about quantum physics and singularity is hard. This book makes it seem easy. Loved it.

Introduction to Algorithms

Introduction to Algorithms, by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, Clifford Stein

Spent endless hours digging through The Book. It's very well written and organized and was a tremendous help in my CS studies.

Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem, by Simon Singh

The book that sparked my interest in discrete math and abstract algebra. Other books by Simon Singh are also fantastic.

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel

Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel, by Michio Kaku

It's a very interesting book, but for some reason Michio Kaku's style doesn't spark me as much as Briane Greene's or Stephen Hawking's or Neil deGrasse Tyson's.

The Chronicles of Amber

The Chronicles of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

One of the top 3 books in my life.

The God Delusion

The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins

Militant atheism is entertaining, but generally counter productive.

Modern Operating Systems

Modern Operating Systems, by Andrew S. Tanenbaum

I really enjoyed reading this textbook even after finishing the corresponding course.

Dune

Dune, by Frank Herbert

No way around it — Dune is probably the best science fiction I've ever read.

Lord of Light

Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny

Back in high school this book had changed the way I perceive reality and science fiction.

The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

Having an interest in genetics and molecular biology, I was completely enchanted by the narrative.

Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary

Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, by Linus Torvalds, David Diamond

Nicely written and an entertaining story of Linus Torvalds and the creation of Linux kernel. I read it in high school and it definitely strengthened my interest in computer programming.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen

I don't do GTD now, but the book is very good even if you don't plan to follow the methodology to the word.

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Middle-Earth's bible, myths and legends. Loved at the time.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Having read this after LOTR, it was fun but underwhelming. Starting from scratch, it's definitely better to start with The Hobbit.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

What can I say? Seems like I spent most of my free time in this universe back in high school…

Harry Potter series

Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling

Ah, high school memories! Seems like this series was an important part of my childhood.