Ask the Office: What Are you Reading?

Philip Aston - March 31, 2016

Ever on the lookout for book recommendations, especially for interesting and educational works, I asked our London office what non-fiction or technical book they are reading at the moment.

These are some of the answers I got:

Martin is reading Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

Martin says: “This book was recommended to me by two independent sources. It’s a somehow enthralling telling of the unravelling of Wall Street’s Gordian Knot of financial systems, created by high frequency traders that became apparent when regular investors found it impossible to buy and sell at the prices quoted.

“The effort put into building a fibre optic line between NYC and Chicago to save 13 milliseconds boggled the mind. 13 milliseconds is worth paying millions for in financial circles it seems.”

He’s also reading TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1 by W. Richard Stevens

Martin says: “Any work of Stevens is worth a go. This one goes into the bits and bytes that underpin all the protocols of the Internet, including those that you don’t know about.

I found particularly interesting the specifics about TCP flow control.”

Quintin is reading The Swift Programming Language, published by Apple.

Quintin says: “A good old fashioned programming language manual formatted in book format and available to download to your device for offline reading, bookmarking and note taking in iBooks.

Written by the guys that wrote this new language, from the ground up, as the future replacement for Objective-C in the development of iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS applications.

“Initially I was drawn to this book when investigating the compatibility and bridging challenges encountered when developing a library in Objective-C which will also be consumed by Swift programmers. Now I’m keen to learn this new language as it looks like it’s got a bright future and is already appearing in many projects, especially those developed ‘greenfield’.”

“Some of the Swift syntax can look a little alien on first glance, but then so did that of Objective-C when I first came to learn that. Swift appears to be doing its best to take the best bits from other languages while maintaining core roots with its Objective-C heritage. This is impressive stuff and I can see much more robust codebases being generated with it in the future, when used correctly.”

Binh is reading Hacker’s Delight by Henry S. Warren Jr.

Binh says: “This book is about bit twiddling and cool tricks you can do with computer arithmetic in general. Another member of our team recommended it to me when we were doing a streaming version of base64 encoding which involved some level of bits/bytes manipulation (shifting, and, or). Given how deep and detailed this book is in discussing arithmetic, I think it will be on the side of my desk for the coming decades.”

Andy is reading The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor

Andy says: “The book is a follow-on from The Innovator’s Dilemma which basically posited that suppliers retreat to high-margin, high-touch products through sustaining innovation, but are unable to deal with true innovation since it cannibalizes their existing revenue stream. The Innovators Solution basically says that the attractive profits will go somewhere and the key is figuring out where and capitalizing on that.”

“I’m reading it because I so enjoyed the first one, which mirrored my experiences at BEA and the potential cannibalization of app server revenues by open source. What I’ve learned from this book is that true innovation often requires a different kind of success than that promoted by large companies.”

Matt is reading High Performance Browser Networking by Ilya Grigorik

Matt says: “This book discusses networking, covering topics like TCP, mobile networks and the latest web standards. It covers the basics like TCP describing how it developed over time from its beginnings making it far more digestible than trying to read the spec. It covers some of the latest developments like WebRTC, browser peer-to-peer communications that people are just beginning to play with.

“You may have heard of the book before, I’m not the first to recommend it. It was recommended to me. It helps me think about networking performance at a lower level of abstraction. It is too easy to think about TCP as a stream or think of it as reliable, at work I forever have to think about how TCP behaves in practice. This book has been the best at teaching me why it behaves the way it does”

Pete is reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Pete says, “It’s certainly a different take on how businesses should be run. A lot of it is questioning the necessity of certain prevailing ideas about how things should be run: like why meetings are almost always the worst way of communicating within a team. Like many of those kinds of books, if you take it with a large pinch of salt and the view that it’s more about getting you to think about stuff, rather than directly applying it, and then I think there’s some valuable stuff there.”

Phil is reading Let Over Lambda: 50 years of Lisp by Doug Hoyte.

Phil says: “Let Over Lambda changes your perspective on programming. Superficially about advanced Common Lisp, the book is full of “wait a minute, what just happened?” magic moments. I’m on my second reading. After the first I found I saw the fundamental “Let over Lambda” structure emerging from all code, not just Lisps. Hoyte is ruthlessly opinionated which adds amusement value.”

As for me, I’m rereading The Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers. It reminds me to strive for clarity and conciseness in written communication. Plus it’s always good to brush up on usage advice.

And now I have plenty of ideas for the next non-fiction book to read. I think I’ll give ‘Rework’ a try.

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