Sometimes I take my mind off the programming and read various books in the hope of getting as smart as Microsoft Office. In this note I'm going to write short reviews on literature I have read. My favorite genre is dystopia because I find amusing the similarity of fictional plots and modern reality. But the list consists of very different writings including highly specialized technical articles, some educational and scientific books.
Gamma, Helm, Johnson, Vlissides — Design Patterns
I would recommend to every programmer to read this catalog of design patterns. The most popular cases, every developer faces in real life, are collected here. Be ready to get boring while reading the book, because examples, written by Smalltalk, are as tedious as a formal language of the narrative. Remember, nobody enforces you to read the whole book from cover to cover. It's rather a handbook than a tutorial.
Charles Petzold — Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
This is a great story about the origin and evolution of computer facilities, which I definitely recommend to everybody, who is interested in how the computer works. Things are explained step by step, generally enough, without narrow details of implementation. So any student, familiar with Ohm's law and Von Neumman's architecture, will understand it. In my opinion, the book is a good starting point in learning the architecture of modern processors and assembly language.
Ha-Joon Chang — Economics: The User's Guide
Here is a short introduction to the history of capitalism and economic theory. It should be interesting for those, who want to understand what economics is and where to start its learning. The author doesn't attempt to impose his opinion on events and processes in the world. Contrariwise, he describes the existing problems and possible solutions, suggested by different schools of economics. He tries to extract and review the crucial points from there. Of course, you won't get a real economist after the reading, but at least you will understand the essence of economic issues.
Ha-Joon Chang — 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
The book contains 23 statements about capitalism, which are considered myths and deconstructed by the author. Many chapters intersect with his previous works. At first glance, it may seem, that Chang criticizes capitalism itself, but actually, he says about the problems encountered by certain countries. Indeed, he analyzes the difficulties, that appear when society tries to apply market relations in real life.
Mikhail Zygar — All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin.
A populist book about Russian political life for the recent 20 years. All the gossips, rumors and scandals are collected here to expose all the awkward Kremlin decisions. Although I can't disprove at least one fact, one-sided consideration of serious topics like internal and external policy hurts the eyes. It should be carefully analyzed before drawing conclusions. This writing of Zygar allows us to understand better some relations between corrupted officials and oligarchs, but nothing more.
Gwain Hamilton — English for Russians
It is small, but a very useful book for English learners. Gwain Hamilton lists the most frequent mistakes typical for Russians. His narrative is incredibly easy to be understood. Sometimes the author pretends to be as unlettered as the reader, and this trick gives hope to get fluent in English.
Julian Assange — The Unauthorised Autobiography
A hacker mendax narrates about his life since the earlier childhood and till the foundation of famous portal Wikileaks, which publishes unique confidential materials about corruption and military crimes. I'm sure a lot of details were omitted in the book, but you still can get a general notion about Assange's political view and his activity within the organization, and why his work is very important for everyone in our society.
Aldous Huxley — Brave New World
Everybody, who belongs to Alpha-Plus class, must pay attention to this dystopia. After reading you feel disappointed, because there is no that wonderful island in real life, and most of "world controllers" fall far short of Mustapha Mond. Almost a century ago Huxley warned humanity, but despite that many people preferred happiness rather than truth.
Lao Tzu — The Tao-te Ching
It's a short treatise of an ancient Chinese philosopher about the structure of the world and the state, which can be used as a storage of wise quotes. In his writing, Lao Tzu tells about the invisible and universal Tao, which always holds the balance of nature. He describes opposite extremes, that exist in dynamic equilibrium transforming to each other. But the state, being closed-loop system, stays almost immutable. Therefore, the excess in one place always results in the lack in another. The inequality leads to volatility, volatility to some changes, and those changes to stability.
Zbigniew Brzezinski — The Grand Chessboard
One of the leading ideologists of foreign policy in the USA tells us about the current world situation. The book is written in a very difficult and confusing language, some sentences you should read many times to fully understand the meaning. Nevertheless, the work of Brzezinski deserved our attention, because he had done the forecast, which was coming true during the last few decades. The author writes about the Eurasian region only, without affecting neither Africa nor America. He analyzes the priority geopolitical interests of the most influential players, and also the steps of the USA to promote democracy in the world. The grand chessboard gives an answer, why the Syrian and Ukrainian crises are crucial for Russia and the rest of the world.
An assembly language in Linux for C programmers
It's rather a long tutorial than a book, dedicated to writing the code in assembly language. Here you will find the explanation of key points in x86 architecture. An author uses gas, AT&T syntax and Linux system calls. If you read this book carefully along with other literature, and if you disassemble all the examples and write your own programs in parallel... Eventually, you have a chance to learn the basics of low-level programming. After that, the reader can continue self-education in an interesting direction.
George Orwell — Animal Farm
I don't remember, that somebody criticized "communism" and "capitalism" of one far country in a more subtle way than Orwell did. It's just amazing and unbelievable how he described all the events between 1945 and nowadays, although the book was created in the midst of World War II. A special pleasure I got from the ending. But it's only the end of the book, the story itself is moving on. The only question is why such a book isn't denied within the animal farm still. Maybe, because only donkey Veniamin is able to read.
George Orwell — 1984
This is an incredibly bleak book about dive on the bottom of human morality by our society. At the end of the narrative, it's asked a very relevant question: what differs the human and the animal? An answer could be found in the text itself. But even more important thing is that 2 x 2 = 4, regardless of the opinion of a party.
Kris Kaspersky — Technique of network attacks
This book of a legendary information security specialist is outdated so much and now has rather historical than educational value. It contains a lot of code samples and quotes from documentation, that could be found on the Internet. All the described attacks are well-known at the moment and aren't of interest to modern developers. The material is badly structured and covers the only narrow area of the topic. In spite of the listed disadvantages, it was curious to know how some kind of protocols works. After all, I can recommend this writing to beginners only, experienced programmers better read Tanenbaum's works.
Viktor Suvorov — Aquarium
This book tells about becoming and betrayal of a soviet spy in a merciless totalitarian system. It is written as an autobiography, and despite a lot of facts are changed or embellished, you can easily feel the atmosphere of those times. I would recommend it to read for those, who are interested in the Soviet past but only as an artistic work.
Anton Checkhov — Peasant Wives
Why did I decide to read the classic? I just had bought an ebook, where this story was loaded into. Frankly, I didn't feel empathy for any described character (as usually with Russian prose) and strengthened my opinion about imperial times, which were so hard and so senseless.
Zhabrov Alexey — How and why the aircraft flies
Do you know why the aircraft can fly? Perhaps you heard about lifting force, but why it appears and how to control it? What are propeller blades step and angle of attack, pitch and flow separation? This awesome popular science book gives answers to the questions without abstruse formulas. Despite my experience in basejumping I've learned a lot of new things after the reading.
Stanislaw Lem — Solaris
Solaris is an unforgettable story where everyone finds something. But what exactly it will depend on the reader, because Lem doesn't impose his vision. Actually, he doesn't interpret events on the research station at all, giving us a lot to think about. Besides a scientific plotline, the author describes the interaction between people and their memories. I would advise Solaris to people, who like psychology and science fiction.
Alexander Markov — Human Evolution: monkeys, bones, genes (book 1)
Have you ever seen the similarity between chimpanzee monkeys and humans? You don't need to spell the answer as the topic is a kind of taboo in our tolerant society. Anyway, this book tells about all the stages of transformation of the monkey into the human from the view of science. The author writes about methods of researching human history from archaeology to genome sequencing. After reading you will get a more accurate picture of the past and present of our species.
Alexander Markov — Human Evolution: monkeys, neurons and soul (book 2)
I still read this book.
Andrew Tanenbaum — Modern Operating Systems
I still read this book.