Classic

You must experience these.

Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Ray Monk)

Fantastic autobiography recounting both the life and ideas of Oppenheimer.

Classic

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (H G Bissinger)

Incredible book (which inspired the film and TV series). Fascinating account of life in a football obsessed city in 80's Texas. A must read.

Classic

Just Money: How Society Can Break the Despotic Power of Finance (Ann Pettifor)

A clear account of how banking actually works (something virtually no economists understand), a damning explanation of where our current financial system with its rentier financiers goes wrong and a hopeful (in many respects properly Keynesian) set of proposals to make things better.

Classic

The Liar's Gospel (Naomi Alderman)

Four 'gospels' from Mary, Judas, Caiaphas and Barabbas. A grieving Mary rejected by her son, Judas who tells tales of Jesus for entertainment and tries to fit into the Roman world, a Caiaphas wanting to spare Jesus and the rebel leader Barabbas. Original, captivating stuff.

Classic

Economics the User's Guide (Ha-Joon Chang)

Outstanding introduction to Economics, without the usual mathematical tedium, focused on actual economies, giving actual details. Gives a little too much attention to some more fringe ideas (but his critique of the dominant academic economic idea is fair, if even understated); if you asked me for recommendation for a single book to read on economics this would be it.

Classic

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

Astonishing. You must read this, in fact if I had to choose just a single novel to recommend I think this would be it. An epic classic novel, but one which is consistently enjoyable to read.

Classic

Generative Design (Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Gross, Julia Laub and Claudius Lazzeroni)

An incredible book which is both a showcase of generative (code driven) design/art and an excellent tutorial, where each step is typically illustrated with a set of beautiful examples (rather than the perfunctory ones typically found in such books). Inspiring and informative: the best book on Processing I have read.

Classic

The Universe Versus Alex Woods (Gavin Extence)

Tale from an outsider teenager perspective a la The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time; but probably surpases that book. Geeky central character, unusual friendships, everyday school issues and big moral issues. A must read.

Classic

Rework (37 Signals)

Fantastic book on how to be entrepreneurial or start things without the counterproductive overwork, delusion and bs that one typically sees.

Classic

Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

Astonishing book from Yann Martel (I had already seen the excellent film adaptation). A compelling story of the battle for survival of Pi stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. A must read.

Classic

Search Inside Yourself (Chade-Meng Tan)

Mindfulness + emotional intelligence = better performance + happier + world peace. Not sure if I buy the last one, but an outstanding introduction to mindfulness and emotional intelligence for the techy/scientific/... person.

Classic

Birth of a Theorem: A Mathematical Adventure (C├ędric Villani)

Remarkable book from one of the world's leading mathematicians. The technical details are often beyond me (and I have two degrees in Mathematics!) yet it is still incredibly engaging; a wonderful tale of how actual mathematical research happens from a slightly eccentric perspective. A outstanding classic work.

Classic

The World of Yesterday (Stefan Zweig)

Astonishing eyewitness account of the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of an Austrian Jew and leading literary figure. Insightful, wonderful writing; a must read.

Classic

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Compelling account of introversion and how an extravert-dominated society loses out and suppresses thoughtful, critical individuals. Essential reading, with many interesting observations and results from studies (e.g. introverts make better managers of engaged employees).

Classic

Great

Highly recommended.

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Elixir

A really interesting language build on Erlang (for concurrency) but with Ruby-ish, functional syntax. Clear introduction from a clearly enthused author (his favourite language) although I would have preferred more on concurrency and less on metaprogramming. Will be looking into this more.

Great

The Unrequited (Niall Williams)

Beautiful little story of unrequited love. Costs a few pence in eBook formats.

Great

Einstein: His Life and Universe (Walter Isaacson)

Great biography from Walter Isaacson. Not at the level of Ray's bio of Oppenheimer, and like Isaacson's Jobs bio, considerably longer and flabbier than it should have been (in particular places too much emphasis on Einstein's later years). But still essential.

Great

Dresden: A Survivor's Story (Victor Gregg)

A grim but compelling Kindle Single account of the Dresden bombing from a POW on the ground. A must read.

Great

Newton and the Counterfeiter (Thomas Levenson)

A fantastic historical account of Newton's work as, essentially, a detective on behalf of the Royal Mint combating counterfeiters. However, the strongest parts are early on, where Levenson concisely describes Newton's amazing contributions to human knowledge.

Great

Zen To Done (Leo Babauta)

Getting Things Done streamlined. Compelling, picks out key elements of the famous productivity system and suggests focusing on these individually as habits.

Great

1913: The Eve of War (Paul Ham)

Compelling account of the stupidity of European leaders in the build up to (the in no way inevitable) World War I. (Short, fascinating book.)

Great

Winter of the World (Ken Follett)

The second part of Ken Follett's twentieth century historical fiction trilogy. We follow the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Spanish Revolution, Stalinism and the Second World War, through the families featured in the first book. Again balances entertainment and historical content extremely well.

Great

Emperor of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

A gripping conclusion to the trilogy, filling in more details and bringing things to a satisfying end. I really enjoyed this series a lot more than (what I have read of) Songs of Ice and Fire.

Great

The Brothers (Asko Sahlberg)

Epic short novel, told from multiple (contradictory) perspectives. Initially this feels awkward, but soon the multitude threads of war, fraternal, maternal and other family relationships and grand themes of war and love pull you in. So many characters, so impressively realised in such a short work (about 100 pages). Recommended.

Great

Edge of Eternity (Ken Follett)

The final part of the epic 20th century trilogy following the lives of several families across the world through world wars (and now cold war). Entertaining and interesting and accessible history.

Great

The Liar's Key (Mark Lawrence)

Impressive 2nd book in Lawrence's follow up trilogy to the Broken Empire trilogy; centred around another selfish, reluctant protagonist. Another solid instalment.

Great

No Exit: Struggling to Survive a Modern Gold Rush (Gideon Lewis-Kraus)

An on-the-ground report on the grim realities of start-up life in San Francisco. Captivating reading and a valuable counterpoint to the typical cheerleading views on start-ups from Wired and others (this short book is in fact an expanded version of a Wired article).

Great

The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

Fascinating combination of sci-fi and romance novel. Certain aspects could be interpreted as grooming, but if you are wiling to overlook that a moving story, raising issues of determinism, love and time. A must read.

Great

The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction (Martin Bunton)

Excellent, balanced account of conflict; clearly explains how both Israeli and Palestinian notions of nationhood and this conflict have arisen over the last one hundred and twenty years.

Great

From Budd to Bolt: 50 Stunning Olympic Moments (Guardian Shorts)

Not actually that short, a great anthology of historical olympic moments. Very interesting, if like me, you are too young to remember most of them.

Great

Alan Turing (Andrew Hodges)

Fascinating account of the life of Alan Turing. The war sections are more exciting than the ridiculously inaccurate recent film portrays. Highly recommended.

Great

Dark Eden (Chris Beckett)

A group of a few hundred people, descended from a handful of survivors from a spacecraft, wait on a world of permanent darkness for Earth to come and rescue them. Saying more would spoil things, but a really interesting and entertaining piece of science fiction (a genre I rarely read).

Great

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Lua

Trying to do seven languages in one week (over holiday). The Lua chapter provides a clear introduction to (in my case reminder of) Lua and a good demonstration of how good it can do scripting based on low level libraries.

Great

AngularJS: Up and Running (Shyam Seshadri, Brad Green)

The 2014 version of the O'Reilly book (a free upgrade for us electronic purchasers of the old and rapidly outdated one). A clear guide to Angular.js with lots of advice on best practices.

Great

The Prince of Fools, The Red Queen's War Book I (Mark Lawrence)

Fantastic opening to a new series set in the Broken Empire world. Dark, compelling fantasy. A really strong start (but read the original trilogy first).

Great

Fall of Giants (Ken Follett)

Entertaining part one of a trilogy following five families through the twentieth century; a blend of historical events, drama and romance.

Great

King of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

A strong follow up to Prince of Thorns. Effectively jumps forward and back in time, telling its epic, dark fantasy story.

Great

The Testament of Mary (Colm Toibin)

The testament of a mother having lost a son, rather than from followers of Jesus. Powerful, well worth a read.

Great

Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

First of dark, fantasy trilogy; a little like Game of Thrones except more tightly focused on the central character (and better written). Highly recommended.

Great

Ancillary Justice (Ann Leckie)

Brilliant sci-fi centred around a a character who's consciousness is (at least for part of the novel) shared with multiple entities and who struggles with the notion of gender (she regularly can't tell what gender the people she is talking to are). Innovative, multi award winning stuff.

Great

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Julia

Great introduction to Julia which after explaining the basics covers both parallel programming and macros; then shows how Julia can be used for image processing. Another language to watch (and this is a pretty good starting point).

Great

Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield)

Historical fiction based around the Battle of Thermopylae and Spartan society. Extremely enjoyable, interesting and well written stuff; if only Homer could 'write' so well!

Great

Good

Worth experiencing but not essential.

How to think about Exercise (Damon Young)

Interesting little book from the School of Life series. Nothing radically new for the sports-playing, yoga-practicing, (health) scientifically interested but a nice collection of ideas, for example on the importance of the physical for 'mental' tasks.

Good

Node.js the Right Way (Jim R. Wilson)

Eclectic, interesting introduction (for people who already have fairly strong javascript skills) to Node.js. Express is left to near the end and instead we learn about asynchronous code, messaging and CouchDB first. While some of the code was outdated the github repo was (quite substantially) updated.

Good

The Bluffer's Guide to Skiing (David Allsop)

Entertaining and frequently hilarious collection of tips on how to fake experience of skiing.

Good

Creators (Paul Johnson)

Interesting mini-biographies on a series of major creatives along with some general reflections on creation. Interesting selection, for example pairing Picasso and Disney.

Good

Developing a React Edge

Interesting, fairly clear, if becoming dated introduction to React.js Given lack of alternatives (as of November 2015) worth a read if you want to learn about the latest wonder-framework.

Good

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Factor

Clear introduction to a perverse (if interesting) language: Factor uses a stack for calculations. Testing seems nice (as have the stack to check state of) everything else seemed awkward.

Good

Shades of Grey (Jasper Fforde)

Interesting, creative dystopian novel around a world where colour perception is limited and society has made a number of leaps backward and the old technology is banned.

Good

Drops Like Stars (Rob Bell)

Interesting little book connecting creativity and suffering.

Good

The Circle (Dave Eggers)

Highly readable account of a Google-Facebook-Twitter-in-one company's rise and their elimination of privacy. Captures some of the absurdities of contemporary technology world well, albeit in an exaggerated way.

Good

After Friday Night Lights: When the Games Ended, Real Life Began. An Unlikely Love Story. (Buzz Bissinger)

Interesting, short (Kindle Single) follow up to Friday Night Lights.

Good

A Book Of Silence (Sara Maitland)

Interesting travel-autobiography reflection on types of silence, the lack of silence in our society, creative silence and self-emptying silence.

Good

A short book about drawing (Andrew Marr)

Interesting, unpretentious book encouraging the reader to explore drawing.

Good

Flask Web Development (Miguel Grinberg)

Nice clear guide to Flask (a lightweight Python web framework); as I was interested in Flask for App Engine there were quite a few redundant chapters, but otherwise seemed good.

Good

Okay

Acceptable; I didn't regret it but I wouldn't really recommend it.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars (Ian Doescher)

Initially funny, then it gets tedious. Shakespeare woven into Star Wars Episode 4.

Okay

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): Elm

Interesting replacement for Javascript (and HTML and CSS!) Uses 'Signals' to replace callbacks, infers types, functional style etc. Unfortunately the chapter was already outdated (the language is young and frequently changing). One to check back on when more stable.

Okay

Seven More Languages in Seven Weeks (Bruce Tate et al): MiniKraken

I skimmed quite a lot of this chapter... it seems one really needs to already know Clojure to get the most out of it. Learning about a logic DSL embedded in a general purpose language would be great... a Python, Ruby, Javascript or (given earlier chapter) Elixir version would have made more sense.

Okay

Getting Started with p5.js

Not for me (way too simple!) but seemingly clear into to web version of Processing: p5.js

Okay

The Fractalist (Benoit Mandelbrot)

While reading this Fama shared the Nobel prize in Economics for the EFM (a result clearly either trivial or wrong); Mandelbrot was so much greater, making many huge scientific contributions. This autobiography is readable though doesn't give any real details; his co-authored book on finance is better.

Okay

The Iliad (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

A difficult one to review. The translation is probably excellent (I'm not going to read others, but 'faithfulness to the Greek' has been jettisoned in favour of readability and the language feels kind of contemporary but also, due to the content, intrinsically anachronistic). The Poem is, well, actually quite dull, with very occasional brilliance. I skipped through quite a lot of it. Probably one to avoid. Just watch Troy (seriously). Or read the Aeneid (I think I read David West's translation) which is outstanding.

Okay

The Minimalist Photographer (Steve Johnson)

Reasonable book on a minimalist approach to photography: inexpensive equipment and light workflow. Some useful advice on light and composition; but nothing that special (and quite short).

Okay

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex (Mark Kermode)

Entertaining, if a bit slow and repetitive. Stick to the radio/print reviews?

Okay