Some recent reads

I haven’t posted here in quite a while, and I’d like to re-boot the site with something easy. So I wrote up “mini book reviews” of some books that I read recently and liked quite a lot.

Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich

This is a book about an MIT blackjack team who were counting cards in Las Vegas casinos. They were quite successful at it too.

The movie “21” is based on this book and I had really enjoyed it, so this book was on my to-read list for a while. I enjoyed the book just as much as the movie.

The Cuckoo’s Egg by Clifford Stoll

The Cuckoo’s Egg is an awesome account of how Stoll tracks down a hacker who was breaking into his lab’s computer to access military computers, apparently searching for classified information.

What I liked best about this book is Stoll’s writing style: it’s simple and honest- he keeps you in the loop about how he’s trying to get his next lead, and his frustrations too. And you can tell he’s an interesting guy. You should check out this Numberphile video about how he manages the warehouse for his Klein bottle business.

Oh, and even though it is non-fiction, the book feels very much like a thriller. Highly recommended.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

This is a collection of short science fiction stories. I’d never heard of the author and in fact, he has very few stories published, which is a real shame.

In all of the stories, Chiang has taken what is the essence of science-fiction and really run with it. He shows you a universe where things work differently, or some technology that doesn’t really exist, and imagines how such a world would look like. And the intricacies of how these universes and technologies work is what Chiang seems to have focussed on. After he’s happy with that, he treats the plot as secondary and just drops it off. Bold, but effective.