Winter Reading

I’ve been way behind on my book reviews of late, and there’s probably no hope I’ll ever catch up properly. But here’s what I’ve read over the Xmas break (all of these were kind gifts taken from my Amazon Wishlist, for which I’m very grateful indeed).

The Google Story The Search Galactic North
If you never, ever took the time to read about Google’s past and want to get a feel for their vision and background, this is a pretty good place to start. Although both style and substance can be a bit too rosy at times, David Vise has a smooth, flowing prose that carries you along the meandering path that Google’s founders trod and deposits you around mid-2006 – which makes it current enough if you’ve been paying some attention lately. John Battelle is a co-founding editor of Wired, and it shows – I read this in quick succession after The Google Story, and the contrast in style and overall reach couldn’t be sharper. Starting with an overview of search and how its monetization came about, John moves seamlessly into a different, edgier (and most would likely say better) version of Google’s ascent that manages to go beyond the tale and asks several of the right questions. Although the book’s tale finishes in mid-2005, the afterword sums up the intervening year quite nicely and leaves the right kind of questions in your mind. If, like me, you like Alastair Reynolds’s “Revelation Space” series but find it too sparse in terms of coverage of the entire story arc, this set of short stories will help you fill in some delightful pieces of mosaic that are some of the recurring characters’ background stories and nudge some other pieces into place. More than a sampling of threads from various pieces of the arc, it is also an enjoyable showcase of varying styles from Alastair’s masterful hand.

This time, there’s a fourth recommendation, but no specific book: I’ve started reading Neal Asher’s books a couple of months back, and this weekend I got one that prompted one of my rare day-and-a-half, 600-page reading marathons1. Although I’m getting somewhat weary of Sci-Fi, sometimes there’s nothing like it to wash away all the stress and work-related gunk from my neurons.

As usual, feel free to drop me a note with more book suggestions – do check out my Wishlist beforehand, since I use it as a parking space for holding stuff.

1 My personal record remains at leafing through LOTR in roughly the same amount of time nearly a decade ago, although truth be told I didn’t really have to do any household chores back then.