Holiday Reading Recommendations
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 24 December 2018
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So the festive holidays are here, and many of us could do with a good book to escape with (or a last minute present rather than socks for the geek in your life). Our selection of top titles provides welcome relief from the tinsel and board games.

The selection of books in this round-up are those that the contributors of I Programmer might honestly give as presents to the right person, or would choose to read themselves. Some are light-hearted or easy reading choices; others offer ways into the world of computers and developers for people who might not have realized what they're missing. Some books on our list have been there for years, but that doesn't make them any less good as a present! Others are more recent releases. They're all books we'd be happy to get as a present.


If you want to read more of the original review click in the link in each title. Clicking on the book jacket in the side panel will take you to Amazon. If you just want to find out more about the book click in the top portion of the thumbnail to open the book's product details page. If you do decide to make a book purchase accessing Amazon from a link on I Programmer means that we are credited with a few cents - so thanks to all of you who support us in this way.


The first book on our list of suggestions is an old favorite that has been updated, and is still great reading, especially given the way the holidays involve a lot of high profile meals that can be triumphs or disasters. We reviewed the first edition of Cooking for Geeks   but it has since been updated with new sidebars and labs for "geeky parents wanting to experiment with their kids"



Mike James, who is an enthusiastic cook as well as being a committed programmer gave it a 5-star (i.e. highest possible) rating and concluded:

If you are new to cooking and are a geek then you might just be encouraged and inspired to get involved. However I think that the perfect reader for this book is the technically-minded cook who wants to know more - but that's a description of me of course.

Highly recommended and it would make a really great  Xmas gift for any geek.

What more can I say than it's been added to my cookbook shelf and no - you can't borrow it....

Following on from the excess eating that takes place over the holidays, the next title might be more necessary than at other times - The Healthy Programmer got a rating of five stars from Sue Gee. The book's subtitle is Get Fit, Feel Better and Keep Coding, and in the preface author Joe Kutner, who as well as being a programmer is a former college athlete and Army Reserve physical trainer, writes:

Your job shouldn't hurt you, and with the right tools it won't. The heath effects of being a sedentary programmer are treatable, and in most cases reversible. This book will help guide you in that transformation. 



The final tip in the book is:

Being healthy should be fun. Keep iterating and changing until you find what makes you happy.

Sue concludes that you don't have to be a fitness fanatic to appreciate this book - although being willing to put effort into breaking bad habits and establishing new ones helps. It is written by someone who thinks like a programmer and this is a real advantage. It doesn't come across as prescriptive and preachy, but as well researched, carefully considered, experimental and pragmatic.

If you're wanting to play a little more than you usually do, but still make use of your techie background, maybe you should cultivate your artistic side. One favorite title with contributor David Conrad, to the extent he recommended it again for this feature, is The Art of Black and White Photography.   With a subtitle of Techniques for Creating Superb Images in a Digital Workflow, this is a beautifully produced book looking at black-and-white photography in the digital age.



We reviewed the first edition, but there's an updated second edition with new images and content, and coverage of Photoshop CS5.

Still on the creative front, if you or someone you know has an interest in music, Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists gets a five star rating.

This is a book about using ChucK as a big flexible super synth, and according to Mike James, is highly recommended for anyone wanting to be a cutting edge musician. If you are just a programmer who likes to play around then it is also great fun. This book and ChucK can get you places that otherwise would be very slow and difficult to arrive at by other means. 

If you have friends or relatives who look blankly when you try to explain how fascinating computers and programming are, maybe you should give them a copy of Understanding the Digital World. This is an equally good book for filling in any gaps in your own knowledge of hardware, software, and communications and their place in the everyday world.


Kay Ewbank awarded this book five stars, and while this isn't a book aimed at developers, most will instantly recognize the author's name - he is the K in the classic K&R book on  C. This book is written in a very different style in order to be accessible to wide audience.

Another book that aims to make our world more understandable is The Computing Universe. This is essentially a history of computing, from the early days of computers in the 1930s to the cutting edge of today's research and beyond.


The authors look at important ideas not just in general hardware, software and algorithms, but specifics such as Moore's Law, the Turing Test, Jeopardy's Watson, World of Warcraft, Google, Facebook, and quantum computing. The people behind the ideas are also discussed. Sue Gee gave it five stars, and concluded that: 

"while it is intended to be intelligible to both high school and first-year university students, it has a lot to offer the general reader and even those already part of the computing universe as a coherent, well-written account of its past, present and future." 






<ASIN: 0521150183>

Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 December 2018 )