Charlie Harvey

November 2011 Reading

  • Practices of an Agile Developer, by Venkat Subramaniam and Andy Hunt

    The original Pragmatic Programmer book was pretyy influential on me when it came out and I’ve really enjoyed a few other books in the series. This book is no exception to that. There's a lot of sensible advice for people who make their living writing code in it. The style and focus can smetimes feel a little like one of those "business self-help" books, but its saved by the writers's gentle humour and lots of real life examples. I think it'd be better to read after the original pragmatic programmer book before this, but there is still plenty to learn.

    2011-11-30 by Charlie Harvey
  • History of the Makhnovist Movement, by Peter Arshinov

    I’m really glad I read this. Makhno is often dismissed as marginal or counter-revolutionary or antisemitic or nationalist or [insert ad himinem] by lefties (especially Trots, for obvious reasons). This history tells the story, albeit in overly partisan, romantiscized words of a truly remrkable guy. He basically helped the Ukranian peasentry to fight off the Austro-Germans, their own bourgeoisie and the statist socialists, whilst at the same time supporting the people in building an anti-authoritarian socialism that they themselves ran without the need of bosses and leaders. Obviously having peasants and workers running their own lives and fighting pretty effective wars is not something that goes down well with the authoritarian socialists in Moscow and the Red Army eventually betrays and destroys Makhno's insurgent rebels, but for a few years there there was a glimpse of how the world could be.

    2011-11-28 by Charlie Harvey
  • Information Is Beautiful, by David McCandless

    Stunning. Just stunning. If you haven't looked at the Information is Beautiful Website you should. It'll give you a flavour of the book, which is my is my "on the loo" book of choice at the moment.

    2011-11-24 by Charlie Harvey
  • Pragmatic Version Control Using Git, by Travis Swicegood

    This is a much more accessible introduction to Git than the big O'Reilly Git book by Jon Loeliger. I think its the sort of book that covers 80% of the material, but its been tought through so that its the 80% you use day to day. Really easy and simple walkthroughs, lots of examples.

    2011-11-24 by Charlie Harvey
  • Pattern Languages of Program Design 3, Ed Robert Martin, Dirk Riehle, Frank Buschman

    It can reasonably be claimed that books about design patterns a are literary equivalent of muesli. Whilst well intentioned and good for you, somewhat lacking in joie de vivre and passion. Perhaps I am being unfair, this is certainly a very well written book and covers interesting ground. But the only really memorable part was a delightfully "meta" chapter called "A Pattern for Pattern Writing". It needed some dancing kittens or something. That's all I’m saying ;-)

    2011-11-22 by Charlie Harvey
  • The Social Impacts of Cybernetics, Edited by Charles R. Dechart

    This is one of those academic-ish but still fairly accessible anthology type readers that you occasionally come across. I picked it up in my local Oxfam for £3 which is something of a bargain I guess, if only for the retro-chic green graphpaper front cover. There's some thoughtful ruminations on tech from the dawn of the computer age. Some of it is kinda funny, in the same way that watching old episodes of Tomorrow's World can be. But a lot of the insights are ahead of their time, and have perhaps greater resonance than when the book was compiled in 1966.

    2011-11-18 by Charlie Harvey
  • A critique of state socialism (the comic book) By Michael Bakunin and Richard Warren

    Bakunin is one of those anarchists with huge flaws but a monumental presence. His writing on how state socialism must inevitably lead to tyrannical authoritarianism reads like a history of the trajectory of the Soviet Union, but was of course written years before. Richard Warren's stark 1980s graphical retelling of Bakunin, ties on Makhno, Durutti, Kronstadt the Spanish Civil war in a narrative history of 19th and 20th century anarchism.

    2011-11-14 by Charlie Harvey
  • Modern Perl, by chromatic

    This came out in 2009, so its not quite as modern as the name suggests, however, chromatic does seem to be making a new edition. I reckon this is a great resource for someone who is already a programmer and wants a no-nonsense get you up to speed guide to how perl is actually used in the wild. Its also available for free download. Which is nice and made me buy the print edition. chromatic has a light touch with what could otherwise be dry material and a cheeky sense of humour. I liked this, for example "Using the regex engine for that [searching for a literal substring] is like flying your autonomous attack helicopter to the store to buy spare cheese".

    2011-11-13 by Charlie Harvey
  • The Design of Design, by Fred Brooks

    Brooks is a bit of a legend in the computer project management world mostly due to his perceptive book "The Mythical Man Month", which critiscized the industrial model of complex projects popular in the old days of development (and actually still pretty common today). This book expands on those insights, but brings in new material about the process of design and more interestingly perhaps processes for working together. A lot of the wisdom seems mixed in with tips for dealing with bureaucratic/large organizations, so felt less useful to me, but its a thoughtful and well written read.

    2011-11-04 by Charlie Harvey
  • Introducing Lacan - A Graphic Guide, by Darren Leader and Judy Groves

    I’ll admit it. I find psychoanalysis hard to grasp. I never quite get why you have to make shit up and then act like its universally applicable to everyone (cf: Oedipus complex, etc.) And of all the stuff that I’ve found hard to grasp, Lacan is notably hard to comprehend. But loads of the philosophers and theorists that I read seem to quote his work, so I thought I’d try and get my head round at least the basics. And this was a great book for doing that. Lucid (mostly), with lots of pictures, mercifully brief, whilst giving enough time and space to complex ideas. Just what I was after.

    2011-11-02 by Charlie Harvey


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