“List on the 3s” usually takes place on a date which has a 3 in it. Today is June 17. No three in there at all. But I’m posting this anyway. Why? Because I appreciate you! For more information, see this post.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a huge book reader. I think it’s my borderline ADHD which gets in the way. But I have had some great experiences with a few choice reads. The books that are on this list are the ones which I do or have read repeatedly, always finding something new buried in the pages. Especially when I used a friut roll-up as a bookmark. Yummy…
Top 8 Books In My Bookcase
8. Cliff Stoll – The Cuckoo’s Egg (1990)
Cliff Stoll was a computer nerd administering servers in the academic world in the late 1980s. He was meticulous enough to find a 75 cent discrepancy between the computer usage time and the registered user accounts on the system. It was the beginning of a journey where he unraveled the mystery of a hacker who was breaking into not only his system, but other academic and government servers as well. Using his own cleverness, he was able to trace the hacker halfway around the world to Germany. And it’s (apparently) all true!
What I love about this book is that Stoll presents everything at face value. He teaches the techniques he used — as well as the techniques used by his hacker. He explains, in great detail, some of the tools and protocols we take for granted, technologies which were only emerging at the infancy of the Internet. he also stresses that the Internet sense of community was partially responsible for helping him (and the CIA) nab the hacker. Stoll’s follow up, by the way, Silicon Snake Oil, is a testament to what’s wrong with the Internet (circa 1994) and the dangers of relying solely on computer systems rather than other forms of human interaction.
7. Nat Hentoff – The Day They Came to Arrest the Book (1983)
Hentoff was well-known as a columnist for The Village Voice among other papers which fought battles over the First Amendment. And this was a departure for him — a fictional novel aimed at teens about censorship. It was based on a true story — a suburban high school teaches The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the classroom. Some students are offended by the language within the book, and it’s immediately pulled from the curriculum and the library shelves. It brings up a discussion about the role of the school administration, students, parents, and the overall community in balancing the needs and wants of a school community.
I read this in sixth grade — and have read it countless times since then.
6. George Orwell – 1984 (1948)
Would you believe I didn’t have to read this for high school? Perhaps it’s the reason I chose this one over Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Or perhaps it was out of necesity…
In the Spring of 1990 I was spending several months on a work/study program at a kibbutz in the southern part of Israel. There was pretty much nothing around. And nothing to do. Except read. My friend Josh happened to have 1984 around, so I read it, waiting for him to be finished with Steven King’s The Dead Zone. Unfortunately, Josh read much slower than I did, and I ended up reading 1984 over and over again. And thinking about how it applied to life in the emerging 1990s. I still think of it when I read or watch any news disseminated by a large conglomeration. It’s all about who controls the information. The book is certainly doubleplusgood.
5. Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – Freakonomics (2005)
This book caught some attention when it was released because Bill Bennett had paraphrased a bit of it in a way which made him sound racist. The book explores the notion of correlation between events — which at times can be misinterpreted as simple causality. For instance — does the name you give your kid impact his/her education? Are teachers in specific situations more or less likely to doctor their students’ standardized test scores? And — did the legalization of abortion in the early 1970s lead to a drop in crime in the mid 1990s? It’s a fascinating read — and the type of discussions from the book have continued on the Freakonomics Blog. If anything, you’ll learn about the economics of street-level drug trafficking.
4. Zev Chafets – The Project (1998)
The premise of the novel is pretty far-fetched, but Chafets (an American-born, veteran columnist on Israeli political affairs) tells the story from many different vantage points. Dewey Goldberg is the accidental president of the United States — due to a freak accident which claimed the life of the president and vice president. And he’s the first Jewish person in such a position. He’s up for re-election in the coming year. Meanwhile, he’s playing a political cat and mouse game with Israeli Prime Minister Elihu Barzel — who just offered his endorsement to President Goldberg’s Evangelical Christian opponent. A closer look shows the Israeli and American involvement in a secret project which involves a political shift in the Middle East — one which has unique implications with a sitting Jewish American president. So — yeah. Very far-fetched. But I find his character development interesting. Chafets is a talented writer.
3. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (1979-1992)
First there was a BBC Radio series that quickly gained a cult following. And after that? The books. I remember loaning out my copy of HHGTTG in order to borrow my friend Ethan’s Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I remember watching the low-budget television show. I even went to see the recent sub-par movie based on the series (not so good) and listened to the last three series of the radio drama (extremely good).
But the central focus were the books — all five of them (which made the word “trilogy” quite inaccurate, but it stuck nonetheless). Adams had a way of wrapping his science fiction around humor like no other. Simply the best.
2. A. J. Jacobs – The Year of Living Biblically (2007)
A.J. Jacobs is a writer for Esquire. His previous book chronicled his experience reading the entire Encyclopedia Britainica from A to Z. Hard act to follow, isn’t it?
Well, Jacobs decided to read another body of work: The Bible. And he set out to follow every single rule he could find in it as literally as possible. Coming from a non-religious Jewish background (he proclaims that he is “officially Jewish, but … only in the same way that the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant”) he takes a look at different religious groups and how they interpret the Bible literally and figuratively. He attempts to live this life while maintaining his family life with his wife and young son. A lot of this book is funny and clever, but it treats religious beliefs with respect.
Oh – and he has a kick-ass beard and a long robe! Here’s a promotional video for the book:
1. Douglas Coupland – Microserfs (1995)
I always keep coming back to this book.
I had heard of Douglas Coupland’s other works — such as Generation X and Shampoo Planet. But Microserfs is the one that got be hooked on Coupland. His main character is Daniel, a coder working for Microsoft in the mid-1990s in Seattle. His work is his life. He lives in a house with other Microsoft coders. He has it pretty good, but after a co-worker creates a new startup multimedia company in Silicon Valley, he must decide whether or not he wants to give up his security for the chance to be “1.0” material. Tie in the dynamics of working with your friends, dealing with a family experiencing the new economy of the 90s, and the new phenomenon of the Internet — and you’ve got a book which reads like, well, a blog. Even though the technology has changed, this book still holds up extremely well.
In 2006 Coupland released a follow-up (not a sequel) about game coders in Vancouver called jPod — as a Microserfs 2.0 type of experience. I hated it. It has, however, spawned a not-so-bad television show which aired in Canada this past year.
Here’s the tenative schedule for the rest of Blog Reader Appreciation Week ‘08:
Sunday, June 15: Lazy Sunday
Monday, June 16: Shiny’s Time-Wasters!
Tuesday, June 17: List on the 3s*: Shiny’s Bookcase
Wednesday, June 18: Fun with “Hebrew with Shiny” / A Tribute to Shiny’s 80s Hair
Thursday, June 19: List on the 3s*: Shiny’s Favorite Blog Posts
Friday, June 20: Shiny’s vlog entry! *cringe*
Saturday, June 21: The Infamous “How Shiny Got Cock-Blocked by Meredith Baxter-Birney” Story