Books Read, 2016 Edition
There used to be a website called Readmill where I could post reviews of books that I’ve read. It was fairly popular in its hayday and some likened it to be the Yelp of books. But it shut down not too long ago and — coupled with my hectic transition into Uni — I’ve slowly lost interest in reading.
But early last year, I decided I would go back into it. I think it’s because I’ve gotten sick of the web’s consistently poor (due to the nature of its hurriedly-written) writing quality. Anyhow, here are the books I’ve read — my thoughts included — during the year that was 2016.
Surely You Must Be Joking Mr. Feynman!
It’s a semi-biography of the great physicist, Richard Feynman. The book’s a collection of short stories about Feynman’s early days, from when he first discovered his love of science (by hacking radio as a kid), all the way up to his later college years.
I enjoyed the fact that it’s just a collection of stories that I could read at my own pace. What I didn’t like was the fact that the timeline of the book was simply chronological, rather than jumping in and out of similar themes. Overall, this first book I read in 2016 not only rekindled my interest in reading, but also for physics.
Things to Make and Do in The Fourth Dimension
I got this book in the spur of the moment while out on vacation somewhere between Melbourne and Adelaide. I’ve had my eyes on this book for a while — the author’s a prominent stand-up mathematician (he’s been a recurring guest on Numberphile) and I’ve been subscribed to his fairly new YouTube channel from day one.
Parker’s book is exactly as it sounds: all the best bits of Numberphile jam-packed into an (incredibly) easy-to-read text. The comedy does get a little dry sometimes — but that’s okay, because the math inside is very, very amusing.
This is one of the best novels I’ve picked up in a while. White Tiger follows the story of one Balram, a poverty-stricken, entrepreneurial Indian boy who (so wittily, yet almost deceitfully) makes his way up the caste ladder. Interestingly, its narrative is told through a series of letters from Balram to reader.
What I loved about this book was that it begins where it ends, and each moment in the story falls right into place as the ending becomes more clear. Plus, I really connected with the storytelling such that whenever I paused from reading, I’d act like Balram from time to time.
If I could track the kind of things I browse on the internet, I’d wager that world history would come up right on top if not right after computer science and design. I’m a sucker for history — I’d spend an afternoon down a Wikipedia rabbit hole full of articles about the Indus Valley Civilisation or the origin of the English language.
That said, I was spoiled by the amount of information this book gave me. Harari’s novelisation of human history (from the first human, the spread of religion — all the way up to bionic eyes) is a fantastic insight into the psychology of our behaviour. Ten out of ten, would read this again.
On Web Typography
I’m a fan of Jason Santa Maria’s work, and I’ve been waiting for this book ever since it was teased way back in 2011. I decided to get a copy for myself now that I’m spending more time designing interfaces instead of icons.
Although it’s a little dated, the book is incredibly practical. I found myself using it more by side for reference while designing than sitting down and reading it. I’d like to think of it as a guidebook to using fonts effectively. (I also learned that font is to type as DVD is to movie, hah!)
Now that it’s 2017, I’m going to amp up my reading. I’ve armed myself with an arsenal of books for this new year, and I can’t wait to go through all of them.