This year, just like last year, I got pretty distracted, both with the panedmic, and with work, which I did a ton of technical reading for. As a result, I didn’t get to nearly as much fiction as I wanted to.. But I still found a few really high-quality reads that I’m still thinking about as the new year begins.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke - I cannot overemphasize how good this book was. Clarke’s sprawling original fantasy classic, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a book that has remained in my top ten books of all time decades after I’ve read it, so I was very, very, very excited to see this come out.
Piranesi is a wonder, a jewel of a book, suspenseful and sad and hopeful and interesting. It is extremely atmospheric. I don’t want to describe it without giving it away other than to say we meet the narrator as he is in a ruined castle with the tides coming in and going out, and as the camera zooms out, we learn more and more about him as a person, and why he is in this castle. I have zero personal time and I read this book in one day. This book is a testament to the true power of fiction over us.
The Pyschology of Computer Programming by Gerald Weinberg - This is a must-read for anyone working with computers and thinking about teams, team dynamics, and how to produce code. It covers every single thing we talk about in industry today. Here’s a quick excerpt on psychological safety
I cannot recommend The Psychology of Computer Programming any more strongly. It covers every single thing we talk about in industry today. It is from 1971. For example, here is psychological safety. pic.twitter.com/I0jltWWZwx— Vicki (@vboykis) August 1, 2021
and here’s one on benchmarking programs:
Here is a section on benchmarking and how it’s almost impossible to benchmark any one given program pic.twitter.com/jg7H9UFl9Z— Vicki (@vboykis) August 1, 2021
If you can get your hands on a hardcover, do it and mark it up.
Wool by Hugh Howey - I’m a little late to this one (like ten years late?) but this dystopian fiction about people living below-ground in an enormous silo takes a while to get started and then really gets going. I thoroughly enjoyed escaping to a dystopia different than the one we currently live in.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett - If you have not read anything by Anne Patchett, this is the one to start with. She is an enormously skilled writer and has written so many different books about the dynamics of what it means to be human, differently. This is a lush, sorrowful, meaty deep dive into a family who buys a beautiful house and grows and shrinks with the house. If you like books where houses are characters (much like Rebecca,which I also DEVOURED this year), this is a wonderful read.
The Overstory by Richard Powers - Who knew books about trees could be so good? This is a saga about what it means for us to live with trees, and with ourselves. Trees are boring right? No, they talk to each other , they grow, they build, they learn. I learned SO MUCH about trees and began to view my external environment differently after reading this. And now I want to learn more about them before it’s too late.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder - This is such a fun, sarcastic, juicy read, about a woman who falls in love with a merman. It’s very sensual, and yet never takes itself seriously at all. I laughed out loud in more than one place. Broder is a very keen observer of the modern human, and moreover, the modern woman, and at the end of the book, you’re not quite sure who you should be rooting for, but you’re glad you came along for the journey.