The Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder. Really good! I especially enjoyed the technical details about building computers in the early 1980s. I’m grateful that debugging is so much easier now (with the caveat that I’m sure it’s probably harder for the engineers building today’s computers than it is for those of us building higher up the stack). While part of me wishes I could have been there to build a new computer, the overtime culture at Data General seemed unhealthy and management seemed immature, and that’s not worth it regardless of how innovative or interesting the work is.
In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honoré. I felt like this could probably have been shorter (self-help isn’t really my thing, by the way), but still worth reading. I now drive the speed limit, which I didn’t expect to be an outcome of reading this book. I also find myself consciously acknowledging that things usually don’t need to be rushed, which has been helpful. The bit about playing classical music half as fast was fascinating, too.
Recent fiction reads
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. For some reason I thought this was going to be boring and stodgy (I knew basically nothing about it before reading it), but it was well crafted, eminently readable, with good prose. It felt modern, too — almost like it could have been written yesterday. But it was also uncomfortable and heavy and so, so sad. This reminded me once again that as a rule I don’t particularly like dystopian fiction. Also, I learned that mayday is a borrowing from the French m’aidez — “help me.”
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. I…didn’t really like it. Or get much out of it. (Even though I tried to.) For me it was kind of a rambly mess, and the humor didn’t do anything for me either. But I’m glad other people like the book. I did sort of like Cat’s Cradle, so Vonnegut’s not completely off the table for me, but I’m also in no rush to read the rest of his catalog.