Literature I’ve read recently

The Dark Side of Technology [06/19]

Disappointing. I typically enjoy this style of book and have ready many like it, but this one felt a little under developed and the writing quality left something to be desired. Some great points are made as Townsend meanders his pessimistic way along - pessimism that is certainly not unrealistic. Whilst there were some very good points made, I felt as though they were too thinly spread, I’d find myself reading a section, getting to the end, and then realising very little had actually been said.

GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency [05/19]

A dense history of an interesting organisation. The first part of the book, covering the second world war is very interesting and easy to read, however I found the late 50’s through to the early 70’s fairly boring and this expands through some hundreds of pages - not ideal. However, coming out of the other side and into the heart of the cold war was much more interesting, things picked up from there. It’s a well written history but it isn’t exactly light reading, ‘tome’ would be a suitable word to describe this volume. Recommended reading if you’re a developer interested in early computing and the activities at Bletchley Park but you might find yourself struggling to get past the half-way point if you aren’t as interested in post WWII US-UK politics.

Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine [03/19]

Hannah Fry provides many eye-opening examples of how algorithms can harm society and individuals when blindly followed. As a software developer, I found it refreshing to explore how software can impact real people through misclassification of information. From motoring to crime and legal systems, Fry provides a well-rounded insight into how software is shaping society and numerous cautionary tales about where things have gone wrong. Her writing style is excellent and even though I would classify myself as fairly well read on this topic, she provided many interesting citations that kept me entertained.

The Railway Adventures: Places, Trains, People and Stations [02/19]

Chronicling the best bits of Geoff & Vicki’s remarkable adventure to visit all the stations in Great Britain during 2018. The duo managed to visit all 2563 stations and vlogged their experience on YouTube. The book covers some of the best places, trains, stations and people they saw and met along the way. Their enthusiasm for the railway is infectious and the book highlights some of the best things about our network as well as some of its historical failings. There are many places they visit that I’ve never considered going to but will now. Including some good photography and local knowledge, this book acts as a travel guide to both well-known cities and rural backwaters.

Erebus: The Story of a Ship [01/19]

This is the first book by Michael Palin I’ve ever read and thanks to his relaxed and insightful tone I’ll be on the lookout for more. Receiving this book as a Christmas gift, I consumed it in a matter of days due in equal parts to the fascinating story and excellent writing. Only those who know me well will appreciate my passion for engineering - this includes naval history. This book includes a detailed backstory of the Royal Navy in the early 19th century. The story of HMS Erebus is vast and includes many subplots that themselves could make entire films. Palin brings the entire ship’s history to life along with famous (and some less so) British characters that all told makes for a very enjoyable read.