Category Archives: Books

What I’ve been reading lately, part 4

[Previously: part 1, part 2, part 3]

Murder on the Orient Express — Agatha Christie

This one has quite a well-known twist, but happily I’d completely forgotten about it, so it wasn’t spoiled for me. And in fact, it works really well. I don’t want to say any more for fear of spoilers, but I’d definitely recommend this one. But not as a first Agatha Christie. Read a couple of more regular stories first (e.g. Styles, End House) to get into the idiom. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 3

Peter Pan and Wendy — J. M. Barrie

I highly recommend this to anyone. Written in 1911, it’s now comfortably in the public domain, and you can pick up a free copy at Project Gutenberg. Like Mary Poppins, its a profound and touching book, best known from a Disney adaptation that systematically boiled all the charm and distinctiveness out of it. (I watched the movie after finishing the book, and found it enjoyable in its bland way, but completely unexceptional.)

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 2

As noted recently, I’m taking advantage of my Kindle’s reverse-chronological book list to keep track of what I’ve been reading, and blogging a few thoughts about the books. Here’s part 2.

Second Foundation — Isaac Asimov

Very much more of the same, following on from Foundation and Foundation and Empire, which I wrote about last time. It remains compelling reading, but it continues to astonish with its amazingly primitive technology: for example, apparently the libraries of 20,000 years into the future will still use microfiche. I quite like the sense that Asimov, as he was writing these stories, had no more sense of where they were headed than we have.
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What I’ve been reading lately, part 1

It occurred to me recently that, since my Kindle lists books in the order of how recently I’ve had them open, the first few pages of its index are a useful reverse-chronological order record of what I’ve recently read (at least, once I discard the entries for books that I’ve not yet finished).


Years ago, I used to keep a record of what books I’d read; I’m not sure why I stopped doing it, but I kind of regret it. Now that I have a record of my more recent reads, I thought it might be interesting to say a few words about each book. So here’s what I’ve read since I bought my new Kindle on 28 August (having had my old one stepped on).
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To Kill A Mockingbird is a fine example of how copyright is failing us all

I read this recent piece on how Harper Lee has finally allowed an e-book edition of her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, to be produced. Of course, in the absence of an authorised e-book that readers can pay for, there are plenty of unauthorised ones — it’s trivial to find on any torrent site. My eye was caught by a comment on the article, discussing the existence of these pirate e-books:

This is sad, but doesn’t surprise me. Its the reality of the world we live in today. I suspect the biggest purchasers of this e-book will be over the age of 40 – those under don’t tend to realise the purpose or value of copyright.

That is exactly wrong.

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C++: the good parts


The Once and Future King on compromise and disillusionment in middle age

This is from T. H. White’s absolutely brilliant book The Once and Future King — Book III (The Ill-made Knight), chapter XII (page 374 in my edition):

There is a thing called knowledge of the world, which people do not have until they are middle-aged. It is something which cannot be taught to younger people, because it is not logical and does not obey laws which are constant. It has no rules. Only, in the long years which bring women to the middle of life, a sense of balance develops. You can’t teach a baby to walk by explaining the matter to her logically — she has to learn the strange poise of walking by experience. In some way like that, you cannot teach a young woman to have knowledge of the world. She has to be left to the experience of the years. Continue reading