Having been shamed by Stephen Curry’s excellent posts on the books he has read the previous year for the second year on the bounce, I have decided to pick twelve books to read in 2015 that have been sitting unread in piles around my house.
Thus, to continue in my “A set of…” series, here are a set of books to read in 2015 (in size order, as shown above):
The Soul of a New Machine (1997) by Tracy Kidder
Recommended by Alan Winfield last year, this book recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A bestseller on its first publication in 1981, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award.
Little Brother (2008) by Cory Doctorow
Dystopian fiction — one seventeen-year-old against the surveillance state; a tale of civil liberties, security, privacy and hacking.
The Information (2012) by James Gleick
We live in the information age; Gleick tells the story of how humans use, transmit and keep what they know. Winner of the 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius (2009) by Graham Farmelo
The dramatic human story of Paul Dirac, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics, described alongside his groundbreaking contributions to science, including the prediction of antimatter and the co-discovery of quantum mechanics.
The Plantagenets (2012) by Dan Jones
A historical narrative of the Plantagenet dynasty, whose members span four distinct Royal houses (Angevins, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York) and held the English throne from the accession of Henry II in 1154 to the death of Richard III in 1485.
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2009) by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
Recommended by Anthony Finkelstein last year, this meticulous biography reveals a brilliant, ambitious, complex and flawed man, as director of the Manhattan Project profoundly involved with some of the momentous events of the twentieth century. Another Pulitzer Prize winner.
The Great University Gamble (2013) by Andrew McGettigan
This book drills into the detailed backstory of recent higher education policy in England, the long-term consequences of which are only now being realised. Certainly one for policy wonks, but this frames an issue that will preoccupy the UK government post-2015 elections.
The Entrepreneurial State (2013) by Mariana Mazzucato
In this widely acclaimed book, Mazzucato documents how the state has played a crucial role behind some of the landmark innovations of our time, debunking the myth of the state as a bureaucratic organisation that leaves entrepreneurship and innovation as the sole preserve of the private sector. Furthermore, she courageously asks: why are all of the profits from this socialised risk-taking going private?
Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe (2013) by Simon Winder
For centuries, much of Europe was in the hands of the somewhat peculiar Habsburg family, an unstable mixture of wizards, obsessives, melancholics, bores, musicians and warriors. This is a history of a dynasty that continuously occupied the throne of the Holy Roman Empire between 1438 and 1740 and ruled most of Central Europe and Germany until 1918 (along with interfering everywhere else).
Understanding Philosophy of Science (2002) by James Ladyman
(Hopefully) a clear and engaging introduction to the philosophy of science, exploring the philosophical questions that arise when we reflect on the nature of the scientific method and the knowledge it produces. In particular, whether fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality might be answered by science, as well as considering the debate about the extent of scientific knowledge.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) by Thomas Piketty
In this critically acclaimed book, Piketty analyses a unique collection of data from twenty countries to uncover key economic and social patterns, showing that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Marx. However, the main driver of inequality today — the tendancy of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth — threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values.
Reamde (2011) by Neal Stephenson
An adventure thriller from the author of Cryptonomicon, in which a tech entrepreneur gets caught in the very real crossfire of T’Rain, the billion-dollar multiplayer online war game he created.