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Tips from the top: cracking Christmas and New-Year books

Experts and pundits weigh in

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Looking for that last-minute stocking filler? Expecting a book token of some kind during the next few days? Or do you just want to hide behind something impenetrable as the relatives descend for the Christmas holidays?

What luck! The Reg has asked a bunch of experts spanning Java, .NET, security and agile what they’d been reading for business and fun during the last year, and what they could recommend.

We got tips on books covering physics, photography, cyber crime and how to cheat massive online games not to mention books on practice and concepts in coding, and patterns in parallel programming. Here’s the list in full:

James Gosling Sun Microsystems' fellow and the father of Java: The Feynman Lectures on Physics: The Definitive and Extended Edition. "Every chapter starts easy, but gets deep fast," Gosling said. "It's great for brushing up those math and reasoning skills".

For pleasure, Gosling recommended The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world's top shooters, by Joe McNally. "It's about photography from a professional's point of view," he said. "It almost totally ignores cameras: it's mostly about light, composition and message."

Rod A. Smith, an IBM fellow and vice president of emerging internet technologies in Big Blue's software group - home to the mighty WebSphere, Lotus and Tivoli. He recommended three books that "had an impact" on him: Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do by B. J. Fogg; Mashup Corporations: The End of Business As Usual, by Andy Mulholland, Chris S. Thomas, Paul Kurchina, and Dan Woods; and Else/Where: Mapping - New Cartographies of Networks & Territories, edited by Janet Abrams and Peter Hall.

"I recommend the... books for developers, who need to understand how business is and will be evolving, and why they must update their portfolio of skills beyond 1s and 0s," Smith told us.

Kent Beck, agile programming guru, author, and co-creator of Extreme Programming (XP). Beck's latest book is Implementation Patterns, which explores how to communicate through code - Java in particular, but, hey, the principles travel well.

Beck recommended Patterns for Parallel Programming, by Timothy G. Mattson, Beverly A. Sanders, and Berna L. Massingill. "This seems to me to be a critical topic," he said "We were all addicted to serial performance increases and - generally - weren't aware of it. Performance increases were subtly baked into capacity planning, for example. Now the supply has dried up and we'll begin to realize just how dependent we were. Getting out of the situation will require education in new skills."

Gary McGraw, application security expert and chief technology office with Cigital, is the author of Software Security: Building Security In, and the recently published Exploiting Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems, which he wrote with Greg Hoglund.

On McGraw's list is Ross Anderson's second edition of Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems. It's "a must read!" McGraw said. "It's simply the best book ever written on this topic."

McGraw also gave three additional recommendations: Zero Day Threat: The Shocking Truth of How Banks and Credit Bureaus Help Cyber Crooks Steal Your Money and Identity, by Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz. The New School of Information Security, by Adam Shostack and Andrew Stewart. And, finally The Quiet Girl: A Novel, by Peter Hoeg. "This is one of my favorite works of fiction this year," McGraw told us.

Steve Lipner, senior director of security engineering strategy in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, started working in computer and network security in the late 1970s.

During his time, Lipner's worked on a system to map what the Defense Department called A-1 requirements, specialized in security at Digital Equipment in the early 80s and 90s and joined Microsoft as manager of its Security Response Center in 1999. He was onboard at Redmond when the Code Red computer worm and the Nimda virus struck.

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