Tips from the top: cracking Christmas and New-Year books
Experts and pundits weigh in
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.
Lipner seconded McGraw on The New School of Information Security. "It presents a new and different way of thinking about information security threats and ways of countering them," he said. "In a time when security threats are real and incidents are becoming more serious, it's really important to think analytically about security investments, and The New School provides an interesting perspective on doing this. It's very readable and definitely takes on some long-standing assumptions about information security."
Miko Matsumura is well known among Java jocks as Sun's original Java evangelist. In recent years, he's gained notoriety in service-oriented architecture circles as the co-creator of The Middleware Company's SOA Blueprints, the first complete, vendor-neutral specification of an SOA application set. He coined the term "intentional SOA," and his paper, Intentional SOA for Real-World SOA Builders, outlines practices and principles that ensure the business value of SOA. His latest book is SOA Adoption for Dummies , is a free e-book sponsored by Software AG.
Matsumura recommended The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable , by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. "It's an engaging read and pretty timely, given the current recessionary crash," Matsumura said. "It's a book about how the human brain is not tuned to see emerging phenomena, and how history is written after the fact".
Also on the list: The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution , by Richard Dawkins. "It's a fascinating book that shows all of the evolutionary 'branch points' (40 in total) between the beginnings of life on earth to the branch that ended up as human," he said.
"It's a tour de force, and one that sheds a lot of light on our evolutionary history and the pattern architecture driven by evolution. Information systems on a large scale are evolving systems, so this should be interesting reading for anyone working on extremely large-scale heterogeneous systems, particularly ones with some lengthy history."
Jeffrey S. Hammond is a senior industry analyst at Forrester, but we can forgive that as he's also an inveterate coder, a former PowerBuilder developer, and also a language geek. Hammond's latest obsession is Ruby. He recommended three books for us.
For the Web/RIA developer: Enterprise AJAX: Strategies for Building High Performance Web Applications , by David Johnson, Alexei White and Andre Charland. Why? It delivers "good nuts and bolts discussions of the practical and performance considerations developers face when they are trying to build RIAs," Hammond said.
For the .NET developers, he offered: Software Engineering with Microsoft Visual Studio Team System , by Sam Guckenheimer. "A solid practical ALM how-to manual for .NET shops."
And for developers at ISVs: Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant , by W.Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. "As the world is remade by a recessionary economy and continued penetration of open source software, it's helpful to have a framework to think about how to evolve the software products you're trying to build," he said.
Security maven Brian Chess is co-founder and chief scientist at Fortify Software. His latest book is Secure Programming with Static Analysis , written with Jacob West. Chess is another fan of, The Black Swan. "Looking at yesterday is a bad way to predict tomorrow," he said. "Taleb focuses on the financial world, but his lessons apply just as well (if not better) to the digital realm. When you're finished reading it, you'll have an excellent appreciation for how silly most practitioners of 'risk management' really are."
For fiction heads, Chess plugged Alive in Necropolis , by Doug Dorst. "It's a ghost story set in northern California," he said. "The writing sparkles. Dorst describes my part of the world better than I ever could. Not a tech book, but how can you really understand tech without knowing about its birthplace?" ®