Book reviews

I read a lot of books. Here are reviews of some of them.

The Salmon of Doubt, by Douglas Adams.
Briefly: A hotchpotch of Adams's unpublished and ephemeral writing; about as good as you'd expect from that description.
The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood.
Briefly: A partial (in every sense) retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's point of view. Charming and (only slightly, I'm afraid) subversive.
The Elements of Typographical Style, by Robert Bringhurst.
Briefly: A lovely book, deep as well as elementary, stylish as well as about style.
Augustine of Hippo, by Peter Brown.
Briefly: A very fine biography of one of the most influential thinkers ever.
Lost Worlds, by Michael Bywater.
Briefly: A survey of Things That Are No More. Quite mad (deliberately so) and beautifully written. A masterpiece.
Agile Software Development, by Alistair Cockburn.
Briefly: An accessible introduction to the "agile" approach, perhaps a bit disorganized.
Carfree Cities, by J H Crawford.
Briefly: A thorough and persuasive, if not completely convincing, proposal for a complete city with no cars.
Unweaving the Rainbow, by Richard Dawkins.
Briefly: A defence of science that tries to do too many things and ends up doing them all only adequately.
Sweet Dreams, by Daniel Dennett.
Briefly: An attack on obscurantist objections to scientific explanations of consciousness, long on bluster and short on argument.
Don't you have time to think?, by Richard Feynman.
Briefly: About 230 letters from (and to) the great physicist. Enjoyable.
The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde.
Briefly: Another demented comedy-crime book from the author of the "Thursday Next" series, but neither so demented nor as funny as they were.
Against all Gods, by A C Grayling.
Briefly: A short polemical book with little new to say.
The Science of Programming, by David Gries.
Briefly: A Dijkstraesque guide to writing programs that are provably correct.
Kleinzeit, by Russell Hoban.
Briefly: Beautiful and strange.
How Children Fail, by John Holt.
Briefly: Insightful and devastating.
The Pragmatic Programmer, by Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas.
Briefly: Excellent, somewhat reminiscent of Bentley's classic "Programming Pearls".
Killing Monsters, by Gerard Jones.
Briefly: A contrarian view of the impact of violent entertainment on children.
Studies in Words, by C S Lewis.
Briefly: Tracing the evolution of language by a few focused studies. Fascinating.
The Miracle of Theism, by J L Mackie.
Briefly: An evaluation of a wide range of arguments for theism and a few for atheism; admirably clear and fair despite the author's strong convictions.
Object-Oriented Software Construction, by Bertrand Meyer.
Briefly: A masterful exposition of Meyer's prejudices, many of which are excellent.
The Myths We Live By, by Mary Midgley.
Briefly: Some insights but a lot of straw men and unfair treatment of people and ideas Midgley disagrees with.
Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability, by Frederick Mosteller.
Briefly: Pretty much what the title says. Not all that challenging for the seasoned pro.
Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: case studies in Common Lisp, by Peter Norvig.
Briefly: A wealth of ideas and insights, presented clearly and in detail. Buy it now.
Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian.
Briefly: A nautical novel, doubtless very good of its kind; unfortunately I don't much care for the kind.
52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, by Ruth Padel.
Briefly: One way of looking at 52 poems.
The Schubert Song Companion, by John Reed.
Briefly: An excellent reference, inevitably sometimes briefer than one would like on account of its huge scope.
Just Six Numbers, by Martin Rees.
Briefly: A workmanlike account of cosmological "fine tuning" and related matters.
Mathematical Miniatures, by Svetoslav Savchev and Titu Andreescu.
Briefly: A collection of beautiful mathematical problems and solutions.
The Strategy of Conflict, by Thomas Schelling.
Briefly: An early application of game theory to war and related situations, containing important insights.
The Methods of Ethics, by Henry Sidgwick.
Briefly: A classic examination of ethical theory from a utilitarian perspective. Thorough rather than exciting.
The Algorithm Design Manual, by Steven Skiena.
Briefly: An enjoyable, informal, practical, insightful, but intermittently unreliable guide to algorithms and data structures.
The Lives of a Cell, by Lewis Thomas.
Briefly: 29 charming but slightly too mystical essays on matters biological and medical.
Mozart in the Jungle, by Blair Tindall.
Briefly: A racy personal memoir and an evisceration of the present-day classical music industry.
Terrorism: a Very Short Introduction, by Charles Townshend.
Briefly: Exactly what it says. Informative but dry.
Life in Moving Fluids, by Steven Vogel.
Briefly: A thorough, clear, witty and enjoyable introduction to biological fluid dynamics.