Every now and then I do a book review or two for the blog, people seem to like them and as it is the summer holildays, I’ve decided to give you an insight as to what I am reading or have read on holiday. It’s the normal mixed back of books; some old, some new, some best-sellers, some not. I only tend to write about books I like which is why my book reviews tend to be nearly entirely positive.
So here goes, some holiday reading for you all.
At school, I hated history and dropped it as a subject as soon as possible; it might have been the way it was taught or perhaps it was that the eras studied just were not those that I was interested in; these days though I read a lot of history books, it tends to be mostly early history but not entirely so. I’ve recently become more interested in European history and the creation of modern Europe; one of those figures which looms large is Lenin, a monster and tyrant in the West’s eyes and mythologised in the Soviet Russia. The collapse of the Soviet Union opened previously sealed records and has allowed Robert Service to re-appraise the life of Lenin and the influences which him; from his early upbringing and education to the execution of his elder brother Alexander, Lenin’s early life is brought to life and the monster is humanised. Yet as Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov becomes Lenin (Lenin was his revolutionary name), you see the man become the monster. If there is any criticism to be made of the book, it tends to ignore some of the major events such as the First World War and focuses on Lenin the man but as a biography it paints a picture of Lenin beyond the normal mythology, Robert Service’s Lenin: A Biography may not be the cheeriest summer read but I found it really interesting and learnt a lot.
The Black Jacobins by the great Trinidadian writer CLR James is the history of the Hatian Revolution of 1791-1804, especially considered against the background of the French Revolution (Haiti was ruled by the French), it mainly focuses on the black leader Toussaint L’Ouverture who rose from slavery to a hero of the Haitian revolution and a tragic one at that. A criticism oft laid at the book is that it is very partisan and idealistic but this does not prevent it from being an easy read and an important parallel to one of the key developments in European history.
The Library Book is a collection of pieces on the importance of libraries from short stories to personal testimony by such luminaries as Stephen Fry, Alan Bennet, Seth Godin and many more. At a time when many feel that libraries are now not necessary with everything online, this collection gives many reasons why we still need libraries. A library is more than just a collection of books, just as a book is more than just a collection of words; if you love books and libraries, this book is great fun.
It’s odd that I have read many of George R.R Martin’s books; I was a great fan of the Wild-Cards series which was editted by him, I also loved Windhaven and have read many of his short stories but I had never read any of A Song of Ice and Fire (The Game of Thrones) books, they had just passed me by and I had probably discounted them as more Tolkien fantasy wannabe. Well, more fool me, I’ve been racing through them this summer and have found them compelling, complex, exciting, violent and witty. Late to the party I know but I very pleased I picked them up. Full of strong characters, both male and female; flawed but heroic and certainly not Tolkien like at all. Although I have linked the boxed set, I’d buy them on Kindle if I were you; they’re very long so much easier to carry around on the Kindle. Saves you carrying around two heavy books if you are getting close to the end of one.
REST APIs and interacting with services via them are becoming an increasingly important part of the tech landscape; even humble infrastructure bods like myself can’t avoid them any more. The REST API Design Handbook by George Reese is great short introduction on how you go about designing a REST API and I wish that many of my developer friends would read it; it would make my life and theirs a lot simpler. I continue to see horrible things done with SOAP which would work so much better with a RESTful implementation that I feel that this should be compulsory reading before you decide to do anything with SOAP. And at only 90 pages or so, there’s no excuse for not reading it.
Fifty Shades of Grey is not a book I have read this summer and really have no intention in reading, although I gather it makes for great amusement when read aloud but if you want something similar but better written (although I can’t really say that not having read 50SoG), try The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure. Of course it is adult, so if you are neither adult or a possessor of an open mind, give it a miss.