I'm Going to Read this Summer and I Really Mean It

May 30, 2013 at 11:25pm

I like to read. I like stories. In fact, many of my blog posts that aren't about computers or whatever are about storytelling. But sometimes, I see books that I read in elementary and junior high and I wonder how I was ever so literate; therefore, I'm actually going to make a point of knocking some books off my ongoing reading list over the summer. Seriously.

Bats and bros maaaan

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I visited a library today with a friend, because we are cool people who hang out at libraries. I usually only ever go to another library across from my old school because I sort of grew up there literarily, but I'm really glad she showed me the one today. I was excited because there were stairs — the library had two stories! I really hope that the people who live near it don't take their funding for granted. There was a large children's section that had computers running educational apps. The keyboards were colorful and had vowels (sans "sometimes y") color coded separately from consonants. I wish I had taken a picture, because now I want a colorful keyboard. The teen fiction was across the common area ("the angst goes in that corner") alongside general fiction; nonfiction was upstairs. In my browsing, I spotted a few books that I've been meaning to read:

  • Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson, a book about Turing Machines and von Neumann's work building the IAS machine at Princeton. It seems exactly the kind of book I would be interested in, and I feel like the cathedral imagery is nice considering the sort of pantheon of computational thinkers the novel explores.
  • Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card, the most recent addition to the Shadow Saga spinoff of the Enderverse. I've heard mixed reactions to the book, but I reserve judgment until I finally find out what happens to Bean after his relativistic journey. I used to read the Ender series about once a year because it impacted me so much, all the way up to Ender in Exile.

I also had a great moment when I picked up Starclimber in the YA section because the author's name sounded familiar, and upon reading the jacket summary discovered that I had actually read and really enjoyed that series of books when I was younger. I was so incredulous that I had forgotten about them and I got really excited and a little above library volume. Other instances of book nostalgia include the Redwall series, Artemis Fowl, and The Count of Monte Cristo, which I actually read and really liked in 4th grade.

I actually really enjoyed Monte Cristo even though I probably lacked as deep of a contextual understanding of the historical period as I have now; nonetheless, I strongly believe that (now that I am not one) young children comprehend more than you would expect. That's one of the many reasons Ender's Game resonates so strongly with me, actually, because I did a book report on it in 6th grade where I also tried to comment on how children are patronized in fictional portrayals and their intelligence and maturity are often undersold.

The Rest of My Summer Reading List

  • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. This one's actually a re-reading, but I'm certain I didn't understand its entirety the first time through. Pretty sure I still won't get all or most of it.
  • Design for Hackers by David Kadavy. I am also enrolled in Summer of Design. I look forward to developing a better understanding of effective, pleasing, understandable design.
  • Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life by Michael Malone. I am a centennial Eagle Scout, so the story is a personal one. Scouting has shaped my life in unimaginable ways, and I know I am not alone in that belief.
  • On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. I have my dad's autographed copy that I actually started last summer and didn't finish. Hawkins' ideas about the nature of intelligence fascinate me, because I feel intuitively that they are a step in the right direction toward the eventual development of a framework to understanding intelligence. As he says in his TED Talk, we are in the pre-paradigm days and the future will hopefully see some amazing developments in modeling intelligence.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Aforementioned friend lent this to me. I trust her taste completely, so I'm going to read it without looking up what it's about first.

I probably won't finish the whole list, especially if I do a silly thing like start on GEB. However, the fact that my list is now written down (and public) gives me some extra incentive to do myself a favor and finally enjoy these books. I realize that the list is dominated by non-fiction, but the reason for that is I usually discover good fiction organically just by picking it off the shelf, or through recommendation. My interests have definitely shifted in a certain direction and I've become one of those people who read nonfiction heavily, but I'm still definitely interested in keeping up with some good YA, fantasy, SF, etc. Hopefully setting goals for myself in the summer will let me settle into a relaxed, enjoyable cycle of getting what I want out of my reading list and out of life in general.