Book Backlog

This is the second part in my attempt to list and review the books I’ve managed to read this year. Some might object that a two-sentence, four-line summary such as I did previously is too short to be a “proper review,” but I counter-object that the word review literally means “to see again.” Which is what I’m doing. Literally. And, literarily.

Book Backlog: Non-Fiction

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
Anyone who is familiar with Jenny Lawson as author of The Bloggess will already have a pretty good idea of what to expect in this book. (And is also likely to already have read it. And has therefore skipped the rest of this review.) For the rest of you, expect a series of bizarre, but entertaining stories told in a lively and humorous style that feels as though it could have been transcribed directly from a conversation over coffee. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is the story of the author’s extraordinary childhood in Texas, followed by her marriage and modern-day life. If you enjoy Ms. Lawson’s storytelling style (and I do) then you are sure to enjoy this book (and I did.)
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
Soul of a New Machine is the story of an American computer manufacturer, Data General, and its attempt to build a commercially successful 32-bit minicomputer. The company split into two competing development teams, one to develop a successor to the 16-bit Eclipse, codenamed Eagle, and the other to work on “Project Fountainhead.” This book concerns itself with the Eagle group. The author, a journalist who was apparently embedded into the Eagle group, attempts to capture the personalites of various engineers and managers, while still telling the story of the development work needed to bring a minicomputer to market. The book ends on an optimistic note with the launch of the Eagle. Sadly, a glance at Wikipedia will show that even though the Eagle saved Data General in the short term, it might have been too little, too late. Data General was eventually taken over by EMC.
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
As the subtitle promises, Emergence attempts to draw parallels between ants, cities, and software. The element that ties all three ideas together is the connections formed between agents when information is exchanged. In the case of ants, workers drop pheromone signals as they go about their business, which are read by other ants. The ants’ own instincts cause them to change behaviors when certain densities and combinations of pheromones are encountered. In the case of cities, neighborhoods form when people emerge from homes and businesses and interact with one another. In the case of software, negative feedback loops can be employed to bring order to virtual chaos.
Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson
I picked up Chew on This at a secondhand bookstore in order not to return home empty-handed. I read Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation with interest, and was curious to see what else he’d have to say. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this book was intended for middle-schoolers. Topics ranged from the rise of the fast food nation, to worker (mis)treatment, to the production of meat, potatoes, and especially food additives. Most of these subjects were already covered in Fast Food Nation, so were not news to me. While Chew On This merely kept me occupied during break times, it could certainly be an eye-opening book for a younger reader.

That’s about it for the non-fiction section. Next time, I’ll cover graphic novels!

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