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What the Writers Are Reading

2 min read

Ah, vacation! A few days' rest and relaxation, the perfect opportunity for the harried technologist to do some Serious Reading. For 2004's summer reading suggestions, IEEE Spectrum went back to the authors of some of the books featured in the magazine over the last few years and asked them what they were reading during the warm-weather months.

Wil Mccarthy , science writer and science fiction novelist.

What He Wrote That We Liked : Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms and The Wellstone.

What He'S Reading : The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey, by Spencer Wells (Random House, New York, 2004, 240 pp., US $14, ISBN: 0-8129-7146-9).

Why : "The thrilling (and chilling) lesson is how precariously our entire genetic identity rests on the adventures of a few individuals. Never say one person can't make a difference!"

Henry Petroski , professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University, Durham, N.C.

We Liked His : Paperboy: Confessions of a Future Engineer and Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design.

He'S Reading : Notes on the Synthesis of Form, by Christopher Alexander (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1970, 244 pp., $19, ISBN: 0-6746-2751-2).

Why : "It's a book about the process of design, and it's among the clearest, most authoritative, and most insightful treatments of the subject. I am reading it and other books on design and failure in preparation for beginning a new book on the subject myself."

Howard Rheingold , professional virtual community builder and technology commentator.

We Liked His : Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution.

He's Reading : Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, by Lawrence Lessig (Penguin Press, New York, 2004, 345 pp., $25, ISBN: 1-5942-0006-8).

Why : "Because the enclosure of the public domain is one of the most important, least discussed crises today."

Michael Raynor , corporate consultant.

We Liked His : The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth (with Clayton Christensen).

He'S Reading : The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, by Stephen Jay Gould (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2002, 1474 pp., $45, ISBN: 0-6740-0613-5).

Why : "Evolutionary theory is perhaps one of the most used and abused theoretical frameworks around, and I find it stimulating and salutary to try and understand the 'real thing' as described by one of the titans of the field."

Ellen Ullman , software consultant, novelist, and technology commentator.

We Liked Her : The Bug: A Novel.

She'S Reading : The Confessions of Max Tivoli, by Andrew Sean Greer (Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2004, 288 pp., $23, ISBN: 0-3741-2871-5).

Why : "It's a novel about a man who ages backward, becoming a child as he gets older. The very idea of this book seems impossible, which is why I want to read it. If it succeeds, it will reassure me that notions like narration, story, and time itself can be infinitely reinvented."

Susan Hassler , editor of IEEE Spectrum.

She'S Reading : Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, by Harvey Bialy (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, Calif., 2004, 328 pp., $20, ISBN: 1-5564-3531-2)

Why : "Some of modern medicine's greatest controversies are seen through the lens of the life of Peter Duesberg, an iconoclastic scientist who has been simultaneously admired and shunned for his theories. While often outrageously funny, the book delivers a serious message about what happens when orthodoxies are challenged."

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