Our Favorite Reads of 2012
Greetings one and all! 2012 was a breakout year for PatternBuilders and we are very grateful to all of you for helping to make that happen. But we would also like to take a minute to extend our condolences and share the grief of parents across the world that lost young children to violence. Newtown was singularly horrific but similar events play out all too often across the globe. We live in an age of technical wonders—surely we can find ways to protect the world’s children.
This is our last post of 2012 and in the spirit of the season, we decided to do something a little different this year. Recently, the Wall Street Journal asked 20 of its “friends” to tell them what books they enjoyed in 2012 and the responses were equally eclectic and interesting. Not to be outdone, Adam Thierer published his list of cyberlaw and info-tech policy books for 2012. Many of the recommendations culled from both sources ended up on our reading lists for 2013 (folks, 2012 is almost over and between launching AnalyticsPBI for Azure and working on our update for Privacy and Big Data, not a lot of “other” reading is going to happen during the holiday season!) and spurred an interesting discussion about our favorite reads of the year. One caveat: Our lists may include books we read but were not necessarily published this year. So without further ado, I give you our favorite reads of 2012!
Mary’s Favorite Reads of 2012
Now regular readers of our blog probably know that I am an avid reader. I have been known to devour fiction and non-fiction books at a pretty fast clip—just ask anyone who has flown on long haul flights with me and watched in disbelief as I finished reading two books on the plane (and not including the time I spend reading in airports, on buses, in cars—yes, when I am not driving—and waiting for appointments). This year two non-fiction books ended up on my best of list:
- Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don’t.” You may also be familiar with Silver’s New York Time’s FiveThirtyEight blog where he analyzes politics, polling, sports, etc., via statistical means or with his 2008 and 2012 pretty darn accurate presidential election predictions. No matter your predictive modeling skill level, this book is a fascinating read and covers diverse areas—baseball, politics (of course!), finance, etc.—as well as the application of Bayesian modeling. (I am sure Terence will have much to say about this as we both remember a very long couple of hours where Terence tried to explain this concept to me—wish the book had been published then so I could have sounded a wee bit more intelligent but so it goes!)
- Nancy Gibbs’ and Michael Duffy’s “The President’s Club.” This is a fascinating look at “the world’s most exclusive fraternity” of former and sitting U.S. presidents which has been as large as six (Lincoln’s and Clinton’s eras) and as few as one (Adams, Jefferson, and the two Roosevelts). If you are a fan of American history, this book takes a revealing look at the relationships forged by presidents during and after their terms as they seek to remain relevant in the public eye while securing their respective legacies.
Now, my best of fiction reads include two series—both of which, fortunately for me, have books from those series published in 2012. In case you didn’t know, I was, and still am, a huge Robert B. Parker fan and have read pretty much all his books: including the Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall series as well as some of his Western novels. Parker died in 2010 and I mourned his passing as well as the passing of all his fictional heroes (books are still being written for some of the series but they do not, IMHO, reflect Parker’s sensibility). To help me through my Parker withdrawal, a friend of mine recommended that I read Craig Johnson’s Longmire series and although I will always miss Parker, who knew that I would fall in love with Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire? Full confession: In the past year I have read the first six books in the series and now have three more to go. (And yes, now that I am catching up I am slowing down my Longmire reads so that I don’t run out before the next one is published!)
Finally, if you are in need of multiple “good laughs” and want to go to a happy place where your stress and fears simply fade away, pick up Lisa Lutz’s series on The Spellmans. This is a laugh out loud series, filled with humor and fun, but good stories as well. These are the books I always send to my friends and family when they are going through a rough period. And they (the books) have always cheered up the senders—these are also the books that I reread when going through my own rough periods. What can I say? Laughter is good for the soul!
Terence’s Favorite Reads of 2012
As usual, my list is geek-filled with a little bit of tech (ok, a lot, but geekiness kind of goes with this gig), a little bit of sexy data science, with a little bit of fiction thrown in for some seasoning.
I completely agree with Mary on Nate Silver’s book—it is a great read. Next on my list is Beautiful Evidence by Edwin Tufte—an amazingly sexy (really!) book about the science of presenting data well.
On the software side this year, I decided to read or re-read almost everything Martin Fowler has ever written. I found that even the re-reads left me a better designer of complex systems. And as we upgraded AnalyticsPBI for Azure to C# 5.0, C# 5.0 in a Nutshell was invaluable. It is packed with high quality examples and highlights good versus bad design choices throughout. It should be required reading for anyone that builds on top of the Microsoft stack. Finally, StackOverflow, while not a book, continues to be the best place on the web to get programming questions answered. We need to change the classic acronym from Read The “Flaming” Manual aka RTFM to GTFS (Go To “Friendly” StackOverflow)—this joke was a lot funnier in its original version but my marketing VP reminded me that this is a family blog ;-).
For the fictional component of our evening I heartily recommend The Indigo Pheasant by my friend Dan Rabuzzi. It is the second in Dan’s “volume of Yount” series. The first book, The Choir Boats, was delightful but don’t take my word for it. Here is a review from John Ottinger of January magazine:
“The Choir Boats is Gulliver’s Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice. Rabuzzi has a true sense of wonder. . . I cannot praise Daniel Rabuzzi or The Choir Boats enough. This story is unique (and) an instant classic of fantasy, and perhaps even the co-progenitor (with Novik, Clarke, and a few others) of a new subgenre in speculative fiction.”
We Wish All of You a Safe and Joyous Holiday Season!