Best Reads: February 2016

A quick lineup of my favorite book reads last month!

Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age (Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation series)Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHEW. I just finished getting through the notes for this book which constitute the last 20%.

I was fully expecting to give this book 4 stars, just because, it’s a biography and thus can be challenging at times to push through, but the last chapter won that fifth star.

I went into this book thinking it was entirely about Grace Hopper, but it isn’t. At first I was a bit disappointed, but again by the end I was grateful at the thoroughness in which the author decided to cover the “Invention of the Information Age.”

So without further ado, some pros and cons:

Pros:
– Whether or not it is true, the author convinced me that DANG he had done his homework. Like I said, last 20% of the book is notes and references. WELL DONE, SIR.
– This goes into a LOT more depth than I was expecting. I not only got the factual recounting of the era, but also the feeling. There were so many times when I identified with the picture that was painted of Aiken’s “ship,” or the conferences, or Remington Rand. I felt like I was there, or had been.
– I appreciated the coverage of people I legit hadn’t heard of who played a MAJOR role. I think in a lot of instances we find that ONE AWESOME PERSON and fly their flag around, like Grace, but other people who played just as large of a role get overlooked. I hadn’t heard of Betty, Aiken, Mauchly, and about a billion other people. Considering Grace’s methodologies for invention, I think she’d be disappointed to hear people know of her but not them.
– Speaking of methodologies, I LOVED the exploration of hers, whether things she explicitly said or things she obviously believed based on her actions.
– ABOUT A MILLION OTHER THINGS, but also that it goes into Grace’s personal demons and struggles. They make me sad but also are a source of hope for those of us who feel stuck in a pit.

Cons:
– Sometimes it gets a bit repetitive. For certain things (like the last chapter), I understand the summary, but in the middle I felt like things were being covered that I had just read about. Not sure if that was actually true or just me hitting the reading wall, but I felt it.
– Likewise, every once in a while I’d be like, “OH MY GOSH I JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT GRACE!” Instances when we were on a train platform with a bunch of random* mathematicians, for example.
*They weren’t random. BUT STILL.
– If you’re insecure like me, you may spent at least a few chapters feeling depressed about how dumb you are compared to (apparently) everyone in the 40s and 50s. Seriously, for a while it felt like EVERYONE had degrees in mathematics and/or physics. If I were to make a drinking game for this book that would be one of the rules. But I wouldn’t cause Grace struggled with alcoholism and that would be weird.
– Related to the above, I’m not sure how reading this book with zero programming background would work out. I think it does a good job of explaining stuff, but there is a certain amount of either assumed or unexplainable knowledge within this context. That might just be me pretending I know things, though. (Like I said, I spent a lot of the early portion of this book feeling dumber than a wall though.)

Overall, I would highly recommend this read to anyone in the tech field, especially someone who is interesting in relieving discrimination. Not even because that’s really covered in this book explicitly, but because you can SEE it illustrated so clearly. Like in real life (oftentimes), the people who instigate it aren’t TRYING, they aren’t bad people, they just don’t consider the ramifications of their internal biases and patterns of thinking. You can see how women react to it depending on their personalities and circumstances, such as how Grace Hopper and Betty Snyder-Holberton did. IT’S JUST SO REAL BECAUSE IT WAS. AND IS.
*Ahem*

If you are interested in computing, women in the workforce, WW2, or biographies: DO READ.

The end.

EDIT: Just kidding, not the end. Honestly I would skip the intro. It’s awkward and unnecessary? Also, this is still a biography sooooo it’s not a super exciting read. Just know that.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel PowerThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the absolute dorkiest, but really fun!

 

 

Brothers in Arms (Vorkosigan Saga, #5)Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A+, would read again

 

 

Mirror Dance (Vorkosigan Saga, #8)Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“If this was a movie, I wouldn’t watch it.” -Devin
I’m pretty conflicted about a review for this book. It deserves five stars in my opinion, but it was wholly disturbing. A few parts I felt safe enjoying, and the ending was hopeful (entirely more so than I was expecting), but the book taking place primarily on Jackson’s Whole means BAD THINGS HAPPENED. Jackson’s Whole is one of those places where practicing morality on just about every level goes from challenging to insanely difficult. A HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY
ahem.
ANYWAY. I personally consider the Vorkosigan series an adult one with adult themes, but this one was definitely a doozy.
That being said, the story was enthralling, the characters were pushed to their breaking point (or past it, really), and WE GOT TO SEE ARAL AND CORDELIA AGAIN MY FAVORITES.

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