More January Books

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction book by a non-science fiction author. As such it's kind of implausible from an sf point of view because Ishiguro isn't trying to create a rigorous, believeable universe to satisfy nerds like me, he's creating an allegory to make a point. So I guess it's not really science fiction; I'm not sure what you would call it. Anyway, it's very good and quite sad. And I guess it's not all that unbelieveable. It depends how pessimistic you are feeling.

Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis

This is a collection of essays originally delivered as the 2005 Massey Lectures. Stephen Lewis is the United Nations' Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and boy, is he pissed. Basically we are all screwing over Africa because we can't be bothered to spend the few bucks it would take to treat and prevent AIDS and thereby rescue an entire continent from tragic poverty and remove from the world yet another hatching ground for un-parented proto-terrorists. (He doesn't say that thing about terrorists, that's mine.)

Africa is full of child-led and grandmother-led families and it's heartbreaking and sickening how we continue to turn our backs on it. Africa is a magical land rich with resources and cultures and the rest of the world has metaphorically hit it over the head, stolen its lunch money, kicked it in the ribs and is now walking away. Call your representatives and tell them it is time to look after Africa.

Also Stephen Lewis is smart and strong and noble and brave, even if I did make fun of his daughter-in-law here a while back.

American Backlash: The Untold Story of Social Change in The United States by Michael Adams

Michael Adams is the head of a polling company which has done extensive polling of Americans and discovered that the true divide in American values isn't between Republicans and Democrats but between politically engaged citizens and those who couldn't give a rat's ass. And it's the values of the non-rat's-ass-givers which are leading the trajectory of social change in American from respect and independence to hedomism and individualism. So he says. He also talks about how the two parties can reach undecided voters, and why the Democrats are having their asses whupped so bad lately.

He makes some pretty compelling arguments, but now I am more interested to read Fire and Ice, which compares Canadian values to American values.

I think Jon Stewart should read this book, except he probably already has. Although maybe not, because I'm not sure this book has been published in the US.

How to Simply Cut Children's Hair: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting, Perming and Highlighting Children's Hair by Laurie Punches

This book seemed pretty useful and I might get it out again once Delphine is old enough to sit still while I try and cut her hair. And before she gets old enough that she is too cool to have a home haircut. So that will be a, what, two week window? The book blurb says "Exploration is part of the adventure" -- let me assure you that an eleven-year-old does not want you having any adventures with her hair.

Incidentally I should look up books on how to cut my own hair -- I am meeting more and more people who cut their own hair and I think I should try it. Fifty bucks every six weeks is just too much money.

Leading a Software Development Team: A Developer's Guide to Successfully Leading People & Projects by Richard Whitehead

Like it says in the title, this book is written for developers so it sometimes left me wondering whether I can make it as a software manager. Whitehead talks a lot about design and architecture, saying that it's important to take the time to come up with a good design before you begin coding. I understand that that is important but I am not sure that I would be able to tell if my team had come up with a good design. Actually, no, I think I would be able to tell if we had a lousy design, but I'm not sure I would be able to convince my team that I'm right. Perhaps the only problem is one of confidence.

Anyway, because the book is written for developers it leaves one with the impression that the only good team lead or project manager is someone who started off coding; I don't think that's true but I need to read "A Non-Developer's Guide to Successfully Leading Software People and Projects" or some such book to get an idea of my career trajectory. I need to decide how much time to dedicate to being in development before I can move into project management -- none? Five years? Ten? Or maybe I will go through testing instead.

Did I really just say that? Am I insane? How passionately did I swear that I would never ever do testing again? Can I really go back into a job I hated and love it and make a career out of it? Has my attitude improved that much? I just don't know.

Still, this is a very good and useful book that covers many areas of project management, from technical issues to decision making to managing team members to dealing with lousy bosses. Blake is going to read it too. The only worrying thing is that the author photograph very flatteringly makes the author look about 32 so I'm not sure I trust him.

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