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My Kindle, My Self

Summer is for reading, at least in my house. My sons are banned from screen time from 9-5 each day and the policy has instilled in them the value of a good, long, interesting book.

I am lucky enough to get to the beach fairly frequently, so every June I load up the Kindle with my summer reading list.

This year I decided to try something different. I’m foregoing the novels I enjoy all year and only reading non-fiction books between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

I came to the conclusion that the current reality in this country is enough fiction for my day-to-day needs, and, having recently turned 50, my brain can use a little more stimulation than The New York Times’ daily crossword puzzle, which my wife and I try to collaboratively complete each day.

So how is this experiment going?

Surprisingly well. Since I mostly read fiction when it comes to books, an entire world of true-to-life stories became available to me, and even if some of the books are old, they are new to me. And not surprisingly, many of the books I have read had a technology angle to them, some by design, some by surprise.

So since we’re at the height of the summer vacation season, and the news cycle is painfully slow, I thought I’d pass along some recommendations.

Here is my summer reading list.

“The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood” by James Gleick: Beginning with ancient drumbeats, cave drawings and hieroglyphics to the development of language, papyrus, transcribing scroll scholars, the printing press, human communication evolved into a delivery system for information that slowly became available to anyone. But once mankind harnessed electricity, worldwide communication became accessible through the telegraph, then the telephone, the radio, the turntable, television, the transistor, the semiconductor, and then computers, and the world wide web, with many steps in between. What Gleick does here, with an amazing clarity, and the help of quantum physics, biology, psychology and pure wonder, is present his theory that our entire universe is basically a self-replication communications machine. In fact, communication is the reason we exist. Heady stuff but presented with precision, grace and humor. An amazing accomplishment.

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Issaason: Yep, I’m probably the last person on Earth to read this, but in the end, it made me love Steve Jobs and hate Steve Jobs. For a biographer, Isaacson couldn’t ask for more than that.

“Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World” by Richard Rhodes: An absolutely implausible but true story of the Hollywood leading lady who on the side worked to invent the frequency hopping technology that made the cellphone and GPS possible, by collaborating with an avant-garde composer who most people thought was nuts. Tie in some Hollywood anecdotes, Nazis and musical theory and you have a very compelling read on one of the most unlikely inductees into the Consumer Technology Hall of Fame.

“Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe” by George Dyson: The history of mankind’s foray into the digital computer age, from both the engineering side and the human side. This is basically “The Right Stuff” with coders instead of astronauts. Reality that reads just like a novel.

I still have a month to go. Next up: “Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up” by Philip N. Howard. I have to admit, I’m a little scared to read this one but since Stephen King is banned from my list, I’ll get my horror fix.

If you have recommendations, please ping me!