[linux-elitists] 32 essential computer books?

Karsten M. Self kmself@ix.netcom.com
Thu Dec 18 14:31:05 PST 2003

on Wed, Dec 17, 2003 at 06:12:28PM -0800, Don Marti (dmarti@zgp.org) wrote:
> Well, I just looked at the shelf by my desk and 32 books fit
> on it.  Strangely enough, I also found out a way to send books
> to the Linux User Group of Iraq, which needs books for its
> library, at the US book rate.
> So what would be the top 32 books to send them?
> Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman: Structure and Interpretation
> of Computer Programs
> Kernighan and Pike, The Practice of Programming
> Kernighan and Ritchie, The C Programming Language
> Nemeth et al., Linux Administration Handbook
> Schneier, Applied Cryptography
> Stein, How to Set Up and Maintain a World Wide Web Site
>   (This one, and Navarro and Khan, Effective Web Design, are
>    good but unfortunatly not up to date with today's standard
>    HTML and web app environments.
>    But you have to be able to do the web well to
>    communicate -- what's the web book of choice?)
> Wall et al., Programming Perl

Python, damnit!

...otherwise agree with most of those, though I'm a bit iffy on Nemeth.

Hrm.  Essential....

Already mentioned by myself or others, recapping:

   - _UNIX Power Tools_ (O'Reilly)
   - _Linux In a Nutshell_ (Still useful for beginners)
   - _Code Complete_, Steve McConnell.

A major part of grokking GNU/Linux is grokking free software.  I've got
a "Free Software Primer" topic on TWikIWeThey, with some recommended
readings which have been of major importance to my understanding the
significance and nuances of the free software development process and
phenomenon.  Included is a bibliography:


  - Carl Shapiro & Hal Varian, _Information Rules_.  Lock in, and
    leveraging your market (or monopoly) power.

  - Lawrence Lessig, _Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace_.  On the
    domain, and limits, of law, code, society, and commerce.

  - Christensen, _The Innovator's Dilemma_.  Bottom-up encroachment of
    entrenched markets.

  - Jarred Diamond, _Guns, Germs, and Steel_.  On diversity and

  - Eric Raymond, _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_.  The mechanics of the
    free software development process.

  - Mancur Olsen, _The Logic of Collective Action_.  Understanding
    perverse incentives in groups and organizations.

  - Jane Jacobs, _Cities and the Wealth of Nations_.  Human scales and
    organization within communities.  Design for living.

  - Douglas Hofstadter, _Goedel, Escher, Bach_.  Information and
    recursion.  Recursion and information.

  - Pirsig, _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_.  Previously
    mentioned.  Quality.

  - Neal Stephenson, _In the Beginning Was the Command Line_.  A really
    good commentary on the Unix ethos.

In addition to these, there's the "when things go wrong" stuff.  Peter
G. Neumann published a book based on his comp.risks newsgroup postings.

  - Capers Jones, _Software Systems Failure and Success_.  How and why
    projects fail, and ways to address this.  Incidentally, this and
    much of the other "software quality" literature addresses best
    practices largely adopted by successful free software projects.

  - DeMarco & Lister, _Peopleware_.  In large part an escapist
    programmer utopian fantasy, but it would be so nice if it were more
    widely read.

  - Pfister, _In Search of Clusters_.  Lead me to the insight, among
    others, that what Larry McVoy did working on NUMA kernel code with
    Sun and SGI, and what he's doing with BitKeeper today, is dealing
    with cache coherence, though in different scales of data and time.
    Much of what I think I know about OS-level stuff comes from here.

I'd recommend a good security book if I knew of one.  Unfortunately, the
field (and GNU/Linux) changes so fast that specifics are hard to give,
mostly leaving one with a bunch of general advice such as provided in
PUIS and Applied Crypto.  _Building Linux and OpenBSD Firewalls_ was
good when it came out.

And mind that a hell of a lot of stuff is available online.  Which
needn't be (remote) web access.  Debian includes the 'dwww' package,
allowing serving of documentation via your local webserver, and a large
selection of HOWTOs, Linux Gazette, and more comprehensive
documentation, as well as man and info pages.  All of which can be
served locally over a LAN rather than remotely accessed through what's
likely an unreliable international 'Net connection.  Much of this is
also printable through DocBook or other tools.  My own extensive archive
runs to ~501 MiB, so even a relatively small system could host a large
quantity of freely available docs.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    The black hat community is drooling over the possibility of a secure
    execution environment that would allow applications to run in a
    secure area which cannot be attached to via debuggers.
    - Jason Spence, on Palladium aka NGCSB aka "Trusted Computing"
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