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April 10, 2011

Sunday Book Thread

I bought Mauldin and Tepper's Endgame: The End of the Debt SuperCycle and How It Changes Everything, mainly because I get Mauldin's newsletter and agree with him more often than not. But maybe it's for that reason that I found the book a little stale -- a re-hash of things I've read (and written myself) many times before. I'd probably recommend this book to a) people who aren't all that informed about finance or fiscal policy and just want to know what's going on, and b) investors who want to know what to do during this fiscal cyclone. If you follow the financial press at all closely (or read my DOOM! posts), you're probably going to find this book pretty much just an echo of things you already know.

For the computer geeks among us, a long-awaiting moment has finally come: the fourth volume of Donald Knuth's Art of Computer Programming series has finally been published! This is a big deal if you're one of the legions of pasty bit-twiddlers out there -- the last book in this series was published before many of us were born. Back when volume 3 (Sorting and Searching) was first published (1973, revised 1998 ), Nixon was still (temporarily) President and no one had ever even heard of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. IBM was in the business of producing machines that costs millions of dollars and required a special building to house. Yet this book is probably more relevant and valuable now than when it was written -- that's pretty amazing when you think about it.

The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 4A: Combinatorial Algorithms, Part 1 is actually only the first part of a multi-part book -- and since it took Knuth thirty five years to produce this one, who knows when the next one will be published?

I've got the three previous Knuth books on my shelf (expensive hardcovers, too), and despite their age they remain valuable reference guides and go-to resources for tricky problems. Computers have gotten much faster and cheaper in the decades since these books were written, but the fundamental digital-computer algorithms and data-structures will probably be eternal: Knuth's books will probably still be relevant and useful a hundred years from now, unless we switch to a fundamentally different computing paradigm. (Molecular computers, quantum computers, or massively-parallel analog "helpers" implanted into our own brains.)

What's everyone else reading?


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posted by Monty at 09:19 AM

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