Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore By Robin Sloan (2013). This novel tells the story of a bookstore with some curious business practices. The main character, Clay, works at the bookstore and starts noticing odd patterns. As he digs into them, we get a glimpse of how a technology and the technology industry connect many facets of life in the Bay Area. Clay discovers a secret society and other very interesting twists that make this an engaging read.
Service Design: From Insight to Implementation By Andy Polaine, Lavrans Lovlie, and Ben Reason (2013). We used this book for a graduate seminar on service design that I recently taught. Online organizations must provide good customer service across a large number of platforms (Web, printed media, smartphones, in person, etc.). This book provides a framework for how to think about designing such services by looking at how customers interact with an organization at multiple touchpoints and through multiple channels. The touchpoint and channel intersection serves as a way to design customer experience.
Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson (2011). I enjoyed this biography, which follows the growth of the personal-computing industry from its inception. I have always been intrigued by how Steve Jobs got people to work so hard for him in creating the technology that came from Apple (and Next). I knew a lot about the early days of Apple, but did not know much about the last round of adventures in Steve Jobs’s life, including the Pixar and Disney connections. It’s a fascinating read on a very complex human being who had a significant impact on the design of high-quality products.
My Beloved World By Sonia Sotomayor (2014). I started reading this biography at the urging of my wife. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first justice of Hispanic origin. Her family, like mine, is from Puerto Rico, and my father was a lawyer. Justice Sotomayor was named to the Supreme Court just a few months after my dad passed away. Reading her biography has been a bittersweet experience, bringing back memories of my upbringing in Puerto Rico, my family, and specifically my father. As a minority in this country, at times I feel that I live in a parallel universe where the food I like, the music I listen to, and my family traditions are not part of the mainstream U.S. society. When Sotomayor was named to the Supreme Court, a little bit of Puerto Rican culture, values, and identity were brought into the mainstream. Her biography brings the full story of her life forward and reading it has been very rewarding. The stories of her family could very easily be the stories of my family or many other Puerto Rican families—from humble beginnings, to large family gatherings, to the family reunion at funerales and the curious connections between religion and family (including mentions of espiritus). I am about halfway through this book and it is becoming one of my favorites. I know it would have become one of my father’s favorite books too.
Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing By Jane Margolis, Rachel Estrella, Joanna Goode, Jennifer Jellison Holme, and Kimberly Nao (2010). This book influenced my thinking. It is a fantastic read for people who want to learn how systemic inequities can last a lifetime. I was intrigued by the metaphor in the title, which makes reference to how African Americans were not allowed to share pools with other members of society. This, in turn, led to that demographic having a higher incidence of pool-related accidents, fewer competitive swimmers, and thus the perception that blacks aren’t good swimmers. The authors show how inequities at home (and even at school) conspire to keep kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from pursuing computer science and how this lack of representation fuels the myth that computing is not for them.
Next on my reading list: Sphere by Michael Crichton (recommended by my son), Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, and Designing the New American University by Michael Crow and William B. Dabars.
Manuel A. Pérez-Quiñones is a professor of software and information systems and associate dean of the College of Computing and Informatics at UNC Charlotte. His research interests include personal information management, human-computer interaction, and educational/diversity issues in computing. He holds a D.Sc. from George Washington University. firstname.lastname@example.org
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