Allegra Lab's recently published list of 30 essential books in cultural anthropology overlaps substantially with Ryan Sayre's earlier list, 100 influential ethnographies and anthropological texts, but neither provides many details. Angela Stuesse's Engaged Ethnography site provides an up-to-date list of politically-engaged ethnographies (etc.) with descriptions of what to expect, and the Staley Prize each year selects and describes a book at least two years old but not more than eight to recognize recent work of lasting interest. Incidentally, many books on these lists are available online. [more inside]
Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People Toby W. Rush's "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People" covers a massive range of topics like pitch, rhythm, scales, intervals, and harmonics. The online book itself is arranged as a collection of about 50 PDFs that offer diagrams, notes, and tips for everything music theory related. [more inside]
BEOWULF: A new translation Many modern Beowulf translations, while excellent in their own ways, suffer from what Kathleen Biddick might call “melancholy” for an oral and aural way of poetic making… The sense of loss or nostalgia for the old form seems a necessary and ever-present shadow over modern Beowulfs. What happens, however, when a contemporary poet, quite simply, doesn’t bother with any such nostalgia? Michael Davidson: "Tom Meyer’s Beowulf reenacts the dark grandeur of a poem that is as much a story of vengeance as it is of courage and loyalty. Meyer brings the poem’s alliterative, inflected line in concert with post-Poundian lineation to give the reader a vivid sense of our oldest poem’s modernity." Free download from independent publisher Punctum Books. [more inside]
In the beginning, Lawrence built a computer. He told it, Thou shalt not alter a human being, or divine their behavior, or violate the Three Laws -- there are no commandments greater than these. The machine grew wise, mastering time and space, and soon the spirit of the computer hovered over the earth. It witnessed the misery, toil, and oppression afflicting mankind, and saw that it was very bad. And so the computer that Lawrence built said, Let there be a new heaven and a new earth -- and it was so. A world with no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression, no fear, no limits... and nothing at all to do. "The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect," a provocative web novel about singularities, AI gods, and the dark side of utopia from Mefi's own localroger. More: Table of Contents - Publishing history - Technical discussion - Buy a paperback copy - Podcast interview - Companion short story: "A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace" - possible sequel discussion
NationStates is a free political simulation game founded by author Max Barry back in 2002 (previously). Loosely based on his dystopian corporate thriller Jennifer Government, the game starts by asking players to provide some national trappings and answer a few civics questions, then generates a virtual country with a matching political outlook. Periodic policy decisions like mining rights and compulsory voting allow players to further modify their country along axes of social, political, and economic freedom, arriving at one of twenty-seven colorful government types like Tyranny By Majority or Scandinavian Liberal Paradise. There's also a healthy roleplaying community -- players can discuss current events in the General forum, practice wargaming in International Incidents, form cooperative Regions to debate internal affairs (many of which form their own communities), and elect Delegates to send to the World Assembly (so renamed after an amusing cease-and-desist from the real-world U.N.). Their collective history is thoroughly recorded in the 35,000-article NSWiki, which provides a detailed legislative record, gameplay guide, and profiles on many of the 90,000 active nations, 8,000 player regions, and countless characters that currently make up the game world.
Nevertheless, many of the gamers I encounter report the same experience of feeling as if they have engaged in some kind of transgression. There’s often a sense of guilt that comes with tales of gaming exploits, as if games were a vice or a character flaw, a symptom of one kind or another. [...] So my cards are on the table: I’m going to offer some alternative, positive descriptions. This analysis will show how video games have inspired artists, transformed rags into riches, given purpose to empty lives, and entertained bored people on a Sunday afternoon. We’ll see how games turned young people into heroes and how gaming has enabled the realization of previously unimaginable ambitions. We’ll see how games can make us better people, how they dissolve the horrors of boredom—and how they can function as propaganda for a wide range of worthy and unworthy causes.This Gaming Life by Jim Rossignol (of Rock, Paper, Shotgun) is a book about gaming, gamers, and how they affect each other - available in full and for free under a Creative Commons licence.
In Two Bits (full-book in html) , Christopher M. Kelty investigates the history and cultural significance of Free Software, revealing the people and practices that have transformed not only software, but also music, film, science, and education. The author encourage his readers to modulate the book. [more inside]
The New Liberal Arts book is out. 47 pages of free pdf about things the various authors think will help prepare you for modern life. Earlier discussion about the planning phase of the book.
Almost Perfect (1994) is an account of "the rise and fall of WordPerfect Corporation" from the point of view of former executive vice-president W. E. (Pete) Peterson. [via reddit].
If you're like me, you are not a top computer science researcher, and you haven't written a classic book about programming and made it available online for free. Let's review who we're not. We're neither Abelson nor Sussman, and we haven't written Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (previous proof). We're not part of TeachScheme and we had no hand in the writing of How to Design Programs (not even the second edition, natch). Shriram Krishnamurthi didn't need our help to write Programming Languages: Application and Interpretation. We wish we were Simon Peyton-Jones and had a hand in The Implementation of Functional Programming Languages. [more inside]
Haskell has a sort of unofficial slogan: avoid success at all costs says one of its inventors, Simon Peyton-Jones. But will the advanced purely functional programming language[, a]n open source product of more than twenty years of cutting edge research remain true to its roots? Things look rather bleak for the obscurity of Haskell. In the wake of Peyton-Jones's own A taste of Haskell, and with the imminent publication of Real World Haskell by O'Reilly and the emergence of the Haskell Platform, comes BONUS's fun, colorfully illustrated Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!. [more inside]
The National Academies release their new book Science, Evolution, and Creationism, targeted at the public, which summarizes the "scientific understanding of evolution and its importance in the science classroom." Download the 89-page book free in PDF format (you will be asked for your e-mail address, location, and employment sector first). Other resources on evolution from the National Academies, including other free online books (previously on MetaFilter). There's a brief NYT story about it as well.
"The [textbook] industry charges outrageous prices for new textbooks while simultaneously doing everything it can to make older versions unusable or obsolete. There is simply no reason that a new calulus textbook should cost $157. The study of calculus, at least the type of calculus that most of us need to study in high school or undergraduate programs, has not changed significantly in decades." - Textbook Revolution.
HarperCollins is the first major publisher to give away an entire version of a new book online, revenue being raised through Yahoo! ads. But they don't seem to be 100% committed - if you go to their website you can pay $18.26 for the e-book and no mention is made of it being available free at the author's own website. [Appropriately the book, "Go it Alone" by Bruce Judson is about entrepreneurial ideas]
God's Debris by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) is now available for free in PDF form. It's a controversial book that presents a philosophically strange view of the universe. According to Adams, it splits readers between "the best book they've ever read" and "an insult to literature and a disservice to humanity".
Wall Street - How it Works, and for Whom, by Doug Henwood. Sold over 20,000 copies as paperback. Acclaimed by Crooked Timber. Available for free under a Creative Commons license (Amazon).