Derek Jones from The Shape of Code
This year, my list of Christmas books is very late because there is only one entry (first published in 1950), and I was not sure whether a 2021 Christmas book post was worthwhile.
The book is “Planning in Practice: Essays in Aircraft planning in war-time” by Ely Devons. A very readable, practical discussion, with data, on the issues involved in large scale planning; the discussion is timeless. Check out second-hand book sites for low costs editions.
Why isn’t my list longer?
Part of the reason is me. I have not been motivated to find new topics to explore, via books rather than blog posts. Things are starting to change, and perhaps the list will be longer in 2022.
Another reason is the changing nature of book publishing. There is rarely much money to be made from the sale of non-fiction books, and the desire to write down their thoughts and ideas seems to be the force that drives people to write a book. Sites like substack appear to be doing a good job of diverting those with a desire to write something (perhaps some authors will feel the need to create a book length tomb).
Why does an author need a publisher? The nitty-gritty technical details of putting together a book to self-publish are slowly being simplified by automation, e.g., document formatting and proofreading. It’s a win-win situation to make newly written books freely available, at least if they are any good. The author reaches the largest readership (which helps maximize the impact of their ideas), and readers get a free electronic book. Authors of not very good books want to limit the number of people who find this out for themselves, and so charge money for the electronic copy.
Another reason for the small number of good new, non-introductory, books, is having something new to say. Scientific revolutions, or even minor resets, are rare (i.e., measured in multi-decades). Once several good books are available, and nothing much new has happened, why write a new book on the subject?
The market for introductory books is much larger than that for books covering advanced material. While publishers obviously want to target the largest market, these are not the kind of books I tend to read.