Audio Books Reviews – Part 3

Computational Thinking

Peter J. Denning (Author), Matti Tedre (Author), Steven Jay Cohen (Narrator), Gildan Media (Publisher)

This book is a good primer on the topic of computational thinking. It discusses the details of the history of evolution of the term computational thinking, discusses where computational thinking is going and what it means to think computationally. At times, this book felt more like a history factoid regurgitating names and dates more than anything else. I usually don’t rate a book based on the narrator but this narrator was a little too slow. Speeding up to 1.5 times the speed is what got me through this book. Otherwise the slow pace of the speaking was putting me to sleep.

This books does a good job debunking some of the myths surrounding computational thinking and how it is an end all solution to all of humanity’s problems. The authors argue successfully that CT is a skill developed and learned over a lifetime of practice and like other skills, it is not a one size fits all. Computational thinking, according to the authors, can be sub divided in to many dimensions and the authors explore CT in the context of computing, software engineering, education, scientific modeling, simulation techniques and design principles.

Overall, I enjoyed the book even though the material seemed to meander at times so I am giving it 3 stars.

Deep Learning Revolution

Terrence J. Sejnowski (Author), Shawn Compton (Narrator), Tantor Audio (Publisher)

When I started listening to this book, the opening so fantastic that I could not wait to get thorough the rest of the book. I thought I was going to get tidbits of brilliance on how the deep learning revolution came about, how and what contributions were made by whom etc and that is exactly what I got. However, I must say that this book was BORING!

There were times when the author did not take care to be mindful of his audience. The book felt like a dry reading of history of who graduated from which university, what the title of their PHD dissertation was etc. All this history could have been told in story format. Whenever there were stories such as about the legendary speeches and lectures from the eminent minds in the fields, they were not captivating.

There were also times when the book got too deeply technical on subject that were tangential to the topic at hand such as how the brain works etc. These details detracted from the book and its overall message.

I did not enjoy this book and am giving it two stars.

A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

Barbara Oakley (Author), Grover Gardner (Narrator), Gildan Media, LLC (Publisher)

This is another audio-book that is going on my repeat listen list. The reason I decided to listen to this book was that the synopsis captivated me. The author struggled with math and science subjects all her life and discovered her passion and skills for Math and science as an adult. Even though I was above average in Math and science subjects in my High School and College years, I must say that I really discovered the magic of Math as am adult. If you have struggled with Math and Science subjects and you know that your career and your life cannot progress without mastering these subjects then this book is for you.

The author goes in to the likely reason you have failed or did poorly on STEM subjects. She firmly discredits that self-limiting belief that if a person was unable to do well in STEM subject as a child, that they are doomed to never excel at these subject. She points out many techniques she and many STEM experts use to study and hone their skills and she lays everything out like a plan for anyone to follow.

The greatest benefit of this book to anyone who has struggled with STEM in the past is this: there is no magic bullet to building skills in these subject. Some rare prodigious exceptions aside, almost all people who are STEM professional developed their skills through hard work and dedication. Therefore, anyone willing to work, dedicate their time and energies and is willing to use the techniques in this book can do the same.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and took away many study techniques for own personal studies. I am giving it four stars.

Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Author), Sean Pratt (Narrator), Gildan Media, LLC (Publisher)

When I decided to start listening to this book, what I was expecting was a how-to guide on how to be creative but what I got was a detailed description of the lives and times of creative people. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The author spends a large part of the start of the book explaining creativity and why it is so difficult to define creativity. By listening to his reasoning, I was swayed to his thinking that the best way to be creative is to study other who are creative and glean general guidelines on what made them creative.

The author first defines creativity and defends well what he thinks is creativity and why he thinks studying those who are creative is the best way to get clues on how to be creative.

However, if you are looking for techniques to get over your writers block etc, then this book is not for you. This book is for you if you want to make an impact in your respective field and want to follow the footprints of others who have made significant contributions in their respective fields.

If I were to summarize this book in one paragraph, it would be this. In order to be creative, you must pay your dues first. If you want to innovate in any domain (science, writing, art etc) you must be very well versed in the respective domain. You must have internalized the works of the past, become a master of the creative contributions of others in the past and then you can give your contribution. Creativity occurs at the sweet spot between existing thought paradigms and original thought.

Overall, this book made me pause several times to reflect on the lives of those who have made contributions. I got introduced to individuals and creatives that I would never have known about and this book gave me a great deal to think about.

This book is a little lengthy but does not detract from the message at all. Over all 4 stars.

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