One of the best iPad apps I’ve downloaded is Longform which post non-fiction articles from a range of sources (Wired, Atlantic, Vanity Fair etc).
It’s extremely easy to use and allows you to read long form journalism in an ereader or web format, as well as save it on Readability for later on.
What is fantastic about Longform is that the articles have often spurred me onto some great books.
So much so, that I’m reading several books on a range of topics at the same time:
Anonymous and cyber activism:
This Wired.com article on how Anonymous picks targets led me to British journalist Parmy Olsen’s We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency (2012). I'm in the middle of this and so far its an interesting and detailed account of some of the key players in the rise and development of Anonymous and LulzSec.
The article also led me to watch the recent documentary We are Legion: The story of hacktivist, which offered a much more positive view of the Anonymous and hacktivism. I thought the analogy that the distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) should be viewed as a contemporary form of a 'sit in' is an interesting and worthwile point.
But the best book I’ve read so far is Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier (1997). Written by Australian academic Suelette Dreyfus, it’s a thrilling non-fiction account of the early days of hacking and features ‘Mendax’ – Julian Assange.
It took Dreyfus three years of research and although non-fiction, it reads like a complex and ingenious thriller. The cat and mouse game between these young hackers, security experts and later on the FBI and police unfolds like a great drama.
I’m looking forward to the telemovie, Underground: the Julian Assange story which is based on Dreyfus' book and screens tonight in Australia.
Some other great books via Longform articles:
- The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini and the battles of the American wizards (2012) by Jim Steinmeyer. This biography tracks the rise and fall of Howard Thurston and has delicious scenes of the competition and one up-manship between Thurston and Houdini. This book reminds of Christoper Preist’s brilliant masterpiece The Prestige (1996).
- American journanlist Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012). Boo's book is an “embedded” journalistic account of the life of resident in the Annawadi slum, located in Mumbai. It's a deeply moving, funny, and painful account of poverty and flaws of human nature.
- Just got my hands on the recently published Spillover:Animal infections and the next human pandemic (2012) by David Quammen. Haven't read it yet, but looks fascinating and got a great NYT review.
Okay, now it's time for me to get back to reading all these books!