Reading Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology by David Gelernter is like sneaking into the back of a college classroom and being treated to a free-wheeling, provocative lecture. Gelernter, a noted computer technologist and professor at Yale University, takes the reader on an exciting romp through the connections (too often ignored) between artistic beauty and excellent technology. From a broad discussion of the unexpected links between science and math and aesthetics, to an idiosyncratic history of computing (the section on Apple versus Microsoft is top-notch), Gelernter's writing often achieves his stated goal in his technology work: elegance. He is erudite without being stiff, expert without being condescending. He can also be quite funny. He explains complex computing issues to those of us with no educational grounding in the subject and keep us with him (most of the time). This book is part of the MasterMinds Series, a collection of accessible and concise books that aim to present "cutting-edge ideas by leading thinkers." That noble goal is fully achieved between these hard covers.
Reviewed by Neal Lipschutz.