Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov (2017, Public Affairs)
This isn’t Kasparov’s best book, in my opinion; that crown should be awarded to Winter Is Coming. That said, it’s a book worth reading, and doubly so if one is a fan of chess.
The book is Kasparov’s look back at his loss to Deep Blue, a turning point in the development of machine intelligence. He provides insight into how a genius can make mistakes and the difficulties both in recognizing them after they happen and avoiding the emotional traps which come with that recognition. It will hold the interest even of people who don’t like or understand chess (although some knowledge of the game absolutely helps.)
Kasparov also uses the opportunity to examine the value of artificial intelligence and computer learning, and his conclusions are overwhelmingly positive. It’s rare to see an analysis of AI in a promising, non-alarmist fashion by someone who’s not working on its development.
The book is thoughtful yet positive, a look at how an expert works and a glimpse at history. The scope of the book seems a touch limited after Winter, but it’s still enjoyable and informative.
The Jungle Kids by Evan Hunter (1956, Pocket)
In 1954, a young man named Evan Hunter used a few weeks as a teacher in the Bronx as the springboard for a novel called The Blackboard Jungle. The book was a critical success, and it spawned a smash hit movie. The Jungle Kids was a follow-up to that book, a collection of short fiction focused around the troubled lives of inner-city youth.
The stories in the collection were based in part on interviews Hunter held with police officers, interviews which would later aid him in his creation of the 87th Precinct novels under the pseudonym of Ed McBain. His research shows, allowing him to present the fictionalized characters in a sympathetic fashion. It’s not “true crime”, but the stories are “realistic crime”. The collection is worth picking up just on the basis of story quality.
Something more important is on display in this book, however, and that is historical context. The problems seen in these pages are similar problems to those seen today… despite the overwhelming majority of students in the Bronx being white at the time (roughly 90%, in 1950).
The book doesn’t simply provide insight into the growth of the police procedural novel, Ir delivers a convenient rebuttal to the notions that urban issues are racially driven and that any one ethnicity is functionally superior to another.