A few years ago I had to move between offices, which meant that I was faced with boxing up about 500 books, along with the contents of too many filing cabinets and the assorted junk in desk drawers and cupboards. It wasn’t too difficult to discard half the files and much of the junk. But only about 10% of the books were donated to libraries (let someone else be responsible for their final destruction!), and the rest came to the new office. I assured myself that I would complete a serious winnowing when unboxing, because I would have the luxury of time to select the real “keepers”.

It turned out that the book boxes fit quite neatly on the shelves in the new office, and there they sat for a couple of years. Finally they came home as COVID changed the workplace, and over several months perhaps 10% more were winnowed out, but the rest fit on the available shelves (OK, so I had to make some shelves, but they fit in the house). We won’t be here forever, though, so a new test is needed: are they worth recommending to others? If I think about a particular book in my work, or if I talk about a book with friends, it makes the first cut. If I’m moved to write about it here, it’s officially a Keeper.

These are mostly technical books written for a general audience. Usually, something in them caught me by surprise, or generated some small delight, in a way that sticks. It’s challenging to review them, and see that the nugget that lodged in memory is not precisely what was on the page. Sometimes the review of candidates may determine that they’re not keepers after all, but usually it will deliver fresh pleasure, and improve the memory nuggets. And maybe you’ll be motivated to read for nuggets of your own.

Structures, or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E. Gordon