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Hitting the Books

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From a Publisher's Weekly report on the poor book market comes a mention that Deep Blue designer Feng-Hsiung Hsu's book "Behind Deep Blue" was a commercial success.

"[Publisher] Princeton attributes its "rather solid year despite the volatile political climate and erratic economy," in the words of assistant director Adam Fortgang, to a combination of a broad list and serendipity. Its Behind Deep Blue by the inventor of the chess-playing computer, Feng-Hsiung Hsu, had a "phenomenal" run which was not hurt by the chess battle between the computer and champion Gary [sic] Kasparov."

I assume they are talking about Kasparov-Junior, played in January. But the book came out a few days before the Kramnik-Fritz match in October, 2002. My copy arrived from Amazon as I was waiting for the car to take me to the airport for my flight to Bahrain and it was the second-most borrowed item during my stay. (The first were the pair of floppy diskettes I always bring on trips. People always seem to need one no matter how much the industry says they are obsolete.)

Speaking of Amazon, Hsu's book has a 4.5/5 star rating there after 14 reviews and is ranked #29,806 in the sales rank. (For blue perspective, pre-teen classic "Island of the Blue Dolphins" is #1,081 and Dr. Seuss's "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" is #602. But "Emily Insatiable" by Blue Moon Books is only 57,246. Go chess!

I thought the information in the Deep Blue book was interesting, but I found the tone strident and the text halting at best and vacuum-cleaner-instruction-manual at worst. I know edited second-language writing when I see it, but if this is the best it could be he should have worked with a ghost writer instead of having so many chopped-up sentences. It flows like granite in many parts and that was for a computer chess fanatic like me. Still, it's a must-read even if you know much of the computer chess history parts. (I'm mentioned in the book but as "a chess journalist," possibly for my own protection...)

Read Jonathan Schaeffer's book "One Jump Ahead" about his creation of the top checkers program, Chinook. Great read, if overlong in parts. Plus, Jonathan is an A1 nice guy. (Now back into checkers after years away. He plans to solve the game once and for all.)

While I'm at it, Paul Hoffman writes on chess for the New York Times and a few other mainstream publications while paying the rent with popular books and articles on science and history. His new book just came out and it looks fascinating. "Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight"

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 3, 2003 4:42 AM.

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