Recommended reading: December edition

For this month, great reading for the holiday break, iOS vs. Android platforms for developers, paring down web design to the essentials, and Time’s nod to Mark Zuckerberg.

Best Books 2010
Slate Magazine

The yearly “best of” lists are endless this time of year, yet I’ve found music, film and gaming critics are mostly coalescing best of status around a smaller set of favorites like Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (best album), The Social Network (best film) and Red Dead Redemption (best game.) Overall, there are few surprises.

That leaves the choices for 2010’s best books – an increasingly relevant medium in wake of the Kindle, iPad and Instapaper’s rise – to be all over the place. Where’s a good place to start? I’d give my first recommendation to Slate’s compilation. In contrast to the bare bones New Yorker list, I found Slate’s explanation to be lengthy enough to generate interest, yet not going so far as to be unwieldily. I also found their selection among fiction and non fiction the most varied and interesting.

Mark Zuckerberg – Person of the Year 2010

I felt this year’s Time‘s person of the year article on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was a more compelling read than in years past (2006’s “You” was a particular disaster.) However, I’d argue the interest comes less from the subject himself – there’s little insight on Zuckerberg in the Time piece one couldn’t find elsewhere – but the extent the writers try to justify that crowning Facebook as this year’s phenomenon was the right move. It’s certainly not without controversy; debate was everywhere this week, from the tech blogs to Twitter.

The article also has a pretty interesting setup going for it; a traditionally old media, “1.0” organization tipping it’s Person of the Year hat to a “2.0” Internet titan. But why this year? Proponents note the usage numbers and Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation, while critics point to the popularity of The Social Network. Read and decide for yourself.

The iOS and Android app economies
Daring Fireball

I found the recent Daring Fireball post contrasting the iOS and Android app economies fascinating, especially as I’ve got mixed feelings overall on John Gruber, Fireball’s author. While the quality of his writing is consistently excellent, I often find his very pro Apple stance to be dogmatic and shrill. Length has a effect – his quick one off opinions can come off as snarky and biased, but I find his longer, more researched articles more compelling. His December 1 post thankfully falls into the latter category; a long argument that cites evidence from both the pro iOS and pro Android camps. Mobile applications are a very relevant tech issue today, making it a great (albeit very technical) read for many.

Fat Free Web Design
Six Revisions

Something about Jason Gross’s piece pushing for pared down, more straightforward forms of web design (termed “fat free web design”) really resinated with me. More specifically, the article’s thesis flies in the face of so much of what 90% of web related articles talk about – adding more cool stuff: new plugins, new technologies, new colors, and new fonts.

But what happens when the “cool stuff” gets in the way of the content or slows the experience down? What’s the cost to a page’s rendering speed? With broadband proliferation and the pressure of the modern designer to constantly adapt to the latest and greatest, speed and efficiency questions are often forgotten. Gross’s article smartly brings it back to the forefront, and it’s refreshing reading for anyone interested in web design.