Books

Ricky Takkar
Created on June 15, 2022 (updated every now and then)

A year into my PhD, I realized my relationship with reading was relegated to formal: over 90% of my literary diet consisted of journal articles, conference papers, or fellow academics’ dissertations. But this didn't stop me from amassing nonfiction and (a few) fiction books that piqued my curiosity yet remain untouched on my shelves/devices. This page helps me remain accountable to start and finish reading those books.

Textbooks

  • Among academics in general and especially here at Cornell given William Strunk Jr.'s affiliation, The Elements of Style is widely regarded as the style guide for English writing.

  • I'm tailoring my current research approach with digital twins to have theoretical roots in distributed systems. Distributed Systems for Fun and Profit is a free and approachable introductory textbook that I read in conjunction with the more “serious” book below to prevent getting overwhelmed by the technicalities of the subject.

    • Distributed Algorithms probably leads the distributed systems/algorithms world in terms of readership. All 904 pages published in 1996 attempt to distance the reader from the distributed systems/algorithms charlatan.

  • Learning from Data is designed for a “short course, not a hurried course” on machine learning (ML). Experienced professors from Caltech, RPI, and NTU authored this book based on what they believe to be the core topics that every ML student should know.

  • Use Appendix A in Convex Optimization by Boyd and Vandenberghe (EE professors at Stanford and UCLA respectively) as a refresher of some basic concepts from analysis and linear algebra.

  • The Matrix Cookbook is essentially a matrix calculus cheatsheet, i.e., don’t expect lengthy proofs and satisfying explanations. Simply use the given formulas to get on with improving your ML model(s).

Nonfiction

  • Like its name suggests, This Will Make You Smarter aims to enhance the reader's cognitive toolkit using a variety of scientific concepts shared by over 150 scholars through short essays. One of my favorites is an essay by P.Z. Myers on The Mediocrity Principle which he ends by writing, “What the mediocrity principle tells us is that our state is not the product of intent, that the universe lacks both malice and benevolence, but that everything does follow rules—and that grasping those rules should be the goal of science.”