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Mirrored Mind: My Life in Letters and Code

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  953 ratings  ·  195 reviews
The nonfiction debut from the author of the international bestseller Sacred Games about the surprising overlap between writing and computer coding

Vikram Chandra has been a computer programmer for almost as long as he has been a novelist. In this extraordinary new book, his first work of nonfiction, he searches for the connections between the worlds of art and technology. C
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Graywolf Press (first published November 8th 2013)
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Average rating 3.28  · 
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Manuel Antão
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

"Geek Sublime: Writing Fiction, Coding Software" by Vikram Chandra

A long time ago when I was doing Software Engineering professionally (I was a C/C++ black belt coder back in the good old days of obfuscated coding practices…) I was always very keen to put lots of style and readability into my code. Then I moved on because I wanted my code to be beautiful as well. It took me longer to write agreed, but it was more pleasing to the eye an
Aseem Kaul
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
It hurts me to say this because I've always enjoyed his fiction, but Vikram Chandra's latest book is a mess. Inchoate, rambling and superficial, Geek Sublime reads like a vanity project--like being cornered by some middle-aged Uncle at a family gathering and being subjected to hours of him prattling on about his favorite theories while you anxiously watch the clock and wonder when they'll serve dinner.

Though not a programmer myself, I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that code can be beautiful (
Dec 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm torn about giving this book such a low rating, because there were parts that really spoke to me: the root of disillusionment with modern day software development; the rampant sexism within the industry; the pain and struggle of the writing process; the parallels between writing programs and writing essays. But there were huge swaths of this book that I thought were unreadable. For example, I read half the chapter on Anandavardhana before giving up because I was bored out of my mind. And when ...more
Booklovers Melbourne
Also reviewed on http://bookloversmelbourne.blogspot.c...

Back when I listed the books on my reading pile, I mentioned "Geek Sublime..." right at the top and said
"...Vikram Chandra intrigues me as a writer. I cannot pin him down to any genre..."

He continues that thread of intrigue through this latest work on non-fiction. Amazon (amazingly enough) classifies this under "engineering". Maybe they did not look past "Coding Software" on the title, but even the first few pages would have made it clear
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-ebooks
There are a lot of great insights, quotes and stories in this book regarding programming and writing, art and aesthetics. I also really appreciated his perspective as someone who supported his passion for writing fiction by writing code.

One quibble is that the parts on Indian aesthetic theories felt like they could have been handled better. These chapters caused me to alternate between "YES YES YES!" and "Wait, what?!" I'll need to re-read those sections because I found the ideas fascinating, b
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a surprise. I read the reviews so long ago that I forgot this is only about coding on the surface.

I love Chandra’s Sacred Games so I was game to read about coding if that’s what he wanted to write about. (He supported himself writing code while he wrote his first book.) And indeed, he is eloquent on the beauty and elegance of well-written programs. But this is a jumping off point for discussion about two things: the brutal, antisocial, hyper-male combativeness of many programmers that
Keith De-Lin
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was a bit schizophrenic, moving between two different books with little success in making a connection between them. And while I truly enjoyed the chapters regarding coding as design, the parallel story was rather impossible to read.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is really a rounded up 3.5 star book.

It is a weird little book. It is sort of about programming, it is sort of about writing, it is sort of about the nature of art, it is sort of about the sociopolitics of Sanskrit, and the sociopolitics of programmers, especially Indian ones and female ones. If some of those topics interesting you, it's probably worth reading. I picked it up because it was purportedly a book about programming by the guy who wrote Red Earth and Pouring Rain and Sacred Games
Ankur Gupta
Nov 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is one of the worst books that I have read recently. There are many reasons that I did not like this book:

1. Till the end I did not understand why the author wrote about so many things and how they relate to the main topic of the book which is "the beauty of code"
2. The book is a collection of random blurbs/research that author created over a period of time and then combined them together in a book
3. The book was made further difficult to follow by using sanskrit words in-between. The autho
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Mar 04, 2015 rated it liked it
I had an instant connect with what Chandra is trying to do here. He talks about programming, the business of code-writing that practically runs our social media obsessed milieu, and he talks about writing itself, that most enriching and creative of human endeavors. In recounting his making as a writer and his early years as a programmer in the united states, he finds parallels between both the processes, at the same time delving deep into the Indian narrative traditions, unearthing critical theo ...more
Rob Kitchin
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Vikram Chandra has made a living as a programmer and also written award winning literary fiction. In Geek Sublime he reflects on the writing of fiction and code, their points of connection and departure, drawing on his own experiences and the observations of others. In particular, he makes reference to literary theory, especially that relating to Indian texts, languages, philosophy, mythology and poetry, using it to reflect on ideas of the structure, aesthetics, logic, and the work of text as fi ...more
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
My first introduction to Chandra was through his novel 'Sacred games', an engrossing crime novel set in the bustling city of Mumbai, India. So when I was naturally intrigued when I heard about his latest non-fiction offering 'Geek sublime', especially after it received glowing reviews in the New York Times, Economist and other publications.

'Geek sublime' is a curious book. Chandra draws upon his experience as a self-taught programmer and muses about the deep and complex relationship between art
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Vikram Chandra's novel "Red Earth & Pouring Rain" remains one of my favorite books. I have been known to pull it off the bookcase and read passages aloud to friends from time to time. His new book, which seeks to limn the connections between writing literature and writing code, is thoughtful, often lyrical, and thought-provokingly original. Having read some reviewers that clearly left readers bewildered or annoyed, I decided I wanted to take the book on its own terms, and found the arch of the d ...more
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read anything by Vikram Chandra and I certainly need to fix it, but I found this book that compares the programming languages and writing ​​literature extremely interesting. Not being a programmer myself I must admit, that sometimes I found myself a bit lost on some comparisons, but the author was always quite clear, even when he compares the modern literature, the programming languages ​​and Hindu sacred texts.

Non ho mai letto niente di Vikram Chandra e sicuramente devo rimediare, ma
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Hmmm, well this is actually an average of 3 for style and 5 for content. The writer's condescending, humblebraggy persona can be quite offputting. I found this disappointing, as I had really enjoyed his fiction.
Still, the scope of Chandra's knowledge is truly breathtaking -- from the mechanics of code writing to ancient linguistic codification to Sanskrit literary theory. He understands the tech industry from the inside out, but still has the distance to point out its myths and fallacies.
It's t
Tim Poston
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you like
"Hello, world!"
the nature of drama
scandalous Sanskrit poetry
the experience of highly personal writing
amazingly well brought together,
you should probably read this book.

My own first program in a new computer language usually outputs "Hello, cruel world!".
But a world with this book in it is not altogether cruel.
Marianne Sweeny
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An unexpected pleasure as the author uses linguistics to illuminate the structure of code. For those of you who want to embrace design thinking and see the beauty of code and the coders who write it, this book is for you.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
My rating is based on my own enjoyment of the book, not on the quality of the writing, which is very high. As others have said, the book mixes the author's experiences as a programmer and a writer, with quite a bit about the literature of his native India thrown in. There were parts that interested me, parts I found difficult to follow, and parts I skimmed because they didn't interest me enough to put a lot into their reading. That is not to say, however, that those parts wouldn't be highly inte ...more
Elizabeth Desole
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find this a very hard book to rate. It is written by a man who grew up in India and studied fiction writing in the US. He works his way through school and novel writing by making money as a computer programmer. It's an odd combo and is amply reflected in the book. The author's main objective is to discuss the similarities differences between art (particularly fiction writing) and coding. Sort of. It's really a strange amalgam of all the things that made the writer who he is. The first parts of ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
If you think you will find in this book a discussion of aesthetics as applied to programming, of what was considered beautiful in it and is considered beautiful now, of how values and accents shift with new tools, new people, and, more importantly, why all that happens, this is not the book you are looking for.

Moreover, "code" mentioned in the title is just a pretext for speculations on Indian history, literature, and religion. All the parts about "code" are quite shallow and seem out of place,
Mary Paul
May 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This starts out promisingly enough about art and coding... And then rapidly devolves into a discussion about coding machismo, gender roles, and where India fits into all of this. Frankly, he meanders, contradicts his own points, and doesn't really go anywhere with it. This might be better titled "an Indian coder thinks about things but doesn't really commit to an opinion"
John Mcchesney-young
Really interesting on the history of computers & coding and his thoughts on writing and the history and linguistics of Sanskrit, and the autobiographical parts are also very good. I'm sure of interest to others would be the sections on Indian theories of aesthetics but I must confess I skimmed those two chapters. ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this!!!
Girish B
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Code part - yes, relatable... Philosophy - not my cup of coffee 🙂
Galen Weitkamp
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty by Vikram Chandra
A review by Galen Weitkamp

Vikram Chandra is a novelist, a programmer and now an aesthetician. His book, Geek Sublime, explores the aesthetic nature of computer programming, novel writing, poetry and the capacity of language to be beautiful, expressive and moving.

Vikram introduces us to the world of programmers, explaining that among them there are artists who write exquisite code and boors who write ugly, lumbering code; and h
An unlikely attempt to draw parallels between the languages of code and the code of languages. How does a fiction writer from the subcontinent, who moved to the US to write fiction but decided to earn a living as a programmer and now teaches at US universities, make sense of his world? In a sometimes quite entertaining fashion. (Disclaimer: He has also published a number of fiction novels - I haven't read any of them.)
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I opened this book mainly because I'm interested in writing as well as programming. The book did provide some revelations, especially the dhvani-rasa theory and the parallelism between event-sourcing and Buddhist concept of "no-self". "The code of beauty: Anandhavardhana" and "The beauty of code" were the best chapters in this book! Until those chapters, the book was pretty interesting. The chapters after those 2 seemed too high on weed for me.
Madhumita Bharde
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Geeky. Subliminal. Delightful.
A must read for a wanna-be-better-programmer and wanna-be-better-writer.

Having said all that, it's also quite eclectic, elitist and esoteric. This one is a demanding read, to say the least. In spite of having reasonably respectable background of Sanskrit and Computer Science both, I understood only a not-so-respectable fraction of what the author was trying to say.
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobook
This was a hard one to rate, because it was a hard one to read (or actually, to listen to on audio). Chandra’s stories about his becoming a coder I found quite endearing, as I know many people that followed that same path, myself as well to a point. And the chapters about coding languages and the software industry were entertaining, like articles in an ACM magazine or something like Fast Company. But when he started diving into the inner workings of Sanskrit he really lost me. There are a few ch ...more
I am still kind of surprised on how whimsical Vikram Chandra's Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty was. I was reading a book ,where almost half of it was about computer coding, and the words "Magical Realism" kept echoing in my mind. Chandra's central thesis is that building code, creating programs is just as intricate and elegant as an artist creating a painting or an author writing a prize winning novel.

Chandra achieves this. I wholeheartedly believe that writing code can be
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Vikram Chandra was born in New Delhi.

He completed most of his secondary education at Mayo College, a boarding school in Ajmer, Rajasthan. After a short stay at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, Vikram came to the United States as an undergraduate student.

In 1984, he graduated from Pomona College (in Claremont, near Los Angeles) with a magna cum laude BA in English, with a concentration in creative w

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Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
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“Let us change our traditional attitude to the construction of programs: Instead of imagining that our main task is to instruct a computer what to do, let us concentrate rather on explaining to human beings what we want a computer to do.” 1 likes
“We may read the same texts, but the dhvani that manifests within you will be unique. Your beauty will be your own. If you re-read a story that you read 10 years ago, its dhvani within you will be new. Poetr's beauty is infinite.” 1 likes
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