Above the far head of my bed, I have a shelf built from a triangular piece of wood and a C clamp. On it, I keep my alarm clock and a series of books I am perpetually in the process of reading.
Currently at the top of the stack is Eric S. Raymond'sThe Art of Unix Programming. I don't consider myself a hard core Unix programmer, but the book is filled with useful information on the unspoken Unix philosophy and how it applies to any kind of programming. It answered many of the questions I have asked myself when developing on Purdue's Solaris boxes or my home Linux install. One of the book's main themes involves "domain-specific minilanguages", which is especially interesting considering I am taking a compilers course this semester. ESR is surprisingly dogma-neutral, but he does contradict himself in places. Throughout the book he praises the "do one thing and do it well" philosophy, but turns around and lauds Emacs' all-in-one design. However, that doesn't detract from the loads of practical advice he gives in many areas: interface design, modularity, language comparisons, and versioning systems, to name a few. It is one of the few books in which I have marked especially useful pages with sticky tabs.
Below TAOUP is the only school book I choose to keep on The Shelf. It is called Engineering in the Ancient World, and I had to buy it for my History of Science and Technology course. It is incredibly interesting to read about the tools and technology Greeks and Romans used to build structures, make war, and tame the land. They were smarter than one might think. It is one of the few books I would read even had it not been assigned.
Next is the 21st Annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology. Since the summer after high school, I have read four or five other books in the series. I like short stories, and I really like science fiction, so the Year's Best books are perfect. Unlike previous editions, I bought the hardcover version this year, and I bought it used. That is definitely the way to go; cheaper (because it was used), slightly smaller, and the binding won't break. I have had pages fall out of two of the paperback editions.
Finally, Quicksilver rounds out the stack. Erica gave it to me for Christmas last year, and I regret that like GEB, it has fallen lower and lower since then. However, Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors, so I definitely plan to resume reading eventually. It is interesting to note that one of the book's main themes is the evolution of science in Newton's time, the same as the last quarter of my history course. That might be a good time to pick it up again.