Five Six - The 30 week project
Just because I wasn't able to post here doesn't mean I wasn't true to my self-assigned project :-)
For week five I picked up the much recommended Google Hacks by Rael Dornfest. It ended up being my book for week six too since getting through the book involved some do-it-yourself stuff on the laptop as well.
Before getting this book from my library I wasn't aware of it being closer to a reference book. Nevertheless, I had fun reading this one and would say it's a good one to keep next to your computer (if you're one of those who still has a desktop at home) so that you can try the self-contained hacks when you have time. Also, hack here means a neat or clever trick as opposed to a dirty trick, and it's meant to act as a tool to help you get the most out of Google (or to get you out of those situations when even google can't rescue you). There is also some space devoted to tricks that would help you amuse/fool your friends, but I think that would work mostly on the non-techie crowd among them.
If you are a non-programmer, the first few chapters are all that would interest you in my opinion, and they alone might not justify the price of this book. These are the ones focused on google search, other google properties (news, groups) and topics (government, macs etc.). They try to help you get to the information you need in the best possible way, and might make looking around the web interesting for you. The next few chapters are more geared towards explaining how you can use the various APIs provided by google to get to the enormous amounts of data that it serves as a gateway to. Some initiation into scripting/programming would be needed for these to make sense to you. If you do have some programming experience, then I would suggest spending some time with these, it would be fun.
The chapters suggesting tricks/pranks are okay in my opinion, not too great. As I said, they might work with a non-techie crowd, but I doubt that too. The last chapter is the one meant for web-masters. I can't comment on it since I did not actually read it.
The chapters are pretty readable, though I do feel they could have been organized slightly better. The content that's complemented with programming examples/tips makes up almost half of the book. I would say this is a nice book to have in your collection if you are a programmer and would have the time to try out some of the stuff, it might actually help you solve some work problems too. If not, then have a go at it only if you can snag a copy at your library, the price might not be worth your while otherwise.