My reading summary for 2018 (with recommendations)

My reading summary for 2018 (with recommendations)

No TL;DR today :) You either are interested in the recommendations or not really.

Just like 12 months ago, I'd like to share with you a short list of books I consider the best I've read last year. Fortunately, it was a very good year (again) - my selection & pre-qualification sieve worked like charm: there were just a couple of books I've read that have turned out not to be worth the time & money spent.

Due to the character of this blog, I'll focus on professional books (either technical/architectural or related to various aspects of management), ... but be warned - there are some non-pro gems I couldn't prevent myself from mentioning here :)

If you're interested in the full list of what I've read last year (each book has a dedicated review note), check my Goodreads profile out.


  1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (review)
    and
    21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari (review)

    The best advice I can give you: read all Harari's books. All of them, w/o an exception. Although their titles may sound dull & ordinary ("what? history of humankind?"), they are very far from standard anthropology books or foggy divagations about the future (in case of "Homo Deus" or "21 Lessons ..."). They are focused on non-trivial & non-obvious (but VERY relevant) questions and dilemmas - and author makes attempts to address these with facts, analogies & sheer "headology". A-MUST-READ.

  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (review)

    This book has been released (for the first time) in ... 1936. Yet, until this very day it's probably the most essential source of condensed information about building healthy relationships with other people. Sure, it doesn't cover everything, its main area of interest is leveraging maximum impact in the first impression & during limited exposure, but it's still very valid in times when digital media & overcrowded cities made us all strangers.

    I've always wanted to read this one, I finally did & it didn't disappoint me at all.

  3. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by James C. Collins (review)

    Again - oldie but goldie (17 years) that did not grow old or outdated. Some very good thoughts & observations, e.g.: the hedgehog concept, culture of discipline & building high standards (from the ground) with correct people. Classic.

  4. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone (review)

    I'm not really into biographies or particular companies' success history chronicles, but being a curious fellow, I've read through stories of several renown IT companies (& their founders) - Apple, Microsoft, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba, Virgin, ... This book (which covers Amazon & Bezos ofc) is by far the best of them. For several reasons - it doesn't feel like a praising litany, but a rather honest storytelling & it covers some details & insider warstories that were not (AFAIK) well known to the general public. Good stuff.

  5. Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (review)

    I was waiting for this one so impatiently that it was almost certain that I HAVE to be disappointed ;P - my expectations were simply skyrocketing. And in the end the book was (for me, from my personal perspective) - transformational. Seriously, it made me (just like its predecessor - "Antifragile") reconsider & rethink my approach to the certain way of thinking (within: system theory, general economics & geopolitics, general motivation, even some aspects of life). This book is my personal record holder for the number of highlights made :)

  6. The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu (review)

    1st Volume of The Dandelion Dynasty was one of my favourite books of 2017 & its successor proved to be as good. Epic scale, memorable characters, heroic actions a fascinated reader will remember for long. And a healthy (but sane) dose of pathos - to make it truly stand out from thousands of similar books (that feel rather dull and mundane in comparison). Can't wait to put my hands on forthcoming Ken Liu's tomes.

    My bet is you'd like it even if you're not really into fantasy.

  7. Enlightenment now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker (review)

    Pinker recently gets a lot of trashing in the Internet (because Murricans are ... well, Murricans), but it doesn't change the fact that he's one of my favourite authors. "Enlightenment now" is a book about the opportunities of the modern era - it reminds me "Homo Deus", but it's more optimistic (how does it sound: era of the New Enlightenment!) & focused on here & now.

  8. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely (review)

    I've got this one (& Ariely in general) recommended by a very intelligent & experienced person once I've admitted my love to the immortal "Thinking Fast and Slow" - it was a bulls-eye. This book is worth reading just for the excerpts about social vs commercial norms or downgrade considerations ALONE. I know it's completely unrealistic, but EVERYONE should read this one.

  9. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (review)

    The unbelievable history of Theranos & its (in)famous founder - Elizabeth Holmes. Probably the best book I've read this year in just one aspect (that can not be overestimated ...) - I simply could not put it down, it reads like the best thriller (except ... all of that really happened ...). A-MUST-READ

  10. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, Second Edition by Marty Cagan (review)

    The most focused AND most approachable introduction (far from being shallow & beginner-only) to Product Management. By someone who knows this shit in and out. Frankly, I've seen Marty Cagan presenting live once & he didn't make a stunning impression on me - there was something in his voice, manner of speaking, tone that was very distracting/annoying to me. But the book is a pure gold - essential content to build a good understanding between engineering teams & the rest of organisation(s).

  11. Kubernetes in Action by Marko Luksa (review)

    Absolutely brilliant K8s book, even better than Kelsey H.'s one. Grab it until it gets outdated :)

  12. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine (review)

    For me 2018 was a year I've discovered meditation & re-traced the philosophical roots (stoicism) that have once defined my life attitude. Irvine's book was very helpful here: it's not a post-modernistic pseudo-philosophic self-help book for American housewives ;P but a serious academic book with plenty of references to ancient classics. Still, regardless of its scientific nature, both form & function are on the highest possible level: the end effect is not dry, but very approachable & easy to "digest".

  13. Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann (review)

    Instant classic - the best tech book I've read in 2018 & possibly the best technical book published in 2015 (as essential as "Building Microservices" in 2014). Technology-agnostic, it presents engineer pragmatism while making architectural decisions in a very approachable & educational way. A-MUST-READ for everyone who calls her/himself (or aspires to be) a software architect.

  14. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman (review)

    Yeyeye - (lean) startups, scaling, crazy CEOs, hacking CTOs, two-pizza teams, MVPs, product market fit, funding rounds. Everyone wants to be another Eric Ries & we get tons of books about that - all of them similar to each other & w/o any spark of uniqueness worth even brief mentioning. Hoffman's book is different (and he ain't a random guy either ...) - there are several interesting concepts and practical advises on rapid organisational growth within this book. Fortunately it doesn't try to convince the reader that there's a certain (one & only) "scaling framework": just that adds +200% of credibility :)

  15. Thinking in Promises: Designing Systems for Cooperation by Mark Burgess (review)

    Yet another gem in the collection - it's a book about design that actually doesn't even use the word "design". Probably the best book about system theory I've read - hard to get through, clearly not for the beginners, but very rewarding when you match what you've read with your personal experience & thoughts.

Fifteen recommended books may seem an overkill, but I've rated all of them with top rating (5 stars out of 5). Just pick something that fits your interest or is well aligned with whatever you're working on - there's a high chance you won't be disappointed.

What about my reading plans for 2019? Do I feel fed up with all this knowledge accommodated? Not at all - the more I've read & the more I know, the more I identify questions & unknown areas to discover. Which is great - never stop learning, lads & gals! :)

About Sebastian Gebski

Geek, agilista, blogger, codefella, serial reader. In the daylight - I lead software delivery. #lean #dotnet #webdev #elixir. I speak here for myself only.

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