Just like in the previous years (... , 2018, 2017, ...), I'd like to re-visit what I've read within the last 12 months & pick the most valuable gems I could recommend to you without blenching. In general I tend to focus primarily on the fresh stuff (from known/promising authors or direct recommendations), so don't worry - there's a big chance you'll find on the list something completely unknown to you.
Obviously, the majority of entries are related to the professional career (software engineering, leadership, management, systems architecture), but it's not the strict rule - some recommendations are of the completely different fields.
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.
- High Output Management by Andy Grove (review)
We naively believe that every novelty is a break-through & looking too far back is a waste of time or worse - limiting views, missing opportunities, rejecting the enlightenment. And then we read a 20+ years old classic, just to learn that last week panaceum is nothing else but a recycled concept known for generations. I had the same feeling while reading Grove's HOM - strongly recommended. His idea of key managerial ability - "the leverage" - is now the way I perceive all my work & how I strive to apply my "seniority" on a daily basis.
- Just Enough Software Architecture by George Fairbanks (review)
One of the best, tech-agnostic books on software architecture. Advertised as risk-based approach, I'd rather call it pragmatism-based. Very good chapters on composition, encapsulation & hiding complexity. Emphasises the essential concept of parallelism between model & code (and why it's so important). Classic - not to be missed.
- Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society by Eric Posner, Glen Weyl (review)
I've put it here NOT because I do agree with all the concepts presented in the book, but because they are courageous, question the rigid state of affairs & propose solutions to problems everyone is aware of (but too afraid/powerless to do anything about). The book describes 5 radical ideas aimed to shake the ground of current political & economic system to enable the new opening, free of current setup's stalemate. I found it inspiring & thought-provoking.
- Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (book ref - for some reason I can't access my review anymore ...)
This recommendation is surprising even to myself :) I've read (& recommended) very good books on Systems Theory before - why do the same for the intro course now? I believe that Meadows'es book gave me some foundations I've been always missing - especially about making systems (& especially - their dynamics) visual (for easier collaboration & to notice key ingredients that need attention). For me: it was a real (practical) game-changer.
- The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin (review)
I've found "Dichotomy ..." better than famous "Extreme Ownership" - yes, some concepts were re-iterated, but I believe that the emphasis has leaned more on "balance" aspects. Leadership-related decisions are hard, choices are rarely obvious, you always have to risk/sacrifice something - balancing that all right is crucial. There's still a lot of American pathos included, so watch out if you're allergic to that ...
- An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management by Will Larson (review)
The best book in last year's wave of modern Engineering Management books (tbh the competition was fierce - e.g. J. Zhuo, C. Fournier) - very to the point, very practical & filled with remarks directly referring to Larson's experience from the companies he has worked for. Invaluable resource in learning from tech unicorns' (good & bad) unprecedented growth & velocity of change.
- The Diversity Delusion by Heather Mac Donald (review)
Some of you may get hot under the collar seeing me recommending Mac Donald's book. There are people calling her nazi, fascist, white supremacist, etc. My call is simple - read the book, try to stand aside of all the prejudices, filter out 3rd party opinions & judgments, evaluate & verify facts, but first of all: think for yourself. Try to do it with your own brain, cooling down the hot blood & environmental pressures. That's what I did & this book was a useful resource.
- A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie (review)
Sorry, I couldn't help it - Joe is my favourite fantasy writer, his First Law trilogy was absolutely epic & I just had to express my joy because ... the waiting is finally over - "A Little Hatred" is the 1st instalment of a new trilogy (next volumes are to be published 2020 & 2021). And truly a decent opening, to be honest.
- Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton, Emanual Pais (review)
I like these little epiphanies when I read a book on a topic I've soaked a lot of tears, sweat and blood in ... just to find that the author has put slightly different framing, structuring & naming in a way that sheds some new light on a well familiar (to me) subject. That's exactly why I've enjoyed TT - it helped me to re-vamp my point of view on how to approach developing organisations (& teams as their building blocks).
- What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz (review)
I've enjoyed BH's first book, so there's no surprise I waited impatiently for the follow-up. That one's different - while the former one was about being a CEO & entrepreneurship, the latter is about building the culture of the organisation (& why it's important). The book is built around few cases (real personas) - I don't necessarily agree with all the comparisons, exemplifications & conclusions, but I have to admit Horowitz didn't go for low-hanging fruits (e.g. trivial, nearly-obvious role models).
- Monolith to Microservices by Sam Newman (review)
Sam has contributed a lot to the microservice hype (sorry, hehe) with his terrific book - "Building Microservices". Now he does a lot to get them to the ground level with very practical "M2M" - this book is not about stratospheric level abstract concepts. Quite the contrary, it's very practical & doesn't try to avoid answering inconvenient questions (e.g. how to grant data ownership w/o sacrificing performance). It's major flaw (IMHO) is the brevity - there are so many examples of over-simplification & over-zealotry (when it comes to the topic of microservices) that the more myth debunking, the better.
I see a very clear trend in my reading within the last 12 months. The less and less of fiction (because of a very few noteworthy debuts last year), fewer purely technical books (other on-line resources simply have better time-to-market here ...), big shift of interest towards leadership & conscious development of organisations.
I wouldn't call it a carefully planned adjustment - I tend to pick whatever's currently on my mind ... and it seems in 2019 it was leadership. I find it kinda funny, because out of all the key topics I was ever interested in, this one is the most practical & the hardest to grasp in the written words. Probably that's why it was so amusing to look for the works of those who did it really well :)
Happy New Year 2020.
And remember - when it comes to books, it's not about quantity but quality. And (for non-fiction) about what lessons (taken from them) you manage to thoughtfully & successfully apply in your endeavours.