Books are rated on a scale from 0 stars to *****. I only started tracking what I read since early 2016, good books that I re-read often will show up sooner or later. This isn’t an exhaustive list of all that I’ve read, and it’s biased towards good books – I just stop reading if after 30%-50% of a book I’m not enjoying it or I think it’s useless.
If you’re interested in academic papers, I keep a repository with notes of papers I’ve read on GitHub.
Deep Work – by Cal Newport – ***
The book is split into two sections. Why and how. The ‘why’ part I mostly skimmed over, because I’m already sold on the concept of deep work. The ‘how’ part was interesting but quite frankly, I already use a lot of the methods mentioned there. It was interesting to read about certain subjects or studies that ‘prove’ that deep work is what makes a difference in today’s society, and it was a good reminder. If you do not know about these techniques, ask me or read the book. I’d rate it as 4 stars if you’re new to these concepts!
Chaos Monkeys – by Antonio Garcia Martinez – ***
A tale of startups, technology, and the politics involved with that. Enjoyable read about a guy that went from working in a startup, to starting his own through Y-Combinator, and ends up betting his political capital in a “failed” project at Facebook. The book is written in a very casual style, it gets lost in the details, but overall it got me hooked for 2 weeks.
Social Architecture – by Pieter Hintjens – *****
My personal homage after Pieter (sadly) left this world a few weeks ago. Pieter is an incredible writer (read his blog), and this book is a wonderful recollection of all his lessons building open source communities since the early 90s.
How not to be wrong – by Jordan Ellenberg – ***
Decent book on how mathematics rule our lives. It teaches you how to spot mathematical rules in everyday life, and gives plenty of examples of it. The book is structured in sections, each trying to explain a mathematical concept and giving examples on how it affects us in life. I thought it was good, however it’s quite long for what it is. Would be 4 stars if it was a shorter book, as I think the advice is worth it but the time it took me to read it was far too much.
The dip – by Seth Godin – ****
Short book packed with good advice on precisely what the title says. When to quit and when to stick. Seth Godin talks about how he’s seen people go through ‘dips’ or ‘troughs of sorrow’ that were not worth the reward, and others that were worth it.
So good they can’t ignore you – by Cal Newport – ***
I was expecting more of it after reading raving reviews from Derek Sivers and others. The book itself attempts to systematize how to find the intersection of what you love to do and what you’re great at, by telling you to ‘experiment at the boundaries of your knowledge’. Good advice, but a bit too long and the meaning of the book is lost a bit with so many side-stories.
Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby – ****
This one was long due after programming in Ruby for years. It’s similar to other ‘design patterns’ books, but instead of providing you with a sample implementation of them, Sandi iteratively improves an application using them. I would recommend reading through it slowly, not more than a chapter a day, and try to notice these patterns in existing projects. It was kind of eye-opening, and a solid compilation of things I’ve learnt through failing at programming myself!
Ikigai – Hector Garcia – **
This one was a let down. I guess the subtitle was basically a lie (“the secrets of Japan for a long and happy life”). It’s entertaining, as it tells you how the author and his friend went to Ogimi, Okinawa and tried to understand why their population has the most longevity index in the world. A few insights can be drawn from that, but overall I would not recommend it. Hector Garcia’s blog or his previous book “A geek in Japan” are better written are great though.
Sapiens – by Yuval Harari – *****
A serendipitous discovery. It was part of the sample books that came with Bookari pro (the app I use to read on Android). This is a book about the most interesting story ever told, the story of how we left Africa and ended up in the moon.
The Effective Engineer – by Edmond Lau – ****
If I had to recommend a book to a recent graduate, it would probably be this. The author had a successful career in Silicon Valley as what he calls an “individual contributor” (vs “sheep herder”). He presents a framework to leverage your effort to cause the most impact in your organization, which I found very useful. I preordered it and it was worth it.
Team Geek (reread) – by Brian W. Fitzpatrick, Ben Collins-Sussman – *****I end up reading this book every year or so basically because I like to keep it on my phone/tablet reading app. The authors are ex-Googlers who worked together to create Subversion, and a lot of what the book says is best described as the authors passing their experience on to junior software engineers. I imagine the people who have worked with these two guys learned a lot, and the authors give us the opportunity of taping into 40 years of collective experience.
みんなの日本語初級1 – ****
Good introduction to Japanese grammar, I started reading 初級2 right after I finished this one. Exercises feel a little dry at times, so I’m planning to complement 初級2 with a tutor or conversation partner.
Pragmatic Thinking and Learning – by Andy Hunt – ***
A collection of stories about learning, how our mind works, and how do we learn. If you’re already a productivity freak you will probably find yourself in many of the stories in this book. It’s good, but I don’t think the structure was very coherent and in the end I don’t think I learned that much. Maybe I just had high expectations.
Peopleware – by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister – *****
The bible not only for software development teams, but for any group of individuals who have to do stuff together. The authors compiled the results from tens of randomized control trials on how humans interact with each other, comment on the results, and try to explain what their experiences were trying out these things. Very recommended.
Little Bets – **
Similar narrative as “So good they can’t ignore you”, it tells you a bunch of histories of how successful people became successful by virtue of making little experiments on the boundaries of their knowledge. It’s an entertaining read, just not worth it if you’ve read “So good they can’t ignore you”. It’s short so you can judge it yourself.