Reading in 2014


2014 was the first year, that I consciously set myself a reading goal. Although I knew it was a bit ambituous, I couldn’t bring myself to throw something out. I figured I’d prioritze over the year. And it kinda worked out well.

And of course, when you set yourself a goal, there should be a review at some point in time.

So here are the books I actually read in 2014, in the order I read them:

Non-Fiction

“Notes to a Software Teamlead” by Roy Osherove

Actually I listened to the audio-book, which was a great way to experience it.

Looking back though, I couldn’t really get much out of it. It’s a good book but apart from knowing about and sometimes working with the model of teams going through three phases, nothing more really stood out.

“Release It!” by Michael Nygard

This book, in contrast, totally blew my mind. Not only is it filled with so much great knowledge and patterns, it’s also a joy to read.

I would go as far and say this is a must-read for every developer who actually wants to see their code run in production, and should be used as a textbook to teach students the basics of operations.

“Ship It!” by Jared Richardson & William Gwaltney

“Ship It!” is a very concise and good read. It describes several very pragmatic practices on how to lead software projects. Even though that sounds like project management, the book is not in the least about project management. It’s more like a good friend’s advice on how one might make software projects sucessful.

“Art of Capacity Planning” by John Allspaw

That I admire John Allspaw isn’t a secret anymore. This book reinforces my opinion about him. Even though I couldn’t directly apply the main part of what the book is about, it’s a nice read and contains a lot of foundational knowledge about modern operations of software products.

“CQRS, The Example” by Mark Nijhof

This book contains a quick and easy introduction to a very specific CQRS implementation based on Event-Sourcing. It’s the basis of the first implementation of the vaamo codebase.

Recommended as an entry-level text into CQRS and Event Sourcing.

“Remote - Office not required” by Jason Fried & DHH

I expected not much, when starting this book. After all, DHH’s writing style and opinion is … let’s say, well known.

In the beginning there was no surprise. Without actually checking it, the first half of the book seemed to be excerpts of Signal-vs-Noise blog posts about the topic. The second half wasn’t a mindblow either but at least contained some new stabs at the topic.

Either way, if you’ve been living under a rock in the last years, then this book is a nice intro into the topic of remote work.

“Leading Snowflakes” by Oren Ellenbogen

This book was among the most influential for me in 2014. Oren, who also curates the much recommended Software Lead Weekly newsletter, has put together a super-concise and at the same time ultra-helpful list of concrete advices, that you can put to action almost immediately after reading. At the same time I’ve re-read so many passages of the book already, and will probably continue to do so.

It really is a must-have for everybody who even remotely considers themselves in a leadership position or simply wants to understand what leadership can mean in the software industry.
And with leadership I obviously don’t mean management.

“Hard Things about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz

I like Ben. He is partner at a venture firm (vc, vc fund, or whatever the correct term for that is) with a controversial partner, but who wants to judge other’s life choices.

Ben’s writing is always clear and to the point. The stories he sprinkles into his advice are usually captivating and help illustrate his points. This book is no exception and even though it contains quite some older blog content of his, it’s still or even more so an incredibly easy and at the same time useful read on management and leadership. What I found remarkable is that even though Ben clearly addresses CEOs as readers throughout the book, a lot if not all of the points he makes are applicable to non-CEO managers and leaders alike.

Go read it!

“Managing Humans” by Micheal Lopp

Sometime in 2014 I stumbled across several mentions of “Managing Humans” and enough time had passed (omg, is it six years already?!) since my last read and I thought should reread it. I did this over several midday breaks on several weekends, so I didn’t actually read the whole book but only the parts that were the most interesting to me at that point.

It’s a good book, that contains some solid advice. But even though Michael is an outstanding writer I found the advice buried under too many story details. Additionally a lot of advice seems only applicable to very special situations that you and your team have to be in in order to really make use of them.

“Sketchnote Book” by Mike Rohde

This is one of those gems where you think, “how did I not think of this myself and earlier?”.

If you’re thinking about how you can take more useful notes, be it during meetings or whirl listening to a conference talk, then go read it. Or even if you’re just thinking about how you can visualize better.

It’s a tremendously well structured and beautifully designed book, which could be read in one go, but will linger on your mind for so much longer.

Bonus points for giving me the best excuse ever to take a stab at my “conference & ted talks to watch” list.

“Ich will wissen was du wirklich brauchst” by Frank Gaschler & Gundi Gaschler

Sorry, for that german content here, but this book is one of the three books in 2014 that instantly made it onto my “left an outstanding and long-lasting impression”-list.

It’s about applying the non-violent communication principles in your family, especially in the relationship with your children, and really helped me understand and handle a lot of situations in our daily family life.

“The Will to Change - Men, Masculinity & Love” by Bell Hooks

This one is the third book on my already mentioned “left an outstanding impression”-list. Even though I haven’t finished it yet, it already made me aware of so many problematic things and circumstances in my daily life. Not the least important of them the realization that we really do live in a patriarchy.
Reading this book in conjunction with having kids in kindergarten age, it’s extra remarkable how much of our culture and society revolves around dominating others by way of some kind of violence. Isn’t it striking that many if not all three year olds already know how firearms are supposed to work?

In any case, this is a must-read for anybody who is wondering what this feminism-thing is and what role men can have in it.

“Causation: A Very Short Introduction” by Stephen Mumford and Rani Lill Anjum

Another book I haven’t finished completely yet, but still think is a great book and that I learned quite a bit from it already.

At times a bit theoretical, big surprise I know, yet it manages to take you on an intriguing ride through the answers philosophers of past and present had on the questions of cause and effect.

Fiction

As you can see I read quite some fiction novels. I especially liked Daniel Suarez’ books and also enjoyed “China Mountain Zhang” quite a bit because it was really different from the other ’standard’ as Sci-Fi novels. But I basically enjoyed all of them. Which may be related to the fact, that are all from only a small set of authors.

Unfinished Books

I have a bad habit of reading a lot of books in parallel, and sometimes pausing a bit longer on some of them. I plan to get back to most of them at some point.

But I also have the good habit of not finishing books that I don’t deem worthwhile. Which is not necessarily a judgement on their quality but often simply means, that they are not interesting or important enough for me right now.

Give me more

I’m quite some reading nerd, with a wide range of interests. If anything in the above lists makes you think I might like a certain book (or books), I’d love for you to tell me on twitter about it.

Hire me!