What are you reading? January 2020 Edition

How is your new year going so far? Maybe you committed to reading more books in 2020? If so, how is that going? I usually split what I’m reading into business, technical and fun books, but you are welcome to post however you’d like!

Here is last month’s post as reference: December 2019

I’m currently (slowly) reading Antenna Theory by Balanis
My fun book is Bonk by Mary Roach

  • Technical:
  • Fun: I’ve been reading some of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels – Napoleonic wars derring-do. I’d been hoping for a land-based equivalent of Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin novels and while they’re not quite as good, they’re pretty entertaining.
  • Other:
    • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann.
    • Die Liebermann Papiere by Frank Tallis. This is German reading, which is slow for me, but I’d always thought early 20th Century Vienna would be a good setting for detective novels, and this is the start of a series (unfortunately, I discovered after I started it that it’s translated from English, so I’m still on the lookout for “real” Viennese crime fiction!).

For fun I finished The Last Firewall by William Hertling

Educational it’s Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Technical, still slugging through AoE by Horowitz and Hill. Haven’t picked up the X files yet. :slight_smile:

I loved the Sharpe series, the TV show wasn’t too bad, one of the few times where Sean Bean didn’t die.

On the business side I’m reading Profit First. More of a general business accounting topic. For fun I finally read the Elon Musk biography. Does anyone else feel guilty when reading their fun books? I totally feel guilty everytime.

Yep! I try and switch off between “junk food” books, as I call them, and something more useful. Though I argue the relaxation efforts are useful in their own right.

That said, I went on a tear this past month, mostly due to wanting to listen to more junk food books, so I raced through other “wholesome” books in between. Also there was a sale where I bought a bunch of audio books and I had a bunch of time on the bench to listen while soldering.

  • Currently reading
  • Recently finished
    • Technical
      • Womp womp
    • Business
      • Atomic Habits - James Clear
        • This was brought up because of New Year resolution, which I don’t really do. But as a self help junkie, this was a system for changing my own behavior and making small changes for a better output. I have been successfully following a lot of the tenets of this book and have been making some positive change in my life.
      • Peak - Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
        • This was written by the author of studies that were often quoted by Malcolm Gladwell (often incorrectly) about the 10,000 hour rule. This is a much more in-depth look at what makes people operate at the top of their game. I will need to re-read this again, I believe, since there is a lot of anecdotal knowledge that I did not tease out. Perhaps I’ll re-read it in Cliff’s note form or a synopsis blog post.
      • Elon Musk - Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
        • Written in 2015, so some of the stuff was out of date. It was interesting reading about the “things we’ll be doing next year”, as predicted by Elon, but that still haven’t happened (Dragon Capsule, for instance). It’s an interesting look at a very driven, very crazy person. As I told some people about this, I’m glad Elon is out there doing what he’s doing. He earns what he has made and I’m glad he’s making (mostly) positive change in the technological world. I would never ever work for him though. Oh my, it does not sound pleasant (nor do I think I’m up to the task, quite honestly).
      • Never Split The Difference - Negotiating as if your life depended on it
        • I know the author was a negotiator, but the title is a bit misleading. I think it’s more about how to interact with other humans and use empathy to get what you want. Lots of great anecdotes from his time as a hostage negotiator.
    • Enjoyment
      • Shift - Hugh Howie (book 2 of the Wool series)
      • Dust - Hugh Howie (book 3 of the Wool series)
        • The Wool series I had been listening to was a good dystopian set. It was all underground, and covers a range of stories about the characters living throughout different “ages” of the silos that they live in. It was a bit easier to tell that the author had written the first short story, which got extended to a book, which then got extended to a series. It ended up all tying together, but I’m not sure how planned out the plot was at the beginning. I liked how the author covered a lot of the science of what would possibly be required to live underground, but the logistics of it all were a bit unbelievable, mostly the amount of hydroponic/indoor gardening area they had per human living there. If you don’t stress too much about that aspect, it was a lot of fun to read and was a good look at human nature, as all good sci fi ultimately highlights.
      • We are legion (we are Bob) - Bobiverse, book 1
      • For we are many - Bobiverse, book 2
        • The Bobiverse is one of my favorite Sci Fi series I have ever read. I listed book three as “in progress” this month, but that’s only because I started it on January 30th. I finished the book the next day. It’s so good. It’s all journal entries from a software engineer who dies and his consciousness becomes a computer. I am sad that series is over.
      • The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
        • Written by the podcast of the same name (which I haven’t ever listened to), this was a great set of stories and techniques for critically analyzing information in a crazy over-saturated world of information.
1 Like

So good! I read the Bobiverse books interleaved with Neal Stephenson’s Fall, or Dodge in Hell. Such a similar starting point (programmer who dies), but such a different afterlife direction!

I’ve recently found John Cutler’s blog. He’s a product evangelist/product manager at Amplitude, an analytics startup, and he clearly knows his shit regarding product management and development.


This essay is a personal favorite of what I’ve read so far, but I haven’t read anything from him that I feel was not worth my time.

I understand that mileage may vary on that sentiment - Cutler talks a brand of talk that naturally makes many engineers suspicious. His transparency in publishing his thoughts comes across as a strong signal to me that he’s pretty trustworthy - lousy PMs rarely leave written record of their bad decisions, as they understand proof generally leads to accountability.