― Mark Twain
The power of the book
Quite a while ago, when I was starting my professional career I decided to dig deeper into the LabVIEW programming language to make the project I was working on back then better. As a part of that process, I read 4 books. After that I became a go-to person on the subject inside the company, I answered many questions on programming forums and gain some reputation there, participated in a couple of online competitions and won one of them. That was the first time I was really hit by the power of a good book.
A couple of years ago I adopted a more consistent and systematic approach to my reading and I'm still happy about it:
- Be consistent and read/listen 22-25 books a year
- Make notes (3-10 sentences) on every book during the reading process and revise notes once in a while
- Drop the book if I don't like it.
Number 3 is not easy to do. If you like a lot to finish everything you start, then this may often apply to books as well. However, there are so many good books. Does it really worth to push till the end the book we don't like at all and don't find useful? Just to say: "I did it! I read it!" Definitely not. Being able to finish what we start is an amazing skill, but in this case, it's an example of harmful perfectionism. So, I'm quite happy about the following rule #3.
The best from the last year
Back to the last year books... I won't bother you with the long review of all 25 books, dear reader, but I want to say a couple of words about books from different categories, which I liked the most:
Authenticity (by David Posen)
I would say this was the best book in 2018 for me. It is fun to read it, but at the same time it opens up the nature of the stress from many different angles.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
A big part of parenting is working on yourself. This book has many great advises and real-world examples. I have listened this book and it's so good, that I plan to read it this year. And I can't say I often go through the same book more than once.
The War of Art
When I have downtime or when I feel lazy, I go and re-read the first chapter. It's inspirational and simply amazing. I also liked a lot this quote: Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."
Born to Run
Some history, some running theory, facts about the human body, biography of very respectable people unified around one common topic: running.
I'm not even close to "serious runners", but I do like to run 10-12km one-two times a week. This book is fun to read, contains a lot of useful information and it, definitely, improved the quality of my runs. Also, this book was recommended by a friend of mine, who was a running coach and who participated in 100km races, which speaks for itself.
The Go Programming Language
The best book about the programming language for experienced programmers. Very short and detailed (yes, both, at the same time) explanation of important Golang idioms. It was my second Golang book, after working with Golang for a bit and reading multiple tutorials, but I would recommend this as a first Golang book for experienced software developers.
Hans-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow
There is a hype around machine learning for quite a while already. If you google something like "top N in-demand tech skills 2019", machine learning will be in each of the lists. Very likely at the top. I see that some machine learning knowledge can be a great complementary skill to software engineering skills, especially if you work with large distributed systems and big data (these days we see ML everywhere we see big data, isn't it?). This book is "developer friendly", it's very pragmatic, it has a good mix of theory and code (although it has quite a bit of math as well) and covers a lot of ML topics.
Fiction category and movies
I found that I read more professional, business and self-improvement books lately and watch a movie for a "fiction" content. I did enjoy fiction books last year as well, I just didn't include them in my short list.
I also noticed that when that rare "movie evening" comes (you know, two little kids...), I often have a hard time selecting a good movie to watch. I have never had such issues with books. My "want to read" list grows way faster when I "clean" it.