There is barely any day for me without reading a book. And days I when I miss reading, it feels bad. It feels like my mind is hungry. Reading is as important as eating. When you eat you feed your body. When you read, you feed your mind.
That’s an important rule I live by.
That’s why I run a newsletter and a dedicated page about books that are worth to read.
It’s time to evaluate the year - which was great despite the pandemic, more about this in another article -, and it’s also worth to think about which books I liked the most, which books I could recommend to you.
This year, I managed to read about 20 books and I picked 9.
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
I write a summary on most books I like and I link them in this article. For this one, I have none. The reason is simple, I’ve just finished the book of Tony Robbins, one of the most important motivational speakers and I haven’t had the time to write the review.
This book is simply amazing. It’s not simply a book with stories about people who managed to turn their life around, it’s more like an exercise book how to radically change your life with small steps.
The author offers a lot of actionable items. Questions to ask yourself, questions that you should reply with brutal honesty. If you follow up on the action items, you are going to change your mindset and become a much happier and more successful person. Whatever success means to you. That meaning you’ll also have to define along with the book if you haven’t done so.
Probably the most important in this book is that it makes you think about your values. You won’t just list your values, but you will have to deeply think about what they mean to you and what rules you have to satisfy so that you feel you truly live by your values.
Read it and take the time to follow through the exercises.
Remember, reading a book and not applying what you learnt is the biggest waste of time.
12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
Human lives are built around rules for millennia. You can think about ten commandments to start with, the laws of Hammurabi and in fact all the laws, rules and regulations we have ever had to follow. What we do at work are guided by rules that we call processes. What we can do in life is controlled via laws made by our leaders.
There are different systems, somewhere whatever is not allowed is permitted (like in Japan), in other societies anything that is not permitted, is allowed.
The goal is the same. To provide a system that helps people living together as a functioning society.
Jordan Peterson’s book is for those who look for a meaningful life and are interested in the thoughts of one of the most important thinkers nowadays. While he is a psychiatrist, he is also a witty writer. He doesn’t only give rules, he tells stories from his life, his medical practice and from science. Some are quite tough and sad. Yet, this is not a book to make you feel bad about your life and society. It’s a book about how to stand up straight with your shoulders back and succeed through all the adversities you will face.
Personality Isn’t Permanent by Benjamin Hardy
What if I told you that you can design your life? Just as software craftsmanship claims that you should be in control of your professional growth and career, Benjamin P Hardy claims that you should be in control of the personality you internalize. You can and should be the designer of your future self.
In his book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, Hardy drives you through the process of this change. He asks tons of questions that are not so easy to answer with full honesty, and it definitely takes time and courage. But if you do so, you are going to get a clearer vision of where you are going in your life and where you could go.
A self-improvement book supported by examples and research. Read it twice. First, read it through let it sink in a bit and the second time, grab your journal and answer all the questions of Personality Isn’t Permanent.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Good to Great is a must-read if you are looking for the concepts that help many companies to become significantly better than the rest. According to the research conducted by Jim Collins and his team, great companies focused on having the right and only the right people first.
They were not unconditionally optimistic. They had a strong faith that they will endure and make success, but they were not afraid of confronting the sometimes brutal facts of reality. This is also called the Stockdale paradox.
The leadership teams of these companies strongly focused on understanding themselves, the companies, the business in general, until they could form their Hedgehog concept around what they are passionate about, what they could be the best at the world while still being profitable.
My full summary will be published next Saturday.
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
Why you should read this book? Because it gives you a much deeper understanding and appreciation of our field. If you learned a lot of CS - either at school or from books - you might be able to simply skim through certain chapters, but even so, it will put some events into context. Your PC/laptop will be less of a black box for you and you’ll understand better the works of people such as Shannon, von Neumann or even people working with potentially more low-level languages such as C/C++ not to mention Assembly.
You’ll understand the difficulties behind building a full adder circuit, something most of us wouldn’t be able to do these days - and can be a “tricky” interview question.
If you are not interested in what is inside the box if you just want things to work and don’t care about whether you understand or not as long as it works, this book is not for you. But if you want to look behind the scenes, if you are interested in long-forgotten connections, decisions that influenced the way we work, even if it seemingly doesn’t make sense now, Code: The Hidden Language is for you. And reading a relatively long book is a cheap price to pay for such knowledge.
Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Harari is sometimes positive, sometimes a bit more negative concerning our history and future. There is no black and white.
All the development, the conquest of the world, and the unification of most humans into one global economy brought as so many things. Less cultural and biodiversity, more work, and stress for what? Well according to the author literally for nothing. We have no biological purpose apart from passing through our genes to the next generations. Only the different religions (including all the -isms) can give relief. But all these are the invention of the human mind. Human rights don’t exist. Values don’t exist. Only in our minds. This is all fine, but we must remember those are the product of our wonderful imagination.
According to Harari, homo sapiens soon will be gone. We can’t even understand what is coming, just like Neanderthals couldn’t have understood Hamlet. What is sure that we are on the path of creating a godlike species with (a)mortality, superior physical realities and it’s time to think about what we want to become as a species. Or better to say “what do we want to want”?
Real-World Bug Hunting by Peter Yarowski
This book is about hacking. It will walk you through the fundamentals of being a bug hunter, such as finding bug bounty programs or how to write proper bug reports. Then it explains the OWASP Top 10 Project and each item from the list - and more. For each vulnerability, it will bring real-life examples of how they were exploited and how much money the hackers made it with it.
I enjoyed reading this book. While it’s highly technical, due to a lot of real-world examples and a bit of the human part of the bug bounties it became something very pleasant to read. It also proved to be an extremely useful material for creating content for my knowledge-sharing sessions in the company.
Just don’t forget one thing. Breaking applications, and see the results can be cool. But you must be aware of the consequences. Do you remember or have you ever heard about the Myspace Samy Worm? Read on to find out what happened to Samy.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Extreme Ownership is the legendary leadership book written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin who started to teach businesses about leadership and strategy in their civilian life and also wrote multiple books. First of all, what is Extreme Ownership? It is about owning your decisions and all their consequences all the time, whether your team succeeded or failed. If the team failed, it’s your fault and you should not cover yourself with bad excuses. You step up, take ownership of the outcome, analyze what mistakes led to that situation and make sure it won’t happen next time.
As a leader, you have to understand that even if a subordinate fails, it’s your fault. It’s you who haven’t prepared him for the operation/project well enough.
Functional Programming in C++ by Ivan Cukic
If you are someone who grew up eating OO paradigms for breakfast, notably in C++, this is an ideal book to learn about FP concepts. It starts at a very high level and then little by little goes into details. You might not even read it from cover to cover because you are not that much interested in template metaprogramming and functional design of a whole system, but still, I’d recommend reading it for curiosity. Besides universal FP concepts, you’ll also learn a lot about the main ideas behind the STL implementation. In particular, you’ll understand why you have to pass an input range by two iterators and why you have run into a concrete wall if you wanted to compose multiple STL algorithms.
With C++20 we have something in the standard library that overcomes this issue of the STL and that was already available since C++14 through an external library: ranges. I don’t say that this book is a step-by-step tutorial for ranges and it shouldn’t be. But it clearly expresses concepts behind and gives you enough examples so that you understand the basics and you want to discover more.
In fact, by the time you reach the chapter on ranges, you clearly wish something like that existed in the language. Is this a value of the structuring of this book or the library itself?
Thanks for reading!
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What were you favourite books that you read this year?