pragmatist
Patrick Joyce

January 9, 2017

What I Read in 2016

I finished 18 books this year.

I did a few things to read more.

First, trading a driving commute for a train commute opened up a lot more time for reading.

Second, every time I heard of a book I might like to read I added it to a list in Things.

Finally, I also discovered that the Berkeley Public Library has a surprisingly good selection of ebooks available to borrow and that they work and sync with my kindle and kindle apps just like a purchased book. I strongly prefer e-books to paper books; they're lighter, I always have my book with me, and I can read in bed on my iPad in negative text with the lights off without shining a big light at Royela.

However, it's always pained me a little to pay full price for a book I doubt I'll ever re-read and can't re-sell. Borrowing them from the library solves that problem.

Here are the books that I finished this year (with my favorites in bold):

January

  • The Song Machine - It is amazing how much pop music from the last 10 years was made by like 6 swedish dudes. I very much enjoyed this book but think that you could get most of the value of reading it from reading The New Yorker article of the same name
  • The Sports Gene - Examining human genetic diversity through elite athletes.
  • The First 90 Days - One of my colleagues recommeded this right as I was starting at Stitch Fix. I found it provided a useful framework for thinking about transitioning to a new position in a systematic way. That said there were quite a few parts that exemplified the negative stereotypes of MBAs (Paraphrasing: "You should treat your peers well so you can form alliances and have support" instead of because that is the decent thing to do). I've since recommended it to several people starting new positions on my team.

February

  • The Emperor of All Maladies - This is an amazing book. Siddhartha Mukherjee traces the evolution of our understanding of cancer starting in antiquity through the present. In doing so he also catalogues the evolution of medicine more generally. This book is long but well worth it.
  • The Whole Brain Child - Lighter on the neuroscience than I had hoped, but I feel I took a few lessons for helping to mold my tiny humans.

March

  • Galileo's Middle Finger - A fascinating exploration of gender, identity, and what happens when intellectual exploration crashes against orthodoxy (both conservative and liberal)
  • Antifragile - As with everything from Nassim Nicholas Taleb (The Black Swan) Antifragile is thought-provoking and original. It also is self congragulatory and desperately in need of an editor.

April

  • Sprint - We've started using design sprints with considerable success at Stitch Fix.

May

June

  • But What if We're Wrong? - Not my favorite Klosterman, but still interesting. I often find myself thinking of what parts of our present society will be considered barbaric by my grandchildren.

July

  • Flashboys - I would read Michael Lewis write about anything.

September

December

  • Rhinoceros (play) - I read this based on this article. I found the play deeply disquieting and disturbingly relevant to this moment in history.
  • Lush Life - This got added to my list after watching The Night Of. A gripping page-turner. I don't live in New York, but I recognize some of the characters.
  • 1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed - The promise of the book was to look at how bronze age civilization, rich with trade and learning, promptly collapsed. Unfortunately, it turns out we know almost nothing about events 3,000 years ago so there are a lot of caveats and speculation.
  • The Gene: An Intimate History - Similarly amazing to The Emperor of All Maladies.

A few books I started but didn't end up finishing:

More Articles on Software & Product Development

Agile With a Lowercase “a”
”Agile“ is an adjective. It is not a noun. It isn’t something you do, it is something you are.
How Do You End Up With A Great Product A Year From Now?
Nail the next two weeks. 26 times in a row.
Build it Twice
Resist the urge to abstract until you've learned what is general to a class of problems and what is specific to each problem.