Title: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement - 30th Anniversary Edition
Author: Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox
Duration: 12 hrs
Review: The only thing that matters is the constraint. Defend the constraint This book right here, this book is THE WAY...this is the first methodology that can be described as a true ancestor of Lean Development...for anyone who is trying to help a team build complex stuff. Especially stuff that requires a complex production line. Hint: software systems pretty much fit the definition of stuff, the building of which, requires a complex production line. If you don't believe me just check out your Jira workflow diagrams for stories, tasks, bugs etc. Anyway, I loved this book.
Review: Great research on all the different ways that equity and control splits go right, and go wrong. The take away: you should assume, assume that everything will change, talk through as many eventualities as you can imagine with your co-founders. Inspiring quantity and quality of research.
I really enjoyed reading it.
Title: ZAG: The Number-One Strategy of High Performance BrandsStrategic Thinking Skills
Author: Marty Neumeier
Duration: 2 hrs
Review: I really liked this short little gem of a branding book. Your brand is your relationship to your customer, nothing less. Its what you mean to your customer. Neumeier artfully and powerfully argues for what he calls "radical differentiation" I'm sure i'll come to this book again, it was just too fun and went by too fast. I recommend it to anyone thinking about their branding strategy.
Review: I loved this book. Especially the fist half. Stephenson, as usual, brings in all the minute technical detail, this time the domain is near-earth space survival (i loved LOVED this part). I so the encyclopedic nature of this author: science, philosophy, technology, psychology, all in stories that span millennia. So cool.
Title: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Author: Jeff Sutherland
Duration: 6.5 hrs
Review: I don't recommend this book to anyone who has been doing agile scrum for a while. It's a cheerleading collection of examples of uses where scrum saved the day, but it doesn't have any advice for the many day to day difficulties of implementing scrum: stories routinely get carried over into future sprints, pressures to change scope mid-sprint, the tendency for testing to be back loaded into the sprint (all stories coming to a ready-for-testing-state at once, near the end of the sprint), the level of effort for developers to support their stories through testing is difficult to estimate in points, maintenance work is continuous, as opposed to periodic, and doesn't lend its self well to time windows like sprints, product teams often need to be larger than a half dozen and many other real problems inherent in the scrum methodology. Don't get me wrong, I haven't yet found a better way; as far as I'm concerned the agile scrum methodology is the best process framework for software development. But, it's still very hard to develop high quality software in an efficient and predictable way, and this book didn't offer me anything to help with the hard parts of agile scrum software development.
Review: I really enjoyed this page turner of a yarn. Some interesting ideas, but mostly, for me, just a good ol' space adventure with lots of action. This story has some emotional and inter-relational human complexities and nuances that don't usually make it into military space expedition stories. I liked it and would recommend it to anyone.
Review: "Between stimulus and response, there is a space...". The incredible memoir of Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and founder of Logotherapy. Frankl successfully explains where resilience comes from
Title: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Author: Daniel H. Pink
Duration: 6 hrs
Review: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose...right, got it. Interesting and useful if somewhat overstated. Also, very interesting ideas regarding the motivational effectiveness of carrots; It's not in the carrots themselves but in the way that they are offered.
Title: "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything"
Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Duration: 6.5 hrs
Review: More Super fun explorations and explanations of apparent paradoxes, that, once explained are revealed to be shaped by the same forces as other, less controversial reasoning for observations. Why do very successful drug dealers still live with their parents? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime. What makes this book, indeed, this genre so fun is that the authors, in this case Levitt and Dubner, manage to find the quantifiable, which is the trustworthy explanation, for phenomena that are not readily quantified. Super fun read... I recommend it to anyone.
Title: "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions"
Author: Dan Ariely
Duration: 7 hrs
Review: I love this "new economics" genre. Call it what you will: behavioral economics, social psycology, freakanomics, its all great. What I especially appreciate about Dan Ariely's work though, is that he is such a prolific and inventive experimenter. The emphasis on the tools of psychology and the resulting ability to create resourceful and elegant experiments to test hypotheses, and to illustrate generalizable truths is what distinguishes Ariely and makes me love him.
I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone.
Review: This is SUCH a great read. I loved it. An perfect example of "Realistic SciFi". The main character is a really smart and resourceful (huge understatement) engineer who is also full of pop-culture witticisms and jokes. What else could you possibly want?
I recommend this book to anyone who loves science, space, a thrilling story of survival, man against nature (martian nature).
Title: "MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom"
Author: Tony Robbins
Duration: 21 hrs
Review: If you can stomach the salesy style; Robins actuall says "secrets of the ultra wealthy" in the book, this book delivers A LOT of very valuable information and essential practices for getting your financial house in order. I found it very useful and Also, the hyper-optimistic "coach" style and accompanying "I can do it" emotional high is a plus for us sentimental types.
I recommend it to those with a high threshold for salesmanship.
Review: A master doing what he does best. Great plot, filled with interesting elements: class conflict, historical and cultural commentary, powerful technologies that are so new that the societal changes they portend are just barely beginning to be understood, amazing nuanced invention of a near and medium term future. Gibson is so good at this: simple moral situation, nuanced everything else, and truly gifted ability for extension of technological change within cultural and social constants.
Title: "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change"
Author: Stephen R. Covey
Duration: 13 hrs
Review: Fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. Got it! Thanks.
No really, it turns out that good character really is the key to solving most of the personal and professional problems we'll ever face. This self help classic is all about describing what good character is made of and how we might come to develop it by habit of thought. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any anyone. I should read this book once a year.
Title: "Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None"
Author: Friedrich Nietzsche
Duration: 12 hrs
Review: I love reading Nietzsche for the quality and purity of the sheer rebellion. Nietzsche reminds us that nothing, NOTHING is a given, that every single assumption, from the smallest to the deepest, from the moral to the empirical, is up for grabs. Listening to the thoughts and words of the Superman Zarathustra is nothing but pleasure. A master of moral philosophy and a wonderful writer, reading Nietzsche reminds me of reading William Blake, but simpler, sharper and more accessible. Reading Nietzsche is fun and challenging for me in a way that I haven't been been challenged for quite some time: Literary Greatness challenging. Thanks Liberal Humanities Education, you continue to have been worth it despite what everyone says.
Review: What can I say about Atlas Shrugged? I loved it. As literature, Atlas Shrugged is pretty weak. The characters are wooden, the dialogue is cheesy and sentimental, and the plot is conventional, but, the heros of this political distopia novel are so convinced of their rightiousness, and I am also so convinced of it, that I cant help but root for them. I love the speechifying, the grandstanding, and the moralizing. Rand would make a great political speech writer, in fact, the whole novel is a political speech, and the characters, mere mouth pieces for Rand's moral and political views. Of course she sets up a situation in which the decisions are easy to make as the hero capitalists are honorable, humain and true to their convictions while the socialists are corrupt, nihilistic and cowardly. In this set up, its easy to root for the capitalists.
One thing to keep in mind is that the viewes aren't so much pro-capitalist, though they plainly are that, as much as a reaction against totalitarian collectivesim. The novel can easily be interpreted as a reaction against the revolutioanry movement that confiscated her family's small business and displaced them from their home. Rand immigrated/escaped from Russia in 1926. Although Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, Rand started to work on the novel in 1943.
I've been meaning to read this book since I learned of it in my early twenties and it didnt dissapoint. It's a wonderful self-help book filled with strong, iconic go-getters who bend the world to their noble vision. I'd reccomend it to anyone.
Review: Fun techno-thriller, present day science fiction, about the struggle between a physicist inventor and a shadowy quasi-governmental organization that is charged with controlling the rate of technological change. When the Bureau of Technology Control goes rogue, using its huge technological lead to suppress emerging technologies, it's up to our hero inventor and his friends to save the world.
Title: "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business"
Author: Charles Duhigg
Duration: 10 hrs and 57 mins
Review: Cue, routine, reward. This is the basic formula for so much of what fills our days. In this book, the author shows us this structure in a surprisingly large swath of life, both personal life, and group and collective life including family and business activities. I liked this book. It gave me some insights into building, or at least thinking about products that emphasize this structure, cue routine, reward, and how they would be, as a result of this emphasis, more likely to take off and become consolidated in user's lives. Also, it reinforced my belief in the very strong effect that this structure has on human beings and activities. We rely on the habit structure as a mental shortcut that allows us to not re-think the many thousands of actions, and even thoughts, that we need everyday. Many of our most basic needs, are provided for by utilizing a habit structure.
The Febreze case that Duhigg relates is really interesting and illustrative of the fact that you need the entire structure, all three elements in the right order to create a product that fully takes advantage of the habit loop.
This book inspired me to think about products from this perspective. The habit structure is neither good nor bad, and this vital mental structure can be used to sell fast food just as well as it can be used to get people to brush their teeth, or even spend more time with, or stop yelling at their kids. Those of us that think about product design, and especially those of us that try to make pro-social, "good" products should really consider this more and try to design to it. I liked this book and recommend it for anyone who wants to better understand people, especially, themselves.
Title: "Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit"
Author: Daniel Quinn
Duration: 2 hrs and 56 mins Abridged
Review: This book uses a Socratic dialogue between a hyper-educated gorilla and his observant and nimble human pupil to expose some very interesting ideas. What is the mythological basis underpinning modern culture? Civilized people are enacting a story in which we need to destroy the earth. This story is collectively called Mother Culture in this book, and the tales that Mother Culture tells are instantly recognizable to us moderns: that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and that we were "created" to dominate the earth and other animals, that we'll keep inventing our way to ever more resources through exercising our god-given cleverness, AKA being productive. That this productivity is moral and good, and that the opposite of this is bestial and lazy. The effects or consequences of this world view on ethics, especially in regards to ecology, sustainability, our future, and on basic justice have been building for some time and are now accelerating and quickly coming to a head. I recommend this book to anyone willing to look deeply at what s/he believes makes us human. This book is very short and dense, yet totally accessible. I liked this book a lot.
Review: Dave Eggers is one of my favorite living writers. This book is ambitious in its scope and very deliberately and expertly crafted in its language. What does it mean to be an American in a globalized world? What does it mean to be past your prime as a salesperson, as a man? What does it mean to be a father, unable to make good on promises and expectations? What does it mean to be human being among strangers? This sad, very well-written, slow little novel probably won't win any awards, but I liked it a lot by the end.
Review: Superfun, near future, techno-dystopia. I really enjoyed the ideas in these books. The dialogue is wooden, and the characters are cardboard cutouts; the writing, in general, is pretty weak. But, the ideas are amazing. The gist: a genius programmer/game designer with the engineering capability of 10,000 Googles creates a distributed program to replace a government that's been taken over by corporate interests. In the world of this story, much like our own, corporations have government in their pockets. Unlike our own world however, corporate power, in the world of the book, is completely unchecked, used to achieve uniformly selfish and myopic ends, and is in short, always evil.
The corporations, first with the aid of government, and then on their own, battle this program for control of the masses. Aside from the very detailed and realistic illustrations of the risks posed by the hyper-connected, insufficiently diverse, overly complex, brittle systems on which we depend for our survival, the book also attempts to weave through consequences of the fragility of these systems to democracy, meritocracy, and individual and collective agency.
Review: The gist: What we think of as normal economic order, the economics of the period between 1950 and 1990 was an anomaly. The shocks of the two world wars of the 20th century basically leveled the playing field (lessened inequality) and made old money not nearly as important as it always had been previously, and, according to Picketty, will resume being starting at about the year 2000 (indeed, has already resumed being). Basically, inheritances will resume their role as the primary resting place for wealth, vast stashes of capital will once again rule the land, and extreme inequality will once again become the norm.
Extreme inequality is neither natural nor accidental and can only be addressed by intense state intervention in the form of a global tax on capital and a progressive income tax. He argues that allowing extreme inequality, particularly because vast stashes of capital just generate more wealth on their own, threatens democracy by undermining its core value, meritocracy. Rich people get richer just by virtue of having tons of capital that generates wealth on its own, disconnected from the individual effort and ability of the owner.
Review: I loved it! What an incredibly creative and spectacular yarn. Dune is a beautiful mix of boy hero tale, religious awakening, ecological awareness, epic battle between cultures, but most of all, conflict between ones life and ones Terrible Purpose. Awesome, fun, page turner of a read!!
Review: I'd been meaning to read this book for years, or decades really. It didn't disappoint. A great boyish tale of a boy hero who saves the world from the invading horrible monsters. I really enjoyed it.
Review: I love this infuriatingly slow family disfunction novel. Jonathan Franzen is a master! I've been meaning to read The Corrections ever since I read Freedom, which I also LOVED! Incredible writer. Awesome!
Review: Until this book, I have really liked all of Dave Eggers' books. This one, made an impact on me, but I just wanted to be angry at the book all the time. The ideas about privacy and social media were interesting, but in this book they were made more flat and simplistic by a context in which the society seems to have never considered privacy issues before. Also, the characters that inhabit the tech company which is the setting of the story seem to want more of what Copeland's "Microserfs" did really well.
"What deserves that kind of bile that people throw out? Sometimes they throw it out at literary fiction, which is like dressing up in full body armor to go attack an ice-cream cone. I mean, just take it easy. [Laughs.] Back up, take a breath—it's a novel, you know what I mean?"
Review: I suppose that back in the day the idea that users aren't to blame for their inability to efficiently use badly designed tools was revolutionary. For me, this book suffered from overly high expectations. Meh.
Title: "Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships"
Author: Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha
Duration: 10 hrs and 57 mins
Review: Great read! It turns out that we think we're more like chimpanzees than bonobos because we've been studying chimpanzees longer. I disagree with half of the ideas in this book, but they are still thought provoking and well written. I liked this book!