Chris James - Software developer and other things

Books I've read recently

Published on 22 June 2015

I can’t sell these books well enough, which is why I’m not an author or a salesman. I did really enjoy them, you might too.

The Nature of Software Development

If you’ve practiced agile software development for a while this will feel like an echo chamber, there’s nothing really new here. But it’s a reassuring echo chamber when things aren’t quite going as well as you’d like.

It reminds you how simple it can all be and that is reflected in how easy it is to read. It can easily be read over a weekend.

The Lean Startup

A bit of a classic, the book directs you to measure the success of every feature you make and see if it’s valuable, to hopefully point you toward a successful product.

It’s very tightly bound with agile software, build measure learn.

It can sometimes be quite hard to put into practice but every time you don’t follow it’s principles you know you’re making excuses.

“Make useful products” - harder than you think.

Outliers

This book discusses how people become successful or not. It tries to debunk the romanticism that is put behind entrepreneurs and instead analyses the situations that surround them and how they really benefit them, or not.

That’s not to say talent doesn’t play a part, just that it’s only part of the equation. It’s a fascinating book with some great stories of success but really makes you think about how society is so potentially wasteful of talent.

The Power of Habit

Yet more pop psychology, but a really fascinating read on how prominent habit is not only your own life but in organisations. It’s a fun look at human nature and how it is possible to change those bad habits, and where people/companies get it wrong.

Reality is broken

This is a lovely book on gamification, talking about how people get into the zone and become productive. It’s easy to think about this as a guide book into making cheesy apps to try and make a quick buck but it has also made me think about how my own productivity is effected by things such as distractions or the way the work is laid out.

Thinking fast and slow

This books teaches you to think about the way you think. This is quite important because you are biased. It essentially weighs up your fast brain (instinct) and slow brain (deeper thinking) and when you should trust them.

It aims to make you better at decision making, which everyone should be interested in.

In progress

Cakes, custard and Category Theory

I wish Eugenia Cheng had been my maths teacher. In light of reading Outliers I wish she was everyone’s maths teacher.

She really “sells” mathematics beautifully in a way that just makes you want to do it all over again.

I think my favourite point she has made so far is how people often accuse abstraction as being too divorced from reality to be useful. When actually, abstraction is zooming in on the essence of ideas. Maths has always had a close relationship with programming but I don’t think I’ve appreciated it as much as I have now that I’ve read only 25% of this book.

The Glimpse of Truth: The 100 finest short stories ever written

In my attempt at being slightly more cultured I thought I’d read something that isn’t:

  • Tech
  • Fantasy
  • Pop psychology
  • Distopia
  • Steinbeck

The price of inequality

Being a bleeding heart liberal I get wound up easily over my perceived injustices in the world. I truly believe that if we could open up opportunities for everyone (hello again, Outliers) we can all benefit. This book, by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, describes how we’re totally fucking it all up.

And books on my list…

  • Lean Enterprise
  • The little ML-er
  • Learn You a Haskell For Great Good (attempt #3)