I’m always on the lookout for books to add to my reading list, even though it continues to grow faster than my reading pace. Case in point – near the end of 2014, I saw a post on one of my favorite tech blogs Gizmodo titled “Bill Gates’ favorite books of 2014 are the smart gifts for the holidays“. The top book on his list was The Rosie Effect, which was the Graeme Simsion’s sequel to The Rosie Project. It didn’t neatly fit into one of my typical reading genres of science fiction or business biographies, but being it was at the top of Gates’ best books for 2014, I figured it must be decent, so I added it to my reading list. Well, it took over a year, but The Rosie Effect finally made it to the top of the queue. Since I don’t like starting with the sequel, I figured I should start out by reading The Rosie Project first. Quite honestly, despite being highly recommended, I don’t personally know Bill Gates, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I set an ambitious reading goal for 2015. I wanted to read 35 books, 33 of which were supposed to come from this list. I managed to read 25 books for the year, which was down from the 27 I read in 2014. Of the 25 I read last year, 17 came from my list, and 8 jumped the queue. For some reason, 8 seems to be the magic number as that was the same number that jumped the queue in 2014.
Even though I didn’t make my goal of 35, it was still a good year for reading. I focused my reading on authors that I like, recommendations from trusted sources (of the human variety), and a mix of primarily science fiction and business. I did my best to stay away from book series and trilogies, and focused my business reading on story-based biography books.
Here are the best books I read in 2015, which you may want to use to seed your 2016 reading list. As I did last year, I’ve broken the list into three categories: general recommendations, business books, and those I found entertaining which didn’t make my Must Reads list.
I’ve grown tired of the trilogy. I really have. I wish authors would write one book that is a complete story, or just publish the three books as one tome. I’m not a fan of drawing a story out into three books, and I don’t get the rationale behind it. Then again, I’m not an author, so what do I know?
There are exceptions, however, and the Uncommon Stock series by Eliot Peper is one of them. After reading Uncommon Stock 1.0, the book was good enough that I decided to venture into Uncommon Stock: Power Play, which then drew me into Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy.
When I started my deep dive into sci-fi reading a couple of years back, a friend of mine, Andrew Schmitt, recommended that I read Neuromancer by William Gibson. While some shy away from a classic written 30 years ago, I looked at it as required reading if I wanted to really understand the genre. Plus, the book came highly recommended, which has become one of the key criteria in screening my extensive reading list that I’ve been stumbling through this year.
To say that Neuromancer is a classic sci-fi novel is an understatement. It really needs to be required reading for anyone venturing into the genre. In addition to coining the term “cyberspace”, there are many other themes that have been taken forward in other science fiction works. As I was reading the book, I could see how the book influenced classic science fiction movies like The Matrix. The themes present in other books are too numerous to mention.
I am on a quest to continuously improve my understanding of software development, particularly as it applies to agile development practices. I started it by reading one of the classics on software development, The Mythical Man Month, which I found very informative. While good, I wanted something that would help me understand the concepts behind agile software development. I read a couple of books on creating user stories a few months ago, but I still felt like I was missing critical pieces to the puzzle. Then I read User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product by Jeff Patton.
According to my standards, I’ve read quite a few books over the last three years. When I decided to increase my rate of reading, I relied a lot on the Amazon recommendation engine (which I pretend to hate) to fill my reading list. That worked well for the first year or so, but this year I decided to populate my reading list as much as possible with books recommended by trusted sources or written by authors I like. Since I really enjoyed the Silo series by Hugh Howey, I decided to add his next book titled Sand to the list.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I approached Sand with a bit of trepidation. The premise of a society mired in dirt and grit didn’t seem like it would make for much of a story. However, since I liked Wool so much, I figured I should give it a shot. Hugh Howey didn’t let me down.
That’s what happened to me recently when William Hertling, the author of the Singularity Series, finished the fourth installment titled The Turing Exception. The Turing Exception picks up 10 years after the completion of The Last Firewall. In addition to introducing the effects of advanced nanotech, It adds another layer of artificial intelligence into the mix, the ability to upload your mind to a computer. It makes for some interesting plot dynamics and gives you even more to think about if (and when) the technology becomes available. There are some vexing moral quandaries and dilemmas presented which Hertling leaves for the reader to ponder on their own.
I have had great success with reading recommendations from Brad Feld’s blog. The latest is Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0 by Eliot Peper. It’s the lead title for a new entrant into the publishing industry – FG Press. They are an outgrowth of the Foundry Group venture capital firm where Brad Feld is a partner. According to FG Press, the book publishing industry will change radically over the next five years, and they want to be at the forefront of this change by “experimenting constantly in order to build a strong community around long-form written content in the domain of entrepreneurship.” With Uncommon Stock, they picked an excellent work to serve as their lead title.
A few months ago, I discovered a new blog via Seth Godin called A Learning a Day. It’s a great blog to follow, and I particularly liked a recent post on the site titled Being Human. There was one particular passage that resonated with me:
In the really long run (i.e. generations later), almost no one will remember us or know we existed anyway. What really matters is that we live a life that means something to us and brings us happiness. There’s nobody else we really need to please. So, let’s be ourselves, and always remember… to be human.
The passage had more impact than normal since I had just watched The Men Who Built America and was in the middle of reading The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. It’s a passage that applies to all of these entrepreneurs, or capitalists if you prefer that term. They all have (or had) a desire to live a life that means something and to build something that is greater than themselves. They want(ed) to leave their mark on the world.
One of the criteria I used to build my 2015 reading list was selecting books by authors I’d previously read and liked. Since I enjoyed the Origin Mystery Series by A.G. Riddle (all three books in the series made my Must Read list), adding Departure to my 2015 reading list was a no-brainer. I also liked that the book was stand-alone and not part of another series or trilogy.