I try to read around one book per month. In this post, I leave you with some notes, not so much a review, about each of the 12 books I’ve read in 2023.
Oh, and I’ve arranged the books roughly by the impact they’ve had on me, not by the order in which I’ve read them.
Author: Walter Isaacson
Simply put, the best book that I remember ever reading — and I will definitely read it again in the future. It was fascinating to learn about the accomplishments and life style of someone that has brought tremendous change to the world. Elon’s achievements cannot be understated — and this book walks us through them — while also trying to get the reader to have an open mind about difficult people like Elon (about whom there's a lot to like, and dislike).
Author: Richard P. Feynman
I had heard a lot about Feynman. However, I didn’t know his life had been this interesting. Nor that he himself was such an engaging person. "Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!" is an absolute joy to read, and whether you like physics or not, reading it will blow your mind (multiple times). Moreover, it will get you laughing out loud (multiple times).
It is, however, not very easy to describe what this book is about, as it is a very loose autobiography. Feynman was a distinguished physics researcher and professor, and he’s most notorious for his fascinating lectures. The book itself is a recollection of several tales from his life, which involve growing up in the Northeast and studying at MIT in the 1930s, as well as working on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. There isn’t, then, a "common thread" to the whole book, or a specific set of takeaways that Mr. Feynman wants the reader to get. But, perhaps, that’s what makes this book so amazing.
Author: Tom D. Crouch
This is a biography of the Wright brothers, and it goes into how they created the first airplane, and their challenges with trying to establish a business out of it. The actual process of developing those first prototypes is described in great depth, and it was fascinating to learn about how crude the entire operation was. The book was a good reminder that going back to the basics when it comes to engineering work can often yield outsized results. If you’re at all curious about airplanes and aerodynamics, this is a really good book for you.
Coincidentally, I was lucky to see the first Wright flier earlier this year. It is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC:
Author: Thomaz Vieira da Cruz
"Viti, Vini, Vici" is an ode to the process of making wine, written from the lens of a tenured wine maker from Portugal. It’s incredibly raw, and it reads like a collection of poetic musings and passionate rants about wine production. At the same time, it is also very technical — I loved reading about the complexity and the science behind creating a good wine, but also about how wine should be drank!
(This is a very niche book, it only has 6 ratings on Goodreads!)
Author: Lauren Fleshman
A very good friend recommended this book as a way to learn about the challenges women face in the professional running world. And I’m so glad that I read it. Lauren, the author, has been through a lot and her experience is mesmerizing. I just couldn’t stop reading it, and I think anybody who loves to run should read it, right after "Born to Run" (my favorite book on running).
Author: Stephen King
I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s famous novels (It, The Shining, Carrie, etc.). What a shame, I know. However, I did read this book he wrote on writing, which is mainly focused on fiction writing, although some of his tips are appropriate for any writer. What I most enjoyed was learning about Stephen’s personal life and writing process — this is what struck me the most, and what I’ll remember forever. He’s a very interesting person who’s lived an incredibly productive life.
Author: Esther Perel
I got married this year and some of my best friends recommended that I read this book. As the name implies, it is primarily about cheating, and love affairs. But the author ends up uncovering why some relationships last, whereas others don’t. I found it to be an exceptional book, backed up by an immense amount of research and practical evidence from Esther Perel. I can’t recommend this highly enough to anyone who’s in a long-term relationship, although there’s probably other great books on the matter — but I haven’t read any of them.
Authors: Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford
This is a business and technology book that’s written in the first person, almost as if it were a novel. And that makes it much more interesting than most non-fiction writing. In the book, the author has to figure out how to save an engineering project which is massively behind schedule, while being mentored by a very mysterious figure. The takeaways around how to align people and set incentives appropriately, while also allowing teams to be independent are timeless.
Just like "High Output Management", I think "The Phoenix Project" will never go out of fashion.
Author: Sarah Drasner
I’ve read a fair share of books on engineering management, so I didn’t expect to take too much away from this one. There’s definitely a lot of good advice around how to manage people, run meetings, communicate with stakeholders, and other important things. I will be recommending this book along with some others in the future for new engineering managers.
Authors: Svitlana Kostrykina, Tamara Krawchenko
I was gifted this book by a couple of friends who are from Ukraine, but who currently live here in Lisbon. It’s a very quick read, but it was great for me to learn about this amazing European city that I unfortunately won’t be able to visit for a while. I can’t wait to go, and to try Chicken Kyiv in Kyiv!
Authors: Matthew Skelton, Manuel Pais
"Team Topologies" is a very quick read about how teams should be formed in order to allow for engineering organizations to scale and remain efficient. The main concepts that I will remember are the different types of teams that you’ll typically find in a tech organization (Stream-Aligned Team, Enabling Team, Complicated Subsystem Team and Platform Team). In my opinion, the book is longer than it needed to be, but I still liked it. One of my favorite "tidbits" from the book is the explanation behind why "Stream-Aligned Teams" shouldn’t be called "Feature Teams"!
Author: J.K. Rowling
I don’t have much to say about this one, but I have been working my way through the entire series for over 5 years now. This has been my guilty pleasure whenever I want to read something light. And at last, I only have one more book to go through before I finish the series.
Please send me your book recommendations for 2024!
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