At the end of 2017 I started to realize I was spending a lot of time every day mindlessly consuming my Twitter timeline. I decided I would opt to pick up a book during most of the times I would usually browse Twitter. The results have been quite surprising. What started out as an experiment is certainly going to continue throughout the rest of the year and beyond.
Below is the list of books I read throughout the month of January. I picked up the first book on New Year’s Day and I’m just about to finish the last book today. I’m going to post the list of books I read each month, and I always welcome recommendations. This month was filled with quite a few Strand recommendations, a place I cannot walk into without leaving carrying a large bag of books.
I listed the books below in the order I read them.
January Reading List
1. Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg
As SNL portrayed on one of their skits this past weekend, the timing of this one ended up being interesting. Putting aside the current events for a moment, I think there are some interesting topics discussed in the book. I was never active in what’s commonly known as the modern dating scene so it was interesting to read people’s opinions about the experience and how different the experiences can be.
The topic of romance can certainly be awkward for people to discuss especially with how it relates to relationships. I think this book does a good job at giving some insight that I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to.
2. The Disaster Artist – Greg Sistero, Tom Bissell
I first saw The Room about 7 or 8 years ago. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I don’t even know how to describe it. I’ve seen it many more times over the years usually by introducing it to others. Once you get past the seemingly never-ending romance scenes it becomes a hilarious movie, unintentionally so.
The book is fantastic. I laughed my way through this book and found the story behind the scenes fascinating. I give Greg a lot of credit for sticking to his goals as much as he did; it is never an easy thing to do.
I intentionally read the book prior to seeing the film of the same name James Franco made. It might have been a mistake, I did not enjoy the movie at all. I won’t spoil the movie, but I felt the story in the book did a much better job at capturing the relationship between Greg and Tommy. This seems like the most important reason the film ever released.
3. Deep Work – Cal Newport
This book was a gift from the CVP for the Outlook team at Microsoft. The team was able to select from a list of books he recommended.
Focus is increasingly a challenging aspect of life in general. For me, Twitter has been a pretty massive distraction. In the workplace this is also a huge challenge. Throughout the day there’s many opportunities for distraction, and I don’t just mean meetings. This book inspired me to revisit how I approach my work day and how I could squeeze more productivity out of each day in the same number of hours.
There’s the classic xkcd post about compiling (See below). I can easily have 3-5 minutes in the best case scenario between writing code and testing a result. This is just enough time to browse the web or even get lost in Twitter. This seemingly small context switch for even a matter of minutes really keeps me from getting into a continuous flow of work.
There’s also the constantly available and online scenario presented with tools such as Slack. Seeing a popup notification for new messages is a constant distraction. It is disappointing to hear of managers that encourage this kind of immediate communication. It leaves employees feeling like they are subject to accusations of not really working if they snooze them to actually get work done.
This was one of my main action items after reading this book. When I sit down to write code I put my computer in Do Not Disturb mode. I focus on my task at hand, and when I’m done I circle back to communication with co-workers/managers/etc.
Buy: Deep Work at Amazon
4. Digital Gold – Nathaniel Popper
The craze over cryptocurrencies has never been stronger. While I don’t subscribe to the hype I find the technology incredibly fascinating and decided to read more about it. You know, instead of just browsing all of the amazing hot takes on Twitter.
The history of Bitcoin is a great read. A fascinating story that still leaves unanswered questions on its origin. This isn’t a very technical book, it focuses more on the people involved early on in Bitcoin. Even if you are a hater, I’d recommend giving the book a read.
5. Just for Fun – Linus Torvalds, David Diamond
This is a book I first read a few years ago. The list of books I’ve read more than once is really small, and this book is now on that list. Opinions on Linus are wide ranging. He’s built up quite a reputation for himself. Putting that aside for a moment, the story of building Linux is interesting. Many contributors have made Linux what it is today, but the starting point is no small feat.
I’m sure many of us have rolled our eyes at someone emailing a mailing list and offering some cool grand new thing that is going to be so awesome. I’m sure some of us have even sent our fair share of these messages at some point too. I have. There’s no shortage of snark on the internet and responses can certainly be discouraging. My favorite aspect of this book is the post announcing Linux on the Minix mailing list. The interest found in the community and the responses from Andrew Tanenbaum (AST) that were less than inviting show how important persistence can be when building something new.
6. The Age of Cryptocurrency – Paul Vigna, Michael Casey
Yes, another crypto book. This book touched on a bit of the history in Digital Gold but I felt approached the story from more of a financial background. This makes sense given the authors are Wall Street journalists. They also spend time discussing blockchains themselves and examine industry response to the technology.
7. Six Easy Pieces – Richard Feynman
I’m not even going to pretend to fully understand all the topics Feynman discusses in this book. I really enjoyed this book and appreciate the challenge of brining these incredibly complex and challenging topics to an audience without a Physics background. I came away from this book looking to read even more on the topics he discusses especially with the early developments in quantum computing.
8. Lonely City – Olivia Liang
This book is incredible. Olivia takes a fantastic look at some famous artists and their experiences with loneliness inspired by her own experiences. I came away from this book with more of an appreciation of how people can feel at home in loneliness. Not all the stories were happy, it certainly goes into some dark times for some of the artists, but overall I feel this is a great read.
Buy: Lonely City