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My 2021 Books in Review

My 2021 Books in Review

January 3, 2022

2021 was a year that I read more books than usual. The genesis of this is due to my employer having a semi-regular book club. It’s where engineers across departments get together to discuss an assigned book. Having an engineering-wide book club has been super amazing. It brings together cross-disciplinary developers. It adds creative thinking to the workplace. I could write an entire post about the benefits of an engineering bookclub, but that’s not the reason we’re here today.

With the majority of this list coming from the engineering book club, the topics weigh towards tech. But I also have been on a journey of learning minimalism, so I threw in a few books about that. Also, due to the nature of this blog, I also removed the fiction books I read for fun. I’ll add them to the bottom of the post for those interested. jump there

Also, I have ordered the list below in order of how I recommend them. Not all these books were great, and my reviews are honest about that. The top 4 or 5 books below I highly recommend if you’re in the software development space!

The Books

Below is the list of books that I read this year and what I thought about them:

Kill It with Fire by Marianne Bellotti

Kill It with Fire has become the book that I will recommend to software engineers first until the end of time. Not only did this book open my eyes to how best to deal with legacy application. It also gave me insight on how not to get to a place where your applications turn into burdens.
Buy on Amazon

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington

The 12 Week Year was another book that really changed my life. Though it was in a different way than Kill It with Fire. The 12 Week Year gave me a framework to think of goals that clicked for me. I even wrote an extended blog post on this book! This is a fascinating way to think of the upcoming year.
Buy on Amazon

A Philosophy of Software Design by John Ousterhout

I was super impressed with this book. It opened a lot of vocabulary for me as someone who did not go through formal training in software engineering. This is the book that allows me to speak engineering without formal training. My lack of formal training is something that always makes me feel like an imposter, but A Philosophy of Software Design helps here.
Buy on Amazon

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

The More of Less is my third or fourth book on my journey of minimalism. This book lends itself to being one of the first books you should read if you are thinking of learning minimalism. For me, it was a great refreshed; there were a few new ideas I took away, but not many.
Buy on Amazon

The Art of Leadership by Michael Lopp

The Art of Leadership was a facinating book to read as someone who has very little desire to be management. It gave me a frame of reference to have conversations with management; which is invaluable. I do think this is a book to read even if you are a tried-and-true individual contributor.
Buy on Amazon

Explore It!: Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing by Elisabeth Hendrickson

This book gave me an intimate look into the world of exploratory testing. It gave me a different point-of-view from my current understanding of testing as a developer. It showed me resources outside the boundaries of normal unit and integration testing.
Buy on Amazon

How To Decide by Annie Duke

How To Decide opened my mind to identifying some issues I have with decision making. There were many parts of this book that made me sit up straight and take note on how I can change my ways. If you are a procrastinator or someone that finds it hard to make choices, give this one a read!
Buy on Amazon

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

I hate to admit this, since there’s a cult following around this book. But I did not like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The story was very meandering and did not give many take-aways. Honestly, I cannot say I remember enjoying any part of this book. Sorry.
Buy on Amazon

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay

I read this book before the above The More of Less and I regret it. This book was weird and pushy. It forces the reader to accept that minimalism is the only way of life and that everyone else is wrong. I do not think this is the correct way to handle minimalism and this book was a rough!
Buy on Amazon

The Future of Tech is Female: How to Achieve Gender Diversity by Douglas M Branson

I must have missed something, but The Future of Tech is Female missed the mark for me. The entire book was Branson mansplaining to me why the future of tech is female. It did not back its assumptions nor give me much room to reflect. I do believe the software development space needs to do a lot for female developers, managers, CEO, etc. In the end, this book did not get us any closer.
Buy on Amazon

Fiction

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

I very much enjoyed This Is How You Lose the Time War. It was such a creative space for a short novel. If you have not yet, give this one a read and you will not be disappointed. The characters are magical, the environment is beautiful. This Is How You Lose the Time War will be a book that I will re-read again and again.
Buy on Amazon

Death’s End by Cixin Liu with Joel Martinsen as translator

Death’s End is the third book in Cixin Liu’s “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy. After finishing the second book, which I found pretty underwhelming, I was hesitant to start this one. But I am glad I did. This was a great wrap-up of what turns out to be one of the more interesting science fiction I have read in a while. You should give the “Remembrance of Earth’s Past” trilogy a try!
Buy on Amazon

Ready Player Two: A Novel by Ernest Cline

Ready Player Two is the second book by Ernst Cline coming off of the success of Ready Player One. I am sure you saw the movie and were surprised it was also a book. After reading the first book some time ago, I guess enough time went by that I forgot how much I did not enjoy the universe of Ready Player. This book disappointed me as much as the first one… oh well.
Buy on Amazon

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed a quick summary of the books I read in 2021. Giving my brief overviews this way may spark an urge to read one or two of the above books. Thanks for taking the time to read, and please share your top 2021 book with me on Twitter!

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Article's hero photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash.