2019 was one of my better years. I visited my family in Canada, I had a productive garden, and I worked for a good client writing useful and challenging software. Most importantly, my wife and I enjoyed good health and happiness.
One of my hobbies is reading and this year was a great reading year, one of the best that I can recall. Not only for the number of books, but also for the enjoyment and the insights and reflections they provided. Here is the list of them and a brief mention of the effect they had on me.
Dune, Frank Herbert 1965
This was a book I should have read a long time ago, but never quite got the motivation to read. However, when “The Great American Read” was on PBS last year it encouraged me to take a stab at some of them. This year it was Dune. I had enjoyed the film adaptations and was captivated by “Jodorowsky’s Dune” so it was strange that I hadn’t read the book. The book was wonderful.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan 2006
As an avid gardener, my manager gifted me a copy of this book. I enjoyed it very much. Its depiction of the North American food chain was not kind, but it needed to be. I knew of Joel Salatin from seeing his YouTube videos and was glad to read more of his story. Can’t recommend this book enough. You’ll never shop for food again the same way.
The Mediterranean Caper, Clive Cussler 1972
Pacific Vortex!, Clive Cussler 1983
Iceberg, Clive Cussler 1975
In 1999/2000 when my wife and I were dating, she introduced me to Clive Cussler novels. I had seen Raise the Titanic so I gave them a try and I enjoyed them immensely. I hadn’t read one in years so I went ‘back to the beginning’ and read The Mediterranean Caper again. I must admit, I didn’t remember much of it, but it was great. I then read Pacific Vortex and Iceberg and remembered why I loved them. Dirk Pitt is a great character and his exploits are wonderful adventure.
Vanishing Act, Thomas Perry 1995
Dance for the Dead, Thomas Perry 1996
In 1998 I picked up a copy of Dance for the Dead in the bargain bin at the local book store. For a couple bucks the summary on the jacket was intriguing enough to take a chance. This, the second Jane Whitefield novel, was a fantastic thriller. Following a Native American as she makes people disappear from whoever or whatever is after them. Great fun to read again. So much so, I found my copy of the first Jane Whitefield novel Vanishing Act and read it again too.
Becoming Superman, J. Michael Straczynski 2019 I have always been a fan of J. Michael Straczynski after discovering his work on Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. However, my passion for his work is mostly for Babylon 5, probably my favorite TV program. When I bought his autobiography Becoming Superman, I wasn’t prepared for the story he had to tell. Painful, joyful, uplifting, fascinating, insightful, and funny. This was the best book I read all year.
Chasing New Horizons, Alan Stern & David Grinspoon 2018 My wife and I are sell-proclaimed “Space Geeks”. She reads far more about the US Space Program than I do but when she went out of her way to recommend Chasing New Horizons I knew it would be worth it. And I was right. Written in an approachable manner, the story of how the New Horizons spacecraft was conceived, funded and successful in capturing our hearts was a great read.
Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss 2016 I purchased this book based on a video of Chris Voss explaining his approach to hostage negotiations. The book is a great read. His career as a negotiator is fascinating and the ideas and concepts for negotiating are very interesting.
Clean Code, Robert C. Martin 2008
Clean Coder, Robert C. Martin 2011
I have had a love-hate relationship with the works of Robert C. Martin (“Uncle Bob”). But there is no denying the man has some strong opinions and he is willing to tell you all about them. I was told I should read Clean Code by someone I respect and this year I decided to give it one more go. I had read Clean Coder and found most of the material hard to agree with. So I didn’t have a lot of expectations for Clean Code. However, I found in its pages some good advice. It wasn’t great advice, but for someone who was ready to expand their career and grow, it was a good place to start. And for me, it gave me a good kick in the butt to be a better coder.
Clean Architecture, Robert C. Martin 2017
Clean Agile, Robert C. Martin 2019
After my mediocre enjoyment of his first two ‘Clean’ books I did a complete 180 with his last two. Clean Architecture is a perfect explanation of why software built for complex problems is so difficult. In its pages I found ideas on how to make good decisions and why. I was immediately able to use these concepts and approaches in my work and it felt natural and valuable. The Clean Agile book wss released late this year. It is a look back at the agile movement and how its lost its way a bit over the years. While I don’t agree with all the book expresses, it is a good read and a good reminder of how software gets built.
The Nature of Software Development, Ron Jeffries 2015
I started this book a couple of years ago and finally completed it this year. It is a wonderful book that captures the spirit of what we software developers do. I found it inspirational, much like reading The Timeless Way of Building. I need to revisit this book often as it will focus me and inspire the passion again like it did this year.
Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, Mary and Tom Poppendieck 2003
Implementing Lean Software Development, Mary and Tom Poppendieck 2011
2019 is the year I was introduced to the concept of Lean Software Development. A coworker suggested I look into it almost as an after-thought. When I found Implementing Lean Software Development it was a great introduction for me. I found so many ways it could make me a better programmer. I hunted down a used copy of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit as well and it too was a great discussion of the topic. If you want to be a better programmer, learn about Lean.
The Lean Farm, Ben Hartman 2015
The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables, Ben Hartman 2017
Based on my introduction to Lean thinking, I was surprised to find an author who describes his exploits using Lean principles on his farm. Ben Hartman’s two book on lean farming are great at describing lean concepts and ideas. He makes it seem as if anyone could do this, you just have to start small and work at it. Discipline, creativity, and simplicity never worked so well together.
Lean from the Trenches, Henrik Kniberg 2011
I discovered a Henrik Kniberg video on YouTube and I was intrigued by his thoughts on agile and lean software process. His Lean from the Trenches was an important book for me. He describes how he has seen agile done in practice. It isn’t important to be in strict adherence to an approach like Scrum or Extreme Programming or Kanban. What’s most important is to be agile. Think with an open mind, be open to new ideas, try things that provide meaningful feedback quickly and learn from your experience. Good advice.
The Pragmatic Programmer, 20th Anniversary Edition, David Thomas & Andrew Hunt 2019
In 1999 the software development industry was at the cusp of embracing the Agile movement and object-oriented software development was hitting the mainstream. Having The Pragmatic Programmer fall into my lap at that time was career-changing. 20 years later I got the lucky opportunity to re-read its contents in an unexpected hard-cover re-release including numerous revisions to bring the content up-to-date. David Thomas & Andrew Hunt clearly love their industry for giving it such a gift of knowledge and experience. We should all learn from their example.
Small, Sharp Software Tools, Brian P. Hogan 2019
I hadn’t used Linux in a looooong time. But re-reading The Pragmatic Programmer made me remember how it first encouraged me try out tools and programs from outside my immediate work. Small, Sharp Software Tools is a nice, gentle introduction to the Linux tools and command line simplicity of Linux. It was fun to re-discover these tools and hope to use them more from now on.
Dependency Injection Principles, Practices, and Patterns Steven van Deursen and Mark Seemann 2019
This is a follow-up to the Dependency Injection in .NET book from 2011. This new edition provides great value for anyone using dependency injection or considering it. Some of the ideas from the original book have been re-examined and now categorized as ‘not recommended’. Learning from experience is important and I found the authors to not shy away from this. I enjoyed the original book very much, and enjoyed this new edition even more.
Unit Testing: Principles, Practices, and Patterns, Vladimir Khorikov 2019
In 2019 I completed over 25 courses on PluralSight ranging on topics like Angular and Vue, Docker, functional programming, and domain-driven design. One instructor, Vladimir Khorikov, presented several of these courses and I enjoyed them very much. When I heard he was writing a book on Unit Testing I jumped at the chance. Unit Testing: Principles, Practices, and Patterns is so well done, I recommend it to everyone interested in unit testing. And it isn’t officially published yet. It gave me a way of describing my unit testing in a way I had not had before. I could see patterns of my good habits and my failures. It made me a better programmer.
The Unicorn Project, Gene Kim 2019
As this year closes out, I am in the middle of reading The Unicorn Project. It is what happens when you write a complex thriller about politics, rebellion, and courage…. and mix it with a bunch of software development characters. Probably not for everyone, but for me, it is like reading about your career as if it was the most important job in the world. How can I not love it?