2021 was better than 2020. Not great, but better. My Mum was in the hospital so I went up to Canada to visit my family. I had a pretty productive garden, and continued to adjust to working from home. And again, fortunately, my wife and I enjoyed good health.

As this year comes to a close, I want to list all the books I read. I read a few more (I think?) than last year. Some of them I didn’t finish (for reasons I’ll explain below).

Here is the list of them and a brief mention of the effect they had on me.

Software Development Pearls, Karl Weigers 2021
I have read several books by Karl Weigers, including Software Requirements, a book that heavily influenced me early in my career. This latest book is a set of lessons-learned and guidance for anyone who develops software. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting your career or have ‘seen it all’. I bet you’ll find something useful in the book.

Clean Craftsmanship, Robert C. Martin 2021
In this latest in a series of books on his views on professional software development, Martin reflects on the path he has taken through his career. It is not unlike a book I read 20+ years ago by Steve McConnell called “Professional Development”. It was a good read, and as usual, Martin promotes the use of Test-Driven Development as a requirement for a professional developer (he never gives up on that one!). The intent of the book was a good one; to impress upon the software development community the need for discipline and to teach managers and developers the effective disciplines, standards, and ethics to produce high-quality software. I think he succeeds.

Pro Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), Hayden Barnes 2021
The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is a great tool to help make your personal development process on Windows more efficient. It unlocks the ability for you to take advantage of the large Linux eco-system of tools. This book is a great resource for managing the Linux distros used by the WSL and keeping your Linux development environment clean and up-to-date.

Continuous Delivery, Jez Humble & David Farley 2011
Inspired to re-read this book by David Farley’s YouTube channel, I had forgotten how much I used this book when it first came out. This was the book that started me using the process of integrating continuous deployment and continuous integration support on the projects I work on. Re-reading the book all these years later was such a great experience. So many of the ideas are common-place and considered best practices for how to manage your software delivery process. It was a good reminder for me on why these tools and techniques are so important. I mean, DevOps is all the rage, but this book forms the basis of all that work.

Programming Pearls, Second Edition, Jon Bently 2000
Released in 1986, Programming Pearls was one of several books recommended by Steve McConnell in Code Complete. Released in 2000, the 2nd edition of Programming Pearls was available to me and for the first time I had the opportunity to read this book by Jon Bentley. It had a great influence on me, and still does all these years later.

Enterprise Integration Patterns, Gregor Hohpe & Bobby Woolf 2004
I have been supporting a set of micro-service applications for the past 3 years. The architect of the system provided us with a series of patterns to follow and some rules to guide us moving forward. But now that he is no longer around I feel at times that I don’t really understand these patterns and practices as well as I should. Enterprise Integration Patterns provided me with a great reference for so many of the patterns we follow. It has been great and helping me fill in the gaps in my knowledge and to make it clear to me why we are practicing certain practices, and why some of the tools are designed the way they are.

The Mythical Man Month, Frederick P Brooks Jr 1995
I re-read this book recently to support writing a blog post review. It is amazing how much of its contents are meaningful and applicable today. It pre-dates the mainstream adoption of agile methods for developing software. But central in its themes are ideas of growing software, incremental design, and the challenges we still face today dealing with the complexity of software development.

The World Until Yesterday, Jared Diamond 2012
This was a book my father sent me to read. I have never been let down with a recommendation he’s made for a book. And this book didn’t break that streak. It discusses how ‘traditional societies’ behaved and operated for thousands of years. His intent was to show how our modern societies differ and what we might learn. How do these societies handle war, growing old, respond to danger, religion, language and health. All issues we still struggle with today. The book is a fascinating tale comparing how modern and traditional societies deal with these issues.

Refactoring Second Edition, Martin Fowler 2019
I was fortunate to encounter the first edition of Refactoring early in my career. It taught me valuable lessons on how to maintain a codebase by constantly improving it as it evolves. More than any other book, it impressed on my the need for automated tests that I could use to safely make improvements without introducing bugs. This second edition, as described by Fowler’s preface, is a web-first book, meant to be consumed online. It is such a valuable reference, it needs to be at your fingertips. When you buy the book you get access to the web-edition. Very nice. And the samples were completely re-written in JavaScript (rather than Java used in the first edition). No excuses, read this book and “your code will thank you for it”.

The Scout Mindset, Julia Galef 2021
I read this book in a single day while waiting in airports on my way back from Canada on a visit to my parents. I knew of Galef from her work with the Center for Applied Rationality. I tore through the book, which is rare for me (which is tough to do on an iPhone). Usually I take weeks to read a book of this size. But the material fascinated me. The premise of the book is to understand the different mindsets people can use to view their world. In today’s society it seemed so important to better understand the point-of-view of others and this book really did a great job of this. I plan on re-reading this in the new year. But I have a hard-cover edition now, no iPhone this time.

Are Your Lights On?, Donald C. Gause & Gerald M. Weinberg 1982
I often will tell co-workers that getting the requirements understood (and written down) properly on a software development project can be the most difficult part of the process. And the most important part too if I dare say. I had read Weinberg’s The Psychology of Computer Programming and picked this up in the late 90s. It really drove home for me some important concepts about figuring out what the real underlying problems are. I really should re-read this book every year as a reminder of the insights it gives.

The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm, Daniel Mays 2020
I ordered this book based on the recommendation of a market farmer whose YouTube videos I enjoy. While not applicable to my gardening context, purchasing the book seemed like a good way to help support the community. I liked the book a lot. I liked how the author described their no-till approaches, and what made them work in their context. I especially like the sections on cover-crops. I always feel I can do a better job with my cover-crops and this book gave me some useful ideas to try and incorporate into my practices.

The Living Soil Handbook, Jessie Frost 2021
I pre-ordered this book in January 2021 and received it in the mail in July. I was a fan of “Farmer Jessie’s” YouTube videos on his no-till practices. I know the book would not disappoint. The way life in the soil works, and how it helps plant survive and thrive is still a mystery to me. It feels like we are constantly learning something new about how the life in the soil influences the plants we grow for food. Regardless. the practices Frost recommends are important for us to understand. They can do nothing less than transform the way we grow our food in a sustainable way. YouTube may not be the best medium for that message, so I am so pleased to have it in written form. Frost’s writing style and passion for the material makes this book a great read.

The Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg 2002
This book was recommended by a friend and on the surface it seemed like a great fit. It is a series of essays describing life in the country for each month of the year. I have only completed through March, and still have 9 more months to go!

Light This Candle: The Life and Times of Alan Shepard, Neal Thompson 2005
This book had been in my possession for a few years. I am so glad I (finally) read it this year. It was a great biography of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. It pulled few punches describing his recklessness, his wandering eye, and competitiveness with his fellow astronauts. The book was well written and could have got lost in the details if it had wanted to. But it struck a good balance between the myth of Alan Shepard, the astronaut, and Alan Shepard, father and everyday man. But he was no ordinary man and he was devoted to his country. I enjoyed this book very much.

Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery Scott Kelly, 2017
My wife read this a few years ago when it first came out. I bought it for her for Christmas, if I’m not mistaken. This year was my year to pick it up. I knew some of Kelly’s experiences of living on the International Space Station for a year. But the book covered so much more of Kelly’s life and the behind-the-scenes triumphs and struggles. Far from a perfect specimen for the astronaut corp, the book describes Kelly’s early years and the events that would put him on a path that would send him into space. Inspirational and well written.

The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan 1990
After a summer of reading a lot of non-fiction, I asked my wife to recommend a book to read. She lent me her copy of the first book in the Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World. Having read The Sword of Shannara last year, I was familiar with fantasy novels and welcomed the change of pace. The book describes a world in peril with the prophecy of a hero reborn. Monsters, magic, and adventure. Who could ask for more? I enjoyed this book a lot. It swept me away from this world every time I picked it up. I cared for the characters and how their story would unfold. I doubt I’ll read the reset of the books in the series. But I can see why these books are so loved by so many.

Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer, J. Michael Straczynski 2021
I have been a fan of Straczynski for a long time. When I picked up this book I told my wife that I probably wouldn’t get much out of it, since I am not a professional writer, nor do I aspire to be. But she bet I would get something from it and enjoy it too. And she was correct on both accounts. This was a great book for aspiring writers. But for me it was a great insight into the writing profession and what it takes to succeed. At least from one man’s perspective. It inspired me and that is the most one can hope for when you are a writer.

Fer-de-Lance, Rex Stout 1934
Another offering from my wife, this is the first book of the fictional detective Nero Wolfe. The characters that Rex Stout created seem to come alive. His prose and attention to detail are what make mystery books for much fun. Who dun it? Who cares as long as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe are on the case! I’m only half-way through this book as 2021 comes to a close. But it will be finished soon enough!

Looking forward to what 2022 brings.

Honorable Mention

I include this book because I started it, but didn’t completed it.

Space Odyssey, Michael Benson 2018
This book describes the making of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I enjoy this film and especially enjoy the works of Arthur C. Clarke. I was curious to know more about how the movie was made. But the book didn’t capture my attention. It described the process of how Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick began their collaboration and the dreams of what they wanted to achieve. But the details didn’t craft a great story for me. So much detail, but not enough heart. At least for me to continue to invest time in its reading. If reading a book becomes a chore, then you probably need to ask yourself it you should continue. In this case, I did not.

The Books I Read in 2020