End of the year reading list

Happy to report that the reading habit is doing well with a total of 26 books read this year, averaging about two books per month. Considering that the majority of what I read is non-fiction work, I think that’s a pretty good rate. The highlight has to be the book I just finished, called “Bad Blood”. I accidentally picked it up from my library’s featured section. It’s a story about a now-defunct startup “Theranos” that promised cheap and superior blood testing technology, rose to 10 billion dollar valuation and the founder was considered as the next Bill Gates, etc. All of it came crashing down when it was discovered that the company lied about its capabilities and had created nothing but barely functioning blood testing devices that could only do a few tests and even then performed terribly. The story might not sound that amazing since many companies rise and fail. What makes this one different to me is two things. One, the lengths that the company and the major players went to hide the shortcomings of the technology and all the “lawyering” it employed to survive. The second reason is that the book is just well written and the reporter stayed out of the way so to speak and presented the timeline in an incredibly coherent and clear fashion. Highly recommended. Here is my month to month breakdown: January: no books, sad February
  • Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio shares his core principles for various areas of life. It was excellent, causing me to blog about the book and the author’s way of explaining the expected value calculations.
March
  • Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think – a somewhat typical self-help book that gives advice on how to live a happier life. The main idea was that happiness comes from having pleasure and purpose and there are ways to increase the amount of each with various advice on how to do so.
  • Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life I am a big fan of Nassim Taleb and this book did not disappoint. I can’t summarize the book in a single theme as his touches a large variety of topics, as usually is the case. Most of it is around the probability of events, the importance of understanding probabilities and causes if you are going to make decisions for the future. And of course, the usual Nassim’s digs at journalists and academics that don’t avoid work in the real world.
  • Designing Bots: Creating Conversational Experiences – this book was meh, a summarize of what it takes to design a bot and some tips.
  • War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony -not the book I would typically pick up but read it based on my wife’s recommendation. It was an interesting diversion from the usual science/software reads into the history but that’s about it. Summary – being colonized sucks and it’s not as glorious as the victor’s try to portray it. What else is new…
April May June
  • Ego Is the Enemy – this was a good reminder of focusing on your work and goals and ignoring the desire to get fame and recognition. It’s a tough balance to achieve as recognition can serve as a source of energy to continue going and working hard but ultimately the book is right: recognition is fleeting and often fake, find the reward somewhere else.
  • Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today’s Computers – it was a decent summary of things like encryption, compression, etc.
  • Designing Distributed Systems: Patterns and Paradigms for Scalable, Reliable Services – I had high hopes for this one and was very much disappointed. It was basically a collection of patterns expressed via Kubernetes templates, boring.
  • Writing High-Performance .NET Code – I picked this one up after somebody I know mentioned it on twitter, it provides an excellent insight into troubleshooting and writing fast performing software.
July – no books, not unusual for me to skip reading during summer days. August – no books read, same as July. September
  • Getting to Us – as is the case almost everywhere, eventually I pick up sports books and get my sports reading binge going. This one summarized several high profile coaches and profiled what were the key things they did with their teams to achieve success.
  • Gridiron Genius – continuing the sports reads, this was a book by a football scout and front office executive that worked with Bill Walsh, Bill Belichik, and Al Davis and shared some of this thoughts and stories on leadership and successful team execution.
  • Python Machine Learning Cookbook – had very low expectations for this book and instead was pleasantly surprised. I would consider this a must-have if you are doing machine learning with Python. A good guide to solving a variety of problems and can serve as a way to get surface level info on a topic before diving in deep somewhere else.
October
  • Algorithms of the Intelligent Web – Ideas on how you could make the software more intelligent (user recommendations, machine learning, search, etc). The topic sounds good but the book itself is not detail enough to be useful.
  • The Master Algorithm – I consider this a must read if you have started with Machine Learning applications. The author does an excellent job dissecting the history of machine learning techniques and tries to anticipate what is the holy grail/final frontier for the machine learning industry. I absolutely loved this book and how it walks the reader through the history while tying all the different pieces together and explains what is happening in machine learning today.
November
  • The Site Reliability Workbook – a follow up to highly regarded, “The Site Reliability” book, very disappointing to be honest. Maybe my expectations were too high? I recommend skipping this book if you are considering reading it.
  • Building Algorithmic Trading Systems – I got this book to learn some of the tips and tricks for building a sports betting system. I felt like there are some parallels between sports event and betting on them and the stock/futures market and betting on those. Definitely got some good insight on how to evaluate the prediction systems, I think that’s where I found it the most useful.
December
  • When – lukewarm about this one, perhaps because most of the material it presents I’ve heard it before.
  • Kids Are Worth It! – I read one or two books per year usually on raising children, just to get some ideas and thoughts on dealing with the little ones (have three of them in my house). I thought the author was too conservative, but eventually, I came around and loved this book. A lot of very practical advice on dealing with children issues from the time they are two to until they go to high school.
  • Dopesick – The information presented inside is very powerful and paints a detailed picture of how prescription medicine addiction comes around and leads to other drug use and the demise of communities and institutions. Eye-opening information on how pharma industry played a critical role in introducing painkiller addiction to the masses and how the rest of the system furthered it along into an epidemic that you hear about today.
  • Bad Blood – two words: READ IT!

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