As a bibliophile, 2018 was a great year. I read 70 books and skimmed through many more, averaging at least five books per month. Here is a list of all the books I read last year. I will post a brief summary of each soon.
Reading about work-culture in industries which are unrelated to software is one of my favourite activities. Young Money is an inside story of life as a financial analyst on Wall Street. It’s an easy-to-read and quite entertaining book, which I finished reading in a couple of hours. It reveals the harsh realities of working at the prestigious investment banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2009.
In October, I dove deep into theme reading on scandals. Spent the cold nights binge-reading three wonderful books on the major frauds in three different industries. The biggest Ponzie scheme ever, the biggest medical fraud in Silicon Valley, and the collapse of Enron.
Just finished listening to Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas-Taleb. I couldn’t take any notes while driving, but the book is so damn good that I had to re-read the book summary by Derek Sivers. Here is a condensed version of his notes, for future reference.
Just finished reading “The Meaning of It All” by Richard Feynman. It is based on a previously unpublished, three-part public lecture he gave at the University of Washington in 1963. It contains some absolutely brilliant ideas on uncertainty. My notes/highlights from this book.
After procrastinating for years due to its sheer size, I have finally picked up and started reading DDD. This is a must-read for developers of object-oriented software working on a complex domain. I found myself nodding on almost every sentence in this book, relating so much to my work at CityView, which has a super-complex domain of municipal software.
Since reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, I had yet to come across a book with such a high signal to noise ratio. Just finished reading Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows, and this fits the bill. I had to pause, think and ponder after reading each paragraph in order not to miss the profound underlying concepts. Very easy to read, this is one of those books that changes how you look at the world.
A really good introductory book to big ideas in Physics, by Richard Feynman. It is very approachable, and can be read by a high-school student as well as someone doing a PhD. He explains some really advanced concepts by relating them to everyday objects and events in life. The book literally changes the way you look at the world.
I usually don’t read satire, but so far the best one has been “The Age of Absurdity” by Michael Foley, and it was one of the best books I read in 2017. It critiques the eccentricities of modern life, revealing some rather uncomfortable truths. I have tried to summarize the book to the best of my understanding, but it goes much deeper than my naive first impressions.
I do suffer from mild anxiety occasionally. A practice of Stoicism has helped me tremendously dealing effectively with those occasional gloomy days which seem to creep up from nowhere. Recently, I started reading about Zen Buddhism, which has led me to works of Shoma Morita and philosophies of Kaizen and Naikan.
While medical science has given us the ability to extend life, it does not ask – or answer – the question of if that extended life still has meaning. I read this book last year, but never got around to summarizing my notes. It is written by Dr. Atul Gawande, the author of “The Checklist Manifesto”. In this book, Dr. Gawande calls for change in the way medical professionals deal with illness and final stages of a patient’s life.
The son of an Indian Civil servant studies hard, gets an engineering degree, immigrates to the United States, and makes it in tech. But wait, there is more to it. Hit Refresh is less about the personal life of Satya and more about the amazing transformation happening inside Microsoft. This is my informal summary of Hit Refresh, an autobiography of Satya Nadella.
We may think we are being rational when we make decisions, but the factors and biases that affect our behavior are so subtle that we don’t even know we are being irrational. Not randomly, but “Predictably”. My notes on this wonderful book by Dan Ariely.
I read Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli over the weekend. A short read, but jam packed with essential concepts in Physics explained in simple English. The book has a very poetic and philosophical feel, and contains lots of dramatic passages, that a sceptic might think are woo-woo or imaginary. But the book is based on pure scientific facts which are so fascinating that it needs no other imagination or creativity.