2020 Favorite Books

2020 has been a strange and difficult year. On one hand I will be glad to bid it farewell, but on the other I think I learned and grew quite a bit this year so it was not all bad. This year my reading list contains more productivity and business/management books than technical books. Managing an engineering team is a very different job from being an independent contributor, but it has its own rewards. I plan on doing more technical reading in 2021.

Note: None of the links below are affiliate links. I get nothing from linking to these books. I try to link to the author or publisher site when possible, and Amazon as a default.

Favorite Books 2020

  • Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books - This book has radically changed my reading habits for the better. I used to read 10-12 books in a year, but after applying the strategies outlined in this book I read 23 books this year! As a Christ-follower I enjoy books that help me become more productive while respecting the tenants of faith.
  • Every Day Matters: A Biblical Approach to Productivity - Similar to the previous book, this book distills productivity improvements through the lense of biblical principles. It borrows from several popular productivity methods and gives tips and advice on building your own productivity system.
  • The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy - This book has some fantastic ideas around better managing your time and energy. I personally struggle a lot with energy management, so I am always on the lookout for ways to improve in that area.
  • Making Work Visible - This book is all about techniques for documenting your work and making it visible to peers and superiors. If you have ever dealt with some form of work overload due to a lack of understanding and visibility into what you or your team does, I would highly recommend reading and implementing the techniques in this book.
  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement - The classic novel about lean manufacturing methodology and continuous improvement. Even though the story revolves around a manufacturing company, there are plenty of lessons to learn for technology workers and managers.
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio - This is another book about applying lean methodology to project management. There is a lot of good advice and examples on how to leverage tools like kanban boards to track and manage technology projects.
  • Turn the Ship Around! - This is an interesting book about managing through intent. It contains some fantastic ideas for building high-performing teams by getting the entire team to take responsibility for their actions, and supporting them through delegation and training. I have found it useful in my own journey to build a top-flight DevOps team.
  • Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations - This is another must-read if you are interesting in implementing DevOps. Dr. Forsgren and her team have compiled actual data showing the differences between high-performing and low-performing development teams, and distilling it into a set of metrics and practices that can be implemented to improve the performance of your team.
  • Cloud Native Data Center Networking - I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to data center networking. This book gave me a good introduction to some of the more advanced topics in networking. I have already leveraged this new knowledge with our work in AWS cloud networking.
  • Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change - Managing transitions is one of the most difficult jobs of any manager. Whether it is managing part of a large organizational transformation, or having to let a member of your team go, this book has some good strategies to work through these difficult tasks.
  • Weapons of Math Destruction - When I first saw the reviews for this book, I was expecting a chicken-little, alarmist screed on the evils of technology. I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-researched and well-argued book about the problems and biases in the many computer algorithms the govern our modern lives. As technologists, I believe we have to be sure the systems we build behave in a moral and ethical way when handling data that can drastically impact their lives, and this gave me some additional things to think about in this area.
  • What is Reformed Theology? Understanding the Basics - A solid introduction to Reformed doctrine for those of us who did not go to seminary. This book covers the core tenants of Luther, Calvin, and other key figures of the Reformation in a way that is approachable.
  • Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God - This book is a deep-dive into the Reformed doctrine of grace alone. I would recommend this, along with the other books in The Five Solas series, if you are interested in learning more about Reformation theology.
  • Into the Storm - The first book in the Destroyermen series. I found this story about a World War II naval destroyer that gets transported into an alternate dimension where sentient dinosaurs and other creatures rule the earth instead of human beings a fun read. I have read the first two books in this series and I plan to read more of them in 2021.

That will do it for this year. Assuming I continue to maintain a similar reading pace in 2021, I’ll be back next year with another list. Thanks for reading, and have a Happy New Year in 2021.