2021 Favorite Books

2021 is almost over. In some ways it has been a continuation of the same stuff as 2020, but it has also had its own share of opportunities too. On the plus side, it has provided additional time for reading that I would likely not have otherwise and I was able to take advantage of it. Continuing with my growth as a reader, I have read 29 books this year at the time I’m writing this post, and I am working on my 30th. Below is my annual list of favorites.

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 2021

  • Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World - This was written back in 2015, but most of the topics discussed are if nothing more relevant now. This is Bruce Scheiner’s book about mass surveillance and data collection in our modern world. Includes coverage of mega-corporations like Google and Facebook, and governments. This book is simultaneously fascinating and creepy.
  • Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town - This book chronicles the rise and fall of Lancaster, Ohio which was once the world capital of glass making and the home of Anchor Hocking. It dives deep into the history of the town and its economy from the time it was featured on the cover of Forbes, to its current state as a burnt out shell of a mid-west industrial town.
  • The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data - This is the follow-on book to the Phoenix Project. It’s a parallel story about the same company converting from traditional software development methodologies like waterfall to modern agile practices. Its a development process book written as a novel so its much more interesting to read.
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains - Nicholas Carr has a fascinating look at the psychological and cognitive impacts of the modern internet. It covers everything from the addiction and FOMO of social media, to the ability to read and think deeply thanks to internet companies presenting information in ways designed to make us click on ads.
  • Hit Refresh - This is an interesting story about how Satya Nadella has transformed Microsoft from a desktop software company to a cloud computing powerhouse.
  • Start With Why - This Simon Sinek’s look at how some companies and leaders are better able to inspire their people and accomplish big things. I have found it to be a valuable reference in my own career as an engineering manager.
  • The Alloy of Law - This is the first book in the second Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. It is set after the events of the first trilogy, but jumps forward several centuries into the future. Where the first trilogy is more of a medieval fantasy, this series takes place in more of a Victorian setting.
  • Animal Farm - George Orwell’s allegory of the Russian Revolution and the evils of Communism is just as relevant and poignant today as it was in 1945.
  • Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein’s controversial science fiction novel is an interesting read and will make you think.

I tried to keep this list a bit shorter than last year and keep it to the books I thought were the best. Next year I may do something a little different and write these favorite book posts more often. I’m not sure how that’s going to work yet, but I’ll be trying some things to see what works the best.