I read A LOT! This year I scaled back my Goodreads Reading Challenge to only 175 books. I’m more than halfway there at 91 books. I’ve been mixing it up, per usual with books both inside and outside my comfort zone. I continue to learn a lot along the way.
I’ve got a few, like The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, than are big volumes I’ve been taking my time to really absorb, but can still strongly recommend. Below are the books I’ve finished and either loved, found challenging in a good way, or really learned a lot from.
I finally finished the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and Neil Gaiman was suggested. Dunno how I missed this wonderful writer. Now I’m devouring all of his work.
What else? The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera was lovely. And The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Cary was a page turner. Lots more but these were the standouts.
I’ve read a lot more nonfiction this year. Universally interesting reads include:
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klas Schwab
Flawless Consulting by Peter Block
Quiet by Susan Cain
Endure by Alex Hutchinson
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Not That Bad by Roxane Gay
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
Helpful for Agilists
Nudge by Richard Thaler
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel KahnemanThe Advantage by Patrick LencioniThinking in Systems by Donella MeadowsAtomic Habits by James ClearCreativity, Inc by Ed CatmullRadical Focus by Christina WodtkeMeasure What Matters by John DoerrLateral Leadership by Tim HerbigThe Human Side of Agile by Gil Broza
You can see my full list of books I’ve read in 2019 over at Goodreads, linked to on the footer of this page.
I’ve got a running queue of over 2,000 books to-read, and the list just keeps getting longer! Since I’ve started tracking my reads on Goodreads I’ve read 860 books and I’m always taking recommendations.
What have you read this year and either loved or found recommendation-worthy?
I grew up making mix tapes off of the radio. As a teenager I was lucky to enjoy the technological advance of CDs.
As a passionate music lover, I built a comprehensive collection of CDs of all kinds of music. I spent hours burning albums to my computer, and as iTunes and iPhone rose in popularity, used them well. Then with Pandora and Spotify, I occasionally used them to find new music. I have a wide taste in music, so I’ve really loved discovering new music this way.
I tried a subscription to Apple Music for a bit but felt disappointed with the algorithm. I’ve been a loyal Spotify subscriber for a few years now.
Today Spotify notified me that one of my favorite artists, Andrew Bird had a new album, My Finest Work Yet.
Would I like to play it? Well sure. I hadn’t listened to Bird in a while, why not?
We were on our way to the grocery store and my daughter doesn’t like listening to books or podcasts in the car (or ever… are we even related!?) so I opened it up and played it through my car as we drove.
“Wow, this is a good collection of songs,” I thought. “I like them. A great soundtrack for a lazy Saturday.”
And then I had a stunning thought.
When was the last time I listened to an album like this? I could not remember.
An unintended consequence of the convenience of Spotify was that I listened to music recommended to me, or occasionally that I wanted to revisit, but generally song by song.
As each song played from Bird’s new album I realized why I loved cracking open a good album and listening to every song. I should do it more often!
What other simple pleasures forgotten should be remembered?
I set a personal goal of reading 50 books this year and finished double my goal.
Included in my list were fiction, non-fiction, personal and work related books, as well as things I just wanted to learn more about.
How I did it:
I set a goal in Goodreads and tracked my progress there.
Set a reading cadence goal:
to read some each week, or each day depending on what my schedule looked like at the time.
Liberal use of all tools available to me:
library (physical checkouts and online resources such as eBooks and audiobooks)
Always reading a few books at any given time. This is important for me, because sometimes I just do not feel like reading that non-fiction book on work stuff, or I’m really focused on a problem I want to solve and I don’t want to spend time on fiction.
This also helped when I was trudging through a work of classic fiction I really wanted to finish, but needed a break from the language or themes for a while.
Used multiple formats
I often got more than one format of a book so that I could listen to it, read it, and highlight/take notes. This was especially helpful for dense content that doesn’t lend itself to audio.
Always had a book with me:
If I was stuck in traffic, it was no big deal because I had a audiobook to keep me company.
If I was waiting a long time in line, or at the doctor’s office, I saw it as a bonus to get some reading time in.
Used digital and hard copy notes to track information I knew I would need / use again.
Scanned relevant dense pages I wanted to come back to so that I could take notes with a PDF app and Apple Pencil on my iPad.
I listened to audiobooks while driving, exercising, doing housework, or other tasks. Some I download if it’s possible to do so through Overdrive or Audible. Some I get form the library on CD.
I often have an audiobook on CD in my car, and one or two loaded on my phone.
Cast a wide net:
The Columbus Library is absolutely awesome. Whenever I have been away from Columbus, I have missed this great library. So I use it to the max. This is something I’ve done most of my adult life.
I search the library for books on a topic I want to learn.
Within checkout limits, I check out every book on the topic.
I often request additional book purchases from the library as the most recent are not yet purchased by them.
I also check networked libraries to see if I can request a copy through this route.
I group the books based on aspect (at times I group by size, subtopic, or whether they seem like they will be easier or harder to discern if I want to read them).
I weed through each book to determine which would be helpful, which are redundant or not useful and which I might want to have my own copy of for reference.
Then I read them.
Joined a book club:
I joined a book club that met regularly with other readers. Our book club list contained diverse books to expand my reading experience.
Some interesting things happened as a result of my reading that I did not anticipate.
For books I read on work topics, I wanted to share them with coworkers- but I know not everyone has the time or interest to dedicate. I could recommend whole books, or certain chapters or pages.
I realized that for some books, I just could not digest them in audio format. This has not happened often for me, but if the subject is particularly complicated, or the narrator is (for whatever reason) difficult to listen to, I switched format from audiobook to physical or digital book.
For non-fiction books, I found myself finishing a book, and then skimming through it again to take notes if I didn’t take notes as I read it the first time. This definitely contributed to a stronger understanding of the book’s content.
For 2018 I set my goal to 75 150 books and am working towards it every day.
As a young, single mother of twins, I embarked on my software engineering journey really because I considered myself to be “good with computers,” and because I was searching for a way to provide for my children. I set out at the local community college to study Computer Information Systems, and Programming more specifically, thinking this could be a good career move for my family’s sake.
On a different day, I might characterize my long journey as one I made alone, because in some respects, I truly did. No one advised me to graduate early from high school, that was my decision. It only worked because I had worked so very hard to be a good student throughout my three years in high school. With two children, I needed a way to support them and I decided getting on to college was paramount. No one but me, felt the weight of full time school and full time entry level work that first year. I pushed myself to stretch, early and often to move ahead and provide. I transferred beyond community college. I made a pitstop in an Associates of Arts. I continued my education over many years, even when I think some people might have given up. I pushed myself for more responsibility, more difficult work, more challenges, and only I could make that journey for myself.
But today, and more often as I get older, I remember the people who have made my success more possible in the opportunities they provided. I would never have given up, but without those helping hands the road would have been much longer, much lonelier, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I was only a few classes into college when a professor recommended I apply for my first job in software engineering, and honestly I might not have applied if she wasn’t so insistent that I should make the attempt. Quite frankly, I was surprised she recommended me since I had a habit of falling asleep in her class. It was an early morning class, of a long day of classes for me, and I had two babies at home, and at night I worked as a waitress. For at least half of the year, I also worked part time in a tuxedo shop measuring men for tuxes and processing orders. I was lucky to live at home at the time and my mother was especially a big help for me. Ultimately though, there was never enough time for sleep, and that early morning class on IBM mainframe programming spent an awful lot of time on programming basics that I had already mastered. Long hours working and caring for two bright children and boredom in the classroom, well sleep was nearly inevitable.
Still I was a top student, and I enjoyed the assignments and working in the lab. I worked hard and my answers on tests were often used as class examples. Maybe I could do this as a career, right then, as my professor suggested but I was skeptical.
I was surprised when I was called for an interview, and I felt I did well under the scrutiny of the many people I interviewed with. I later learned there was some concern whether I would make a good hire, being so young, and a parent, and only having achieving the title of “waitress.” I am forever grateful I got the opportunity I did to become a part of the working family processing collections data at my first software engineering position.
I was hired as a student programmer, but within the first few months was promoted to programmer/analyst. I was a part of the Y2K project for our company and was ever encouraged forward by my first great manager, of which I have been so fortunate to have had many. Working there was truly like being part of a family. I’ve not had a position since that has really measured up to that feeling of belonging, but I can say my current role is very close.
Today, I remember the director of the software department that was a big part of that first opportunity. He’s lost his battle with cancer, like so many I’ve known in the last few years. I want to acknowledge, without that first step, I would not be where I am today.
All along the way, there were people willing to let me take a shot at many a wonderful opportunity, who encouraged me to stretch myself, and many of whom are still a strong part of my life today. I made lifelong friends who still always believe in me, always have my back, and I feel so fortunate to have had all of these opportunities, to have worked with so many bright and brilliant people, and to count myself among them.
It took me 17 years to finish my degree. By the time I was done, I had learned so much more in the professional world than I could ever learn in a classroom. I had moved from student programmer, to programmer analyst, to software engineer to Scrum Master, consultant and coach. I had seen the difference for myself and the teams I worked on, between big upfront planning and nimble agile development. Putting people first made sense. Taking incremental risks was safer, smarter and delivered software sooner.
If I look at my career closely, that all comes down to my first opportunity. I was given the chance to take risks, to prove theories, and to explore a better way forward. My first months, I pair-programmed with two developers who are still some of my best friends. Working together, two sets of eyes were better than one. They taught me what they knew, and (I hope) I offered a fresh analytical perspective. I’ve always been a problem solver, but my career in software engineering gave me a license to do it nearly anywhere it was needed.
The problems I tackle today may be bigger, and more complex, and perhaps involve more people, but I believe that at my foundation, are lessons learned at that first job before Agile was an official methodology.
There were later roles that gained me experience in Extreme Programming and Test Driven Development, so early in the Agile movement that I can barely believe I got such a fantastic opportunity to do things that today I am teaching others how to do. There are so many managers, mentors and coworkers that I want to thank.
Ultimately it comes down to this, though. Take chances and encourage young talent. It goes such a long way to building careers than you can ever imagine, and I am living proof. No doubt, one of many, as I have taken these lessons and encouraged other young and bright programmers on in their fledgling careers and hoped that they will someday arrive at this same place I am today: in gratitude to all those who took chances on and encouraged me.