Where My Mind's Been

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Latest Reads First

2021

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson

I’ll be honest, this was a really tough read. Not in the sense that the content was particularly difficult or challenging — I think Jordan Peterson renders really fascinating points and supports them in novel and logical ways that are both intuitive and hard to refute. I think I found it challenging instead because you must remain intensely focused on the content to track along with it as you read through the chapters. It’s constant high-level, meta, ethereal concepts that are fascinating to mull through and ponder, but losing focus for only a sentence or two could pull you fully out of the context of the discussion! That all said, I like this one. I’d like to come back and read it again in the future. There’s a ton to grok and while Peterson (somewhat-?) successfully compiles his broad range of thoughts and analyses down into 12 rules, each sub-discussion is worth its own mindful, internal consideration.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat

Cooking books can be tough. This is by far the best I’ve read and I super appreciate that this book offers the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the basics fundamentals of cooking rather than just throwing a hundred recipes at you, but as with any form of cook-book, it’s tough to fully appreciate the book unless you’re cooking all the time when you read it. I haven’t been cooking too much lately. Still, I’ll go back to this one time and again until I memorize the basics 😆.

Modern Cast Iron, Ashley Jones

I love cast iron. I personally think it to be the best thing for cooking anything, I love the way it looks, I love how heavy it is — I’m a cast iron fanatic. This book is a fun exploration of the history of cast iron, a reiteration of some mechanics and logistics behind using cast iron, and a treasure trove of classic cast-iron-famous recipes!

Indistractable, Nir Eyal

Continuing in the line of depth and focus, this book helped shape and give words to some of the harder parts of staying focused: distractions. Particularly ‘internal triggers’, as Nir calls them. The rest of the book felt a little repetitive to some of the prior content I’d read so I moved pretty quickly through those sections, but the internal triggers section was helpful and valuable. I’ll likely read that section again in the future.

A World Without Email, Cal Newport

While I’m happy to have read Cal Newport’s major books and will probably end up reading Digital Minimalism again, I was less enthused by A World Without Email. Compared to the two prior, this one was less driven by personal ethos and outlook, instead taking more of a handbook style approach to implementing the ideals of the formers. Given that I already use email somewhat infrequently and work for a business that is fully async and not email-driven, I didn’t find quite as much value out of this book. Where Digital Minimalism and Deep Work both seek to convince you of a new idea, this read is a bit more “okay now let’s implement it” if you already believe those ideas. Similarly to It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, this is probably also best read by those at higher leadership roles within an organization.

Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport

So I suppose I’ve become a fan of Cal Newport. This was another very thought-provoking book and, while time consuming to read, was worth the effort of grappling with the complex topics he writes on. While Deep Work focused on more of the logistics behind large, successful professional pursuits, Digital Minimalism is much more focused at transforming our personal / at-home lives into a …deeper experience. One fueled by intentional, depth-based relationships rather than digital networks. Credit to Newport though, where I’ve personally taken more of a ‘totally drop social media’ approach, he does give a nuanced view and approach to utilizing social networks in a very strategic way — one that (ideally) avoids the negatives of the networks while gaining the positives. I’d consider this a fantastic handbook for most people in 2021.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Jason Fried / DHH

Overall a pretty good read but definitely more tailored to mid-to-large business owners. It follows a similar instruction-manual format as Remote but those instructions are primarily intended for those who maintain enough cultural sway at a company to notably change the culture and/or processes. It’s more-so a book of ‘How to run a calm company’. That said, I enjoyed reading it and it certainly made me appreciative of many of the practices and processes at Agent Pronto! We run a calm company, and I’m happy to say that! As an employee though, I’d rather read Remote. It’s more person-focused rather than organization-focused.

Deep Work, Cal Newport

This book is thick, lengthy, and challenging. Challenging to my habits and derived personality and challenging to grok the depth of Newport’s finer points. All in all, it’s quite riveting. It, among other inputs in my life, has encouraged me to try going deep. I’ll probably read it again at some point after having tried to live a little deeper for a number of months, but wow. Overall quite impressed and moved by the Cal Newport’s ideas and mindset. After getting married and transitioning to remote development in 2020, this book came at just the right time.

2020

Remote, Jason Fried / DHH

I really enjoyed Remote. Although I’ve been working most of this year remotely and will continue to for the foreseeable future, this book does give a lot of practical tools, workflows, and process insight into how to handle working remotely well. Tons of applicable content, a friendly writing / reading style that’s conversation more than prescription, and lots of implying content revolving around the premise of ‘deep work’ and working remote’s propensity for deep workflows.

Harry Potter - Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling

Though notably much shorter than the first, and repeating some of the first in a few places, this too was an interesting read. Unfortunately I felt as though I wasn’t fully enjoying the series to the extent that one should a fiction novel. Since I’ve known the faces of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint along with the scenery, setting, and layout of the Harry Potter universe since I was young, I found it difficult to create the wondrous fantasy world in my mind. The world was already created; the faces already assigned. It just took some of the wonder out of it. I decided to watch the rest of the novels in movie format so that I could fulfill my desire to see the series play out but not continue to feel like I wasn’t getting the most out of the books. I guess that’s why they say ‘read the book first’ when a film is released!

Harry Potter - Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling

Sometimes after some really dry dev content (looking at you, Rails Guides), you just need a bit of fantasy and comedy. I hadn’t ever actually read the Harry Potter novels, and it’d been years since I’d seen any of the films — to which, I never finished the series. I thought I ought to just jump in to the first book!

The Erosion of Deep Literacy, Adam Garfinkle

An essay rather than a book, it’s one that I’m glad to have found and will retain as a reference for years to come. It’s provocative, challenging, and damning toward social media trends and behaviors at-large, but raises points that would be difficult to refute. Both relatable on a personal level and empirically sound on a psychological level. Toward the latter half it makes some pretty bold claims that are conjecture at best, but nonetheless stand as fascinating thought experiments.

The Rails Guides, Rails Team

A bit of an ongoing read since The Guides are a collection of walk-throughs, references, and informationals, but the content itself is great. Earlier this year I became frustrated at my having been a ‘rails developer’ for a couple of years but still not fully grasping the (somewhat hand-wavy) ‘Rails Way’. While I’d been told much earlier on to read the Rails Guides, I never did - though I’d mention that a great deal of The Guides will be better understood once you have some legitimate time spent developing in Rails for the sake of context. Having now read most of The Guides, they’ve been just fantastic. It can be a bit dry as far as reading goes, but these guides will explain the ‘Rails Way’ and have made me feel way more comfortable and skilled since. Don’t sleep on the Rails Doctrine either.

Love & Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

This book is particularly for those who are married or soon will be, and I think it gives a lot of valuable insight into how spouses can value and care for each other while respecting their individual differences and imperfections.

High Performance Browser Networking, Ilya Grigorik

This book is just flipping fantastic. Starting from the very bottom of the layers (touching on the physical with pragmatic intelligence), going up through TCP/UDP, TLS, HTTP/1+2+3, and various Browser APIs (XmlHttpRequest, WebSocket, WebRTC, etc.), this book is a phenomenal primer on … how the web works. Understanding all of these layers in tandem is extremely complex but Ilya gives a number of reasonable and reliable insights into managing client/server interactions and their side effects effectively. One of the books I believe every developer ought to have / read.

Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat

While I never did fully finish this book, I’m glad to have it and will give it a proper full read one day (soon!). I had been looking for a book that could give me the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of cooking rather than simply being a cookbook full of recipes. Very engineer-like, I know. I just want to know why flavor is the way it is and how to get there. Making a great dish doesn’t seem quite as valuable if you can’t alter it and find new flavors within it! Without that it’s just a conveyor belt. This book meets that call. Salt, fat, acid, and heat are the controls, I am the driver.

RAGBRAI, Greg Borzo

One of my good friends gifted me this book (guess who) and it’s not a serious book by any means. It simply aims to pull you back to riding RAGBRAI and enjoying the Iowa summer with a few Busch Lights and good company. The imagery, stories, and histories of the teams make for a fun read and blissful memory-session. Ride on, friends.

The Modern Web, Peter Gasston

This book isn’t a deep cut algorithm or theory book, it doesn’t provide the why’s and how’s of current React architecture or Vue logic, and it doesn’t cover the impetus for why the web is the way that it is today in any sort of depth. What it does do is give you a great overview and initial outline of many of the newly-available (in the last few years, anyway) APIs available to front-end code. Things like media queries in CSS, mobile-browser APIs in Javascript (location, battery, connectivity, etc.), and other reasonable APIs for writing more portable applications. It’s a great primer to understand what’s possible on… the modern web! (See what I did there? 😉)

Everybody Always, Bob Goff

‘Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People’. This book is a constant reminder that everyone is called to operate in grace and give forgiveness freely. Definitely one of the few ‘feel good’ books I’ve read this year, Bob Goff never fails to bring out the absolute best in humanity. The man is the written form of a hug… and who doesn’t need a hug sometimes ☺️

The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy

A well known classic in the motivation and improvement district, I did indeed find The Compound Effect to be full of great advice for achieving great things. Writing this summary many months later has me wondering how much the principles of the compound effect (the premise of the book, not the title) intertwine with the premise of ‘Deep Work’… Regardless, it’s a great read. It gives both the inspiration and the tools to create change in one’s life, though it makes no promises on the easy-ness of that change.


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