It’s time for another year of book reviews! This was not the year where I read the most, but those I got to I really enjoyed.
The Brilliant Disaster by Jim Rasenberger
This is an incredible story that is so much more complex than is capable of being understood just from popular knowledge about the famous events involved.
It’s a timely book to read and will continue to be relevant as we continue to discover more and more negative effects of the USA’s involvement in other countries affairs.
Chasing Space by Leland Melvin
The path astronauts take to space is not always a direct route, and no one can speak to that truth more than Leland Melvin, the only professional football player to also fly in space and visit the International Space Station.
This book is a must-read for those interested in the space program, but not for the reasons one might expect. Our nation and world needs, more than ever, to hear stories about the challenges people of color and other minorities face to get to the places white people have been from the beginning. Leland Melvin tells that story well and we should listen.
Kubernetes: Up and Running by Kelsey Hightower, Brendan Burns, and Joe Beda
Kubernetes has been one of the hottest technology topics of the year. The authors of this book have been around the scene since the very beginning. This is a short book, perfect for ensuring you know the core concepts of, and have a basic familiarity with, Kubernetes.
There is obviously much more to learn, but having confidence in your base knowledge is well worth the time. In fact, I am now purchasing other books in the O’Reilly “Up and Running” series expecting to see similar benefit.
Cloud Native Infrastructure by Justin Garrison and Kris Nova
The technology world is constantly changing and those of us who deal with software infrastructure would do well to read this book. Unlike Kubernetes: Up and Running, you won’t run to the command line and immediately put to use the knowledge from this book. However, after reading this book you will think about the changing trends of this industry with a bit more clarity.
I find myself frequently thinking back to nuggets of information from this book when weighing decisions for new software project architecture, and likely will for some time.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolf
If you adjust the currencies for the present day (£500/yr won’t really cut it anymore), you’d be hard pressed to find any part of this book that isn’t just as relevant today as it was almost 90 years ago. Like the stories from people of color, we need to listen to stories from women just as much today as in 1929.
Wolf’s writing style is wonderful: elegant, flowing, deep, and complex. I’d like to think I recognize elements of it in the writing of talented women I read today. It would makes sense that this is true.
The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier
This is one of those books where you are actually reading about yourself. Hopefully, it’s in the incredibly useful descriptions of how to be a good employee/manager/CTO/etc that are in this book.
Most likely, the toughest but most useful parts of this book will be when you see a bit of yourself in the “Good Manager/Bad Manager” sections that detail various levels of unhelpful behavior that all sorts of team members can exhibit. It was definitely true for me, but that’s part of what makes this book so helpful.
The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
We all knew professional cycling was full of performance enhancing drugs. But there was always a shroud of mystery and just enough unknown to ignore it or make it not worth thinking about. Obviously that’s no longer true. Tyler Hamilton does an incredible job with a first hand story that gives all the details of what being a top level pro cyclist was REALLY like.
It may not really make pro cycling appealing, but if you ever thought about living in Girona, Spain, you will think about it even more after this book.
Lance Armstrong’s War by Daniel Coyle
I read this book many years ago (before I was writing about the books I read). Back then, I treated it like a bible. What you wanted to aspire to, how you should act, if you wanted to become a true cyclist.
I don’t feel that way anymore. The second time reading this book, I read it as a companion to The Secret Race. When Coyle wrote this book, he could only hint at the things he knew about the real state of professional cycling. And he didn’t know nearly as much as we all do now.
Reading these two books is a great combo. One is direct with every detail. Lance Armstrong’s War is best if you read behind the lines. Most of the wild speculation about how corrupted professional cycling might be turned out to be true.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
This year, I didn’t write my reading list in the order I completed books, because I had to save this one for last. Without a doubt, this is the best book I have ever read.
Nelson Mandela tells a story with a unique blend of clarity, emotion, humor, and care. And the story he has to tell is one of the most important of the 20th century.
Throughout this book I was brought to laughter, and to tears. I felt hope and despair. I was along for the entire journey with Mandela and 40 million South Africans.
As an added bonus, I read much of this book while in Cape Town, South Africa. It is not lost on me that while I was reading, I was smelling the exact same ocean air that Mandela was smelling when he wrote much of it from a few miles away on Robben Island.
After I was done, I spent hours reading other accounts. A huge treasure we have today is that there are countless videos of Mandela available instantly on the internet. Some of them cover his speeches or other events he wrote about in the book. I can confirm that his incredible wit, charm, and unstoppable vision is as present when he is speaking live as when he has endless hours in his cell to write down his thoughts.
I can’t recommend enough a trip to South Africa and a read of this book. But if the cost of flying almost to one end of this Earth is enough, at least read the book.