I decided to write this post to look back and reflect on the books I’ve read in the past year and also to recommend the ones I liked reading. Before I started my career in software development I used to read a lot. I was a bookworm. Most of the reading was done in my commute to college or high school classes (or during the boring classes🤷🏻). But after I started my career, since it’s not what I studied in college, I knew I had a lot to learn in web and software development, so I read less and less in favor of studying software development and I started to miss it. So for the past few years I added “reading” as my New Years resolutions, specifically to read at least one book a month which I realized this year that this is not a smart goal because I started to optimize short books just to get done with the goal and steered away from longer books which are not necessarily bad, sometimes it is quite the contrary.
Anyway, I managed to read eleven books cover to cover. I try to mix the genres I read during the year to not get bored, otherwise I’d probably only stay with the thrillers.
Here is the list, not in the order I’ve read them, categorized by “genre” (in quotes because this is how I categorize them in my head:
The Fireman - Joe Hill
I love to read books by Joe Hill. I get so immersed in the story that I can just read hours without realizing it. Stephen King has the same effect on me. This book was no exception. I picked this up in January, and the premisse caught my attention: “a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes”. It was a great book in my opinion.
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
This one was in my list for a few years before I finally picked it up this year. It was… underwhelming. Here’s the premisse: “For eons, sandstorms have swept the desolate landscape. For centuries, Mars has beckoned humans to conquer its hostile climate. Now, in 2026, a group of 100 colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.” I think terraforming is a very interesting concept and that’s where I thought this book was going to focus more, but turns out it was very slow and the terraforming aspect of it was only the background for political intrigues. It is not a bad book, don’t get me wrong, I think I was just expecting something different. It’s the first book of a trilogy, but it didn’t entice me to pick up the next ones.
Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clark
This book is also set in space! Here’s the gist of it: astronomers found a humongous object (dubbed Rama) is hurtling through the solar system at inconceivable speed and a probe confirms it is not a natural object, but a spacecraft! So, space explorers prepare to land in Rama and discover what it really is. In my opinion it is a very fast paced book, and I think it could have explored some aspects a little bit more, but it was a good book overall.
Nonfiction but science
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
This is a very good book to leave you wondering about our universe. Tyson explains many questions like “What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us?”
The Drunkard’s Walk - Leonard Mlodinow
This book is also about one of the topics I’m most interested in: randomness. And it also explains how it affects our daily lives. It is a very interesting read, brushing over the study of randomness, how it started and why. It also reminded me a little of Think Fast and Slow but this one feels a lot more technical and historical.
Soft skill improvements
To Sell Is Human - Daniel H. Pink
I reckon that selling is one of the most important topics for an entrepreneur. You can build the “best” product but don’t think it will sell itself. With that in mind, I decided to start learning more about this. This books was not that helpful in my opinion, there are many popular topics so I didn’t feel like I really learned anything new.
Steal like an artist - Austin Klein
This one I picked up almost randomly when visiting a bookstore. Yeah, even though I read most of my books in a Kindle device, I still love to wander around a nice bookstore. So, I found this book and thought it was very interesting and focused on improving one’s creativity. I’m very interested on this topic because as a programmer and entrepreneur, creativity is one of the pillars of the profession. Anyway, I’ve read this book in one sitting, it’s pretty short and there are many illustrations. I feel like the book is focused on making you increase your references and be open to different things that are not usually in your daily routine to spark creativity. Good stuff.
What is Seen and What is Not Seen - Frédéric Bastiat
This is a great book, I didn’t learn anything new from it, but helped me organize and clarify some ideas I had around what happens when the state (or other entities) redirects resources by enforcement of law. Usually something not obvious and sometimes more important is impacted and the results are not immediate but will be felt in the long term. This book has the famous story of the broken window, that goes more or less like this: the price paid to fix a broken window is good business for the glass store but is ultimately bad for society as the resources to fix the broken window could have been invested in something more useful.
Liberalism - Adam Smith
This book is part of a larger collection from Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations) and contains only the Theory of Price Definition in the Capitalist System and the concept of the Invisible Hand. In his own words: "By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it". The author demonstrates that each individual, doing what is specific to them the best way to increase the productivity and the wealth of a nation. The concept of the invisible hand is very interesting and states that supply and demand uses prices and profits as signals to the producers what society requires. Producers want profits, so they produce what society requires, at the correct quantity to stay in a competitive price.
Anatomy of the State - Murray N. Rothbard
This book is what makes Murray Rothbard be known as state's greatest enemy. It portrays different scenarios where the state ends freedom, destroys civilization and threatens all lives, property and social well being. As the title suggests, jsust like in an anatomy lesson, the author shows why the state is not the benevolent being that helps the poor and guides our civilization but a parasite.
Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau
To finish off, this book calls for citizens to put their values above their government. We know that we must follow the law, but what do you do when law is unfair? Such as it was so many times in the history of governments. This book is a call to action for everyone to refuse to participate in, or encourage an unjust institution.