Saturday, December 25, 2010


It's been a busy year for me, but more troublingly, a year in which I have been full of 75% complete ideas that haven't been worthy of their own posts.  I have done a fair bit of reading though. Here are some of my favorite books that I've read this year (regardless of whether they came out this year).  Maybe you can use some of the % back from your Amazon Visa card to buy them.

I've been waiting a long time for this book (ever since How to GET a Cup of Coffee came out).  Let's just say I have been going around for five years talking REST. I didn't actually know WTF I was talking about until I read this book and started to understand HATEOAS.  It came out while I was struggling with a "RESTful" API that was singularly non user friendly. I still have a fundamental issue with REST where it seems like it is jamming too much into the six verbs. I was hoping this book would dissolve it, but it's actually written at too basic of a level. 

Morville, Search Patterns: Design for Discovery
If you are working on application that includes search and discovery features, this book sets forth a great pattern language. There are tons of examples and ideas here.

Anderson, Kanban
I'll come right out and say it here publicly on the Internet: Scrum is not a good software development method. Scrum masters are not useful. I still like XP. Kanban and Lean are much more sensible methods to go with XP practices than Scrum. It's really way too much to get into here, but having spent the past 7 years reading on the Theory of Constraints, Toyota Way, Lean, etc. this is a method that makes so much sense to me I think I've already been doing it without having a name for it. Yes we Kanban!

Fried, Hannson, Rework
These guys just have no patience for all the non-value added aspects of work (shades of Lean and 'muda'). They also have a way to ensure that the work we do maximizes the opportunities for innovation, creativity, and even beauty, ultimately leading to get us towards our own happiness. Work should make you happy.

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
The author of the awesome The Red Queen comes back with treatise on why all the things that the whiners keep themselves busy whining about aren't really too bad. In all of the hand wringing about the minor issues of the day, we are vastly better off than people at any time in history. His thesis is that specialization and markets are the prime movers of progress, and the world might not falling apart at the seams as much as it sometimes seems. Actually made me hopeful about life on Earth, which is a rarity.

Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
This is a fascinating book. It's bit harsh on the approach for dealing with religious people, but it gets to the heart of where we can find areas of moral agreement, based on some simple starting points. I thought it would devolve into utilitarianism, but Harris takes it in another direction all together. He directly attacks the distinction between values and facts. It really made me question some of my "cultural relativism". I saw Harris speak earlier this year, and it was quite good. Plenty of his videos out on YouTube if you want the lite version. This will be offensive to many, but it's worth at least figuring it how to address these arguments if you disagree with them.

Ricky Gervais Presents: The World of Karl Pilkington
This is a bit funny.  You probably have to heard the podcasts or show a couple of times to appreciate it, but it is really quite good with lots of laughs at the expense of the indefagitable Pilkington.

Lidwell, Holden, and Butler Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design
I love reading about design. I am in the middle of the new Frederick Brooks book on the design of design.  I am still wondering how much reading about design it will take for me to eventually be a novice level design person.

Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College
This is one thing missing from the teaching profession. In the manner of a software patterns book, this covers a set of techniques for running an effective classroom. Buy copies for your kids' teachers.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't
Just be aware that I've read this book and have been trying to internalize it. At some point, you have to achieve a balance between getting what you want and being right. Even if you don't have the Will to Power, this will help you understand what those with the ambition are up to.

Ackoff, Beating the System: Using Creativity to Outsmart Bureaucracies
Some good ideas here.

That's just a quick sampler of what I can remember, which gets smaller every year. Enjoy!