2017 in Review: Reading and Writing Highlights

kid-3What a fun year. Lots of things to be grateful for. Took on some more responsibility at Pivotal, helped put on a couple conferences, recorded a couple dozen podcast episodes, wrote news/articles/eMags for InfoQ.com, delivered a couple Pluralsight courses (DevOps, and Java related), received my 10th straight Microsoft MVP award, wrote some blog posts, spoke at a bunch of conferences, and added a third kid to the mix.

Each year, I like to recap some of the things I enjoyed writing and reading. Enjoy!

Things I Wrote

I swear that I’m writing as much as I ever have, but it definitely doesn’t all show up in one place anymore! Here are a few things I churned out that made me happy.

Things I Read

I plowed through thirty four books this year, mostly on my wonderful Kindle. As usual, I choose a mix of biographies, history, sports, religion, leadership, and mystery/thriller. Here’s a handful of the ones I enjoyed the most.

  • Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon, by Jeffrey Kluger (@jeffreykluger). Brilliant storytelling about our race to the moon. There was a perfect mix of character backstory, science, and narrative. Really well done.
  • Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, by Robert Coram (@RobertBCoram). I had mixed feelings after finishing this. Boyd’s lessons on maneuverability are game-changing. His impact on the world is massive. But this well-written story also highlights a man obsessed; one who grossly neglected his family. Important book for multiple reasons.
  • The Game: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball’s Power Brokers, by Jon Pessah (@JonPessah). Gosh, I love baseball books. This one highlights the Bud Selig era as commissioner, the rise of steroid usage, complex labor negotiations, and the burst of new stadiums. Some amazing behind-the-scenes insight here.
  • Not Forgotten: The True Story of My Imprisonment in North Korea, by Kenneth Bae. One might think that an American held in captivity by North Koreans longer than anyone since the Korean War would be angry. Rather, Bae demonstrates sympathy and compassion for people who aren’t exposed to a better way. Good story.
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight (@NikeUnleash). I went and bought new Nikes after this. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED PHIL KNIGHT. This was a fantastic book. Knight’s passion and drive to get Blue Ribbon (later, Nike) off the ground was inspiring. People can create impactful businesses even if they don’t feel an intense calling, but there’s something special about those that do.
  • Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Cesar, by Tom Holland (@holland_tom). This is somewhat of a “part 2” from Holland’s previous work. Long, but engaging, this book tells the tale of the first five emperors. It’s far from a dry history book, as Holland does a admirable job weaving specific details into an overarching story. Books like this always remind me that nothing happens in politics today that didn’t already happen thousands of years ago.
  • Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris, by Alex Kershaw (@kershaw_alex). Would you protect the most vulnerable, even if your life was on the line as a result? Many during WWII faced that choice. This book tells the story of one family’s decision, the impact they had, and the hard price they paid.
  • Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, by Gary Noesner. Fascinating book that explains the principles of hostage negotiation, but also lays out the challenge of introducing it to an FBI conditioned to respond with force. Lots of useful nuggets in here for people who manage complex situations and teams.
  • The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA, by Matthew Rozell (@marozell). Intensely personal stories from those who fought in WWII, with a focus on the battles in the Pacific. Harrowing, tragic, inspiring. Very well written.
  • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, by Norman Geisler (@NormGeisler) and Frank Turek (@Frank_Turek). Why are we here? Where did we come from? This book outlines the beautiful intersection of objective truth, science, philosophy, history, and faith. It’s a compelling arrangement of info.
  • The Late Show, by Michael Connelly (@Connellybooks). I’d read a book on kangaroo mating rituals if Connelly wrote it. Love his stuff. This new cop-thriller introduced a multi-dimensional lead character. Hopefully Connelly builds a new series of books around her.
  • The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, by Jeffrey Liker. Ceremonies and “best practices” don’t matter if you have the wrong foundation. Liker’s must-read book lays out, piece by piece, the fundamental principles that help Toyota achieve operational excellence. Everyone in technology should read this and absorb the lessons. It puts weight behind all the DevOps and continuous delivery concepts we debate.
  • One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams, by Chris Fussell (@FussellChris). I read, and enjoyed, Team of Teams last year. Great story on the necessity to build adaptable organizations. The goal of this book is to answer *how* you create an adaptable organization. Fussell uses examples from both military and private industry to explain how to establish trust, create common purpose, establish a shared consciousness, and create spaces for “empowered execution.”
  • Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, by Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays). What do Obama, Steve Jobs, Madonna, and Trump have in common? Remarkable persuasion skills, according to Adams. In his latest book, Adams deconstructs the 2016 election, and intermixes a few dozen persuasion tips you can use to develop more convincing arguments.
  • Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation, by Karen Martin (@KarenMartinOpEx) and Mike Osterling (@leanmike). How does work get done, and are you working on things that matter? I’d suspect that most folks in IT can’t confidently answer either of those questions. That’s not the way IT orgs were set up. But I’ve noticed a change during the past year+, and there’s a renewed focus on outcomes. This book does a terrific job helping you understand how work flows, techniques for mapping it, where to focus your energy, and how to measure the success of your efforts.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni (@patricklencioni). I’ll admit that I’m sometimes surprised when teams of “all stars” fail to deliver as expected. Lencioni spins a fictitious tale of a leader and her team, and how they work through the five core dysfunctions of any team. Many of you will sadly nod your head while reading this book, but you’ll also walk away with ideas for improving your situation.
  • Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, by Danny Meyer (@dhmeyer). How does your company make people feel? I loved Meyer’s distinction between providing a service and displaying hospitality in a restaurant setting, and the lesson is applicable to any industry. A focus on hospitality will also impact the type of people you hire. Great book that that leaves you hungry and inspired.
  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) and Leif Babin (@LeifBabin). As a manager, are you ready to take responsibility for everything your team does? That’s what leaders do. Willink and Babin explain that leaders take extreme ownership of anything impacting their mission. Good story, with examples, of how this plays out in reality. Their advice isn’t easy to follow, but the impact is undeniable.
  • Strategy: A History, by Sir Lawrence Freedman (@LawDavF). This book wasn’t what I expected—I thought it’d be more about specific strategies, not strategy as a whole. But there was a lot to like here. The author looks at how strategy played a part in military, political, and business settings.
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, by Kim Scott (@kimballscott). I had a couple hundred highlights in this book, so yes, it spoke to me. Scott credibly looks at how to guide a high performing team by fostering strong relationships. The idea of “radical candor” altered my professional behavior and hopefully makes me a better boss and colleague.
  • The Lean Startup: How’s Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries (@ericries). A modern classic, this book walks entrepreneurs through a process for validated learning and figuring out the right thing to build. Ries sprinkles his advice with real-life stories as proof points, and offers credible direction for those trying to build things that matter.
  • Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, by Nir Eyal (@nireyal). It’s not about tricking people into using products, but rather, helping people do things they already want to do. Eyal shares some extremely useful guidance for those building (and marketing) products that become indispensable.
  • The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gap between Plans, Actions, and Results, by Stephen Bungay. Wide-ranging book that covers a history of strategy, but also focuses on techniques for creating an action-oriented environment that delivers positive results.

Thank you all for spending some time with me in 2017, and I look forward to learning alongside you all in 2018.

Author: Richard Seroter

Richard Seroter is Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management at Google Cloud. He’s also an instructor at Pluralsight, a frequent public speaker, the author of multiple books on software design and development, and a former InfoQ.com editor plus former 12-time Microsoft MVP for cloud. As Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management, Richard leads an organization of Google Cloud developer advocates, engineers, platform builders, and outbound product managers that help customers find success in their cloud journey. Richard maintains a regularly updated blog on topics of architecture and solution design and can be found on Twitter as @rseroter.

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