2022 in Review: Reading and Writing Highlights

I had a good year. My immediate family stayed healthy, I got to spend quality in-person time with my extended family, traveled internationally a bit, enjoyed my job at Google (including a change in role), spoke at some events, taught a couple of Pluralsight courses, and moved to beautiful San Diego. I also did fewer things overall, and found a reasonable balance between go-go-go and rest. For the first time, I kept a daily log and the constant reflection really slowed me down, in a good way.

For the last fifteen years (yeesh!) I’ve been recapping the previous year, and highlighting the best books I read. I finished 49 books in 2022—my daily log shows that I read on 93% of the days last year—and for the first time, read one book twice. But first, let’s look at a few of my favorite written pieces.

Things I Wrote (or Said)

Multicloud’s moment: Everybody’s doing it, but are you doing it right? Here’s eight dos and don’ts. This ended up being a fairly popular post on the Google Cloud blog and I enjoyed sharing some mildly-edgy perspectives.

Google Cloud Next ’22 Developer Keynote: Top 10 Cloud Technology Predictions. I had the pleasure of speaking at Google Cloud’s flagship conference last year, and for some reason they brought me back again. This was a fun talk. More people comment to me on the walkup music than the content itself.

How easily can you process events in AWS Lambda, Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions? Let’s try it out. I use each hyperscaler on almost a weekly basis, and enjoy comparing and contrasting the experiences.

Running serverless web, batch, and worker apps with Google Cloud Run and Cloud Spanner. One reason that I write things is so that others can take my ideas and make them better. Multiple people took this post and demo and improved on it, and I was happy to see it.

This might be the cleanest way I’ve seen parallel processing done in a (serverless) workflow engine. For better or worse, I’m getting older and have seen a lot. So, it’s fun to look at new approaches to classic problems.

Loading data directly into a warehouse via your messaging engine? Here’s how this handy new feature works in Google Cloud. I’m slowly expanding my horizons from being so app centric to becoming more data centric. BigQuery is awesome, and I spent a fair amount of time in 2022 using it.

Continuously deploy your apps AND data? Let’s try to use Liquibase for BigQuery changes. Hands down, the most complex tech demo I built this year. The result is straightforward, but I had to learn a lot, almost gave up three times, but am proud of myself for figuring it out. And, I think it solves a useful problem!

Things I Read

I read 49 books on an assortment of topics. Here are some of the standouts:

West with the Night by Beryl Markham. Beautifully written book from Beryl Markham who is known for being the first person to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. But this story is abotu so much more. Her life growing up in Africa is fascinating, as is her adventurous adulthood. Vivid language, exquisite phrasing, and a compelling story.

Project Hail Mary: A Novel by Andy Weir. I liked this book so much I read it twice! From the author of “The Martian”, it’s another fun, surprising, and education (!) space adventure.

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr. Google uses Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a way to articulate goals and align teams. This is a good book that uses lots of examples to explains what OKRs are, why they matter, and how to do them well (and poorly).

140 Days to Hiroshima: The Story of Japan’s Last Chance to Avert Armageddon by David Dean Barrett. I didn’t know much about the Japanese perspective regarding WWII. This well-written book explains how the military leadership of Japan led the country towards a catastrophic result.

Serpico by Peter Maas. Such a great book. It’s the true story of New York cop Frank Serpico who resisted widespread corruption and eventually helped bring some accountability to the department.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. Wow, I saw the movie years ago, but the book was tremendous. This is a maddening, insightful, and engaging book about the financial meltdown earlier this century and the irresponsible industries that made it possible.

Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World that Rejects the Bible by J. Warner Wallace. When a homicide detective investigates the historicity of Jesus and applies his considerable investigation skills, you know it’ll be interesting. It was also insightful to learn the various techniques a detective uses to crack a case.

Florence Nightingale: A Life Inspired by Lynn M. Hamilton. We owe so much to Nightingale! She was not a nurse by trade, but her smarts and relentless effort made a massive impact on the mortality rate of soldiers and hospital design. Linking infection to unclean environments was a game changer.

The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski. I loved this. Baseball is my favorite sport, and Posnanski offers up a vignette of the top hundred players of all time. Many of these stories emphasize the father-son relationship, the ability to rise above adversity, and the hard work necessary to realize sustained success over many years.

Amp It Up: Leading for Hypergrowth by Raising Expectations, Increasing Urgency, and Elevating Intensity by Frank Slootman. This approach won’t resonate with everyone, but it definitely spoke to me. It’s all about leaders focusing on awareness, urgency, decisiveness, and play to win. Great business book.

Marco Polo by Laurence Bergreen. I admittedly didn’t much about Marco Polo besides saying his name in swimming pool games. I really liked this book that told the story of the Polos and how their partnership with the Mongols had massive implications on cultural transmission between East and West.

Product Management in Practice by Matt LeMay. If you’re new at product management, or an experienced product manager, you’ll like this book. It’s full of advice for every dimension of the role.

Courage Is Calling: Fortune Favors the Brave by Ryan Holiday. This book sent me down a rabbit-hole of Stoic content in 2022. Holiday explores “courage”, how to replace “fear”, and uses tons of examples to prove his point. Motivational and enjoyable read.

I Was Right On Time by Buck O’Neil. If I made a list of ten all-time Americans to have lunch with, O’Neil would be on the list. This is the story of a wonderful man who played a key part in the Negro Leagues of baseball and remained an ambassador of the (eventually-integrated) sport for decades afterward.

Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move by Andy Stanley. We all make hundreds (thousands?) of decisions every day, and Pastor Stanley offers up some truly compelling questions/decisions to help you make good choices. The one about “what story do you want to tell?” helped me change how I handled the difficult process selling my house this year.

Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Read this book to learn about the heroes of the Stoic approach. Along the way, you’ll absorb a lot of pragmatic advice for living a satisfied, impactful life.

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company by Andy Grove. Exceptional business book that I got around to reading this year. It’s a masterclass of decisiveness, ownership, continuous attention, and building things that last.

Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind by Andy Dunn. Brave story from Dunn who seemingly had it all while founding and succeeding with Bonobos. But his struggles with mental illness blew all that up, and forced him to get help. Important story.

Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making by Tony Fadell. If you’re building a business, building a team, or building products, you’ll love Fadell’s book. It’s chock-full of useful advice and stories from his time creating some of the most iconic products of the last couple decades.

Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player by Jeremy Beer. Was Charleston the greatest baseball player of all time? It’s possible. He starred on some all-time Negro League teams before the sport was integrated, yet never seemed to harbor bitterness about that. He stayed in the sport for years after before dying relatively young. I wish I could have seen him play.

Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig’s Astonishing Journey from Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend by Joshua M. Greene. Wilzig had no advantages in life, especially after coming to America following years in Auschwitz. Through talent and determination he built companies and changed industries. All while ensuring that Holocaust memories wouldn’t be forgotten.

Is Atheism Dead? by Eric Metaxas. Nowadays, it can take more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God. Metaxas wrote a compelling book that outlines the scientific, archeological, and philosophical case for belief.

Warfighting: The US Marine Corps Book of Strategy by A.M. Gray. I enjoy a good strategy book, and this one offered useful perspective on dealing with uncertainty, strategies for confronting the “enemy”, and creating clarity around your intent.

Continuous Discovery Habits: Discover Products that Create Customer Value and Business Value by Teresa Torres. A good product team is never done learning. Torres wrote an excellent book that can help product managers and organizational leaders continuously discover what the customer needs and how a product should evolve for maximum benefit.

Developer Marketing Does Not Exist: The Authentic Guide to Reach a Technical Audience by Adam DuVander. Nobody likes being on the receiving end of “bad” marketing, but developers in particular are quick to tune out anything inauthentic. DuVander does a great job laying out what a sincere, impactful marketing messaging can look like for technical teams.

Developer Relations: How to Build and Grow a Successful Developer Program by Caroline Lewko and James Parton. Before I took on my role leading Developer Relations at Google Cloud, I picked up this book. I’m glad I did. I learned about team structures, metrics, and mission along with how to help DevRel positively impact the business itself.

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield. I could barely put this book down. It’s historical fiction about the 300 Spartan warriors who somehow resisted a massive Persian invasion and changed the course of history. Staggering courage.

The Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie Jr. This is a fictional Western story that offers up a captivating look at life during westward expansion and what it meant to survive and thrive.

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham. This book represents the first effort to treat the Gospels as testimony by eyewitnesses. Fascinating stuff. Bauckham does thorough analysis into names of Palestinian Jews in this time period, how oral preservation happened in ancient cultures, how memory works, and the standalone value of eyewitness testimony.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides. Another book about courage! The 30+ folks who left to find the North Pole weren’t reckless; they meticulously researched and prepared. But they were doomed from the start. Between two years stuck in the ice, and an improbable journey after their ship sank, it’s almost amazing that 13 survived.

Investments Unlimited: A Novel About DevOps, Security, Audit Compliance, and Thriving in the Digital Age by many. Can a book about enterprise security practices be engaging? Yes, when written as fiction. Good story that imparted helpful lessons for those trying to go fast while staying safe.

What does 2023 hold? I have absolutely no idea. Hopefully for all of us, it offers more learning opportunities, more laughter, and less of taking ourselves too seriously. I’m going to continue keeping a short daily journal, started sharing daily recaps of my favorite blog posts, and I hope to continue enjoying my family while tackling new challenges at work. Let’s stay connected this year!

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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