Connor Smyth

a person sitting in front of a window

Books Update – 2020/09/07

This may just end up being a blog where I talk about all the books I have read with the occasional musing about what technologies I have been working with recently.

Let’s see where I left off last. Ahh, yes… since this last update I have read 10 books, one of which was a whopping 853 pages.

The Pragmatic Programmer

Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas

This has been touted as one of the most important books to read as a developer by many and I strongly agree. What this books does really well, in my opinion, is to help you understand what it takes to be a great developer. It stresses the fact that writing code is just a single part, not even the majority, of what you do as a developer. So while it is important to hone your craft, you can really only go so far down that road before you are faced with everything else involved in being a developer.

The Imposter’s Handbook

Rob Conery

The Imposter's Handbook (Imposter's Handbook, #1) by Rob Conery

I read this book mostly out of curiosity. I have begun leading a team and guiding people down their own paths of learning to code, so I thought I should find a book that is not as dense and unapproachable as the books I was recommended in school. I really enjoy how Rob Conery approaches all aspects from, what seems like, pure curiosity. I was drawn to his energy he created in his writing and ended up laughing a few times with his cartoons. For those first starting out, who wish to know all of the practical parts of what you would get with a CS degree, this is a book I would highly recommend.

The Unicorn Project

Gene Kim

The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data by [Gene Kim]

After reading The Phoenix Project last year, I thought it would be a good idea to read the same story, but from the developers’ perspectives. This is pretty much the only fiction book I have read all year, but it eerily doesn’t feel like fiction. The characters and the story feels too true and relatable. What underpins the whole story is the main character’s desire to do good and actually provide value to people. I think many developers can echo that sentiment also. I am currently reading The DevOps Handbook which will put a pin in this trilogy for me.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Steven Levy

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition by [Steven Levy]

Not all the books you read you necessarily have to enjoy, but it is a good idea to only start ones that you plan on finishing. This was a book that I did not really enjoy. I had heard Steven Levy interviewed about his new book about Facebook on the Postlight podcast. In the interview they had referenced this as being Steven’s post popular book. I think it was an interesting story to tell but the delivery was overall bland and slightly monotonous. Perhaps though I am not the target audience which would explain why Paul Ford of Postlight was such a fan.

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Clive Thompson

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by [Clive Thompson]

The way Clive Thompson writes reminds me of a simple technique we were taught in high school. You write the first part your essay arguing for a certain, sometimes controversial, topic and then for the latter part you tear down that argument and show the opposing side. It is an interesting read overall, but after reading Hackers, it was actually a little duplication of information. I would recommend this book to any non-technical person who is interested in learning about the mindset of developers.

Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

Steve McConnell

Code Complete (Developer Best Practices) by [McConnell Steve]

If you have ever wondered why best-standards are what they are in software development, then this 853 page book is for you. The book discusses the importance of using the correct analogies for what you’re describing, specifically emphasizing the analogy of construction for software. It also provides you with the tools and information necessary to speak to or against various best practices in the industry. Some parts of the book could use an update such as the section on version control (it was updated in 2005 and Git was released in 2005).

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by [Daniel Kahneman]

This was an excellent read that both teaches and challenges your preconceived notions as to the way people think. It does move quite quickly between each topic so I would recommend taking notes on what you find the most interesting. I would recommend this book to everyone I can.


Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by [Michael Lewis]

I think I have seen the movie at least six times by now (if you include the viewing after I finished the book), so I thought it would be good to read the real story. It most definitely did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how Bill James broke down the conventional analyses of baseball and introduced a new wave of relevant statistics to use. It reminds me somewhat of my own analysis of NFL moneyline betting using various, publicly available prediction models.

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World

Rutger Bregman

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by [Rutger Bregman]

Another great read that challenged many of my preconceived notions with powerful data. The book has presented me with arguments for how democratic socialism can work and how various things such as universal basic income and a 15-hour workweek can only be positive in the world we have become and are further becoming. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who believes in democratic socialism and wants to have data behind their arguments and anyone who is unsure but is curious of its benefits.


Michael Pollan

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by [Michael Pollan]

This is the second, but not last, Michael Pollan book I have read this year. In the beginning of quarantine I went on a binge of all of Netflix’s cooking documentaries and docu-series. I fell in love with Cooked, Michael’s personality, and his attitude towards returning to making food by hand when we can. The book discusses cooking from the four lenses of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. My favourite, and his as well, was the section on Earth which was based around the topic of fermentation. It’s always been fascinating to me the way bacteria can create various foods and the importance that bacteria has on our health.

In Progress

The DevOps Handbook by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Debois, & John Willis

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan