The best investment I did in the last months of 2015 was certainly to fall for an Audible Membership. Each month, you get to pick one Audiobook from the whole Audible (i.e. Amazon) library for 10€ (Audiobooks often cost ~30€).
I used to read a lot. But for the past few years, it's been increasingly difficult to take the time to sit still and read. Most often than not, I open my surface and tackle one of the many ideas I had during the day. I have a long stack of books partially underway... but I could not build a habit of reading them.
On the other hand, for the past 10 years, I've been listening to hours of podcasts each week while commuting. Since I switched to Audible, I've consistently listened to one book every month. Here's a short summary of the books I listened to since November 2015.
Nota: All links below are affiliation-free
1. Soft Skills, Jon Sonmez
The book is very entertaining and full of small gems about interviewing, career, companies, freelancing, financial independence etc.
Jon recorded the audio himself and it makes the tone somehow friendlier, more intimate. With this title, I kind of expected something more... communication/people oriented, but the book is good anyway. If you're in the dev world, go for it, you won't regret it.
2. The ONE Thing, Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
A book about focus. Quick & helpful book to help you center your life and (re)align your goals.
The main question I got out of it is the following:
"What is the one thing that you can do that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?"
I've used this idea a lot lately, mostly when coaching or mentoring others:
Where do you want to be in 2 years? Where should you be in 12 months so that your 2 years goal is a success? Where should you be in 6 months...
Although I haven't used it to its full potential yet, it's been quite helpful to me already. It is a quick book, but nevertheless very helpful to hear all this again.
3. How to win friends and influence people, Dale Carnegie
This book has been on my to-read-list for an awful long time. It's a classical relation and psychology book about human relations. Some do describe it as manipulative and deceptive, but I'd say it is a good introduction to the "power of words".
What are the effects of your word to people you interact with? How will they react to what you say? When you know beforehand what your words could trigger, shouldn't you want to use different ones?
This book is quite old, but still dearly actual. This is a must read I would say.
4. Scrum - the art of doing twice the work in half the time, Jeff Sutherland
After hearing Jeff speak at the Management 3.0 User Group in Munich, I had to listen to his new book. Scrum is now probably the most well known Agile method nowadays and was co-created by Jeff.
This book goes into what he now calls "Aggressive Scrum", which is nothing else than "Scrum done right". But Scrum has been diluted through the years and can now be found in every flavor and he thus needed a new name.
I didn't learn much in this book, but it reinforced some thoughts I have been following for a while. For instance that Scrum without Air-Cover (high-management support) is sooner or later due to failure.
The book is full of good stories to remind you of your office work, and could also apply to non-software people. I also highly recommend it.
5. The hard thing about hard things, Ben Horowitz
Another book that has been on my to-read-list for a while. I even have a hard-copy at home but decided to listen to it anyway.
In this book, the author goes against the usual stream of business books to speak about what he thinks are the truly hard things when creating or leading a company: firing friends and executives while maintaining high morale in the company, poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality, holding up the social pressure, knowing the right time to cash in etc.
A lot of very important advice that will interest anyone who is remotely interested in leading, regardless of their aspirations to being leaders at this level or not.
6. Schwarmdumm - so dumm sind wir nur gemeinsam, Gunter Dueck
Boy I'd love to have an English version of this book to pass around.
In this German book, the author Gunter Dueck, shows how much common stupidity overshadows individual intelligence in complex systems.
There is no real AH-HA moment in the book beside the many examples of process degeneration toward stupidity that will invariably remind the reader of some part of their daily life. But this in itself is already a big lesson.
Since it's in German, it will not be for everyone... but for those who can read it, go for it!
0.1. Antifragile, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I also attempted to listen to the book Antifragile. While the idea really stuck to me, I could not concentrate on it and dropped it after a couple hours. Maybe being on the bike doesn't allow for enough concentration for this book. Or maybe I wasn't in the right state of mind. Maybe.
I discovered the book in this article from the New York Times and really liked the idea. For instance this paragraph resonated with me:
Mr. Taleb contends that we must learn how to make our public and private lives (our political systems, our social policies, our finances, etc.) not merely less vulnerable to randomness and chaos, but actually “antifragile” — poised to benefit or take advantage of stress, errors and change, the way, say, the mythological Hydra generated two new heads, each time one was cut off.
I might try it again someday. But for now I dropped it.
0.2. 7 habits of highly effective people, Stephen R. Covey
Another book that has been on my list for a while. And will probably come back to it soon. I'm about 3 hours into it and still have 10 hours to go... and it's been a month. I find it veeerrrryyyy slow and tend to avoid listening to it at the moment... which is a smell.
In itself I love the theory behind it and would like to know more, but the verbosity of it will most likely be the bitter end for me.
That's it for now. See you in 6 months for more book review... ;)