Reading Summary – 2019

It’s that time of year again.

I’ll confess to two things for this year’s list. One – It’s a bit shorter due to not keeping complete track of everything as well as this year having more than one reread from previous years. Two – I haven’t written each summary immediately after finishing the book, which is something I’m correcting going into 2020.

Anyways, on with the list..

Worth Dying For: A Navy SEAL’s Call to a Nation – A candid message about the costs of freedom and a challenge to all to public service. 

Kitchen Confidential – The book that put Anthony Bourdain on the pop culture map.  Great stories although his chapter about the Department of Human Resources reads quite a bit differently now given the circumstances of his death

Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower – Taking a Twitter history and expounding on it to produce a book of daily affirmations is an interesting approach.  Better read in small batches to give the ideas time to breathe

Tiamat’s Wrath – Book 8 of The Expanse – Been waiting for this one for a while. This entry capitalizes on the previous time jumped novel and its aftermath to develop new characters and old favorites. This series continues to tell interesting stories about how humanity and its patterns might settle out after a sudden technological revolution and space faring land grab.

Mistborn (The Final Empire) – Oh wow. What have I gotten myself into? A friend at work ‘recommended’ (i.e. – Shamelessly Pimped the same way I do with The Expanse) this series to me and I was not disappointed. An excellent and engrossing introduction to a world steeped in tyranny and strange magics which serves as one of many gateways to an expansive universe spanning several series of novels.

The Whole Beast – Took a look at this one based on a recommendation from Kitchen Confidential. It’s essentially a cook book that focuses on the often forgotten and discarded parts of the animal. Shanks and organs and other extremeties that were staples of our grandparent’s diet due to sheer necessity but would be considered foreign and exotic by us and our descendents.

The Martian – I’ll admit that I saw the movie first, but the novel was definitely entertaining. An adventure novel steeped in science and humor, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a page turner on a long flight.

The Passionate Programmer – One of my rereads from the Pragmatic Bookshelf. This one has more of a focus on the artistic aspects of software development by comparing it to musicianship and other artistic pursuits. Don’t forget to find mentors and ‘Make The Hang’

The Developer’s Code – Another Pragmatic Bookshelf entry. A how to on beginning or enhance a career in software development. Does a great job of explaining abstractions of the practices and processes of delivering value, warts and all.

The Dip – Every pursuit feels great when you’re just starting out. Everything is fresh and novel and exiting. Whether or not the journey still has value as you proceed, you’ll inevitably reach a point where things seem too difficult or no longer worthwhile. Knowing the difference between ‘when to quit and when to stick’ is an important skill to develop.

Ego Is The Enemy – As time goes on, Ryan Holiday will probably have his own section of my bookshelf due to the sheer frequency with which I reread his stuff. This one was new to me this year, but I’ve already given it a second run through this year.

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Happy New Year – Happy New Decade

Here’s to a new year!  And not just that, but to an entirely new decade!  If you want to feel a bit surreal and/or old, check out this interesting article of factoids over at Wait But Why

To start off, I’ve been seeing these Decade In Review listicles floating around.  Seemed like a fun little exercise, so here’s mine:

  • 2010 – Welcomed our daughter into the world and went back to college to finish my degree
  • 2011 – Started smoking meat and making homemade spices as a hobby.  Earned my first 4.0 GPA.  Drove cross country from Philadelphia to Wichita.
  • 2012 – Graduated from Fort Hays State – Bachelors in Information Systems
  • 2013 – Broke out of my comfort zone and started coaching youth sports and college recruiting.  Celebrated 10 years of marriage with our own private road trip around Kansas
  • 2014 – Despite having lived in California for several years, finally took Karla and the kiddos on a cable car and hiking through the SF streets
  • 2015 – Rediscovered writing by starting a blog
  • 2016 – Took a family road trip through the Midwest.  Rekindled my tabletop and pen & paper gaming hobbies, making many new friends along the way.
  • 2017 – Embraced my career specialization and spoke for the first time at a global conference
  • 2018 – Traveled to Hawaii, our first time off the mainland.  Sold our home in Kansas, packed up our lives and relocated to Arizona
  • 2019 – Doubled down on my career specialization and earned a promotion.  Said goodbye to our first ‘baby’, Maureen as well as to one of the most influential people in my life.

It’s amazing how time flies and how so many of these memories seem so recent.  My life today doesn’t resemble the life I started in 2010.  I’m sure many of us will have a similar experience in 2030.

Speaking of, what’s next?  In keeping with my guidelines around starting less, I’m looking at improving or finishing what I’ve already started rather than taking on new challenges.

Choose health – As much as I belabor this point and punish myself for failing, I still keep missing the mark.  That’s no reason to give up, just to try it again and try it different.

Learn more – My reading habits have fallen off a bit this year as well as my self study habits.  I’ll be setting aside dedicated time for this in my professional as well as personal studies

Build more – As with my reading habits, my writing habits aren’t doing much better.  Starting off on the right foot, I’ve been setting aside dedicated time for writing and have already submitted a candidate session for Knowledge 20!

Not an ambitious list in the context of beginning a new decade, but I’m thinking embracing a principle of ‘Doing Less to Accomplish More’ will be prudent.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com

Happy New Decade, everyone!

Dementia, Dickens & Donna Summer

“If he had died, it would be easier. But, he didn’t. They took him from us a piece at a time.” – Guinan on letting go

This weekend, we all lost my grandmother. The family and friends of Ada ‘Geri’ Digiorno will be spending many moments over the coming years sharing stories about her and celebrating her life. We were all tragically fortunate to have time to pregame and process ahead of time as we witnessed her ruthless decline. Dementia can get fucked right alongside cancer and people who talk in movie theaters.

Nana’s influence on me can never be understated. My earliest memories of her came on the heels of my parent’s divorce and many weekends and summers spent with her and her husband Tony (Papa). They were both still working full time so I’d often spend some idle time at the Playhouse bar, doing odd jobs like sweeping or cleaning up to earn change to sink into the bar’s jukebox. Frequent choices were The Gambler and Devo’s ‘Whip It’, but my top favorite was Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’. They bought me my own copy of the LP to go with my first record player.

“Family need not be defined merely as those with whom we share blood, but as those for whom we would give our blood.” – Charles Dickens, Nicolas Nickleby

Fast forward a few years, add in the passing of her husband, and the paths that we predict for ourselves start to become a lot less predictable. After enough of these, it can be tempting to withdraw or not become too invested because you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

One of my favorite novels growing up was David Copperfield and the parallels around searching for safety and belonging at this stage in my life weren’t lost on me. As clunky and formal as Dicken’s prose can be, the theme of found family is timeless and vital to those whose lives didn’t quite go as expected. The place I could always count on being safe though was at Nana’s house. No expectations or demands. Just being present was sufficient.

We found ways to bond over the most unusual things. Star Trek for her suddenly became watchable after Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast. And Beavis & Butthead made the rotation just so she’d have some context as to what Letterman was going on about during his monologue. And no one I know laughed harder at South Park’s jabs at Mormons. Slaughtering sacred cows was our favorite pastime.

“Face it – If you weren’t related to these people, would you EVER see them again?” – Rick Reynolds

One thing she never hesitated with was to take others down a peg or help them get over themselves. As I grew older, I learned I wasn’t exempt to this either. A young 20-something high on his own ego runs his mouth often enough. When she’d had enough, she had some interesting and humorous ways to bring me down to earth. Let’s just say I’d never thought an eyeroll and an ‘Ok, Jason’ (as in Medea) would sting that much.

Before long that was just how we related to each other. The safe space of people who knew we could eviscerate each other verbally with no love lost and our relationship all the stronger for it. We would still talk current events and politics up until she really couldn’t carry on a conversation. It was always fun and she’d still even remember a lot of the in-jokes and mental models around movies and pop culture we’d built over the years.

“You gonna put me down too, John?” – Nana being Nana

Geri touched countless lives and truly is an example of a life well and fully lived. We’re going to miss you and celebrate you while we do. Love you lots. Say hi to Papa for us.

Reading Summary – 2018

It’s that time of year again.

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since my original reading list. I’m pretty sure I’m reading as much as I dare at a time (quality over quantity). One thing I’d like to track this year is how many books I buy/receive v. how many I’ve actually read. For those of us who tend to buy books whimsically and/or recklessly, it might be a good idea to cut down on that pile of shame. (Confession: I’m already -1 on that count)

Anyways, on with the list..

Ghost in the Shell Deluxe Edition Volume 1 – A watershed work of cyberpunk.  I’ve been a fan of the anime since the original release in the 90s.  The original manga does not disappoint.

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck – Kind of an anti self-help book.  Some interesting premises and ideas around the futility of avoiding discomfort and making systemic changes with that in mind.

Babylons Ashes –  Book 6 of The Expanse.  Continues the arc of the previous book neatly while still taking us on a few tangents to flesh out the after effects of recent events.

The Churn – An Expanse novella.  There’s a set of these, one for each of the lead characters.  This one gives us the backstory of Amos Burton, the Rocinante’s mechanic.

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes – A collection of (very) funny interpretations of world mythologies and religions.  Think of it as if Cracked wrote a course on comparative religion

Persepolis Rising – Book 7 of The Expanse – This entry takes us forward about a generation past the events of Babylon’s Ashes while still keeping us up to date on familiar characters and introducing some new ones.  Probably one of the weaker offerings of the series but I’m still hungry for more.

The Butcher of Anderson Station – An Expanse Short Story.  Much shorter than The Churn, but still a good read.  Little bit of insight as to how Colonel Fred Johnson got his infamous moniker.

Old Man’s War – This is my first introduction to John Scalzi and I was not disappointed. This book (series) is surely inspired by Heinlien’s Starship Troopers, but without all the bloviating. I’ll be continuing with the series.

Antifragile – IIRC, I read this book as part of a Strenuous Life challenge. An in-depth study of building better systems by microfractures and the idea that there is no strength or growth without resistance.

Blood Meridian – A vivid and nightmarish stream of consciousness using historical events as a backdrop. This was a bit dense and requires some concentration to truly appreciate. It was a nice reminder that just because something is critically acclaimed and makes a lot of Top 10s, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

The Accidental Billionaires – The story of the founding of Facebook. Interesting and familiar but that’s mainly because I already knew the story. Still, if it’s a Ben Mezrich book, I want to read it.

The Ten Day MBA – Very interesting crash course in business.  Brushed up on existing knowledge and learned a few new things

12 Rules to Life – Excellent restatement of common sense principles by controversial personality Jordan Peterson. Accessible and interesting, if a bit long winded. 

 The Professor In The Cage – In the spirit of George Plimpton’s ‘Paper Lion’, this is solid behind the scenes storytelling of the world of fighters.

Skin In The Game – Another one by Nassim NicholasTaleb.  A discussion of evaluating advice based on the risk profile of the advisor.

A Fighter’s Heart – An interesting examination of commonalities across multiple fighting styles from both the fighters and spectators.

No More Mister Nice Guy – Watershed work on breaking unhealthy conditioning and making your needs a priority.  Intended for men but might be valuable to anyone.

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius intended for these musings to be for his own personal reflection.  It’s since become regarded as one of the iconic works of Stoic philosophy.  Suitable for reading beginning to end or for spot reading as desired.

Letters from a Stoic : Volume 1 – Another watershed work of Stoicism.  Written as advice to friends which means the names might require some googling.  Also, the content is a bit repetitive and comes off as a bit flowery and preachy.  I prefer Meditations

This Will Never Happen Again – A collection of essays from David Cain’s Raptitude.com website.  Good reads for grounding and motivation

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Betting On Yourself

New years are appropriate times for new beginnings. As is my preferred approach, there’s no better time for a big change or a big bet than the moment you’re ready. The end result for me recently has resulted in a new role and an entirely new city, with my family in tow. To say that this is scary and uncertain is an understatement.

It’s a cliche/oxymoron/koan that the only constant in life is change. But it’s a truth in our ever changing and ever accelerating world that you can either embrace change or embrace irrelevance. In no trade is this point of view more appropriate than working in tech. Tastes change. Tools and frameworks change. And the people around us constantly change. If we are to live intentionally, we need to do so with our eyes wide open and to persistently choose our path. Often, this will mean taking on risk and disrupting your current routine.

From my inaugural reading list, I’m reminded of Choose Yourself. The entire premise of the book is reminding yourself to roll with the punches and that, ultimately, you can handle this. And when you work in a trade with constant changes and ‘just-in-time’ learning, this faith in yourself is justified.

Of course, I’m not saying to be reckless or constantly in motion. But there’s something to be said for managing risk rather than avoiding it. Without challenge and resistance, there can be no growth. And proceeding under a little uncertainty is healthy and crucial to breaking through ‘analysis paralysis’.

I’m interested in hearing about your big moves, whether they’re past or present. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Happy New Year!

TsunamiCon 2018 – A Look Back

“And now for something completely different…”

I know it’s completely unprecedented in my profession, but I’m a big fan of gaming.  When I’m not looking down my nose at console gamers, I can be found with zero or more people, huddled around a tabletop game.   And as I’ve done for the past three years, I had the pleasure of attending TsunamiCon 2018.

TsunamiCon bills itself as “Wichita’s premiere tabletop gaming convention,” and I’m inclined to agree.  Over the past few years, it’s grown to attract a new following with more attendees every year.  My experience this year was intended to be mostly as a guest, but I just couldn’t resist the call to run some tables myself.  And this year, my son even stepped up to share some games he enjoys with other gamers.  Here’s a quick run-down of our sessions:

Friday

Shadowrun Missions : Welcome to the Sixth World – Shadowrun is a dystopian near future science fantasy setting.   Basically, if you took Gibson’s Sprawl setting and added magic and fantasy races like elves and orcs.  That’s Shadowrun.   Shadowrun Missions is the organized play version intended for individual players to show up for a one-off adventure.  Our host walked us through a (challenging) character creation before throwing us into the streets of Seattle.  Can’t wait to try the setting again.

Liberty or Death : The American Insurrection – I grew up on Avalon Hill wargames, meaning lots of cardboard counters and poring over dense rulebooks with ubiquitous reference numbers.  GMT’s CounterInsurgency (COIN) series definitely scratches that itch for me.  Liberty or Death allows players to choose a faction within the conflict to wrest the American colonies from British rule.  Rather than simplify the conflict to being an isolated series of battles between Redcoats and Colonials, this game expands on the historical place of the American Revolution as just another theater in the global conflict between great powers like Britain and France.

Eschaton –  This was an interesting deck builder with area control elements.  Players take control of a cultist faction struggling for control over minions and against each other with an eye toward ultimate dominance.  Great way to end the day.

Saturday

Embarassing my son

Pixel Tactics –  A good friend of ours hosted a tournament for this game last year, which I’m proud to say my son won all on his own.   This game merited another tournament this year with promises of even greater glory and prizes, some supplied by the game publisher themselves!  Players have a single leader that guides various ranks of heroes in battle against their rivals.  Simple stats are buffed by intricate and seemingly limitless combos based on their position on the field and their proximity to the leader or other heroes.

Arthur, Queen of the Britons!

Mounting Pitons to Hold the Grill – ‘Tim the Enchanter’ is a regular fixture at TsunamiCon.  This time, we ran into him while my daughter was exploring the con and noticed several distinctive props for an upcoming LARP game, based not-so-loosely on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  After Tim regaled her with promises of high adventure and treacherous challenges, Queen Arthur took up the quest for the Holy Grail, leading her Knights of the Round Table to ultimate antics and silly success!

Ethnos – In Ethnos, players call upon the support of giants, merfolk, halflings, minotaurs, and other fantasy tribes to help them gain control of the land.  This is another one that doesn’t make it to the table at home very often and we were delighted to have a full table.  The game seems like there should be much to it as it largely consists of card draws and playing sets.  The fun and intrigue crops its head up when players time their plays in attempts to gain the upper hand before the end of the round.  Lots of stare downs and trash talk at this one.

Pathfinder Society : Trial By Machine –  Pathfinder Society is the organized play version of the Pathfinder fantasy setting.  This was a chance for players of any skill level to try out the game and meet other players in a one off adventure, and let me test my GM skills on a new set of victims in the process.

Sunday

Free Play –  Even for the most fanatical of gaming enthusiasts, cons invariably take a toll.  My family and I had hit the wall by Sunday morning but we braved the floor again for some pick up card games and to say goodbye to old and new friends.  As exhausting as it was, it won’t take long before each of us is brimming with ideas and counting the days until next time.

See you all next year!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

 

On MMA, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Foul Mouthed Teddy Bears

“Shut the fuck up!” – James Cameron has totally said this at least once

A friend recently got me listening to Joe Rogan again.  Whatever your opinion about his venue, his guests or his personal biases, the dude is never boring.  I had one of those Baader-Meinhof moments when he had Neil DeGrasse Tyson as a guest recently.  Here’s a quick breakdown.

Tyson has an anecdote about how he teased and/or hassled James Cameron for a technical error committed during the making of Titanic.  During the ending sequence when Jack is (unnecessarily) freezing to death in the North Atlantic, Tyson claimed that the stars in the sky were actually incorrect for that part of the world at the time in question.  Maybe a bit pedantic, but this is the guy who got on Jon Stewart’s case for how The Daily Show globe rotated in the wrong direction.  It’s kind of his thing.

The real punch line for me wasn’t just that they fixed it, but the details of how, which I now know thanks to Joe Rogan.

Cameron, after much haranguing and good-natured verbal fencing, released a Director’s Cut and contacted Tyson for information on what the sky should have looked like at the time.  Since the stars were added in post production, it basically just took some editing work to fix the sky.   But rather than generate it from scratch, the team in charge of revising the movie looked around their media archives for suitable stock footage to crib from.

You might’ve heard of a pair of movies about a teddy bear that came to life based on the earnest wishes of his owner.   After this wish was granted, the two embarked on many wholesome and family-friendly adventures together.  The scene where young John makes his wish turned out to be the best match for the updated version of Titanic.   Considering Seth MacFarlane’s collaboration with Tyson on the newest version of Cosmos, I like the idea of him being the lynchpin of this entire comedy of patches.  (Even if he had nothing to do with it)

I will throw out a recommendation to check out the Joe Rogan podcast.   He casts a ridiculously wide net for who comes on his show and the format is basically a group sitting around for a couple of hours navel gazing about anything or nothing.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

 

 

The Strenuous Life – A Look Back (And Forward)

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Last month, I took a hard look at myself, my habits and the life they produced.  Rather than let that die on the vine, I’ve immediately gotten to work.  Some changes I’ve made have been:

  • Becoming single threaded on my hobbies – (1 book at a time, 1 project, etc.)
  • Prioritizing meal planning and making healthier choices – I think I’ve had one or two fast food meals in the past month.

One thing that I can’t let slide is ‘Identifying meaningful fitness goals and finding ways to test them.’  I need data on where I’m at and goals I want to reach before I can actually put any kind of a plan together.  One thing that’s helped me spend more time on this was the 12-week Boot Camp at The Strenuous Life, which I finished last week.

The Strenuous Life‘ (over at Art of Manliness) offers an experience that I’d call, “Scouts or Freemasonry for the Digital Age.”  For me, it’s offered a framework of one-off, daily and weekly challenges to see where I’m at and help me learn where I’d like to be.   And since membership is for life, I intend for it to continue to be a rewarding and challenging experience.

Since the program values the initiatory appeal of keeping the details of its challenges private, I won’t be sharing much of the details other than to list off some of the goals I’ve identified for the coming year:

  • Join a martial arts gym and rediscover my love for fighting
  • Continue to encourage my family’s participation in team sports by volunteering as a coach or official for their programs
  • Grow stronger and more competent physically

Still a wireframe, but I think this is good foundation to build on.  We’ll see how it goes.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Failure, Flagellation and Forgiveness

“The condition I’m in now is completely my fault. I caused this. I chose to slack off. I chose crappy foods. I’m the only one to blame and I’m the only one who can fix it.” – Chris Shugart – T-Nation

Time to pay the piper…

Last year, I made a huge bet on myself. As with most new endeavors, I put together a plan and front loaded it with good intentions and powerful reasons. And… I failed miserably. My scale this morning read 291. And last time I checked, I wasn’t 90’s Shaq. Therefore, I’m still dangerously overweight and deeper in the hole than this time last year.

So, what went wrong? Execution, basically. It’s one thing to try and reach a goal with a plan but you actually have to show up every day and make good choices. I’ve made too many choices to skip out on sleep and exercise. And I’ve made too many choices to hit the drive thru instead of cooking at home. All of these add up, quite literally.

Looking back, it’s been a crazy year with a lot going on and I haven’t learned my lessons from keeping too many open loops. I don’t sleep well. My exercise habits are half-assed to the point of non-existence. I eat like shit. I keep my challenges within my comfort zones. This is just truth. Something to accept and act on.

Now, what am I going to change? My goal hasn’t changed. But any goal without a decent plan is just a dream. So, that means the plan has to change. Here’s what I have in mind:

Stop starting so much. Horrible grammar aside, I think this captures a model of what I’m trying to accomplish. I prefer to keep my tasks single threaded, which means I need to devote the lions share of my day to grinding on those and not so much time touching a huge backlog of tasks or dailies. I need to say ‘No’ more often, if not most of the time.

Sleep. A useful comparison I’ve heard recently is that skipping sleep is the equivalent of not charging your phone. I’m not interested in being stuck @ 15% all day.

Make time for exercise. This seems to be more important than what I’m actually doing. It needs to be daily and it needs to be done first thing. I’m going to be blocking out an hour each morning.

Better food options. I do love to cook. However, trying to keep up with a crazy schedule means cooking for a family during the work week tends to stress me out. I figure with some better planning and forethought, I can have some better options at hand when I need to eat. This will mean looking up some better takeout options and breaking out the crock pot.

Have some actual fitness goals – Counting calories and watching a number isn’t enough for good health. I need to establish some actual goals for growing healthier and stronger and it needs to be something that I’ll look forward to doing. More on that later.

Test myself – Looking at the scale is one way, but I need other milestones. These can be blood or other health markers. More likely they’ll be fitness goals whether reps or times or even some one off events like the Gladiator Dash.

That’s enough for now.  This mission has never been less important and I need to remind myself constantly of that.  Now, it’s time to go to work.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.

Reading Summary – 2017

reading

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” – P.J. O’Rourke

Last year, I’d hoped I’d be able to double my reading list of 2016. Looks like I’ve managed to do that this year by purposefully setting aside time every day for reasing. I’m hoping to continue the trend but doubt I’ll see as much of an increase quantity-wise. One thing I did notice was a distinct increase in the number of fiction books. Here’s to choosing quality over quantity in the coming year.

Caliban’s War – Book 2 of The Expanse.  Neatly folds in the ground broken during the first book while keeping the overall arc of humanity on a plausible arc.

The Alchemist – My sister gifted me a personalized copy of this book, citing it as one of her favorites.  I’m going to agree that I believe the hype.  The book focuses on helping each of us discover our own ‘Personal Legend’  Basically a reminder to be what you must be.

The Phoenix Project – While technically a novel, it’s meant to be a case study in breaking down established paradigms in systems and making meaningful improvements.  Adds some people focused drama but still demonstrates real world examples of constraints.

Don’t Be A Jerk – An in-depth annotation of a book I’ve never read. While there was some humor, most of the meaning was opaque to me. If I ever read Shobogenzo, perhaps I’ll come back to this one.

Abbadon’s Gate – Book 3 of The Expanse. Continues to builds on the previous story while raising the scope and the stakes.

The Daily Stoic –  The Stoic version of a daily affirmations book.  I wouldn’t recommend going into this one expecting to read it cover to cover.  It’s better to read each daily entry and let the ideas breathe throughout the day.  I’ll be repeating the process this year.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I really wanted to like this book after seeing the movie. The language and pacing is dense and subtle with some teases and payoffs to keep the reader engaged. However, it’s not my definition of a page turner and I doubt I’ll be finishing the series

Rome, Inc – A humorous tongue-in-cheek recount of the rise and fall of Rome in the context of modern corporate culture

Lucifer – Book 1 – As I’ve stated before, I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman. This is a spin-off of his masterpiece Sandman series that follows The Devil Himself post-retirement from his duties in Hell. Good read so far and I will be continuing the series.

Cibola Burn – Book 4 of The Expanse. Presents common human issues against hard proof of alien civilizations within the familiar setting of a frontier land rush.

The Handmaid’s Tale – A harrowing vision of what a Christian Theocracy might look like. Almost as if you took today’s puritanical tendencies, turned them up to 11, and gave them the force of law.

The Complete Software Developers Guide – Intended to be a reference guide for developers as opposed to be read cover to cover (although you certainly can). A great resource with great ideas for people looking to take the next step in their careers or even start down a new path

Rome’s Last Citizen – A biography of Cato the Younger, Stoic paragon and bitter enemy of Julius Caesar. Cato’s myth is cited as a catalyst for Rome’s adoption of Christianity as well as inspiration for the concepts of individual liberty and natural rights.

Snow Crash – A classic of the cyberpunk genre, being a delightful product of the optimism and futurism brought on by the inception of the World Wide Web. At once familiar reflection and alien satire of our ever accelerating culture.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World – Most Western education about the Mongol Empire depicts them as savage barbarians who pillaged and enslaved millions. While these depictions are largely true, they leave out the disruptive and transformative impact of the Mongol expansion and their legacy.

Nemesis Games – Book 5 of The Expanse. This is a return to form for this series as a page turner. Also, rather than investing in new characters, the author takes time to flesh out existing ones. Can’t wait to read more!

Blood of Elves – The first of The Witcher novels. I really wanted to like this one and it was great to see familiar characters and a bit of the lore that spawned the game series. However, the book violates the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ principle for about 80-90% of it with lots of shouty dialog where you’re not quite sure who’s speaking or what they’re talking about and little to no action.

I’d love to hear any feedback on this list and invite you to share your own reviews or recommendations.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to john@benedettitech.com.