This page contains references to books, blog posts and podcasts that I have come across. I'm not listing everything I've ever read or listened to, but rather I'm only identifying a small subset that have had a permanent impact on me. With each one, I want to leave some commentary which is intended to be a full-on, objective review of the item (see Amazon, Goodreads, etc. for those), but rather just highlight some of the biggest takeaways / impact that I got out of them.
As I started compiling this page, I quickly realized I'm not a web designer nor am I a front-end web developer. After a number of attempts to figure out what layout (with book pictures, mind you) would look good, I decided that in the interests of not putting form above function, I'll just leave things as simple sections/subsections.
However, it is my hope and dream to someday(tm) come back to this page and come up with a better layout and possibly some categories and filters to make things a bit easier to discover.
This book was pointed to me by J.J., who is a a great guy on at least 2 different counts. It was during one of our epic debates on how to approach software, life and the universe and this book had a great introduction that included what it means to manage vs. engineer a solution and pointed out that many times ideal approach would have those things work in tandem.
This is a diet book written by John Walker, a software developer, a manager, author of one of the first computer viruses and a founder of Autodesk.
I picked it up mostly for entertainment purposes simply because when I read that intro, I linked how author presented his thoughts and to me he was engaging. But thanks to that book I've lost 25 lbs and been able to keep my weight precisely where I want it.
Written by Kelly McGonigal , who taught (possibly still does) a continuing studies class at Standord on how to take what many different disciplines, like neuroscience, psychology, medicine and economics, know about willpower and apply it on practical levels to people's lives.
The book is structured such that after the first intro chapter, all subsequent chapters represent a single class, which is taught on a weekly cadence during a 10-week school session. Kelly's recommendation is to read one chapter a week and follow along as if you are actually taking that class at Stanford, which is what I did.
This is probably the other side of the losing-25-lbs coin to Hacker's Diet as I read both of those books at the same time and I feel they fed onto each other.
This one's a classic and on one level I've actually avoided reading it because once I started looking around, seems everyone else read it (similarly to how to this day I have not seen the movie Titanic with DiCaprio). However, there is a reason why this book is a classic
Years after reading it, I still bring up and reflect back to the habits mentioned from that book on just about daily basis. The habits themselves are basic and when you read them, you'll probably go, "okay... makes sense, I get it, I do it... kinda..." but it is interesting how your perspective in all aspects of your life might (doesn't happen for everyone) shift after you read it.
In big part, thanks to the author, Stephen Covey, and his habit #7: Sharpen the saw, in 2018 I've attend my first 5-day silent meditation retreat, which I'm now looking forward to making a regular, annual practice in my life.
According to Wikipedia, having sold 10+ million copies in 24 languages, based on a survey conducted by Library of Congress, this book belongs to a list of "the ten most influential books in the United States." Written shortly after WWII, this book captures experience and thoughts of Victor Frankl, who was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. In this book Frankl documents his own experience in concentration camps combines that with his own knowledge of psychotherapy and the human mind.
Frankl was a big proponent of Friedrich Nietzsche's idea that, "he who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." This idea aligns with Simon Sinek's popular book, "Start with Why" and both books have been very influential in my own path in helping realize that in order to find purpose/meaning in life, we must first understand our core values and why the actions/projects/decisions we embark on are important.
Before coming to this book, I've come across a number of other sources which all essentially said the same thing: you will feel the meaning and more fulfillment when the things you do align with your values. Great, that's easy! So just explicitly define your values and you'll be all set!
I picked up this book almost a 1/3 of a year after starting to think and try to figure out what my own values actually are. It took another 2 months before I actually had a list on paper.
This book is somewhat quirky in its approach and may not resonate with everyone. However, for myself with engineering background, I found their systematic, pragmatic and analytical method to dissecting life's most challenging questions to be very practical and extremely helpful.
I discovered this book few months after it sank into me how important it is for us to have clarity in our purpose and our goals in both personal and professional settings and how important it is for leaders of our organization help our teams find/build that clarity.
However, this book is not about business or leadership. It focuses more on the individual and sheds light on habits and practices that help one think through how the experiences and interactions they have at work are tied to a larger picture of what they do and what they want out of life.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who just started thinking that there must be more to work than simply showing up and going through the motions.
From Epictetus: "What disturbs peoples' minds is not the events but their judgements on events". Elsewhere, I've also read that Epictetus at one pointed pointed out that you would not let a stranger have full control over your body, and yet everyday we let strangers and sometimes just purely random events have full control over our own minds. We allow someone who cuts us off in traffic or something we see in the news or outcomes of sports events determine if we are going to be happy or sad. If you pause to think about that, there's a WTF moment in there somewhere.
This book is not the best writing I've ever read but it is short and the concept/message is very powerful and relevant to all of us. Building out Emotional Intelligence is about learning to recognize what triggers us and how to act on those triggers so that we take back the control of our minds rather than let external forces dictate the outcomes of our happiness and relationships.
The statement in the title is a bit polarizing but the underlying premise of the book is very sound. Willpower certainly has its applications, however, as Benjamin Hardy points out, if you frequently find yourself in environments/situations where you have to constantly use it, sooner or later it will fail.
The message in the book, which I do find very true, is that we are not separate from our environments and that the environment shapes/influences us just as much, if not more, as we believe we shape/influence the environment. Rather than always pushing ourselves with sheer force of will, Hardy points out ways in which we can adjust our own world, our schedules, places of work such that they are more aligned with tasks we are doing and goals we are aiming to achieve. A whole lot of good stuff to take away.
After reading this book, I've made several changes to my life. One immediate change was to align my weekly reflection so that it always immediately follows the Sunday morning yoga session.
Tara Branch is a Ph.D psychologist and a proponent of Buddhist meditation. In this book she shares a lot of her own personal experience as well as of other people she has worked with both in clinical and meditation settings.
While this book has some leaning toward Buddhism and may not be for everyone, the way she communicates is incredibly practical, relatable and the stories/examples she mentions is something many of us have gone through or seen our friends/family go through.
The main theme of the book is to use mindfulness (with meditation being one of the practices to help there) to see and accept ourselves, our environment and the people around us. And Tara reiterates that acceptance is very different from indifference. Rather she shares a quote from Carl Rogers, "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change"
The book takes you through the path of how you see yourself, your emotions and people around you. And how you relate to all these things around you and become aware when you shut down and when you open up and realize that all of these things are what makes us humans.
This book is narrated from a point of view of Douglas Carlton Abrams, who was present during Archbishop Tutu's week-long visit to Dharamsala, India for Dalai Lama's birthday celebration. In this book, Abrams captures his own impressions of the events that took place during that week as well as conversations/interviews that he held with both of the spiritual leaders.
It's a great book that takes what many believe to be very different perspectives of Christianity and Buddhism and highlights that under the surface they are not that different at all. It all comes down to basic humanity which is present in all of us, including those that follow a particular faith and those who think that they do not. At the end it is a book about humans and talks about how we all experience our joys, our suffering and everything in-between.
This was the very first book I read after taking on a management role at Carbon Black. Great read for anyone looking to gain more insight into humans and what drives them.
At the core of this book Daniel H Pink asserts that once person's basic survival needs are met (i.e. one is making enough to comfortably feed/house self and family) the structure that provides the next level of motivation for people is one which is based on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, rewards.
The three basic principles behind building that kind of structure are...
Having background in Agile/Lean software development and then entering management, this book resonated deeply with me. Although it took another year and a half before the importance of the 3rd bullet point really started sinking in
Relatively short and easy read but good enough that I went back through the book twice now and will probably come back again.
I would highly recommend this book especially to a new leader/manager who is struggling to get out of the mode of helping people by digging in too deep and solving too many problems for them. This seems an all-too-often common pattern that as one grows and gets more and more responsibility, there comes a point where the only way to scale is to grow other people around you. Other than teaching mode, which is easy to get into, there are also mentoring and coaching modes. Those are a bit difficult to master in big part because the teaching mode is also rather hard to get out of.
This book provides specific habits/questions to focus on and practice that are all designed to slow down your own responses while giving you the time/space to listen to what the other person is saying and help lead that other person to their own answers/discoveries.
At the end of the book, there's also a great list of recommendations for further reading and I've gone back to that list several times.
This book was listed as one of the recommendations at the end of The Coaching Habit as "If you can read just one book on deep personal change...". I picked it up after coming across the name in several places, one of which was another one of our engineering managers who started reading it.
It is based around Robert Kegan's work on studying adult development (here is a short blog post with high-level description of that work). The books walks you through the stages but then shows what makes us get stuck at a certain place and tools/techniques that can be used to uncover our own beliefs and mental models of the world that sometimes conflict with each other and force us into an equilibrium where there's a lot of pushing/wanting but little growth/development.
Great book and the technique seems very practical but it is not easy and will take time.
I found this to be a great, easy and engaging read. Whereas many books cut right to the bone of theories and the subject matter they are covering with many small examples and case studies interspersed through out, this book is overlaid on top of an actual true-life continuous story of the author as he took command and developed the screw of a US nuclear submarine.
As this book closely mirrors my own style, approach and philosophies (at least for now) on how to build effective teams and organizations, I've recommended this book to several people, especially those new to ideas of decentralized leadership and responsibility.
The author, L. David Marquet, is also a huge fan of Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits book (also mentioned here as so am I) and in his own words, "Stephen had a tremendous impact not only on life, but through me, on the lives of those I had the privilege to lead."
I am torn about this book. I will NOT recommend it to you. I would echo what I saw one of the other reviewers write about this book, the idea and concept is simple yet brilliant, but this book is so boring and repetitive. The whole thing should have been a 15 min TED talk rather than an entire book. Oh by the way, it is a TED talkso just go watch it.
Having said that, if you already have a strong enough sense of "your own why", it's possible that you'll be able to make it through this book and it will help you. I do feel that having made through it, while complaining to my wife half the time, it did end up changing me and possibly the repetitive nature actually helped with that.
I refer to the "the why" either mentally or when we actually discuss our long-term goals, mission within our organization or within my own teams. It is a great reminder and a habit to establish that we cannot overlook the why as we tend to get lost in "the what" and "the how", which is not to say that those are not important.
Been 3+ years since I read this, but I remember it being extremely helpful. This is one of the few books that helped me take concepts of agile methodologies at team level and see how they fit into the broader organizational picture of multiple teams/departments working together.
"Results are not the point" is still something I think about quite regularly as I whole-heartedly agree that we should continuously focus on what we control, what we can impact and what we can improve and never stop doing those things. By focusing on that, results will take care of themselves, but by simply focusing on sales goals/targets and hoping/wishing that we will make it this time, we are just taking energy/brain cycles from activities that would actually help us hit those targets.
This book had also a transformational impact on me as after reflecting on it, I realized the power and importance of time box in Scrum and realized that while my own team was claiming to be "doing agile" using Kanban and another team was using Scrum, if we consider that my own team never measured cycle times and this other team was never honoring the time box, we were missing a huge part of "doing agile".
This book set me on a 2-year back-burner hackathon project at work to build tools to extract data out of our ticket systems and chart/present it in a ways to help us guide our decision making.
Prior to reading this, I was fairly new to Agile methodologies. I read few books and blog posts that talked about, "this is who you build a successful team" and "this is what a scrum master does" and "here's a PO role". I never understood how that could scale to my own environment and department within United Technologies Corporation as we had many teams and very long time horizons.
I read this book a long time ago and while many details escape me now, I remember having an aha-moment as it put several missing key pieces into my mental model of planning/tracking work within an "actual company".
I believe this book was the beginning of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and the roots behind SAFe are great and very sound/reasonable. I have re-introduced a lot of concepts from that book as our teams started struggling with scale and this was years before our entire organization officially "gone Agile". Having said that, everything I read/heard about SAFe is that what it has become now is not where it started (like so many other tools/products out there). While I will fully endorse this book and will say that it is valuable even today, I will not extend same endorsement to SAFe itself as it stands today.
This was one of the first books I picked up when I was working at Lenel on their digital video recorder and a realization hit me one morning, hey I'm a technical team lead and people are actually listening to me. WTF do I know.
This book is easily digestible and a good read. It is a good introduction (and a refresher) to agile development methodologies and values behind them, such as small incremental changes, organic design that changes with the product and emphasis on frequent feedback.
While I found that I've already been using many (or most) concepts in the book, it was still a very useful read as many times it gave me language/words to be able to explain things to myself and other people. Things that I've done naturally after coding for 10+ years but never explicitly considered. Using this new language/wording helped me to speak to the team and lead less experienced developers.
When I read this book I was a C++ developer and our team was just beginning to discover unit testing and TDD. I picked up this book in my own attempt to figure out why using automated tests was so difficult for us. At the time I found this book to be absolutely brilliant and eye opening, but having not seen it for a long time, it might be geared too much towards C/C++ to be relevant to developers who use other languages such as Python or Java.
Before discovering this book, I along with my team have entered a pattern where we believed TDD / unit testing had great potential but simply could not be applied to existing legacy code base because the original code was not "proper written" for unit tests. This book breaks down this fallacy with each example hairier and more tangled than the previous one.
It highlights a number of techniques/practices for approaching old code, which was not written with TDD in mind and systematically wrapping it step by step with test automation. Rather than focusing on techniques themselves, the greatest benefit of this book is the inspiration for what can be accomplished by taking a step back from the problem and thinking creatively rather than simply staring at a tangled mess of a legacy application.
Several years ago as our team at Carbon Black started to mature, we've attempted a series of transformations. One of them was to move away from developer-owns-a-feature pattern and 6 developers means the team will work on 6 features in parallel to more of a team ownership so we can get benefits of working together, shared knowledge, shared learning and all those good things. So we started focusing on a single feature and something "felt" equally but very differently wrong.
Our team had 4 very important features that our product team has identified but rather than keep focus on our actual release, we went head-deep into the first feature. We hashed it out to the greatest detail with every nut and bolt and every bell and whistle and while doing it, at the back of my mind a voice was screaming that this can't be right. We can't go all-in this deep on one function at the expense of all other ones.
In an attempt to address that voice, I found this book and the concept of story maps has stuck with me. We've used it for all kinds of discussions from planning releases and individual features to discussing tech debt. I would highly recommend anyone involved in planning the work who is not familiar with story maps to pick up this book. Or at a minimum go read some blog posts.
Been a while since I read this book and a lot of patterns/examples are targeting statically-typed languages. From what I remember examples were in Java but the concepts were very much applicable / transferrable to C++ and C# as well. This might be less useful for Python or JS developers.
Similarly to Clean Code above, this book was not earth-shattering full of brilliant and novel ideas and yet it was a very useful read. It gives language/structure to things that a good, experienced software engineer would probably pick up eventually. But there's always one or two things that you might miss as your skills unroll organically and acquiring language/labels for a lot of these things and just different perspective on how to approach/explain the concepts was extremely useful for me. And if you are not as experienced, you'll probably pick up a ton of good things on how to write better code
There are a lot of blogs out there and in some of those, there's a ton of blog posts. However, there may be a few (or just one) that really stood out enough for me to include it here
Ended up randomly finding it in Google Newsfeed on my phone at the time when I started becoming aware that life might have a path. There were a ton of great things I picked up from this including starting to think what are the things that are truly important in life, and what criteria you even use to judge the importance.
Shortly after reading this is when I set aside few days to start thinking about my own life goals, plans and proactively considering my own weekly schedule that would help me get there.
Good read, highly recommend for everyone.
Podcasts I regularly listen to and frequently recommend to other people
Primary focus on management and leadership with many very insightful interviews. A whole bunch of leads for books and other resources that I've gotten over the last 2 years have come from this podcast.
Primary focus is on life/personal growth but as humans are rather complex creatures, Tim casts a very large net when it comes to topics that he covers and ideas he experiments with.
I've listed to a bunch of people and podcasts and of all, I feel that Tim has one of the best interviewing people skills. Sometimes it is just as engaging to listen to the topic as it is to watch Tim do his magic. I can't say I've enjoyed every episode, but many have blown me away.
With focus on growth and personal development but with a more narrow field of view than Tim Ferriss. By interviewing other driven, highly successful people Jordan specifically focuses on building personal leadership skills that got those people to where they are. Lots of good stories and also great source for leads on books and other resources.
The books I've listed on this page are here because I believe 100% these things have had impact on me, and I have already recommended them to others, most on a number of different occasions. However, if you are interested in checking out any of these books, by using above links, which are tied to Amazon affiliate program, you would also be helping me keep this blog up.
dennis.mnuskin.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates