If finished books are a sign of one’s interests, then here’s my list of all 2021 reads, grouped into categories.
I skipped what I didn’t finish or am not glad I read.
Fiction / Sci-Fi
Most of my reading since I was a child has been fiction. These were not the first books I read from Myśliwski and Le Clezio. I reread the stories of Borges after being reminded about them in the writings of Taleb.
Although I was never into sci-fi, I had the idea to seek out titles from recent years, and am very glad I did. I ordered the next two books from Cixin Liu even before finishing The Three-Body Problem. Based on it, Ray Bradbury showed up on one of the recommendation engines. Ted Chiang’s stories were my last read of the year, but I’m also craving for more.
Mission / Vision
One of my ideas for 2021 was to start working on a mission statement for the work I do. These four reads helped me a lot in my research. Before reading Sinek and Jiwa, I had a very vague understanding of what a mission even is. Hillman and Ali/Kubba pointed me to the best places to look for a solid foundation.
When you talk about a mission, the natural next step is a vision, that is, what would the fulfilment of your mission look like. Though none of these four books is specifically about visions, to me they’re about influencing the shape of things to come. In a way, they’re also closely connected to my personal vision.
Leadership / Software
In 2020, I learned the hard way that my job required a new set of skills. I experienced considerable discomfort under the new circumstances, including fully remote work. After failing at a number of things, I went to books for expert knowledge. If you’re ever overwhelmed by your responsibilities as the most experienced technical person on a team, I recommend all of the above.
These books were a natural continuation of my previous professional interests. I had long been listening to talks, going to training, and reading on Software Architecture. You could say Clean Agile is in the same field if you define it as broadly, as Richards and Ford do. I also managed to read a brilliant book by Venkat. I have long been a fan of his conference talks, but I wasn’t expecting the way he writes could be equally entertaining.
Religion / Systems
This is one of the areas in which I was the most ignorant. I’m glad about the progress I was able to make. I already have a number of follow-ups sitting on my shelves.
Shoshana Zuboff and David Graeber penned the books that took me the most time to finish, but also the ones I was most happy to read. In part due to my growing interest in systems thinking, sparked by Jessica Kerr’s keynote talk at Devoxx and followed by Donella Meadows’ writings listed in a previous section, I was equally amazed by the detailed analysis of organic systems interworkings in forests as well as the acute and unforeseen results of the liberal economy witnessed and described by Jessica Bruder.
Mind / Reality
My interest in neuroscience has also been on the rise. I have high hopes in my potential to develop compassion through learning more about the mechanisms that govern our bodily systems. I might have recognised one neurological disorder that has made my life miserable on certain occasions. Accepting it has already made it less severe, by reducing my self-blame.
Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, has proved less abstract and more connected to my daily work as a software professional than I could ever have imagined. It is about knowing what’s true, recognising underlying assumptions or narratives, and expecting the unexpected. These are all indispensable means to becoming more effective in my line of work.
You never know where a path can lead; for me, it was questioning the statistical maximum lifespan of around 100 years. David Sinclair has been a part of the research efforts that put limits on the human lifespan in doubt. In recent years, scientists have made mind-blowing discoveries on the topic of ageing.
Apparently, it’s more rational not to take anything you know for granted.