Books Suggested by a Mentor, Plus One
@ Chris Suttles · Sunday, Sep 17, 2017 · 4 minute read · Update at May 24, 2020

Kent's List

A while ago I met with Kent Beck. I had recently taken a class from him, and I knew that he was very skilled in areas where I wished to improve; I wanted to improve my abilities to influence, my communication skills, and my leadership within my organization. We only met for half an hour, but I found the time incredibly enjoyable, useful and informative, and I am very grateful that Kent was gracious enough to spend his time with me, even though we were basically strangers at the time. This was a fortunate meeting for me, and a fringe benefit of working at Facebook. While we unfortunately have not communicated often since, I found Kent so warm and approachable, and I enjoyed his company so much, that I felt like we exited from that meeting as friends. Toward the end of our meeting, I asked Kent to recommend some books; here’s that list.

The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships

I found this text very useful both at work and at home. The focus here is on the little interactions between people, and how to improve them. My efforts to put the ideas in this book into practice have yielded many rewards for me. I hope that if you choose to read this, you find it as helpful as I did.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

This is easily the most entertaining book in this list. I found it so entertaining, that at times I had to really force myself to remember to focus on the message and absorb it. It is short, and I found the message to be very powerful and useful.

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)

I found this book very useful at work and at home as well. Based on my notes, I believe Kent warned me that this book would be easy to misinterpret. I found the same, as it is a terrific template for communication, but it is easy to misunderstand the goals of the author, as he also admits. The purpose is not to roll over and be passive in all situations; the purpose is to use careful wording and avoid the violent language ingrained in us so that we can express what is alive in us fully and truthfully. This allows us to communicate more effectively. It also demonstrates how to see and understand what is alive in the people we interact with, for the same goal.

Tao Mentoring: Cultivate Collaborative Relationships in All Areas of Your Life

I haven’t read or listened to this yet. I found Kent's other recommendations so helpful, I chose to include this even though I have no feedback on it yet.

Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used

I’m currently listening to this on audible. So far, this is the most directly ‘work related’ of the list, and the parts I have heard so far seem helpful. It's a bit dry compared to the others on this list, but I have already found lessons from this book useful in my real life at the office. While I am not a consultant in title or formal definition, there are still very useful lessons as an 'internal consultant' for anyone who is a part of a technical staff anywhere. The book is not focused on the tech industry, but that's where I work, and hence that is where I apply it and find it useful.

My list

Soft Skills: The software developer's life manual

I devoured this on audible. I liked it so much, and found it so useful that I also bought a paperback so I could have a reference and get the PDF for easy searching. This book covers a lot of ground, but I found it most helpful with my organizational and time management skills, which are both areas where I have long had opportunities for growth. After reading this I started using some of the ideas suggested in the book, most notably the pomedoro techinique and quotas, and found them to be very helpful. I can't recommend this book enough. I found it to be a treasure trove of things that make the difference between good and great.

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