Books Worth a Look
@ Chris Suttles · Sunday, Sep 24, 2017 · 5 minute read · Update at May 24, 2020

I posted a note a while ago with some great book recommendations I wanted to share. It’s been long enough that I wanted to share an update on a few things I have read or listened to that I believe are worth your consideration.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

I found this book through a TED talk. Angela Duckworth spent a lot of time researching the subject matter of this book, and her passion for the topic really comes through in the writing. This is her life’s work, summarized and expressed thoughtfully. It is inspiring and insightful. Listening to this made me re-evaluate myself and make some changes to try to improve. I cannot underscore the importance of grit enough. This is something I always believed I had, but this book made me realize that this was a malleable thing I could improve upon. I have never been the smartest, the strongest, the fastest or the most charming. The successes I have achieved are only because I try, and continue to try, even when I fail. I’m certainly not the first to have this idea.

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ― Michael Jordan

The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World's Most Disruptive Company

This book is not as engaging as the grit book, and it didn’t resonate with me personally in the same way, but it was still worthwhile enough to recommend. I don't work at Amazon, but the principles are useful. The 'open kimono' is something I chose to adpot personally, and it has already yeilded rewards. People respond to honesty. Being as transparent as possible when describing the status of a project, especially one that is not going well, for example, can help improve the situation in a lot of ways. People might surprise you by offering help or insight. Maybe the project is too far gone, and it's time to drop it. If that's the case, the sooner you get the details out there, the better, because that means you will throw away less effort and you can start working on something with a better return. Being as forthcoming as possible (the 'open kimono') also helps when things are going well. The more transparent and honest you are, the more credible you are, and the more people will respect that and want to work with you.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

This book is important. I found it engaging and informative. It's a little slow to start, and the focus on the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous and its origins were boring to me, but I'm glad I chose to continue and finish it. The book is filled with insights into habits, as you might expect, but I found a lot more than I expected, both in terms of information about my own habits, and how habits can drive organizations as well. Charles Duhigg touches on Angela Duckworth's grit book too, which I found interesting. I've tried adopting a few of the suggestions in the book with moderate success. Changing habits is still hard, but the things I learned from this book recalibrated some of the things that were impossible to just 'difficult'.

Terraform Up and Running

If you are interested in DevOps, buy this book. This book is how I rediscovered how much I love using AWS. I picked it up to get up to speed on a project at work, and devoured it. Yes, you can get information on Terraform without buying this book, but I found it to be an easy read, and well structured. Each chapter builds on the last and it's very easy to progress from simple tasks to much more interesting and complex infrastructure automation as you read. There's some great suggestions about how to structure your code to limit the blast radius of failures. It'less than $20. Just buy it. It's worth it.

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon

I loved this book. It made me want to quit my day job and start over as an entry level guy so I could get into security. I was fascinated by the story, and there was just enough technical detail and reference to real world research to satisfy my nerdy curiousity, and just enough dramatic storytelling to keep me on the edge of my seat even aside from the exciting malware stuff. I found myself noting things and searching for papers and articles mentioned in the book so I could get more detail and context, and the reading I found by doing so was also rewarding.

Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy

This was a follow up to 'Countdown to Zero Day', and a huge disappointment. I understand the concept of red teams, and although the insight into the origin of red teams was interesting, I found this book bored me to tears. It bored me so much, I quit without finishing. Life is too short and I have too many other things to read that I actually enjoy.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

I think this would be good if you are new to DevOps and agile, but if you are familiar with these ideas, it's a bit long. It's entertaining for a thinly disguised book about work. It's probably worth reading just for the sake of being able to talk about it with people and perhaps lend it to someone who can benefit from it.

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