What I read and learned in 2018

I set out in 2018 to read more than I had in previous years. For me, my biggest hobby is learning, and books are the most prevalent avenue to learning. While I do enjoy reading for entertainment, there was something I learned from every book I read in 2018. My goal was to read 2 books a month, or 24 books in total. In the end, the list tallied 27 books! In 2019, my goal is to average 2 1/2 books a month or 30 books overall.

The 12 Week Year

The basic premise in this book is that we often get more accomplished at the end of a year when we are most focussed on our goals. But, in the span of a year, we might lose sight on our goals and waste value time. So, this book argues we should treate every 12 weeks as a year, and plan 2 or 3 goals, with laser focussed actions or tactics to achieve the goals, with a focus of having measurable goals.

At work as a Release Train Engineer, I am used to thinking in about quarter long cycles for our planning and execution processes. I’ve adapted this process for me, using it along side my main organization system I’ve been using for a year and a half now…

Getting Things Done

This was actually my 2nd reading of this book, having first read and adobted this process a year and a half ago. The 2nd reading helped me realize even more the importance of capturing actions and thoughts, but also clarifying them enough so that my mind no longer has to think about it. And if it does, then I need to do more thinking. There’s a lot of productivity gems in this book, many of which have been distilled else where at this point, but the overall process explained here can be VERY heavy to implement. But, I know have all of my next steps captured, I follow up on the items better, I know the trade-offs I am making, I have thoughts captured for later contemplation, and, thanks to using an electronic tool Facile Things, I have metrics on how much I’m getting done and where I am spending my time.

Setting the Table

I picked this book up after the GLS 2018. This book reads more like a memoir than a business book, but I found a number of interesting tidbits that could apply to coaching and being a servant leader. Especially interesting was the concept of ABCD, Always Be Collecting Dots, or information on your guests, so you can surprise them in wonderful ways.

The Ideal Team Player

I often reference Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a team, and have even created exercises around them. But surprisingly, I’ve never read through this other gem by Lencioni. Using Lencioni’s fable format, he posits that team players must be humble, hungry, and smart. My mentor was a huge fan of this, but looking back, I don’t think he hit all 3 of these attributes, underscoring how difficult it is to achieve all 3 attributes.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***

Despite the vulgar title (and the book itself is quite vulgar too), the book lays forth a simple premise: we can only care about a limited number of things. If we stretch ourself to thin and try to care about everything, then can we truly live the life we want?

ANother great thought from this book is that life is about solving problems, but these will invariably lead to other problems. Need a new cell phone? Getting one will then lead to new problems around the new phone: charges, getting data migrated, apps installed, etc. The phone you have, is the phone you complain about. At a certain point, do the new problems need to be solved or can they be accepted for what they are?

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide

Emotional Intelligence has been a big push for me this year, and I continued that trend by picking up this book, which provides scientific arguements for practicing mindfulness through meditation techniques, but also by taking pauses throughout the day. This book provided a number of great techniques and exercises to be mindful, and will be a great reference for the future.

How to be Calm

This quick read provides a number of calming exercises and thoughts to consider to relax and live a calmer life. When stressed, I can flip through the book and find a thought or an activity to do to calm myself down, such as visuallizing your worries trapped in a helium ballon and see them float away.

Budhism Day by Day

When you think of Budhism, one often conjures to mind visions of monks in mountain temples spending their days meditating. But what does Budhism really teach and what is it about? That’s what motivited me to read through this book. This book provides various saysings and statements inline with Budhism, one for eacy day of the year. Each day gives you something to ponder over throughout the day.

Poorly Drawn Lines

I actually bought this for my wife, but this was just a fun book to read through, with a mix of comics and short stories.

… And then you die of Dysentery

This fun little title shares little life lessons inspired from the quintessential video game “Oregon Trail”.

The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

This is a fun novelization of the original Start Wars movie, told from Princiess Leia’s point of view, then Han Solo’s, and finally from Luke Skywalker’s point of view. It included fun little tidbits, like Obi Wan whispering to R2-D2 that “It’s good flying with you again, my old friend.”

Pete Rose: An American Dilema

I grew up near Cincinnati, and fell in love with the Reds and all of their baseball history. But growing up in the late 80s and into the 90s, I knew little about Pete Rose other than his records and his ban from baseball. This biography of the baseball legend told of his drive to win, his faults, and how the led to his ban and how they perhaps hindered any lifting of his lifetime ban.

Writer’s Bootcamp 2

I picked this up at Barnes and Noble because I wanted to write more, and this book, along with cards with writing exercises, purported to help with that. This book gave practical tips on finding time to write with a busy life, which I desperately need.

Writing what you Know

I picked this book up, thinking it would help me develop my writing skills for my blog. However, the advice in this book is aimed more at fictional stories drawn from events in the author’s life. This book included some writing exercises. A decent read, just not what I was looking for.

The Inner Game of Tennis

Aimed at aiding Tennis players help manage the game in their heads between the concious self and subconcious self, this book provides aids to quiet the inner critic (concious self) so that you can perform at your best. The concious mind isn’t the best at direction actions, which is why muschle memory should be trusted to execute. Does this apply to knowledge work too?

Servant Leadership in Action

My mentor bought this book for me as a gift and I’m so glad he did. It was a fantastic read. This book contains dozens of essays on Servant Leadership from many different, well known leaders in many different fields. THis book is an inspiration to keep moving forward as a Servant Leader, as it shows you are in very good company.

Clean Code

It’s a bit of a travesty that I did not read this book sooner. I’ve known of it and the autor, affectionately known as Uncle Bob Martin, but the wealth of technical best practices held within were a treasure trove. Gems around providing clear names for everything, refactoring until the intent of code is clear, and explaining how a coder will writer code, but a Software Engineer will engineer code.

Power or your Potential

I picked up this tiny book, and it contains good tidbits on increasing what you are capable of in some key areas as well as some “elective” areas. I’m currently revisiting a number of these in 2019, and have tagged a number of activities to dive into from time-to-time.

The Power of your ptential starts with your energy potential: how much energy do you have accessible for tasks. One interesting trick is to consider how accessible the tings that energize you are. FOr instance, if family energizes you, but you live 9 hours away from them, your energy recharge is not readily accessible.

I Moved Your Cheese

THis was such a short read that I almost forgot I read it when I compilled this list. This fable follows a similar pattern set forth in Who moved my Cheese, except instead of playing the victim of change and then embracing it, this book questions, is the maze even real? How can a mouse escape the maze? Could they become a force and ultimately ‘move’ the cheese themselves, instead of waiting for others to move it on them?

I like this fresh take on this idea, because sometimes, we CAN move the cheese ourselves.

Leading in a Culture of Change

As an agilist, we find ourselves leading organizations that must embrace change and often find ourselves acting as “change agents”. That was what drew me to this title when I came across it in an outlet store. The autor splits his time discussing change in schools and businesses and takes a dry, academic view. This viewpoint makes sense given the author’s academic background. This was one book that I struggled through and did not gain much by reading it.

The Four Agreements

Subtitled “A practical guide to personal freedom, this book in some ways is about Emotional Intelligence, though I do not recall that phrase ever mentioned. The 4 agreements are commitments that one should make to oneself in order to live a better live. As a spoiler, the four agreements are “Be impeccable with your word’, ‘Don’t take anything personally’, ‘Don’t make assumptions’, and ‘Always do your best’. I personally struggle with many of these items. I tend to jump to conclusions often and will take things personally. Unfortunately, I did not find many practical suggestions to adhere to these, but mostly reasons why I should.

Coaching Agile Teams

In the realm of Agile Coaching, Lyssa Adkins stands out as a thought leader and expert. On Safari Quque, they include both her popular book Coaching Agile Teams and a video series that accompanies the book. While I’ve watched the series a while ago, I finally completed her book. While some of the chapters are drawn out, she has a down-to-earth style that I appreciate. And her coaching advice around pausing to consider if things need to be addressed now as a great take-away.


Our technical leaders in our group choose to read this book, as it coves many aspects of DevOps, but takes a very scientific approach to get there. WHile dry at times, especially in the latter parts of the book, it does present a number of good insights, such as 4 critical measures: Delivery Lead time, Deployment Frequency, Time to Restor, and Change fail rate. These are key measurements because they show what we value: rapid response, quick delivery, and high quality.

Power of Positive Leadership

Last year was a time for change in my work place. And while I’m a change agent, I don’t like it when lots of things are changing around me. “People don’t fear change, they fear being changed.” is an apt way to describe me and my work life last year. But being negative is not an effective way to lead. THis book provided good argument for leaders being positive in the face of change. The author has written, spoken, and consulted quite a bit on the subject, and this read like a “best of” book.

The Energy Bus

One of the other books by the author of Power of Positive Leadership referenced was this book, The Energy Bus. In this fable, a leader has a critical project to finish, yet everything seems to be falling apart: his job, his marriage, and his car. While resorting to taking the bus to work one day, he stumbles upon “The Energy Bus”, where over the course of several trips, he learns the rules of the bus to ensure he and his team embrace their challenges with positive energy.

eXtreme Programming Explained

XP was the first agile framework I heard of and utilized, back in 2004. While P has evolved over the years, at its core, which this book covers, is common sense team dynamics and technical best practices. What I find refreshing is the author’s stance that teams start where they are and add the concepts that work for them. This matches with my view that teams should make concious decisions on how they will operate, only selecting those practices that will help them and not just do something because a coach or trainer told them to.


I was intrigued by this book and its promise to help find your vision and soar. Also hearing the author TD Jakes speak at GLS 2018 helped make the decision for me. This book is a great guide for someone who wants to start and operate their own business. Using the metaphor of an airplane, the author talks through many of the challenges along the way to get your business to soar. Sadly though, I was on my own to find and develop my vision.