make better_mistakes

Reading List

This was a jumble written on a plane, please forgive the incoherency.

Today I am flying from Guangzhou to Washington DC by way of Tokyo to interview for Hungry Academy. I feel like I haven’t updated this blog since I got to China. It’s been a very full January for me. The first two weeks here were culture shock and settling into our new home, the third week was minorly productive for me, I managed to study for 9 half-hour sprints before my aunt and uncle arrived in town for the Spring Festival.

I was also nervous as heck before my phone interview with Living Social regarding Hungry Academy. I managed to chat with them around 3:30 AM Saturday morning, China time.

I’ve touched down at Narita for two and a half hours, and thought it might be a good exercise to write out all of the books which I am reading at the moment and what I am getting out of them.

The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas — I’d read the intro to this several months ago and have been meaning to read it since. I’ve taken this plane ride as a chance to absorb it. I can tell already that this is a book that I will revisit as I advance in my career as a software developer.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — I’m a fan of Green’s YA fiction, as it handles the challenges of its genre extremely well, and aims to be fiction about young adults, not merely fiction to be consumed by a YA demographic. I just started his most recent novel which is about a young woman with cancer.

Non-violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg — My partner and I have been reading this book aloud to each other at night before bed. It aims to teach the language and practice of empathy for self and others. I have noticed that both my partner and I—we are both excellent communicators—have improved our empathic communication skills since we began reading it. I anticipate re-reading this book. Highly recommended for anyone who communicates in their day-to-day life

Them by Jon Ronson — I read Ronson’s The Psychopath Test this fall and really enjoyed his pithy style and engaging non-fiction narrative. Them is an earlier “novel” about extremists in the late nineties and early two thousands. It’s not as good, as there is not as much connective tissue between the different types of extremists, but I look forward to seeing the parallels Ronson draws.

Rails 3 in Action by Yehuda Katz and Ryan Bigg — Katz and Bigg do something very difficult extremely well: They have written an enjoyable to read introduction to Rails with a focus on test-driven and behavior-driven development using Cucumber and RSpec. This isn’t my first Rails book (that was Agile Web Development) but it’s the first one I ‘ve found fairly engaging. I could attribute that to a greater sense of patience with technical books, but I suspect it actually has to do with the pattern of development that the book is based around.

The hidden bonus feature of this book is introducing you to test-driven development. Using Rails sometimes seems like a mystical art to me, but using Cucumber in particular has given me guidance as to what my next steps are. I will definitely be studying TDD in greater detail in the future, as introductory books lose me at times when they introduce how to do lots of things in a language or framework, but refrain from informing me clearly why I am doing it. The pattern of write test -> implement features -> run tests is infinitely reusable and will save me time as it leads me towards better practices.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau — Classic book on holing up in the woods and living simply. Thoreau affirms my belief getting rid of my stuff or not getting stuff in the first place is one of the best things I can do to improve my spiritual and mental clarity. Choice quote: “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference wether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.”

That’s what I’m working on at the moment. I hope the interview goes well, and wish I’d been able to eat my uncle’s jiaozi today.