a portrait of Jared Norman frowning

Jared Norman

very successful computer person

My 2020 Reading List

December 08, 2019

At the beginning of 2019 I set out to read (or listen to) at least one book every month this year. It turned out that this was a poorly considered goal; I’d well exceeded that reading pace in 2018 and did so again in 2019. I don’t have an exact count on the number of books I’ve finished this year, but I suspect it’s around 30 (based on a quick glance at my Kindle/Audible libraries and bookshelf.)

This coming year I’ve committed to do more actual reading rather than listening to audiobooks. Of the books I finished last year, I’m sure no more than 5 were physical or kindle books. I normally listen to audiobooks while running, weightlifting, doing chores, and just relaxing, so it’s relatively easy for me to work through a couple per month.

In 2020 I want to make better use of my reading time. I want to get more out of the books I read. To that end, my focus will be on continuing to make time for focused reading. I’ve already been doing a lot more this month due to the “digital declutter” I mentioned in my last post; the reduced screen time has so far created quick a lot of extra time and I’ve spent a solid amount of it buried in books.

What I’m Looking Forward To

I’ve reviewed my notebooks, my scribbled recommendations, and done some research of my own to compile a first draft of what I’d like to read in 2020. Here are a few titles I’m particularly looking forward to reading for the first time:

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to poetry, but I’m going to fix that in 2020. Before I dive into her poetry, I plan to read Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar.
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser: I like to think of myself as being reasonably articulate in writing, but would love to improve. I really enjoy writing and haven’t put any serious effort in improving at it (other than just writing blog posts) in more than a decade. I hope this will reignite some of my interest in the practice.
  • Starting to Unit Test by Erik Dietrich: Unit testing is pretty second nature to me, so I’m going to look back to the fundamentals this year to see what I’ve missed along the way. I’m sure there are gaps to fill.
  • Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity by Eric Evans: Domain-driven design is an approach I’m familiar with, but have never really dived into. This year I’m going to remedy that by reading this title as well as Vaughn Vernon’s Implementing Domain-Driven Design.
  • Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools by Aho, Sethi, and Ullman: I’ve always wanted to read “The Dragon Book” and I’m hoping this year to work through it. I don’t have a specific goal in reading this book, but I hope to fill in some blank spots left from having not taken the programming languages course when I was in university.

I’ve also found a number of books in my collection in need of a second (or third, or fourth) pass. Here’s a few that stand out:

  • Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C. Feathers and Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests by Steve Freeman and Nat Pryce: After I’ve finished Starting to Unit Test I want to reread these two classics on unit testing. I know I’ve internalized many lessons I took away from them when I first read them, but it’s definitely time to see what more I can get from them.
  • The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Ritchie: I actually own a first edition copy of this book, though it’s in horrible shape. I accidentally ripped the front cover off while pulling it out of my bag, so it’s now taped back together. I haven’t seriously written any C in ages, but I have fond memories of reading this one as a teen and am excited to revisit it.
  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Brooks: This should be an annual read for anyone who runs any kind of software organization. Aside: I’m sad that the giant sloths depicted on the cover aren’t still roaming the earth. I’ve considered getting a tattoo of one because a) they are extremely cool and b) “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”.

I’m sure it will grow and change over the course of the year, but you can find the full list of books on my Goodreads account along with what I’m reading now.

If you’ve got any book recommendations, please tweet at me!

an image showing the covers of the books currently on my reading list for 2020

Comma separated list of identities disguised as a human. founder of @SuperGoodSoft • software developer • rubyist • @SolidusIO core team • metalhead • bad at hockey • runner • dog lover • not actually grumpy • he/him