Yesterday, I was shopping in Amazon for the next book to read. I was having a bit of a hard time since I couldn’t really pinpoint what I was looking for. Maybe it’s a mix of quarantine blues, and this feeling that the books I’ve been reading have quite recurrent themes just differently stated.
This 2020, so far, I’ve gone through a few titles. There were topics I read in line with product management:
There were books about leadership, evolutionary organizations, and maybe somewhat about driving change:
- Brave New Work (2019) by Aaron Dignan – At USD5.99, this feels quite sulit!
- Reinventing Organizations (Illustrated, 2016) by Frederic Laloux, illustrated by Etienne Appert – This one is available in an option the author calls “pay-what-feels-right.”
- Going Horizontal (2018) by Samantha Slade – Among the three, I think this is the only one aimed with individuals more than the leaders in mind.
Still on leadership:
- Essentialism (2014) by Greg McKeown
- The Culture Code (2018) by Daniel Coyle
- Fast Times (2020), a perspective from leaders at McKinsey & Company – This one was available at Kindle Unlimited which I had a discounted subscription of $0.99/month but only for a limited period back then.
- Art of Action (2011) by Stephen Bungay – Not available in Kindle
Then on leadership with focus on communication:
Then there’s this one that’s a bit out of place, but quite relevant in these quarantine times:
- Remote (2013) by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – (but I like their newer book more)
The leadership books and organizational change books especially are really more intended towards leaders (as it should be, I suppose) than individual contributors like me. But that’s not to say I don’t get anything out of them. The insights are very interesting, the anecdotes mostly enjoyable, and the examples give you an idea on how to possibly be better. It just takes a little extra layer of processing of how can this apply to me, or how can I apply this in my own capacity, or how do I get THEM to apply this. So back to my shopping… I guess one other reason why I was stuck was because I felt like reading similar books will only be like the author preaching to the choir, and I’m not really the one who needs convincing.
So I’ve decided on a much lighter reading on a topic that I also enjoy (because of course). Next read is: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.
I’ve just consumed Scott Berkun’s newest book, The Dance of the Possible. As promised by the author, it was a short book intended so that we can get what we can out of it, get it out of the way, and dive into actually creating something. It was divided into three parts — each of which I consumed in one sitting of around an hour. You can breeze through it in less, but I liked reflecting on points raised by the author and recalling experiences where I can relate them (or could have related to them).
If I were to describe the 3 different parts of the book, I’d say part one is about the generating ideas. Part two is when you’re already developing your ideas. And part three is when it’s getting extra challenging to keep going and you need that extra boost.
He captures in writing some of the things I personally go through in my own creative process which made me just virtually nod in agreement and think “Oh yeah, that was what I was doing!” And I guess in making me aware, I could be more intentional in applying them and accepting when I feel like I’ve hit some sort of slump (that I will get over, of course).
I’ve long been intending to read a book on creativity (among many other things). Having Scott’s book come along with the invitation to do a book review really pushed me. When he described one of the seven sources of fuel for why people create the things they do (i.e., “Deliberately put yourself in situations where you have no way out but through.”), I couldn’t help being amused and thinking “Yeah, that happened!” I think even without the book review aspect, I’d have enjoyed reading his book as I’ve enjoyed some of his other writings. It just adds another dimension and it feels like it’s full circle because the book on creativity actually prompted me to create!
[Edit: Same content is posted as an Amazon book review over here.]
While nursing my sick housemate, I took the time to read Jerry Weinberg’s Perfect Software and other illusions of software testing. It was a quick and easy read with the book being only under 200 pages, and with the content hardly wound up on technical jargon. I think the author had intended the material to be suitable for reading even for those who aren’t in the IT field altogether.
The book discusses and dispels some myths on software testing. These myths and not really knowing what testing can or cannot do probably contributes to the headaches that software testers often encounter. Headaches being stuff like irrational (if not impossible) expectations – test everything exhaustively and do it fast, prove the program works, do it faster, capture all the bugs, do it faster still – among many other things. Each chapter of the book has stories to tell and a common mistakes section. For those who’ve been testing or working on software development projects for a long time, a lot of those stuff could be all too familiar. While the book doesn’t directly address how to go about with these problems when you’re already knee-deep in them, it does give a fair explanation of why things tend to go that way (for some) and a list of common mistakes to be wary of.
Overall, the book is a pretty good read. I reckon a newbie tester might not appreciate it as much as another tester who’s already had a couple or so projects under his belt. Still, it helps to have things explained.
I noticed that in one of the forums in the Software Testing Club, Matt Heusser shared a link to his chapter in the book, Beautiful Testing. That reminded me of a blog post by Lisa Crispin sharing her chapter. I had an insanely optimistic idea that maybe I could google each contributor’s chapter. That way I wouldn’t have to shell out $42.33 (the discounted price at Amazon.com but that’s still without shipping costs). That’s not cheap where I come from. A minimum wage worker will need at least 5 days worth of labor just to afford that. Although software testing isn’t a minimum wage job but that’s beside the point. Another way of looking at it — the book would cost as much as 17 Big Macs here.
And so I googled: “Beautiful Testing” filetype:PDF
Of course, I didn’t get all the chapters. I managed to get 5 which isn’t so bad either.
- Chapter 7: Beautiful XMPP Testing by Remko Tronçon
- Chapter 14: Test-Driven Development: Driving New Standards of Beauty by Jennitta Andrea
- Chapter 15: Beautiful Testing as the Cornerstone of Business Success by Lisa Crispin
- Chapter 16: Peeling the Glass Onion at Social Text by Matt Heusser
- Chapter 23: Testing Network Services in Multimachine Scenarios by Isaac Clerencia
If these teasers lure you in, you can purchase the book online. Either at amazon.com where it retails at $42.33 ($33.99 for the Kindle edition, or at oreilly.com where it sells for $49.99 ($39.99 for the ebook version).
A few weeks back, I found out from my housemate that James Bach’s Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar was available at Fully Booked. I made an inquiry at their nearest branch and reserved their only copy. I was pleasantly surprised back then since I didn’t think it would be available here and I thought I’d have to resort to amazon.com if I wanted to buy it.
A few days after buying it though, I spotted copies of the same book by chance at National Bookstore under their self-help section. Well, it was the same book but it was a different print/edition which sported a much nicer cover than the one I have (plus it was hardbound whereas mine was a paperback edition and i think it cost less than my copy). The other book was prettier! My housemate consoled me by telling me it’s the same book anyway. I repeated that to myself, reminded myself not to judge a book by its cover, and secretly wished that the other book stank (literally; I’ve weird issues with how book smells like).
Book covers of the same book; mine's with the one at the right
After I got over the other edition, one good thing that came out of it was that I was able to enjoy the book more. I was still extra careful in handling it (i still don’t take it out of the house) but not as obnoxiously scrupulous as I would have normally been. I’ve actually finished reading the book but I occasionally still leaf through it. I find it to be a good source of inspiration since I find the author’s passion for learning to be quite contagious and invigorating.
I’ve just finished reading A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech. It’s a book on creative thinking, an old one at that — it’s at its 25th anniversary edition. And it suggests that sometimes we need a whack on the side of the head to get the ideas rolling, if not get us out of the rut brought about by certain mental locks. These mental locks refer to a mindset or attitudes that keep us thinking the same way we normally do. They keep us from going out of the box. Although most of these mental locks are necessary in our day-to-day life, they do get in the way when we’re trying to get creative.
These mental locks include:
- The right answer
- That’s not logical
- Follow the rules
- Be practical
- Play is frivolous
- That’s not my area
- Don’t be foolish
- Avoid ambiguity
- To err is wrong
- I’m not creative
One of my colleagues gave me a gift box during our office Christmas party. Later than night, upon the prodding of one of my team mates, I opened it and was quite surprised to find that it contained 5 new books which doesn’t exactly come cheap. The first one I saw was Jerry Weinberg’s book on general systems thinking. I’ve found it to be a recommended book in at least two or three software testing sites. And my jaw just dropped when I saw that in there.
Anyway, here’s the list of books I got:
- An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary ed.) by Gerald M Weinberg
- Pragmatic Thinking & Learning: Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt
- Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun
- Built to Last: Successful Habits of Revolutionary Companies by Jim Collins
- Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones