It is certainly necessary to read technical literature, but sometimes you want to take a break. Science fiction allows you to relax and get useful information at the same time, and therefore it is becoming more and more popular. What non-fiction books are worth reading? We asked the experts.
The first one we talked to is a Java Team Lead.
Lately I’ve been focusing on books at the intersection of mathematics/economics and psychology, and 1 book stands out to me the most.
Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”
The book is about how often we make decisions irrationally, following social misconceptions and stereotypes. With each chapter I read, I got out of my memory and analyzed more and more situations when it was not worth answering instantly, but it was worth taking a break and using the so-called System 2, by which the author means the slower and more rational part of human thinking.
At first glance, it may seem that such literature is more about psychology and is not worth the attention of the average IT specialist. But I would argue, since every day we make a huge number of decisions and it is necessary to soberly assess our abilities. Often, acting only on intuition, we make big mistakes, for example, in the estimates, in the chosen technologies, or even while hiring people to the team. Therefore, it is useful to understand where our subconscious gets the images of a good programmer or tester from; and what is the probability that, following such stereotypes, we will get something completely different from what we want. I would not say that the book is very easy to read, as there are a lot of moments that make the brain turn on to the fullest. Therefore, I have already read this book several times and each time I found something new.
Our next expert is a back-end developer.
I’ll start with the bestselling books: Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman explains how our brains process information and why we so often misjudge facts. A person is subject to cognitive illusions: he perceives large numbers poorly, has difficulty estimating probabilities, exaggerates the role of past experience and underestimates the role of chance. Many people realize that their chances of winning the lottery are negligible, however they buy lottery tickets anyway. Many people are afraid to fly on an airplane, although they know that the percentage of car accidents is much higher. Kahneman himself believes that his book will be useful “at the office cooler, where they chat and exchange news,” but this, of course, is self-irony. In fact, the book contains a lot of important information for the correct assessment of risks and gives an understanding of how to work with your intuition (spoiler – in some situations it can work marvels).
Barbara Oakley, “A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)”. The book covers a wide range of topics related to education. All people are different: some are more assiduous, some are more distracted, and each type needs its own method of learning and working. The book popularly explains the so-called Pomodoro Technique: set a timer for a certain period of time and work until the bell rings, without being distracted by anything. I use this method when reading programming books. How it works: The task of mastering a 600-page book full of terminology and complex relationships seems overwhelming, but you tell yourself – I will read it for exactly 45 minutes and put it aside. It no longer looks so scary, and you calmly get to work. Oakley recommends starting with intervals of 20-40 minutes, depending on the difficulty of the task, and gradually increasing them. I currently use intervals of 90-120 minutes.
Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. It is an unusual look at the history of Homo sapiens, from the cognitive revolution that happened 70 thousand years ago to the present day. Many questions that we are accustomed to treat unambiguously are revealed in the book from an unexpected angle. For example, it is generally accepted that the transition from a nomadic to a settled way of life and the development of agriculture is a big step forward for our civilization. But Harari notices that because of settled life, a person has made himself dependent on weather conditions and one type of food (“it was not a man who tamed wheat, but wheat tamed a person”). This book has a sequel – “Homo Deus: A Brief History of the Future”, in which Harari tries to answer the question of what will happen to humanity which has already satisfied the basic needs for food and security and is now looking for immortality and happiness. Both books are interesting in their non-standard approach to familiar things and teach to look for hidden cause-and-effect relationships.
And the last expert for today is a general director of a hosting provider.
In our age of continuous development of technology, 10 years is a rather long period not only for the progressive sciences, but for the whole society. Just compare life now and in 2012 – we could be surprised with new iPhones back then, but now they seem completely ordinary. Modern life is a continuous learning: even if you do not read a dozen smart books a year, you still constantly absorb new information from many sources: social networks, media, blogs and other resources. With each portion of knowledge, a person transforms and adapts to a new environment. As for popular science books, reading them we realize that this knowledge is changing, if not our lives, then at least our view of the world around us. Among the works, authors and series of popular science books, I would single out:
- Without exception, the books of Yuval Noah Harari: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of the Future”, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”: about the development and future of the humankind. Harari’s thoughts and ideas may not make you drastically change your look on the world, but they will definitely prompt a lot of discussion and speculation.
- Book series “The Big Idea”: about the most relevant modern trends and their impact on our lives. Among them, everyone can find something interesting and useful, to reveal new aspects of modern life. Books talk about artificial intelligence, medicine, capitalism and gender passages
- “Cypherpunks. Freedom and the Future of the Internet”, D. Assange, E. Müller-Magun, D. Appelbaum, J. Zimmerman: on the struggle for freedom of information exchange on the Web. It will be useful to anyone who is interested in data privacy and has heard of the WikiLeaks project.
- “A History of God”, K. Armstrong: about the development of monotheistic religions and their influence on each other. An unbiased look at history written in plain and fascinating language
- “NeuroMarketing. How to influence the consumer’s subconscious”, R. Dooley: on the application of neuroscience to marketing and sales. You can find practical advice for everything from business communications to branding. This is a “must read” for business owners
Do you have anything else to add to the list? Share with us!