James Williams


Books I Read In 2014

Just like last year, here's my annual list of all the things I've read. I've omitted the programming books because I rarely read one cover to cover.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.

Moneyball was by far my most favorite read of the year. It really spoke to the math geek in me with how the Oakland A's staff used statistics to predict performance. Before reading the book, I had regarded baseball stats as something that the announcers quote to fill up time or appear smart. I'm considering doing my own mini-exploratory data analysis with some of the stats that are freely available online.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

I noted earlier in the year that I listened to a podcast where Carol Dweck was interviewed(). The book made me think a lot about the students that take my Udacity courses and how to encourage them in ways that make them want to succeed.

Brazil's Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy by Dave Zirin.

Great background on the unrest that occurred in the run-up to the World Cup and what is coming in 2016 for the Olympics. I'm finding it harder and harder to justify having these big ticket events in Third World countries as they often have to screw over their economy and future to run a two week or one month event.

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Note Taking by Mike Rohde.

Being a Course Developer is largely about distilling complex ideas and concepts into something the students can easily understand. I happened upon sketchnoting as a way to improve the my abilities in conveying ideas with drawings. The Sketchnote Handbook is presented like a design book giving you the essentials to present ideas with drawings text using color, proportion, flow, etc. It's a great read for anyone that does presentations or needs to take notes. I really wish I had known about sketchnoting when I was in school.

The Verbal to Visual Notebook by Doug Neill.

Verbal to Visual is a workbook demonstrating sketchnote principles. There are exercises to complete as well as templates to use when you are starting to sketchnote. The templates have helped me organize how I might take notes in a conference talk based on the format (Is it a lecture? Q&A? Panel? etc). V2V is the perfect companion to The Sketchnote Handbook.

Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out by Marc Ecko.

Ecko tells the story of how he took $5000 and turned it into a billion dollar brand. What was refreshing about it was that he framed each event with how he remained true to his brand and creativity or not. Unlike other semi-autobiographical books I've read, the missteps were discussed in as much detail as the successes.

Five Stitches: A coming of age psychological clusterfuck by Jason Donnelly

Five Stitches was the last book I finished this year and the most surprising. I read Jason's other book Gripped on the recommendation of a friend. Five Stitches is much more dark than Gripped. It deals with mental health and robbery capers.

Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World by Benny Lewis.

This is a nice book to read if you don't already follow Benny Lewis' blog and are struggling with your first foreign language. It is probably good for some but I didn't get that much out of it in additional to what I already know.

Spartan Up!: A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life by Joe De Sena.

This was one of my health related reads of the day. Written by the creator of Spartan Race, with which I've become a bit addicted, I wouldn't call it a guide per se. It's more so inspirational semi-autobiographical book.

Men's Health Your Body is Your Barbell: No Gym. Just Gravity. 28 Days to a Lean, Strong, More Muscular You! by BJ Gaddour.

This was the second of my health related reads this year. I've been fascinated by bodyweight workouts ever since hearing about Herschel Walker's workout plan from my dad as a kid and more recently having seen Barstarzz videos on Youtube. Great book by a motivating guy, hope to put it more into practice in 2015.