William Blankenship

A running list of notable books I've read and why I liked them.


Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

The title sets off the pseudoscience alarm bells - but this book is anything but. A research backed heavy hitter straight out of Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science lab, Why We Sleep dives deep into what sleep does for the body and how to get the most out of it.

I grew up in the culture of hackathons - sleepless, junk food fueled, "innovation" sprints. Reading this single-handedly convinced me to give up that life. It's amazing how valuable sleep is and how unaware humans are of their degraded state when skipping sleep.

When it comes to the importance of sleep, you don't have to take their word for it; this contains practical advice for improving your sleep and measuring the results.


Deep Work - Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Some things are obvious in retrospect - this book is full of them. We live in an attention economy; it's tempting to find yourself trying to fit engineering work in-between meetings, juggling multiple tasks, and switching in and out of slack/email/twitter/facebook/etc. Deep Work is a researched backed exploration of why the modern work environment is devastating for productivity.

Reading this will not only help you get more done in less time - it will give you a clear path towards becoming a master of your craft.


Getting Real - The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application

"Web Application" may be a dated term, but the contents of this book are not. Nearly as relevant today as it was when it was first published, Getting Real dives deep into the paradigm shifts that web browsers brought to software development.

We aren't shipping software on "Compact Disks" anymore. With a web browser, users re-download your software regularly as they visit your website. This means changes can be deployed almost instantly. The cost of shipping has effectively been commoditized and our feedback loops on code changes are as tight as we can ship. This book is a case study: how 37Signals structured their company to maximize the value out of these newly relaxed constraints.


The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Humans, by default, are pretty terrible at evaluating information. The Demon-Haunted World dives deep into how humans have structured their thought patterns to optimize for discovering truth - the foundations of science. It's written in the caring and understanding tone Carl Sagan is know for, you won't find ivory tower condescension here.

When it comes to our lives online filled with pseudoscience, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and genuine deception - Carl Sagan truly is a candle in the dark.


The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing.

The stock market has a mythos around it that leads many into financial ruin. The most common approaches to investment are no better than Vegas but with some false sense of legitimacy sprinkled on top. The Intelligent Investor tears back the curtain and walks you through a proven investment strategy and why it works. Reading this will help you appraise the real value of a stock - as opposed to trading off of it's current price.

GNU/Linux Application Programming

This sits on my book shelf and has been a great reference. On the rare occasion I find myself writing POSIX C code, for any question, this is the first place I look for answers.

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