INSPIRING 2020 BOOKS

People who know me longer confirm that I can’t be too offended by label of a bookworm. I really like to read (quite a lot). However, only those closest to me know that I have the commitment to read more than 10,000 pages of books a year. I have failed to meet this commitment only once in the last 11 years. This year I’m doing suspiciously well (knock on the wood), I’ve already swallowed 32 books. Although the reading stats were saved mainly by summer vacation. During the first wave of the Corona, a series of COVID articles in my mother tongue (with more than 30,000 words) absorbed all my energy. Hence, the books were the much-needed recharge.

I carefully select the books I buy. Thanks to that, those pleasant surprises significantly precede disappointments. However, there are still a lot of books (in the world) being published every month, so finding the real jewels often requires considerable effort. Therefore I decided to share with you here the best that I have come across so far in 2020, with filter on those books that might be relevant for data community.

Competing In The Age of AI

Focus areas: Data, Analytics, Business strategy

You can find plethora books on artificial intelligence algorithms and their application. As is the norm, if a topic becomes suddenly popular, many authors want to ride the wave. That’s why most of the AI books I get in my hands today, after studying the contents (and few pages), I disappointedly give back to the bookstore shelf again. Ending up with lemon is currently not difficult at all. But this book, on the contrary, completely engulfed me. It delivers exactly what its title promises: Systematic instructions on how to implement AI in any company or organization. It explains the principles to follow, offers checklists of aspects not to forget. You won’t find much of buzz or helicopter advice in here. Even the micro steps are clearly structured and right from the first chapters you immediately learn where the main places for AI solutions deployment are (in your particular company). In addition, the text is written in a way that makes you crave for what the next piece of the mosaic should be. Based on the inspirations from this book, I wrote an few-years AI innovation plan for the top management of our company.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1633697622/

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Focus areas : Vesmír

If a football match takes place, then everyone on stadium is an elite coach or football expert (or both). Same way when the conversation sways to universe, everyone is fidgeting with school knowledge (probably still from a time when Pluto was still (mistakenly) considered a planet). Crash course in astrophysics is probably too difficult of feat. However, Neil de Grasse Tyson came as close as one could get to it. As the subtitle itself suggests, he decided to write a book about the universe for people who do not have time (or rather patience) to go through thick volumes, formulas or a flood of scientific articles. And he did it really brilliantly. The book is written in approach that does not deter even a complete layman (hunted by physics already in school.) In addition, it will upgrade your knowledge level of the universe to state that you (probably) can withstand even a first date with an astrophysicist. Truly one of those books worth your hours.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0393609391

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Dark Data

Focus areas: Data, Data Analytics

No, this is not a book on cybercrime, or mapping Dark Energy or Dark Matter. It’s not even a book on black magic. Although it actually might … Data analytics is often a bit of (black) magic. However, David J. Hand has made a great favor to the data analyst (and data processing) community. He systematically summarized 15 different reasons why we do not have complete or available data for our analyses. (Ultimately resulting in the legendary GIGO effect.) moreover, the most important part of the message, I often try to explain (especially) to novice data analysts, is that for large part of those 15 reasons we shoot into our own legs. The book can also be read as a cookbook of what you should not forget and what you wnat to avoid in data analytics. What I value most about the author’s contribution is fact that for each of the 15 possible reasons (where data work trips) the author also offers clear proposals for remedies (or even prevention). Hence, a single-sentence-review of this book would be: Mandatory reading for those who live by working with data, inspiration for anyone who does not want to succumb to (unprofessional or purposeful) manipulation of facts.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/069118237X/

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Enjoying It, Candy Crush and Capitalism

Focus Areas : Digital Lifestyle, Philosophy

I don’t know why, but this year I had a lucky hand on a surprisingly many interesting philosophical books. (Maybe I’m getting old.) To be clear at the outset, I tolerate philosophical treatises as much as most of the population. Up to page 5. Then I usually roll my eyes and the book plummets in the reading queue. However, Alfie Brown captivated me with his book. Not only because he made it bearably short, but especially because he chose a topic that I already crossed my mind as well. Is the current Netflix time & mobile gaming just killing time? (over whom we, the bookworms, can contemptuously present our “Phew!”) Or is it a legitimate and meaningful leisure time activity that remains just generationally misunderstood? The argumentative and philosophical debate on this topic not only drew me to read in tempo not to notice how far after the 5th page I was. It also explained to me the attitudes of some folks in my surroundings. You may swear at me after reading it, but I would really advise you to read this piece. What is more, the author wrote another similar work on a slightly different topic, which is on my reading list for last quarter of this year, so I am adding a link to the second book as well.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1785351559

Link to next author’s book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1509518037

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CHILD 44

Focus Areas: Rusian history, Crime Thriller

As I wrote in the header of this blog, I usually do not put fiction books in the recommendations on this blog. However, I am very happy to make a big exception to this one.

I was fascinated by Tom Rob Smith’s piece because for a very long time (over a hundred pages or so) I could not reveal what genre do I actually read. For a while, it felt like a historical novel or a social study of post-war Russia. Or maybe even a detective story? If this confusion of mine seems weird mixture to you, then bare with me that author mixes these three lines of the book so engagingly that you stop caring really soon. Soon you simply crave for more and more pages, whichever the final lending is. In other words, the book so faithfully connects the description of the social situation with the life picture of the characters, until … until you suddenly find out, gee, it’s actually a detective story. The murderer is beginning to strikingly resemble several characters. You’re starting to zoom your bets on who it is. But the social establishment doesn’t really want to track that offender down. So, how on earth, will be the villain punished accordingly? Child 44 (by the way, the first book of the trilogy) is a great and engaging book for the autumn evening as well as for sunscreen on a beach. Just enjoy it.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001AZT99C/

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Never Split The Difference

Focus Areas: Negotiation, Business strategy

Surely you have already found yourself in a situation where there has been a lot to lose or win: An argument with a partner, quest for a salary increase, tough business meeting or a child who rebels against family rules. I bet that if you replay the situation, the head was wondering what the mouth had just said. Where to seek advice so that next time we (at least) don’t spoil the matter for ourselves? Some recommend you play unyielding toughs. Others direct you to “steer the agreement with your opponent somewhere into the middle of the range.” But what does the Police Negotiator deal with hostage dramas and kidnappings think about the optimal negotiation strategy? Should he offer killing half of the hostages to meet terrorists in the middle?

Chriss Voss be the absolute world leader in dealing with armed attackers and terrorists. As a FBI negotiator, he always has to play for him to win everything and leave the terrorist with nothing left. That’s why it’s interesting to see his point on how to negotiate so that the most of the jackpot end in your pocket. If you find it repulsive (even unfair) for everyday bargains, you seem to look at it the same way I did before I opened the book. However, trust me, the book is not a guide on how to ruin the other side. It’s a set of tips (described on specific cases) that will allow you to go for a 50:50 agreement (and at the same time, not to offend or kill the opponent). After all, the described procedures are just as useful a defense against capable opponents as tool for anyone to actively push. Purchasing this book will pay you back many times over. First time already at the next annual review interview or in hysterical scene of your little one.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1847941494

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Seeing Around Corners

Focus Areas: Management, Business Strategy

At the heart of many business struggles is that current dilemmas are viewed by methods from 20 years or older. That’s because decisions are made by people who studied at a time when those topics were hot topics. But how to sustainably see beyond the horizon? How to read correctly what will be “IN” also in years still to xome? And most importantly: How to innovate using “calculated bets” rather than through “plug and pray” projects?
Although Rita McGrath is one of the less known authors (even in my extensive library), she quickly gained my sympathies by pragmatically naming business weaknesses and real patches for those holes. she is not afraid to go against the mainstream. So you will learn that market share is an outdated metric, that truly innovative companies are the ones that don’t need employees, or that Netflix has long struggled how to switch to subscriptions. She is not looking for icons or heroes (as is so common among American business authors). On the contrary, she serves well-structured advice on how to systematically innovate, but also what are often overlooked duties of leaders in this process. Or how not to succumb to the surrounding pressure. It is compressed reading, be ready for popping every now-and-there to write down notes of stimulating ideas. Hence, reading this book will take few more hours that (otherwise reasonable) thickness of the volume would suggest. However, if you lead a team or are (co-)responsible for the strategy/direction of a organization, you will enjoy this recommendation in depth.

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0358022339/

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Publikované dňa 18. 9. 2020.