Seth Holloway

More joie de vivre than savoir-vivre.

My favorite reads in 2018

Below are my favorite reads from 2018. In 2018 my reading focused a lot on improving myself in order to make me a better husband, father, manager, and all-around person.

Over the years I’ve read a lot about management, however, a lot of it is very high level. I read and enjoyed Radical Candor by Kim Scott because it provided an opinionated overview of how to manage like when and how to have career conversations. I found a lot of the suggestions helpful as I officially began my management career.

I finished the available LBJ biographies by Robert A. Caro, which I highly recommend. Between those and The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita I had a new framework for interpreting today’s political landscape.

On the non-fiction front, I read and enjoyed the Binti series and the Bobiverse series. Both were quick, thought-provoking sci-fi series.

BJ Fogg’s Model for Behavior Change

Free-form notes from a presentation by BJ Fogg on behavior change.

Behavior happens when you have motivation, ability, and a prompt.

To stop a behavior:

  • reduce motivation
  • make it harder
  • remove prompt

To encourage a behavior:

  • make it easy
  • build onto existing routine
  • re-wire your brain (find a way to celebrate)

This is a simple process but change is not easy. We should approach behavior change with compassion, playfulness, and iteration.

My favorite reads in 2017

Below are my favorite reads from 2017.


  • Reamde by Neal Stephenson – I have enjoyed every Neal Stephenson book I’ve read, and this is no exception. I’ve played a lot of online games over the years, so this book hooked me by starting off with a computer virus spread in an online game. It develops nicely from there.
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – Truly ahead of its time. This book felt modern with its space travel and artificial intelligence, but it was written in the 1950s!
  • Ancillary Justice by Leckie – This book has won a ton of awards so it is not too surprising that it is good. It has some really interesting ideas with AI and consciousness.


  • Super Powereds by Drew Hayes – College kids with super powers. That’s a hell of a mashup. I found the three published books very entertaining. The characters were interesting, the scenarios were realistic, and the magic system was well thought out and balanced (which is not easy to do with super powers).


  • The Path To Power and Means of Ascent by Robert Caro – These are the first two books in a long biography series about LBJ, one of America’s most interesting presidents. Ryan Holiday recommended these and I see why. Amazing character and great writing make these books easy to read. It helped me feel better about today’s political climate.
  • Ideal Team Player by Lencioni – Lencioni has carved out a niche with his leadership fables—basically, business books wrapped in a narrative. I’ve read most of his books now and they fit together really nicely. I want to be an ideal team player and this book gave me food for thought.
  • Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute – Another business book wrapped in a narrative. Peace is a great goal, so I was glad to learn more about how we can all overcome conflict and find peace.

Books Read in 2017

Below are the books I read in 2017 categorized as fiction or non-fiction. (The list is also available on Goodreads.)

The thumbs up/down rating is fast and loose—don’t take it too seriously.



My favorite reads in 2016

Below are my favorite reads from 2016.


  • Lord of All Things by Andreas Eschbach – This book had a lot of new-to-me ideas and the sci-fi was integrated nicely into a story I enjoyed. One of the things that stands out is that tradeoffs exist with every choice.
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson – Amazing concepts that my mind keeps turning over. I love Neal Stephenson and this is yet another mind-expanding novel from him. This book really hit him as Elon Musk started speaking more publicly about getting off Earth.
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – I don’t tend to read many short stories, but I’m glad I read this collection. About half the stories were really good and still have me thinking.



  • Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson – A great story in the midst of a very extreme 2016.
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman – This is my new standard for an autobiography. Entertaining and interesting throughout, with great insights into this curious character. I particularly liked that he didn’t want more money because it would allow him to afford mistress, which he knew would ruin his life.
  • Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis – I would recommend this to any new father. It’s short and funny with Michael Lewis plainly saying so many things I had thought. I’ve used his question “what percentage of the parenting does each parent do?” several times now. He says that fathers do much less than mothers but there’s a lot of social stigma to admitting that, which made me feel better.
  • When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron – This book dovetailed nicely with my efforts to control my emotions. I read no more than one chapter at a time because it’s heavy, introspective stuff. I was thrilled that I read this beeok when I saw Derek Sivers mention Pema Chodron in his about now pages post.

That’s my not-so-short list of favorites from 2016. I hope 2017 will be filled with as many great stories.

SXSW 2016 in Review

SXSW 2016 was great! I’m enjoying the conference more every year. I think last year’s presentations were more thought-provoking, but there were several good talks this year too.



  • NativeScript: The Future of Mobile App Development – Wanna write a single JavaScript program that can run on iOS, Android, and Windows phone? Then NativeScript is for you! It’s a neat idea, and I think the fact that we keep seeing write-once-run-on-any-native-platform projects shows how valuable such a project would be.
  • The Future of Media Companies – Hard to believe that a BuzzFeed speech would have a click-bait title, right?!
  • Daring Greatly – To summarize: breathe. I’m being flippant. Brene Brown is amazing and her keynote was no exception. One of my favorites.
  • Unstoppable Trends that are Changing the World – Max, the co-founder and CTO of PayPal, is staggeringly smart. The presentation was good. The Q&A was great. In the time it took to read a question, Max could come up with a brilliant, self-assured response that was delivered with precision. He invoked the idea of a shrewd, genius VC.
  • The Linguistic Secrets Found in Billions of Emoji – I thought I could buy some nerd-cred with my wife with this one. I don’t use emoji like most people use emoji :–\



Android vs iOS

As I work on Android and iOS I’m refining my opinions. Below are my current thoughts about the two ecosystems and underlying languages.

Objective C vs Java

Note: I haven’t used Swift enough to fairly compare Swift to Objective C. The presence of Swift calls into question the future of Objective C; however, I think Swift eliminates a lot of my gripes with Objective C.

Objective C wins

  • Apple docs are generally more pleasant than JavaDocs.
  • You can pass messages to nil without a NullPointerException.
  • nil is false, which fits how I generally think about problems and saves some typing (if (foo) is not as explicit but explicit null checks are noisy and easily forgotten).
  • Method names can be more expressive: stringWithCString:inputString encoding:inputEncoding is more clear to me than String(String inputString, String encoding), which, in practice, is often more like String(String s, String e). As the signature expands the problem becomes more pronounced. Objective C essentially forces named arguments.
  • Drama surrounding Java’s future under Oracle; for example, Android Dalvik is definitely not Java

Java wins

  • In wide use outside mobile development, so Java is well known and understood
  • Simpler memory management, which decreases the amount of syntax and leads to fewer bugs. This combined with the fact that Java is more widely used means that people can more easily ramp up on Android.

iOS vs Android

Android wins

  • Easy and inexpensive (a one-time $25 fee) to create and publish apps.
  • Registering to open URLs. In Android an app can register to open specific links, like or seth://foo. This improves the user experience by operating on the link in the best app: if you have the YouTube app, open the video in the app, otherwise fall back to the default browser. iOS achieves a similar effect but cannot register for https:// schemes. In practice it works well enough, but custom schemes aren’t as ubiquitous as HTTP(S).
  • Strings and localization. Android forces you to use a message catalog, which has several advantages: (1) it’s better for reuse; (2) it makes it easier to refactor; (3) it centralizes text so docs and translators can engage more easily; (4) the toolchain is more stable—Xcode crashes a lot when working with localization and it doesn’t update text changes made through interface builder

iOS wins

  • One true way to do most things. iOS is pretty strict, but it’s easier to find the proper way to do things and leads to greater consistency.
  • More stable platform.
  • Higher quality apps and community, on average. While Apple’s approval process is a pain and their developer program fees are steep (compared to Android’s $0 cost), this probably leads to higher quality.

Notes from Medical School for Everyone

Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases (Great Courses) by Roy Benaroch, M.D.

  • Diseases like Down’s syndrome and Ménière’s disease are shifting to drop the possessive noun, so you might hear Down syndrome, Ménière disease, Alzheimer disease, etc.

  • Doctors listen to symptoms then make a “differential diagnosis”, which is essentially a working theory. They then test the theory to confirm the diagnosis. (A “differential diagnosis” differentiates one particular disease from other diseases that present similar symptoms; e.g., “it could be brain cancer or a stroke—differential diagnosis is stroke.”)

  • Doctors should start with the most specific symptoms. For example, “stomach ache” could be caused by hundreds of conditions while “a large lump in my abdomen” has fewer causes.

  • Modern CPR recommendations are to lay the patient flat and begin aggressive chest compressions—no rescue breaths—while getting others to call 911 and seek an automated external defibrillator (AED). AEDs are becoming more common. They instruct laypeople how to proceed and administer shocks as needed.

  • Unexplained weight loss means your body is not absorbing nutrients properly or is burning calories in an unexplained way. Diabetes and cancer are common causes.

  • Don’t assume that your doctors are communicating. Make sure that records are shared between them and that they know about one another.

  • In emergency situations doctors use their A, B, Cs: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure. These are handled in sequence. The technique is meant to make a complex problem more tractable. If a patient has a blocked airway, they first intubate (or whatever is appropriate); if airway is clear they ensure the patient is breathing, then that the patient’s heart is working and the patient is not losing blood. Disability assesses the patient’s general competency, usually using the AVPU method, where the patient is graded as alert (A), voice responsive (V), pain responsive (P), or unresponsive (U). This is an alternative to the Glasgow Coma Scale, which uses six levels of eye, verbal, and motor (EVM) responses. Exposure is about a more general physical exam, looking for signs of trauma.

  • They think King Tut died of sickle-cell disease (a.k.a. sickle-cell anemia). Sickle-cell carriers are resistant to malaria, so it’s a great trait to have in places where malaria is a leading cause of death; however, sickle-cell is more likely to kill so the benefits are lost if a child inherits. (Sickle-cell is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern where two carrier parents have a ¼ chance for the child to be unaffected, 2/4 chance for the child to be a carrier, and ¼ chance for the child to have sickle-cell.)

Books Read in 2016

Below are the books I read in 2016 categorized as fiction or non-fiction. (The list is also available on Goodreads.)

I’ve gone with a thumbs up/down rating to force myself to have an opinion because I’m generally positive about any book I read and that’s boring.



Want to squeeze in a few more books per year? I read a fair amount of physical and ebooks, but I rely on audiobooks to double my monthly reading. I use and love Audible. Email me if you want me to send you a book from my list.

My favorite reads in 2015

Different books give me different things, so it’s hard to rank them. But here are a few books that stand out from this year’s reading list.

  • The Stormlight Archive books 1 and 2 by Brandon Sanderson: The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. I read seven Brandon Sanderson books in 2015, so it’s fair to say I enjoy his writing. This is set to be a 10-book epic fantasy series in the vein of The Wheel of Time, which Sanderson finished with aplomb. I hate having to wait so long to reach the conclusion, but I’m prepared to do so because the first two were so good.

  • Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday. The media is bullshit—read this book if you don’t believe me. Ryan Holiday talks candidly about the tricks he and so many others use to generate traffic.

  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Between this and Trust Me, I’m Lying I was really sad about the state of media and the rise of outrage porn. Real lives are ruined and only the media wins.

  • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Another book with ties to shame and acceptance. Amanda Palmer has a confessional style that is really disarming. People have been really mean to her, so her message of love and empathy is that much more amazing.

  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. A breath of fresh air among the negativity in some of my other notable reads from the year. Reading this book made me feel better about myself.

  • Contagious by Jonah Berger. Contagious sheds light on why some things are shared and others aren’t, which was particularly interesting in the context of shame and media manipulation.

  • Things to shout out loud at parties. by Markus Almond. I love the style of this book. It’s a collection of no-more-than-one-page stories and thoughts so it’s very approachable. I think everyone should aim to write a similar book.

  • Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson. Another book with a unique style. This one is a collection of stories about a junkie stumbling through life where the writing is as stark and jumpy as you’d expect from a junkie.

  • Becoming a Technical Leader by Gerald Weinberg. This book is unlike any other ‘how to be a leader’ book that I’ve read. It’s full of great ideas like, ‘maybe poor personal hygiene is about poor self-confidence so be mindful when offering advice’ and Satir’s interaction model. I highly recommend it for anyone who is becoming a technical leader.

  • The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford. A modern version of The Goal, which helped reinforce past learnings about project management and software deployments.

I hope 2015 treated you well! I look forward to a similarly stimulating 2016.