Seth Holloway

More joie de vivre than savoir-vivre.

Favorite Reads of 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.

Favorite Reads of 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.

Favorite Reads of 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.

Favorite Reads of 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.

Books Read January 2015

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. A solid fantasty novel with an interesting magic system. In Mistborn, a select few people are gifted with the ability to burn a metal internally granting them abilities like improved strength or improved hearing. The elevated ability lasts as long as the metal remains with the metal burning in proportion to the power you demand of it. An even smaller group can burn all metals. I liked it a lot.

The Art of Conflict Management by Michael Dues. I now think that conflict management is the most important skill a person can have. I wish this stuff was taught in school! It was very helpful for me to learn the basics, which provided me with a framework for understanding conflict (“discomforting differences”).

Finding Your Element by Sir Ken Robinson. Ken Robinson had a great tech talk, so I thought I’d like the book. It was good, but not really what I need. I’d recommend the book to young people who are floundering as they embark on adulthood or middle-aged people struggling to understand where they fit into the scheme of things.

No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover. I don’t know how to feel about this book. I think it has a lot of really good information for nice guys who are unfulfilled; however, it raises some questions regarding masculinity and being kind but firm. Some of the positive points: men should spend time with other men, people should stand up for themselves and they should get what they want, and couples should evenly divide work.

Books Read December 2014

It was a busy month for reading. Lots of good stuff!

Dracula Chronicles: Son of the Dragon by Victor Foia. An interesting retelling of the life of Dracula. This book, the first of three, tracks Dracula in his teenage years as he makes his first kill. The book was really good, but I was looking for more fantasy.

Spellbound by Larry Correia. Correia has the fantasy adventure story down. Very entertaining. I look forward to finishing the series (Grimnoir Chronicles) soon.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. A slice of life in the alternate reality where the cold war ended with nuclear war. I could see this book as the precursor to The Road by McCarthy. I liked it.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. Beware the elder things buried in Antarctica.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Scott Adams is the creator of the workplace comic, Dilbert. In this book Adams lays out his lessons on life. Some of the high points: eat well, exercise, get into a routine, optimize your personal energy, learn as many different skills as you can (because success is likely to come from some combination of your skills), and passion is just a fancy way for successful people to say they got lucky. I really liked the book; I thought it was funny and informative, and I loved the humility with which the story was told. Where many books and life stories rewrite history and show how one success begot another, Adams instead talks about how his failures lead to success. The anecdotes were modest and on-point, which I found refreshing and brave.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A Jewish psychiatrist’s Holocaust story helps explain his world view and motivate his psychotherapy approach, Logotherapy. I appreciated that the book was honest without dwelling too much on the atrocities: rather than recounting every terrible thing that happened, Frankl picks a few key events that provide a broad understanding. Remarkably, Frankl does something constructive with his grief. In the book he mentions that Logotherapy might ask a patient why that patient does not commit suicide because the answer reveals your meaning, which you can then work with to heal. One of the most disturbing parts of the book for me was Frankl’s account of returning home to a nation that ignored the concentration camps or downplayed their significance; he writes that for many survivors life after the camp was harder than life in the camp.

Futures and Frosting by Tara Sivec. Futures and Frosting tells the story of how a single-mother is reunited with the father of her child; after a lot of confusion, the couple gets married and has another kid, then lives happily ever after. Without the humor, it would read like an angsty young adult love story.

Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Ade Oshineye. This was probably the most accessible technical book I’ve read. The application of pattern language to a career is really clever and worked well. As with software patterns, it’s nice to see the path.

Books Read November 2014

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I loved this book because it resonated with my hopes for the future of business. Sinek also brought in some of my favorite psychological ideas in a way that I found inspiring–I’ve read a lot of the same research and come across the same ideas, but I had not synthesized the data into a coherent worldview. I’d boil it down to the following: short-term profit maximization is proving unsustainable even harmful for society; instead, you should treat employees as people to enjoy sustained growth.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Based on numerous positive reviews I was really excited to read this book; unfortunately, I didn’t care much for it. In the preface Gaiman says that the book is long and meandering, and he hit the nail on the head. I thought the main plot was pretty interesting, but the tangents did not add anything for me. At times it felt like I was reading a book for English class because I just didn’t understand the message.

The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Stavely. I liked the book, but I’m not sure I’m ready for another series just yet.

Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. An accessible summary of research about poor people worldwide. I loved the realistic approach to helping people. Some of my favorite tidbits were that people donated significantly more money when the message focused on a single, identifiable person and that when given money, poor people tend to buy more interesting food rather than more of the same (in the studies people still ate around 1200 calories but they would incorporated more meat and indulgences like tea rather than eating another 500 calories of rice).

Language A to Z by John McWhorter. Great course by the Great Courses.

Customs of the World by David Livermore. Good course by the Great Courses.

Books Read October 2014

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. A short but powerful book–I see why it was made into a movie. Turns out the apocalypse is no fun.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m ashamed to admit that this is my first Vonnegut book. I’ve broken the seal, and I enjoyed it. The book has a socialist bent, so I’d love to hear what a strong capitalist thought of this book.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I finished this before seeing the movie. My overall reaction is, “wow.” I didn’t like it, then liked it, then loved it, then didn’t like it. It was original and well written, for what that’s worth.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I’ve now read a few Lencioni books, and I really enjoy them. I find his novel approach to business lessons is very accessible. This book says you need to first establish trust so that people will speak freely. Without trust, people cannot engage in productive arguments, so people do not buy in–they just quit arguing. Once you have trust, an open exchange of ideas, and commitment to a shared vision, you can start holding people accountable. Finally, you can focus on results. The five dysfunctions are presented as a pyramid, which highlights the need to achieve the previous level before moving up–I thought that was kind of like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applied to business.

Books Read September 2014

I have a lot of series started now, and I’m not sure which one I will continue next.

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. This book is really well written and historically important–the amount of controversy around this novel is unreal! Unfortunately, I did not care for the book. I made it through about 2/3 before I decided I’d much rather be reading something else. Fear not! I’ve read the summary so I know how it ends ;-)

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore. I always like Drizzt stories. This is a sequence of vignettes that is less interesting than a complete story. It fills some gaps, but also spoils entire books; I’d say you should read it after you’ve read all the other books.

Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book One by Kevin Hearne. I found this very entertaining; I found it to be an interesting, fresh take on Druidic magic.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) by Jim Butcher. A couple years ago I tore through the Dresden Files series on Netflix, so this reading was a long time coming. Unsurprisingly, the book is better than the show, but I’d recommend both.

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson. This is a very useful book that offers “tools for talking when the stakes are high.” Some of the biggest takeaways for me: focus on what you can do better and ‘start with heart,’ that is, be honest and heartfelt without blaming. I plan to re-read again sometime.

Books Read August 2014

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I loved the insight into the restaurant industry. Bourdain is a really good writer, which complements his crass, honest style. If you want to know what the people in the kitchen are up to, read this book.

The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Apparently this is the worst of the Darkover series, so it’s unfortunate that it is where I started. I’m not sure I’ll continue the series.

Dragonquest (Dragonriders of Pern #2) by Anne McCaffrey. Meh. I liked this book when I read it, but I don’t have overwhelmingly positive memories now.

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. Sol Stein raved about Borges, and Borges sounded like an author worth reading. Short stories are really different for me because I normally read technical books or novels. That said, I found Borges’ stories to be interesting.

Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. Following Lean Startup I was feeling entrepreneurial and this book looked good. It was good. Lots of good lessons. I’ve noticed that a lot of business books rely on personal anecdotes from a single success; it’s not bad, and I understand that making millions of dollars over many years would certainly teach you a lot, but it is odd when every lesson takes you back to a story from a single company.

Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia. I’ve now started two Correia series (Grimnoir and Monster Hunters), and I really like both. He writes really fun, fast-paced books that remind me of action movies. I’ll be reading more of these as soon as I clear out my queue.