Seth Holloway

More joie de vivre than savoir-vivre.

Hugo Award Winners and Nominees - Fantasy

I have been searching for good fantasy books and there’s no shortage of suggestions. One suggestion was to pick something from the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Awards recognize the best sci-fi and fantasy novels, which is a huge body of work. I was frustrated that I could not find a more granular categorization–where do you start with a list of 280+ critically acclaimed books? Knowing at least the genre would help a lot. Since I couldn’t find a categorized list of Hugo Award winners, so I decided to create it.

I noticed that most of the books had Wikipedia entries that included a “Genre” entry in the sidebar, so I grabbed the additional information. Below is a list of the Fantasy novels that were nominated for or won the Hugo award. Enjoy and happy reading!

This task was made bearable by scripting the look-ups with Beautiful Soup in Python. If you’re interested, the source is available as categorizing-hugo-award-winners on GitHub.


Books read December 2013

Lord of Chaos: Book Six of ‘The Wheel of Time’ - I finished up book six of the Wheel of Time series and am ready for a break. This book felt like a slog, but ended really well. Some friends advised I skip the middle, so I think I’ll read summaries before jumping to book 12 to start the finale.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book - I thought this book had great bang for the buck. Robin Williams shows how to transform boring, bad designs using CRAP–that’s contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The second edition is a bit dated; perhaps the third edition is closer to today’s flat UI trend.

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (A Touchstone book) - This text asserts that there are four levels of reading: elementary (the basics), inspectional (quickly understanding the big idea), analytical (deep reading), and syntopical (thinking critically and comparing the words against all your related knowledge). I wish I would have read this earlier, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten much out of it because I didn’t think I needed it. I found that the deep dives into new subjects that I frequently did during my PhD is called syntopical reading.

The Effective Executive (Harper business Essentials) - Management guru, Peter Drucker, provides a great guide to working on the right things. As with many business books, you could summarize it in one blog post, but then you lose the nuance. I’m curious how Drucker would argue that a busy executive should read his entire book instead of a concise summary.

Are Your Lights On?: How to Figure Out What the Problem Really Is - Another book from my productivity queue. This was a quick read with some interesting points. I was intrigued by thinking about whose problem something is and how decision makers’ interests rarely align with he people experiencing the problem.



Books read October 2013

In October I continued on The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, completing books two and three (a grand total of about 1500 pages). So far I’m really liking the series, which is a fantasy hero story. As of now I still prefer A Song of Fire and Ice by G.R.R.M.. A Song of Fire and Ice takes more risks–perhaps because the series is less about good and evil (or it is not so obvious who is truly good or evil). In any case, I will complete the Robert Jordan (then Brandon Sanderson) series.

The Great Hunt: Book Two of ‘The Wheel of Time’

The Dragon Reborn: Book Three of ‘The Wheel of Time’


Advice for a new manager

Someone asked me for advice on becoming a manager. Caring enough to ask probably means the new manager will do well, but I offered some resources that might help too. Below is my reply.

I think the following books would be useful:

  • The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business - I imagine you’ll have expanded responsibilities and a lot of interaction with other parts of the business, so I recommend this book to get an overview of various functions. It also contains a ton of pointers to other books if you want to go deeper in one subject.
  • The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable - One of the easiest business books I’ve ever read because it reads like a story. The title says its for CEOs, but I think anyone in power should read and implement the lessons.
  • HBR’s 10 Must Reads - Collections of 10 great essays on business subjects like management, leadership, and strategy. If you do nothing else, read Peter Drucker’s seminal paper, Managing Oneself and figure out if you’re a reader or listener (among other character defining qualities).
  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box - This is framed as a book for leaders, but I think everyone should read it as it would improve relationships.
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths - This book is great because it will reinforce the idea that people are different. It’s a book about how to achieve great things by focusing on your strengths, but along the way you should learn that other people need the same. Figure out what your people are best at, help them discover it for themselves, then play to the strengths and everyone wins.
  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering - Not my favorite book, but I think it’s very important for managers to remember that nine women can’t gestate a baby in one month. This book is full of important lessons.
  • Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams - I had been wanting to read this one for a long time, and I’m glad that I finally did. It’s written by a couple empirical software engineering consultants (my description) who looked at a ton of data and performed thousands of interviews, then synthesized the information into a book. It’s a bit redundant, but I’d prefer a manager who read this book over one that had not.
  • How To Win Friends and Influence People - A classic. I’ve heard you can tell when someone has read this book. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but he has some fantastic, enduring ideas about how to treat people.
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion - Years of psychology research packed into one book. This book just has so much great information about how people think and act. For example, a woman was killed in the streets of NYC and numerous people heard it happen but none of them did anything; the theory is that they thought someone else would fix it. The takeaway: if you want someone to do something, give clear, actionable orders directly to them. That’s powerful stuff for managers, I’d say. There are many other gems in here.
  • The Prince - A classic on power and leadership. I found this book to be far less cynical than people make it out to be.
  • The Art of War - A classic that’s a really quick read. You might not often find yourself physically fighting on facile ground, but it might help to know the strategies and tactics.
  • The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership - This book had its highs and lows for me–there were points where I wanted to quit and other times when I thought it was great. You could probably get the basics by skimming it. A couple big messages were to think more before making a decision (unless it must be done now, put it off), gather lots of information, and think critically.

I’d also recommend virtually everything by Jeff Atwood (a few highlights: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2005/02/managing-with-trust.htmlhttp://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/11/the-two-types-of-programmers.html, http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/06/escaping-from-gilligans-island.htmlhttp://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2007/06/escaping-from-gilligans-island.html) and Joel Spoelsky (like http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/08/07.html) as well as talks by Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skD1fjxSRog, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-7l8cnpI4k, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SARbwvhupQ, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F-3E8pyjFo), Dan Pink (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html), and Robert Greene (who wrote Mastery, 48 Laws of Power, and the Art of Seduction). There are also good podcasts by Zig Ziglar, Dave Ramsey, and others.

If you’re not already a member of Audible.com, I highly recommend that you sign up now. Take advantage of your downtime (exercising, cleaning, commuting) by listening to books and podcasts.

Did I miss something? Anything you’d recommend?





Brake lights exist–why not gas lights?

Effective, safe driving is all about processing information and communicating with your driving peers. Brake lights let those behind you know that you’re slowing down–and they’re pretty good at that. Why don’t we have gas lights to know when people ahead of you are speeding up? For even more information, vehicles could indicate when neither the gas pedal or brake pedal is being pressed.