5 Book Recommendations for your 2021 Reading List

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5 book recommendations for your 2021 reading list

As the year draws to a close and the festive holiday period approaches, you may want to pick up a book in your evenings. Alternatively, you could be in need of adding some books to your 2021 reading list. Luckily we have you covered. We have compiled a list of some of the highly recommended books that we have read and reviewed throughout this year!

Over the past year, we have encouraged our colleagues to read both a mixture of work-related, skill-enhancing books and leisure books. This is because as a company, we value the benefits of continuous learning and feel it is important to give employees the opportunity to learn new skills and discover new things about their job, the world or about themselves.

Here is a list of our recommended books we have collated this year!

  • The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done  (2018) reviewed by Yiğitalp Ertem
  • Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (2008) reviewed by Murat Toprak
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells  (1985) reviewed by Tomás Fonseca
  • Prisoners of Geography (2015) reviewed by Phoebe Chubb
  • The Topeka School (2019) reviewed by Yiğitalp Ertem

The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done by Steve Denning

Written by a card-carrying advocate of Agile, this book is an introductory level appraisal of the agile practices that are currently dominating the way of work in many companies. Organized in two main sections, it starts with the recent theory and history of the practice and then details it with a long but rewarding chapter containing much empirical evidence from Microsoft’s Agile transformation.

The second section where it breaks off with the initial discussion is a critique of prioritization of the short term goals, stock market based, cost-oriented and in-general conservative mentality in the management of the companies. The author argues about how these approaches are out of tune with customer-first, flexible, trust-based and autonomous intentions of the Agile mindset. While I agree with him about the majority of the benefits of Agile, I found his presentation of Agile as a solution for some of the flaws that may be deeply embedded in the whole economic and financial system, a bit naive.

All in all, it was a nice read since it felt like a compilation of my professional experiences in working in Agile teams and the crumbs that I’ve learnt from discussions with colleagues or from reading blog posts in structured historiography.

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Reviewed by: Yiğitalp Ertem, Full Stack Engineer

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Reviewed by: Murat Toprak, Backend Engineer

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin

I started reading this book during the first coronavirus lockdown. It’s a book written by a software engineer who has more than 50 years of experience in the field. It’s definitely one of those books you need to read if you are developing software. I liked reading this book for numerous reasons.

Firstly, it is both practical and theoretical in a way that is easy to read and understand even for more junior developers. I find that it can be more helpful for developers who have a bit of experience in a way that they can look back and see what they have done well or bad or even assure themselves in both ways.

This book also approaches software development as intellectual work such as literature or art and not just something that smart kids with glasses do. It’s like one of those reference books which you can pick up and start reading from any chapter any time. There’s a lot of wisdom in this book for any software development related professional and I would highly recommend giving it a go!

The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly

There are literally thousands of books about Marketing but very few will reach the quality of Bly’s book. The main reason is all the execution insights that The copywriter’s Handbook offers. Instead of being rhetorical or just scratching the surface of practicality, the book makes deepdyves on each type of marketing (strong focus on digital) with brilliant How-tos and tips to immediately improve the quality of the content that your marketing team produces.

This book, despite being published in 1985 has been revised and is especially applicable in the digital age. Providing a comprehensive coverage of the basics of copywriting, from drafting social media posts to landing pages to content creation, Bly’s extensive approach leaves no stone unturned, which is why this book is fantastic for those who specialize in marketing.

Overall the key takeaways I got from this book was how to be clear, concise and simple in the use of language to gain attention, communicate and persuade people effectively. I highly recommend giving this book a go, even if you’re just looking to improve your writing skills!

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Reviewed by: Tomás Fonseca, Head of Marketing

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Reviewed by: Phoebe Chubb, Junior Marketer

Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall

“Prisoners of Geography” written by Tim Marshall provides a comprehensive overview of the intrinsic relation between geography and both the formation and actions of states. Expertly intertwining political, social and cultural factors in regards to regions, it delves into the causes of conflict, seeking to explain through the lens of the land.

Thought-provoking and extensive, Marshall covers a broad range of historical and contemporary cases, appealing to the wider public. Marshall’s coverage of “Russia” was particularly enthralling, denoting the importance of access to waterways as a key influencer of Putin’s policies.

Yet although Marshall manages to cover summaries of all regions, which is impressive considering it is a 256 paged book, this, as a result, leads to a narrower approach that doesn’t give the level of depth that is required. Nevertheless, this book is fantastic if you want to start learning more about the world and the wider relationship between geography and politics.

Overall, whilst geopolitics cannot explain everything, “Prisoners of Geography”, gives a brief introduction to the underlying influences of both the politics and societies of different regions. Whilst it is non-fiction it is easy to follow and acts as a starting point to encourage the readers to learn more about the wider world.

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

First a poet, then a novelist, Ben Lerner keeps extending the autofiction genre where the main character is clearly related to the author. But it’s never clear up to which point he is still authentic or not. Autofiction authors have discovered that and are employing it since they noticed the readers are also enjoying this playful literary genre. Lerner’s first two novels were about a young poet studying on a scholarship in Madrid (Leaving the Atocha Station) and the New Yorker author who gets an advance payment but is distracted about writing the ordered novel (22:04).

In The Topeka School, Lerner goes back to late 1990s Topeka, Kansas where he grew up. This time the ironic protagonist is into poetry, freestyle rap and competitive school debates —which are somehow all about language despite being different modes of expression.

For the first time in his books, the novel spans a broader timeframe with the stories of the psychiatrist parents in detail together with a left-off youngster who is located at a symbolic knot in the storyline.

The novel critically explores some debates about masculinity, racial tensions, religious radicalism, marital relationships and competitiveness in society through the historical context of political and economic transformations in the American society. Alongside these more ambitious goals, what impressed me equally was Lerner’s permanent efforts to describe fleeting moments, physical and emotional interactions with written language by using a variety of helper anecdotes taken from cultural history, art, literature and human sciences.

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Reviewed by: Yiğitalp Ertem, Full Stack Engineer

That concludes our book recommendations for the year! We have given you a range of books from various genres that we hope have inspired you to get reading in the new year and perhaps choose a book that you wouldn’t normally pick up.

Happy reading!