Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Time

This post is going to be about books, great books that have been highly valuable for me in the past months, some informative, some influential, some breath taking and some wonderfully amusing. Here goes the list with no particular order, just like how I usually get involved with books and read them.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

 Guy Kawasaki is a very interesting person with numerous amount of books and presentations mostly related to entrepreneurship. A very amazing pattern is repeated quite often where a team forms and does something exceptional in a specific period of time and synergy proves once again that it can change the world significantly by showing how the value of the team is much more than the sum of its parts. Time goes, the team is disbanded and each and every one of these people continue glowing in different areas and at different places, they might not experience the same level of excellency again but still they provide value in a different scale. Guy Kawasaki is one of the people from the original Mac days at Apple. Well I just wrote about this pattern because I thought it is related to Kawasaki himself and this is not related to the contents of the book, the book is in general about how you can interact with people and teams in a professional environment in order to be enchanting and charismatic. A very smooth and interesting read.

Co-Opetition by Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff

A word created by mixing Cooperation and Competition. A form of Yin and Yang which can be witnessed in the industry today between major corporations and this book delves into the subject and proves how competition and cooperation are crucial and necessary in today's business interaction and shows many examples of how it is happening around us and how it can prove to be a win-win situation for the organizations. This book touches upon some of the fundamentals of game theory and is a very easy read. An inspiring book.

Miyamoto Musashi was one of the best Samurai sword-masters. He has left a very important book known as the Book of Five Rings where he talks about the soul of being a samurai and bushido. This book however contains 42 tips that have been extracted from the Book of Five Rings that although belong to the way of the Samurai, they can be used in daily life, work and business. Very concise and excellent. Can be read in a day but needs to be around to refer back to every once in a while to see what these legendary masters can teach us still that we can use daily in a different world.

I had heard about Steve Jobs and read about him a bit before his death and probably had some information from him and what he did in his life like all other people and small bits that could be extracted from news sites and magazine articles. However, I was totally blown away when I started reading this book and I read the whole 630 pages of it with the background music of my heart doing the drums. It is one of the best books written about one of the most important people in recent history. I always thought that there is a certain amount of hype around Apple company, its products and its leaders but I was totally changed after reading this book, oh and changed as a consumer too and converted to Apple products! Walter Isaacson is a marvelous writer and the whole biography is nothing short of fascinating. I highly recommend this book. There have been quite a few books written about Steve Jobs recently but this is the one that should be read. This book can change you and the way you look at things forever. This book was also a source of introducing a few more great books and topics for me, some should be in this list.

The Game of Thrones TV series is great. Like many other movies and series, the book is much much more great. I have wondered and become quite mesmerized a few times after reading this book about the magical fact that how is it that one person can create such deep and detailed fantasy universes. Seems like there is absolutely no limits to the human imaginations (some humans of course) and this is just fascinating. Game of Thrones is a very special type of Fantasy novel, it walks along the fine line between realistic historical events and a fantasy world. 

Rick Pitino is a great Basketball Coach. We used to talk about Basketball all day with friends during high school and University days and a lot of times the discussions diverged from technical talks and turned into how Basketball is life and life is Basketball. Well, this book is exactly an essay about how to being successful in life with lessons from Basketball. 

This is a book about a central concept, the concept of disruptive technologies. Technologies that emerge from nowhere and overthrow huge and stable companies and older technologies. Something that has happened numerous times in the past decades. Clayton Christensen analyses this fact very well. I was able to related these ideas to the game industry and it all made great sense. The mobile games industry is an exact example of a disruptive technology. The book contains many examples. By the way, this is one of the books that was Steve Job's favorite. Apple itself has been a disruptive technology many and overthrown the giants many times.

Malcolm Gladwell is another very interesting author with many interesting books. This book delves into the unknown magic that happens in people's mind with the blink of an eye. The instant you know something, that very instant. As usual Malcolm Gladwell evaluates many real world scenarios and they are very interesting. One part of the book which I enjoyed very much is about how experts can find out something instantly like art experts that can know whether a painting is fake or original by a sub second look. This is something I have witnessed in many talented people that I have worked with. Like Outliers from the same author, this is a smooth and fun to read book which gives you a few angles to look at a few real world matters. 

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner

Well, I read this book for the fourth time recently! Probably the most influential book that I have ever read. This is probably the book that caused a change of track in my professional life by giving me the proper courage to break out of the conventional path that was ahead of me. The fabulous story of id software and how they started and how they changed the game industry. David Kushner is an excellent author also and he has done great research for this book. This book is very high on my leader-board.

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo and William Scott Wilson

Hagakure is Hagakureh. Another gem from the past that must be re-read every few months. "A unique guide to living - and dying: a focused life, a willing death ... ". What topic can be better than this?

I always liked Pat Riley and enjoyed watching him on the sideline coaching the Los Angeles Lakers and then the New York Knicks and finally with Miami Heat. The 87-88 Lakers were the team from outer space for me to watch and get blown away by when I was starting the Basketball years. This is another inspiring book about life and leadership from one of the best Basketball coaches. He refers to specific events during his coaching, which are very interesting to hear from the team's coach, knowing that you always witnessed the events from the other side and as a fan. Weaved in between all the basketball events are great tips and advice to be used for daily life activities or work. Alas, there is only one true way!

I was thinking about checking out some new Science Fiction stories for a game project that we are working on when I found out about John Scalzi and his Science Fiction novels. So far I have read The Ghost Brigades and it was quite fantastic. A very good author with interesting stories and a lot of novel Sci-Fi ideas. It is very much interesting how different modern Sci-Fi books are compared to the ones from 20 or more years ago. Technology has changed tremendously in these years so no wonder Sci-Fi needed an overhaul. The next book from the author that is queued for me to read is Red Shirts.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe... by S. C. Gwynne

Native Indians have always been interesting from me. I like their integrity and simplicity and pure connection to nature. Unlike the way they have always been portrayed in the modern media, there seems to be a lot of depth in their culture. This book is based on a true story about one of the strongest Indian tribes, the Comanche. A great book to read that takes you to the beautiful lands owned by Indians in early 18th century.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition) by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister

This book was in my "To Read" list for quite some time until I heard in a talk from Gabe Newell that this is his bible! What I did after viewing that talk was to read this book from cover to cover and for sure this is one of the best book written about management and working with teams. Absolute beauty! Valve is one of the best companies in the world regarding its business and products and most importantly and quite related to the previous point, regarding its work environment and its organization structure (a flat organization). This book will help you understand companies like Valve very well.

Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Keep, and Nurture Talent by Nolan Bushnell and Gene Stone

Nolan Bushnell is the founder of Atari. He was the leader of an exceptional team that did exceptional things back in the days that the Atari machines defined the video game industry. Steve Jobs was one of their employees for some time before Apple and Nolan Bushnell has been among the few people who saw Steve Jobs for what he could be and became one of his mentors for many years to come. This book with its fancy title is quite fun to read and focuses on the dark art of dealing with talented people and how different management and leadership skills are required if you are going to work with great talents and the usual business management skills and standards are just going to make you lose people and go down the drain, well, unless you handle mediocre people of course.

This is a very interesting Sci-Fi or rather Cyberpunk story. Although this is the first serious work by the young author, its quality is quite good. A near future story where people mostly live in a big massively multiplayer game with a lot of references to the 80s and 90s pop culture. I have not finished this book yet but so far it has been quite fun to read.

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

This is not the first book I've read by the best coach of all time, Phil Jackson. Phil talks about the details of events and his ideas and journey during his coaching years with the Bulls and the Lakers. Philosophical at times with many references as how he used his eastern philosophical knowledge and zen to handle the chaos.

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner

Another very good book by the author of Masters of Doom, David Kushner. This is the story of Grand Theft Auto. Although not as inspirational as Masters of Doom but still an interesting read about one of the most successful video game IPs.

The Art of UNIX Programming (The Addison-Wesley Professional Computng Series) by Eric S. Raymond

Eric Raymond has many good books and articles, The Cathedral and the Bazaar being one of them. This book describes the philosophy behind the design of Unix and the people that worked on it. The hacker culture in general. A fascinating book. Simple, true, beautiful with much love.

The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses by Jesse Schell

This is one of the best books written about game design. Very complete and it follows a well thought process and unlike many other books written on the topic, this one analyses the game design related issues very well both from a low level and implementation stand point and also from a high level and philosophical view. A must read for game designers.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and David Chadwick

One of the most important attitudes that anyone can have in order to succeed is to always maintain your beginner's mind, the way you saw the world when you were a beginner in a field. Losing the beginner's mind can be a starting point to lose it all. This is a great book on Zen.

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai and Mobi Ho

Another fabulous book about Zen. The very interesting view that this book has is that you do not need to hide yourself away from the world and sit in solitude to be mindful and meditate, you can do all that while you are engaged in your daily life. This book adjusts your view towards life, a positive adjustment.

Derrida For Beginners by Jim Powell and Van Howell 

Derrida is a very mysterious philosopher with an out of the box way of looking at the world. His deconstruction theory is one that made me curious to learn more about this great thinker. This book is a graphical introduction to his ideas, easy to read but not very easy to understand.

Team Leadership in the Game Industry by Seth Spaulding 

I have recently started reading this one but so far it seems to be a good one. Leadership is not trivial, especially in the game industry where you have to deal with all kinds of people coming from all kinds of backgrounds and with quite different behaviors and ways of looking at their lives and careers. The author has had good experiences in this field and as it seems, leadership in game industry has been a main curiosity for him for quite some time.

Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play by Morgan Ramsay and Peter Molyneux

Reading the stories of successful people in a field is always fun. This book is a series of interviews with some major figures in the game industry. Very inspirational.

Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society by Karl Ulrich

Design, Design, Design. It is all about design. Problem solving and coming up with solutions. This is what needs to be done in life in order to create and perceive meaning. This is the essence of engineering. This book is a general book on Design. Interesting to read, although this is not directly about game design, all the principles map to game design very well. Although I have to say that you will not find much ideas that you did not know about if you have been involved with some serious design work, however, reading things that you feel you know unconsciously can always help in refining and solidifying your knowledge.

The Making of Karateka: Journals 1982-1985 by Jordan Mechner

These are Jordan Mechner's personal logs from the days he was working on the original Karateka game and Prince of Persia. It takes you to those years and the challenges that developers had back in the 80's to make games. Fun to read.

The Macintosh Way by Guy Kawasaki 

A classic from Guy Kawasaki, a story of the people behind the original Macintosh. What they believed in, how they worked and their way of life and work. Highly recommended book.

Artificial Intelligence for Games (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3D Technology) by Ian Millington

There are quite a few books around regarding video game AI but this one seems to be more complete, detailed and well written. The Morgan Kaufmann series in game development are usually good books, this one is not an exception. 

Aikido: The Peaceful Martial Art by Stefan Stenudd 

Aikido is beautiful. Martial arts in general are beautiful and the way the balance the physical and mental aspects is probably their significant point. Aikido is very special among them. A technique concerned mostly with harmony, the life energy and the truth. Stefan Stenudd has written a beautiful book where he talks about the techniques, the philosophy and the beauty of the art. 

Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk

I loved the movie, I loved this book. I really like this story and the narrative is amazing in the book, well it was quite good in the movie too.

Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made by Andy Hertzfeld

The title says it all! I have to stress one thing though: It is in fact an insanely great story!

It is quite nice to be able to read such wonderful writings, my joy is that there seems to be a lot more interesting books in the queued "To-Read" list.