Here’s a recap of some of the books we at 8th Lights have enjoyed this summer, with explanations of what we’ve learned, and why you might be interested in reading more.
1. The Phoenix Project, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford
The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win describes the struggles and conflicts between teams in a dysfunctional company, and how they solve their disagreements and work together. Written as a novel with the flair (and startling accuracy) of a Dilbert strip, the character development is well laid out, making it an easy read.
— Robert Wenner, Principal Crafter
Digital Transformation at Scale — Why the Strategy is Delivery, by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, and Tom Loosemore
Disclaimer: I’m still only half way through.
So far, Digital Transformation at Scale has been a very interesting read, with some really useful insights. It tells the story, although not as a novel like The Phoenix Project, of the team that was formed within the UK government to spearhead the transformation of its online presence. This transformation is regularly cited as an overwhelming success outside of the UK, especially since the open source code has been cloned by numerous other governments across the globe.
Although there’s some storytelling, this largely practical book provides a solid framework for guiding digital transformation at any organisation. In many ways, the book describes what we do here at 8th Light (i.e., deliver change, not slide decks). It’s a great read for those in software development, and challenges the value we place on ourselves in connection with the code we write.
— Nick Dyer, Project Director
3. Atlas of AI, by Kate Crawford
Some say software is eating the world, and Atlas of AI attempts to chart out what that means for the people left to live in it. Throughout the book’s nine chapters, researcher and author Kate Crawford describes some of the hidden costs of modernity by analyzing the mineral extraction sites, assembly lines, and supply chains that make search results appear at our fingertips.
One of the book’s main contentions is that AI is “neither artificial nor intelligent.” By viewing AI through a material lens, Crawford zooms in and out of the many ways that “AI systems both reflect and produce social relations and understandings of the world.” Unlike Jer Thorp’s Living In Data, which urges readers to think differently about data as an abstraction (or rather, what is lost and who is owed), Atlas of AI provides a map of the material conditions and intersecting forces that drive these abstractions.
Atlas of AI stops short of prescribing any firm actions, but it presents a paradigm that challenges assumptions at every encounter. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that the tools we use to abstract and extract value are themselves borne through exploitation; but locating, analyzing, and confronting this exploitation is on the critical path toward building technology that truly works for everyone.
— Kyle Sparks, Communications Manager
4. The Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
Although not the most software-adjacent book, The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of short reviews about different parts of the world and includes the people and historical events that affected its author John Green. These range from mundane, everyday tasks to learning about the "yips” and Jerzy Dudeck's football career (that's "soccer" in America).
The book reminded me of the vast, incomprehensible nature of time, and how short our existence as humans has been compared to past eras of Earth. It gives me perspective whenever I'm worried about the world.It also puts perspective on the work I do, and the importance of supporting others and building relationships within your respective teams, including the client. Ultimately, it’s helped me worry less, and enjoy more.
— Hugh Sato, Senior Designer
5. Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, by Nancy Duarte
As Resonate’s foreword states, “good presentations are like magic … great presenters are like magicians.”
Duarte unpacks one of humanity’s most enchanting and beloved vehicles of communication, storytelling. She illustrates a method that has been used to inspire change from generation to generation, in every known culture across the world. The most compelling stories are brought to life through bewitching presentations and presenters.
Through visual stimuli and mini essays, we learn how to engage and enthrall our audiences with our ideas and stories. A true illustration of the magic of presentations and a great read!
(Rabbit in hat not included.)
— Becca Townsend, HR Manager