2016 Reads – complete round up

2016 was so far the best year in reading for me. I set out with (a rather naive) goal of 45 books and was able to complete 35. I know that not all books are equal but having a goal is motivating. Most of these books did come from my annual read list that I set out in Jan 2016 but I do pick up strong recommendations throughout the year.

I read 5 hardcopy books and 30 audio books.

You can view the complete list of books and authors is here.


  • Einstein
  • Elon Musk

Both of these biographies are a must read. It becomes clear after reading the books that fundamentals of everlasting legacy are still hardwork, perseverence and curosity. There is no such thing as ‘genius’. Circumstances (bad, more than good) play a strong role in making strong people. Also, marriage and kids are not a barrier to productivity as most people believe. 

Space Exploration

If there is one human quality that would decide its future, it would be curosity. Curosity about what is out there, people who go after it,  and the tools, science and stories that enable it. These are very close to my heart. Col. Chris Hadfield (ex-commander of the ISS), Yuri Gagarin (first Human in space) and Adam Steltsner (team lead for EDL on Mars Curosity rover) are people to look up to in this curosity aspect. All of these books I highly recommend. 

  • An astronaut’s guide to life onearth 
  • Starman
  • Right kind of crazy


Problem with being an left-brained engineer is that you need to find a solution, a method to the madness, an optimal solution – any solution to almost every problem. Once you become a parent, you have a daunting challenge – a startup, maybe more than a startup! Learning from years of hardwork of other parents is my way of doing away with basics so I can add more value to my relationship with my daughter. 

Tina Payne and Dan Seigel have done a wonderful job in the first two books below. I highly recommend these books for parents with kids 3 and older. In fact, I reread whole brain child this year to refresh the ideas. Happiest toddler is for those parents who have kids younger than 4. A good book with solid advices. 

  • No drama discipline
  • Whole brain child
  • Happiest toddler on the block

Self help and productivity

Now this is the most controversial section of any library – but its like cheesy pop songs, everyone hums them and likes them but no one admits to being a fan. Its like a guilty pleasure. Sometimes, you don’t want to miss out on something super basic and other times you just need validation for your ways. Either way, self help books are going to stay in my yearly reading lists. 

Here are the ones that I do recommend:

  • Crucial conversations
  • Effective engineering
  • Will power instinct
  • The startup of you
  • The life changing habit of tidying up

Here are some that I couldn’t extract much value from. Maybe because Ive already heard the advice a lot of times (confidence gap) or I couldnt relate to it (way of the seal). Sometimes I cant invest or commit to the advice (mindfulness) and sometimes I will just sleep on it for now (rich dad)

  • The confidence gap
  • The way of the seal
  • Mindfulness
  • Rich dad poor dad


  • Creativity inc
  • Derailed
  • Zero to one
  • The lean startup
  • Effective executive
  • Hooked


Two categories from science made it to my list this year. Neuroscience and statistics (some would argue whether it is a science after all). Michio Kaku’s future of mind is a wonderful primer into knowing how far we have come to understand the most complex thing in the universe and where the research is heading. 

In better angels of our Nature, Pinker’s basic premise is that violence has declined in recent history. While the statistics presented are sound-ish, I still couldn’t come to terms with his research and day to day reality. It does give hope but …

  • Better angels of our nature
  • The future of mind
  • Signal vs noise


  • The complete friday Q&A (iOS)
  • Design and analysis of experiments
  • Python data science essentials
  • Data science handbook

Mike Ash is a great resource of iOS internal workings. He is a true hacker and someone I really look up to. The complete friday Q&A has great articles on internals of ObjEctive-C language and runtime as well as a lot of core Cocoa API. Some content is rather dated but is still useful in understanding a lot of concepts. 

Other books mentioned are great reference for getting started and motivated toward data science, experimentation and such things.


  • Who rules the world (Noam Chomsky)

A brutal account of American imperialist and interventionist ways in south american politics and in general future of the world since WW2. It became so depressing I had to put it down. I do recommend it if you have the stomach for some hard truths!


Dont watch the movie. Read the book. They ruined it in the movie.

  • Girl on the train
  • Herzog (incomplete)

2015: Year in reading

2giphy2015 was a good year for reading. It was also one of the most challenging year I have had so far. From changing houses 3 times, finding a new job and moving thousands of miles away from home country, it was far from a “year on the couch”™. Quiet the contrary!

But don’t most busy people have the most time to do most of the things they want to?

At least that is the motivation for reading so many productivity books.

The process

Every year I setup a read-list for the next year. I also setup a “read-list-inbox”. All the recommendations I get throughout the year (from the books I am already reading, from other people, from blogposts, etc.) go into read-list-inbox. From the read-list-inbox I prioritize books and put them in read-list. The priority is based on what I want to learn in the year. I will write later on some learning themes I follow.

80% of my reading is thru audiobooks, 15% on the paperbacks and 5% on my laptop.

The ratings

giphyPlease note that these are not absolute ratings. These are my ratings and how I feel about the book and whether I found it useful, entertaining, mind-opening and recommend worthy to people who are similar to me. For example I have already read so much on personal discipline and productivity that I didn’t find anything new in “Eat that frog”. It may still be a nice book. Similarly, I find Nasem Talib’s tone a little over the top for my taste and hence I didn’t like Antifragile. It may have been a good book.

The books

giphy1From 3 books in 2013, 5 books in 2014, I was able to go thru 20+ books in 2015. 2016 looks promising and I hope to double that number while improving on the quality I extract from these books.

Here is the list of books I went thru in 2015.

★★★★★ (Books I love and highly recommend)

★★★★ (Books I enjoyed and recommend)
★★★ (Books that were a good read and may interest some people)
★★ (Books that I couldn’t get much out of)
★ (Books that either had errors or were not up to my taste)

If you have read or are currently reading any of these books and want to have a discussion, feel free to find me on facebook or drop me an email at [zakishaheen-at-me-dot-com].