The Books I Read This Year (2023)

January 09, 2024

Every year, I try to take a short inventory of the books I read throughout that year. I find that doing so helps me solidify the concrete things I learned from each. You can see last year’s list, too, if you would like.

My first child - a boy - was born 2023! 👶 You'll notice many books are centered around fatherhood this year as a result. None of the links in this post are affiliate links, either.

The Push: A Climber's Search for the Path by Tommy Caldwell

Tommy is one of the most accomplished climbers out there. After free climbing the Dawn Wall in 2015, he has become arguably the second most famous climber (after free soloist Alex Honnold). What is even more extraordinary is that Tommy achieved all of his success despite obstacles such as a missing finger, being captured by a rogue military in a foreign country, and even divorce. Tommy’s story is inspirational to any outdoor enthusiast - climbers especially :)

Habits of the Household by Justin Whitmel Earley

I’m the kind of person who prefers routine. I’m a fan of healthy habits that allow me to “automate” some daily decisions so I can spend brainpower on the actual problems in front of me each day.

In preparing for our first child, my prudent wife thought it wise to start thinking more intentionally about family habits rather than individual ones. This book was her gift to me to start thinking about just that. Habits of the Household is a well-thought-out book to help families cultivate moments of significance amidst the seemingly mundane rhythms of life. I especially enjoy how Justin shares his own family’s day while making sure not to be too prescriptive, knowing that each family is unique. My wife and I are now reading his first book, The Common Rule, to help begin creating habits for ourselves and our family in the years to come.

Raising Emotionally Strong Boys by David Thomas

Emotional intelligence and emotional regulation have been gaining more and more attention in recent years. In many ways, the focus on these topics has grown as an antidote to the effects of social media and the Internet. Regardless of the environment or reasons why emotional health is becoming a focus, it is worth focusing on for ourselves and our families.

Raising Emotionally Strong Boys is a book to help parents understand the unique complexities of boys and their emotions. Boys often find themselves needing physical action much more than talking it out, something I can personally attest to. I really appreciated the idea of creating a literal designated Space where boys can process their emotions through physical action with tools like stress balls, pull-up bars, or even journals (I’ll hopefully create a climbing wall with my wife’s permission 😅). Many of these tools are just as helpful for me now as a parent as they will be for my son as he grows. I’m looking forward to re-reading this book and applying its ideas.

The Intentional Father by Jon Tyson

The Intentional Father is a charge to many modern fathers to be much more involved in their sons’s lives. And more than just by attending more games, but by carving out an intentional path for maturing and growing their sons.

While I don’t embrace every element of Tyson’s exact patterns in the book, I do agree that there is a need for more intentional “rites of passage” for growing boys into men. I’m looking forward to (and scared of) planning intentional trips, book studies, and making the most of moments in my son’s life as he grows. I’m also thankful that I have many other fathers in my community who have boys around my son’s age that I’ll be able to (hopefully) lean on to help.

Cribsheet by Emily Oster

Did you know about Mommy Wars? I didn’t until I read this book. There are so many opinions and near-violent perspectives on how to “properly” raise your baby. From breastfeeding, solids, and daycare to even what music to play for your baby, it seems every position is ready for battle.

Cribsheet aims to cut through the noise with proper data and data analysis. Economics professor Emily Oyster breaks down the studies and points to the right conclusions based on data. I really like how Emily ends the chapters with very short and specific takeaways. As a reader, these helped me learn to see many of the hidden variables in these studies that are often overlooked. I won’t share our families’ specific decisions on some of these topics (don’t want to upset the blogosphere!), but I highly recommend this book to any parent!

Domain-Driven Design by Eric Evans

Domain-Driven Design is a monster of a book. It feels like a school textbook, with loads of information, tons of diagrams, and a very thorough organizational structure. Thankfully, it reads much nicer than my old textbooks :)

While I eventually trailed off reading this book (many points felt repeated to me), the core takeaway for me is simply this: we need a common language. It was also an affirmation to me as I’ve had a hunch about this notion for a few years, but I couldn’t articulate the way Evans does.

The idea of ubiquitous language as a way to talk about the software domain between not just engineers but also stakeholders was a welcome claim to me. I also really appreciated the perspective of discovery when it comes to software and its domain. I’ve been a big fan of engineers studying and learning from already-written code to make decisions about what to write next. Eric takes this idea to another level, where engineers and other stakeholders are always searching for new insight into the domain that will help build a better system.

The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

I’ve talked in several articles before about how I’m a big fan of The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project. One thread across them (and a few other resources) was the book The Goal. It was on Spotify as a free audiobook, so I gave it a go.

The Goal is an interesting take on manufacturing productivity and has some really interesting implications for software. A controversial book when it came out, it introduced a way of writing business books as a story rather than a traditional non-fiction book on how to improve one’s leadership or business.

One of the key aspects of the book I like as an engineer is the focus on shipping rather than efficiency. Isolated efficiencies within a system lead only to excess inventory. And excess inventory (software features, fixes, etc., waiting to ship) is really just costing money. To really ship products, you must constrain the rest of the system according to the bottlenecks within it and align the flow of work.

A Praying Life by Paul Miller

This is my third time through A Praying Life. I’ve come back to it every four to five years or so. And each time, I learn something differently or see something in a new light.

After a whirlwind of a year for my family and me, prayer has been both an anchor and a struggle. There were so many hard moments where all I felt I could do was pray, even though my prayer from the day or week before seemed to have been ignored or refused. Reading this book reminded me that prayer has a longer time horizon than we might think. There are prayers today that will be answered in twenty years and not in twenty minutes. I’m thankful to have a better grounding on prayer reading into 2024.

Thanks for reading!

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Dan Goslen is a software engineer, climber, and coffee drinker. He has spent 10 years writing software systems that range from monoliths to micro-services and everywhere in between. He's passionate about building great software teams that build great software. He currently works as a software engineer in Raleigh, NC where he lives with his wife and son.