What I've been reading since re:Invent

• 1340 words

Illustration of Werner reading with a stack of books

Updated: March 6, 2024

The months leading into re:Invent are exciting (and often exhausting). I spend most of my time doing research, meeting with brilliant engineers, and developing stories to share with you on stage. It’s wonderful. But it doesn’t leave me with much time to read exclusively for pleasure.

So, in the weeks that follow re:Invent, I try to make time to work through the ever-growing pile of books accumulating on my nightstand and throughout my office. It’s a losing battle. Then again, when was it ever worth doing something easy?

Here’s a short list of things I’ve started, finished, and recently added to the pile…

  • The most important thing I’ve read recently was Right/Wrong: How Technology Transforms Our Ethics by Juan Enriquez. It clearly lays out how our ethics and morals change under the influence of technology in a fairly short amount of time. For example, using gene editing technology such as CRISPR to alter a child’s genome may be unethical right now, but our grandchildren might feel differently, knowing that we could have removed or edited a gene known to cause breast cancer. At a time of extreme polarization, this book challenges us to think about how quickly mainstream opinions can shift and why.

  • In light of recent election results worldwide, and the upcoming presidential race in the United States, I decided to re-read The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies by Susan Jacoby. It provides amazing historical insight into how politics and the politicians that represent us have shifted away from rational and intellectual debate to who can shout the loudest. It’s quite startling to see how much public language has devolved in the past few decades. If this is a topic you’re interested in, I urge you to read Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.

  • I finally had a chance to finish Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain by Charles Leerhsen. As a fellow world traveler, with a similar view of how to live, I have always been inspired by Bourdain’s storytelling abilities. He was an empathetic narrator that focused on people and their experiences. This book is about the man behind the stories that helped bring these narratives to life.

  • As many of you know, I am a lifelong AFC Ajax supporter, so I really enjoyed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s biography Adrenaline: My Untold Stories. Zlatan started his international career at Ajax and his highlight reel from those days will do more justice than my words can:

  • I picked up Atlas van een bezette stad 1940-1945 by Bianca Stigter, which covers the German occupation of Amsterdam in the form of an illustrated Atlas. It is mind-blowing to see the ways that the Nazi occupation still haunts the city. The book is in Dutch (sorry for now to my English readers), but it was adapted into a four-hour long documentary by Stigter’s partner Steve McQueen, called “Occupied City” which debuted at Cannes last year.

  • I started reading Rust for Rustaceans: Idiomatic Programming of Experienced Developers by John Gjengset, but it’s a bit more advanced than I need at the moment, so I picked Command-line Rust: A Project-based Primer for Writing Rust CLIs by Ken Youens-Clark and it looks promising so far. I will provide an update as I progress.

  • Just for fun, I bought the fourth book in John Burdett’s Sonchai Jitpleecheep series: The Godfather of Kathmandu. If you have ever spent any extended period of time in Bangkok, you’ll enjoy this series. The writing is absolutely brilliant. I’m not finished yet, but so far, it’s as good as the previous three books.

  • The last thing I’ll leave you with is a paper I recently read from the Netflix Technology Blog, “Rebuilding Netflix Video Processing Pipeline with Microservices” by Liwei Guo, Anush Moorthy, Li-Heng Chen, Vinicius Carvalho, Aditya Mavlankar, Agata Opalach, Adithya Prakash, Kyle Swanson, Jessica Tweneboah, Subbu Venkatrav, Lishan Zhu — It goes into detail about rebuilding their video processing pipeline on their microservice-based platform Cosmos.

If there’s something that you’ve read or are reading that you’d recommend, let me know on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Reader recommendations

Unsurprisingly, it turns out my readers are well read. I got recommendations on Twitter, LinkedIn, and from fellow Amazonians, on just about every topic imaginable. And with the hopes of getting through more than a handful of these this year (the ones I haven’t already read), I’ve created a consolidated list.

Here’s what you’ve all recommended as of March 6, 2024: