Books Personal

The books I enjoyed the most in 2023

We reached the end of another year, and generally, this is a good time to look back, to evaluate what was done, what wasn’t done and eventually plan ahead.

While dedicating some time to the first task, it occurred to me that I should share some of this stuff. I doubt it will be useful to the readers of this blog (but you never know), however it could be useful to me as notes that I leave behind, so I can come back to them later.

Today I decided to write a bit about the books I’ve read and enjoyed the most during 2023. I don’t mean they are masterpieces or references in a given field, what I mean is that I truly enjoyed the experience. It could be because of the subject, the kind of book, the writing style or for any other reason.

What matters is that I was able to appreciate the time I spent reading them.

“The founders”, by Jimmy Soni

When the events described in the book happened, I wasn’t old enough to follow, comprehend and care about them. I certainly was already playing with computers, but this evolving thing called the Internet, and more precisely the web, was more like a playground to me.

Nevertheless, the late 90s and early 00s were a remarkable period and many outstanding innovations were being developed and fighting their way through at that time.

Internet payments were one of those things and the story of how PayPal came to be, is not only turbulent, as for any startup, but is also fascinating. Its survival in the end is the result of immense talent, hard work, troublesome politics and luck.

The team not only had to face hard technical challenges and also fight on multiple other fronts, including with themselves.

One quote from the introduction tells a lot about how some arguments against change are timeless:

… and sites like PayPal were often thought to be portals for illicit activity like money laundering or the sale of drugs and weapons. On the eve of its IPO, a prominent trade publication declared that the country needed PayPal “as much as it does an anthrax epidemic”.

From the introduction of the book

Nevertheless, they changed the way we do things and helped unleash a new era. An era that people like me, who always worked online and for businesses that depend on the Internet, were able to be part of due to many of these achievements. Not to mention the unusual number of individuals who were part of PayPal and would later start other world-changing businesses.

“On Writing”, by Stephen King

The second book is related to an entirely different field, but shares many similarities with the first. It tells us the story behind the name that authored many well-known books during several decades.

It is a book not only about the person and the challenges faced throughout his life, but also how his path impacted the writing and “taste”.

When I started with the book, I was expecting something entirely different, more of a collection of rules and tips on how to write clearly. In the end, the book was much more than that, of course, the important teachings are there, but it also provides you with a great story and context.

I can’t say I learned all the tips the book has to offer and that I’ve put them in practice, but the experience remains.

As with all crafts, it requires time, dedication, and much more.

By Gonçalo Valério

Software developer and owner of this blog. More in the "about" page.