Some Reading and Reflection on 2023

Some Reading and Reflection on 2023

7 mins

It was a great year filled with many positive changes – my wife starting a new in-person job, moving into software development contracting myself, exploring my faith, and of course my daughter learning faster than I can keep track of (She is almost 3 years old, and reading books with her has become probably my favorite activity).

But, I think I really need to update my blog to make it more likely for me to post here. Maybe I’ll do more posts this coming year, in particular if I decide to switch my Blob to use Obsidian, which is how I keep notes. Anyhow, this year was different, atleast in terms of reading. I haven’t really been able to read for “fun” a whole lot, but I’ve still really enjoyed reading the books I’ve been able to. They’ve been largely faith-based, which is new for me, and I think the fact that I’ve had such a backlog of faith based books might be the reason I haven’t read as many books. But also, that’s just Timothy Keller for you. It’s not a great book to read when you’re already falling asleep, as you need to be thinking about things quite a bit.

Without further adue:

  • Prayer: Experience Awe and Intimacy with God Timothy Keller
  • Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ Timothy Keller
  • The Prodigal Prophet Timothy Keller
  • When-Breath-Becomes Air Paul-Kalanithi

Partially finished books

  • NgBook 2 Murray, Coury, Lerner, Taborda
  • The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Timothy Keller + Kathy
  • The Every Day Parenting Toolkit Alan E. Kazdin *
  • Engineering Management for the Rest of Us Sarah Drasner *
  • Deep Work Cal Newport

So, categorizing a few books by what they appeal to:

Ethos (Ethics)

The Prodigal Prophet was an old testament based book (Jonah) that I thought was very well articulated. It drew parallels between Jonah and Jesus, and overall I think helped us to see that there may be times we’re called to do something that we don’t fully believe in, but that are for the best. As Christians, we represent Jesus, and should abide by the Golden rule. This is done by being vulnerable and turning the other cheek. There was some overlay between the callings that Jonah had, what they mean, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book for sure (but also not - as it was an entirely different culture… okay maybe scratch that?)

Logos (Logic)

  • Engineering Management for the rest of us

It made a lot of very good points about successful teams. This is a book I wish I had read before unwittingly being thrown into a team leadership role for half a year in 2022. The #1 thing for a team is trust, and as a leader, it’s your job to instill trust. I only read this book about 40% (ish) of the way through, as I was starting a new role working on some newer technology at the time and not a team lead at the time, but I’ll definitely want to revisit this book next year. The parts that I read made so much sense, and even from just reading parts of it I feel much more equipped to be a software development lead (or manager of any sense).

  • The Everyday Parenting Toolkit Kazdin

This book made a lot of good points about how to deal with a toddler and not let their logic get the best of you. It made some really good points about how anything you use against your kids, will be used on you by them… and toddlers know how to cause a ruckus, so you need to be careful. The jist of it was that by giving negative attention to any negative action, you are actually enforcing it over long-term. So, the best way to dismiss or prevent rewarding negative behaviors, is by ignoring the behavior all-together. It’s a very tough balance I’ve tried to strike doing so this year, as there’s certain dangerous or otherwise unacceptable behaviors that you might not have a choice to intervene on… but, it’s a work in progress. Definitely want to re-visit this book again.

Pathos (Emotion)

  • Prayer Timothy Keller*

I don’t like prayer. It’s always seemed way too mystical, too emotional, and felt a bit like hullabaloo to me. Part of this might be because of “prayer warrior” types I grew up around with, another part being the fact that I felt there was a lot in our control that we should take on ourselves.

Anyways, I always thought - why would “God” just do all the work for me? Well, from reading this book, it turns out - he won’t. Prayer isn’t a “let go and let God” as I used to view people who “prayed” out loud. The praying out loud… well, isn’t really prayer in a really sincere sense. Prayer is a way to navigate life and figure out the best path for you, to trust Him when things are truly out of your control (ultimately, you’re not in control), and to make the best of every given circumstance or situation that you are put in. It’s finding the positive in the negative, or making the best of any given situation to add your value to the world, whatever that means for me.

Prayer is a wrestling with God, or, in a way, your inner conscience. Prayer requires meditation, and reading in scripture as well as even the medium or topic in mind. The book by Timothy Keller on Prayer did a lot to help me realize the value in prayer, but… I’ll admit, it hasn’t done a lot to get me to actually partake in a very strong daily habit. After reading the book, I’ve tried doing M’Cheynes bible reading plan (30+ mins a day), and really, as a dad, it’s just too much. At the end of the day, I want to get into journaling as prayer, and I want to continue reading and undestanding the Bible (which is very nuanced and interpreted poorly) - jotting down my notes and reflecting on them with others. I’m reading the Bible for this, but I’ve found there’s also other mediums that can really be central to prayer as well - in fact, I’d argue it leads to a much more balanced faith centered around the gospel and self-love.

  • When your Breath becomes Air Kalanithi

I think it was early year when I read this one, but I recall it being extremely sad, and was a great reminder that life is not promised - for us or our friends. There were a lot of aspects in this book that I feel like were relateable to the human experience in terms of ego as well (atleast for me). It also made me think about how I’d be leaving my family if I were to die or become terminally ill, of course. I don’t recall things 100% (I’ll have to read it again someday), but it made me sort of sad as the guy didn’t seem ready to die… not that any of us are, but seeing it in a novel was a unique experience. The fear was subtle, but the fact that it was seemingly unintentional made it very real to me. Great, but very sad, book.

Then, since my reading has gone down hill, I want to make myself feel less guilty by noting some habits I tried to set:

  • The Bible in One Year Nicky Gumbell / M’Cheynes Bible reading plan
  • Going to the YMCA gym / more frequent Pickleball!!
  • Working on a personal grocery shopping app (aim to be released on Android this year, maybe iOS but that costs money)
  • Found, built from source, and contributed ideas to Ezra Bible App - PC/Android.

Here’s to a very exciting 2024!

Marc Ochsner

Written on January 1, 2024