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On the NONA Bookshelf | vol. 3

It’s already the 3rd volume of the “On the NONA Bookshelf” series and I’ve got an interesting mix of reviews yet again. Why do we collect book reviews at NONA? Well… two of our core values center around continuous improvement as a way of life and being generous with your knowledge. This means talk around the office often mentions the interesting books people are reading — whether directly associated with business, development and design or with self-improvement and learning from other people’s experiences.

This time we’ve got another review from Dominic who read about one of his childhood idols, Michael Jordan. Our COO, Ed O’Reilly, talks about a rather intense book (although highly recommends it) about imprisonment in Stalin’s USSR. Lastly, Senior Dev, Jon, has been skilling up on fundamentals recently and brings us a review of a technical JavaScript book that’s part of a series that he highly recommends all devs read.

“Michael Jordan: The Life” by Roland Lazenby

Reviewed by Dom

Ever since I was a kid and watch Space Jam (I must have watched it 15 times) I have been a die-hard Michael Jordan fan. It’s actually hilarious because I didn’t know anything about the NBA, or the bulls or any of the trophies at this time. All I knew was that he was a badass.

Since reading this biography my view has not changed in the slightest. What has however changed is my realization that when I thought of Michael Jordan as a kid — he was a god. Now I know he is just a man and because of that I appreciate him even more.

The story starts off visiting Michael’s past — his great grandfather. Boy was he a bad man. Black man in the South of America (USA) during the Jim Crow years. No complaints, took everything hurled at him on the chin. Made a decent life for himself and lived to even see Michael born.

You are introduced to all of the men who made Michael who he has become — the greatest basketball player ever. Something I realized reading this, is that it was by design. Yes he had the talent, yes he had the physique, yes he was 6 foot. However, many people are those things in the NBA. What was different? Michael is a psychological killer on the court. He takes no prisoners and will eat you alive if you let him.

The most important question I asked myself was how did he become such a killer on the court? It’s simple really:

  • Learn everyday. His coaches said he was like a sponge, some of them said he eventually learned the plays better then they knew them.
  • Practice hard everyday. As Michael said, “Work ethic eliminates fear. If you put forth the work then what are you fearing? You know what your capable of doing, what you’re not… Afraid means you don’t have confidence in your skills. I was never afraid because I had confidence in my skills.”
  • Play in practice likes it’s game day every damn day so that scoring the shot that wins the game becomes instinctual. As the timeless saying goes: “perfect practice makes perfect.”
  • Individuals win MVP’s but teams win championships and championship rings are all that matters.

Honestly I could not put this book down and this review is simply a tip of the iceberg. If you have ever wondered about greatness. The goods, the bads, the ugly then this is an absolute must read!

“The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Review by Ed

Probably the most haunting book I’ve ever read — detailing the author’s own experience (and that of 200+ others) of imprisonment and forced labour in Stalin’s USSR.

Carefully chronicled history of imprisonments, methods, places and events. Detailed descriptions of murder, abuse and torture at an alarmingly grand scale combined with incredibly tender and real human moments shared in the darkest hours of a shattered person’s life.

There are stories and quotes from this book that I will never forget and it has had a permanent impact on my perception on the danger of blind ideological beliefs. Plenty of them common today. The human spirit can survive the most insanely terrible circumstances and even then rise above them and even above the casual experiences of their previous lives to a higher place.

My favourite quote from the book: “Own only what you can always carry with you; know countries, know languages, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

Granted in the author’s case it was advice on how to survive having everything taken from you over and over again — but in my own more sheltered life it still rings very true and is something I will take with me always.

“It isn’t easy but everyone should read this book.” — Ed O’Reilly

“You Don’t Know JS: Scope And Closures” by Kyle Simpson

Reviewed by Jon

Kyle Simpson is someone who first and foremost understands the nuances of Javascript incredibly well, and secondly (and this is a rare quality) is someone who can distil and explain complex concepts in a simple, understandable and concise manner. And so, all of the books in this series can be tackled over a weekend and convey a huge amount of useful information whilst never overwhelming the reader.

In this book, the second of a series, he dives into scope and closures, and how these two very important (and powerful in the case of closures) concepts in Javascript actually work.

Topics tackled include a breakdown of how lexing and then lexical scope work (from the ground up), function vs block scope, variable hoisting, and lastly closures and what that concept actually means as it pertains to Javascript.

I cannot recommend this series enough, and best of all, the Simpson has made the whole series available online for free if you can’t afford to support him by purchasing these (which you definitely should if you can).

Our CEO, Mike Scott, is a regular reviewer on the NONA blog too. Here’s a list of some of his recent reviews:

I hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews in this volume! Happy Reading!

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Laura Flint

Designer - Nona