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How to be a Programmer with 10 Simple Books (GGG5)

Posted in Book Reviews, Geeking Out, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on December 04, 2006

(Continued from Gift Guide for Geeks Part 4 – Comic books)
(Start at Gift Guide for Geeks Part 1 – Tis the Season for Receiving)

Write what you know. In this case, what I know about is being a geek. Over the next few days I’ll be suggesting things that I liked. I’ll be giving ball-park prices (in Canadian dollars) and at the end of each post I’ll include a link to where you can find all of the items on Amazon.

technorati programmer at work
(photo (c) torek)

Unlike the rest of the posts in these series, I haven’t read most of these books. I’m basing the recommendations on the countless other lists on other tech websites, particularly Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror. These books are programming language independent and would make a great gift for anyone working in high tech.

If you are interested in this subject for yourself, you probably want to head over to Scott Rosenberg’s Code Reads series where he analyzes the classics.

Books for Programmers

Joel on Software (CDN$ 17.99) by Joel Spolsky – One of the few I’ve already read. Joel (of joelonsoftware.com) is by far the most engaging writers in high tech (with Kathy Sierra as a close second). You can read my review of the book here. It’s very general in most places, and too specific in others, but it still remains a must read if only because it is one of the few “page turner” tech books.

This book covers every imaginable aspect of software programming, from the best way to write code to the best way to design an office in which to write code. The book will relate to all software programmers (Microsoft and Open Source), anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of programming, or anyone trying to manage a programmer.

Joel on Software

Code Complete (CDN$ 45.98) by Steve McConnell - Another one of the two books on this list I’ve actually read, this will teach you the mechanics of becoming a better programmer by writing better code. Asking someone if they’ve read this book should be the first question in a phone interview.
Code Complete

The Best Software Writing I: Selected and I… (CDN$ 17.99)

Frustrated by the lack of well-written essays on software engineering, Joel Spolsky (of http://www.joelonsoftware.com fame) has put together a collection of his favorite writings on the topic.

With a nod to both the serious and funny sides of technical writing, The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky is an entertaining read and a guide to the technical writing literati.

The Best Software Writing I contains writings from: Ken Arnold, Leon Bambrick, Michael Bean, Rory Blyth, Adam Bosworth, danah boyd, Raymond Chen, Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi, Cory Doctorow, ea_spouse, Bruce Eckel, Paul Ford, Paul Graham, John Gruber, Gregor Hohpe, Ron Jeffries, Eric Johnson, Eric Lippert, Michael Lopp, Larry Osterman, Mary Poppendieck, Rick Schaut, Aaron Swartz, Clay Shirky, and Eric Sink. (Names in bold are blogs I subscribe to.)

Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley

Written in a quick and lively style, this book is packed with good advice and is a valuable read for programmers at any level. Each chapter discusses a problem the programmer will face every day, and suggests methods around it. The philosophy underlying the book is creativity. The author encourages the programmer to think creatively and to find new ways around old problems. This approach is still fresh and welcomed by many software groups.

Programming PearlsProgramming Pearls

The Pragmatic Programmer (CDN$ 34.01) by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Programmers are craftspeople trained to use a certain set of tools (editors, object managers, version trackers) to generate a certain kind of product (programs) that will operate in some environment (operating systems on hardware assemblies). Like any other craft, computer programming has spawned a body of wisdom, most of which isn’t taught at universities or in certification classes. Most programmers arrive at the so-called tricks of the trade over time, through independent experimentation. In The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas codify many of the truths they’ve discovered during their respective careers as designers of software and writers of code.

Pragmatic Programmer, The: From Journeyman to Master

Books for Managers

The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks

Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month . With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects. These essays draw from his experience as project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and then for OS/360, its massive software system. Now, 20 years after the initial publication of his book, Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new thoughts and advice, both for readers already familiar with his work and for readers discovering it for the first time.

Scott Rosenberg’s analysis of the Mythical Man-month.
Mythical Man-Month, The: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (CDN$ 38.49) by Tom DeMarco and Timothy R. Lister

Peopleware asserts that most software development projects fail because of failures within the team running them. This strikingly clear, direct book is written for software development team leaders and managers, but it’s filled with enough common-sense wisdom to appeal to anyone working in technology. Peopleware is a short read that delivers more than many books on the subject twice its size.

Productive Projects and Teams

Books for Anyone

The Design of Everyday Things (CDN$ 14.02) by Donald A. Norman

First, businesses discovered quality as a key competitive edge; next came service. Now, Donald A. Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, reveals how smart design is the new competitive frontier. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how–and why–some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.

The Design of Everyday Things

Hackers & Painters (CDN$ 20.37) by Paul Graham

“In most fields the great work is done early on. The paintings made between 1430 and 1500 are still unsurpassed. Shakespeare appeared just as professional theater was being born, and pushed the medium so far that every playwright since has had to live in his shadow. Albrecht Durer did the same thing with engraving, and Jane Austen with the novel. Over and over we see the same pattern. A new medium appears, and people are so excited about it that they explore most of its possibilities in the first couple generations. Hacking seems to be in this phase now. Painting was not, in Leonardo’s time, as cool as his work helped make it. How cool hacking turns out to be will depend on what we can do with this new medium.”

Big Ideas from the Computer Age

I’ve made a list of all these tech books in one place at Amazon. Looking at the product description on Amazon.ca will bring you to the Amazon for your country.

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17 Responses

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  1. [...] (Continued from Gift Guide for Geeks Part 5 – Tech books) (Start at Gift Guide for Geeks Part 1 – Tis the Season for Receiving) [...]

  2. Balakumar Muthu said, on December 06, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Great write up … keep it UP! :)

  3. Gee said, on December 06, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Pretty well writen article on programming.. keep on writing..
    I’ll check these books out and maybe blog about them

  4. engtech said, on December 07, 2006 at 12:25 am

    Useful link to all of the articles in Best Software Writing I online:


  5. jaybird said, on December 07, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve only read the JoelOnSoftware book (because you lent it to me :))

    Some of these look good. And your layout on these posts (this and the other book one) is kinda weird. Shouldn’t the book come first, or be left justified or something?

  6. Jacob said, on December 11, 2006 at 7:11 am

    Wow I must be a total geek as ive got all of these except “Programming Pearls”. I would also recommend “Micro ISV” by Bob Walsh (which has a nice forward by Joel Spolsky).

  7. engtech said, on December 11, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation, Jacob.

  8. Vishal Sharma said, on February 04, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Thanks for dropping at my blog. Yes while i was writing my article on top 12 tech books i read yr article. It did help me in analysing few things.

    Thanks again


  9. Buu Nguyen said, on February 21, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    What a shame! I miss the “books for anyone”. Except for those two which I have not read, all the others are worth being in this list. However, the list is not complete without this classic GoF’s Design Patterns

  10. engtech said, on February 21, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    I really should read design patterns.

  11. [...] http://engtech.wordpress.com/2006/12/04/gift-guide-for-geeks-part-5-tech-books/: good books programmers / managers should read.  However, I do not think this list is enough, I will have a post about recommended book list [...]

  12. Greg Wilson said, on March 09, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Nice list — you might also enjoy:




  13. [...] Suggested books for Programmers and Coders [...]

  14. [...] Suggested books for Programmers and Coders [...]

  15. [...] 10 Books Every Programmer Should Own [...]

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