Books I recommend

The following are books I recommend to people interested in becoming better at their professional work in the software industry.

  • The Effective Engineer by Edmond Lau is my favorite book on how to be a great engineer. The book focuses on the concept of leverage, using it as a tool to make decisions about what to prioritize. I highly recommend it.
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. I have personally found checklists to be an incredibly useful tool for keeping track of what I'm doing, starting long before I read the book. Checklists are an essential tool for doing anything effectively; I'll probably write a blog post on the topic in the next few months.
  • Peopleware by Timothy Lister and Tom DeMarco. This is a great book for anyone who's an engineer; whenever I read it, I'm impressed by how the issues they bring up are the same issues companies are struggling with today. I recommend especially reading it when you first become a manager and again a couple years later once you know what you're doing, but it's a great read even for people with no intention of being a manager.
  • High Output Management by Andy Grove. While this book is probably best targeted at middle management, it's super useful for anyone moving into a management role. Like Peopleware, I recommend reading again a few years later, once you know what you're doing -- you'll pick up on additional things the second time.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen. I don't use Allen's system, but reading this book helped me improve my workflows and how I delegate.
  • The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank. This book is dry, but it has valuable advice on how to go from a concept of a product to a product that is actually selling well. It was by far the most useful book we read in the early days of Ksplice.
  • The Mythical Man-Month by Fred Brooks is perhaps the classic book on large software projects. You can probably guess the main thesis from the title. However, the book has a lot of other interesting research and arguments. I think understanding this book well is valuable when trying to find exceptions to its conclusions.
  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams. Yes, the author of Dilbert. The book has pretty reasonable advice, in addition to being entertaining.

Full disclosure: links to books on my blog may be Amazon affiliate links, so it is possible I might make money from these recommendations. I expect that the income from these links will be negligible and it will not have been worth my time to generate affiliate links, but I'm curious enough about how Amazon affiliate links work to run the experiment.