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Developer's Non-Development Book List

I've been slack lately on posting, mostly because I'm still running around speaking and working on the details of CodeStock.  So I figure a "must read book list" is great filler until I finish up that SilverLight 2.0 series of posts.  Instead of the normal development and programming books though, I'm going to list the books outside of development I think developers should read.


Charles Petzold's Code is a book I've recommended before, but no less relevant today than it was when it was first published.  In these days of frameworks and garbage collectors it's easy to loose sight of how a computer really works.  Why is it binary based?  What does a logic gate really look like at the circuit level?  What are MSB and LSB and how did they cause the PC/MAC software divide for so long?  Petzold is a wonderful storyteller and he is at the height of his craft in these pages.


Waiting for You Cat to Bark? by the Eisenberg brothers is aimed at marketers struggling to adapt to the information age, but reading through this book you'll start to see how software UI - or the user experience - is fundamental to a successful application and required for a website.  Yes, you're the developer - but you're the one who knows the technology and should be in the marketing meeting designing the new site that will increase sales for the company (you and the marketing department are paid from the same source, after all).  Also, if you've been tasked with or looking to start writing user and use case stories, this is a far better place to start than most agile books - how better to get a non-IT perspective than from a non-IT book?


The A-Z of Creative Photography by Lee Frost is what we developers would call a "cookbook" - a list of common problems and their solutions.  Now why am I pushing a book on photography to developers?  Photography is a great way to learn design basics - and let's face it, you suck at PhotoShop.  Just because you own a digital camera doesn't mean you know how to take photos any more than downloading an IDE means you know how to write software.  After reading this book, I no longer take those boring family photos people avoid looking at - I'm no professional, but I no longer feel the need to fork over a few hundred bucks to some guy a Sears once a year for family portraits.  I also understand how to apply the "rule of thirds" in design.


Eric Raymond's classic The Cathedral & the Bazaar is a must read for every developer, manager, and person involved in software at any level.  The essays in this book are all available online, but they are worth having in printed form.  The title essay is a look at how linux bucked the system and released a better products with very little control and it's interesting to read this again now that we have something called agile that's getting popular.  Long before it was cool to speak of continuous integration, linux was doing it.  Also in the book is an essay on "How to be a Hacker" which, aside from answering the question, has help me in the bigger question - how do I identify and hire a hacker (aka passionate software developer).


I'm listing Beyond the Bullet Points (Cliff Atkinson) and Presentation Zen (Garr Reyonlds) together because I really don't care which book you choose or if you read both - but you need to read at least one.  These books are very well known in the "speaker's circle," but even if you have no plans to become a conference junkie like myself these books are of interest to you.  At some point you will be tasked to give a presentation on your (or your team's) software - status, features, etc - and these are the moments that will lead to career boosts.  Effective presentations skills are not only about communicating the subject matter, they show how competent at understanding and communicating you are.  To be honest, we developers suck worse at communicating than we do at Photoshop - and there is no reason we have to.


The last book on the list is Seth Godin's The Dip.  We all know life is a series of ups and downs; consider this book a manual to handling the downs.  Only you truly care about your career and you need to be able to decide if the current "dip" (a temporary setback) you face is one to push through or is really a path to a dead end career and it's time to quit and move on.  You could read that other "win-win" book, but Seth is a master of communication and a much more enjoyable author, and I highly recommend subscribing to Seth's Blog.

I'm always interested in non-development titles that help me as a developer; feel free to add recommendations in the comments.

Posted 05-21-2008 11:24 AM by Michael C. Neel
Filed under: ,



Nathan Blevins wrote re: Developer's Non-Development Book List
on 05-22-2008 8:15 AM

Good post...  wish there was an active community list of 'required' readings for developers.   I am always interested in hearding what other people like...  here are a couple other non-developer books that I like...

1)  Freakenomics - Gotta gotta read this...  the world is all about incentives.

2)  Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Wait, this is a money making book, right?  Yes, but it is really an eye opener.  Even though there is a lot of argument over the validity of some of the personal claims he makes - this book makes you think.   Plus, it is an easy read.  I finished it off in 1 day.

3)  Brain Power - Someone just recently blogged about this, but I can't remember who - so I apologize for not giving credit.  Bascially....  this book is about how your brain works.  If you want to improve your ability to retain info and basic memory - learn how your brain works so that you can cater to it.  

4)  Getting Things Done -  Another suggested book (by Jeff Atwood, I think).  Organization is key, gotta love it.

Dew Drop - May 22, 2008 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew wrote Dew Drop - May 22, 2008 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew
on 05-22-2008 10:27 AM

Pingback from  Dew Drop - May 22, 2008 | Alvin Ashcraft's Morning Dew

Max Pool wrote re: Developer's Non-Development Book List
on 05-22-2008 10:48 AM

Great list...may I add:

- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

- How to Win Friends and Influence People

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