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Read or Perish: A Summer Top 10 List June 11, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in integrative thinking, management, software architects.

I recently discovered a new section of the bookstore and my life has been all the more enriched for it. For all the time I’ve spent amongst the shelves I somehow overlooked a veritable treasure trove of bounded and unbounded delights. Today I am going to share this life-changing discovery with you.

Computer books are to bookstores as milk is to grocers: you have to walk past everything else in the store to get there. Past fiction, history, gardening and cooking – you’ll inevitably find them in the farthest reaches of the store, the most distant point from the store entrance.

I’ve visited the section before – to brush up on Excel, to learn some software tips and tricks. On this one occasion there was something else that had drawn me to the computer technology book section. A book I had been looking for – on project management – suddenly appeared on a shelf near the geographic center of the long expanse of computer books: Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun. Not just any book on managing people, one’s self, clients, time, work processes, schedules and budgets – written by the Microsoft alumnus and program manager of Internet Explorer – this book has gone on to be my all-time favorite book on the subject. I’ve returned to this shelf in computer sections of new and used bookstores on several occasions in the months since and have been rewarded every time by fabulous titles with evocative cover art. None of these are dry technology doorstoppers – but instead they’re each in their own right works of art and pleasures to behold. They’re each entertaining, deep and rewarding reads. They’ll teach you something you didn’t know – not about software or programming – but about the work you love, the work you’re passionate about, the work you do day in day out. You’ll come away from these books richer, larger, more expansive – and more interesting. For each serves as a metaphor applicable to what you’re already doing and the time invested will be rewarded a hundredfold.

Many of these books are published by Tim O’Reilly (his Twitter tweets are some of the best, most informative, authoritative and most followed http://twitter.com/timoreilly). Although his more familiar and most popular books, updated hourly, can be found here, some of his lesser known titles have made my Top 10 including 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know; and the urgent and important Devices of the Soul. The “beautiful” series cannot be missed, with such tantalizing titles as Beautiful Security, Beautiful Code, and Beautiful Architecture: Leading Thinkers Reveal the Hidden Beauty in Software Design by Diomidis Spinellis and Georgios Gousios. The all-time favorite among pleasure-seeking adventuresome readers, The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, comes as close to seductive non-fiction as any book you might come across at the beach. If there is a more enjoyable summer read than Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition) I have not found it.  In addition to the previously mentioned Making Things Happen, Scott Berkun has written a wonderful book on the creative mind, the myths of innovation. Microsoft Press’s near-perfect Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction tops-off the list.

Lastly, I would be remiss in not mentioning the self-explanatory and hilarious underground cult classic The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. No beach bag should be without it.


Summer Top 10 Lists


Making Things Happen

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

the myths of innovation

Beautiful Code

Devices of the Soul

97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know

Subject To Change : Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World: Adaptive Path on Design

Code Complete



At-Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz  

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz  

*You thought you were going to make it through summer without reading any fiction? Guess again!



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