1) The Mythical Man month
3) The Pragmatic Programmer
3) Code Complete.
The thing about these books, well atleast 1 and 3 is that when they were written they broke new ground. Or if that phrase bother you, they were the first mainstream publications that brought their core ideas to developers.
Reading these books early in your career will help cement these best practices.
Reading these books after you've been a practicing programmer means,IMHO, that the return you get from reading them goes way way down.
You'll find that you've already learned all/most? of what they are trying to teach.
You'll find yourself getting frustrated that they are preaching what you already know as common sense and first principles.
Or put another way, I'm not sure there is much that someone who has programmed for 5-10 years can get out of those books that they haven't picked up somewhere else already or learned the hard way.
Code Complete: http://codecourse.sourceforge.net/materials/Code-Complete-A-...
Definitely check out "The Pragmatic Programmer"! There's definitely some good nuggets in there that helped me. Distinguishing full-blown prototypes vs. prototypical kernels that can be productionized, a.k.a. tracer bullet prototyping, is one.
This rejuvinated my interest and productivity for reading that book.
1. Coders at Work
Peter Seibel does an amazing job of asking programmers questions that make them explain their methodology. The interview with Donald Knuth is awesome; really enjoyed hearing him talk about literate programming.
2. The Soul of a New Machine
Tracy Kidder's 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner I think is a brilliant case study on how engineers work together and the things that can go wrong and right with different personalities interacting with highly technical ideas. The project in this book starts without the consent of management, which to me shows the value of questioning the system to add business / engineering value.
3. Little Schemer
Small book that will give your brain a serious workout and show you how to problem solve with Lisp like languages. Even if you never end up using a Lisp dialect, this book expands your brain.
I have more here, all of which I recommend for software and other careers http://benbrostoff.github.io/books/
I think too many people approach the industry thinking programmers are god-like deities who have an unlimited amount of time and brain power. Coders at Work does a great job breaking down the "imposter syndrome" plaguing new people coming into the industry.
While they're not strictly software or programming related, I really like the concepts of making interfaces that require minimal thought to use and empathizing with your users. I've seen an unfortunate amount of "programming machismo" where a confusing or poorly engineered system is used and accepted because "that's just how things work in the real world". And whenever someone struggles with the process, it's obviously because they're wrong, not the system. But more often than not, if more than one person has trouble understanding your system, whether it's an API, a website, a build process, the design is the issue.
Some people are inevitably going to recommend The Art of Computer Programming, which hardly anyone has read and isn't that relevant to the work that 99% of us are doing.
Someone will probably recommend The C Programming Language, also called K&R after the authors, but again it's not very useful unless you're going to be using a lot of C and even then I personally don't think it provides anything you can't get from guides on the internet. (I have actually read this one, but it's been a while)
There are other classic textbooks that will probably be mentioned that are only useful to those in that domain. Many of us can get by without a deep understanding of algorithms and data structures, most people don't need to read a compiler book, etc, etc.
However, there are some generalized books that people often recommend like The Pragmatic Programmer and Code Complete. These are, in my opinion, good recommendations if you're looking for something to read but I wouldn't say that someone starting a career in software engineering should read them. Software engineering isn't really a field with seminal texts that should be read by everyone.
For example, every political scientist should have probably read The Republic by Plato and Politics by Aristotle among many other texts. I don't think software engineering has that equivalent, partially due to the relative newness of the field and partially because the primary output of our field is not written texts.
Another interesting question would be "What codebases should someone starting their career in software engineering look at?". Are there things that the average joe programmer can learn by poking around the Linux kernel or Firefox? Maybe. I don't know. I've never done it. I'd be interested in hearing from those who have, though. Maybe I'll do my own ask HN.
edit: I feel I should clarify that this is written from the perspective of a software engineer, not an academic in computer science. For all I know there could be seminal texts that those on the academic side should all have read.
If you want to learn C - there are plenty of resources that work just as well. The good ones cover things that didn't exist back then. (I've only read the original K&R from before ANSI, not one of the latter edition(s) so I can't comment on how up to date the latest version is)
And, if you do decide to dive in and read them, plan to spend a few years on them.
The Architecture of Open Source Applications series is a good one for leaning how to build production applications and you can read it online. The chapter on Scalable Web Architecture is a must-read.
A lot of tools and patterns you don't see in school that describe how most of the "magic" behind high-powered software we use is implemented.
But Kleppman's book is genuinely and outstandingly useful for understanding the various components involved in modern backend architectures.
1) The unix programming environment
2) The design of the unix operating system
3) The Pragmatic Programmer
4) Programming Pearls
5) Computer Systems: A Programmers Prespective
6) K & R C
7) The art of Unix Programming.
I read this in like a week at one of my first jobs. I learned so much that in a few days my status in the team radically changed and became the go to person when people's scripts didn't work; word spread and soon I had people from other teams seeking help with their scripts too. No one else read the book though AFIK ...
What I really liked about this book at the time:
- it explains the few key concepts extremelly well
- the exercises were truly outstanding, really testing your understanding of subtleties of above concepts
One for the ages.
It's very old and underrated. Many people have problems getting started with the command line and basic UNIX tools.
This is _THE_ place to learn about this.
1) Clean Code
2) The Phoenix Project
3) UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook
I'm sure #2 will be something folks want to fight over shrug. If you want to sidestep years of headache it's a must-read though.
This is a good point for many books listed in this thread: it doesn't matter how you pick up the design pattern knowledge, the algorithm knowledge, the code quality knowledge, etc etc, so long as you get it, and with complete understanding.
Don't worry about coming out of the gate skills-hot. It's a marathon, not a sprint. If you are lucky and good, you will be doing your best work late in your career, not at the beginning.
None of the other recommended books tell you how to name things, and that's always going to be the most important problem to solve anyway ;)
I think a translation to a more modern language (lua!) would boost adoption quite a bit.
But be prepared to come away very depressed than a book that's now 44 years old contains wisdom that none of the people who ought to have absorbed it have.
The basic theme is that everything is ephemeral. This really starts to resonate when you see how fast the results of your labors over a period of decades fade, turn to dust, and are utterly forgotten. As you yourself will be in short order. Ultimate medicine for keeping things in perspective.
Here's a particularly readable paraphrase: https://www.amazon.com/Nothing-New-Under-Sun-Ecclesiastes/dp...
2. Dilbert. This comic series is an excellent introduction into how corporations actually work.
3. The Systems Bible. Somewhat obscure. Fascinating ideas on how large systems, both technical and organizational, actually work.
It talks about what makes a good team, how powerful they can be, and also gives some insight on team dysfunction.
If you lack technical background and have problems with structure because you have not worked through university/school in structured way then "Code complete", "Clean code".
Pick also something in depth for your specific area you are going to start, for C# good would be "C# in depth" to get really details of tech you will be working on. Get details in one programming language really well then you can pick up some other tech.
- Pragmatic Thinking & Learning by Andy Hunt
- The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
- The Effective Engineer* by Edmond Lau
- The Pragmatic Programmer by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas
- SQL Performance Explained by Markus Winand
And http://teachyourselfcs.com curriculum is pretty good as well.
As a side note, there's so much we can learn from game programmers and OS/database/compiler engineers.
eg “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”
Eventually you’re going to be faced with a very complex system to refactor. It helps to understand the principles of healthy complex systems in nature.
Or has this fallen out of favor?
I'd have a hard time recommending it per se, because it relies heavily for examples on specific technologies that were dated even when I was reading it half a decade ago, but I think something like it with that kind of content is a must-read for anyone starting in SE, especially coming from a CS degree that might have been light on those areas. If I could find a version that's more recent I'd recommend it to every new grad I know.
2. Deathmarch: The Complete Software Developer's Guide to Surviving 'Mission Impossible' Projects- also a classic.
3. Thinking fast and slow - a great introduction to biases that will affect your thinking in any project.
4. The Art of War - strategy and tactics for attacking any problem. My personal favorite translation is by Thomas Cleary.
The Design of Design is just Brooks building a house. How the building project relates to software and what his point is, is never really made clear.
Do people generally just not value things like negotiating? Or do you just not think a book would have helped younger you?
It changed my understanding and thinking about how best to work flow development. I highly highly recommend this book to coders to managers.
- Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering
- Code Complete
Game Programming Patterns
2) The Art of Computer Programming
3) The Art of Computer Programming
4A) The Art of Computer Programming
Also, are they really relevant when you are starting your career? These seem more into the category of making you competent in the field of algorithms research, rather than something a person starting a career should read.
I recently finished reading the first three, and have started on the fourth (with a detour to read "fascicle 1.1 on MMIX"). I started the series planning to work every single problem. That turned out to be just a little unrealistically ambitious - I settled for _attempting_ every single problem except for the "unsolved research problems" (in some cases, just figuring out what the problem was asking for left me with a sense of accomplishment). Even so, I ended up spending a year on each volume, reading/working problems for a half hour a day or so. On the one hand, I loved these books, and really enjoyed reading/working through them, but - recommended before beginning one's software development career? You'll need to know a fair amount of calculus to make sense of a lot of it, and it'll take quite a while to get through. It's questionable how relevant it really is, fascinating as the subject matter is.