An interesting discussion was going on at a forum. Techies were discussing books they loved reading. They talked about how some of them started looking at the whole discipline of software development and technology in a new way after reading particular books. Some listed their favourite books and insisted that others read them.
I researched a bit more and soon had a list of quite a few books that are interesting and should be on the reading list of professionals who love to work with technology. It is a good list for tech entrepreneurs, developers, designers, marketers and others who are keen to know the insights technologists and other visionaries worked with earlier. Some authors give a thorough account of the tech-landscape as they saw it and as they are seeing it. It is interesting to look at the journey and hazard guesses about where we are heading in future, by using our achievements till date as guiding light. In short, these are good books and in this new year you should try to read some of them – if not all. Here they are in no particular order:
#1 The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master
By Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
“I would like to see this (the book) issued to every new employee at my company,” said Chris Cleeland, Senior Software Engineer, Exegy. “If I’m putting together a project, it’s the authors of this book that I want. Failing that, I’d settle for people who’ve read their book”, says the big daddy of programming Ward Cunnigham, a pioneer who developed the first wiki.
Tempted to read the book? You should be.
This book takes a practical look at the core processes of programming. It has useful tips on several topics. It provides tips on architectural techniques. It insists on maintainable code that delights its users and has enough flexibility to adapt so that it can be reused. Chapters like ‘Capture real requirements’, ‘Build teams of pragmatic programmers’, ‘ Test ruthlessly and effectively’, and ‘Make your developments more precise with automation’, ensure you avoid the unnecessary fluff and focus on the real deal. It is a very useful book for everyone- be it a freshmen, newbie in a software developing team, an experienced manager or a tech entrepreneur. It talks about the pitfalls, it has interesting anecdotes, thoughtful examples and analogies that draw you in. It helps in drilling the fact that the developers need to operate from the mindset that they would need to change a few things and would need to adapt their codes as the project moves along.
It has an easy, and familiar writing style. Easy to digest, quickly absorbable. A must for every developer. It helps you become the pragmatic programmer.
#2 Hooked – How to build habit-forming products
By Nir Eyal
Hooked is a very useful book for professionals who are involved in designing and marketing products. It can bring a lot to the table of software designers especially app designers. It gives you tips on leveraging external triggers to ensure that they become habit forming internal triggers which bring the user back to the product again and again.
Mobile game Candy Crush, Angry birds, Flappy birds are all examples of addictive games. You see the icons of these games on your smartphone, external triggers are on that lead you to click and play starting the internal reward cycle and then those become the habit forming internal triggers. You get hooked and the internal triggers then drive your behaviour.
“Hooked gives you the blueprint for the next generation of products. Read Hooked or the company that replaces you will,” said Matt Mullenweg, Founder, WordPress.
You should have a copy of this book by Nir Eyal.
#3 The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk!
By Al Riess and Jack Trout
It is a classic book in marketing. This book comes highly recommended by Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli who are ex-apple engineers and now successful app developers. They did the marketing of their app Astropad on their own and the app is doing very well.
“It’s (an) old book but I really recommend it,” said Ronge during an Alt Conf talk titled “Lessons in app PR: How to Launch.” “I read a lot of marketing books and most of them are fluff. This (book) was all good, concrete stuff. Very short and very actionable,” he adds.
It has 22 nuggets of marketing wisdom with brilliant examples. It is brief and succinct – a small handbook of marketing ideas. Sale being the end goal, this book is very useful for everyone who is into marketing or is developing products and services to market.
#4 What If
By Randall Munroe
This book is by Randall Munroe, the author of the popular webcomic xkcd. Part of this book is based on questions and answers posted on his blog, ‘What if?’
Randall studied physics at Christopher Newport University. He then was in a job at NASA Langley Research Center building Robots. He left NASA in year 2006 to draw comics on the internet. Humor, research and patience have crafted this book which is being liked immensely by geeks and non-geeks in equal measures. It has a lot of scientific trivia, comics and references too. This book makes you think of the things you never thought of before.
There are a lot of interesting questions like “What is the farthest one human being has ever been from every other living person?” “What happens if you set off a nuclear bomb in the center of a hurricane? Would the storm cells be vaporized?” Be ready for hilarity and enlightenment when you pick up this book.
#5 Creativity, INC.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
By Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace
Edwin Earl “Ed” Catmull is a computer scientist and the president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, Disney Toon Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. This book by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace is one of the most inspiring books on creativity in business. It is Ed’s manual for anyone who strives for originality. It is for the managers who want their employees to be original. It is for the team leaders who want their teams to think out of the box routinely-fearlessly. It is about building a creative culture. The man behind Academy Award winning studio which made movies like “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles”, “Toy Story” and “Monsters Inc.”, calls this book “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
Through Ed and Amy this book enables us to visit the nerve centers of Pixar Animation where all the discussions, meetings, “Braintrust” sessions and post-mortems about the films happen. Ed believes the cost of preventing errors is far greater than the cost of fixing them. He gives several examples of where his stress on tireless communication, fearless ideation and collaboration added value to the projects in the organizations. He mentions ‘Toy Story’ specifically where a democratic collaboration of product managers, technicians and artists benefitted the movie immensely.
Author Jim Collins who has co-authored “Built to Last,” and “Good to Great” had this to say about the book – “Over more than 30 years, Ed Catmull has developed methods to root out and destroy the barriers to creativity, to marry creativity to the pursuit of excellence, and most impressive, to sustain a culture of disciplined creativity during setbacks and success.”
Get the wisdom straight from the master. A Steve Jobs fan? There are a few anecdotes about him too. Do read this one.
#6 Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They can change the World
By Jane McGonigal
Can gaming culture initiate and foster social change? In her book ‘Reality is Broken’ Jane McGonigal states that our social structure that has its foundation in the physical world is broken. “Many of us are suffering from a vast and primal hunger-a hunger for more and better engagement. Games have far more to offer than solipsistic retreat,” McGonigal says. Her claims are backed up by plenty of researches and empirical evidence.
The size of global games market is forecasted to reach $86.1 Bn by 2016. We play 3 Bn hours of video games each week. The artificial worlds created to entertain us have truly enticed us. McGonigal provides fascinating examples that give us scientific insights into the neurochemical processes that take place in our mind and bodies when we play games. She counts on the incredible potential of games and the gamers to bring on social and global changes.
Game developers should read this book. They can get more ideas by going through the research provided. McGonigal forces us to take a new and fresh look towards games. Her style is breezy, peppered with a lot of self deprecating humor. It is a good book that fights the prejudices non-gamers have against the gamers with élan.
#7 Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
By Ashlee Vance
A well researched, thoughtfully written book for all entrepreneurs, techies, tech enthusiasts and Geeks. It tells you plenty about the renowned innovator and entrepreneur Elon Musk. He made his first millions from selling his first two companies Paypal and Zip 2. He takes risks which may seem quixotic. Let’s wait and watch two of his important ventures Space X and Tesla. Space X caters to commercial rocket markets and his ambition to colonise Mars. His second major investment is in electric – car making company Tesla. Vance has tried to capture the trajectories of both his companies well. The book also dwells on his personality – his flaws. Vance however believes Elon can change the humanity for better. Do Read.
Books enable us to entertain the thoughts of accomplished others. In peace. For as long as we want. There is lot we can learn from interdisciplinary exchanges of ideas. Go for ebooks if you are wary of lugging your books around. But do read. These books are from experts who are at the top of their games and they will add to the way you think about everything. Did you enjoy any such book lately? Let us know.