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January 15, 2020

6 Essential Books Every Developer Should Read

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In an era where you can just turn to Google or look for online communities when you need help, the idea of reading a book might seem obsolete. Why bother? As most software engineers know, you can learn a lot by programming away and using trial-and-error. While this might be altogether true, books on software development still are great resources. 

By reading them, you can gain an unrivaled depth of knowledge and new perspectives in a whole range of topics. That’s because programming books (or the ones worth reading, at least) don’t just throw examples or solutions at you. They also teach you how to think better. What’s more – there are books for anyone out there, from the seasoned freelance developer to the newbie that just goes into an IT staffing team.

So, if you truly are committed to being the best possible developer you can be, then you need to start reading software development books. Don’t have a clue as to where to start? Here are 7 essential books you should have on your shelf (or ebook reader, we won’t judge).

1. Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

Considered as a must-read for a lot of professional developers, Code Complete is one of the most detailed books on this list. Boasting more than 900 pages, it’s packed with practical coding suggestions and techniques to improve your skills. After reading it, you’ll find that you’ll be able to build better code that’s more readable and easily manageable.

The book is very easy to read and full of great advice on how to code better, regardless of the programming language you choose. And while you can argue that a book that was launched in 1993 (with a second edition in 2004) has to be dated, it surely doesn’t feel like it. Why? Because good practices remain the same, even when languages change and evolve.

2.  Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

If you’ve already read Code Complete, then it’s time to keep the learning going with Clean Code, a soul brother of sorts of the former. Though mostly focused on Java and OOP languages, the tips you’ll find here can truly elevate the quality of your code. The main idea of the book is clear from the title itself – writing cleaner code!

Clean Code is the perfect companion for Code Complete, as it touches some of the same topics, albeit at a higher level. As such, it’s a critical thinker’s book, as it provides plenty of examples that you have to study to cement the principles shared in it. Even when it’s starting to show its age, Clean Code still is a reference for developers of all levels of expertise, as more than providing specific examples, it teaches you how to get into a good programming mindset.

3. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

At first glance, this book’s tips might seem somewhat obvious, especially for seasoned developers. However, there’s a lot of valuable insights hiding behind all of them, which is why this title has become essential for so many people. It’s important to note, though, that the book will work best for newcomers and people that haven’t had enough field experience.

Filled to the brim with practical suggestions, the book is the result of years of working in collaborative teams. In fact, most of the tips focus on how you can work on code that you haven’t written. As such, it might be best if you see more as a practice book rather than a one-time read, as you’ll better understand the situations included in the book whenever you find them in real life.

4. The Mythical Man-Month

Writing code is just a part of working on software development. At times, you’ll have to manage a team of developers and guide them to a successful end of a project. That’s one of the most challenging tasks in the field, which is why you should read this book if you’re about to become a project manager.

The central idea of this book is that everything in software development will change, except for people. As such, it mainly discusses the human element of development, and it does so with examples, insights, and suggestions. The fact that this book is among most project managers’ favorite books even when it was first published in 1975 should speak volumes about its value – and reinforce the idea that some (human) things never change.

5. Programming Pearls

A true classic among developers of all kinds, this book is what you need to start thinking like a software engineer. The “pearls” mentioned in the title cover everything from choosing the right algorithms to understanding how to effectively solve all types of problems. Overall, it’s a book about solving different issues, all of which are informed on the author’s own experience.

There’s plenty for everyone here. From tutorials on how to program to techniques to improve performance, carry out estimates, and safety design. But the best thing about the whole book is the fact that each chapter ends with a collection of problems that dare you to think creatively about design issues. 

6. Cracking the Coding Interview

Most experienced developers feel like they already know how to land their dream job, so they might feel like this book is only for newbies. However, any developer can benefit from Cracking the Coding Interview. That’s because it’s packed with interview questions that can teach you how to discover hints in a question, how to tackle different problems, and how to uncover new paths to solve an issue.

All of the questions and answers come with extensive coverage of essential topics, techniques to prepare for an interview, and even some insights to better prepare for an interview. Even if you’re not doing one any time soon, this book can surely help you develop a new way of thinking when approaching a programming challenge.

Some Final Words

There are plenty of software development books out there that can help you become a better professional. These are just some of the basics you should check out to have a better understanding of the field and to begin your journey. However, you should definitely go beyond them and find other books and resources that can help you with your own career.

Even if you think that reading books about programming is a waste of time, we encourage you to go look for one of these titles and see what they can do for you. We’re confident that any of these 6 books can quickly change your mind and provide you with some valuable knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in the development world, are the leader of an IT staffing company, or are just curious about the field – reading about it will definitely bring something positive.


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Malcom is a tech expert specializing in the software outsourcing industry. He has access to the latest market news and has a keen eye for innovation and what's next for technology businesses.

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