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Five(ish) Books For All Programmers

August 13, 2022

This one is from a friend: "What are five books that all aspiring programmers should be sure to read?" I thought it was an interesting question, so I wrote a bit on it. Here's what I wrote.

First of all, you need to be able to think like a programmer. That means not being afraid of technical details. In the US, I feel like there's a tendency to be afraid of technical details. I blame how poorly STEM is often handled in early schooling. I argue that dissuading that fear ASAP is critical, to make sure one doesn't run from it when it inevitably comes up in programming. Thus:

Next, how to be a good programmer.

The next two are about bad code. Unfortunately, not all code in the world is good code. There are some very senior developers making very bad mistakes. You need to be able to identify things that have gone wrong, and how to move things in a proper direction.

These 4 books lay the foundations for how to be a good programmer philosophically, with plenty of good nuggets of technical ideas. Once you've read (and understood) them, you should be comfortable with a decent chunk of professional development. All that's really left is technical details and experience. The answer for that I think is "The most commonly recommended book in your field of choice."


Changelog

August 8, 2023: I used to suggest Clean Code for beginners at the end, but nowadays I don't stand by that anymore. The suggestion has been updated.