What is the single most influential book every programmer should read?


If you could go back in time and tell yourself to read a specific book at the beginning of your career as a developer, which book would it be?

I expect this list to be varied and to cover a wide range of things.

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9/26/2011 3:39:12 PM


@Juan: I know Juan, I know - but there are some things that can only be learned by actually getting down to the task at hand. Speaking in abstract ideals all day simply makes you into an academic. It's in the application of the abstract that we truly grok the reason for their existence. :P

@Keith: Great mention of "The Inmates are Running the Asylum" by Alan Cooper - an eye opener for certain, any developer that has worked with me since I read that book has heard me mention the ideas it espouses. +1


Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp by Peter Norvig

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I started reading it because I wanted to learn Common Lisp. When I was halfway, I realized this was the greatest book about programming I had read so far.


Definitively Software Craftsmanship

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This book explains a lot of things about software engineering, system development. It's also extremly useful to understand the difference between different kind of product developement: web VS shrinkwrap VS IBM framework. What people had in mind when they conceived waterfall model? Read this and all we'll become clear (hopefully)


Discrete Mathematics For Computer Scientists,204,203,200_AA219_PIsitb-sticker-dp-arrow,TopRight,-24,-23_SH20_OU02_.jpg

Discrete Mathematics For Computer Scientists by J.K. Truss.

While this doesn't teach you programming, it teaches you fundamental mathematics that every programmer should know. You may remember this stuff from university, but really, doing predicate logic will improve you programming skills, you need to learn Set Theory if you want to program using collections.

There really is a lot of interesting information in here that can get you thinking about problems in different ways. It's handy to have, just to pick up once in a while to learn something new.


Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail. Get it used cheap. But you might not get the humor until you've worked on a few failed projects.

The beauty of the book is the copyright year.

Probably the most profound takeaway "law" presented in the book:

The Fundamental Failure-Mode Theorem (F.F.T.): Complex systems usually operate in failure mode.

The idea being that there are failing parts in any given piece of software that are masked by failures in other parts or by validations in other parts. See a real-world example at the Therac-25 radiation machine, whose software flaws were masked by hardware failsafes. When the hardware failsafes were removed, the software race condition that had gone undetected all those years resulted in the machine killing 3 people.


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