I’ve been seeing quite a few book recommendation lists lately. So, I decided to throw my own hat into the ring with my own list of book recommendations.
While writing this list, I laid down a few ground rules for myself:
- Only 1 book per author – I did keep a short list of runners up after the main list.
- No Fiction – Unless the lesson from the book is singular and embedded, you might have better luck looking for a philosophy book with an explicit lesson and a more thorough explanation. Lessons from fiction to me are mostly subjective and allegorical so I kept a short list of fiction books that I would recommend to anyone.
- I have to have read it recently enough that I can summarize the book from memory. – My thoughts are: If I can’t throw together a few sentences about the book from memory, it must not have been that impactful.
The Art of War – Attributed to Sun Tzu & Others. My absolute favorite. Don’t let the title put you off. This is as much about preparation and choosing your battles as actual conflict.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield – Not exactly an inversion of the first book on this list. This title is about focusing on and executing on your goals. It’s about the importance if action and how to not sit idle.
– John Sonmez – I ordered a copy of this to share with my team at my regular job. It’s surprisingly broad for a work intended for an IT audience. I could even call it a holistic approach to living life as a developer.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey – A classic on mindful and focused execution. The themes and habits of this book are taught in grade schools now.
Choose Yourself – James Altucher – This book is about betting on yourself in the face of adversity.
Purple Cow – Seth Godin – This book was required reading for me in college and is about standing out. In a world full of developers, services and consultants, what makes you stand out?
Getting Things Done – David Allen – A productivity system that is as much about cognitive load and capacity as it is about efficiency. I use it daily.
The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan – A good primer on worldly skepticism and critical thinking from the man himself.
The Art of Deception – Kevin Mitnick – Case studies on social engineering and black hat strategies. Reinforces the point that people are always the weakest link in IT Security.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! – Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton – A quasi autobiographical collection of memoirs from Dr. Richard Feynman. Reinforces the idea that its possible to literally change the world while having fun and having a life.
Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki – A basic education in money management and asset growth that should be required reading for every student.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport – Titled with a paraphrased quote from Steve Martin, this is a long form reminder to focus on skill growth in your trade while striving to excel and continuously parlay those skills into more important or valuable roles.
What If? – Randall Munroe – Anyone familiar with the web comic xkcd may already be familiar with this or even own a copy. An entertaining attempt to answer interesting thought experiments with solid science and fun humor.
This Is How – Augusten Burroughs – A collection of essays that addresses strategies for confronting monumental life events and circumstances that can stop any of our lives in its tracks despite our best laid plans. Blunt and plainspoken while still being compassionate.
The Warrior Ethos – Another one by Steven Pressfield. This one is a more general overview of having a code and being worthy of trust.
The Dip – Another one by Seth Godin. Shares a message with War of Art and Choose Yourself. The main difference is that this book predicts that there will always be a point in any project or journey where you’ve lost momentum and feel stuck. This can be both an obstacle or overcome but also an opportunity to stop and ask yourself if the goal is still worth your time.
Pale Blue Dot – Probably a more popular Sagan work than the one I chose. This one focuses on the imperatives of taking care of our planet and making an investment in a shared future, recognizing that it’s the only one we have (so far) and we’re all in this together.
Neuromancer – William Gibson – This is a classic of the cyberpunk genre and is credited with the coining of the term The Matrix for an Internet in the style of shared virtual reality. Also touches on the concept of the Technological Singularity.
American Gods – Comparative religion and the modern personification of mythological figures is a popular realm for Neil Gaiman. Expect to hear more about this novel in the coming months as it’s currently being turned into a feature length movie.
The Godfather – Probably the one novel I’d choose to be stranded with on a deserted island. While most movies based on novels are derided for leaving out key elements, I believe the movie not only honors the source material but also complements it. If you read it for one reason only, do it for the backstory of Luca Brasi. You’ll never look at his halting wedding benediction the same way again.
I’m interested in hearing feedback on this list or some additional suggestions of your own. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them here or address them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for looking in!