My Quest To Read 200 Computer Programming Books
December 20, 2016
Back in 2009 I left my work as a software engineer to play poker professionally. For the next 4 years I did almost no programming while I worked on my poker skills.
In 2014 I decided to get back into computer programming. I had no GitHub and did not know how to use git. I had no StackOverflow profile and was clueless how to use the site. When I heard about Front-End, Back-End, and Full-Stack Developers, I thought these were made up terms.
I was feeling completely overwhelmed about how to get caught up on the 4 years I missed from software. One of the goals I made was to read 200 computer programming books. This was something measurable I could concentrate on.
So far I have read 82 books with the full list under my Book Reviews section, and I wrote a review for each of the books on my Amazon Profile. This blog posts discusses some lessons learned from reading the books and many unexpected results from the project.
The Authors Will Read Your Reviews
Many times the authors responded directly to my Amazon reviews. For the books I gave good ratings the authors were pleased to hear from me. A few occasions resulted in some authors getting furious with me leaving a poor review. I honestly did not think the authors read the reviews, but they do.
One of my favorite authors Michael Kerrisk said he appreciated my review of The Linux Programming Interface. I was really curious how he was able to write such a great book which was 1,500 pages long. In that book I never once noticed a single typo, not even a grammatical mistake and it may be the best computer programming book I read out of all of them.
Kerrisk agreed to do an online interview me which resulted in the post Interview With Linux Guru Michael Kerrisk. It was really interesting to learn how the author mastered Linux. It is such an incredibly complex yet simple operating system.
No Computer Programming Book Will Make You A Complete Developer
There were many times where I would complete reading a book and feel like my understanding had improved dramatically. Later on much of the details of the book would seem fuzzy a few months after reading and I discovered how difficult it is to absorb the fine details. In most cases what remained was the large picture and the important concepts from the books.
There is no computer programming book which will make you a “complete” developer. There are not 10 different books which will make you complete, and even after reading 82 books I still feel far from mastery. Reading 200 books will not give you full mastery either.
Computer programming is an incredibly complex field, and is constantly changing. To stay on the top of your game you have to keep evolving. Of course you have to do actual programming as well, in addition to reading about it. Nothing beats practicing, and I have a number of programming side projects that I work on while doing the reading.
Increased Reading Comprehension And Writing
The first programming book I started with was a walk through of the C# language. It took me quite a long time to read as I was not used to technical literature and had to reread many sections.
It was around reading book number fifty, that I noticed dramatic improvement of my technical reading ability. I could read documentation much faster and understand it better. One of the main factors was that I was familiar with most of the terminology used in computer programming books so it was easier to read.
Additionally, I found I could write documentation better. When I needed to write comments in my code the writing flowed much better. When I read some fiction recently it felt like I was reading on easy mode.
Further Goals With Computer Programming Books
I am not even half way to my goal of reading the 200 books with 82 complete. Actually I thought the goal would be easier than I estimated.
For technical books it takes much longer to read than fiction. I choose to pick great programming books irregardless of length of the book. Some books like The Linux Programming Interface took over two months of daily reading to complete.
My goal is still to read the 200 books and I expect it may take another two years to complete. Do you have a computer programming book to recommend to me? Stay posted for updates under my Book Reviews.