Great books for web developers

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Reading is good, everyone should do it and personally i love it. Reading articles online seems to be the defacto these days, and as you're reading this one i can hardly say articles are a bad thing. However, when it comes to books versus articles, there is often a discrepancy in depth and detail. Therefore, i conclude that for many topics books are indeed the right way to go.

So, allow me to convince you a little further to the merits of readings books over blog posts.

Imagine you spend a year reading a whopping ten thousand articles. Now imagine that you did not really learn as much as you would by reading one really good book. This is what i would call the difference between fluffy article content and the solidity of a well written book. Of course fluff can have depth and solidity too i hear you say. But how dense is the fluff? When you pick up the fluff does it hold together? If the fluff was to be thoroughly inspected by your manager or client would they be impressed by the fluff? Does the fluff smell good? These are all important questions that need to be answered and i surely plan to!

Conversely, reading a good book is more like a brick than a piece of fluff. A book can be like a piece of solid material that has weight, mass and volume. In a metaphysical sense you can now use this brick to build your new projects solidly on a firm foundation. The alternative is of course building your projects on a lot of fluff, which is not the most forgiving of foundations.

To summarise, i hope my analogy about fluff and solidity has convinced you i know what i am talking about(i honestly don’t, but more on that another day.) Hopefully i have your interest piqued sufficiently to delve deeper.

So, without any further ado, here are my great book recommendations for web developers:

The Pragmatic Programmer

This book is a set of guidelines for programmers and is perfect for anyone looking to improve their professionalism. If you have reached the stage where you are working with other people, or you have developed multiple personalities of your own(well done you.) You will now want to be a good neighbour to them, or you. This book is then ideal. If you are a seasoned programmer with the scars to prove it you might not need this book. For anyone else i am sure you are going to find something useful in here.

I really liked the way The Pragmatic Programmer is written. It is easy to read and well paced. Inside you will find gems of information that i have personally taken from this book and incorporated into my everyday life inside and outside of coding.

The Pragmatic Programmer is written by Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas.

Head First Design Patterns

Design patterns can be complex, hard to get your head around and intimidating to junior programmers. However, everyone should keep trying and fight through the initial discomfort. If you have already got your head around object oriented programming, are planning to work with bigger code-bases then i recommend the Head First Design Patterns book. It uses real world use cases to explain patterns, that make it easier to understand where and why you might apply them. If you don’t get patterns yet, but want too, do yourself a favour and grab this book.

Head First Design Patterns is written by Eric Freeman, Bert Bates, Kathy Sierra and Elisabeth Robinson.

The Mythical Man Month

Does your boss have unrealistic expectations on how to speed up the development process? Are you the boss that wants to speed up development? Either way, you should read The Mythical Man Month which will help you understand how software development does not always react well to solutions that work in other situations. Essential reading for anyone working in, or affected by the development life cycle, The Mythical Man Month will help you to understand and manage your web development life better.

The Mythical Man Month is written by Frederick Brooks.

The Art of War

As a web developer you will have to choose when to fight battles much like Sun Zhu did. You might not understand why a book about war generalship might be useful to a web developer, but it is. In life we are always making deals, concessions, compromises and collaborations, and you need to understand when it’s your place to take the lead or follow. The Art of War will help you to understand when it is your turn to lead the dance or the time to just do what your told.

Of course, in life you should always aim for win/win situations where no one loses. However, that is not always possible. If that is the case then consult the Art of War to determine if you have already lost or you should keep pushing for what you think is correct. Sun Zhu knows better than you, this is a fact.

The Art of War was written by Sun Zhu.


People, yes exactly, what more can i say. Possibly the hardest part of any project to manage and conversely potentially the most rewarding. People can be great or difficult or great and difficult, or just difficult(in which case buy them a copy of Peopleware too).

If you’re a developer and very technically minded and hate talking to marketing then you might need to improve your people skills. If you came from a design background you are probably already better at working with people than the typical developer but you are not above learning either.

Regardless of where you sit on the empathy spectrum or the greasy pole, this book is well worth a read. Peopleware can help you to understand how people work and how you can work with them to make the world a better place in general.

Peopleware is written by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister.

The Lean Startup

If you are unaware of the lean methodology make famous by Toyota, then where the hell have you been? Also you must now repent your sins and read the Lean Startup. This book will give you the quickest way to get into lean. What is lean i hear you say. Lean is simply a methodology you can apply to things. Projects, websites, startups or businesses are all fair game and this book might give you some great pointers that could affect the way you work dramatically.

In true lean fashion, you can see i made this review the leanest

The Lean Startup is written by Eric Reis.

I already have a ton more books i need to talk about, but for now i think there is more than enough to get you going.