A Good Book Has No Ending

08 June 2011

“A good book has no ending” - R.D. Cumming

Last week I was immensely lucky to be at SQL Cruise Alaska, and to attend Buck Woody’s (b / t) session on career development. A mere two hours later, I came away with about 5 pages of notes, a stunned expression, and the realization that I have not been sufficiently proactive in my own career. I’ll have a more complete write up in a few days, but one of the things Buck did was lay down a challenge for everyone there.

The challenge is for each of us to read 12 books that will help us advance our careers, and then do book reviews on our respective blogs. Here are my book choices, in no particular order:

  1. Hadoop, the Definitive Guide, by Tom White. For a developer who does business intelligence work, Hadoop/MapReduce is now a requisite skill. This is double true with companies that have large amounts of data (web logs, etc). I’ll be using what I learn to analyze the stock market data I have been downloading from online APIs.
  2. Basic Business Statistics, by Berenson, Levine, Krehbiel, Stephan. Working with large data sets is important. Equally important is the ability to know what kinds of analysis are best for a given problem. That means statistical analysis. My knowledge in this area is insufficient, hence this book choice.
  3. The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson. The reason to read this book is because of a question: how does the Internet affect businesses? Therefore, how does the Internet affect business needs? Therefore, how does the Internet change who is needed in future businesses?
  4. Pro SQL Azure, by Scott Klein and Herve Roggero. I expect most medium-sized businesses, and all start-ups, to eventually use cloud computing for their IT needs. The cost benefits are too great to ignore. For me, that means learning a lot more about the best practices when doing database work ‘in the cloud’.
  5. On  Writing Well, by William Zinsser. As someone without a lot of writing experience, gaining writing skill is critical. My style as a blogger is not that accessible, and I believe my readers would benefit if I expressed ideas in a more intuitive fashion.
  6. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, by Kevlin Henney. As a working developer, I occasionally get ‘stuck’ in a problem and forget about tips and tricks that can help. Memorizing said tricks would make me more effective when I write code.
  7. Applied Architecture Patterns on the Microsoft Platform, by Seroter, Fairweather, Thomas, Sexton, and Ramani. This book was recommended to me by Brent Ozar (b / t), and I had the luxury of skimming through it one day at a library. In 10 minutes I had a half-dozen options to solve design problems I had been struggling with. I would recommend this book to senior developers and budding architects.
  8. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, by Tim Harford. I read Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist two months ago, and am highly impressed by how well he can convey complex ideas using intuitive examples. Rapid prototyping and innovation is the best way for any company to produce new products and services. That means building lots of projects, many of which will fail, in order to find a few runaway successes.
  9. The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick Brooks. This is one of the classic books in software engineering because it spells out a lot of common wisdom, and then explains why it’s all wrong. I’m very curious about which aphorisms and assumptions I am using that are incorrect.
  10. The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit, by Kimball, Reeves, Ross, and Thornthwaite. I read this book four years ago, when I was starting as a junior developer. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but the basics I picked up were enough for me to rapidly understand what my mentors were trying to teach me. I hope to pick up a lot more nuance this time around.
  11. Design Is How It Works, by Jay Greene. A lot of the truly iconic products and services out there are successful because of amazing design. As a developer who does a lot of back-end work, user-facing design is not one of my strengths. This would help remedy that.
  12. The Innovator’s Way, by Peter Denning and Robert Dunham. I don’t believe a developer can be successful unless they are creative and innovative. Working in a large company makes that tricky sometimes. Having some best practices and the proper mental attitude would be very, very helpful.

The second part of the book challenge is to check on at least one other person at SQL Cruise to make sure they’re reading as well. I’m tagging a few other people. Enjoy!