Book Club 2015 Edition


A friend recently asked me to remember the title of a book I recommended. I couldn't remember it either so I looked it up on my Amazon order history. I noticed that I've read some really great books on software/product development and related stuff recently and though it might be fun to list them here.

The Principles of Product Development Flow

The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development by Donald G. Reinertsen

Don't let the trendy "lean" word in the title fool you. This is the best book I've ever read on how to build a continuous flow process (limited WIP, small batches, decentralized control, etc.)... and this was my major in college! Reinersten does a great job of explaining the economics of each technique and how they help with issues like throughput variability and team dynamics. Continuous flow isn't right for every situation, but it's good to know the concepts in case it makes sense for you.


User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product

User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product by Jeff Patton

This is probably the best book I've read in the "agile" category ever. In essence, User Story Mapping is a technique to transform a flat, endless backlog of features into a coherent product development strategy, all based on rapid feedback and the realities of design work. Patton goes way beyond this however to re-emphasize the intent of user stories, contrast incrementalism and iteration, and convey the value of discovery as a distinct activity. This book is a must-read for any product design / development pro.


Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age

Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age by Marty Neumeier

There's lots of recent media attention on the impact that software, offshoring, and robotics will have on the labor market. One paper from Oxford predicts 47% of US jobs will be lost to these forces over the next 20 years. If you're interested in this, the Planet Money podcast did a great series on this topic recently. Software developers are not immune to these risks, despite their digital abilities. Metaskills discusses five key skills necessary to robot-proof your career.


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Check out this if you're in the mood for a funny mix of business and life advice. Scott Adams created the Dilbert cartoon but he's also an accomplished entrepreneur. It's a fun, easy read and has some good tips such as focusing on "systems" instead of goals.


The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers

The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers by Robert C. Martin

Say what you want about "Uncle Bob" but his Clean Code book is still considered a must-read for most developers. This book is equally important as it tackles a major problem in our industry head-on: the lack of professionalism.


Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming by Peter Seibel

This is a collection of interviews with (famous?) computer scientists like Ken Thompson (UNIX). One of my favorites is Brendan Eich's tale of the creation of JavaScript and life at Netscape at that time. Lots of good advice, opinions and insights about software.


Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston

Tensions can run high on software projects with big risks and tight time lines. This book explains how to engage people in emotionally-charged situations. Like most self-help-ish books it can be a little repetitive and much of the value exists in the title, but if you remember and master some of its basic techniques you will be ready for anything.


Learn You a Haskell For Great Good

Learn You a Haskell For Great Good by Miran Lipovača

Check out this intro to Haskell if you're at all interested in functional programming. The book has its flaws but it's a very focused and enjoyable way to learn FP concepts.


!Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Probably the most popular pop-psychology book in recent years, it focuses on why people make bad choices. It's natural to conserve mental energy and "think fast" (associations) should be "thinking slow" (empiricism). It's handy to understand these things when dealing with conflict and helping people make better decisions.

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