I never have considered myself a big reader. Shocker, I know, but that’s why I am an engineer. I don’t mind reading the occasional spec sheet for a cool new part I am tinkering with (although that is more of an analysis than actual reading), but other than that I find it very hard to engage in casual literature.
And I hate that about myself.
Slowly I have been trying to engage in other media to get my literary fill, including listening to audio books or reading synopses. But I know that is not enough. Especially as I go through my journey of becoming a better engineer, I find that the people I admire most are always trying to further their knowledge through well respected literature in their field.
So to combat the issue of not reading enough, I have decided to…read more.
Specifically I want to read more books that are interesting to me and relate to my field of study. My journey of reading more is already a year in the making and I have made some good progress, but I want to make more.
The purpose of this page is to promote books that I find tackle some serious philisophical questions which give perspective to the open source, computer engineering field that I have always been so fascinated with.
The Mythical Man Month
This book was an assigned reading for my Software Engineering class that I took the senior year of my undergrad at BYU. The professor of the course was an adjunct, Bruce Webster, who has spent much of his time as a consultant to big software organizations. This was the first book that I read that made me realize that there is a lot of fundamental reading on the art and science of systems’ design and development that I have been missing out on.
It analyzes the classic faux pas committed by the older generation computer/software businesses. It also includes a wonderful list of heuristics that the author has gathered throughout the decades that can help teams of software engineers organize themselves effectively and avoid pitfalls such as reinventing the wheel and supporting a slowly dying project.
Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software
After I expressed a lot of interest in computing books like the Mythical Man Month, my advisor approached me with a copy of Working in Public because he had heard good things about it. Like the open source poser that I am, I eagerly accepted the invitation to read the book and even ended up buying my own copy (a really big step for a non-reader like myself).
This book is excellently written and it is apparent that the author has done her due diligence in not only researching concept of open source, but reaching out to reputable members in various communities to understand the spirit of it as well.
Apart from defining what open source is and how it works, the author outlines the current predicament that the general community is in and how it is in danger of falling prey to bigger corporation that might not have the most noble intentions. I have never felt so motivated to contribute to my favorite projects after reading this book. If you are at all considering a job in software engineering and want to know how to make a difference, I definitely recommend this book as well.
Hackers: Heros of the Computer Revolution
I came upon this book while reading Working in Public where I believe I saw a quote or even a recommendation to check this work out. I was originally skeptical after reading some recommendations and had it sitting in my Amazon shopping cart forever. But for one reason or another (possibly out of boredom) I decided to give it a chance.
I am about halfway through the book right now, although if it weren’t so entertaining I think I would be done with it sooner. I shared a funny anecdote from the book with my wife. I didn’t expect her to be so entertained by it but now (much like a bingable Netflix show) she has convinced me that we should finish it together.
The book talks about the history of the unsung heros of the early days of computing. The real nerds at MIT who were the first to become fascinated with not just the power of a computer, but environment and home it could be for many-like minded engineers. Their unorthodox programs and modifications made to the computers of their day birthed the hacking movement that still fascinates and inspires nerds like me today.