The Hacker Noon Developer's Essential Reading [List]
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What are the books that shaped us as programmers?
This is the question I posed on our Slack’s #random channel, and it quickly turned into encouragement to write an actual list. This isn’t necessarily limited to the dry technical books you’re used to -- it can include related historical nonfiction, sci-fi that inspired us, or seemingly unrelated non-fiction like Thinking in Bets or Tao te Ching. It’s whatever inspired us to hack and create more. With that, I’d like to present our full-time dev team’s lists! 🎉
In this list, I tried to include a good mix of hard tech + soft tech + historical non-fiction + apparently irrelevant non-fiction + similarly irrelevant fiction. It did shape me as a programmer, though.
All of this inspired me to hack. I specifically owe a great debt to Steven Levy and his book Hackers -- that book provided so many heroes. Likewise, books like Neuromancer, with protagonists like Case, and especially Molly, gave a cool context to something that was externally considered unbearably dry and boring.
In short, the point of this list is to highlight the importance of books that weren’t so technically detailed in the development of a hacker’s brain. But I ramble -- read on, hackers, and discover!
- Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
- Masters of Doom by David Kushner
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- You Don’t Know JS series by Kyle Simpson
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
- The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie
- The Rust Programming Language by Steve Klabnik and Carol Nichols
- The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman
- Practical Common Lisp, by Peter Seibel
- The Little Schemer by Daniel P. Friedman and Matthias Felleisen
- “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” by Claude Shannon
- Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Hal Abelson, Jerry Sussman, and Julie Sussman
- Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu
- Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
- “The Story of Mel”, by Ed Nather
I don't read nearly as much as Austin so my list is a bit more modest. I tend to focus more on design, psychology, and data. As a developer, I really want to understand why users do what they do. I've always found the how part of the equation to be a little frustrating but very solvable with a few Google searches. The why part of the equation requires deeper reading and experience.
- Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts by Annie Duke
- The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't by Nate Silver
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications by Toby Segaran
- Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
- Freakonomics Rev Ed: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
- Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh
- Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead by Cecile Richards
- Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte
- The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Don Norman
- Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
- Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
- What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
The books that shaped me as a developer rarely have anything to do with programming (there are only five listed below), as most of what I learn comes from online content and tutorials.
My list mostly contains “work-life methodology” books that have helped me form ideas on how to manage my time and focus, and are cross-industry. My fiction reading is a leisurely activity, so I wouldn’t say they’ve shaped me as a programmer in any way.
For that reason, what follows is only non-fiction and consists largely of analytical and business approaches as well as UX.
- Modern Web Development on the JAMstack by Mathias Biilmann, Phil Hawksworth
- You Don’t Know JS series by Kyle Simpson
- Refactoring UI by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger
- Designing Web Applications by Nathan Barry
- The Social Animal by David Brooks
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- MAKE by Pieter Levels
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei
- Legacide by Richard Mulholland
- Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson
- Rework by Jason Fried
- Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
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