Reading Books is Fun

I picked up a Kindle Paperwhite a few weeks ago to replace the one I “borrowed” from my wife. It has turned out to be a fantastic piece of hardware, and I agree with pretty much everything John Gruber has said about it. I’ve never considered myself much of a reader, but I’ve made it through some great (and not so great) books over the last couple months, and wanted to share a my thoughts on them.

I’m Currently Reading:

Confident Ruby

If this book was actually finished, I would be done with it. It is currently in alpha and only about 80 pages, but the content so far is outstanding. What I enjoy about Avdi Grimm’s writing is that he can take subjects like exception handling and objects and describe them in a way you wouldn’t think possible. After taking some time off from writing Confident Ruby to focus on his RubyTapas screencast series, Avdi finally sent out another update this morning. It’s a great book for anyone who has been working with Ruby for a while and feels like they’ve mastered the basics.

The Passionate Programmer

We’ve all been shit on by managers and coworkers at one point or another. Chad Fowler has been through it all too, but instead of just complaining, he wrote a book about what he learned. According to my Kindle, I’m only about 55% done, but I’m really enjoying it so far. The short, targeted chapters make it easy to pick up and read when you only have a couple minutes to spare. I would recommend this book for anyone who thinks they know everything and that managers are always wrong.

Recent readings:

JavaScript: The Good Parts

If you’ve been a developer for a while but never really taken the time to properly learn JavaScript, start with this book. It will give you a new appreciation for the language and leave you longing for more. The funny thing about this book is that it’s only 176 pages (compared to the Definitive Guide’s 1,100), and a large portion is spent discussing the parts of JavaScript you should avoid or be cautious of. Since reading it, I’ve been watching some of Pluralsight’s JavaScript courses and I feel like it gave me a solid foundation for learning more.

Practical Object Oriented Design in Ruby

Not only is this one of the best Ruby books I’ve ever read, it’s also one of the best programming books period. Sandi Metz is a master of analogies, and the way she explains the principals of object oriented design has me convinced I could learn anything from her. I committed to giving a presentation on Object Oriented Programming in Ruby back in September and had been working on it for a few solid weeks. This book came out about a week before my presentation, I read it in three days, and decided to completely scrap my presentation and start over. This book is perfect for Ruby developers who want to learn more about object oriented design, but do it in a language that is familiar to them.

Service Oriented Design with Ruby and Rails

I picked this one up after receiving a fantastic reply to a question I posted on Stack Overflow regarding Rails SOA resources. While slightly outdated by the time I read it, it has actually aged fairly well compared to other technology-specific software books. The book provides a thorough overview for people who’ve never built or consumed web services in Ruby, and a great refresher for experienced developers who have. For anyone who has read it, I’d recommend listening to a recent Ruby Rogues podcast featuring author Paul Dix. They discuss some of the changes in technology and practices since its release, and Paul reflects on how we would write it today if given the opportunity.

Shipping Greatness

This book was a big departure from other tech books I’ve read in that it was written specifically for managers and not software developers. I feel like I was getting management “insider information” while reading it, and definitely have a new appreciation for the work done by non-coders. Written from the perspective of a former product leader at Google and Amazon, it was perhaps too “enterprisey” for some folks, but as someone who has worked in startups my whole career, it was fascinating to read how large companies build and ship products. Other than a couple sections I skipped such as “Understand How to Communicate with Designers”, this was a very enjoyable read.

Confessions of a Public Speaker

Another departure from the coding genre, Confessions offers a glimpse into the life of a professional public speaker. I was certainly not expecting to become a better public speaker from simply reading this book, but was interested in hearing about someone else’s experiences on the subject. I’d recommend it for anyone who has done any amount of public speaking regardless of whether you want to do more or absolutely hated the experience. Communication, whether it’s public speaking or otherwise, is an important skill that very few software developers take time to learn.

Domain Specific Languages

I did not enjoy this book at all, infact, I didn’t even finish reading it. It is pretty much the exact opposite of Practical Object Oriented Design in terms of readability. It is too lengthy and far too comprehensive for my taste. Unless you’re planning on creating the next Cucumber or you're writing your thesis on DSLs, save yourself some time and read something else. The only reason I picked it up was because I was interested in building internal DSLs in Ruby and InformIT had it on sale for for $9.99. I might revisit it someday, but I have a fairly long list of books I want to get through, so that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

On my reading list (in no particular order):

Unfortunately I buy books faster than I read them so here’s a list of those on my immediate reading list (ie they’re already on my Kindle):

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