How to Read a Computer Book

As someone who has spent a small fortune on books over the years, this paragraph from Seth Godin's recent post on How to read a business book has me wanting to expand on this topic:

Computer books, of course, are nothing but bullet points. Programmers get amazing value because for $30 they are presented with everything they need to program a certain tool. Yet most programmers are not world class, precisely because the bullet points aren’t enough to get them to see things the way the author does, and not enough to get them motivated enough to actually program great code.

Seth's Blog: How to read a business book

In Seth's post, he writes, "If you’re reading for the recipe, and just the recipe, you can get through a business book in just a few minutes." The same can be said for most of the "computer books" on the market. I can only think of a few books related to software development that I've read cover-to-cover. The rest I treated as software development recipe books. I suspect that I'm not alone in doing that. However, I think one premise of Seth's bit about "computer books" is not always valid, which is that these books are written by world-class programmers. Some authors are just good at aggregating a bunch of useful content in one place - creating recipe books. There are some great authors who are world-class programmers. They add a lot of value above and beyond what you could discover for yourself in the product documentation. They write the books I'll buy based solely on the strength of the author's brand. Their books are worth of cover-to-cover reading; however, they are the exception.

Who are your favorite authors?


Comments (3)

  1. dotmad says:

    So why bother reading a computer book at all? with online resources (or ebooks) you get the benefits of using search to get directly where you need to be.

  2. RobCaron says:

    That’s a good point.

  3. Paul Hacker on TFS Times June 2008. Rob Caron on How To Read a Computer Book and Visual Studio 2008…

Skip to main content