BRUNCH #30

Good morning, and happy Sunday!

I didn't have time to consume a lot of programming-related media this past week, so I'm doing something a little different today. Whenever I go running or drive somewhere, I listen to non-fiction audiobooks. (I generally do my fiction reading on evenings and weekends.) Today I thought I'd list five books I've listened to that strike me as useful brain food for programmers. None of these are specifically code-related, but all of them have jogged my thinking in some way or another.

Note: I'm using my Amazon affiliate link in these URLs, so you can think of any purchases you make as a way of supporting future issues of BRUNCH 🙂

  • So Good they Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport. A body-blow to the “passion myth” that says that to be like Steve Jobs you must first identify your passion in life, and only then pursue compensation for that passion. Probably the first book I'd recommend to anyone getting started in a tech career… or any career, for that matter.
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. When programs use flawed algorithms to arrive at flawed results, we can step outside them using a debugger and fix the code so it never happens again. But we are more or less stuck with the wetware in our own heads, and our best hope to avoid mistakes based on bugs in that wetware is to understand them and compensate for them on the fly. Of the books I've read on modern neuroscience and cognitive psychology, I'd recommend this one before any of the others, as a big first step towards becoming more aware of how brain quirks affect your perception and decisions every day.
  • The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Writing software is creative work. There are lots of books filled with lists of recommendations for doing your creative work more effectively. What makes The War of Art different is that a) it's short; and b) it's not a list of prescriptions you'll forget. It's an exhortation; a well-meaning inspirational ass-kicking from that friend who knows when you're making excuses to avoid doing your life's work. Some people love this book, and some hate it. Personally, I found it profoundly powerful and I know I'll be re-reading it regularly.
  • The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, followed by The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore. If you're anything at all like me you struggle with accomplishing the work you need and want to do in very limited time. And if you're like me, one of the ways in which you struggle takes the form of procrastination. The first of these books will give you a solid understanding of the current research around when and why we fail to do what know we need to do, along with a number of empirically effective “bug fixes”. The second provides a concrete program for tackling procrastination and having more guilt-free fun in life.

(Today's title photo is by Troy Denkinger. The next title photo could be yours!)

Meanwhile, here's what I've been up to…

  • Ever run across, and shake your head at, Ruby's Perl-style special variables such as $!, $?, $_, and $/? This past week on RubyTapas I kicked off a series exploring what these variables are, why they exist, and when and how to use them effectively.

That's it for today's BRUNCH. See you next week!

Avdi