First 5 Non-Coding Books A Developer Must Read

As a software engineer, you have a lot to learn! Programming languages, tools, getting your webcam to work consistently between slack, zoom, and Teams. But there's more to learn than just coding. Here are my top 5 non-coding first books to read.

First 5 non-coding books a developer must read
First 5 non-coding books a developer must read

As a software engineer, you have a lot to learn! Programming languages, tools, libraries, packages, editor add-ins, and how to get your webcam to work consistently when switching between slack, zoom, and Teams. But there are also some important things to learn early in your career that are not coding or tool related. Here's my list of the first 5 books I think you should read that are not code related.

There's More Than Just Code?

Over the last few decades, I've managed a lot of software engineers. I can tell you that the one area inexperienced developers consistently fall short on is the stuff that has to happen beyond the heads-down coding. Don't get me wrong, software developers have to be good at writing code. That's a given. But software engineers also have to be good at all the other things it takes to make sure you are sitting there writing the correct code in the correct way within a correct delivery framework.

These books have proven themselves time and again as invaluable in understanding all these "other things." Even if you read some of them, or even just skim them, and think they don't apply to you now, the knowledge you'll gain will help you understand how software shops have worked, work now, and may work in future software engineer jobs you get.

So check them out.

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#1 The Mythical Man-Month

by Fred Brooks

The Mythical Man-Month is the classic book you've likely already heard of that answers the question "How does a large project get to be one year late? One day at a time." It's the first written of the books on this list and a great place to understand you can't just add people to a project and make the project get done quicker. I recommend this book to understand where we've been in our old thinking and to prevent that same mindset in today's agile world.

#2 The Phoenix Project

by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

The Phoenix Project is an IT storybook. It walks you through a fictional company story in order to demonstrate its journey towards an agile software development approach. This is an excellent book that helps you see pain points in your own organization and how agile practices could alleviate those pain points. I recommend it even for software engineers because it will help you see these challenges from IT manager perspectives as well as your own.

#3 The Unicorn Project

by Gene Kim

Whereas The Phoenix Project focuses on the fictional Parts Unlimited company challenges from the IT manager's perspective, The Unicorn Project jumps into the same timeline but follows the events from the development, testing, and operations perspective. So, The Unicorn Project focuses specifically on the software engineer's viewpoint. This is an awesome follow-up to the prior book, and it's great to walk through the same company situations from both perspectives. I highly recommend this book as it will give you concrete challenges to watch for in your organization and examples of how to handle those challenges.

#4 Grit

by Angela Duckworth

Grit is all about persevering during tough times. And this applies equally to personal/life events as well as specific work projects or events. It's a great motivator that helps you think about and focus on the things you really love, and how to channel that focus and get those things done. I recommend this as a great motivating book when you've been on a long project or when you're doing some serious goal-setting or career planning.

#5 The Pragmatic Programmer

by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Despite this book being in publication for over 20 years, its content about avoiding common issues with software project management and team dynamics continues to be just as relevant today. Technology may have changed, and where we sit as we do our work, but we still must tackle the same challenges. Effective communication, avoiding duplicate work, writing flexible code no matter the specific programming language, and focusing on team and project success- these are all concepts that the book still covers effectively. I highly recommend it because it will help you think about all those things in addition to just heads-down programming that make your projects and you ultimately successful.

Wrap-Up: Non-Coding Books You Must Read

You really can't go wrong with any of these books. They will motivate you. They will show you challenges to watch for in your current organization. They will give context beyond the programming language you are currently learning and help make you a well-rounded software engineer who understands the bigger picture. And these are all great things for boosting your career.

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