Thursday, June 5, 2008

Technical Reading & Heavy Weight Books

This is the blog entry I have posted at TWINCLING.

I love reading technology books. But whenever I see a bulky technical book I stay far away. By bulky I mean the books that you cannot read by lying on your couch. Many people tend to believe the bigger the book the more useful it would be. It is incorrect. In my experience, the technical books have a paradoxical aspect.

"The thinner the waist line of the book, the more you learn from it"

It is natural to think the more pages a book contains the more information it has. But the question here is 'how much you can learn from it?' How many of us have Technology XXXX Bible and those biggies-with-reddish-jackets in their personal library? I could never imagine reading any of them completely.

Think about it. I had to pay more money to buy these heavy weights since publishers seem to think the price of the book in terms of number of pages. I cannot read them at my convenience (Possibility to read the book while lying on the couch is a major criterion for me!). I have to spend more time to read them. And God knows how much I read is really useful to me, not to mention the space they invade in your book shelf!

Okay. Biggies make good reference books then? Nope. I would still stick with the humble ones. Thinner reference books are much more handy than the giant alternatives. If small reference books are not sufficient, web would be the best place to head to, not those inconvenient 'complete references'.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. Occasionally I come across wonderful books no matter how big they are. 'Head First' books are the ones I am really addicted to. They are slightly big but they are the most entertaining and very practical technical books I have ever read.

I will wrap it up with a short list of my all time favourites:

  1. Effective C++ by Scott Meyers (288 pages) – This is the book that got me hooked to technical reading. The chapters are short and arranged like simple recipes. Scott Meyers is a master technical writer. The technical world need more such writers. (Is he writing anymore?)
  2. Design Patterns by GoF (416 pages) – GoF has changed the way I thought about software with this book. Good literature on software design is hard to find. I believe this one belongs to every developer’s book shelf.
  3. Head First Design Patterns by Freeman (676 pages) – Another design pattern book. It is graphical. Funny. But seriously very technical. It is not a kind of book you will just read. You will work with it. You will laugh with it. When it is all over, you will realize you have really learned something.

Coincidentally, all these books won the prestigious Jolt award. You can expect quality technical writing from Jolt award winning.

Feel free to share your ideas on technical books, and of course I am interested to know about your favourite books.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good book suggestions!

Napoleon said...

In a way I would agree to what you are saying, but how do you cover all the aspects or at least most of the aspects of a technical subject. Hence You need a big one.

Moreover technical books are not meant for couch reading :)

prapia said...

Nice post.
Could you tell me the source from where I could get the pdf version of C++ book by Scott Meyers, since I cannot afford buying that book.

Dielson Sales said...

Good advice. I will took it with me...

Anonymous said...

Completely agree. esp. with your first book suggestion ... I still have it on my bookshelf and it's still the best techie book I've found in 20+ years.