Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Successful Programmer: Reading

I’ve been thinking a long while about some of the things that have made me a successful programmer. One in particular is reading. I have read and continue to read many books. The books I read vary in topic and not all are technical. I will just to focus on technical books for now.

Even though I work professionally as an iOS developer. I keep my eyes open for useful or emerging technologies. There is something to learn from every field, technology, or language. When I find a useful technique, I adopt it into my current practices. Recently I’ve been incorporating more functional programming techniques. The idea of limiting mutable state greatly simplifies debugging later.

One of my favorite publishers is The Pragmatic Bookshelf. They publish books for programmers authored by programmers. They have books on almost any topic and at varying levels of expertise. Additionally their publications are easily affordable. They offer physical books, ebooks, and screencasts. Updated digital publications can be automatically synced with Dropbox. When I want to pick up a new technology and be assured I’m learning best practice, this is my first source. At the time of this writing, I own 31 of their books.

I also read many older books. There is much to learn from the past. One book I often reference is Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. Knowing good code design is fundamental to writing maintainable code. I love Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things to better understand building usable apps. Fred Brook’s The Mythical Man Month is great for avoiding common pitfalls in managing technical projects. There are countless other classics I could mention, but these books are among my favorites.

I’ve often heard as a rule of thumb that every programmer should learn a new language every year. This is certainly not enough time to master the language. It is, however, sufficiently long to learn the unique features of the language. I personally try to read several books per year, both related and unrelated to my current work. Lately I have been studying distributed computing and Erlang/Elixir. I love parallel processing, and big data is one of the next big problems that needs to be solved. Though these studies are not directly related to iOS development, it helps me in building scalable web backends to service iOS apps.

Everyone has different learning patterns. If reading books doesn’t suit you, find other ways to learn new technologies and techniques.

As a disclaimer, I am not receiving any compensation from any publishers or authors. I have found the mentioned books useful and believe that they will benefit others.