How To Read 118 Books In One Year

This year I continued my odd quest to read a lot of books and ended up reading more than last year. This feels very odd since I’m a big fan of making things rather than just constantly drowning in consumption.

In fact I’d like to send a special message to the hundreds of people that have visited my website because they typed “Bad Effects of Reading” or “Why Reading is Bad For You” into Google: It isn’t always bad for you, but just reading crap all day long is.

How I Read Two Books a Week

My system for reading this much is quite simple:

  1. When I am in a situation in which it is socially acceptable (or encouraged) to be staring at your phone I read on the Kindle app instead of doing things on social media. These social situations are more frequent than you think and are probably more than 15 minutes a day.
  2. When I am working I take at least one break a day and read for 10+ minutes.
  3. Some nights, not always, I read to help me relax and fall asleep. Some days I drive in my car and listen to books on Audible, about 8-10 of the books were consumed this way.
  4. I read things that I like. If I get 25% into a book and I hate it, I close it, loudly shout a curse word, and then donate it to the library or throw it away. After I shout the curse word I don’t regret having wasted some time on the book, and I try to not ever regret buying a book that I never read.
  5. I surround myself online with other people that read a lot, thus making this amount of reading seem normal.

My Favorite Book This Year

I read a lot of very useful books this year – ones that were fun to read but also actionable – and one that continues to standout is The Obstacle is the Way (by Ryan Holiday). Great writing, good structure, interesting historical anecdotes, and direct relevancy that you don’t see in many books of this form. I am currently reading through the rest of Ryan’s books and have also enjoyed Ego is the Enemy.

What Else I Read This Year

What follows is a partial list of the books I read this year (some items have been removed to protect privacy).  If I recommend that you, dear reader, should also read the book I have included it as a link.

Fun To Read:
– Modern Romance
– Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread
– Silver Screen Fiend
– Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself
– Consider the Lobster
– Zombie Spaceship Wasteland
– Le Metier
– Mere Anarchy
– Funny Girl
– True Grit
– Microserfs
Temporary Stories
The Whites
– The Abortion
– So The Wind Won’t Blow it All Away
Big Fish

Not Fun To Read, But Needed:
– Between The World and Me
– Erasing Hell

Parenting:
– Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
– Rules for a Knight
– Keep Your Love On

Things That Defy Category and This is a Compliment:
We Learn Nothing

Books That Defy Category Because I am Lazy:
Stories of Your Life and Others
– Turing and the Computer
– Dirty Library
– Calvin and Hobbes
– Ready Player One
– Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine

Advice That I Have Ignored:
– Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
– The Short Guide to a Long Life

Memoirs and Biographies:
Bossypants
Yes, Please
– Little Black Sheep: A Memoir
The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber: maybe 2016 wasn’t the right year to read about how quickly the Nazis took over, but a wonderful read overall about an amazing man.
– My Mother was Nuts

Work / Self-improvement:
Ego is the Enemy
The Obstacle is the Way
The Passionate Programmer
Building Great Software Engineering Teams
The Magic of Thinking Big
The Lean Startup
– The Greatness Guide
– The Greatness Guide: Book 2
– Awaken the Giant Within
– Flourish
– The Talent Code
Zero to One
– Catching the Big Fish
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
– Hooked
– Enough
– The Art of War
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
– Don’t Make Me Think
– The Difference Maker
High Output Management
– The 2-minute Leader
– Paper Towns
– Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week
– Manage Oneself

Distributed / Remote Working
– The Field Guide to Telecommuting
– Embrace Remote Working

Comedy:
– Egghead
– This is a Book
– Point Your Face at This
– My Life and Hard Times
– The 50 Funniest American Writers
– Fierce Pajamas
– Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans
– Sick in the Head

There is no such thing as Children’s Books:
The BFG
– Hatchet
– The Poet’s Dog
– The Phantom Tollbooth

Gerald Weinberg:
– The Secrets of Consulting
– More Secrets of Consulting
Are Your Lights On?
– Becoming a Technical Leader

Writing:
– The Elements of Style
– Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t
– The Writing Life

Written by Someone I Know, or About Someone I Know, or Just Self-Published:
– A Wicked Creature
– Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian
– Fearless Salary Negotiation
– Untethered
– The Zen Founder Guide to Founder Retreats
– What I’ve Learn from Failure
– Postmortem of a Failed Startup
– The Lost 10 Point Night

OK I guess but not something to base a religion on:
– The Four Agreements
– The Alchemist

Neil Simon Plays
– Biloxi Blues
– Brighton Beach Memoirs

Dave Eggers:
– The Wild Things
– How We are Hungry
– You Shall Know Our Velocity!

Written by Men with Mustaches Who I Wish I Could Meet:
– How to Tell a Story and Other Essays
– Armageddon in Retrospect

A Sudden Interest in Steve Martin:
– Shopgirl
– The Pleasure of My Company
– The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People
– Pure Drivel
– Born Standing Up
– Cruel Shoes

A Constant Interest in Elmore Leonard:
– Riding the Rap
– Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Books That Took More Than Six Months to Finish:
– Fifty Great Short Stories
– 12 Essential Skills for Software Architects

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Thoughts on the Kindle Ecosystem

I read books using the Kindle ecosystem; having such quick access to books has changed my reading life and increased the quantity and quality of books I read each year. I love how I can start reading something at night on my (physical) Kindle and then use the Kindle app on my phone the next day waiting for a doctor’s appointment, and it saves me from having to carry around the ten books that I am (sort of) reading at any one time.

I occasionally use the iPad Kindle app as well, and the Mac app or online experience less often. While in the car I listen to Audible books about half of the time I’m in the car and gross hip-hop music the other half.

Being a software developer by trade, there are a few things that I notice from using all these apps to read about 100 books a year:

Please Learn About Me

There are exactly zero acceptable times in which any Kindle app should ever be “Learning my reading speed” given that it should have rough data on about 500 books of all forms and one person (me) reading them. I accept that I read some books faster than others, or that some types of books always slow down fast readers. I also understand that people might read faster on an iPad than a phone or computer, or at different speeds at different screen sizes or font configurations. I reject that you don’t have all the data behind this and that you couldn’t put something smarter in there than “Learning…”.

And Then Tell Me You Know Me

When you do know my reading speed, you should have a more accurate value for it. For some books (they seem to be ones with pictures in them or tables) the Kindle is off so much it is useless. I have read entire books in which the entire time the Kindle app says “1 minute left in chapter”. The entire book.  Other times the estimate is simply too high or low – I read a bit faster than average but am in the middle of the bell curve here.

Make all Products Seamless

Audible, GoodReads, and Kindle seem to be three completely separate products – with GoodReads integration only on the Kindle proper (I have the Paperwhite version). Audible is an Amazon company and GoodReads *should* be. Goodreads recommendations are better than Amazon’s. Full stop. Why? Because GoodReads reviews are easier to do, and who buys something versus who reads something (and then enjoys it) are completely different sets. I would love to change the “People also bought” to “People also bought, but we don’t know how it worked out” under a book on Amazon.

Relevant Ads for Books

The physical Kindle hardware is of high quality for readers: battery life, screen, durability, etc. The lock screen has an advertisement on it that changes every time you lock it. This means that every time I look at my Kindle to start reading you have my attention for a second. I have never, NEVER, seen a book that looks interesting to me there. Instead, somehow, ever since I have self-published a book I am served ads by self-published authors, most of which seem to not align with my interests. The Audible, Goodreads, and Amazon “Recommended for You” books seem to be much higher quality lists – why are these not used?

Upsell me on Audible More – I would buy more

The Audible and the Kindle experience are separate apps; Amazon seems to be spending a lot of money on Audible TV and VOD ads (I see them often), how about you encourage people like me to stop spending $10 on a Kindle book and spend $25 on an audible version instead?  I read about ten personal business productivity books a year, but hate reading them and would prefer to listen to the deep lovely baritone of someone reading them to me.  You should know this about me, and use it to take my money every year.

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Halfway to Self-Help

I used to think that self-help books were complete garbage.

Every self-help book featured a high-energy person that seemed like they would be a bit much to handle in a stuck elevator.  They came off as un-intellectual; most of the books were centered around one common-sense idea: be positive, think long-term, be your best self, get up early, etc. In my mind being really into one of those self-help gurus wasn’t a sign that you were on-the-ball or successful but the opposite.

Recently I have been trying to speed up my rate of learning, so I have become open to new ideas and trying new approaches. Reading self-help books was one of the ways I intended to try something new and learn from others.

This year I asked for book recommendations from coworkers, friends, and the general Internet. I work with some very successful people (many of whom recommended self-help books), so I took their recommendations straight-up and got to learning.

What I Read

What I Learned

Reading this many books in a row of this nature allows you to see patterns more clearly.  Here are some themes across the books:

  1. You can change yourself – even things like your introvert/extrovert range and parts of your personality that you have been taught are fixed.
  2. Being positive does work; being relentless and not afraid of failure is a thing that works.  Like all the cliches say – how you handle failure determines a great deal.
  3. We all have negative scripts (“I’m not smart / young enough to do X”, “I will never earn more than X in a year”) and thinking that limit us.
  4. Having clear goals works better than crazy big goals.
  5. You can harness the power of negative thinking rather than let it hold you down.

Things I Didn’t Realize

Some of what I thought is true, but only for a few people

Yes, some of the self-help gurus are simply very charming people who are engaging in person. These people have great audiobooks, but their concepts fall flat in the sizzle-free ebook world where you survive only on your ideas.

Many of these books are backed up by science (or social science) or historical patterns

What has worked in the past works now in many cases, but humans love to re-invent things. Many of these self-help books are actually from people who have battle-tested these ideas in studies, counseling practices, business environments, sports, etc. They have won using the techniques.

Next Steps

I am only halfway through the list of recommended books (and at 51 books only halfway through my goal of reading 100 books this year).  From ones I list above the below changed my thinking and will stick with me the most:

My top five recommendations (in order):

  1. The Magic of Thinking Big
  2. The Obstacle is the Way
  3. Mindset
  4. The Talent Code

Happy Reading!

This Year I Read 88 Books And Wrote 1

As 2015 started I made a goal to read 50 books by the end of the year.

This, like all great goals, was very stupid and certainly foolish. I have a very demanding job, four young children, and a very structured imaginary marathon-training program.

I set this goal for two reasons:

  • My daughter was in the 2nd grade and starting to read more and I wanted to throw some fuel on that fire.
  • I found that reading relaxed me more than any other activity – there aren’t any notifications when you read and I found it quieted my mind.

I started out with the following goals:

  • I would read 50 books, with the definition of “book” sort of up to me.
  • I would prefer books that I already owned.
  • If somebody gave me a book, I had to read that book this year.
  • If I sneered about a book or rolled by eyes then I *had* to read it next.
  • I would try to not read “fancy” books; no judgment.
  • I could re-read a book only if I hadn’t read the book in the last 5 years.

Results

I ended up reading a lot of books – more than expected. I didn’t stop working or paying attention to my kids, but instead replaced time spent doing the following with reading:

  • Taking breaks at work
  • Reading stuff on the internet of little value (i.e. most things on the internet)
  • Watching TV
  • Doing nothing while waiting on something (like in a waiting room)

I ended up exploring my local library and a local used bookstore due to the sheer volume of books I ended up purchasing.

More Interesting Results

The most interesting thing about my reading this year was that I ended up writing a book as well. By not judging the types of books I was reading I found deep veins of silly books that I liked so much I decided to take a run at writing one in the same style. The nice thing about reading is that you can surround yourself with people that you like; this isn’t always possible in the real world.

Books

Here is a list of all the books I read with a one sentence snarky review of each.

My top 5 recommended:

  • Hyperbole and a Half – one of the best books I read this year.
  • The First Bad Man – what do you say to a book like this?  What the hell?  I don’t want this weird story to end?  I can’t describe this book but I have now read everything Miranda July has ever written and will buy everything she writes in the future forever.
  • Creativity, Inc. – great read, good story, remarkable transparency and teaching
  • The Stench of Honolulu – funniest book I have read this year.
  • What in God’s Name – Simon Rich is a delight, and I enjoyed this one greatly especially the parts with God working to open a restaurant.

Short Story Collections & Classics

Elmore Leonard & Westerns

  • The Bounty Hunters & Glitz & Freaky Deaky – if you have never read any Elmore Leonard you should start now.  Any “hip dialogue” in a modern movie has been influenced by his realistic gritty style.
  • Galloway – picked up at a used books store and is #12 in a series; good mindless entertainment.  The good guys win (SPOILER ALERT)
  • The Last Kind Words Saloon – real story of Wyatt Earp which is different than all the crappy movies you have seen about it.
  • No Country for Old Men – held up against the movie which is impressive.

Ernest Hemingway

Books about Creating Things

Parenting

I don’t know what this is

Religion

  • The Screwtape Letters – Masterpiece.  Should be re-read by me every few years.
  • Stuff Christians Like – hard to finish.  Talk about niche.
  • Scary Close – Donald Miller is one of those guys that is so thoughtful you hope that he has the same struggles as you do so that can can impart wisdom.

Comedy

Business and Practical Advice

  • The Ultimate Guide to Remote Working – pretty good resource, very interesting that they include their annoyances and issues with traditional office space.  People rarely think about just how terrible the typical setup really is until they start working from home.
  • Smart Money, Smart Kids – If I do 50% of what is in this book with my 4 kids they will all be just fine financially.
  • A Brief History of Walt Disney – if you aren’t inspired by Disney what are you even doing.
  • What If? – Great interesting read.
  • The Myths of Innovation – Very interesting book with clear conclusions around creative output and structure.  Good think piece.
  • Mindfire – Good edit of Scott’s posts; one of my favorite authors.
  • Focus – I enjoy Leo’s blog Zen Habits and this was in the same vein.
  • Lean In – Great resource; should be read by all people in the workplace.  These books are normally so boring you just read them because you feel like you have to, but this one was full of interesting personal stories and a good forward-moving narrative with clear actions for us all to take.
  • AngularJS – just finishing this one up; technology I used at work.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – I hate business books but this was pretty solid.

Miranda July

  • It Chooses You – man this was so freaking good and real. Whenever somebody says that a writer has a ‘strong voice’ I think of July. I’m going to read everything she has ever written, she works in multiple formats so see her movies too, but probably not any sculptures etc. by her.
  • The First Bad Man – what do you say to a book like this?  What the hell?  I don’t want this weird story to end?  I can’t describe this book but I have now read everything Miranda July has ever written and will buy everything she writes in the future forever.

Books that were intended for children

  • Lauren Ipsum – cute, but probably funnier to adults who work in the field than actual children.  The end where they go back and explain everything is better, so if you read with that in mind it would be a better exercise.
  • Esio Trot – I read a few Dahl’s this year so one is representative of that; good cute little book.

 

Yeah, sure

I have written a book ( yeah sure ) which is available for sale now.

It contains pieces that have been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Feathertale Review, and Reader’s Digest along with 100+ pages of new material never seen outside of the walls of my office and the IHOP bathroom wall off Exit 7 by your uncle’s house (No: the other uncle).

Check it out on Amazon or Gumroad (if you want non-Kindle formats).

If you want a paper copy have a friend read it to you and write down everything they say.

Close to the Machine

The Computer Industry, and specifically Software Development, is not a nostalgic profession; we regularly rebuild entire cities ignoring the lessons of past builders because the types of bricks have changed.

As part of a personal challenge to read a book a week this year I stumbled upon Ellen Ullman and Close to the Machine and found myself nodding my head with every page. The book was published in 1997 which was an age ago in my industry and her insight on working from home as a consultant rings quite true to my experience.

First, life as a remote worker:

In the afternoons, I see us virtuals emerge blinking into the sunlight. In the dead hours after 3 PM, we haunt cafes and local restaurants. We run into each other at the FedEx drop-box or the copy shop. They, like me, have a freshly laundered look, just come out of pajamas or sweat pants, just showered and dressed.

I recognize my virtual colleagues by their overattention to little interactions with waiters and cashiers, a supersensitivity that has come from too much time spent alone. We’ve been in a machine-mediated world—computers and e-mail, phones and faxes—and suddenly we’re in a world where people lumber up and down the steps of buses, walk in and out of stores, have actual in-person conversations. All this has been going on while I was in another universe: that’s what comes to us with a force like the too-bright sun or a stiff wind off the bay. We do our business, drop off the overnight packet, clip together the xeroxes, and hurry home.

On the day to day life of working alone:

Living a virtual life is an art. Like all arts, virtuality is neither consistent nor reliable. It takes a certain firmness of will, and a measure of inspiration, to get up each and every day and make up your existence from scratch. As every artist knows, every writer and homebound mother, if you are not careful, your day—without boundaries as it is—can just leak away. Sundown can find all your efforts puddled around you, everything underway, nothing accomplished.

And finally on the role of the programmer class in overall society:

In this sense, we virtual workers are everyone’s future. We wander from job to job, and now it’s hard for anyone to stay put anymore. Our job commitments are contractual, contingent, impermanent, and this model of insecure life is spreading outward from us. I may be wrong, but I have this idea that we programmers the world’s canaries. We spend our time alone in front of monitors; no look up at any office building, look into living-room windows at night: so many people sitting alone in front of monitors. We lead machine-centered lives; now everyone’s life is full of automated tellers, portable phones, pagers, keyboards, mice. We live in a contest of the fittest, where the most knowledgeable and skillful win and the rest are discarded; and this is the working life that waits for everybody. Everyone agrees: be a knowledge worker or be left behind. Technical people, consultants, contract programmers: we are going first. We fly down and down, closer and closer to the virtualized life, and where we go the world follows.

If the above sounds interesting I’d recommend Close to the Machine, but I believe that her true masterpiece is The Bug which is a wonderfully insightful look at the horror of debugging, and the darkest sides of team dynamics.

Review of Ghost of my Father By Scott Berkun

I wasn’t sure I wanted to read The Ghost Of My Father after I bought it.

When I follow authors blindly I tend to read a series of very similar books so I’ve shied away from it recently. But I read Making Things Happen, The Myths of Innovation, and The Year Without Pants and loved the way his clear thinking came through on such diverse topics. I was also interested to see how he would handle something as messy as relationships and family dynamics.  I have a direct interest in writer’s that go deeply personal as well; it is courageous to me.

So I backed his Kickstarter at the minimum level but not without fear that I’d never actually read it.

My fears were:

  • Reading the book would be sad so I would never read it; much like you are never in the “mood” to watch Schindler’s List.
  • It would be like reading someone’s personal journal; memoirs sometimes feel like they are written for people close by and not for you.
  • That it would be irrelevant to me as I don’t have the same type of relationship with my father (no family is perfect of course).
  • That the book was about actual ghosts and the whole thing was a big pump fake; I hate horror stories.

I was pleasantly surprised that the ghosts were not real. There were certainly moments in the book that were quite sad; to watch a family tear apart from old settled tensions is painful even if you don’t know them. The timeline and writing was crisp and easy to follow as a reader (this is quite an accomplishment with this type of book in my view – the book jumped back and forth through time but built to a conclusion steadily).

Even though they might be obvious the book provided lessons for me as a father of four:

  • Fathers are important and the confidence (even interest) of a father in his children is crucial.
  • Keep communication open and honest; it will be painful but is the only way to move forward.
  • ‘Checking out’ or starting a feud is not really possible in a family; they will always be there and it causes pain on all sides as long as it lasts.
  • People’s weaknesses depend on others weaknesses.
  • Sarcasm’s effects on children is hit or miss; it tends to hurt more so deploy it carefully.
  • Stay away from Australia. (Not really)

I am quite glad that I read The Ghost Of My Father and feel like it will be a book that makes an impact; I will continue digesting it over time I am sure.

I’m writing a book about successfully working from home; click here if you want to know when it is complete.

Tribal SQL

I am honored to announce that a chapter I wrote has been published in a book. Nope – it’s not the additional Appendix that I sent the author of Everyone Poops, but is instead Tribal SQL. Edited and produced by the infamous Jen McCown and published by Red Gate the books is on sale now.

If you are attending PASS Summit you can pick up a free copy at the Red Gate booth October 16th 6 – 8PM, and you can meet some of the authors Friday October 18th at 10:45AM.

My chapter carries the title Guerrilla Project Management for DBAs and offers advice on how a DBA can use some simple techniques to better communicate what they do, how effective they are, and why they should be given huge raises.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

A DBA’s Place in the Organization

Organizational skills matter more to a DBA than many other technical jobs due to the diverse nature of their workload. In addition, this diversity exposes the DBA to a greater surface area of the organization than is typical for most technical roles. As part of our jobs, we talk to many people:

  • Vendor’s technical resources – mainly to ask why they need ‘sa’ access, but also to request updated pictures of them that are coincidentally the size of a dartboard
  • Internal development resources – mainly to ask politely why they decided that a homegrown triple-nested cursor implementation of GROUP BY was a good idea, but also to enquire, for no particular reason at all, about their food allergies.
  • Business stakeholders – mainly to discuss capacity-planning decisions, but also to find out how to prevent an in-ear Bluetooth headset from affecting one’s golf swing.
  • Internal semi-technical resources (project managers, product managers, business analysts) – mainly to help with decisions about performance, capacity, and future goals for each product that needs database resources, but also to spread misinformation (“What, you didn’t know that using the first column in Excel has been outlawed as part of the Patriot Act?”)
  • Internal IT resources – mainly to work with them in configuring and securing the hardware and software platforms on which the DBMS infrastructure depends, but also to trade Magic: The Gathering playing cards
  • Management resources – to complain about all the above people

Since we talk to so many people, we are at higher risk of finding ourselves in the cross hairs of the blame gun.

Reasons you should buy this book:

  1. All author royalties go the the worthy charity Computers 4 Africa.
  2. There are many other great chapters from my fellow authors including:
    • What changed? Auditing solutions in SQL Server
    • Agile Database Development
    • Verifying backups using statistical sampling
    • Taming Transactional Replication
    • SQL Injection: How it Works and How to Thwart it
    • Building Better Reports

Hit it up Tribal SQL on Amazon to purchase:


5 minute book review: The Art of SQL

I have a simple algorithm for picking books: I buy until my wife tells me I have to sleep outside I try to read books that take a practical and interesting approach.

For technical books about databases the quality is really uneven. You have your query tuning books which are good overviews of how DBMS X query engine works, some examples of the different selectors, and some practical advice followed by some vendor copy about how the next version of DBMS X will solve everything including your inability to feel as if you deserve true love. Other books are theoretical modeling exercises that walk you through how to build an order system so that it makes a college professor stroke his beard and half-smile.

The Art of SQL is a combination query tuning/performance book, modeling book, and practical advice book. Think of it as Design Patterns for SQL – it could have easily been called the title of one of its chapters: “The Nine Situations” as it goes over common situations you will face in getting a relational database to run quickly. The book is written in the “Art of War” style and uses (surprisingly effective) war metaphors throughout the chapters – it calls performance monitoring tools the “employment of spies” and begins each chapter with a war quote that also applies to database management (In a chapter on planning: “It is the first step that reveals genius in all wars”)

This book isn’t vendor specific but still has practical examples including some advice on how to handle SQL generated by code (with a realistic PHP/MySQL example – name another database book with non-ironic PHP in it). Reading through this book was sort of painful for me since it talked about things that you should avoid which I did not in any way avoid in the past and offered practical advice on dealing with things that I had run around like a man in a padded room before discovering.  Just look at these chapters:

  • Representing Trees in a SQL Database
  • Distributed Systems
  • To Be or Not to Be, or to Be Null
  • The Difficulties of Historical Data
  • Considering Indexes as Data Repositories
  • Holy Simplicity

I’d recommend The Art of SQL as a good “second book” for developers looking to understand databases, why DBAs don’t like NULLs, why linked servers should be avoided, why your code to generate SQL makes DBAs beards turn white overnight, and how to best plan out your database structure.

 

5 minute book review: Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering by Robert L. Glass is a fascinating little change of pace that I just finished reading. It was written by an academic-type (i.e. he may have a beard that he rubs while he talks) who also worked in the commercial the-code-has-to-work world. The book is laid out as 55 Facts and 10 Fallacies about software development across multiple topic groups.  In each Fact or Fallacy he states a conclusion, talks about any controversy surrounding the truth, and shows the underlying research.

A lot of the facts are well-known but they are still good to read since it shows you the theoretical underpinnings or empirical data. As an example I wasn’t aware of how much research has been done to prove this fact:

Understanding the existing product is the most difficult task of maintenance (Fact 44)

Some conclusions are well-stated versions of what many experienced programmers would nod their head to:

  • For every 25% increase in problem complexity, there is a 100% increase in solution complexity (Fact 21)
  • Error removal is the most time-consuming phase of the life cycle (Fact 31)
  • The best programmers are up to 28 times better than the worst programmers (Fact 2)
  • New tools and techniques cause an initial loss of productivity / quality (Fact 6)
  • Tacos are delicious (Fact -2)
  • Programmers like either Indian food or sushi but rarely both (Fact -3)

The list goes on and on. Some of the facts are a bit surprising and made me think:

  • Rigorous inspections [code reviews] can remove up to 90% of errors before the first test case is run (Fact 37)
  • Designer “primitives” (solutions programmers can readily code) rarely match programmer “primitives” (Fact 29)
  • Modification of reused code is particularly error-prone (Fact 19)
  • Better methods lead to more maintenance not less (Fact 45)

The Fallacies are even more interesting – Glass picks apart urban myths and particularly any thinking or techniques that are advocated by researchers and software salesmen that simply don’t work:

  • Software needs more methodologies (Fallacy 5)
  • Programming can and should be egoless (Fallacy 3)
  • Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow (Fallacy 8)
  • You can teach people how to program by showing them how to write programs (Fallacy 10)

This book made me think, put into clear language some of my experiences, and was fascinating in that it exposed me to some research on software development. Recommended.