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Ben Halpern
Ben Halpern

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What are your favorite non-programming books?

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joshuacarmody profile image
Joshua Carmody

The "Mistborn" trilogy by Brandon Sanderson is probably my favorite fiction. Incredible worldbuilding with an epic, unpredictable plot. Yet everything makes logical sense and the "magic" systems are well defined and explained. The first book has been described as "Ocean's Eleven meets Lord of the Rings". The first book is called "The Final Empire", or sometimes just "Mistborn".

benaryorg profile image

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams of course. From the first to the sixth and seventh book of the four parted trilogy of five. It's about life the universe and everything. You'll figure it all out while reading. I would suggest these books to everyone.

Then there is the trilogy consisting of Epic, Saga, and Edda, written by Conor Kostick. It's pretty much about people who crash landed on a foreign planet who've built a society forbidding violence in any way. They achieve this by handling any conflicts within Epic, a video game.

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Tariq Ali

Player Piano, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a sci-fi dystopian novel about automation and the existential angst associated with it, from the perspective of engineers. I like this book the most, because this is the novel that I wanted to write...a story about how people deal with increasing amounts of automation in their day-to-day life.

Galápagos, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is a novel about humanity slowly recovering from a dystopian 1980s. While it is technically a happier story, the plot has humanity reach near-extinction levels and slowly mutate into an unrecognizable form.

Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. both deals with total warfare. Slaughterhouse-Five focuses on predestination issues while Cat's Cradle satirizes the arms race associated with the Cold War.

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad is a novel about imperialism, colonialism, and civilization (of the lack thereof), set in the Congo Free State.

There's probably other non-programming books out there that are useful, but I haven't read them yet. For example, somebody recommended The Sirens of Titan (by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.) as a better novel than Player Piano, but I haven't read The Sirens of Titan, so I can't say whether I like it or not.

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Baptiste Coulange

"Audition" by Michael Shurtleff, "The famed broadway and hollywood casting director reveals everything an actor needs to know to get the part".

So right now you must be asking yourself "Why should I read a book about how to succeed in an audition for a play when I'm a programmer?"

This is a fanstastic book about theater and so about human relationships. At first level you'll be surprised how an audition is close to an interview and how Shurtleff advices can be useful for us all. Next you'll see relations, intentions and stories in a all new way.

Since I read this book, I can't stop recommending it...

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Cool! Never would have thought to read Audition. I wish it was available on Audible.

nicotupe profile image
Baptiste Coulange

At least it's available on Kindle. On Audible it would be such a hard work to do but for sure it can be awesome :)

tenezill_14 profile image

the discworld novels, the Dragonlance series (first 6 books) and Harry Potter:3 cuz it's my childhood :)

Discworld is a comic fantasy book series written by the English author Terry Pratchett, set on the fictional Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle,

the Dragonlance is the classic Dungeons and Dragons Plot , a group of people rescue the world ;) what i like the most about this books is that the fighting is "realistic" not like Lord of the Rings if the protagonist has to fight more than 2 enemies is already quite hard.

for all the fantasy fans i can recommend both of this book series.

tenezill_14 profile image

OHHHH and what i forgot all the H. P. Lovecraft books but just as Audio-books while i'm at work or in the car

vote Cthulhu why chose the lesser evil :P

"that is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange æons, even death may die."

tmr232 profile image
Tamir Bahar

Last 2 book I've read:

The Shockwave Rider - An amazing essay-with-a-plot on our information-rich society, written in 1975. Starts off a bit hard-to-read (sci-fi with specific date references), but once you get over it the book is unbelievably insightful. Definitely worth a read. Oh, and it is also great plot-wise.

Neuromancer - First (AFAIK) cyber-punk novel. Very well written. A pleasure to read. On that note, it is quite unbelievable that Disney's TRON came out before this book.

Not of my recently read:

The Art of Doing Science and Engineering - A fantastic book on, well, practical technical (research) work. Hamming did an amazing job writing this one, and I've often taken and applied advice from this book. You can also go for the short version - You and Your Research.

jxpx777 profile image
Jamie Phelps

"Sleights of Mind". As an amateur magician with a fascination in psychology and perception, this book hit all my high notes. The authors talk about various phenomena of perception such as attention, depth perception, etc in the context of some classic magical effects, including, yes, telling the secrets of those effects. All this with a through narrative of the authors preparing to audition for membership in The Magic Castle.

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Ricardo Funk

One Hundred Years of Solitude, the story of seven generations of the Buendía Family in the town of Macondo. The founding patriarch of Macondo, José Arcadio Buendía, and Úrsula Iguarán, his wife (and first cousin), leave Riohacha, Colombia, to find a better life and a new home. One night of their emigration journey, while camping on a riverbank, José Arcadio Buendía dreams of "Macondo", a city of mirrors that reflected the world in and about it. Upon awakening, he decides to establish Macondo at the river side; after days of wandering the jungle, José Arcadio Buendía's founding of Macondo is utopic.[3]

lavigi profile image

Makers. Pirate Cinema. Little Brother. Homeland. All by Cory Doctorow.

Cryptonomicon. Age of Diamond. Snow Crash. Seveneves - all by Neal Stephenson.

I also read "non-geeky stuff", especially poetry, but in my mother's tongue, Spanish. My favourite poets: Jaime Sabines (from Mexico) and Mario Benedetti (from Uruguay).

tipoqueno profile image
Eugenio Monforte

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert.

It's Information Architecture (IA) for everybody. To help people structure the information to make it understandable, Abby Covert wrote this invaluable piece of IA fundamentals. It's the "Don't make me think" (Steve Kruger's book on usability) for IA.

If you want to make a better product or service, this book it'll be a huge resource of knowledge.

You can read it online: How to Make Sense of Any Mess

bnhn profile image
Rayy Benhin

The Rosie Project
The Defining Decade - Why your twenty somethings matter
Sydney Sheldon novels (Nothing lasts forever, Memories of Midnight)
John Grisham novels (The Client, Pelican Brief, The Racketeer, The Testament are ones I really enjoyed)
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

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Charles Reace

Based simply on the number of times I've re-read them, I'd have to go with the original 5-book "Amber" series by Roger Zelazny, starting with "Nine Princes in Amber" and ending with "The Courts of Chaos." If I've read them twice (and I have), then I've read them at least 30 times -- seriously!

Honorable mention goes to "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I don't think I've quite made it to double-digits yet in number of times read.

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Andrew Amesbury

'Managing humans' by Michael Lopp (rands) is currently on my kindle - so far it's a fantastic read and I'd recommend it to anyone who is keen on people leadership in the tech industry.

I always recommend 'the clean coder' and 'clean code' by Robert C. Martin (though he's often referred to as just 'Uncle Bob') to any programmer that's about to start their first job. I'd add that these books are an equally valuable read for veteran programmers. At my former workplace we kept copies that people could borrow when they joined our team.

In addition, if you're new to the industry and are starting your first job or maybe just starting your first project you'd almost certainly benefit from reading a project management fundamentals book, such as 'Fundamentals of Project Management : Tools and Techniques' by Rory Burke.

Having some knowledge of how projects work and the language that's used going into your role is much easier than figuring things out afterwards.

If you'd prefer to read a more complete book on project management then PMBOK is the big ugly book for you!

ejohnfel profile image
Eric Johnfelt

Too many to mention, here are a few, The "No Asshole Rule" by Robert Sutton, the Freakonomics series of books by Stephen Levitt, Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Foundation and Robot series by Asimov, Anything by J.K. Rowlings, Anything Tolkien, The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel, King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild which should be followed by The Story of Uranium by Tom Zollner since they historically complement one another, "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond and The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.

nyambol profile image
Michael Powe

Halldor Laxness. Independent People. Bjartur Jónsson worked as a farmhand for 16 years to save the money to buy his own farm in the Icelandic wilderness of the early 20th C Iceland. What's it really like to be truly a "self-made" man, totally independent? (Hint: it's not like on TV.)

Ivan Doig. This House of Sky. Memoir of growing up in early to mid-20th Century Montana. In the days before highways and cheap cars, before social security and readily available medical care, life was precarious. His mother died when he was still very young, of an illness that would have been easily treated by a doctor. Beautifully written, moving account of life when you worked until you dropped (Doig's grandmother worked until she died, at age 80.)

Roland Huntford. Shackleton. Biography of the greatest polar explorer, renowned as a leader. Famously, he never lost a man on an expedition. To this day, he is held up as an exemplar in leadership training courses.

Anthony Trollope. He Knew He Was Right. A subtle account of a husband driven mad by sexual jealousy. Out of trivial disagreements of a newly married couple, we see how seemingly innocuous choices by both lead to a tragic denouement.

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Adam Brandizzi

Oh, I really wanted to read those! However, to find any translation of those to Portuguese (let alone a decent one) was borderline impossible in 90s and aughties. Now, by mentioning them, you've inspired me to try them again in English, thanks :)

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Adam Brandizzi

Two books who really help me until today are How to talk to children so they listen and how to listen so they talk and Non-violent Communication. The first one is valid even for dealing with grown-up people. The second one is really helping me to be less damaging to others and myself.

Another non-fiction book is Vital Dust, about the history of life. I'm afraid it may be a bit outdated today but it gives a great panoramic view. The first volume of History of Private Life is amazing (but I cannot bear the other ones).

In fiction, two books I really like are One Hundred Years of Solitude and Creation (by Gore Vidal). The first one is a really pleasurable book. I used to arrive late at home after working and studying in college, and by 11 PM I would read "one or two pages." In general I went to bed by 4 AM having to wake up at 6 AM... The second one was really instructive and entertaining.

I like poetry, and my favorite long poem is Paradise Lost. There is an obscure Brazilian one, Anchieta or Gospel in the Junge, that I really like. I kinda liked the Divine Comedy and the Lusiads, but they are harder to read. (I would prefer Fernando Pessoa's Message over Lusiads any time!) Aeneid was good, too, but I barely read the first forty verses. (Curiously, I never liked Iliad and Odyssey...)

But the book I really, really love is _Grande Sertão: Veredas (or The Devil to Pay in the Backlands in English.) It is very idiosyncratic and relies heavily in rural Brazilian Portuguese dialects, so I cannot really recommend the translation. (They say it is a great translation, but I feel it would be like translating "Ulysses" from James Joyce. It sounds like impossible :) ). I don't think it is a book most people would like, so that's why I've put it at last, but it is undoubtedly my favorite. It is the only voluminous book I've read twice, and will read for the third time.

(The truth however is that I've read most of those books in my teen years and early twenties; those days I only read about tech most of the time.)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I recently really enjoyed The Rosie Project.

Also, The Victorian Internet (not about the Internet we know today!) was fascinating.

All of Michael Lewis' books are captivating as well.


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Yechiel Kalmenson

If I was stuck reading only one book for the rest of my life, I would like it to be Hofstadter's Godel Escher Bach.

First time I read it I was in a daze for the few weeks it took me (it's by no means an easy read).

I've since read it a few times and every time I discover something I didn't notice before.

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Mohammad Hadi Aliakbar

The Catcher in The Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

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DanTansli2020 • Edited on

Yes, I also really like early Salinger's books. Especially Catcher in the Rye.
By the way, did you know that Above the Catcher in the Rye is considered a dangerous book? that in many countries it is prohibited, or with a mark of eighteen plus. I read about this in the essay when I wrote the article for the magazine. And I found out that it all started when an article appeared in the Times about the fact that many serial killers called this book their favorite.

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Isaac Diamond

{Norwegian Wood, The Windup Bird Chronicle} - Haruki Murakami

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut

Man's Search For Meaning - Viktor Frankel

nemrism profile image
Aymeric A

Amin Maalouf
Le Dérèglement du monde

egeriis profile image
Ronni Egeriis Persson

The Alchemist, without question. So inspiring on many levels, that I keep returning to it, as the best book I've ever read!

alvcohen profile image
Nested bloop

Can't believe none has mentioned Dune yet. All the books in this series written by Frank are my favorite reads. They are deep, philosophical and epic.

mathur_anurag profile image
Anurag Mathur 

My Gita - Devdutt Patnaik -- Allows me to interpret the book of Gita in the way I want to and correlate with it. Keeps me calm and grounded.

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Massimo Artizzu

Isaac Asimov's short stories and novels: pure genius.

themoah profile image

Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.
Neuromancer by William Gibson.
1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

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Srikanth A V

I don't read many books, sadly (something I plan to change this year).

I really liked Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance.

viniciusban profile image
Vinicius Assef

1) The Bible
2) How to make friends and influence people
3) Art of war
4) Judaism and Christianity: the differences.

lonewolfshe profile image

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall! 🦈

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Aad Slingerland

Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.

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Wilson Campusano Jorge

The Dip. learn when to quit

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Kelly Andrews

Love reading Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. About the only non-fiction I read.

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Anton Frattaroli

Alice in Quantumland.


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Artem Golovin

I don't even know where to start. But I'd say Arch Of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque. And definitely books by Ray Bradbury and Haruki Murakami.

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Anil Das

Pride and Prejudice.