Strong opinions, weakly held

Programmer book club selection

I’m looking for a first selection for a book club for programmers. The two books I’m considering to start are Code Compete, the classic Steven McConnell book on software development, and The Pragmatic Programmer, by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas.

Anyone have an opinion on which to choose? I’m looking for something that both experienced and relatively new programmers will enjoy and benefit from, and that isn’t language specific. Are there other books I should consider as well?


  1. Those are both really excellent books.

    Pragmatic Programmer might be a more entertaining selection, but I don’t think you would go wrong with either.

    As for a recommendation, I am overly fond of (and generally gush about) Skiena’s “Algorithm Design Manual”.

  2. Just recently I read “The Deadline” by Tom DeMarco. It’s a project management book, not a programming book, but honestly I believe any software developer would probably profit from reading it — and it’s very entertaining, too.

  3. Judging from the folks at work, “Code Complete” is like “Middlemarch,” something everyone feels they should read but no one’s managed. While the Pragmatic Programmer gets read and raved over.

  4. Given that you’re just getting started, I’d stick with PragProg. Code Complete is awesome, but it’s hefty; people may be put off strictly by the size.

    AFA other suggestions, Joel Spolsky has a couple of essay collections out; selections from those could be fun (and again, relatively lightweight).

    I’d be interested to hear how you got this put together; something of this nature is on my list of things to do, but I’ve got a lot of non-book readers in my working group and I’m not sure how to best build enthusiasm for the reading group idea.

  5. Code Complete is a great book.

    Here are some others, from a developer with similar taste in reading material: Coding Horror- Recommended Reading

  6. Pragmatic is probably the first to pick. You might also look at Beautiful Code, which is an OReilly collection of essays from a couple dozen great programmers from Kernighan to Bray to Matz. The essays range from highly technical to purely philsophical. It’s a really interesting collection.

  7. David Harel: “Algorithmics; The Spirit of Computing”

  8. Own both, love both.

    Pragmatic programmer’s gold is page 14. Everything else is an expansion upon that.

    I usually use Code complete to (re)learn something. I’ll flip to a page at random and read the chapter/section. 9/10 times I get an “aha!” moment.

    Pragmatic Programmer is more readable than Code Complete as a complete, contiguous work, but I don’t believe that is the best use of the latter.

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