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A Programmer's Bookshelf 362

An anonymous reader writes "With christmas just round the corner I have been looking for gifts for my geek friends. But what book? I recently found a simple page with one person's bookshelf and explain what's good and what's not. What do you think? Whats on a programmer's bookshelf? (or what should be and is not!)"
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A Programmer's Bookshelf

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  • first post (Score:5, Informative)

    by themusicgod1 ( 241799 ) <themusicgod1@zworg . c om> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:03AM (#14238046) Homepage Journal
    goedel escher bach d:
    • by madaxe42 ( 690151 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:11AM (#14238113) Homepage
      Godel, Escher and Bach is a damned good book, and any self-respecting geek should have read it. Twice.
      Other favourites include Capital by Marx, Crime & Punishment by Dostoeyevsky, Also Spracht Zarathustra (Nietzsche), The Fountainhead (Rand), The heart of a dog (Bulgakov) and Dubliners (Joyce).
      If you're a programmer, the last thing you're going to want to read are code books.
      • by ATeamMrT ( 935933 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:31AM (#14238246)
        Godel, Escher and Bach is a damned good book, and any self-respecting geek should have read it. Twice.

        Other favourites include Capital by Marx, Crime & Punishment by Dostoeyevsky, Also Spracht Zarathustra (Nietzsche), The Fountainhead (Rand), The heart of a dog (Bulgakov) and Dubliners (Joyce).

        Those books are a little heavy to digest. I don't know about most people, but I would not want work as a gift, then to feel obligated to read 700 pages. I've read a few books by Dostoevsky, and they are not christmas books! Christmas should be about having fun, not getting a headache reading.

        If you're a programmer, the last thing you're going to want to read are code books

        I agree. It is like giving your mom a skillet for christmas because she cooks for you.

        Picking the right gift requires knowing your friend. One of the BEST gifts I ever recieved was from a neighbors wife. She is an awesome baker. She filled up a tin with homemade cookies, her daughters helped decorate the tin. It was a gift they put their hearts into. They spent a few hours at my place, it was nice to talk, to listen about their year, and what they were planning for the new year. Fellowship is the best gift.

        I also love getting christmas cards from friends who have moved away. It is a nice way to keep in touch with people.

        Remember, it is the thought that counts. The gift is not important. What is important is someone cares about you.

        • I'm not sure what friend would feel you were obligated to read the 700 pages and report back. I'd be personally quite happy that you enjoyed the book, however much or little of it that you read.

          This is why I buy people books -- I buy them sometimes challenging, sometimes light books, but its an interesting effort to try and match a book with a person properly. There are people I know who would be insulted by a book of less than 500 pages. Others would be insulted by a book with more than 20.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:22AM (#14238619)
          >>Remember, it is the thought that counts. The gift is not important. What is important is someone cares about you.>>

          I wish people wouldn't waste money buying me gifts. If they spent five minutes talking to me about something they know I am really interested in, that would be worth far more. The "thought" that counts is a respect for a person. Giving wine to someone who never drinks it, giving lingerie to your wife (instead of asking for her wearing it as *your* present), giving a CD of music reflecting your religion to a couple of atheists, giving candles or "zen rock gardens" to people who aren't interested, checking off the names on a list, that ain't "the thought that counts"-- it's the thought that adds useless junk to an already crowded home!

          I've made the mistake myself in the past. These days I beg people not to give me gifts and (because my wife loves Christmas so much) I put in effort getting stuff for her that reflects her interests, even when I don't like the stuff.

          Everyone else, just give money to charity!
        • One of the BEST gifts I ever recieved was from a neighbors wife.

          Had to read that one twice - missed the 'from' first time.

      • Other favourites include Capital by Marx, Crime & Punishment by Dostoeyevsky, Also Spracht Zarathustra (Nietzsche), The Fountainhead (Rand), The heart of a dog (Bulgakov) and Dubliners (Joyce).
        I had to read The Fountainhead for English in high school and I have decidedly mixed feelings. On one hand, it was interesting to read from an architectural perspective. The characters, on the other hand, exist not as people but as archetypes. But then again, that's the case in almost all of Ayn Rand's literatur
  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) * <> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:04AM (#14238056) Homepage you group your books by color or by topic? Especially the O'Reilly books... does the Sendmail one go in your "mail server" books? Does the pink Python book go next to the pink CVS book or next to the red and white Ruby book? Decisions decisions!

    Nice to see that he's got his Knuths... although, if he's like me, they get opened about twice a year.
    • That often? Mine get opened every 3 years or so, when I make another attempt at reading them...

      Eivind (Eek).

    • Yours is the first of many posts that mentions technical books on their bookshelf. The story is about buying books as a Christmas gift... The last thing I want are work-related books as a gift!

      One of my favourite authors at the moment is JM Coetzee. He just gets to the point when it comes to writing about life. Somewhat relevant to this /. story is his memoir as an immigrant progammer in the UK in the 60s: Youth []. Inspirational stuff!

      I think the book that has stuck in my mind the most in the last couple
    • Sadly... (Score:3, Funny)

      by sbszine ( 633428 )
      " you group your books by color or by topic? Especially the O'Reilly books... does the Sendmail one go in your "mail server" books? Does the pink Python book go next to the pink CVS book or next to the red and white Ruby book? Decisions decisions!" As a truly tragic geek, I order mine (using spine colour) by the electromagnetic spectrum. So Programming PHP (green) goes before Programming Perl (blue), etc.
  • Frederik Brooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by rassie ( 452841 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:05AM (#14238059)
    The Mythical Man-Month by Frederik Brooks (clicky []) has some very good insights which still hold true (the book was originally published in 1975).
    • Except that it's factually incorrect: every manager knows that programmer time is fungible ;-)
    • Re:Frederik Brooks (Score:3, Informative)

      by mmkkbb ( 816035 )
      The anniversary edition has some new chapters in which Brooks examines with principles did NOT hold true. Some newer practices seem to have taken him by surprise in terms of his "No Silver Bullet" essay.
    • Am I the only one who read that book and was less than impressed because it's really pretty much all common sense?

      I seriously walked away from it going "someone had to write a book on this?" because it really seems more like a book for managers who don't understand that people aren't all the same (so don't have the same abilities and/or skill levels) and that the more people you have, the greater the chance for them to get in the way of each other after a point.
  • by koltrane ( 925418 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:05AM (#14238063)
    It's hard to be specific when "a programmer" could write in a number of languages. Regardless, just about anything from O'Reilly is well worth the shelf space. I still have my original copy of "The Whole Internet"!
    • I reckon a copy of K&R is worth the shelf space and the money, no matter the programming language of choice. It happens to tell you about C, but the clear writing style and tidy code snippets are an example to all.
      • by Klivian ( 850755 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:02PM (#14238887)
        More importantly a copy of K&R should be in every programing book authors shelf.

        the clear writing style and tidy code snippets are an example to all.
        Exactly and I wish other writers could emulate that approach rather than trying to write as many pages as possible. Take any C++ book and compare the section about the basic datatypes to K&R, usually 5 to 10 times the number of pages and K&R are still easier to understand.

        And it's not only programming books, you find the similar style in other fields of science too. And it's rather consistent, making me believe that most American publishers of technical books pays their authors at a per page ratio.
      • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @02:10PM (#14239978) Homepage
        Well of course it's worth its shelf space. The thing is about a third of an inch thick!

        For those just tuning in, "K&R" is shorthand for Kernighan & Ritchie's "The C Programming Language," and it really is a great little book. However, part of the brevity and clarity comes from the C programming language itself. Try writing a similar book about C++, and even with the same eye for brevity, you'd end up with a book five or six times as long. Ten times if you threw in the STL.

        Some people have claimed that this book should be required reading for programmers. Others have countered that the book should be required for authors of programming books. Let me take it one step further and suggest that it should be required reading for authors of programming languages. If the language you're designing cannot be effectively and similarly summarized given the K&R treatment, then it may be worth it to simplify things.

        I've become a huge fan of Python recently. As proponents claim, it's one of a very small handful of languages where you can keep the entire syntax in your head. I'm not claiming that Python is the ideal language, but merely that other programming languages should strive for similar simplicity.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:08AM (#14238076) Journal
    GEB is simply amazing and really makes you think. It is a large tome but it was well worth the read when I read it in high school. It influenced me musically, mathematically and gave me insight to become a computer programmer.

    It's a very common book and can be acquired cheaply on amazon [], ebay [] and the wiki [].

    I also heavily recommend getting to know this site [] if you're willing to search through lists of books for good deals.
  • by ATeamMrT ( 935933 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:09AM (#14238091)
    With christmas just round the corner I have been looking for gifts for my geek friends. But what book?

    Just because your friend is a geek does not mean a book is the best gift! Picking tech books can be difficult. You need to know what your friend is interested in. If your friend knows the topic a book covers, it won't be useful. If the book is outside the scope of what your friend does, the book won't get used. Even within a language, there are so many topics that just because you hit the right language, does not mean the book would be useful. If you want to get a book, but a cheap $7 trashy novel that will be filled with laughs, and add a $50 gift card at your local bookstore. That will probably be cheaper than some of the $70 books out there. The cool thing about giving the $7 novel is you're giving a piece of yourself. It should be a book that made you laugh and think. I'd suggest Catch-22. It will provide lots of laugh out loud moments. You should pick a book you liked and want to share with your friend.

    Christmas is not about gifts or materialism. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Spend time with your friends, listen to how their life is, their year. Celebrate with them. Be happy. That is the greatest gift you can give. People don't need more objects. People need to feel loved.

    • Christmas is not about gifts or materialism.

      Thanks the new 'War on Christmas' meme, Christmas is now about body armor and vitriol.

      Buy your Christian geek an E-Tool. No, that's not a trendy electronic gadget, it is an 'entrenching tool' (folding shovel). Once they're firmly entrenched, no amount of logic or compassion can dislodge them.

    • And there was me thinking Christmas was primarily just the convenient hijacking of a celebratory time of year used by older traditions e.g. Solstice observation / Saturnalia ;-) I love how so many Christian festivals just happen to dovetail with old "pagan" dates - but as anyone with knowledge of Christian history should know, its not accidental what dates were picked for Christian celebrations. Wish I could revisit several millennia hence (assuming humanity still exists then of course) and see what (if
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:51AM (#14238400) Homepage Journal
      Hey I have some books on my wish list.
      I do understand your thought. For a good Christmas gift might I suggest a Salvation Army Angel next year. It is too late to get one for this year. You can find a child that isn't going to get much for Christmas and shop for them. My wife and I did three this year. After we finished the first one we noticed they had a lot left and with only two days to go she decided to get two more. For feeling the Christmas spirit I highly recommend it. For the typical poster on Slashdot may I recommend some of Knuth's other books. The Art of Computer Programing is great but his other books might be of more use to a lot of people on Slashdot.
    • Read some history. It's about celebrating the breaking of winter. A pagan celebration co-opted. Other than that, your last six sentences hold.
    • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:53AM (#14238415) Homepage Journal
      Christmas is an economic holiday. I celebrate X-Mas but couldn't care less about Christ. The materialism is pathetic though. I use the holiday season to reconnect with family that I've been trying to avoid since the last Christmas season.

      Like it or not Christmas is more commercial than religious. Hell Dec 25th is just a propaganda date to coincide with a previously popular pagen celebration to make Christianity more popular. Christianity just had the best marketing team, why do you think Islam is popular? Same reason, good sell job.

      If I had to chose a religion I'd probably be Buddist. They have some strange BS as well. It's sad that people cannot accept that they will never "understand" the meaning of life and just live without the "my religion is better than yours" mentality.
    • You're already modded up, but as a non-theist(like an athiest, but more cynical) this comment nicely summarizes everything I feel about the Christmas season. The materialism is disgusting. Spend TIME with people, open up to them, have real and meaningful interaction with them. That's what the season is supposed to be about. Not more disposable crap that will be forgotten by January.
    • Christmas has its roots in Christian (well, roman) mythology. But when the secular United States government declared it a national holiday, it effectively became a secular holiday in the US.

      Today, the economic impact of Christmas is far greater to America than the philosophical impact.
  • CLRS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Shano ( 179535 )

    Aside from Knuth, which is more showing off than anything (not that the guy isn't a genius), one of the best algorithms books is Introduction to Algorithms, by Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest and Stein. I'd generally suggest algorithms over language-specific references, although modern class libraries tend to implement the best ones already.

    Other than that, I suppose your favourite collection of O'Reilly titles. I find Java in a Nutshell useful, as I prefer the dead-tree version to the online documentation. M

  • Head First (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 't is DjiM ( 801555 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:10AM (#14238094)
    Personally, I like the head first series (head first java and head first EJB) a lot.
    Those books are entertaining and educating at the same time. An ideal Christmas present for yourself :-)
  • by ad0le ( 684017 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:10AM (#14238095)
    C++: The Complete Reference by Herbert Schildt & Thinking in C++: by Bruce Eckel.

    In my opinion, the best c++ books out there.
    • I consider Scott Meyers' books (Effective C++, More Effective C++, perhaps Effective STL) pretty well essential for good C++. They don't teach you the language so much as how to use the language.

      Scott's books might be called "how to get around the deficiencies of C++".

    • C++: The Complete Reference by Herbert Schildt

      Haven't read Schildt's C++ book but his C Book used to be notorious.
      Check Seeb's review []
      Most of these errors must have been corrected by now, however.

      Also check the ACCU reviews []

      MFC Programming from the GROUND UP 2nd Ed by Herbert Schildt [Not Recommended] (Reviewed Jul 1999)
      C++ from the Ground Up (2nd ed) by Herbert Schildt [Not Recommended] (Reviewed Mar 1998)
      Java Programmers Reference by Joe O'Neil & Herbert Schildt [Not Recommended] (Reviewed Mar 1998)
      • I have done reviews of several of Schildt's books, and if you have read one, then you have virtually read them all. I have even seen the same programming errors repeated between books that were supposedly covering different compilers. The link above gives several classic examples.

        There are a ton of C/C++ books out, and half of them are decent reads. The other half seem to be written by Schildt.

        I would steer clear of this particular "book machine."

    • by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:30AM (#14238235)
      I'd not pick any of those two before Effective C++, More Effective C++, Advanced C++ Programming Styles and Idioms or The C++ Programming language. After you've programmed in C++ for six months, all the introductory stuff from the books you mentioned becomes a waste of paper, while the books I listed are still useful to a professional programmer.

      Also, read this excerpt of the alt.comp.lang.learn.c-c++ FAQ:

      6: Why do many experts not think very highly of Herbert Schildt's books?

      A good answer to this question could fill a book by itself. While no book is perfect, Schildt's books, in the opinion of many gurus, seem to positively aim to mislead learners and encourage bad habits. Schildt's beautifully clear writing style only makes things worse by causing many "satisfied" learners to recommend his books to other learners.

      Do take a look at the following scathing articles before deciding to buy a Schildt text. [] []

      The above reviews are admittedly based on two of Schildt's older books. However, the language they describe has not changed in the intervening period, and several books written at around the same time remain highly regarded.

      The following humorous post also illustrates the general feeling towards Schildt and his books. []

      There is exactly one and ONLY one C book bearing Schildt's name on its cover that is at all recommended by many C experts - see Q 25.

  • Missing: (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A stash of porn magazines.
  • by skurk ( 78980 ) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:10AM (#14238101) Homepage Journal
    Programmers? Hardware hackers? Gamers? Gadget geeks?

    If your friends are into 3D programming or game development, I recommend some books about OpenGL.
    I know I want this one, "OpenGL Game Programming": 3/qid=1134394525/sr=8-8/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i8_xgl/202- 6834711-0899839 []

    ..or maybe even "Open Source Game Programming: Qt Games for KDE, PDA's and Windows": 4/qid=1134395013/sr=2-3/ref=sr_2_11_3/202-6834711- 0899839 []

    If your friends are into hardware hacking, I recommend "Apple I Replica Creation": 0429213&tid=222&tid=6&tid=3 []
    I own this book myself and it's pretty cool, it covers almost all the DIY basics for building an 8-bit computer. How cool is that?

    And ofcourse, for the gadget freaks you have ThinkGeek [] and Nerdorama []..
    • If your friends are into 3D programming or game development, I recommend some books about OpenGL.

      If your friends are serious about 3D programming, I recommend books about D3D instead. D3D is used in 99% of PC game development studios. An OGL-like API is used on the Gamecube, and the PS2 doesn't have a formal API for graphics, although lots of studios choose to emulate OGL with their own API. Finally, the XBox (obviously) uses a D3D API. That being said, it is much easier for a first-timer into the industry
  • by Advocadus Diaboli ( 323784 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:13AM (#14238121)
    ... a book like "how do I protect my website from being slashdotted" :-)
  • A book that is really missing on this bookshelf is found on [], really the definitive guide to learn from others' mistakes. O well, not always only others.
  • Bookshelves (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BioCS.Nerd ( 847372 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:14AM (#14238135) Homepage

    I'm just a budding programmer, so my bookshelf is fairly skimpy (5-6 books -- mostly accumulated from class). However it seems to me that you're best to buy books that won't be dated as quickly, such as those that are more conceptual (e.g. design patterns, cookbooks, and Art of Programming type books). For everything else, O'Reilly Safari [] digital book collections are the way to go. I've found it has taken a little time to get used to not reading books on dead trees, but the convenience pays off.

  • Garfield (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snap E Tom ( 128447 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:17AM (#14238151)
    > Every good programmer loves garfield?

    I assume the article writer was asking a question. The answer is no.
  • This is a very nice collection. I think Cormen and Rivest's Algorithms Book would be a nice addition. It prefers pseudocode to Knuth's MIX and so it is easier to create implementations in high level languages. What is missing are: Books on X Windows Programming (assuming O'Reilly still publishes them), OpenGL (Programmer's Guide and Reference), Books on Lisp/Scheme (SICP, SAP, Common Lisp by Steele, Dyvbig). Numerical Recipies in C (one of the great books of all time).

  • by Poeir ( 637508 ) <> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:21AM (#14238178) Journal
    Joel on Software posted a very useful book list [], which extends more to the management of programming than to any specific language. This makes it more generally useful than yet another C book.
  • ... unless you have infinite space and money. Nobody's a "programmer" these days. Your choice of books depends on what you're doing: embedded microprocessor systems, php server pages, capturing and analyzing video, etc. I have hundreds of books on everything from java to html to Flash to Visual C++. Not having enough space to keep them all at hand, I pack the ones not in current use away and when I start doing that type of work again, I bring them back out. About the only universal books I can think of ar
  • by benj_e ( 614605 ) <> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:23AM (#14238192) Journal
  • ACCU Reviews (Score:3, Informative)

    by Frankie70 ( 803801 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:23AM (#14238194)
    Always a good idea to check the book review at ACCU [] before you buy any book. The reviewers here are mostly experts in the subject matter.
  • Let them pick (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KJE ( 640748 ) <> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:24AM (#14238200) Homepage
    and give them a subscription to O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf [].
  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:24AM (#14238205) Homepage
    Not just because I am a Commodore fan, this book, On The Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore [] is turning out to be a really good read with a lot of inside history from many Commodore employees including Check Peddle, Dale Luck, Bil Herd, and RJ Mical.

    A lot more adventure and excitement than I had expected. Also gives a different (sometimes flattering sometimes not) of Apple, Atari and Radio Shack.

  • If you just need reference material on C# or HTML or C++ or whatever, then go for O'Reilly books--or the equivalent--for what you need to know.

    But if you want to expand your mind as a programmer, then go for books like:

    Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming (Norvig)
    Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (Abelson & Sussman)
    Thinking Forth (Brodie) - One of my favorites; read even if you don't care for Forth.
  • Has anyone else read (Score:3, Interesting)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:29AM (#14238232)
    The New Turing Omnibus : Sixty-Six Excursions in Computer Science []?
    A collection of essays about computer science, not programming. Very interesting and highly reccomended.
  • I like this idea a lot. Go owner of the site!
  • I've always wondered why the programmers around my office read so many programming books. It seems strange that people so into technology like hunks of dead tree.

    I'm not really a professional programmer but can put together quite a bit of C#, ASP.Net, ASP, VB, Javascript, Perl etc. Forgive me, I'm an Engineer.... Anyway, I'd much rather read online tutorials or MSDN help articles than programming books.

    What am I missing?
    • When I get that laptop integrated into my shitter, I'll stop buying dead tree. That and the fact that it's much easier to take a book with me to wait somewhere than a laptop. Maybe a PDF reader would work but I stare at a computer screen all day long and most of the night. Sometimes I just need to curl up in bed and read a reference.

      I also have a nasty habit of reading less of a tech book when I have it in electronic format. I tend to want to try things right then instead of reading through a bit more.

    • While MSDN and online tutorials are fine for solving the very specific problems they address, they do nothing to teach you of programming philosphy or design in general. An application is more than a collection of code samples pasted together. That's more of a car wreck than an application. If you ever want to graduate beyond writing one-off tools to writing applications that other programmers will have to maintain in the future, you really should pick up a book. Besides, reading a book while compiling
      • Because it's easier to read a book than a screen for extended periods.
      • Because you can have n books open on your desk without wasting monitor space.
      • Because books can have bookmarks, possibly with notes, inserted.
      • And by far the most important reason: because the quality of writing, consistency of editing, overall design, and presentation standards of decent books are all still years ahead of nearly all web-based pretenders to the throne. It's a rare web site indeed that features truly well thought out con
  • by khendron ( 225184 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:36AM (#14238279) Homepage
    This book is on my shelf and is a must read for anybody working in tech.

    It is not a technical book. It is a non-fiction novel about a team of engineers building a mini-computer back in the early 1980s. The book might be 25 years out of date from the technical point of view, but few books capture the essence of the engineer's mind and commitment as well as this one does.

  • Where to begin (Score:3, Informative)

    by narcc ( 412956 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:41AM (#14238317) Journal
    Some treasures on my shelf:

    D. Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming (Volumes 1-3)
    D. Berlinski, A Tour of the Calculus
    D. Berlinski, The Advent of the Algorithm
    G. Polya, How to Solve It
    P. Beckmann, A History of Pi
    G. Lakoff & R. Nunez, Where Mathematics Comes From
    Aho & Ullman, Principles of Compiler Design (1st Ed.)
    Aho & Sethi & Ullman, Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools
    P. Freiberger & M. Swaine, Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer
    H. Sheldon, Boyd's Introduction to the Study of Disease
    C. Petzold, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

    Anyone of these would have made a good gift for me -- and I'm sure other geeks would appreciate these as well. That is, if they don't own them already.

    On a related note: The conference proceedings from the ACM SIGCSE add quite a bit to my library every year. The membership is very affordable and makes an excellent gift (provided, of course, that the geek in question is not already a member of the ACM). I'm not sure about the other SIGs, but you certainly get your dues worth out of SIGCSE.
    • Treasure, indeed! My wife makes fun of me when I read it, but it is quite good. It's certaintly not as dry as the title might suggest to some... very interesting and well-written.

      Now, I took a class in college called "History of Math" - that WAS every bit as boring as the title suggests!
    • TAOCP, while it may give you some good nerd karma, is pretty much useless for day to day programming. It is far too dense, and there are better books on algorithms out there for practical usage. Most people I know with it on their shelf have not made it past Chapter 2, if they even really made an attempt to read it at all. It looks nice up there, but I don't think it is all that usefull.
  • Second edition. A good general reference with specific implementation notes for Perl, Java, .NET, etc. It is by far the most thumbed-through book on my "shelf" (aka, "The pile of books on the corner of my desk"). Good for beginners or experts needing a handy reference.

    You wouldn't think so, but it's also a good cover-to-cover read, provided you're interested in that kind of thing.

    By Jeffrey Friedl []

  • Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Gamma et al
    Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code, Fowler et al
    Domain-driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software, Eric Evans
    Test Driven Development: A Practical Guide, Dave Astels
    Working Effectively with Legacy Code, Michael Feathers

    And slightly off the wall...

    Object Thinking, David West
  • I find lo-tech paper books aren't costworthy in today's tech environment - they go out of date too quickly, and are thus resource wasteful (In my area - web tech - anyway). Any reference books I buy in digital form, as this is usually more cost-efficient.

    So for a REAL bookshelf... probably some IT-angled fiction. This is tricky as most authors fail to research tech angles correctly (like Hollywood computers, but not quite as glaringly obvious). Douglas Copeland's Microserfs was OK, and quite entertaining.

    For an intelligent recommended read though, I can't recommend the usual Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance highly enough. It really makes you think, which is nice. I've been meaning to check out Scott Adam's (of Dilbert fame) God's Debris too. That's free to download [] by the way. So it might be worth reading a bit and if you like it, you could buy paper copies for your friends.
  • I see he hasn't returned his (right between his Postscript reference and his Oracle 8 DBA handbook) LISP book to the library just yet. And I gotta love arranging all his ORA in chromatological order.
  • Book Pool (Score:4, Informative)

    by NaNO2x ( 856759 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:46AM (#14238352)
    I can't believe that in all this discussion no one has even mentioned the site "Book Pool" [] . This site is one of the most extensive places to purchase any computer books. I'd highly sugest browsing around there if you want to buy new books for a geek.
  • A few must-haves... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Beek ( 10414 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:48AM (#14238365) Homepage
    Code Complete by Steve McConnell
    The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas
    Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler
    The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks

    The are a few off the top of my head that any programmer should read. I'm sure there are a few others. Most things after that are probably specific to certain areas and interests.
  • Safari (Score:5, Informative)

    by tclark ( 140640 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:50AM (#14238393) Homepage
    I recommend a Safari subscription. [] It provides online access to everthing by O'Reilly and a number of other publishers. My subscription has saved me huge amounts of time, since I can search and find useful information on all sorts of topics without leaving my desk.
  • If you're going to do any OpenGL programming, get the OpenGL Red Book [] and the OpenGL Orange Book []. These two are definitely the most heavily-used books on my shelf. Another great OpenGL book is Advanced Graphics Programming Using OpenGL [] by McReynolds and Blythe. Of course, if you don't do any graphics programming, these books will be useless.
  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @10:58AM (#14238464)
    I highly recommend this book [] for the part about computation alone (there are 5 parts in the book). In the computational part it covers number systems, infinity, and computability and incomputability. Then the rest of the book is gravy for a geek: fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation (genetic algorithms and neural networks). It's the kind of book that gives you a framework to hang the rest of your knowledge on. Seriously, get it.
  • by mackman ( 19286 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:00AM (#14238475)
    Neither of these I would recommend in general, but they are both excellent books if you are dealing with the subject matter they discuss. They are both enjoyable reads and extremely useful.

    Inside the C++ Object Model [] by Stanley B. Lippman. Lippman is one of the original authors of CFront (along with Stroustrup), the original C++ compiler which worked by translating C++ into C. This book explains how every C++ feature is implmented by the compiler: virtual functions, multiple inheritence, in-memory object layout, etc. If you are working on projects where the overhead of a pointer de-reference or virtual function call may be too much, then this book is a must read. Even if that doesn't describe you, this is still a suprisingly enjoyable read and will almost certainly help you at any job interviews for C++ programming positions.

    Hackers Delight [] by Henry S. Warren Jr. This deals entirely with efficient bit twiddling. It has chapters on counting the bits set in a word, finding the first set bit, quick integer square root approximations, etc. Unless you're working with embedded systems or otherwise need assembly-level optimizations, this book just serves to obfuscate your code. On the other hand, it's quite a fun challenge to try to figure out the algorithms without reading the explanations.
  • by rassie ( 452841 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:08AM (#14238526)
    Sun Tzu - The Art of War (here []) and Machiavelli - The Prince (here []) are examples of books which have some applicability in the workplace of today.
    Both have the full texts available from the wikipedia links above.
  • I just have a bookmark []... it gives me every book I need =)
  • Some others that should be read by most programmers:

    The Dragon book
    Some modern compiler book, like one of Appel's, or possibly the new Aho, Sethi, Lam, and Ullman book [] when it's released.
    Purely Functional Data Structures by Chris Okasaki
    possibly Algorithms : A Functional Programming Approach by A. R. Fethi, though it's a bit light
    SICP [], which has been mentioned a couple of times

    and does anyone know if there's a book out there on how to get off your ass and write some good documentation to accompany your code
  • by portscan ( 140282 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:31AM (#14238694)
    I really like Linux Administration Handbook [] by Nemeth, Snyder, and Hein. It is quite comprehensive and detailed, not to mention enjoyable to read. My copy is well-used, indeed. For any hobbyist who runs a linux box at home and is interested in the actual nuts and bolts of the system, rather than just the graphical configuration tools provided by (some) distros, it would be a welcome gift, I think. I used to just google around for online documentation until I came across this excellent reference, which is now the first place I turn.

    I think that buying a programming reference for a person who programs for a living would not be such a good idea. But buying something related to a person's out-of-work (or out-of-school) computer interests is a nice gift.
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:36AM (#14238730) Journal
    Hmmm. The obvious answers:

    Gerald Weinberg's The Psychology of Computer Programming.
    George Polya, How to Solve It.
    Gries, The Science of Programming.
    Bentley, Programming Pearls.
    Gamma, Helm, Johnson, and Vlissides, Design Patterns.
    Abelson and Sussman, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.
    Hunt and Thomas, The Pragmatic Programmer.

    Hmmm. My own bookshelf is lacking. Time to shop...
  • AntiPatterns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aschlemm ( 17571 ) on Monday December 12, 2005 @05:15PM (#14241580) Homepage
    I've seen numerous postings regarding the GOF Patterns book which no programmer's bookshelf should be without. One book I've also enjoyed reading and might be useful for other developers especially if you inherit someone's else's programming mess is "AntiPatterns". theantipatterngr/103-3030967-9900659 []

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger