Best Programming Books – For Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

   

What books do the best programmers read to stay up-to-date with the latest in the continually changing environment of software development? How do they know which books are really worth their time, and which are nothing more than simple side pleasures?

To some, the best programming books are those that can be easily referenced when they’re stuck in the code. These types of reference materials are, to be certain, some of the most valuable books to have on hand. The internet, however, is often a more easily accessible reference guide in situations like this.

So, what kinds of programming books exist? Beyond reference books, many books help people, like me, understand how programming works at a higher level. Programming is not just about the code, but it is also about what the code creates and how that creation will be used.

Almost anyone can find a snippet of code, copy it, and paste it into place. With luck, it will function properly on its own. Whether or not that code can be created to work with specific intentions will depend on how well the programmer understands the code’s language and syntax.
I’ve found that the best books are those that blend introducing new, concrete knowledge with examples with more abstract ideas that must be addressed while programming.

From foundational books to reference books, from career guidance books to efficiency books, there is a huge variety of content about programming available to programmers who are ready to do more.

Are you one of those programmers? I know I am. Today’s list, though, was not created by me.

It was curated by the ideas, thoughts, and knowledge-base of the amazing CEO Library community. Experienced developers and programmers shared their insight into what are the best programming books, and this is what they recommend:

Best Programming Books

Programming in Scala

Programming in Scala

I love the following books, even though I don’t code in these languages in a daily basis. It’s still interesting to learn the concepts behind them

  • Programming in Scala (Odersky)
  • Learn You a Haskell for Great Good
Santiago Basulto
Co-Founder/rmotr.com
The Tao of Programming

The Tao of Programming

Now, I had heard from my publisher (who knew Jobs from way back) that Jobs had liked my recently published book The Tao of Programming. So I thought, why not? and walked up and introduced myself. Jobs smiled, shook my outstretched hand and said:
Steve Jobs
Founder/Apple
Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

Founders at Work and Coders at Work are really good ones too. They’re filled with interesting and inspiring stories.
Santiago Basulto
Co-Founder/rmotr.com
Programming Pearls

Programming Pearls

I very much enjoyed reading "Programming Pearls" by John Bentley. Most of the software we write is trying to solve fairly large and ill-defined problems in a way that minimises development cost, but Programming Pearls presents a lot of small, well-defined problems, and talks through their solutions in ways that minimise machine resource usage. There are lots of good "a-ha" moments when reading it, and working through ways to think about the problems that knock asymptotic orders off the computational complexity.
James Stanley
Founder/SMS Privacy
The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development

The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development

As for programming, I’d recommend The Passionate Programmer.
Timur Badretdinov
Founder/Longcaller
Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

If you have to work with programmers, it’s essential to understand that programming has a culture. This book will help you understand what programmers do, how they do it, and why. It decodes the culture of code.
Kevin Kelly
Author, Founding executive editor/Wired
JavaScript: The Good Parts

JavaScript: The Good Parts

I’m actually a self-taught programmer, so these books have really helped me with practical skills that I could put to use & yield results. The return on investment for these kinds of books is off the charts for me!
Auston Bunsen
Co-Founder/CBlocks
Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain

Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain

This [reading something helpful] happens with pretty much every book I read. Most recently it happened to me when I was reading “Mastering Bitcoin” by Andreas Antonoupolous. I had no idea what the components of a Bitcoin wallet address were and he elegantly explains them in detail in chapter 4. It’s particularly relevant because we started CBlocks and we focus almost exclusively on wallet generation for our customers.
Auston Bunsen
Co-Founder/CBlocks
The Unix Programming Environment

The Unix Programming Environment

The Unix Programming Environment, by Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike. In addition to its articulation of the Unix tools philosophy that is so dear to my heart, the writing is a model of clarity and elegance. As a technical writer, I aspired to be as transparent as Kernighan.
Tim O'Reilly
Founder/O'Reilly Media
Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns

Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns

My favorite book about programming. It’s more than twenty years old now, but it remains as relevant as ever. It captures so many of the patterns I love to dance with when writing beautiful code.
David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

If my career path is hackers turned business people, I’d say:

Start with the basics and fundamentals:

  • SICP: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
  • Code Complete 2
Santiago Basulto
Co-Founder/rmotr.com
Learn Ruby the Hard Way: A Simple and Idiomatic Introduction to the Imaginative World Of Computational Thinking with Code

Learn Ruby the Hard Way: A Simple and Idiomatic Introduction to the Imaginative World Of Computational Thinking with Code

I’m actually a self-taught programmer, so these books have really helped me with practical skills that I could put to use & yield results. The return on investment for these kinds of books is off the charts for me!
Auston Bunsen
Co-Founder/CBlocks
Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

I love the following books, even though I don’t code in these languages in a daily basis. It’s still interesting to learn the concepts behind them

  • Programming in Scala (Odersky)
  • Learn You a Haskell for Great Good
Santiago Basulto
Co-Founder/rmotr.com
Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction

If my career path is hackers turned business people, I’d say:

Start with the basics and fundamentals:

  • SICP: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
  • Code Complete 2
Santiago Basulto
Co-Founder/rmotr.com
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age

I want everybody I know to read "How to Make Wealth" and "Mind the Gap" (chapters 6 and 7), which brilliantly articulate the most commonly, and frustratingly, misunderstood core economic principles of everyday life.
Evan Williams
Co-creator/Blogger
Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (2nd Edition)

Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (2nd Edition)

This is next on my list of technical books to read! Refactoring is one of two programming books that I’ve read multiple times (the other is Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns), and I’m due for another reading. What perfect time then to dive into Martin Fowler’s long anticipated 2nd edition, now using JavaScript rather than Java for the code examples.

Like the stoic books, I read Refactoring and that Smalltalk book again and again not because I’m going to learn something new, per se, but because I want to be reminded about what I already know. And what better time to reread than just as we’re kicking off a new major project that needs a fresh architectural foundation.

Also, these two books just remind every time of how much I love the craft of programming. It’s not just having the programs, it’s not just solving problems, it’s simply using my hands and head to program that in and of itself is sublime.

David Heinemeier Hansson
Co-Founder/Basecamp
Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age

Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age

I read it after I finished an MA in Writing and it was exactly what I needed to burst my bubble. I loved it because it questioned everything and it perfectly matched my skepticism towards creative writing courses. Regardless of my amazing experience within the creative writing masters, nobody can teach you how to write, but somebody can definitely teach you how to rewrite and how to read. In a world where everybody urges you to be original, creative, Goldsmith states that you can totally be creative with somebody else’s work with a little help from the Internet: word processing, databasing, recycling, sampling, appropriation, coding (‘Pure Poems’ written by Shigeru Matsui in alphanumeric binaries), plundering, programming, and even plagiarizing. Yes, plagiarizing. The most eloquent example (I love it) is this essay entitled ‘The Ecstasy of Influence: A plagiarism’. Jonathan Lethem brilliantly shows us that nothing is original in literature – all ideas has been shared, recycled, stolen, quoted, translated, re-translated, imitated, pirated, patch written, re-written and so on. The essay is the perfect example for this – not a single word or idea belongs Jonathan Lethem. Everything is borrowed from others’ books, ideas, writings. Goldsmith even taught the ‘Uncreative Writing’ course at the University of Pennsylvania where students were not allowed to bring to the class any trace of originality and creativity.
Alina Varlanuta
Creator/The Hole in Your Head
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

The unassuming Georgetown computer science professor has become one of this generation’s leading voices on how we can all work more wisely and more deeply. With media consumption continuing to go way up (which, for most of us, means happiness and productivity continue to go way down) and the world becoming noisier every day, this book is an urgent call to action for anyone serious about being in command of their own life. The minimalism movement successfully led millions to opt out of the many possessions we’re told we’re supposed to crave and focus instead on the small number of things that bring the most meaning and value to our lives. The same ideology applies to our online lives. Digital clutter is stressful. We don’t need the constant connectivity, the pages and pages of apps, the incessant scrolling and clicking. New technologies can improve our lives if we know how to best leverage them. This book already helped me break my Facebook addiction—and the first month of the year has been a big improvement for me because of that.

Ryan Holiday
Media Strategist, Author, Founder/Brass Check
Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky's Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent

Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky’s Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent

The book spans a broad field and it's obvious that many things, like the location of your company, are beyond the control of most managers and technical interviewers. Joel recognizes this and gives solid and honest no-nonsense advices. Like all of Joel's writings this book is humorous, interesting and a true joy to read. I tend to disagree quite often with Joel's technical opinions, but on the softer aspects of the business, he's brilliant. If you're involved in the hiring process, this book will give you a lot of ideas and advices.
Adam Tornhill
Founder/Empear
The Impossible Fortress

The Impossible Fortress

The Impossible Fortress: My inner 14-year-old loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it. The Commodore 64 code was a bonus.
Brad Feld
Co-Founder/Foundry Group

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