Books every developer should read

There’s a enormous number of books out there – (even I am writing a book!), so choosing the right books to read can be a difficult task. Yet it’s important because our spare time, is very limited: we still need to eat, sleep, socialize, take care of family and kids, while we have to spend significant time to write code and solve problems. How to get the right book and not regret spending time reading it?

There are many good books – but it’s best to categorize them into smaller groups:

  • Is the book only useful for a small group of developers, on a specific topic (such as C#, Javascript or Networking), or is it useful for almost every developer?
  • Is the book beginner-level, or does it require some experience to digest?
  • Will the content be still largely relevant after ten years, or will it be obsolete in just next few years?
  • Is it a book to read from cover-to-cover in one sitting (just kidding, I mean you should finish it when you start it), or to read chunk by chunk (read a chapter, stop for a while, read another chapter), or keep it around as a reference?

I have this criteria to categorize books myself:

Good books: A book which is on-topic and with accurate information, and in an easy to read and easy to follow style, the author(s) deliver their promises.

Great books: Good books give information. Great books raise questions. A good book becomes great when it makes readers think – not only about topics mentioned in the book, but also the bigger picture.

Legendary/Classic books: Great books which stand the time and still be useful after 10 years, or even longer. These are truly gems of their own and should be read, regardless of the topics. The topics might be obsoleted, but the thoughts/ insights are still relevant. They are battle-tested and no matter which field you are working on, you’ll still learn something from it.

Books you really should read

C programming language, 2nd edition


C programming language, 2nd edition
C programming language, 2nd edition

Not everyone works with C (myself included), but this book is still recommended over and over for developers. The book is pretty small, and indeed very easy to read and follow – it is widely accepted as one of the best programming books ever written, in terms of writing quality – and it provides a view of what is a function, how a program works, how are things connected to hardware-level …

If you ever write a programming documentation – and you will – make this a reference for writing style.

Code Complete, 2nd edition

Best books collection: Code Complete, 2nd editition
Code Complete, 2nd editition

This book is considered must read for everyone, especially those who are new to software development, and re-read after a while. It’s a big book contains almost everything you should follow when you’re in the software industry – coding convention, naming, how to structure your classes … Get a copy and read it from cover to cover, if you haven’t, and re-read after 3-4 years to see how much you learned from it.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Best books collection: The Pragmatic Programmer
The Pragmatic Programmer

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How to be a C# developer

C# has never been considered as a cool language (fact: It was initially called COOL – C-like Object Oriented Language) – it’s a good language, very good indeed, but because of it is “created by Microsoft” and then “tied to .NET platform”, it lost the coolness to other languages – JavaScript, C, Scala, you name it.

The table has turned and the wind has changed. Microsoft has been making bold moves with all the open source projects that run multi platforms. Once known as the “evil” of software industry, Microsoft is changing their image to be good again. And with Xamarin being free – C# is the language to learn now – if you have not already. Being a very good OOP language with powerful functional programming features, and built on a mature platform and excellent tools and library, you can use C# for almost everything these days – mobile, desktop, server, and even client.

So how?

Visual Studio Community:

Visual Studio is simply one of the best IDEs out there, and while missing some of the features, Visual Studio Community is free – so it’s perfect choice if you are a student or simply learning the language. It can be downloaded from here:

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Articles software developers should read, at least once

… if not twice.

These days, almost every software developer has a blog – so it’s sh*tloads of content around the Internet. Truth is, the good, accurate, long-lasting contents are hard to be found. Most contents are supposed to be obsolete very soon – and it’s OK, because many contents are for a very specific situation in a very specific time. But can we have a collection of the precious contents that are useful not only today, this week, this month, but ten years from now?

This is supposed to be a definitive collection of great contents that will be helpful for your entire career as a software developer. It’ll be updated frequently, with new link as I found it.

The Log: What every software engineer should know about real-time data’s unifying abstraction (Jay Kreps)

Logging is essential to every serious software system. But it’s not easy – getting it right can be indeed hard, especially in real-time. This article provides a deep knowledge about the concept.

The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (Joel Spolsky)

It’s been 26 years since Unicode was introduced and still, not all people can get it right. This article gives you – as the tittle suggests – a minimum knowledge about Unicode, and how to not get it wrong.

What Every Programmer Should Know About Memory (PDF) (Ulrich Drepper)

This is a pretty low-level paper, you will learn about how memory works at hardware level. Still interesting and useful. Who knows someday you’ll have to get your hands dirty with some memory stuffs?

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Diagnose your Episerver site

It’s quite often to see some questions related to issues posted in Episerver World forums. While I (and most of people there) are willing to help, it still takes time for you to write the question and wait for an answer. Sometimes, the answer can be incomplete or even incorrect, because the people answering your question do not have the full context as you do. The truth is, you’re the person who know the most about your site, and you can do something to diagnose it. Those steps below are in the order you should take to diagnose your site:

  • Browser console is your friend. It’s the thing which seemingly ignored the most. When something does not work in Edit UI (CMS) or Catalog UI (Commerce), make sure to open your Browser console and switch to Console tab. If their was a network issue, such as a 500 “Server error” response, make sure to open it. (Right click and choose “Open in a new tab” in Chrome). More often than you might think, it can reveal the underlying problem. If it’s a JavaScript error, how does it look like?
  • Logging is your (another) friend. When something seems to be wrong, check your log file, or turn down your logging level to see if you can see any trace there. In some case, no log found can also be a trace to solve the problem.
  • Does iisreset solve your problem? No I’m not suggesting you to run iisreset every minute on your production site, but it might isolate the problem – if it does, then the problem might relate to cache, or initialization modules. If it does not, well, it can be anything else. But at least it’s not caused by certain things – the key is to narrow down the causes of problem. You can also try to call


    if the issue seems to related to the “modern” cache – such as ContentProvider. Note that ISynchronizedObjectInstanceCache does not control everything and iisreset is still the more powerful cache-clearing option.

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The free courses of computer science and programming

One of the most wonderful impacts of Internet is it makes many knowledge freely available. You can still attend the courses from the best universities in the World, without having to spend a bunch of money to get into US. You can now access the precious contents from the other half of the world. Of course, it’s still far from effective as when you come to classes, having friends and assignments, for real, but it’s undeniably a huge benefit.

The knowledge is yours!

Introductory courses:

MIT 6.00.1x: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python
MIT 6.00.2x: Introduction to Computational Thinking Data Science
MIT 6.00: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming
Harvard CS50(x): Intensive Introduction to Computer Science

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