When it comes to learning and growing skills there are many different ways a person can achieve this. They can learn programming and software design through experience on the job or building projects, reading blogs like mine, watching YouTube or tutorial videos, taking expensive online courses or in person boot-camps, or they can use the time tested approach of buying and working through books. But with all of these modern ways of learning some people may still wonder if buying books is an effective use of money and time resources when they can usually find similar information in articles or YouTube videos for free.
In this article I will summarize why even as a blogger, I still believe that books are the best way to learn new skills and are one of the best ways to invest money by investing in yourself.
Are programming books worth it
The short answer to this is 110% yes programming books and other leadership books are definitely worth the money and time to read, take notes, and follow along with any exercises from the chapters. Asides from the obvious benefit of these books being able to present the covered material in a more organized way and in more detail than a blog or YouTube video, a book also provides a resource you can have on your desk and look back on, improves your ability to process information, and provides intrinsic value of a physical good that you bought.
A resource to interact with and look back on
Occasionally I look at my bookcase in my office and feel overwhelmed by how many books I still need to read through. However they are actually there as a physical reminder that I set a personal goal to read and learn the material within them. With the hundreds of digital learning sources out there, I don’t feel the same urgency to really learn their content. When I watch programming related YouTube videos I often watch it in the background or while falling asleep and often don’t remember them in much detail.
However with a physical book that I purchased; I have the ability to literally feel the material. I have a sense of responsibility to learn the material given that I spent money on it. Also, I can highlight what I feel is important and add tabs in the pages to revisit important sections of text. Often there are times I may be working on a software design and recognize the themes as something I’ve seen in a pattern book and I can go back to the book and learn that in more detail as a reference source. The whole experience with a book is much more personal and that provides the ability to retain the knowledge from a book for longer periods of time.
Communication building and improving your reading skill
If you end up writing a list of what people are able to communicate the best you will likely end up with something that looks like this:
- Talk show hosts
- Politicians (some of them)
And a simple Google search on “how many books does a CEO read per year” will give you the immediate answer of 60 or 5 books a month. I hope it doesn’t need to be said that this is not a coincidence. The act of reading a book for comprehension improves your brains ability to process information and wire itself to interpret the language of the book better. This in turn sharpens your mind and communication abilities and will also present itself in your own ability to express written and verbal communication.
As a young developer this may not seem as important but as you grow in your career into a senior developer or a software development manager these communication skills will become even more important than your ability to create 100s of lines of code.
The number of 60 books a month may often be intimidating to people that don’t read that quickly or that often. And that is another reason that books are a great investment that are still worth it. The simple act of reading improves your ability to read and the more you do it the more this skill compounds itself. You can double or triple your reading speed through speed reading techniques such as suppressing your inner read along voice and being able to pick up more words in single eye fixations.
You just need the mental discipline to put down the video games, Netflix, or any other distraction keeping you away from reading and pick up a book a few hours before bed. Reading before sleep also gets you away from blue ambient lights of phone and TV screens and improves your ability to rest.
Learning acceleration through repetition
Another reason that books are one of the best investments of time and money as your ability to retain information through hearing it from multiple sources. Imagine you are watching back to back YouTube videos from a popular social influencer and you hear a few pieces of catchy information presented at a narrow scale and then the next video comes in completely on another topic and has other pieces of decent information. Unless you are deliberately following along, taking notes, and diving even deeper into their advice by reading more articles about the topic the information is likely going to just remain as something catchy you slightly remember hearing sometime ago.
In a book the information is usually presented in building themes where the last section flows into the next section with relevant and supplemental information. This makes your brain recognize it as an important theme worth remembering and being able to recall in the future.
Also as you go from book to book in the same niche, often times the themes between the books will be repeated in similar ways but with new presentations and opinions. This further improves your brains ability to process this knowledge and to add your own interpretations to it for more effective learning.
What are the best programming books for new software developers
Now when it comes to what books you should be reading it is important to be mindful of what books you spend your time on. For instance if you don’t know algebra you likely will have an awful time with a calculus book. And if that calculus book was written with the most challenging concepts in the beginning instead of having the information being presented in a logical order then good luck. You will end up dreading the subject and likely never want to look at it again because the information was not provided to you in a helpful way that made sense for your brain to follow along with.
Software development can be just like that. Some books are geared towards senior developers that will be building large enterprise applications and some books are written for junior developers to help them learn concepts that are important early in their careers. Buying a big hulking book like “Code Complete” coming right out of college is probably too much when there are other books that are more applicably to younger developers.
Here are my top recommended books for new developers:
Disclaimer: The links will take you to Amazon so you can check prices and reviews. If you chose to purchase any of these books a very small percentage will be given back to our site to support our continued mission of helping developers succeed with relevant career knowledge.
About Stefan Bradstreet
Stefan is a software development engineer II at Amazon with 5+ years of experience in tech. He is passionate about helping people become better coders and climbing the ranks in their careers as well as his own through continued learning of leadership techniques and software best practices.