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Coders at Work
I would imagine that if most people compiled a list of books that they can't put down, programming books wouldn't feature too heavily. Coders at Work is an exception. It is the programming equivalent of a thriller. I think I managed to get through all 600 pages in a week or so. As Joel says on his blog:
This book is so interesting I did 60 minutes on the treadmill yesterday instead of the usual 30 because I couldn’t stop reading. Like I said, go buy it. ”
Coders at Work sees Peter Seibel interview fifteen world-class programmers, distilling their experience and wisdom into a short interview. The strength of each interview comes from the fact that Peter asks the sort of questions that only a programmer would ask; the sort of questions you want answered.
The nature of the questions means that a programming background is required to fully make sense of the text. That said, I had no specific previous experience of many of the topics encountered. In some situations this led me to read around the subjects being discussed. This is probably one of the reasons I, as a PHP developer, found the book so useful. Getting a wide range of knowledge and experience is essential for any programmer and this book certainly helps in that respect.
The breadth of topics discussed is impressive; ranging from specifics of debugging assembler for various esoteric platforms to the reasons why computer science needs to become more socially relevant.
Coders at Work made me think back to the days when I learned programming. I have fond memories of pouring over various copies of Input Magazine and typing in the programs to my Spectrum. Jamie Zawinski talking about how he spent hours after school programming Lisp also reminded me of my own evenings spent in our school computer room creating WIMP applications for the RiscOS machines; those were the days.
If you haven't read this book, you should. Like Joel says, go buy it.