The best books for those interested in becoming engineers

Why am I passionate about this?

I took a job as a programmer at the Naval Research Laboratory, working for astronomers who needed someone to write the code that would analyze the data coming back from the experiments that they flew on satellites and spacecraft. The first day on the job they showed me a sheet of FORTAN code and said “we want you to learn this.” It turned out to be the most fun thing I had ever done, and I went back to grad school and changed my major to computer science. I ended up as the Lanh and Oanh Nguyen Endowed Chair of Software Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University.


I wrote...

Software Product-Line Engineering: A Family-Based Software Development Process

By David M. Weiss, Chi Lai,

Book cover of Software Product-Line Engineering: A Family-Based Software Development Process

What is my book about?

Successful software engineers develop software that is widely used and involves many variations. One can think of a successful software system as a family, where all members of the family have certain elements in common, and each family member is a particular variation of the family, defined based on the variabilities allowed among and defining family members. This book defines a software family and describes how to think about the commonalities and variabilities that define the family.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built

David M. Weiss Why did I love this book?

Brand starts off by exploring structure in architecture. Not only does he identify the six key structures in buildings, but he tells us how rapidly they change.

Never have I met or heard of a software architect who could predict for me how rapidly the structures that he/she uses to design and build his/her system will change. (Many can't even identify what the key structures in their systems are).

Brand then gives us lessons in what kinds of buildings undergo what kinds of changes, and how to build in a way that encourages or discourages change. He shows how owners modify their buildings over time, and how buildings evolve as they pass from one owner to another.

Structure, designing for change, and understanding the possible evolutionary paths that your construct may take are all topics that should intensely interest software engineers.

By Stewart Brand,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How Buildings Learn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Buildings have often been studies whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time.

From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth this…


Book cover of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

David M. Weiss Why did I love this book?

This book shows what it takes to create a new science or field of technology.

At the start, no one knows what questions to ask or what experiments to perform. There are only indications that something is wrong with the current view of the field. No one knows what are the right variables and how they should be measured. (Sound familiar? Tell me, what is the software production capacity of your company?)

Over time, an explanatory paradigm appears and we can quantify and create theories on which to base predictions. The period of chaos between the early stages and the creation of theories is marked by the rise of the new paradigm, and a shift in the way of thinking. Are we in the midst of such a chaotic period?

Certainly we could use a paradigm shift. Kuhn doesn't tell us how to do it, but he does tell us what the signs are that we have made the shift.

By Thomas S. Kuhn,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A good book may have the power to change the way we see the world, but a great book actually becomes part of our daily consciousness, pervading our thinking to the point that we take it for granted, and we forget how provocative and challenging its ideas once were-and still are. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is that kind of book. When it was first published in 1962, it was a landmark event in the history and philosophy of science. And fifty years later, it still has many lessons to teach. With "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", Kuhn challenged long-standing…


Book cover of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

David M. Weiss Why did I love this book?

Whereas Kuhn shows us the signs of new paradigm creation, Malcolm Gladwell, in this book, shows us how ideas spread.

This book is not just useful on the grand scale for spreading a paradigm shift, but also on small scales to spread new ideas about virtually anything, such as how your company should use particular tools or techniques, a particular process, or even why other developers should use your design.

By Malcolm Gladwell,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Tipping Point as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An introduction to the Tipping Point theory explains how minor changes in ideas and products can increase their popularity and how small adjustments in an individual's immediate environment can alter group behavior.


The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald A. Norman,

Book cover of The Design of Everyday Things

David M. Weiss Why did I love this book?

How does one go about designing buildings and other things that we use every day? Want to be an architect and create objects that are used every day?

This book will help you understand how to do that. If you are creating software, this book will define principles that will be useful to you in the design of your software.

The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald A. Norman,

What is this book about?

First, businesses discovered quality as a key competitive edge; next came service. Now, Donald A. Norman, former Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science at the University of California, reveals how smart design is the new competitive frontier. The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful primer on how--and why--some products satisfy customers while others only frustrate them.


Book cover of The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

David M. Weiss Why did I love this book?

If you would like to know how children learn language and how it develops in their (and your) minds, then this book will interest you.

It will help you understand better what language is and how you use it. It will also help you to understand better how to help your children to learn and use language.

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Language Instinct as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Dazzling... Pinker's big idea is that language is an instinct...as innate to us as flying is to geese... Words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker's investigations'
- Independent

'A marvellously readable book... illuminates every facet of human language: its biological origin, its uniqueness to humanity, it acquisition by children, its grammatical structure, the production and perception of speech, the pathology of language disorders and the unstoppable evolution of languages and dialects' - Nature


You might also like...

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope – about figuring out where you belong, finding your way there, and living a life that matters.

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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