The best fun books for software developers

John Z. Sonmez Author Of Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual
By John Z. Sonmez

Who am I?

I love to expand my knowledge and learn not just about new technologies, but how things work. I find it fascinating to dig deep into computer programming, technology concepts, and really geek out on things. That’s why I love software development or programming books that aren’t just about some technology and how to do something, but rather books that really make you think and teach you not just programming skills but critical thinking about problem-solving skills. As a software developer for over 15 years and a person who teaches software developers, I have learned that if someone isn’t entertained, they aren’t learning. That’s why I put together a list of fun, entertaining and useful books.

I wrote...

Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual

By John Z. Sonmez,

Book cover of Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual

What is my book about?

For most software developers, coding is the fun part. The hard bits are dealing with clients, peers, and managers, staying productive, achieving financial security, keeping yourself in shape, and finding true love. This book is here to help.

Soft Skills: The software developer's life manual is a guide to a well-rounded, satisfying life as a technology professional. In it, developer and life coach John Sonmez offers advice to developers on important "soft" subjects like career and productivity, personal finance and investing, and even fitness and relationships. Arranged as a collection of 71 short chapters, this fun-to-read book invites you to dip in wherever you like. Soft Skills will help make you a better programmer, a more valuable employee, and a happier, healthier person.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Why did I love this book?

This book is an awesome deep dive into the way the computer hardware and the low-level software systems of computers really work. As a programmer, this was extremely interesting to me. It was fascinating to see how computers evolved over time and how the programming we do today is built on top of so many other concepts and ideas.

This book was super fun to read and I couldn’t put it down. I like doing the exercises and thought experiments and really didn’t want the book to end. By the end of the book I felt like I really understood how the underlying hardware worked and I found many useful ideas I could apply to my work as a software developer.

By Charles Petzold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? In CODE, they show us the ingenious ways we manipulate language and invent new means of communicating with each other. And through CODE, we see how this ingenuity and our very human compulsion to communicate have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries.

Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code, author Charles Petzold weaves an illuminating narrative for anyone who's ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines.

It's a cleverly illustrated…

Book cover of Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

Why did I love this book?

I love writing good clean code. There is something refreshing about writing or reading code that reads more like a book than some obscure instructions to a machine. This book goes into the details of how to write “clean code” and what makes it clean.

I felt like I learned so much about writing good code from reading this book about things that you are never really taught in school or on the job as a software developer.

I found so much of the book so interesting because I could use what I was learning right away to become a better programmer.

If you want to become a better programmer and are looking for a book that will entertain you and be fun along the way, I highly recommend Clean Code.

By Robert Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Clean Code as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Even bad code can function. But if code isn't clean, it can bring a development organization to its knees. Every year, countless hours and significant resources are lost because of poorly written code. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Noted software expert Robert C. Martin presents a revolutionary paradigm with Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship. Martin has teamed up with his colleagues from Object Mentor to distill their best agile practice of cleaning code "on the fly" into a book that will instill within you the values of a software craftsman and make you a…

Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Why did I love this book?

I loved reading this book! I wish I could read it for the first time all over again. Even though this isn’t exactly a programming book or a book about software development, the concepts in this book will be extremely fascinating to any software developer.

This book goes into all kinds of logical puzzles and digs deep into formal systems and how they come about. There are exercises that will take you hours to do in the book, but you’ll have fun the whole time while you are racking your brain.

I learned a lot of programming concepts I thought I understood on a much deeper level, like recursion and language design.

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.

Programming Pearls

By Jon Bentley,

Book cover of Programming Pearls

Why did I love this book?

Even though this book is a bit older, I had a ton of fun doing the programming problems in this book. This book really makes you think outside the box as a programmer and try to solve various problems in different ways depending on what you are trying to optimize for.

I really learned a lot about not just solving a problem, but solving a problem for a specific set of goals. Overall it made me a better programmer and made me think more deeply about programming problems.

If you want to improve your problem-solving skills and have fun doing it, I would definitely recommend this book.

By Jon Bentley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Programming Pearls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When programmers list their favourite books, Jon Bentley's collection of programming pearls is commonly included among the classics. Just as natural pearls grow from grains of sand that irritate oysters, programming pearls have grown from real problems that have irritated real programmers. With origins beyond solid engineering, in the realm of insight and creativity, Bentley's pearls offer unique and clever solutions to those nagging problems. Illustrated by programs designed as much for fun as for instruction, the book is filled with lucid and witty descriptions of practical programming techniques and fundamental design principles. It is not at all surprising that…

Book cover of The Imposter's Handbook: A CS Primer for Self-taught Developers

Why did I love this book?

Wow! This book is exactly what every programmer has always wanted to know or even felt guilty about not knowing and it’s all presented in an extremely simplified and fun way. 

This is one of those books where you get excited in the morning when you wake up because you know you are going to be able to read more in the book and you are hoping the book will never end.

It’s rare to find a big book that I enjoyed reading so much and felt so short. This book covers almost everything you ever wondered about computer science. After reading this book, I felt like I finally understood everything a programmer was supposed to know and I no longer felt that nagging feeling of being an imposter.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in programmers, artificial intelligence, and robots?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about programmers, artificial intelligence, and robots.

Programmers Explore 19 books about programmers
Artificial Intelligence Explore 220 books about artificial intelligence
Robots Explore 81 books about robots

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Cosmos, Men of Mathematics, and How Not to Be Wrong if you like this list.