The best books for practical advice on software development

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been in the software engineering profession for over 40 years, working at companies as diverse as Bank Leumi, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Graftek (a CAD startup), Silicon Graphics, Boeing, and Microsoft. As an architect, lead, manager, director, writer, and now career coach, I've been obsessed with finding practical ways to make my work easier, my staff and clients more productive, and our products more delightful. These five books (along with my book and blog) provide proven, time-tested techniques. Each is written clearly with real-life examples, so it is easy to reap the benefits. Smile as you learn to avoid the missteps made by those who coded before you.


I wrote...

Agile Project Management with Kanban

By Eric Brechner,

Book cover of Agile Project Management with Kanban

What is my book about?

With Kanban, every minute you spend on a software project can add value for customers. Think of this book as “Kanban in a box”: open it, read the quickstart guide, and you’re up and running fast. As you gain experience, the book reveals powerful techniques for right-sizing teams, estimating, meeting deadlines, deploying components and services, adapting or evolving from Scrum or traditional Waterfall, and more.

For every step of your journey, you’ll find pragmatic advice, useful checklists, and actionable lessons. This truly is “Kanban in a box”: all you need to deliver breakthrough value and quality.

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

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Pragmatic Programmer: Your Journey to Mastery

Eric Brechner Why did I love this book?

The Pragmatic Programmer provides every tip an individual developer needs to produce high-quality code on schedule.

I had been a professional software engineer for 20 years when this book was first published. Every clever technique I had learned appeared in the book, along with a bunch of new ones.

It was so clear and useful, and now it is considered a classic.

By David Thomas, Andrew Hunt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Pragmatic Programmer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One of the most significant books in my life." -Obie Fernandez, Author, The Rails Way

"Twenty years ago, the first edition of The Pragmatic Programmer completely changed the trajectory of my career. This new edition could do the same for yours." -Mike Cohn, Author of Succeeding with Agile , Agile Estimating and Planning , and User Stories Applied

". . . filled with practical advice, both technical and professional, that will serve you and your projects well for years to come." -Andrea Goulet, CEO, Corgibytes, Founder, LegacyCode.Rocks

". . . lightning does strike twice, and this book is proof." -VM…


Book cover of The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

Eric Brechner Why did I love this book?

You’ve heard of the title, now read the book.

Yes, it was first published back in 1975, but when you read this collection of essays on different aspects of software design and production, you’ll be amazed (and a bit disheartened) at how common the problems still are and how relevant the advice remains.

The title essay is the star of the book, explaining why adding team members slows down software production instead of speeding it up.

But the other essays are also on point, discussing how to keep your best engineers productive, drive proper design, clearly communicate and collaborate across organizations, provide appropriate documentation, manage big projects, and deliver quality software. 

By Frederick P. Brooks Jr,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Mythical Man-Month as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month. With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects. These essays draw from his experience as project manager for the IBM System/360 computer family and then for OS/360, its massive software system. Now, 20 years after the initial publication of his book, Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new thoughts and advice, both for readers already familiar with his work and for readers discovering it for the first time.



The added chapters…


Book cover of Dynamics of Software Development

Eric Brechner Why did I love this book?

Not only does this book provide insight into the planning and development of one of the first visual IDEs, it’s overflowing with hilarious, profound, and pragmatic real-life lessons for how to manage a software team and deliver a complex project.

As a product of its time, the writing isn’t always politically correct. However, many of the lessons and memes are still part of our vernacular today: Don’t flip the bozo bit; If you build it, it will ship; and [Love] the customer.

Some of its lessons should be memes: Beware of [an engineer] in a room, Be an authority, not an authority figure, and Don’t trade a bad date for an equally bad date.

Some sections show their age in our current world of continuous delivery, but few current books have the humor and concise insight of this remarkable work.

By Jim McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dynamics of Software Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipping great software can be done, insists McCarthy, and charts, in five sections, the progress from initial design to successful product. McCarthy is a software industry veteran and the director of the Microsoft Visual C++ development group.


Book cover of Radical Candor

Eric Brechner Why did I love this book?

This unfortunately titled book reflects my own philosophy and recommendations for managing software engineers.

The title is unfortunate because there’s nothing radical about what the author recommends, at least not to me. The focus is on providing compassionate candor to your staff, caring personally about them while directly challenging them in areas where they should improve.

The first part of the book explains why you should take this approach, including the benefits it delivers. The second part provides clear and specific guidance on how to attain those benefits.

Having been a manager and coach for over 25 years, I’m often asked what management book I recommend. Until now, my choices were too esoteric or too academic. Now, I just recommend Radical Candor.

By Kim Scott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Radical Candor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Featuring a new preface, afterword and Radically Candid Performance Review Bonus Chapter, the fully revised & updated edition of Radical Candor is packed with even more guidance to help you improve your relationships at work.

'Reading Radical Candor will help you build, lead, and inspire teams to do the best work of their lives.' - Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In.

If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all . . . right?

While this advice may work for home life, as Kim Scott has seen first hand, it is a disaster when adopted…


Book cover of Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations

Eric Brechner Why did I love this book?

I love this book so much. Warning: it’s academic.

In each of the four years spanning 2014 to 2017, researchers collected data from 23,000 software engineering practitioners from around the globe. These engineers hailed from over 2,000 organizations, from small startups with fewer than five employees to large enterprises with more than 10,000 employees.

What did the researchers find? High performers use different practices than their peers, and these practices make high performers twice as likely as low performers to exceed goals of profitability, productivity, market share, number of customers, quantity of products and services, operating efficiency, customer satisfaction, and achieving mission objectives.

The book goes on to describe each of these practices in practical terms, clarifying the key aspects of each practice that make it effective.

By Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, Gene Kim

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Shingo Publication Award


Accelerate your organization to win in the marketplace.


How can we apply technology to drive business value? For years, we've been told that the performance of software delivery teams doesn't matter that it can't provide a competitive advantage to our companies. Through four years of groundbreaking research to include data collected from the State of DevOps reports conducted with Puppet, Dr. Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim set out to find a way to measure software delivery performance and what drives it using rigorous statistical methods. This book presents both the findings and…


You might also like...

Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

By Joylynn M Ross, Falessia Booker (editor),

Book cover of Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

Joylynn M Ross

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business is for anyone who wants to learn how to make money with their book and make a living as an author. Many authors dive into the literary industry without taking time to learn the business side of being an author, which can hinder book sales and the money that can be made as an author.

This resource serves as a guide to mastering the art of financial literary success and to help avoid the mistakes that many authors make while learning the ropes on their own. This book helps authors “think outside the book” in order to make money in ways other than book sales and create multiple streams of literary income.

Act Like an Author, Think Like a Business: Ways to Achieve Financial Literary Success

By Joylynn M Ross, Falessia Booker (editor),

What is this book about?

Do you want to make money with your book? Do you want to make a living as an author? There’s more to doing so than simply writing and publishing your book. Many authors dive into the literary industry without taking time to learn the business side of being an author. This could dramatically hinder your book sales and the money you can make as an author. Without a guide such as this, mastering the art of financial literary success can take you years, and you’ll be sure to make mistakes during the learning phase. Some mistakes could cost you money;…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in management, information technology, and management style?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about management, information technology, and management style.

Management Explore 139 books about management
Information Technology Explore 41 books about information technology
Management Style Explore 14 books about management style