The best books about working in the computer industry

Why am I passionate about this?

My curiosity and enthusiasm for computers and what they can do has not faded since I first encountered them in grade school (with the Commodore VIC-20). At this stage in my life, I’m thrilled that I can still get paid to play with them and make them do things. The computer industry is both my daily grind and my playground. You can come at this field casually, or intensely, but as long as you can interact with the computer, the computer will welcome you. The five books in this list paint the possibilities of work in this challenging but rewarding industry: failure, success, immortality, and everything in between. Enjoy!


I wrote...

Learn GIT in a Month of Lunches

By Rick Umali,

Book cover of Learn GIT in a Month of Lunches

What is my book about?

Learn Git in a Month of Lunches introduces the discipline of source code control using Git. Whether you're a beginner or a professional moving your source control to Git, you'll appreciate how this book concentrates on the components of Git you'll use every day. In easy-to-follow lessons designed to take an hour or less, you'll dig into Git's distributed collaboration model, along with core concepts like committing, branching, and merging.

My goal in writing this book was to go through Git’s operations in super slow-motion. By carefully thinking about each command and exercising all of its functions step-by-step, you will have a better grasp of how to navigate your source code with Git!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Soul of a New Machine

Rick Umali Why did I love this book?

This is one of my cherished books! I was introduced to it in the late 1980s by a college classmate. Reading it affirmed my aspirations: a career in the computer industry. The book revolves around Tom West, a computer engineering manager at Data General in the 1970s. West is a highly competent and determined technical manager. He needed to be in order to navigate the pressures of creating a brand-new computer out of thin air.

The book conveys what a computer company feels like. The maze of machines strewn in a lab. The concentration required to debug a hardware problem. The allure of midnight programming and playing Adventure. Tracy Kidder won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize (general nonfiction) with this book. It’s a vivid and invigorating read.

By Tracy Kidder,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Soul of a New Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tracy Kidder's "riveting" story of one company's efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and has become essential reading for understanding the history of the American tech industry.

Computers have changed since 1981 when The Soul of a New Machine first examined the culture of the computer revolution. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations.

The Soul…


Book cover of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley

Rick Umali Why did I love this book?

Most of my work experiences have been with startups, but that statement is a bit misleading. To be more accurate, I worked at early-stage companies, since the smallest company I worked for was already 35 people. Chaos Monkeys conveys both the excitement and drudgery of founding a real start-up (Antonio starts with two other co-founders).

Antonio’s book takes us from his cushy job on Wall Street to making the leap to running his own venture. Antonio’s flavorful style is the perfect voice as he takes you into those meetings at which money is exchanged, contracts are signed, and options are handed out. His company’s exit and his summation of what was gained and lost are the bread and butter conversations of anyone who’s ever worked in a high-tech startup. This is an illuminating and insightful book.

By Antonio Garcia Martinez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

An adrenaline-fuelled expose of life inside the tech bubble, Chaos Monkeys lays bare the secrets, power plays and lifestyle excesses of the visionaries, grunts, sociopaths, opportunists and money cowboys who are revolutionising our world. Written by startup CEO and industry provocateur Antonio Garcia Martinez, this is Liar's Poker meets The Social Network.

Computer engineers use 'chaos monkey' software to wreak havoc and test system robustness. Similarly, tech entrepreneurs like Antonio Garcia Martinez are society's chaos monkeys - their innovations disrupt every aspect of our lives, from transportation (Uber) and holidays (Airbnb) to television (Netflix) and dating…


Book cover of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble

Rick Umali Why did I love this book?

Dan Lyons’ book is the “fish out of water” trope applied to high-tech. Working in high-tech usually means buying into the grandiose vision of transformation that the company’s technology will produce. In industry parlance: you will be drinking a certain amount of Kool-Aid. Dan doesn’t do this. Instead, he applies a certain skepticism to the work his bosses have asked him to do.

It takes a bit of time to develop cynicism and skepticism in high-tech. By its nature, tech companies are optimistic. When you’re fresh out of school, a high-tech company’s vision and working style seem completely natural. But this isn’t Dan’s first job, and he maintains a near-constant level of incredulity at all the high-tech traditions that he sees around him. This is an intense delight to read.

By Dan Lyons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times bestseller, Dan Lyons' "hysterical" (Recode) memoir, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "the best book about Silicon Valley," takes readers inside the maddening world of fad-chasing venture capitalists, sales bros, social climbers, and sociopaths at today's tech startups.

For twenty-five years Dan Lyons was a magazine writer at the top of his profession--until one Friday morning when he received a phone call: Poof. His job no longer existed. "I think they just want to hire younger people," his boss at Newsweek told him. Fifty years old and with a wife and two young kids,…


Book cover of Uncanny Valley

Rick Umali Why did I love this book?

Anna’s memoir is about her time working in various high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. She does not name the companies she worked for, but they’re not necessary to understand her story, which is that of a wholly innocent newcomer to tech. How she managed to land a high-tech job is revealing, but anyone who’s spent any time in high-tech will have met people with “non-traditional backgrounds” (writers, musicians).

Her book is also a portrait of Silicon Valley and its environs. She writes about the nature of technical companies, their leaders, and whether their workers are happy and engaged. She presents the technical support side of the industry which is long unsung. Her book is a welcome perspective.

By Anna Wiener,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2020.

Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Jezebel, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage.A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a January 2020 IndieNext Pick.

"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning…


Book cover of Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet

Rick Umali Why did I love this book?

This superb book describes the creation of the Internet, the very network on which you’re reading these words. The key company behind its creation was a little consulting company called Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN). It was full of smart technical people, and Hafner and Lyon paint vivid portraits of their personality traits and their working styles. 

The authors also spend a lot of time describing how the network was put together, and its early growth. I like this book because the key ideas behind their work endures to this day. And this book shows the effort and energy needed to design and build something enduring, something that everyone aspires to do in the industry. It’s a marvelous history!

By Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Where Wizards Stay Up Late as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1960s, when computers were regarded as giant calculators, J.C.R. Licklider at MIT saw them as the ultimate communication device. With Defence Department funds, he and a band of computer whizzes began work on a nationwide network of computers. This is an account of their daring adventure.


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Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

Book cover of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Author Of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

My core value is realistic education—learning from each other’s errors and successes, but with full awareness of the difference between the determined past and the uncertain future. We can benefit from uncertainty, which I’ve been doing for a living as an engineer, academic researcher, and inventor. I make use of knowledge and science as much as possible, but I also know that strategic decisions for the uncertain future require skepticism and thinking to deal with the differences in a new circumstance. With my core value, I am passionate about sharing insights and knowledge that our formal education does not provide.

Sima's book list on realistic knowledge and decision making

What is my book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success—from fundamental physics, through evolution in biology, to how people learn, think, and decide.

This book presents a way of thinking and realistic knowledge that our formal education shuns. Stepping beyond this ignorance, the book shows how to deal with and even benefit from uncertainty by skeptical thinking, strategic decisions, and teamwork based on enlightened self-interests.

This bottom-up thinking is thought-provoking for leaders who wish to build teams rather than herds. The insights in the book will help you to be better prepared for the unexpected, less likely to conform when you…

Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

What is this book about?

Everything in nature evolves by trial, error, and success. They didn't teach you this in school, even though you should know why the rigid laws of physics don't rule nature and don't inhibit your free-will decisions to try, fail, and succeed. As a guide to success, this book shows how skepticism, prudent use of science, and thinking lead to strategic decisions for the uncertain future.
 
Presenting real-life examples, the thinking in the book combines sharp analyses with broad analogies to show:
 
How to identify realistic knowledge and avoid harm due to overgeneralized concepts. How to create new knowledge and solve…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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