The best problem solving books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about problem solving and why they recommend each book.

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By William J. Brown, Raphael C. Malveau, Hays W. "Skip" McCormick III, Thomas J. Mowbray

Book cover of AntiPatterns: Refactoring Software, Architectures, and Projects in Crisis

Most books about lessons learned and good practices tell you what you ought to be doing. AntiPatterns warns you about things you should not be doing. It points out a wide range of software project approaches that the authors believe are not advisable. The antipatterns have whimsical titles such as Poltergeists, Golden Hammer, Spaghetti Code, Stovepipe System, and Design by Committee. Each pattern describes the symptoms, causes, and consequences of that particular behavior, as well as offering a restructured approach that’s likely to yield better results. As with other lessons-learned books, this book lets you learn from the pain suffered by others to avoid stepping into the same traps on your own projects.

Who am I?

I first learned to program in college in 1970. Since then I’ve spent much time as a software developer, manager, tester, process improvement leader, consultant, trainer, author, and, of course, a user. I quickly learned that I didn’t have time to make all the mistakes that every software developer before me had already made. My training and writing career has involved sharing what I and others have learned with audiences to help them quickly become more effective software development team members, regardless of their project role. This book distills insights and observations both from my own experience and from what I’ve heard from thousands of students and consulting clients.

I wrote...

Software Development Pearls: Lessons from Fifty Years of Software Experience

By Karl Wiegers,

Book cover of Software Development Pearls: Lessons from Fifty Years of Software Experience

What is my book about?

There’s a tremendous amount to learn about the complex business of software development. Any approach that can help you avoid mistakes and false starts is a real time saver. Also, there’s a lot more to software development than just writing code. You can struggle up all those learning curves yourself, or you can jumpstart your career by learning from others’ experiences.

I wrote Software Development Pearls to share 60 powerful insights that I’ve collected in my 50+ years of software experience about requirements, design, project management, culture and teamwork, quality, and process improvement. Each lesson describes practical techniques, many true experience stories that illustrate the lesson, and helpful guidance to let you begin applying the lesson immediately in your world.

There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

By Wayne W. Dyer,

Book cover of There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem

Imagine being able to feel a peace so deep that you never knew existed; a love so profound that it transforms you and your whole life… Well, by reading the wonderful words of Dr. Wayne Dyer and by following his wise guidance, you will get to experience all of that and even more. In fact, at the end of the book you will have this profound feeling that you no longer are the same person you were when you first started reading this book and that you have become better, wiser, more peaceful, and far more loving and trusting than you used to be.

Who am I?

Raised in a fearful and toxic environment where love was completely absent and terror was always at home, I had to learn to let go of my many programs, fears, and traumas so that I could avoid making the mistake of thinking and believing that the story of my past was going to become the story of my life. Through a long journey of letting go, getting lost in order to be found, I realized that who I Am, and who we all are, is far greater and far nobler than what we are programmed to believe. And now my mission is to teach people from all over the world how to let go so they can thrive.

I wrote...

15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy: An Inspiring Guide to Discovering Effortless Joy

By Luminita D. Saviuc,

Book cover of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy: An Inspiring Guide to Discovering Effortless Joy

What is my book about?

"I encourage you to dive into 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy, and be truly inspired by the hard-won lessons of someone who has managed to turn her life around, let go of the past, and heal herself so that she could seek her ultimate truth–to live at the peak of her human potential and inspire the lives of many others.” Vishen Lakhiani, NY Times Best Selling Author, Founder & CEO of Mindvalley.

Simple yet wise, and informed by the author's own inspiring personal journey, this liberating book presents a fresh twist on happiness advice: take a step back to reflect and give yourself permission to let things go. That is, to let go of the unhealthy habits holding you back from achieving authentic happiness and living your best life. Includes a foreword by Vishen Lakhiani, New York Times bestselling author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and founder and CEO of Mindvalley.

How to Solve It

By George Polya,

Book cover of How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method

Polya was a great mathematician who knew what counted (after all, he made major contributions to combinatorics, the mathematics of counting). He thought hard about what he was doing when working on problems in mathematics, developing a mental process that lead to creative breakthroughs and solutions. Polya’s problem-solving method is broadly applicable to domains other than mathematics, and this book features many nice puzzles to improve your thinking.

Algorithm design is challenging because it often requires flashes of sudden insight which seem to come out of the blue. But there is a way of thinking about problems that make such flashes more likely to happen. I try to teach this thought process in my books, but Polya got there first.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, and have spent the past thirty years thinking/teaching/writing about algorithms. Algorithms are the really cool thing about computer science, for they form the ideas behind any interesting computer program. And algorithms turn out to be the ideas behind many interesting aspects of life that have nothing to do with computers. I have written six books on algorithms, programming, gambling, and history –including the ranking of the historical significance of all the people in Wikipedia.

I wrote...

The Algorithm Design Manual

By Steven S. Skiena,

Book cover of The Algorithm Design Manual

What is my book about?

This newly expanded and updated third edition of the bestselling classic continues to take the "mystery" out of designing algorithms and analyzing their efficacy and efficiency. It serves as the primary text of choice for algorithm design courses while maintaining its status as the premier practical reference guide to algorithms for programmers, researchers, and students.

The reader-friendly The Algorithm Design Manual provides straightforward access to combinatorial algorithms technology, stressing design over-analysis. The first part, "Techniques", provides accessible instruction on methods for designing and analyzing computer algorithms. The second part, "Resources", is intended for browsing and reference, and comprises the catalog of algorithmic resources, implementations, and an extensive bibliography.

Jabari Tries

By Gaia Cornwall,

Book cover of Jabari Tries

Many of us can relate to a younger sibling bugging the heck out of their older sibling when they are trying to get something done. Jabari is trying to build a flying machine and his little sister, Nika wants to be involved.  I love this book because it not only demonstrates Kabari’s perseverance but also the strategies he uses and the reflection that he does between each attempt. (He sketched, he planned, he made changes) When he became frustrated, he took a break, took a breath (a great strategy for all of us to use when we get “stuck”), and allowed his little sister to be his thought partner! Lots of lessons in this fun picture book for kids: Perseverance, resiliency, changing strategies, reflection when you make a mistake, and having a thought partner. Hmmmm…perhaps a lot of good lessons for adults too!!

Who am I?

I am a mom and life-long educator who has often scratched my head and wondered why kids give up so easily when things become a little challenging. I learned about fixed and growth mindset principles and decided to apply them to an education setting. What I realized during this time is that both adults and kids give up too easily and demonstrate fixed mindset thinking way too often! As a result, I wrote a few books for teachers, parents, and kids about ways to develop a growth mindset! I am sharing some of my favorite books that can be a catalyst for discussing resiliency and perseverance with the kids in our life!

I wrote...

Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

By Mary Cay Ricci,

Book cover of Nothing You Can't Do!: The Secret Power of Growth Mindsets

What is my book about?

Nothing You Can’t Do! The Secret Power of a Growth Mindset is an engaging, funny, and interactive book for kids who need some support sticking with stuff. Things like sports, school, music, art...just about anything that a kid faces! The book is divided into “secrets.” Here are a few: (Shhhhh don’t tell anyone that I am sharing some secrets) Secret #9: Your Brain Can Get Smarter and Stronger! Secret #10: Bounce Back from Setbacks. Secret #14: Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes. Secret #25: Have Some Strategies in Your Back Pocket.

Readers can learn to observe life through an optimistic lens, handle mistakes in a positive way and reflect on the potential that we all have when we learn the secrets of a growth mindset. 

How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci

By Michael J. Gelb,

Book cover of How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day

This book had to be first. I’ve read three biographies about da Vinci, alert for clues into his brilliance. And I’ve never had a book recommended to me as frequently, by former students, colleagues, and friends. I’ve read it twice. Gelb draws on da Vinci’s notebooks and his work to shape The Seven da Vincian Principles—Curiosity, Being Sensual, Embracing Uncertainty, and Holistic Perspectives are my favorites—and also provides specific creative tips to help us live true to those principles in all aspects of our lives. I love da Vinci’s appreciation for what nature can teach us about being creative and this book captures that well. 

Who am I?

I never believed the idea that creativity was for a gifted few. Throughout my life, as a teenage fishing guide, an entrepreneur and college professor, novelist, and creativity guide, the folks I’ve met are rich with creative and entrepreneurial qualities. My calling is to help you appreciate your creative genius so that it appreciates in value for you. Growing your creatively entrepreneurial genius is the best way to prepare for a future of unknowable unknowns, the best way to build careers we desire, the best way to fully appreciate life. I offer various perspectiveS on core creative and entrepreneurial concepts so you can construct the best path to your personal renewal and growth.

I wrote...

Becoming A Creative Genius (again)

By Carl Nordgren,

Book cover of Becoming A Creative Genius (again)

What is my book about?

Research NASA participated in found that 98% of us at age 4 perform on creativity assessments at levels NASA labels Creative Genius but by age 25 only 4% of us do. This book is the best of my courses taught to 2,000 Duke students to help them reclaim their creative genius—they do, having fun along the way.

As an entrepreneur I develop creative talent continuously; as a teacher, I study relevant neuroscience and social science research regularly; as a novelist, I explore personal creative habits; as a woods walker and animal husbandman, I live with natural creative forces. All those are sources for what I teach in a short book with a bias for action throughout.

Ban This Book

By Alan Gratz,

Book cover of Ban This Book

I love that Alan Gratz, a skillful storyteller, takes the important topic of banning and censoring books for children, and shows its dangerous side effects from a child’s point of view. We meet a well-meaning mother who wants to protect her child from, what she feels, are unsuited books in the school library. But one of those is Amy Anne’s most beloved book. She is not going to let these books disappear without a fight. In a respectful but effective manner she ends up showing the adults the importance of letting children make their own choices. 

Who am I?

I’ve been devouring books for most of my life. When I was young, I read Pippi Longstocking. I wanted to be just like her – strong, free, and independent. Through books I learned about other people in other countries, times, and circumstances. I have been writing books for a long time (I wrote 40) and work in (international schools) with teachers and students on their writing. From specific stories, readers learn universal wisdom. Many books written for children should be everybody-books! Books, more than any other medium, can help you to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins'. The books I picked to share with you all do this.

I wrote...

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

By Margriet Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr (illustrator), Falah Raheem (translator)

Book cover of Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey

What is my book about?

This powerful picture book is the universal story of people searching to live in peace in a place without war. It was illustrated by a Syrian artist with natural stones on the beach of Syria. Published in both English and Arabic, the book has been translated into many languages and is raising both funds and awareness of the plight of refugee children.

Learning to Use What You Already Know

By Stephen A. Stumpf, Joel R DeLuca, Dan Shefelman (illustrator)

Book cover of Learning to Use What You Already Know

The authors maintain that everybody experiences flashes of insight: those moments when an "aha!" reaction leaves us feeling enlightened and empowered. I have felt this and you probably have too. Insights are the bits of knowledge in different parts of ourselves and they can be harnessed into a more integrated and effective whole.

Learning To Use What You Already Know explains how you can encourage insight. Consider that each of us knows more than we think we do. Thus we can employ a reflective process, described in the book, that integrates our conscious and unconscious resources, and prompts our perceptions of everything from getting along with coworkers, to being a visionary leader, to coping with technological change.  

Here are what I consider to be some of the book’s amazing takeaways: Life repeats itself until we learn. Lack of fit is not failure. If you get it right the first time,…

Who am I?

I am the recognized expert on work-life balance, harmony, and integrative issues, and since 2009, hold the registered trademark from the USPTO as the “Work-Life Balance Expert®." I'm the author of several popular books including Breathing Space, Everyday Project Management, Simpler Living, and The 60 Second Organizer. My books have been featured in 68 of the top 75 American newspapers and, in two instances, advertised in Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. I offer hands-on strategies for a balanced career and life to audiences from Singapore to San Diego, with clients as diverse as Novo Nordisk, Worthington Steel, Lufthansa, American Law Institute, Wells Fargo, the IRS, and more.

I wrote...

Everyday Project Management

By Jeff Davidson,

Book cover of Everyday Project Management

What is my book about?

Everyday Project Management provides you with what you need to know for successful project management. The book covers vital aspects of project management including plotting your path, drawing upon supporting tools, assembling a winning team, expending your resources wisely, monitoring your progress, adjusting course as needed, and learning from your experience to be even better at managing projects in the future.

In the form of a quick reference tool, each of the 16 chapters can be read and absorbed in about 20 minutes. The book provides essential nuggets of wisdom with an understanding of what your role as project manager involves, the kinds of challenges you’ll encounter, the interpersonal issues that will arise, and how to stay on time and on budget in pursuit of the desired, quality outcome.

Mighty Mila

By Katie Petruzziello, Nadja Sarell (illustrator),

Book cover of Mighty Mila: An Inclusive Children's Book about an Unstoppable Deaf Girl

I love children’s books that teach values through the words and actions of believable characters. This is one of my favorites. Based on a true story, little Mila has cochlear implants, yet wants to prove that she is every bit as bright, as strong, and as brave as any other child. Her goal is to do everything herself and never ask for help. But when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, she must prove how mighty she really is. Filled with bright, detailed illustrations that add so much to the story, this heartwarming tale is all about believing in yourself.

Who am I?

As a former teacher, and grandmother of 13 now-grownup kids, I can’t begin to count the total number of children’s books I’ve read. A gazillion maybe? I have published 5 children’s books of my own and have read them to hundreds of classes all over the U.S. I have been an editor of children’s books for about 10 years and feel honored every time an author hands their precious manuscript over to me for assistance. I’ve read so, so many amazing books. It was difficult to name just a handful, but these books spoke to me, evoking emotions that stayed with me long after the last i was dotted and t was crossed. I hope you will feel that as well.

I wrote...

The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

By Bobbie Hinman, Kristi Bridgeman (illustrator),

Book cover of The Knot Fairy: Winner of 7 Children's Picture Book Awards

What is my book about?

The Knot Fairy was my first picture book. It blossomed out of love for my grandchildren (and their messy hair) and was a story that had to be told. You see, everyone knows her. She visits children everywhere…And she just likes to tangle their hair! Aha! So she’s the one! Soon my ideas morphed into a series of fairy books, each featuring the pranks of a different mischievous fairy. My mantra became, “Who better to blame it on than a fairy?”

As my first book remains near and dear to my heart, I have had the pleasure of meeting many other first-time authors, each with a story that is near and dear to their heart. The following books are among the best.

The Logic of Failure

By Dietrich Dorner,

Book cover of The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations

We are often not successful at long-term forecasting or assessing unintended consequences. Dorner’s book takes a group of executives, gives them complete control over a third-world country, and challenges them to improve their quality of life. Only a very few succeed. You will need to figure out why so many top executives failed and why some succeeded. It’s worth your time to figure it out.

Who am I?

As an aerospace mathematician, I transitioned into the futures markets and became fascinated by the ability to participate in “price discovery,” and to get instant gratification from a good trade. You are not dependent on anyone else. I then decided that the stock market offered another exciting venue. Once you learn to control risk and be patient, success will follow. All that from sitting at my desk.

I wrote...

Learn To Trade: Trade To Win With A Rule-Based Method

By Perry J. Kaufman,

Book cover of Learn To Trade: Trade To Win With A Rule-Based Method

What is my book about?

Learn To Trade will step you through chart reading, moving averages, breakouts, risk control, and portfolios – everything you need to be a successful trader. It will give you rules to follow, rules that make the difference between uncertainty and confidence.

While this book is intended for the serious beginner, all traders will benefit from the review and the added inside by renowned trader and analyst Perry Kaufman.

See, Solve, Scale

By Danny Warshay,

Book cover of See, Solve, Scale: How Anyone Can Turn an Unsolved Problem Into a Breakthrough Success

See, Solve, Scale provides a proven three-part framework for entrepreneurial success called the “See, Solve, Scale Entrepreneurial Process.” Author Danny Warshay has been a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Brown University for 15+ years. Previously, after earning his Harvard MBA, Warshay spent time in brand management at Procter & Gamble, followed by several years launching, growing, and exiting startups in software, advanced materials, consumer products, and media. 

See, Solve, Scale unpacks key concepts from Warshay’s Brown University course on entrepreneurship. Warshay has also taught these concepts internationally to entrepreneurship organizations, private companies, non-profits, governmental agencies, and non-governmental organizations. His teachings have broad applicability to solving all types of problems and improving the functioning and results of almost any kind of organization, not just startups. 

Key lessons in the book include the importance of bottom-up research, being anthropological and empathetic and finding and validating an unmet need or problem to solve, recognizing…

Who am I?

I have worked with startups since 2000, when I joined ShareBuilder, ultimately sold to Capital One in a $9.5 billion deal – one of my five successful startup exits to date. I am currently an officer of seven startups. Startups drive global job creation and problem-solving innovation. But 90% fail, often for preventable reasons. I am helping entrepreneurs beat those odds. I wrote Startup Law and Fundraising to help entrepreneurs build on a solid foundation, avoid common legal and regulatory mistakes, and fund their vision. My books are used globally in law and MBA schools, and I speak constantly on entrepreneurship-related topics, including recently to groups in Istanbul, Ramallah, and Tehran. 

I wrote...

Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

By Paul A. Swegle,

Book cover of Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

What is my book about?

Entrepreneurship is chaotic. Some chaos drives innovation. But legal chaos rocks startups to their foundations, dashing dreams, jeopardizing jobs and investments, causing liabilities, and slowing innovation. Swegle wrote Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors to help startups avoid these pitfalls, including the pitfall of struggling to grow a poorly funded business. 

This is a practical book meant to help entrepreneurs and their advisors: build on a solid foundation; avoid costly legal and regulatory mistakes; and raise the money needed for stability, innovation, and operational success. Startup Law and Fundraising is read in by entrepreneurs, lawyers, CFOs, investors, and others across the globe interested in business, business law, and startup fundraising. Its pages cover an unmatched range of startup-focused concepts, tips, traps, strategies, and best practices. 

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