I'm interested in finding more books like The Pragmatic Programmer. Rather than the run of the mill, technology-specific books that are out of date by the time they go to press. Can you provide advice on finding more books along that vein?

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    Look for books that focus more on programming concepts rather than programming tutorials. For example Fowler's Signature Series books are timeless (for example Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture was written over 10 years ago but is still selling at full price on Amazon) When you pick up a technology book, ask yourself if it's a tutorial or a conceptual book. Pass on tutorials because you can usually learn it for free on your own (with a few exceptions, I love Programming Erlang from pragmatic press). – Michael Brown Sep 26 '12 at 16:43
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    Actually, I think it's a pretty good question. It may call for a (somewhat) subjective answer, but sometimes life's like that. I'd love to say "look for books written by the creator of the technology," but the fact is there is a relatively poor correlation between Good Coder and Good Writer/Explainer. I often look at the reviews on Amazon, paying special attention to the more negative reviews and what their problem was. I'm not put off by "bad book for beginners," but comments like "just a bunch of screenshots" are Red Flags. – Peter Rowell Sep 26 '12 at 19:01
  • This question on SO might be useful to you: stackoverflow.com/questions/1711/… – Ben Cottrell Sep 27 '12 at 0:00

The majority of the tech books out there are hopping onto a particular bandwagon. With the rate of change of technology (frameworks, languages, cloud applications, fads of the day), many tech authors write poorly done books trying to get them out there to be sold to the masses who are following the fad of the day before it changes.

As such, the books that are good are the ones that are "timeless" and don't require a given framework or language or cloud application. These books aren't trying to solve or explore a problem that exists today, but rather a problem that has existed for all time.

The first thing to look at is that if the book was written a few years ago and is still in bookstores today, it likely is not something that will not be in a bookstore next year (double negatives are fun).

Books such as The Mythical Man Month, Programming Pearls, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, and The Art of Computer Programming have been around for decades and are still good reading for a programmer. Having a "second edition" would be a good thing when looking at technology books because it means that its lasted long enough that some parts of it need updating, but the core of the book is the same.

Look to see if there is a wikipedia article on the author of the book. This helps to filter for the people who are more notable than the circle of a given framework (or trying to jump onto the bandwagon mentioned above). When one sees Martin Fowler, Tom DeMarco, or Steve McConnell - there are wikipedia pages for them and one can see that these individuals are notable outside the context of a single niche of technology and what they are known for isn't going to go away in the next decade.

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    Good idea about the Wikipedia pages – SomeKittens Sep 26 '12 at 22:14
  • Couldn't have put it better myself. Good job! – Michael Brown Oct 1 '12 at 22:01

Short Answer: Good technical book has very high review rate, and is referenced in many places.

As suggested, there is a list of influential programming books that are a great list to start from. In my opinion, if book has a reference in Wikipedia and high rating in Amazon then it is a very strong indicator of being a good Technical book !

  • Agreed, and if you look at the first 10 or so items that list, only one or two are actually language-specific, which was OP's worry. Another good tip is that timeless books remain highly rated, even after several years - it's pretty easy to search for these. – Daniel B Sep 27 '12 at 12:10
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    Almost the same, what I would answer. +1 – Adronius Sep 27 '12 at 19:00

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