Books on software engineering

There are many (thousands) of books that have been written about Software Engineering and the management of software people and projects. I have found that some of the best books in this category are the older ones. It seems like the early books captured the essence of the job better than most of the new ones. However, there are exceptions.

Peopleware, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, Dorset House Publications, ISBN 0-932633-05-6

This book is one of the all time greats. It is not only a great book for managing software engineers, but also for managing any professional team. DeMarco and Lister have recently started giving seminars on software engineering again after a long hiatus. I have attended their "Best of Class" seminar and can highly recommend it.

The Mythical Man Month, Frederick P. Brooks, Jr, Addison Wessly, ISBN 0-201-00650-2

This is one of the older software engineering books. It was written from the experiences gained during the development the IBM 360 OS. While it should be obvious to anyone that putting three women on a baby will not get a baby in three months, many mangers still try to shorten schedules by adding people. Frederick Brooks learned (over 20 years ago) that it is not reality. The other thing Mr Brooks taught us was that a hands-on manager is an oxymoron. The instant an engineer is vested with the title and responsibilities of "manager" he or she becomes technically incompetent. You can not be a good engineer and a good manager. Fred Brooks taught the lesson. Few have learned it.

The Psychology of Computer Programming, Gerald M. Weingberg, Van Nostrand Reinhold, ISBN 0442-20764-6

Have you ever wondered why software engineers seem to be so very different - so difficult to manage? If so, this is the book to read. Software engineers are not difficult to manage. You just need to understand them and the nature of their job.

Managing Programming People, Philip W. Metger, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-551094-5

This is another book that delves into the nature of people who choose write software as a profession. The book gives a lot of insight in an unusual narrative style.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig, ISBN 0-553-12923-6

This book does not deal directly with software engineering. It is a fascinating first person account of a one manís slide into insanity. As Mr. Pirsig goes off the deep end he make some remarkable discoveries about nature quality. If you have a goal of creating quality software, I recommend that you read this book and find out what quality really is.

Zen and Creative Management, Albert Low, Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-04669-3

I have read many books on the subject of management. This one the best. Most popular management books love to tell you how to do things in enumerated lists. The twelve ways to make your employees happy. The six methods of better communications. I you have read any of these books, you know what I mean. This book is different. It does not tell you how to do anything. It shows you essence of a mangerís job. It teaches the underlying principles. Once these principles are internalized, the lists look silly.