My friend Peter Seibel’s new book Coders at Work (published by Apress) went to press today. I’ve been reading a preview copy he sent me, and it’s fantastic. The book follows the style of the earlier Apress book Founders at Work, presenting interviews with notable programmers, asking them how they work, about their careers, their thoughts on the software profession, and whatever other topics come up along the way.
The book works in part because Peter is himself an accomplished developer (his previous book, Practical Common Lisp, won a Jolt Award), making the conversations lively and topical. Beyond that, though, he chose as subjects (with help from a Digg-like voting system he wrote while planning the book), and was able to get interviews with, an incredibly interesting set of people who work on quite a wide range of software projects. Some, like Jamie Zawinski, contribute what are essentially battlefield memoirs (in Jamie’s case, from the early development of Netscape); others, such as Joshua Bloch (Chief Java Architect at Google), are more contemplations on the art and science of programming. Many questions come up repeatedly — how people got started in programming, how they fix difficult bugs, what working style they like with others, whether they’ve read Knuth (himself an interviewee) — and the breadth of the answers to these core questions is fun to see. You’re left feeling that you’ve spent several hours with a wonderful group of mentors: some that you’d rush to agree with, others that push you away from your habits and comfort.
One of the other core questions Peter asks is, what books would you recommend to help a developer learn programming? For me, this book joins my short list — it takes you away from the limitations of learning within a single company or community, and shows you the breadth of experiences that can make someone a great developer. I’m very happy for my friend that his book came out so well, and recommend it very highly for anyone who develops software. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon.