Wednesday, April 13, 2011

OO Reading List

One of my favorite parts of Pragmatic Thinking is the description of the Dreyfuss model of skills acquisition. This describes the phenomena of how people are frequently distributed along some non-trivial "skill" (like programming), and defines metrics about what differentiates each skill level. Overall, as one moves up to higher skill levels, they are increasing their intuition about the problem space. Intuition is something for which we must train our brain through experience and knowledge. To that end, there are a few books that have helped me in increasing my intuition, which I would like to catalog. If you have others that are missing, please leave a comment! My appetite for the amazon marketplace is insatiable ;-)

OO and Design Patterns

  • But Uncle Bob Essay on SOLID - This is Robert C Martin's article outlining the principles of Object Oriented Design. If SOLID doesn't ring a bell, then start with this article. Note that the now-famous acronym: SOLID is not actually mentioned in this post, but Robert C Martin is still credited as the inventor.
  • Agile Software Development Principles, Patterns, and Practices - lovingly referred to as the PPP book (not to be confused with the protocol). This describes much of the why of OOD, and explains the Agile mindset.
  • Object Design - another often referenced book describing the why and various design decisions that go into object oriented design. Thinking about objects isn't hard-- category theory and abstraction is something that our brain does quite naturally (hence the appeal of this design methodology). However, the ergonomics of OOD can sometimes lead to an undeserved sense of self-confidence in one's design. It may feel like OOD, because "oh look-- there are objects there! inheritance! oh, my!", but within the context of software engineering there are many factors that make some designs good and some bad.
  • Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object Oriented Software - Canonical book by the "gang of four". Has good description of patterns and why they are useful. If you prefer something with prettier pictures, starting with the Head First Design Patterns book is nice too
  • Essays on OO Software Engineering - Maybe not terribly well-known, but well written theoretical overview of OO, the design forces in OOD, and the motivations behind them. I had the pleasure to work with Ed.
  • Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture - Canonical book on patterns by the man himself
  • Refactoring - Another Fowler book. I haven't read this one cover to cover, but read many chapters. Good examples to get your head around particular refactoring patterns
  • Domain Driven Design - Eric Evan's now-famous book on how to turn business problems into rich object models. Great read.
  • Real World Java EE Patterns - while this is a "java" book, the principles and design trade-off analysis that Adam Bien does for each pattern is universal. Good read.


  • Beautiful Code - Essays where programmers reflect on what is beauty in code. As the authors wax philosophic about their "beautiful" examples, you glean insight into their thought process. It's a nice read.
  • Implementation Patterns - Kent Beck's book about the low-level decisions we make as we actually type the code and create APIs (knowingly or unknowingly). One of my top recommendations. I really love this book.
  • Clean Code - guide to code readability, writing code at appropriate abstractions, etc. A nice companion to Implementation Patterns. I had the pleasure of meeting Robert C Martin at a conference once. I'm sure I acted appropriately star-struck.

Other "meta" and philosophic musings

  • Notes on the Synthesis of Form - this is not a computer science book, but deals with the theory of what is design, and describes a methodology for decomposition. It's a quick read, and at least the first half is worth the exploration just to get some ideas in your head about methodologies for design.
  • Pragmatic Programmer - what list would be complete without this one! Good overview of the pragmatic aspects of becoming a good programmer. From problem solving skills to tools, this is required reading. I think if you read this, then skip or at most skim Productive Programmer
  • Pragmatic Thinking: Refactoring your wetware - I mentioned this at the front of the post. I enjoyed most of this book-- in particular the front half. Some of the topics towards the end were less interesting, because they were more familiar. In any case at least the first three chapters are a great read.
  • The Little Schemer - you can run through this in an afternoon. This is an introduction to recursion, via Scheme/LISP. This book is fun, because its a simple and unique format, but takes you through a journey that helps shape your mind to "think" of solutions recursively.
  • Beautiful Architecture - This one wasn't as successful to me as Beautiful Code, but still worth a read. There are a few chapters you can skip, but a few (especially the first chapter) that are great.
  • Beautiful Data - I'm only about half way through this one, and need to spend more time with it, as I'm sure there are some gems in there I have yet to run across.

Reading TO-DOs

These are books that are on my shelf to read next (that are relevant to this list at least)
  • The Design of Design - Fred Brooks (of Mythical Man Month fame) waxes about design philosophies and goes through a few case studies. Im really excited to make time for this.
  • Masterminds of Programming - interviews with the creators of many of the major languages used over the last 30 years. Looks promising.
  • Thoughtworks Anthology - I am going to be selective in which essays I read. I will start with those that are most applicable to my world, and then move out to the more "exotic" (relatively). I know that there are essays in here that will be more useful to my current world than others.

I feel like I'm missing some...