Ten of the best books from the Deathray Research bibliography. Guaranteed to make you smarter about software engineering and the world. Inspired by the book, This Will Make You Smarter, and my teenage son, who said today “All books are self-help books”. Couldn’t agree more.
Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Prevent Them. Explains the recurrence of certain types of disasters by showing that they have deep economic, political and cognitive roots that repeatedly prevent people from recognizing and avoiding. Obvious parallels to software project management.
The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Errors in Complex Situations. An introduction to complex systems (like software development) that explains why they’re prone to mis-management and failure. Also see the presentations from the System and Project Management course at MIT. It covers the application of system dynamics to project management. It would be at the top of the list if it were a book..
The Evolution of Manufacturing Systems at Toyota The best book about Toyota. It is very theoretical. The most relevant chapter describes all of Toyota as an information processing system, an approach that works extremely well for software development, which I stole for that very reason.
Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman’s summation of his life’s research on biases and decision-making.
Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. Inspiring book about how process improvement can save lives
Factory Physics: Foundations of Manufacturing Management. This is a fascinating, deep analysis of factory operations. Long on deep principles, short on bs.
How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of ‘Intangibles’ in Business. A useful guide to using measurement to improve your understanding of the real world.
The Modern Firm. A fine, short book connecting organizational design to performance through the miracle of managerial economics, by the top guy in the field. Very good on incentives.
The Success of Open Source. Written by a Berkeley political scientist, it looks at open source as a production system. Highly recommend it to anyone who cares about software development. If there’s a more insightful book about Open Source tell me what it is.