I have been working my way through a stack of computer books the past couple of weeks and would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts with you regarding some of them.
I always seem to have stacks of books in my office and on my nightstand that I am reading. Never just one… always a stack. It used to bother me because I wanted to get through them and tick off a mark on an imaginary list somewhere. You know, “Completed reading list” – check! But I have come to make my peace with knowing that I will never be done. As soon as I get through one book another one takes its place. This is a never-ending process around here. The only solace I have is that some day the piles may become virtual (on a Kindle or iPad), but as of today I still like having the actual paper book in my hands to flip through, mark up, and enjoy…
The first book I want to mention is Sam Lightstone’s enjoyable new tome Making It Big in Software. Sam Lightstone is a Program Director in IBM’s Software Group, so he knows something about building enterprise software. He recently co-authored a pair of books that I enjoyed on logical and physical database design.
Anyway, Lightstone’s new book is a treatise on how to succeed as a software developer. To back up his advice, he includes interviews with multiple industry luminaries who have already succeeded. In my opinion, these interviews are the highlight of the book and worth the price of admission all on their own. It is fascinating to hear tales of development and eventual success from folks like Bjarne Stroutstrup, Linus Torvalds, James Gosling, and Steve Wozniak; 17 professional software stars in all. Every one of the interviewees had interesting tales to tell and good advice to give. And what makes it all the more interesting is trying to track down similarities among the many different personalities.
In between the interviews Lightstone offers advice for programmers of all ages and experience levels. Whether you are just starting out and need advice on how best to compile a resume, or you have been at it for years and need help on filing for patents and broadening your horizons into publishing and presenting, Making It Big In Software offers great advice from someone who has obviously been there/done that!
Another recent book that I have been enjoying is David Loshin’s The Practitioner’s Guide to Data Quality Improvement. Anyone who knows me knows that the poor state of data quality rampant just about everywhere these days is a pet peeve of mine. And Loshin’s text offers expert guidance on how organizations can remedy that situation.
The book provides a comprehensive look at data quality from both a business and IT perspective. It does not just cover technology issues, but discusses people, process, and technology. And that is important, because this is the mix that is needed in order to initiate any type of quality improvement regimen.
In the book, Loshin shows how to institute and run a data quality program, from start to finish. And this is all helpful information. But I think my favorite chapter of the book is the one on Data Quality Service Level Agreements. This is so because data quality is not a project that can be started and completed. It needs to become an on-going component of our everyday procedures. And only through adopting a service level agreement mentality when it comes to data quality can we ever hope to make data quality monitoring and improvement an accepted, regular component of what we do.
I also want to take a moment to mention the fourth edition of SQL For Smarties, the new edition of the perennial best-seller by Joe Celko. Joe is a well-known columnist and author who has made SQL his life’s work. If you work with SQL in any way, shape, or form, the most recent edition of Joe Celko’s SQL for Smarties needs to be on your bookshelf!
This book wastes no time with SQL basics, instead it offers up SQL coding tips, tricks, and techniques that can simplify your life as a developer. I have been a technical reviewer for the past few editions of this book and I can attest to the fact that what was good about this book keeps getting better. The book is not written for a specific dialect of SQL (such as Oracle’s PL/SQL or Microsoft T-SQL), but is based on the ANSI SQL standard. And that is a good thing because it is usually a wise decision to stick to the standard formulation instead of vendor specific syntax (when possible).
From guidance on temporal data to advice on coding when nulls are involved to using views and everything in between, Joe Celko’s book tackles the topic, offering up war stories and amusing anecdotes along the way. The bottom line is this: If you use SQL on the job, I guarantee the Joe Celko’s SQL for Smarties will make you a better SQL coder.
I better stop here. Of course, this has touched on only a few of the books in my reading queue, but if I spend too much time writing here, I won’t have any time left to finish reading the rest of those books, will I?