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How To Choose a Good Technical Book

April 16th, 2008

The quality of technical books have wide variations between publishers and authors. While choosing a book based on the author is reliable, depending on a publisher or brand name is not reliable, and choosing a book based on advertisements is even less reliable. It makes sense to choose your books wisely since most technical books live a short life (the duration of a single project), cost money, and require precious time to be read.

When choosing a book I follow this heuristic approach:

  • Ask experts in the field (friends, forums, newsgroups) for recommendations
  • Ask these experts to differentiate between the high level books and the books that take a technical deep dive.
  • Filter out (discard) the high level recommendations.
  • Filter out (discard) all recommendations that contain the following keywords in their title:
    • Cookbook
    • Problem – Design – Solution
    • Hacks
    • Tips
    • Learn X in 24 hours
  • Look for recognizable authors.
  • Cross reference these recommendations through Amazon's Reviews:
    • Books with over 100 excellent ratings on Amazon are instant winners – the Amazon community is rarely misleading.
    • Books that haven't received more than 50 ratings should be considered with skepticism – visit a local book store and skim through the text in question before making the purchase.
Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Book, Musings, Software Tags:
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