What are the non-programming books that have influenced how you write &or teach code?


Curious about this, especially after reading some of the :+1: ed. books :books: that have been pointed out on this site!

Major sequential bias (and recency, as I’ve been revisiting quite a lot of cognitive load reads of late:.



A book thread - be still my :nerd_face: :heart:!

Readicide changed the way that I taught forever - it got me to focus on literacy as a primary lens for teaching, and helped me to understand why students can be so resistant to reading, ultimately leading to the development of teaching strategies to increase literacy skills within a content area.

Other People’s Children started me on the journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in my educational and teaching approaches, and resulted in a lot of personal paradigm shifts that I know made me a stronger educator.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System was a really helpful primer in understanding the broad strokes of educational policy in the US, and helped me to develop a deep sense of empathy for how we run educational experiments on some of our most vulnerable populations.

Radical Candor is a more recent read that’s helped me immensely with interpersonal interactions, which I’ve also applied to teaching. I :heart: this book beyond belief and recommend it to anyone and everyone I meet:

Switch has been influential in helping me to understand the ways that people can be resistant to change (and learning can definitely be a whole lot of change!) and how to develop strategies to help make change management a less frightening prospect.

Value Proposition Design is a book that I’ve just started, and am working through it as an exercise in developing a value proposition for education - namely the R for Data Science Online Learning Community that I’ve been facilitating.


Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction has been very influential for me, not so much in terms of how I code but more in terms of my consideration of whether a project is ethical to pursue in the first place.

Too often in data science and other technical fields, people are more concerned with whether a particular solution or technology works than they are with whether a project is something that will be beneficial to people. I’m similarly looking forward to reading Virginia Eubanks’s Automating Inequality.


I like a lot of books on research on teaching and learning, teaching in general and instructional design:


For me as young person who is still quite new in the teaching process is always important to not take feedback & opinions on my lectures too personally. So I go with these:

These three were also good for me to overcome the feelings of imposter syndrome when it hits me (and it does quite regularly…) :roll_eyes:

And for the solid basis of visualisation principles I always source Alberto Cairos’ The Truthful Art and his examples:


A classic, How to Lie with Statistics. It really makes you think how to communicate more effectively with data.

Predictably Irrational helped me to keep in mind all sort of emotions, good and bad, that have an effect on projects and collaborative sessions.


Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. She about taking big, overwhelming projects one step at a time and how you should work being ok with writing shitty first drafts. I also love a quote she features (by E.L. Doctorow):

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”


Predictably Irrational is a great book to help get into the minds of others. I’m finding Nudge equally helpful in terms of thinking about how to influence people’s behavior in subtle but important ways. The authors’ ideas about the importance of setting strong default options was the key takeaway for me.



To add one on open source software,

I like the following for two big reasons. It gives an introduction to the early debates within open-source software communities. I feel a little bad for admitting it, but I sometimes like story-driven, almost gossipy context to help me get my head wrapped around some ideas. I also like it because it reminds you that open source software projects are, sort-of, syndicalist-anarcho-collectives in action. The book is a case study of one successful such collective.

And, surprising no one, here’s the author’s book page with full text and translations: http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/


This is a great forum topic!

In terms of programming with the goal of presenting information, Tufte and Few.

In terms of thinking through how to analyze real world data and why regression is so boss:


Not sure anything by Hofstadter is really non programming, but some facet of his deep adventures in analogy is often in my thoughts! Flatland (E. Abbott) is also common, again about analogy as a lever to grander, or simpler, things. The Futurological Congress (Stanislaw Lem) has similarly deep themes about hidden layers and complexity behind abstraction.


This one’s co-authored with Emmanuel Sanders (who wrote his chapters in French…kinda cool), and I swear it’s definitely not a programming book. More linguistics than anything else I’ve read by Hofstadter.

I adore Flatland!


Doesn’t qualify since it has “Programming” in its title, but I really liked Patrick Burns’ Tao Te Programming. Although Patrick Burns is an R expert (author of The R Inferno), this one is language agnostic and more about how to think about code rather than how to code.
And it’s short, and easy to pick any chapter at random and still get some useful thought material out of it.