What computer / programming related book would you take to a desert island?

so… because i’ll soon be afk for a week… and because i’ll have a little bit of extra time on my hands… i was thinking about perhaps wanting to read a bit more… so i started pondering which books could perhaps be interesting to have a look / go at… and so here is my question for you…

what is the one must read computer / programming related book in your opinion?


If you’ve got a laptop and Internet access, so you can install stuff and play with it: Seven Languages In Seven Weeks.

Otherwise, pick any of:

  • Refactoring – Fowler
  • Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture – Fowler
  • Refactoring to Patterns – Kerievsky
  • Enterprise Integration Patterns – Hohpe & Woolf

(if you have to pick just one, go with Kerievsky’s book)

All those are books I keep within reach on the right-hand side of my desk and dip into when I need inspiration.


I love some good book recommendations, thanks for these!

As I only just got back into programming, I only have one book recommendation, the one I’m using to learn Clojure right now:
Getting Clojure by Russ Olsen


If you are interested in workplace tangles, “The DevOps handbook” is fun and well-written. It’s by Gene Kim and others.

A great book for Clojure buffs away-from-keyboard, provided that they’re new to the subject, is “Scala for the impatient”, by Cay S. Hortmann. I cracked it open on a week-long train ride. Five stars. You will see Clojure in a new light.

For something completely different, “The Reasoned Schemer” by Daniel P Friedman, William E Byrd, & Oleg Kiselyov. This one is a series of puzzles meant to be considered attentively. Later, you can apply some of it in clojure.core.logic.

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  • SICP, because why not?
  • Starting Forth

you can also take some academic work along for the ride:

  • Armstrong Thesis
  • Out Of The Tar Pit
  • Hoare’s CSP paper and/or book
  • Byrd’s miniKanren thesis (the basis for core.logic and Reasoned Schemer)

Could you elaborate on the Scala book recommendation? I feel like you’re implying something, but I’m not sure what.

Exercises in Programming Style
by Cristina Videira Lopes


Depends on your background of course, but if you’re at all hazy on the sub-assembly layers of the machine, Charles Petzold’s Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software is informative & terrifically readable.

(Though honestly if I was literally on a desert island, I think I’d opt for John Huth’s The Lost Art of Finding our Way)


I would recommend The Art of Unix Programming by Eric Steven Raymond.

Is a book of:

  • History
  • Culture
  • Design
  • Software Patterns

… with some Koans at the end.

For a desert Island, nice reading!


If you’re spending at least an afternoon in the desert island, I’d recommend adding John Ousterhout’s “A Philosophy of Software Design”. It’s short and sweet, and will likely resonate with a Clojurist’s simplicity-oriented mindset.


This looks great - I ordered a copy immediately.
Thanks for mentioning it!

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I being on a desert island, presumably without a computer, I would probably bring M. Mitchell Waldrop The Dream Machine. It is not a programming book, but an amazing historical account of the rise of computing from the 30s and onward, told through the life of pioneer J.C.R. Licklider.
If you want to get awed by the very human greats whose shoulders we stand on, this is the book to bring for extra desert island-FOMO.


I might be in the minority here but I’d take the time away from thinking about code and read some fiction :slight_smile:


i agree - an entertaining long book superbly written about the history of computers

For someone interested in software programming with a Clojure background, I’d recommend as highly insightful reads:

  • Elements of Clojure for some nowhere-else-found epiphanies on software design notions like abstraction, composition etc.
  • SICP for going back to the fundamentals of programming and software design.
  • Designing Data-Intensive Applications for gaining expertise on how to make information-processing systems (which is probably what you do).

Here’s the rest of my programming bookshelf, so that you know against what alternatives I’ve ranked those recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/55850620-vw?shelf=programming.


I’ll recommend two more books from outside of our bubble, namely:

  • Type-Driven Development with Idris by Brady, and
  • Domain Modeling Made Functional by Wlaschin.

Also, a strong +1 for Kleppmann’s Designing Data-Intensive Applications.


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