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The IT Nerd's Summer Reading List

If you're looking for a good book to take on your summer vacation, we've got 12 recommendations, including technical guides to brush up on your skills and just-for-fun reads.
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Ah, summer. Time for BBQs, pool parties, and family vacations. And the perfect time to pick up a good book. Of course, for IT pros, downtime can be a pretty foreign concept. Still, if you've got that long-awaited vacation coming up and need a good book to read by the pool, we've got 12 recommendations for you.  

We polled our team of expert bloggers and editors to find out what's on the top of their reading lists. Naturally, our list is filled with a lot of technical books because what else would an IT nerd take to the beach? We've got recommendations for those inclined to expand their skillsets or brush up on a particular area with books on everything from network architecture to 802.11ac, IPv6, and Python.

But if you want to branch out from the technical stuff, we've also got some lighter fare. Our recommendations include an engaging account of the development of Internet precursor Arpanet, Ray Kurzweil's book on reverse-engineering the human brain, and a post-apocalyptic thriller. So get your beach towel, sunscreen, and grab a book.

 

Marcia Savage is the managing editor for Network Computing, and has been covering technology for 15 years. She has written and edited for CRN and spent several years covering information security for SC Magazine and TechTarget. Marcia began her journalism career in daily ... View Full Bio

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MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/1/2014 | 11:57:59 AM
other suggestions?
Anyone have other favorites, or recent releases they'd recommend for summer reading?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 2:06:18 AM
Re: other suggestions?
There's a fantastic article in the current issue of [n+1] (which is a quarterly literary magazine -- you can find it at Barnes & Noble) written by a Microsoft engineer who worked on MSN Messenger Service during the IM chat wars with AOL.  A highly informative, highly entertaining read.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/2/2014 | 11:34:08 AM
Re: other suggestions?
I'll have to look for that Joe, thanks for the suggestion! It would be interesting to read the story from an insider's perspective. I wonder if anyone uses AOL Instant Messenger anymore?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
7/4/2014 | 5:21:30 AM
Re: other suggestions?
@Marcia: If it still exists, I'm sure some people somewhere still do.  (Heck, MySpace is still alive and kicking, for goodness sakes.)

I do know that this is a thing, though: a Twitter account for AIM away messages.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 12:02:04 PM
Re: other suggestions?
That's too funny Joe, and it has nearly 300K followers! It amazes me the things that people turn into Twitter accounts. I read an interview with an actress, who said there was one for her eyebrows.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 7:06:31 AM
Re: other suggestions?
@Marcia: Which actress?

One of my new favorite Twitter accounts is @SavedYouAClick -- which takes clickbait headlines and then posts a tl;dr spoiler.

This one is one of my favorites.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/10/2014 | 11:32:17 AM
Re: other suggestions?
Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery.

That's a great Twitter account! 
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 6:08:06 AM
Re: other suggestions?
Marcia, I tend not to read technical books during the summer (too many technical papers for work), but I like interesting books that could inspire me and also learn something.

A few books I really enjoyed:

Thinking Small
The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle
by Andrea Hiott

Behind the Times
Inside the New New York Times
by Edwin Diamond

The Quants
How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It
by Scott Patterson

Enjoy your reading!
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/2/2014 | 11:27:55 AM
Re: other suggestions?
Those sound like great suggestions Pablo, thanks! "Thinking Small" sounds particularly interesting. There were so many Beetles on the road (especially the powder blue kind) when I was a kid.
jjessup570
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jjessup570,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2014 | 2:23:51 PM
Re: other suggestions?
Hi Pablo, 

If you liked Behind the Times, you might also enjoy 'The Kingdom and the Power', by Gay Talese. It's from the late sixties but is a classic look inside the NYT!

JJ
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Author
7/3/2014 | 4:46:24 PM
Re: other suggestions?
Thank you JJ, I'll look for it.
AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
7/11/2014 | 1:20:45 AM
Re: other suggestions?
I think everyone who is serious about their IT career, regardless of whether they are software developers, should read The Passionate Programmer by Chad Fowler.  It is packed with candid information that isn't sugar-coated like many career advice articles are. 

This is probably one of the rare books that is strictly focused on IT, and that you can read without needing to be in front of a computer.  Let's face it, if you're reading a book about programming or networking, it is often useful to get on the computer and try out what is being explained to you in the text.

I'll grab a few of the useful quotes from this book and list them in a separate post.
AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
7/11/2014 | 1:42:04 AM
Re: other suggestions?
I used to read many of the type of non-fiction books that are listed here.  However, after reading The Passionate Programmer, it gave me the right kick in the head to put things in perspective.  Consider the following quotes:

"Many of us are drawn to the IT industry because things are always
changing. It's an exciting and fresh work environment. There's always
something new to learn. On the flip side, though, is the disheartening
fact that our hard-earned investments in technology-related knowledge
depreciate faster than a new Chevy. Today's hot new item is tomorrow's
obsolete junk with a limited shelf life."
-Page 181

"Unless you're really lucky, you're probably not getting paid to be smart.
And you aren't getting paid to be a leading expert in the latest technologies.
You work for an institution that is, most likely, trying to make
money. Your job is to do something that helps the organizationmeet that
goal. All of this careful thought and preparation has made you ready to
show up at work and start kicking ass for your company."

-Page 95

"One of the many sources of controversy around the Extreme Programming
movement is its initial assertion that teammembers should work
no more than forty hours per week. This kind of talk really upsets
slave-driving managers who want to squeeze as much productivity as
possible from their teams. It even kind of upset programmers themselves.
The number of hours worked continuously becomes part of the
developer machismo, like how many beers a frat boy can chug at a
kegger."

-Page 122

The sobering thruth about many of us in the IT field is that much of the extra effort we put forth gaining in depth knowledge on topics such as IPv6 for example, goes beyond the tye of knowledge that most companies are willing to pay for.  They may welcome it, but it is often more than they need to reasonably (not speaking perfectly) keep their businesses running.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/11/2014 | 11:38:40 AM
Re: other suggestions?
Thanks for sharing those quotes @AbeG. That author really pulls no punches!
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/1/2014 | 6:32:45 PM
picks?
Any that you'd pick? I'm looking forward to reading Drew's "Wasteland Blues." I haven't read any post-apocalyptic fiction before (which probably puts me in the minority), so it will be an adventure!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
7/2/2014 | 2:08:46 AM
Re: picks?
I've had Dave Eggers's The Circle lent to me, with a strong recommendation to read it.  Apparently it's a tech novel about social media and all the other garbage interesting stuff that I deal with every day.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/2/2014 | 11:19:27 AM
Re: picks?
I've read reviews about "The Circle," and it sounds interesting; Dave Eggers is a good writer. The premise might be annoying though! 
AbeG
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AbeG,
User Rank: Black Belt
7/11/2014 | 1:53:01 AM
Re: picks?
I hate to admit it, but I spend so much time reading through boring technical documentation that I'm often burned out from reading. 

As a result, I recently started relying as much as possible on audio books.  Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy reading for fun, but for me, audio books are a necessity, not just because of being burned out from reading but also because I spend a fair amount of time in the car.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Strategist
7/5/2014 | 3:52:57 PM
sleeping
These books are on my need to read if having trouble sleeping list.

 
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 11:21:21 AM
Re: sleeping
Ha, we try to help!
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 7:07:27 AM
Re: sleeping
@Paul: I have a couple of books on Cloud NAS and SDN for that.  ;)
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
7/16/2014 | 9:04:13 PM
Troubleshooting tips
If anyone is looking for help with network troubleshooting, I would recommend Laura Chappell's book on troubleshooting with Wireshark. She is probably the best technical speaker I've ever seen, and she actually makes the topic entertaining.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
7/17/2014 | 5:48:41 PM
Re: Troubleshooting tips
She definitely has an impressive and intriguiging bio!
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