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For software developers, there are some books you must absolutely read.

What is the single most influential book every programmer should read?

How about for sysadmins? Is there a similar list of books?


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See also this related (but different) question:… – Tony Meyer Apr 30 '09 at 20:40

37 Answers 37

If there really is a "must read" book for either sys admins or programmers I've yet to come across it. No one book has anywhere near enough information to fit the description. However, there are books that might qualify if you greatly narrow down the target audience. For me the most valuable book I have is The Perl Cookbook (second edition). It's the only one I open on a fairly regular basis.


I might get booted off of this site, given who wrote this, but... Code, by Charles Petzold

You can't go wrong with a book that starts with nothing, involves a dude in a telegraph relay office who wants to go fishing, and ends with a fully working computer.

Another great choice; it's not the newest, but it explains things in a fundamental way, from which standpoint you can understand the newest fanciness:

Content Delivery Networks by Scot Hull

In terms of giving you the baseline understanding of everything you need to know, grab these two. With a good foundation, you can then build a great house.


Some of the best book's I have ever read...

The Practice of Systems and Network administration by Limoncelli - will probably be a common theme in this thread.

Writing secure code by M. Howard - honestly changed the way I write code in the span of about 2 days.

Beginning Python by Hetland - Python for people who already know how to program.


And so it all began...

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The Visible Ops Handbook: Implementing ITIL in 4 Practical and Auditable Steps by Kevin Behr, Gene Kim and George Spafford.

Visible Ops Handbook cover

This gives a great guide to getting IT under control and improving it, based on the experiences of high performing IT organisations. From the book website:

Phase 1 - Stabilize Patient, Modify First Response

Almost 80% of outages are self-inflicted. The first step is to control risky changes and reduce MTTR by addressing how changes are managed and how problems are resolved.

Phase 2 - Catch and Release, Find Fragile Artifacts

Often, infrastructure exists that cannot be repeatedly replicated. In this step, we inventory assets, configurations, and services to identify those with the lowest change success rates, highest MTTR and highest business downtime costs.

Phase 3 - Establish Repeatable Build Library

The highest return on investment is implementing effective release management processes. This step creates repeatable builds for the most critical assets and services, to make it "cheaper to rebuild than to repair.”

Phase 4 - Enable Continuous Improvement

The previous steps have progressively built a closed-loop between the Release, Control and Resolution processes. This step implements metrics to allow continuous improvement of all of these process areas, to best ensure that business objectives are met.

And finally, short and sweet - not a 1000 page tome to wade through.


Sun Tzu: The Art of War. This is a very important book for sys administrators too because you will see many example to help you through difficult and challenging times in your career. You will learn how to win without fighting a single battle.


protected by Zoredache Mar 17 '11 at 22:37

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