Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

14 Apr 2022, 7:00 a.m.

Management/Software And Scifi Book Recommendations

In the last few days, two people have asked me for book recommendations. First: someone looking to use up an employer subsidy for books related to management and software engineering.

VERY HIGH REC: Making Software: What Really Works, and Why We Believe It, edited by Andy Oram and Greg Wilson, O'Reilly Media, 2010, 978-0596808327: skim at least the table of contents and you'll see something that will help you work better and/or win an argument.

High recs:

Some maybe obvious choices for someone who's already been reading classics of software engineering and management, all strongly recommended: Brooks's The Mythical Man-Month, DeMarco & Lister's Peopleware, Gerald Weinberg's The Psychology of Computer Programming, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (yes, really), Fisher & Ury's Getting To Yes, and Cialdini's Influence: The Science of Persuasion.

Some books where the reason my recommendation isn't as ironclad is just that my memories are fuzzy or I haven't finished them yet:

Next: someone asked me to recommend scifi novels or story collections for teenagers to choose from as part of a science fiction class (in addition to short stories the instructor already had in mind). They were particularly interested in ensuring author diversity, and already knew about Ted Chiang, N.K. Jemisin, Charlie Jane Anders, Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and several other authors. As I said to them:

[In general I think you'll want to pre-read or pre-skim all the stuff you offer these students to ensure you will be ok with it as school-assigned content.]

A short story to consider assigning: Violet Allen's "The Venus Effect".

I think you should strongly consider the books that were winners or finalists for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, which started in 2018 as "Award for Best Young Adult Book" and has been going each year ever since. Some of these are fantasy rather than scifi, so double-check first if you only want scifi. Many of the authors are from marginalized groups. I can personally recommend a few that I have really enjoyed:

There's also an Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction and I've heard very good things about Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez. And I liked The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and Homeland should probably be in your list. They are YA scifi technothrillers that still resonate several years after they were written. Also by Cory: a YA novella, I think, called "Party Discipline" that your students might get a lot out of.

If you have any students who are particularly inclined toward programming, consider -- and I know this is weird and wild -- Diane Duane's YA novels that she wrote like 20 years ago in the Tom Clancy Net Force universe might be of interest. I wrote a bit about them in my blog. If they do, ask them specifically to think about what she got right and wrong in her predictions, and talk with them about it!

In work that is worth considering that is not YA-targeted:

  • Rosemary Kirstein's first "Steerswoman" book seems to take place in a fantasy universe but is about a scientist
  • America, Inc. by Andrea Phillips -- it's a near-future science fiction novel with a lot of design thinking about US elections.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula Kroeber Le Guin - stars a physicist thinking about sociology
  • China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh. Labor, vulnerability, travelogue, queer love, goats on Mars, entrepreneurship, people finding ways to make our lives work in the aftermath of epochal change.

Maybe a Ken Liu short story collection, if you want to give folks more short story collection options? Also there's an Octavia Butler short story collection that is very worth considering.

Also, check out the Carl Brandon Society's past awarded books which will help you find books by and about people of color.

Some people really like Andy Weir's The Martian (I haven't read it yet) and I think it's worth considering including for students who connect a lot more with problem-solving plot than with rich characterization/relationships/etc.