Kevlin Henney, on the topic of what to read if you’re a programmer


KEVLIN HENNEY (@KevlinHenney) is a globally well known independent consultant, speaker, writer and trainer who’s trained a few thousand developers so far. Kevlin was one of our speakers at ITkonekt 2020. 

We’ve talked to Kevlin about the best books to read if you’re a programmer who wants to learn and grow. He’s shared several recommendations for you. 

Among the code-focused books, the first one Kevlin singled out is Smalltalk Best Practice Patterns by Kent Beck. He says it might sound like a book too specific to be of interest to the general programmer, but many of the practices outlined translate to how to think and work in many languages that are built on objects. If you want to break free of the trap of thinking that patterns are a narrow and fixed set of ideas that exist only at an abstract level of design, this book does it.

The next one on the recommendation list is The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. Kevlin says this is a classic book, now in its second edition, that gives you a good tour of how to live in the code and development of software beyond the syntax and APIs.

Kevlin Henney Itkbooks

Kevlin also suggests reading Refactoring by Martin Fowler, which is now in its second edition. He says this book shows you that refactoring is a positive and constructive design practice and not just a way of tweaking code, a set of shortcut keys or something that is only discussed in the context of legacy and technical debt.

Here’s also a couple of non-programming books which Kevlin thinks might also interest you. To start with, there is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, a readable introduction to behavioural economics and how we actually make decisions, rather than how we think we make decisions or how we think we should make decisions.

Then, there is Slack by Tom DeMarco. Kevlin says it offers a guide to how businesses and business processes should be thinking about the relationship between work, time and people, rather than destructively or pointlessly focusing on efficiency.

Finally, Kevlin recommends How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand as a beautiful book that reveals the dynamics of how architecture and design evolve over time according to who uses building and how they do so.

In the end, there is only one book to be added to this list, and that is 97 Things Every Java Programmer Should Know, edited by Kevlin Henney and Trisha Gee. Put on your seatbelt and prepare to take your Java skills to the next level! 😉 


Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of our online workshops and lectures with the famous Kevlin Henney this spring! In April and May, we’re organizing:

– Architecture with Agility – Two-day workshop – April 24 & 25;
– Program with GUTs – Four-hour deep dive – May 14 or 15.

The number of participants is limited!

If you want to know more about this, please contact us on 🙂


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