Beach reads for techies 2015

IT pros share their reading plans for the summer and recommend their all-time favorite books for technologists. Elon Musk or Malcolm Gladwell, anyone?

Beach Reads for Techies
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The books of summer

Vacation season is upon us at last. What better way to spend the lazy, hazy days of summer than catching up on some of the best business and technology books out there?

If you're looking for some reading suggestions that will keep you engaged, informed and entertained, we've got the list for you. Computerworld polled IT pros from around the country in various positions and industries to determine what books they're reading right now and which reads top their list of all-time best books for techies.

Click through to find out what your colleagues are reading this summer, then use the comments icon or tweet #CWBeachReads to share your own recommendations.

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Brook Colangelo

Chief technology officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Boston.

Vacation plans: "This year my husband and I are taking my parents to Paris for the first time. We're excited to spend quality time enjoying some amazing food and wine together."

Reading plans: This summer I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in a couple of our own [Houghton Mifflin] titles that have been waiting patiently on my nightstand, including What If by Randall Munroe, which stormed the New York Times bestseller list last year."

"On the business side, I'm currently reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. I re-read this book every few years and find it to be a great roadmap for 'corporate athleticism.' I actually think life isn't a marathon but rather a series of sprints, so it's important to be prepared and stay on your toes. And for fun and health, I'm loving The Whole 30 by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. I'm all about continuous improvement, both personally and professionally.

Medium of choice: "I love my Kindle, especially the ability to highlight and refer back easily. And also it's durable."

Top recommendation for techies: The Wolf in CIO's Clothing. "I really enjoy Tina Nunno's research on history and real-world lessons from technology leaders."

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Martha Poulter

Executive vice president and CIO at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in Stamford, Conn.

Vacation plans: "I haven't planned it yet, but I can't wait to go to the W Maldives."

Reading plans: The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, and The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

"I just finished a fun read called The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and also two business books: Collective Genius by Linda A. Hill and Greg Brandeau and Leading Digital by George Westerman and Didier Bonnet."

Medium of choice: For plane travel, an iPad. "For sunlit places, I prefer an actual book."

Top recommendation for techies: Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs by Larry Keeley, Helen Walters, Ryan Pikkel and Brian Quinn. "I think all technologists should be reading about the ways in which technology is affecting business and consumer experience changes and new expectations. Innovation in the age of great disruption is a fascinating topic."

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Dave Ballai

CIO and vice president of content operations at Reed Technology & Information Services in Horsham, Pa.

Vacation plans: "This summer my family is visiting Newport, R.I., for the first time to enjoy the beach and tours of the historic mansions and vineyards there. We're looking forward to visiting many of the Gilded Age homes built by the Vanderbilt family, Doris Duke and others."

Reading plans: "In the queue on my Kindle are Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick with William Wozniak; What the Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell; and Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni, a fun bit of business fiction."

"I'm currently reading Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. It has been long on my reading list, having enjoyed another of her novels, The Fountainhead. I recently completed a wonderful future-oriented book by George Friedman titled The Next 100 Years, as I genuinely enjoy progressive thinking about future. This one looks at the countries that will hold or attain power over the next century with some interesting thinking on the technology of war. I'd also recommend Neil deGrasse Tyson's audio version of The Inexplicable Universe."

Medium of choice: "I'm comfortable reading on all forms of media, but primarily I use a Kindle when I'm stationary and Audible when I'm on the road."

Top recommendation for techies: "The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a fascinating read that will get you thinking about long-term trends. Dataclysm: Who We Are, by Christian Rudder, leverages infographics derived from Web data to provide more direct observations about all of us, without filters. Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, by Cory Doctorow, is an interesting report on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age, including the pitfalls and opportunities revolving around various Internet business models."

"Finally, a recent book by Bernard Marr, Big Data: Using SMART Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance, is a practical guide for those who need to be persuaded of the potential impacts of analytics to a business."

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Anno Saxenian

Dean and professor, University of California Berkeley School of Information.

Vacation plans: "I'm planning a week in Southern France, following a conference on the future of work in Aix-en-Provence."

Reading plans: Ashlee Vance's Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Michael Manoochehri's Data Just Right: Introduction to Large-Scale Data & Analytics, and John Foreman's Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight.

Medium of choice: "I read technical books on my iPad or Kindle and fiction in hard copy."

Top recommendation for techies: Kentaro Toyama's Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. "Also lots of fiction, including classics like The Great Gatsby and Anna Karenina."

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Manoj Chaudhary

CTO and vice president of engineering at Loggly in San Francisco.

Vacation plans: "This year I am planning to go to Switzerland for a week and then to New Delhi for two weeks. I like to go to a place where I can cut off from my digital-focused life and enjoy time with my kids and wife."

Reading plans: The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis. "This is an old book I never got to read. It has lot of inspirational success stories for technical people."

Medium of choice: Old-fashioned books.

Top recommendation for techies: Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. "This is the book where [Zappos founder] Tony Hsieh talks about how to build corporate culture to wow its customers by delivering service to them, not just products. This is not a technical read, and I like engineers and technical people to think beyond technologies because that is how the great leader gets born."

Also, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. "This is book where Simon talks [about] how to think about the company and tells how great and successful companies think differently about themselves. As he says in the book, 'It doesn't matter what you do, it matters why you do it.'"

Finally, Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking and Outliers: The Success Story, both by Malcolm Gladwell.

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Chris Caruso

Global business IT director with PPG Industries in Pittsburgh.

Vacation plans: Rome. "I'm attending the ordination of a friend at St. Peter's Basilica and visiting one of our favorite cities for the history, beauty and, of course, the food."

Reading plans: The Innovator's Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization by Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer. "We are developing a curriculum for IT innovation across our IT organization, and we are looking for ideas for an ongoing method to drive IT innovation."

And The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking by Andrea Mugnaini. "My wife and I are building an outdoor wood-fired oven, and this book will come in handy."

Medium of choice: The Kindle app on the iPad mini.

Top recommendation for techies: Taming the Big Data Tidal Wave: Finding Opportunities in Huge Data Streams with Advanced Analytics by Bill Franks. "For anyone who isn't sure of what big data is or its potential, this book provides a clear and understandable overview for both technical and non-technical professionals."

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Clayton M. Christensen, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen. "If you think you can't be innovative, read this book and think again. The book provides insight into the five key practices of some of the world's most innovative people."

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. "Great insight to online and in-store buying do's and don'ts that can help any IT professional involved in retail or e-commerce projects."

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Kristen Lamoreaux

Founder of SIM Women and president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search in Skippack, Pa.

Vacation plans: "We're headed to Williamsburg, Va., as soon as school lets out -- we're a family of history buffs. We'll also spend a couple weekends on Long Beach Island, hit a four-day music festival called PeachFest in August, and possibly a trip to Cancun."

Reading plans: "I am a voracious reader. I'll read three to four books a week at times, so I can't outline my entire summer reading list. But here are a few on my radar: Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by G. Richard Shell. I heard him speak, and he teaches a Wharton class on success and how each person defines it differently; it was fascinating."

"On my table now is Politics of Promotion by Bonnie Marcus. She is so savvy. She's an executive coach, author, blogger for Forbes.com and a champion of women in leadership roles. Also The 11 Laws of Likability by Michelle Lederman. I recently saw Michelle speak, and the entire room of CIOs were amazed by her energy and her pitching arm (she was throwing Nerf balls across the ballroom). She takes the nebulous world of relationship management and networking and applies linear logic to it, so it's great for all us IT folks."

"I'll also be reading Chris Grabenstein's books with my son -- The Island of Dr. Libris, Mr. Lemoncello's Library and his Riley Mack books. I believe it's important for parents to read what their kids are reading in order to experience the book together and to ensure the child's comprehension of the story; plus it's fun."

"I'll also mix in fiction (James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Harlan Coben) and then historical event-based books like any book by Erik Larson. I love those."

Medium of choice: "I have more books on my B&N Nook than I do on my bookshelves. Devices allow you to bring a selection of books wherever you travel. Books for my son will be actual books."

Top recommendation for techies: Everyone's in Sales: How to Unleash the Power of Sales Culture to Boost Your Revenues, Profits and Growth by Todd Cohen. "Todd works with CIOs to help them create a mind-shift inside their organizations that translates into greatly improved business/IT interactions and relationships."

Also, 8 Things We Hate About IT: How to Move Beyond the Frustrations to Form a New Partnership with IT by Susan Cramm. "Hands down one of my favorite books; it's so damn funny. Susan is an executive coach and author, but she was also a CIO and a CFO, so she knows what she's talking about. She outlines the uselessness of the 'us v. them' mentality between the business and IT, and then takes it a step further to highlight solutions."

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Steve McDonald

Vice president of product at StrataCloud in Atlanta.

Vacation plans: Florida's Emerald Coast Scenic Highway 30A. "Great beaches in an area that's also conducive to fresh water fishing, hiking, cycling and running."

Reading plans: The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. "Having grown up around the scientific method, I'm interested in learning to apply continuous innovation techniques in the development of our product strategy."

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland. "I look forward to reading about non-software applications of scrum and agile thinking. My hope is that it builds bridges between the product and engineering teams I support today."

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. "Because who doesn't want to know the principles that drive the juggernaut that is Google?"

The Fixer by Joseph Finder. "Just because it sounds like a wild ride."

Medium of choice: iPhone for Audible, and iPad with Kindle app for books.

Top recommendation for techies: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. "We all face challenges in the tech industry that seem insurmountable. Think differently about perceived disadvantages when approaching challenges. Change the game to exploit the opportunity and win."

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Maryann K. Kelly

Principal managing member at Executive Solution Innovation (ESI) in Philadelphia.

Vacation plans: The beach. "For me, spending time at the beach inspires innovative ideas and simplifies issues."

Reading plans: The Executive Guide to Innovation: Turning Good Ideas into Great Results by Jane Keathley, Peter Merrill, Tracy Owens, Ian Meggarrey and Kevin Posey. "Given the pace of change -- economically and organizationally -- and the increase in mergers and acquisitions, we need to anticipate change to best adapt to it. We need to leverage the existing to optimize the potential as we recreate ourselves to add value in the evolving market landscape and in our own lives."

Medium of choice: "My smartphone is my choice for the most fully functional, convenient and portable device."

Top recommendation for techies: Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman. "We all need to know more from a corporate and personal perspective, given the global economy, our increased dependence on technology, and more persistent and sophisticated hacking successes and attempts."

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Steven Gardell

Software development manager at Sonus Networks in Westford, Mass.

Vacation plans: A week on Virginia Beach, and then long weekends in the New England mountains.

Reading plans: "On the lighter side, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. Otherwise, I generally keep my eyes out for both modern and ancient history reads. I have a stack at home in the recently-read/in-progress/pending state. Some of it is a little obscure. For example, I recently completed Broadsides: The Age of Fighting Sail by Nathan Miller and The Ancient Historians by Michael Grant. Not sure why these two caught my eye -- the ancient history one probably because it was at a library book sale."

"In the business press, I recently read How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. I had read a couple of other Jim Collins books so I thought the 'avoiding failure' perspective might be interesting."

Medium of choice: "I read both hard copy books and e-books via my Kindle Fire. I find the color mandatory for technical books due to the nature of modern illustrations."

Top recommendation for techies: "It might be a bit dated, but I think I would probably go with Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell."

"The book does an outstanding job of explaining what is possible and how to do it. It puts the lie to the often-expressed notion that 'good software estimation is impossible,' while at the same time discounting naïve notions that we can make precise predictions for large long-running programs. It addresses the art of the possible, and then follows up with a great discussion on how to successfully run projects in the face of imperfect estimates. I brought it to in to work my first week at Sonus almost nine years ago and still refer back to it on occasion."

"There are lots of more technical and current books I might talk about. For example, I am pretty impressed by Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert Martin."

Know of a great book your colleagues would love? Use the comments icon or tweet #CWBeachReads to share your recommendations.