Beach reads for techies 2016

IT pros share their reading plans for the summer and recommend their all-time favorite books for technologists.

Beach Reads for Techies

Summertime, and the reading is easy

There’s something about summer -- with its longer days, warmer weather and (hopefully) lighter workloads -- that tempts people to slow down, stretch out and enjoy a good book. For IT types, that often means catching up on some of the best business and technology books out there.

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 hit up our comments section or tag us on Twitter @Computerworld to share your own recommendations.

Linglong He

Linglong He

CIO at Quicken Loans in Detroit.

Vacation plans: "My husband and I are planning to go to Italy this summer -- we won an auction for a trip to Umbria last year. It's to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We have three kids, so it's good for us to go by ourselves."

Reading plans: "I've always loved reading. When I was young, I read a lot of classics. Now I try for balance. One of the books I just started reading is Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. It's just easy reading, not deep. And I read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.

And I'm reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry (Amazon price). In the techie world, people think IQ instead of EQ. I wanted to make sure my team and I understand emotions and how to be connected."

Medium of choice: "Audiobooks for driving, and downloads to the iPad for traveling."

Top recommendation for techies: "I try to encourage people to choose books that are published by Gartner and similar [research] firms. Technology changes really fast, and sometimes when books come out, the technology has already changed. So for new trends people have to be online reading what the researchers are saying online, that way people can easily get a lot of information quickly from different channels."

Bask Iyer

Bask Iyer

CIO at VMware in Palo Alto, Calif.

Vacation plans: Taking friends to his familial village near the town of Kumakonam in South India, before it becomes developed. "I like it the way it is now. I have spent a lot of my summers there and have often raved to my friends about the simple and honest way of life in the small farming town. Now my friends have challenged me to stop raving and show them the proof."

Reading plans: The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel (Amazon price). "I am fascinated to read more about Ramanujan, a boy who grew up not far from my own ancestral village and went on to create a magical legacy in mathematics by the age of 32 -- with no formal training in mathematics."

Medium of choice: "Curled up in an airplane with no Wi-Fi, reading an old coffee-stained paperback that smells moldy."

Top recommendation for techies: "An old favorite of mine is Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Amazon price).

Also, I like How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil. While our businesses get broken down from annual plans to quarterly plans, to monthly, weekly and daily plans, it is good to listen to someone who has the luxury of thinking beyond a few years. This is one way of giving your mind the permission to dream and think longer term."

Greg Greenlee

Greg Greenlee

Founder, Blacks In Technology, headquartered in Cincinnati.

Vacation plans: "My vacation will be spaced out in the forms of a small family trip and conferences. My family plans on doing a long weekend to Myrtle Beach, and I plan on attending LinuxCon North America in Toronto as well as PuppetConf in San Diego."

Reading plans: Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku (Amazon price). "I became very curious about time dilation and higher dimensions after watching the movie Interstellar. This book is very intriguing because it reads like it should belong in the science fiction section, but it's based on actual physics." Also Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age by Steven Levy. "As an engineer, I am always curious about how things work. Cryptography and security fascinate me."

Medium of choice: "Since I have a bigger phone and I'll be out and about, I'll read them using Google Play books, but I also have hard copies of them."

Top recommendation for techies: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown (Amazon price). "I'm always learning new things. Most people think they know how to learn, but a lot of them are wrong. This book explains the right techniques to learning as well as why constant re-reading and other popular techniques don't actually work."

Also, Andy Weir's The Martian. "I recommend this book to techies because not only is it a great story about a person's will to survive, but it also scratches that engineering itch." And In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy. "If you ever wonder how Google does what it does, this book is for you."

Nicholas Clark

Nicholas Clark

CTO at DoubleDutch in San Francisco.

Vacation plans: "I'm currently on a quest to get to all seven continents. This summer I'm heading with my girlfriend to Cartagena, Columbia, which will check South America off the list. Our idea of a relaxing vacation is good food and cocktails while lounging in the sun."

Reading plans: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters (Amazon price), and The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz. "For pleasure and as an avid tennis fan, I'll also be reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace."

Medium of choice: "Given that I'll be baking in the sun most of my vacation days, I'm sticking with paper."

Top recommendation for techies: "I'd have to go with The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (Amazon price). As a technologist in a startup, getting a glimpse into the difficulty of starting and running a business is invaluable for helping make and support decisions."

Kaitlyn Hova

Kaitlyn Hova

Cofounder at The Hovalin and The Synesthesia Network in San Francisco.

Vacation plans: "I look forward to a family trip to Hawaii every year with our extended family."

Reading plans: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Amazon price). "It has one foot in fantasy, one foot in reality, and is a good re-read. If you are a child of the '80s, a big geek and a fan of the Internet, you have hit the jackpot. On first glance, it seems like it's just a book about an online game, but it is so much more than that. It describes a foreseeable future with amazing technology where everything is online (on 'the Oasis'), and you discover the good and bad that it creates. It is a captivating story, provokes some interesting questions about the usage of technology, and you won't be able to put it down. It's being made into a movie in 2018. It was only a matter of time, and you should read it before then."

Medium of choice: "If I'm goal-driven and riding BART to work in San Francisco, I prefer audio books and a nice pair of noise-cancelling earbuds. However, if I'm killing time on vacation, I'm all about an old-fashioned book."

Top recommendation for techies: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck (Amazon price). "This book is incredibly thoughtful about failure and learning, and explains how you might be putting unnecessary constraints on yourself. You're never done with learning, and no one actually knows everything. Understanding the difference between a 'fixed mindset' and a 'growth mindset' has completely changed my outlook on life and how I approach my code and music. My husband and I regularly point out when we unconsciously use 'fixed mindset' phrases and offer a 'growth mindset' alternative in order to get in the habit of understanding our potential."

Paul Flaharty

Paul Flaharty

Regional vice president for the Greater Los Angeles area, Technology Staffing Services, at Robert Half Technology in Westwood, Calif.

Vacation plans: "My wife Ericka and I are expecting our first child, a daughter, in November of this year. We've planned a babymoon to Vancouver in July."

Reading plans: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull (Amazon price). "At Robert Half, our senior management team has spent a great deal of time and energy over the past year on advanced leadership development strategy. We're always exploring news ways to creatively motivate and inspire both our employees and candidates with an honest and authentic managerial approach."

Also reading The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-To-Be by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash. "I'm doing everything I can to be the best partner possible to my wife with our baby on the way."

Medium of choice: "I have a Nook, a must for any technology-oriented reader on the go."

Top recommendation for techies: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins (Amazon price). "This is a must read for any technology executive challenged with moving their relatively effective and functional teams to elite productivity levels."

Michael Jenkins

Michael Jenkins

Senior Linux engineer at United Business Media (UBM) in its Santa Monica, Calif., office.

Vacation plans: "This summer my travels will be in the Southwestern U.S. I'm planning trips to Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon."

Reading plans: "First I'll read Lonely Planet Cuba, the travel guide (Amazon price). Ever since it became easier for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba, I've been excited about the prospect of visiting a country that had been off limits or hard to get to. I'd love to plan a trip to Havana, so I'm reading this book to learn more about the culture and get travel ideas."

Next book is Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes. My wife is a big fan of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, shows produced by Rhimes. For a surprise gift, I bought my wife tickets to a very intimate talk and book signing with Rhimes. I'll be reading it along with my wife so we can discuss the finer points of the book."

Medium of choice: "If I'm home, I'll read a book. I like the feel of the paper and being able to quickly flip from one section to another. I enjoy e-readers when I'm flying. My Nook is always charged and loaded with several books; right now it has the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe and some Sherlock Holmes stories. For long drives like the ones I'll be taking this summer, audio books are the perfect way to keep 'reading.'"

Top recommendation for techies: Amazon Web Services: Overview of Security Processes (pdf). "Cloud services are becoming more and more common in enterprise infrastructures, and AWS is the leader in that space. This is a good read because it takes a look at security from the aspect of each cloud service that AWS provides. Reading this document -- it's more of a whitepaper than a book -- from cover to cover isn't required; anyone interested in a particular part of AWS can flip to that section to get the details on how to keep things secure."

Zassmin Montes de Oca

Zassmin Montes de Oca

Chief maker and board vice chair at Women Who Code in San Francisco.

Vacation plans: "Women Who Code was recently accepted to Y Combinator for the summer '16 batch so we'll be at Y Combinator all summer in Mountain View, Calif."

Reading plans: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Amazon price). "It's a classic and I wanted to know why. The stories in the book, which include moral debates during that period in Russia, are particularly interesting. It's a strong book, so I take reading breaks from it by reading How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It's a great read for anyone who wants to improve how they communicate with people, and a great reminder on the simple things about human nature."

Medium of choice: "Audible app."

Top recommendation for techies: Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham (Amazon price). "It made me fall in love with programming. I really appreciated the art that came with software, and knowing that it was an artful experience made it much more relevant and exciting for me."

Steven John

Steven John

CIO at AmeriPride Services in Minnetonka, Minn.

Vacation plans: "One of my daughters just got a master's degree, and to celebrate, my wife and I are taking her to Costa Rica."

Reading plans: For science fiction, Company Town by Madeline Ashby. "Any IT leader to have foresight into future technology should read science fiction." Under the survival category -- "We in IT are always besieged" -- Outnumbered: Incredible Stories of History's Most Surprising Battlefield Upsets by Cormac O'Brien (Amazon price). Also reading Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault by Pierre Hadot and Arnold Davidson and The Two-Bear Mambo: A Hap and Leonard Novel by Joe R. Lansdale.

Medium of choice: "I have a long commute, so I listen to a lot of books on tape. But these are all ebooks, which I mostly read on my iPhone or iPad (or on my Kindle, before it got stolen out of my car). The exceptions are Outnumbered and Philosophy as a Way of Life, which are in paper. I tend to buy actual books when I think I'm going to write notes."

Top recommendation for techies: "I think you've got to stay up on security, it's just a big piece of what we face. So I'd recommend We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson (Amazon price), and Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power by David E. Sanger."

Mike Venerra

Mike Venerra

CIO and SVP of informatics at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia.

Vacation plans: "My family and I will spend the first week of July and most summer weekends at our beach house in New Jersey. While not exotic, nothing relieves stress like a long day of sun, surf and sand."

Reading plans: "I am an avid reader and read widely across a number of topics, mostly nonfiction these days. One of the topics that I am most interested in, for both curiosity and given its growing importance in the world today, is artificial intelligence. I recently heard that Bill Gates had recommended two books for anyone interested in this field -- Nick Bostrum's Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies and The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World by Pedros Domingos (Amazon price). I read Bostrum's book last year, so figure I will tackle Domingo's this summer.

"On the lighter side, I hope to finish the beach book I began last year: Neal Stephenson's Reamde. I've read most of his other novels and would highly recommend them to anyone who likes intellectual fiction with a strong science/sci-fi edge."

Medium of choice: Old-fashioned paper books. "It is too easy to get distracted by email or the Internet on an electronic device. I reserve my iPad for reading news or magazines."

Top recommendation for techies: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg (Amazon price). "It always amazes me how math is critical to business (and only getting more so) and yet how few people remember the basics they were taught in school."

Helen Griffin Jr.

Helen Griffin Jr.

CEO at Social Good Made Easy in Cleveland.

Vacation plans: "Fancy trips abroad have their advantages, but I'm thrilled to spend my vacay laughing with family and friends, wrestling with and getting on my brothers' nerves (I'm the big sister) and enjoying a lake view over a cold brew and grilled burgers."

Reading plans: "I'm enjoying Stolen (Amazon price), the second book in Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. The story follows the life of Elena, the only female werewolf who's dealing with the bureaucracy of a male-dominated pack. I can't relate to this at all.

"Up next is a guilty pleasure, The Magicians, the first of the trilogy by Lev Grossman that follows a group of magicians as they had off to college." Also, The Purpose Economy: How Your Desire for Impact, Personal Growth and Community Is Changing the World by Aaron Hurst. "Everyone hits a crossroad, where they question their life's work [and seek] a connection through purpose. Our daily grind doesn't have to be a grind."

Additionally, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. "Yes, we're addicted to the escapism from our devices, apps and media, but can we create habit-forming products that drive positive change in ourselves and our communities?"

Medium of choice: "OverDrive, hands-down. Business and leadership I devour via audio books while I enjoy e-books for fiction and technology titles."

Top recommendation for techies: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (Amazon price). "The ultimate must-read book for all technologists. Navigate the muddy waters of office politics while managing your own quirks and motives."

Corky Valenti

Corky Valenti

Senior Manager, Technology Internal Communications, at Asurion in Nashville, Tenn. Also New York Metro Forum Facilitator with the Society for Information Management's Regional Leadership Forum (RLF).

Vacation plans: "I don't have major plans. I'm in a relatively new role with Asurion, in a new area, and we just moved into a newly constructed home. So we're just doing bits and pieces, some weekends away, local things like that."

Reading plans: "One of the foundational elements of RLF is reading. We read some 30 odd books that cover a broad spectrum. So I do a lot of reading based upon that. The two that I'm going to pick are brand-new books for us, but since you're focused on summer reading, it's got to be light. So Cultivate the Power of Winning Relationships by Morag Barrett (Amazon price) and Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius by Erik Wahl. Both have really important implications for leadership yet they are easy to read."

Medium of choice: "I still tend to be a physical paper kind of person. I like the physical book with me."

Top recommendation for techies: "I think technical people tend to overlook things that are outside their domain, but it's important to broaden [your perspective]. So my recommendation is to focus on some of the things that aren't part of your technical domain or part of your current strength. One I like is Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson (Amazon price)."

Kevin Wilkins

Kevin Wilkins

Information services manager at The OutCast Agency in San Franciscso.

Vacation plans: "I'm looking forward to diving, biking and exploring a quiet Hawaiian island this summer."

Reading plans: "The Nexus trilogy by Ramez Naam (Amazon price) is on my list this summer, suggested to me after reading Marcus Sakey's Brilliance books. I enjoy stories that explore how new discoveries inevitably introduce unforeseen challenges to society and politics. I guess that makes me a sci-fi nerd, but I'm convinced the stories have merit in preparing for our quickly evolving future."

"My favorite up-and-coming author, Jared W. Morris, is soon releasing a new novel. His previous short stories about technology and genetics had such a fresh and clever perspective, I'm very excited to read his next project this summer."

Medium of choice: "Although I enjoy the comfort and texture of physical books at home, I often use e-readers when traveling. They're convenient, great for finding new recommendations, and I've also discovered some fantastic self-published authors."

Top recommendation for techies: Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku. "It explains theoretical physics concepts so well that I still refer to this book to better understand our latest discoveries. Kaku is very good at describing technical details with relatable analogies, illustrations and examples, helping me to communicate technology concepts to others."

Also Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (Amazon price). "This provides an interesting new way to evaluate and understand our abilities. Rath and Conchie focus on the nuances of how our abilities combine with other strengths and the unique strengths of others. Working within my team and alongside other colleagues, I often reference this book for insight into how my own abilities can harmonize with others for success."

Kol Chu Birke

Kol Chu Birke

SVP, Technology Strategy, and financial behavior specialist at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.

Vacation plans: "Considering it takes 45 minutes to go half a block with our 13-month-old daughter [who's just learning to walk], we're trying to keep things local, other than a family reunion in August."

Reading plans: "I'm re-reading Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink (Amazon price), which is the best book I've ever read on using our own human weaknesses and biases to our advantage. While the book itself is about food, it's easy to make analogies about money, exercise or any other area of life we want to improve."

Medium of choice: "While nothing gives the tactile feel of accomplishment of a book, I'm a Kindle and Kindle App guy due to convenience, highlighting and notetaking."

Top recommendation for techies: Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler (Amazon price). "Improves your chances of making hard conversations go well." Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. "It's all about making change easier, in our own lives and in our organizations." Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims. "It helps remind us to take baby steps rather than getting mired in discussions about larger initiatives."

Darren Ghanayem

Darren Ghanayem

CIO and SVP at WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, Fla.

Vacation plans: "Given that I've just started with WellCare, I'll probably take a 'staycation' and get to know the Tampa-St. Petersburg area where I now live. I have a lot to learn about the area, but it looks like a fun place. I'll also try to sneak in a short trip to Traverse City, Mich., this fall. I love that place."

Reading plans: The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value by Richard Hunter and George Westerman (Amazon price). "In my opinion the CIO is managing the business of technology to solve business challenges. It requires critical thinking beyond managing the complex infrastructure and day-to-day demands."

Also, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. "I sent this book to my new team, and it has been a while since I've read it, so this will be a refresher for me." And Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker. "My friend bought me this book on trying to stay real and balanced in life. I find that I have many of the same beliefs as Tony Dungy."

And Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Patriots by David Fisher. "I think O'Reilly's books and television series contain a great mixture of history and intrigue. He makes me think outside the context of my job and more about America and our place in the world."

Medium of choice: "When I choose something to read, I still like to turn the page manually. And I prefer hardbacks, so I can read them again in the future."

Top recommendation for techies: "You'll laugh at this one, but for the past several years I've introduced myself to my new teams by sharing a book that takes about five minutes to read from cover to cover. But in my opinion it leads to a great deal of conversation and provokes a great deal of thought with people in the IT industry. It's called The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk A Weisler (Amazon price). I've received great response by sharing this book with my teams, and I've found it's best if read aloud to the group (although it does create some interesting looks when you start this process).

Beyond that, I recommend The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. To me, it's a staple in the IT delivery industry."

Jose Marquez

Jose Marquez

CEO at TechLatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association in New York.

Vacation plans: Traveling to Varadero, Cuba.

Reading plans: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg (Amazon price). "Eric and Jonathan cover a vast territory in their engaging discussion of Google's leadership in our software-driven era." Also, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. "It's an intellectual deep dive into the motives behind entrepreneurship."

Medium of choice: "Book, mobile phone and tablet."

Top recommendation for techies: The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future by Steve Case (Amazon price). "A behind-the-scenes look at some of the most consequential and riveting business decisions of our time. It makes the case that we're at the dawn of the next technological revolution unlike anything we've seen before."

Also The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind. "The authors explore how automation will be influencing what kind of work we do."

Matt Willmore

Matt Willmore

mobileND program manager at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Vacation plans: "Two weeks in Italy with the family of an exchange student my wife and I previously hosted."

Reading plans: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (Amazon price). "I've enjoyed other pieces by these authors and want to be able to take a short departure from IT topics to think about how I can work better and smarter."

Medium of choice: "Old-fashioned books, because they're a nice occasional departure from working with devices every single day."

Top recommendation for techies: "I would recommend reading about a subject tangential to your line of work. If you're in information security, read about the history of lockmaking and pickpockets; if you work on servers, read up on UX design and how people interact with computers."

Beach Reads for Techies

But wait, there's more!

Can't get enough of our summer reading suggestions? Check out our previous slideshows for even more great suggestions from your tech-centric colleagues:

Don't forget to use the comments section or tag us on Twitter @Computerworld to share your own favorite reads. Happy summer!

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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