Summer school: An IT pro’s reading list

It’s summer — time to unwind, and reach for that mystery or science fiction novel you’ve been meaning to read. But just as students are encouraged to keep up their learning during the summer months, we too, as adults, can use this time to build our knowledge base.

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Hopefully you weren’t forced to endure the teenage nightmare of summer school, but in the spirit of staying sharp we here at expertIP have set up a summer reading curriculum — a mix of both new and classic books, plus a few binge-worthy shows — to hone your skills and keep you entertained.

Social Studies

Chris Voss was an international hostage negotiator with the FBI and knows first-hand what does and does not work when in high-stakes negotiations. Written with Tahl Raz, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (2016) is a practical book with lessons that can be applied in daily life by anyone who needs to persuade or negotiate (so, basically everyone). It may be the only negotiating book you ever need to read.


There’s a good chance that our science text, Stephen Hawking’s 1988 classic, A Brief History of Time, is on your bookshelf: a 2014 Wall Street Journal story ranked it second in a list of  books most often left unfinished by readers. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are bringing space back into vogue, so now is a good time to revisit this look at the mysteries of time and the universe. Besides, finishing it will give you bragging rights at your next summer barbecue.


We won’t make you write a book report for English class, but we do suggest The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford (2013). This novel generated a lot of buzz for its relatable, entertaining look at the DevOps movement — using a fictional account of Bill, IT manager at Parts Unlimited, tasked with taking on the Phoenix Project, which is over-budget and behind schedule. An updated fifth anniversary edition was published this year, so it’s worth picking up if you haven’t read it already.


We continue our studies with a history of communications in The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick. From written alphabets and Africa’s talking drums to coding and tweets, this award-winning book from 2011 looks at how information and communication have evolved over time and how this, in turn, has changed the way we live and understand the world.


It’s well worth picking up Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins. While the book was first published in 2001, its lessons are still valuable — and relevant — today. What sets it apart? Its conclusions are derived from the results of a systematic study of 1,435 companies; 11 of these were eventually chosen based on their record of going from “good to great.” The book describes the common culture, leadership qualities and processes that propelled these companies to greatness. The focus is on large organizations, but there are lessons here that can help with the way you approach running a department or even a project.


Since deploying cloud typically involves off-site resources, we’ll consider its study to fall under geography. The Cloud Adoption Playbook: Proven Strategies for Transforming Your Organization with the Cloud by Moe Abdula, Ingo Averdunk, Roland Barcia, Kyle Brown and Ndu Emuchay (2018) helps readers sort through their options when adopting a cloud strategy. The authors provide real-world case studies and discuss how cloud affects key players, culture and governance in an organization.


Remember when Friday afternoons at school often featured educational films? Sharpen your math chops by watching the 2008 documentary series The Story of Maths, co-produced by the BBC (it’s on Netflix). In this four-part documentary series, Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy presents a history of math, “from the discovery of decimals in ancient Egypt to the great unsolved problems of today.” You will never find math so interesting.


Finally, after all this studying, you owe it to yourself to take a break and watch Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix. Described by The Guardian as “the best show that nobody watched,” it tracks a group of visionaries and entrepreneurs as they start and fail at multiple companies in the early days of the computer age. Binge-watch this.

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