2009 Gift Guide: Great Reads for Geeks

Looking for a good read for your favorite techie? Check out this roundup of engaging books for geeks.

Geek Book Gift Guide

You can't just stare at the screen all day. So take a break from the LCD glow and read a book. InfoWorld has uncovered a range of books that will stimulate your mind, whether to help you do your work better or simply engage you with new ideas. Many are written by InfoWorld contributors, and many others recommended by our contributors.

We've organized these recommendations into loose collections, to make perusing our virtual display table easier. We've also provided links to online bookstores for easy purchasing, though we hope you'll use a local bookseller in your area first. Note that prices are list prices; books are often sold at a discount of 20 to 30 percent from these prices. And if you insist on continuing to stare at a screen, we note which books are available for the Kindle e-reader.

We'd love your suggestions as well, so please add them to the comments section.

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Good Tech-Practices Books

It's hard to step back and assess your core practices, but doing so can lead to fundamental improvements across the board. These three books all let you take that step back, and the first two are also enjoyable reads to boot -- books that don't feel like homework.

"Bricklin on Technology" by Dan Bricklin
Dan Bricklin invented the first successful business app for PCs, VisiCalc, and has been active in tech innovation ever since. His observations on technology are a great way to refine, and perhaps reinvent, your thinking.
Paperback: $29.99 | Get more details

"Wrench in the System" by Harold Hambrose
Software development, whether in-house or vendor-based, often results in unsatisfying products. Harold Hambrose explores why that is the case, and how you can reset your app dev approaches to get the results you intended all along.
Hardcover: $45 | Get more details

"Service Management For Dummies" by Judith Hurwitz et al.
Judith Hurwitz and her colleagues are earnest, down-to-earth consultants who give the straight dope on service management, the art of running your tech ops to actually server your clients well.
Paperback: $29.99, Kindle: $16.49 | Get more details

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Deep Technology Books

Like Star Trek's Scotty, some engineers love to curl up with a technical manual. If you're that kind of technologist, the four recommended books here will give you plenty of pleasure. Note that the first three recommended books are written by InfoWorld's expert contributors.

"Windows Server 2008 How-To" by J. Peter Bruzzese et al.
Chances are, you're using Windows Server, and if you've recently deployed the newest version or are about to, this is the in-depth guide you'll want at your fingertips.
Paperback: $29.99, Kindle: $9.99 | Get more details

"Translucent Databases, 2nd Edition" by Peter Wayner
Databases are where most organizations keep their most critical information, and they're fundamental to most enterprise apps today. But their design often ignores issues of security, accessibility, and privacy. This book will teach you more than you realized you needed to know about database design.
Paperback: $45 | Get more details

"Next Generation Datacenters in Financial Services" by Tony Bishop
Financial services is where many leading-edge technologies get their practical start, and Tony Bishop's exploration of what makes a next-generation datacenter "next generation" provides a road map for what other industries can soon expect to need.
Paperback: $69.95 | Get more details

"Beginning iPhone 3 Development" by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche
We all know that the iPhone is the standard by which all other smartphones are measured. And figuring out how to develop mobile apps will become increasingly important for programmers to understand. Start here.
Paperback: $39.99 | Get more details

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Cloud and Architecture Books

Despite the "clouds are insecure and destroy jobs" pushback against cloud computing, it's clear that the principles of technology delivered as a service is here to stay. But systems of this scale and complexity more than any other need a strong architectural foundation to succeed. These books will help you start building that foundation in your own work.

"Service Oriented Architecture for Dummies" by Judith Hurwitz et al.
The SOA concept has already been through its hype cycle and now rests largely ignored by the wider IT community. But its principles remain sound and useful, especially as we move to more federated systems (cloud or otherwise). Rediscover what mattered about the SOA concepts in this book.
Paperback: $29.99, Kindle: $16.49 | Get more details

"Cloud Computing for Dummies" by Judith Hurwitz et al.
Now that you've reacquainted yourself with SOA principles, take the next step and see what's truly useful for technologists from the cloud principles that matter.
Paperback: $29.99, Kindle: $16.49 | Get more details

"Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide" by David Linthicum
InfoWorld's Cloud Computing blogger is also a noted expert on architectural practice, and he brings the two together in this book to help you adapt the best cloud practices for lasting value.
Paperback: $44.99, Kindle: $28.79 | Get more details

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Career Management Books

InfoWorld's Advice Line blogger has decades of experience helping IT pros with their careers. He's written a series of books that encapsulate much of what he's learned over the years as a management consultant -- without the usual HR-speak.

"Leading IT: The Toughest Job in the World" by Bob Lewis
Paperback: $11.45 | Get more details

"ManagementSpeak: What Managers Say, What They Mean" by Bob Lewis
Paperback: $9.95 | Get more details

"Bare Bones Project Management: What You Can't Not Do" by Bob Lewis
Paperback: $8.95 | Get more details

"Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century Information Technology" by Bob Lewis
Paperback: $19.95 | Get more details

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IT Management Books

The other side of management from your own career is the management of your business. Many in IT leave that to the business people, but everyone at a company is part of the business. The books recommended here focus on effective business management and leadership skills -- just what (wannabe) IT leaders need to know to be viewed as not mere techies.

"Business Agility: Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World" by Michael Hugos
Agility isn't just being fast -- it's being flexible and resilient. Companies have focused so long on efficiency and speed that they've put themselves at risk of not being able to adjust effectively when conditions change. This book will help you understand why agility is more important than speed or efficiency, and how to help your business make the right technology and management choices for an increasingly volatile business world.
Hardcover: $29.95, Kindle: $16.47 | Get more details

"Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies Can Catch Up and Win" by Steven Spear
The perpetually successful companies have discovered the advantage of problem-solving abilities -- something a good scientist or engineer should appreciate. This book explores those problem-solving tenets to help other organizations adapt them, both for business and IT.
Hardback: $29.95, Kindle: $16.47 | Get more details

"Create Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition" by Adam Hartung
It's no secret that few companies survive major changes to their markets, and fewer figure out how to make change happen and then ride that change to excel in a new form. Despite some "rah-rah" business-speak, this book helps you figure out when making a disruptive change can work in your favor.
Hardcover: $27.99, Kindle: $13.79 | Get more details

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Personal Tech Books

If you want to put your day-to-day work aside and instead want to delve into the tech you use yourself, these four books may be right up your alley. There's an exposé, two fun how-tos, and a more serious how-to.

"The Myths of Security: What the Computer Security Industry Doesn't Want You to Know" by John Viega
John Viega exposes the many myths about security, including the failure of anti-virus software, why a lot of security conventional wisdom is both wrong and dangerous, and how the security industry preys on your fears. He ought to know, as he's a security vendor himself.
Paperback: $30, Kindle: $14.39 | Get more details

"How to Be a Geek Goddess" by Christina Tynan-Wood
Face it: You spend a lot of time doing tech support for your family and friends. And chances are that if you're reading this, you're a guy, whose technobabble probably mystifies or at least frustrates the women in your life. InfoWorld's Gripe Line blogger, Christina Tynan-Wood, has put together this female-friendly, somewhat cheeky guide to personal tech that could help bridge the gender gap.
Paperback $24.95 | Get more details

"iPhone Fully Loaded, 3rd Edition" by Andy Ihnatko
Andy Ihnatko is a seriously twisted dude who happens to know his stuff when it comes to having fun with technology. This book is no typical iPhone how-to; instead, it's all about how to have fun and get cool stuff on your iPhone, full of Ihnatko's trademark humor. The new edition won't be out until after Christmas, but it's worth the wait (we've seen an advanced copy).
Paperback: $19.99 | Get more details

"Mac OS X Snow Leopard Bible" by Galen Gruman and Mark Hattersley
More and more people are buying Macs than ever, and it's amazing how many people we know have converted their families to be Mac-based. If you're about to make the switch, this tome -- written by InfoWorld's Galen Gruman and Macworld U.K.'s Mark Hattersley -- will get you up to speed on the OS that InfoWorld rates as the best. (And speaking of Mac OS X, check out John Rizzo's "Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server for Dummies," a great guide to setting up Apple's inexpensive server in both Mac-only and cross-platform environments, whether for work use or if you're thinking of getting Apple's Mac Mini with Snow Leopard Server for home use as a media server.)
Paperback: $39.99, Kindle: $31.99 | Get more details

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Books for a Change of Pace

Enough of the practical stuff -- if you want to spend some time away from tech, we believe these books will stimulate your mind in other ways.

"The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics" by Leonard Susskind
Black holes and quantum mechanics are heady yet sublime topics -- and ones that create much religious consternation among theoretical physicists. Leonard Susskind's book takes you on two intertwined journeys, one through the ever-changing theory and discoveries and one through the politics and belief systems of the physicists. It's simply mind-blowing.
Paperback: $15.99, Kindle: $9.99, Audiobook: $19.77 | Get more details

"The Dresden Files" series by Jim Butcher
It's a guilty pleasure -- and what's wrong with that? -- focusing on the adventures of a private investigator who happens to be a wizard, and so battles all sorts of dark forces while solving crimes. The series is not new -- the 12th installment will be out in early 2010 -- but if you haven't already been on the "Dresden Files" ride, start with the first three books, available in a boxed set. We promise it's no corny rip-off of the "Harry Potter" series.
Paperback (books 1-3 boxed set): $23.97 | Get more details

"Whole Green Catalog: 1000 Best Things for You and the Earth" by Michael W. Robbins
"Green" and "eco-friendly" are increasingly common -- and meaningless -- buzzwords these days, as marketers have co-opted the terms. If you want to truly help the environment, not just pretend to be doing so, this book will help you do the right things throughout your daily life.
Paperback: $29.99 | Get more details

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