I've been putting off writing this post, because I wasn't sure I could do the book justice, but I read and really enjoyed "The Passionate Programmer" last summer, and I've been dipping into it again and again ever since. The book was actually a recommendation from Travis Swicegood, after he saw me give my talk Open Source Your Career. It seems like it's not a well-known title so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the book and what I got from it.
The Passionate Programmer contains a really insightful mix of advice, it manages to tell developers how to "be", without being preachy or patronising. There are some great stories in there, but mostly it talks about how to frame your thinking such that you can't help succeeding. I really related to a lot of the points in it and found that I've had it nearby quite a lot lately as I worked on how to convey my thoughts for the 27 Ways To Be A Better Developer talk I gave at PHPBenelux.
With all the various bits and pieces of advice tied onto some good, real stories, this is an engaging read. Its chapters are short enough, and the book small enough, that if I commuted it would have been an ideal companion. There are stories from people other than the author in there, reminding me a bit of the 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts book I also read last summer. Some of the stories are open source, but many are from real software jobs where the next move can sometimes seem unclear and sometimes circumstances gang up on us. The book gives clarity to the purpose of self-improvement, despite any accompanying chaos, and inspired me as I moved from facing some of those employment issues to a whole raft of new ones as I became self-employed.
In particular the book struck a chord with the section about mentors and mentoring. It took me a while to realise that, especially in disciplines with close communities, we are all mentors, mentees, or both. Learning to circulate and bring myself into contact with smarter people that I could learn from made the biggest difference to my career, and this book reminds me of the passion that set me on this path from the beginning.