10 books I’d recommend to my younger self

In H.G. Wells “The Time Machine”, the Time Traveler comes back from the future to take 3 books from a bookshelf in their study to return to the future. The reader (or viewer of the film) is left guessing which 3 books have been taken from the bookshelf and how they will shape the future.

Thinking about this the other way, I have been considering which books I would send back to my younger self to read which would help my career earlier than when I actually read them.

As in “The Time Machine”, I chose books that are on my bookshelf that I would pick up and hand back to myself. Some of these may be considered a bit dated, however I have chosen books here that helped shape my thinking through the years, rather than the Sports Almanac (Back to the Future reference).

Time paradoxes aside – here is my list and what I would tell myself about each one:

  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    • Read this book first, apply it and use the methods to balance your work and home life. Then study hard and read the rest of these books. Apply what you have learnt.
  • Understanding Organisations by Charles Handy
    • This book will give you an understanding of how those companies work that you will be part of throughout your career. Read up on the theories mentioned in the book (e.g. Maslow ,Herzberg, McCelland, Ardery) as people you meet and some courses you’ll attend will refer to these regularly. They’ll give you insight into organizational strategy.
  • Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne W.Ross, Peter Weill, David C.Robertson
    • As you move through the Architecture stack, this book will help you understand how a business uses Enterprise Architecture to help drive its goals and outcomes.
  • The Art of Systems Architecting by Eberhardt Rechtin, Mark Maier
    • If you follow a similar path to mine, you’d be headed towards becoming an Architect and this book will help you learn some of the principals, terminology and methodologies used. Learn some frameworks as well such as TOGAF, Cobit and Zachman.
  • Software Architecture in Practice by Len Bass, Paul Clements, Rick Kazman
    • As a budding architect, you will design systems and applications, and apply what you have learnt from Software Engineering and Architecture. This book will help shape your thinking around bringing these together.
  • Software Engineering by Ian Sommerville
    • Software will eat the world! – read up on how the techniques can be applied to software projects and learn some coding languages.
  • Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford
    • Use this to help build relationships with those around you and your customers, You will find that you’ll apply concepts and approaches discussed in this book regularly and throughout your career.
  • Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks
    • You will be part of some interesting projects. This will illustrate the human side of Software Engineering and some of the things that go well and go wrong.
  • Peopleware Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister
    • Like the Mythical Man Month, this book will relate to the projects you will be involved with and will illustrate why some of the problems a project may face are sociological rather than technological.
  • Site Reliability Engineering by Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Jennifer Petoff, Niall Richard Murphy
    • This will be a bit ahead of the game, but it’s a game changer in the way that systems are designed, operated, managed and used, and it will challenge some of the thinking in the other books in the list.

If you had an opportunity to send books back to your younger self, what would you choose from your bookshelf and why?

This entry was originally posted in Max’s blog.

Max Hemingway is a senior architect for DXC in the United Kingdom. With more than 25 years of experience, he has a broad and deep range of technical knowledge and is able to translate business needs into IT-based solutions. Currently the chief architect of the BAE Systems account in the UK, Max has a proven track record acquired through continual client engagement and delivery of leading edge infrastructures, all of which have delivered positive results for end-clients, including IT cost reduction, expansion of service capability and increased revenues.


  1. I read two of this books (“The mythical man month” and “Peopleware productive project and teams”) and I totally agree with you. This books are a must-read. I would add “Code Complete”, which I think is a foundation on software development, and maybe “Reinventing Organizations”

  2. Andrew Dillls says:

    “7 Habits” are, as noted by the author, the wisdoms of the ages put into a format the modern mind can easily digest. They should be on every list. I was also pleased to see you included “The Mythical Man Month.” It isn’t as high-profile a text as Mr. Covey’s work, but its lessons are just as valuable. Great read!

  3. Amit Agrawal says:

    “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by “Dale Carnegie” is a good read to know how to improve influencing skills in a positive way to succeed in life.

  4. Joshua Brown says:

    Thank you! I am about to purchase every one of these books. I am currently trying to find my way through my career. Are there any other books that anyone would recommend?

  5. Paul Comis says:


    Great article, and interesting to note some overlaps with my bookshelf (Sommerville – essential University text, Brookes – a stone cold classic, Ross-Weill-Robertson) and some interesting new threads to follow (Handy).

    Given that my top ten today may not reflect my top ten in a years time…I offer…

    – Mythical Man Month (Fred P. Brookes) – especially the 20th anniversary edition
    – The Computer Contradictionary (Stan Kelly-Bootle)
    – Mastering Regular Expressions (Friedl)
    – The Cathedral And The Bazaar (Raymond)
    – Notes On The Synthesis Of Form (Alexander)
    – Outliers, The Tipping Point and Blink (Gladwell) 3 in one cheat!
    – Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Pink)
    – Personal Kanban (Benson, DeMaira Barry)
    – The Goal (Goldratt) 3 Months ago this spot would have been taken by The Phoenix Project

    As for why these ten(ish)…well, maybe this is the spur to my first blog entry 😉

    • Paul Comis says:

      and the tenth is…

      The Hitch-hikers Guide To The Galaxy (Adams)

      because it helps to look at the universe in a certain way

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