Seriously, my story is much identical.
As the question is kind of what book made me a good programmer I don't think the ZX Spectrum manual last page can get that onus, but it certainly was the one that got me on track.
by Alfred V. Aho, Brian W. Kernighan, and Peter J. Weinberger.
one of my earliest jobs as a developer came with the book Code Complete (1st Edition). I don't know that book improved my coding abilities as it was more the manager who almost made it mandatory reading.
a lot of our development standards were modeled straight from the book so it only made sense if you wanted to be productive in that mangers group. the most important discipline that I took from the book is that software development does not begin with writing code from the start.
Some of the best books I've read have taken me from absolute noob to a reasonably capable developer in the given technology. K&R's book, obviously, as well as Mike Blascack's MFC books, but there are books that you read that make you think about coding differently. They take you away from the specific syntax and libraries and make you think about how you're thinking. For these I'd have to say Clean Code really got me thinking, and Effective C#, while C# specific, made me get out of my C++ rut and think about what a given language could actually do differently instead of just traating a new language like an old language with a different library.
You're elaborating on "best books". What is your assessment on what is "a good programmer"? Might be another straw poll?
- know one (many?) language well?
- know one (many?) runtime environment well?
- know one (many?) development environment well?
- gives accurate estimations?
- delivers adequate quality?
- constructs reasonably maintainable code?
- writes decent documentation?
- is a team player?
- also performs under pressure
PS: I like your statement: "[...] instead of just treating a new language like an old language with a different library [...]"
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