The Pragmatic Programmer book club finale

Back in August I wrote that we had started a book club to meet more of my colleagues and we that were going to read the 20th Anniversary re-release of The Pragmatic Programmer.

I wanted everyone to read an hour a week, and chat for 45 minutes. That seemed manageable within people’s work week and I didn’t want anyone to have to fit this in outside of work.

We had 10–20 people attend each week, which was helped along by the fact that the book is discrete chapters which you can read without having done any previous reading. Numbers started high, eventually settling to around 12 regulars.

I wrote up the questions I had around each chapter on my personal medium but I didn’t want to spam all of our FT product and tech blog readers with such niche content. At the bottom of this post there’s a list of all of the chapter write-ups.

Is this book any good?

Yes? No? Some of it is good. I think it’s handy to have a broad explanation of concepts many of us practice now without thinking.

Being reminded of why we do stand-ups or version control or whatever is pleasant. The fact that some of the coding concepts in this book don’t exist in JavaScript led to some very interesting conversations about different programming languages and preferences.

I think my main beef with the book was the heavy use of metaphors that just felt a bit… American? Boomery? These metaphors got in the way because they didn’t resonate with the diverse readership in the book club.

It was the friends we made along the way

Of course, the point of this book club was actually to meet some of my colleagues and have some weak socialising around a single topic we could all contribute to. And that happened. Everybody who made it to the end (about 12 regulars) agreed that the conversations about each chapter were the best thing.

Artist’s impression of the book club. Image Credit: Rowan Manning

Start a book club — use my notes!

An important part of work is talking to your colleagues. There are lots of ways to do this, but many of them work better for people who are very outgoing, or are co-located. When I started this book club it seemed like I could create a point in time where people could meet, and give those people a thing to talk about that they could prepare for. Bonus — the topic of conversation was work related but not actually the work.

If you want to repeat this experiment at your work then I think the Pragmatic Programmer is an easy book to do it with, and you can even use my write-ups (linked at the bottom) to help with your own discussion points. Let me know if you do this!

We’re going to go again in 2023

We’ve already had some suggestions for which book to choose next, but we’re going to have a little rest over winter before we make any decisions. ✌️

Chapter write ups



A blog by the Financial Times Product & Technology department.

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