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The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  644 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Frustrated by the lack of well-written essays on software engineering, Joel Spolsky (of fame) has put together a collection of his favorite writings on the topic.

With a nod to both the serious and funny sides of technical writing, The Best Software Writing I: Selected and Introduced by Joel Spolsky is an entertaining read and a guide to the technical
Paperback, 305 pages
Published October 21st 2005 by Apress (first published January 1st 2005)
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Yevgeniy Brikman
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
A nice collection of blog posts and essays on software. Even though most of these are available online for free, there is so much crappy writing out there, that it's nice to come across a curated, pre-vetted collection from a trusted source. I also wholeheartedly agree with Spolsky's desire to see more quality writing about software, and applaud him for encouraging this sort of work by publishing a book like this. I'm a fan of anything that tries to make the software industry more accessible and ...more
Christy Ford
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: work-related
Never has a book made the term 'dead tree' seem as true as this one. With minimal work, almost all of the content in this is freely available online, and I would highly recommend reading the introductions on paper, but viewing the pieces themselves in their original hyperlinked state. Cut off from their comments, with references reduced to footnotes rather than links, the writing shrinks. It feels much more alive in the context it was written.

That said, it is a fair collection of diverse and imp
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
It's always interesting to peek into the past, even if we're talking about a very recent one. This book is a collection of essays by several authors picked by Joel Spolsky to serve as the "best software articles of the year", it was published in 2005. Let that sink in, this is pre-social media. Stack overflow *did not* exist yet. It's a world where people still referred to blogs as weblogs. Quite honestly, it was difficult to hold a laugh.

For the most part, most of the articles didn't age well,
Henrik Warne
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of 29 essays about software development, selected and introduced by Joel Spolsky (of Joel on Software fame).

I've been a regular reader of Joel's site for many years, and many of the themes Joel has been writing about (social software, outsourcing, the dangers of measuring the performance of individuals using simple bug metrics, and sales and marketing of software) are reflected in the included essays.

Many of the authors have already published books of their own (Bruce Eckel,
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: cs
Odd beast: a time capsule where half the items are of purely historical interest, and half are general and extremely wise arguments that are still not acted upon today. He had planned them to be annual collections, but they didn't happen, so this looks to represent more than one year's best.
Recent enough to tell us something about the internet, though with lots of anachronism. But it's more at the lexical level - "weblog", "Sociable media" - than the semantic.

Found (eminent media researcher) da
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this. Published in 2005, some of the essays in this collection are starting to show their twelve-years-plus age, especially with regard to specific technologies and products. And it's an interesting glimpse of a software industry before the eras of smartphones and their apps, Twitter and Facebook, and the resurgence of JavaScript. But overall there's a lot that's still worthwhile to be found here.

To the criticism I've seen in other reviews that this book is somehow worthless because it's
J.D. Sandifer
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
There's a lot of good stuff in this one with a healthy variety. I think there are a few references that are outdated, but on the whole, most of it is timeless wisdom and tips for software. I also love the breadth covered as it will probably stretch most developers in one way or another.

Definitely worth a look if you're a software developer.
Troy McConaghy
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
A mixed bag.
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Notice that these are "selected and introduced by Joel Spolsky".

Not all are equaly good in writing and since topics vary then also not equality interesting.
Paul Mullan
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Essays from Spolsky's blog going back to the early days of the web. Interesting but some of it is a little dated ...more
Dec 03, 2020 marked it as to-read
recommended by Albert L.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A good collection of essays on mordern programming culture and practice.
Feb 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
A nice selection of essays about software development. Not every story is great, but there aren't too many stinkers either. And the ones that are good are really good. Here are some of my highlights:

Style is Substance - Makes the argument that style (i.e. where you put your curly braces, how you indent, etc) should be built into the compiler (like python does) The argument is basically this: No formatting style adds any significant productivity at all. Unfortunately supporting whatever style a d
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Reading well-written material on technology is still something exciting to me. We're at a cusp where the world is becoming more permeated with technology, my generation is growing up with tools that are as old as we are and thus our understanding and acceptance of technology is growing. Yet the stereotypical nerd is still out there, hammering out code while being incredibly inept at writing documentation. So finding collections of material like this, where people have a deep understanding of tec ...more
Dec 03, 2007 rated it liked it
I liked Joel on Software, which is mostly a compilation of articles Joel Spolsky wrote for his blog. I thought the paper copy offered something beyond what I would get from just browsing through Spolsky's archives on the net. Sadly, I do not really have the same feeling about Best Software Writing. Most of these articles first appeared online somewhere, and while many of them are reasonably entertaining -- and the editorial footnotes are sometimes hilarious -- I'm no longer so sure that I would ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: senior developers
Shelves: work
Kind of hard to get through this one, probably because it's a compilation of different authors' works and that articles are included not just because they're interesting but also because they are examples of good writing. Some of the articles are interesting and some not so much but that is probably due to my personal bias. I still haven't decided how many of the articles are not read-once. For me the book of collected JoelOnSoftware articles would be more relevant.

I haven't actually read all of
Amar Pai
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
There's some good stuff in here but it's all stuff you can find online, and there's a lot of filler as well. I like the idea of this book but feel like they weren't able to keep the bar high enough for writing quality. e.g. "ea spouse" -- clearly a significant blog post and one that had a huge impact on the industry-- but is it great writing? Not really.

My favorite essay from the book was Strong Typing vs Strong Testing by Bruce Eckels. Really good discussion of the merits/drawbacks of dynamical
Apr 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Not as good as the last collection of essays by Joel Spolsky, probably mostly because they were on topics that I was either not interested in or maybe just the overall divergence of topics. The collection brightened up considerably with the last essay, which was Why The Lucky Stiff's first chapter of his book on the Ruby programming language, which was a lot of fun to read. Sample moment from that chapter "I was there, eight years old, lying in my bed, when suddenly it struck me: there's nothing ...more
Tom Schulte
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Some of this can be attacked for its vintage, but it you read past the tech for technique, which I think is the point here, the lessons are timeless. Edward R. Tufte's skewering of PowerPoint as a tool and Paul Graham's "Great Hackers" are pieces worth the price of admission alone. And, don't discount the Ruby veneration or Rick Shaut's article on the birth of Mac Word due to the antiqueness therein because what they have to say about elegance and project management is still important, today. ...more
Vasili Puchko
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it
A large part of the book describes Ruby language. Ruby is a great language, really. But this book is not an Ruby education guide and I prefer to see here some comparison or thoughts or something like this instead of that introduction to Ruby. It looks like the author didn't have enough articles to add to book or it was too attracted by Ruby.
But this book also shows some different problems of IT from side of non-developers - managers, CEO, customers. And that part, IMO, is very interesting.
Blair Conrad
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Very nice. Spolsky’s introductions were typically Spolskyesque, and I really enjoyed almost every article. The individual authors are gifted writers, and the subject matter was interesting throughout (to me – I’m a software developer, but there were more articles than I expected that would mean something to the non-developer, and even to someone totally unconnected to the production of software).
Chun Kit
Sep 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nlb
Rating: 4.5/5 (unable to select 1/2 rating)

This is a really great collection. It can be read even if you are not in the IT industry as it is not a technical book, but rather a book with really great writings that help to illuminate the ideas.

I would recommend this book to everyone I know who wants to read a great non-fiction book. I'm serious.
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically curated by Joel Spolsky.

It's interesting -- this book easily could have been a web site, but I'm not sure I would have read it or even found it. But this still works fairly well as a print product. In fact, I wish it would become an annual thing. There's so much stuff online and sometimes it's hard to find the best of it. Spolsky did a great job of weeding through it all.
Shane Burgel
Feb 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I really enjoyed this book a lot. Most of the articles were incredibly well written and entertaining as well as insightful.

This has definitely inspired me to read more technical blogs. If there are guys out there that can write like this and teach great things in this way then I want to read more of it.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2011
Basically a random collection of blog posts and essays. I found maybe a few gems, but the majority were tedious and I really had to push myself to finish this book. Technology changes fast and very little in this book is 'timeless' material. Most of it felt quite dated...this was probably a much better read five years ago. ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an entertaining and informative read. Most of the concepts discussed are timeless and therefore useful, but some of the stuff discussed seemed kind of dated, even though only from 2004-2005. For someone already in the software business, this is entertaining and helpful, and I would recommend it.
Apr 15, 2008 rated it liked it
For Software Development Nerds only. It's not a classic in the tradition of The Mythical Man Month, Peopleware, or Code Complete, but most of the essays are reasonably interesting and well-written. But probably only if you're passionate about building software. ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
I've actually read a bunch of these essays on the intarwebs, but they're extremely well written and worth re-reading. I'd actually rate it 4.5/5. Well worth reading for any programmer, but I wouldn't say it's a must-read. ...more
Joe GR Herbers
Jun 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Interesting collection of short to medium length article about software development. Joel didn't write these, though his stuff is worth reading too. He collected the best stuff written around 2004. Worth the time. ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
A nice collection of well written and engaging articles covering a diverse range of topics, my favorites being the introduction to Ruby with cartoon foxes and a short essay on the evils of PowerPoint slides done in the style of bad PowerPoint slides.
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