13 books for picking up new tech in 2019

Want to expand your IT knowledge this year? Check out this baker's dozen of skills-boosting tech books.
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If you want to boost your tech skills and knowledge in 2019, the books on this list can help you achieve your goals. If nothing else, they'll give you a lot to think about as you chart your future.

Absolute FreeBSD

Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd Edition by Michael W. Lucas stands alongside the FreeBSD docs as the de-facto guides to FreeBSD. The book, recommended by school IT admin Aaron Prisk, provides a comprehensive look at BSD's history, from its early Unix origins to how it's used today in cutting-edge technologies. Michael peppers his excellent explanations of FreeBSD's nuts and bolts with the type of wit and humor you'll only get from a former systems administrator. Newcomers will find the book accessible, and seasoned vets will find it a handy reference guide.

Badass: Making Users Awesome

Once you have challenged and moved beyond your old beliefs, you'll be ready to read Badass: Making Users Awesome, which is recommended by Opensource.com Community Moderator Vicky Brasseur. Badass author Kathy Sierra says:

"It does not matter how awesome your product is or your presentation or your post. Your awesome thing matters only to the extent that it serves the user's ability to be a little more awesome."

That's the epitome of an open source community and its users.

Developing Games on the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi just celebrated its sixth birthday, and you can mark that milestone by learning how it works it while having fun creating games. In Developing Games on the Raspberry Pi: App Programming with Lua and LÖVE, author and Opensource.com Community Moderator Seth Kenlon says: 

"If you've been meaning to learn some programming, there's no better to learn with than Lua and the humble Raspberry Pi. Lua is a popular scripting language used in game level design and is simpler even than Python but just as powerful. This book walks you through the basics of the Pi, Linux, game design, Lua, and the LÖVE game engine, helping you create simple, small games, many of which can even be loaded onto your Android phone!"

Forge Your Future with Open Source

If you're at all interested in open source, don't miss Vicky Brasseur's Forge Your Future with Open Source: Build Your Skills. Build Your Network. Build the Future of Technology. Brasseur has done a masterful job presenting complex topics in interesting and creative ways. This very well-written book gives you a quick introduction to GitHub, GitLab, pull requests, open source terminology, open source licensing, community participation, and more.

How Open Source Ate Software

If you want to build a business around open source software, make sure to read How Open Source Ate Software: Understand the Open Source Movement and So Much More by Red Hat technology evangelist Gordon Haff. Gordon offers a historical context on how free software became open source and thoroughly transformed how we write software, how we cooperate, how we communicate, how we organize, and, ultimately, how we think about business values. He shares project and community examples, including Linux, BSD, Apache, and Kubernetes, and explains the open source development model and its influence on proprietary software, data, and education. Even if you are already familiar with open source, you'll learn new things about open source and its broader context by reading Gordon's latest book. 

Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches

If you want to learn Linux, but think, "I don't have time to learn something new," Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches by Steven Ovadia will get you to your goal without any late nights at the command line. A bonus: Red Hat's President and CEO Jim Whitehurst wrote the book's forward.

The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins

After you get the Linux basics down with Ovadia's book, you'll probably be ready for Opensource.com Community Moderator David Both's insightful The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins—And Everyone Who Wants To Be One. The book is chock full of practical applications of the Linux Philosophy, complete with examples for readers to complete. David says:

"The Linux Philosophy for System Administrators is not about learning new commands, processes, or procedures. Rather it is about becoming a better SysAdmin through understanding the power of Linux as a function of the philosophies that built it. SysAdmins will learn how to unleash that power with the knowledge enabled by a philosophical approach that targets their unique needs."

Math Adventures with Python

In Math Adventures with Python, Peter Farrell draws on his own experience as a high school math teacher and tutor to demonstrate how to bring the magic of mathematics to life with Python. He told me a lot about his teaching philosophy that influenced the book when I interviewed him last year.

The Open Revolution

Changing your paradigm is a great way to start improving yourself, and The Open Revolution: Rewriting the Rules of the Information Age, by Rufus Pollock, will help you do that. Pollock envisions an open future for everyone as more and more information moves into the digital realm. However, he says, our laws and rules are still stuck in the past and we need to update them to keep up with the changes in our world. Rufus writes:

"The Open model provides a simple, comprehensive answer: replace current patents and copyrights with remuneration rights while maintaining existing funding sources that are compatible with Openness, such as government and philanthropic funding for research, and community-resourced projects like Wikipedia."

Out of the Maze

If you're feeling stuck, I don't know a better couple of guides than Hem and Haw, the beloved experts in managing change we first met in Spencer Johnson's legendary business book Who Moved My Cheese? Johnson's latest book, Out of the Maze: An A-Mazing Way To Get Unstuck, will have you quickly moving beyond your self-imposed limits. As Spencer explains the core problem:

"The bars on his windows were his old thoughts, thoughts he trusted were true, but which actually prevented him from venturing out into the Maze. His beliefs were holding him prisoner!"

The Pragmatic Programmer

Along the road to making your users awesome, you will want to read The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas. The book (also recommended by Vicky) has some sage advice that applies to anyone—not only programmers—that will help you relax and enjoy 2019. The authors write:

"You Can't Write Perfect Software. Did that hurt? It shouldn't. Accept it as an axiom of life. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Because perfect software doesn't exist. No one in the brief history of computing has ever written a piece of perfect software. It's unlikely that you'll be the first. And unless you accept this as a fact, you'll end up wasting time and energy chasing an impossible dream."

Python Flash Cards

Whether you're just getting started with Python or (like me) teaching others about the language, Eric Matthes' new release of Python Flash Cards provides excellent tools to master Python coding. Eric is a high school science and math teacher from Alaska who teaches introductory programming classes. You'll be sure to benefit from his work.

Teaching and Learning with Jupyter

Unless you have been living under a rock, you've noticed the emergence of data science. Jupyter Notebook is one of the leading tools used in data science, and Teaching and Learning with Jupyter is a great way to learn about it. The e-book, authored by 16 professors, software engineers, and designers led by Lorena Barba, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at George Washington University, is an open education resource licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 and its code is available on GitHub.

So, that's my list of 13 books to read in 2019. What are your favorite books to expand your tech knowledge and skills? Let us know in the comments.

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Educator, entrepreneur, open source advocate, life long learner, Python teacher. M.A. in Educational Psychology, M.S. Ed. in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator.

1 Comment

Love the "The Pragmatic Programmer" description! Because of the following statement "No one in the brief history of computing has ever written a piece of perfect software"! True!

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