If you have read any of my prior blog posts you'll know I only review books I like. Why? Because I feel good authors deserve the credit and bad books get enough bad reviews on websites like Amazon.
My newest review (and latest in a long time) is titled "Soft Skills: The software developer's Life Manual" by John Z. Sonmez. My primary goal for buying this book was to develop/verify my current soft skills. I'm a huge advocate for having strong soft skills. I feel it further enhances a developer’s skillset and can significantly improve us as potential job candidates. Furthermore, it makes us well-rounded for those face-to-face meetings with Project Managers, Business Analysts and Users of the systems we develop and maintain. These skills are highly underrated by far too many folks in technology as we tend to focus a lot of time on the cool stuff like design and coding. But enough about that, let's talk about the book.
When I stumbled upon a reference to this book I looked it up on Amazon and noted the near 5 star rating. That's very rare considering it has over 125 reviews. That was enough to make me take a chance on the book and I purchased it.
As always, the book arrived in less than 2 days (I really love Amazon Prime!) and I started reading it immediately. I tend to page through a new book quickly to take in how it structured and then I go back and read it.
My first impression as I started paging through this book was the sheer number of chapters (71). Considering the size of the book, normally I'd expect about 20-ish chapters. 71 chapters is a lot of chapters and I was curious how the author packed such a high number of chapters in a single book.
After diving in I was soon pleasantly pleased with the content. John covers a lot of topics but spends a lot of time on what I would consider some of the more important topics such as setting goals, people skills, interviewing skills and creating your own brand. Additional topics are covered such as learning to blog and freelancing.
I won't cover it in detail as I feel people should read it for themselves but I will say a few key points as to why this is a good book:
- The amount of topics covered is amazing. Time is well spent on what I would consider more important topics but there's still plenty discussed in the book.
- John is in a rare group of my favorite authors that knows how to articulate their thoughts very well. I've read a lot of books but I've found few authors that have a way to deliver their message in a clear and concise manner to all varying audiences. This is the #1 quality I look for in an author.
- It's personal. Odd but I like this. Good authors reach in to themselves to express how and why, the up's and down's. John does this even if it's at a low level. You feel as though he's doing more than just spouting what you should do and even included some the trials and tribulations from his own personal standpoint.
- The section on targeting a specific company to work for is great.
- Another great section is wasting time. It couldn't be more spot on and offers free tips to reduce time wasting activities.
With all that said, the book isn't perfect. As I stated earlier, I really dislike small chapters. I much prefer that an author find a way to marry similarly related topics to reduce the number of chapters but I'm giving John a free pass on this because he explains why he does it. Initially I thought he was just trying to increase the chapter count to make it seem like it had more content but that wasn't the case.
The only other thing to note are the chapters about investing and health. While I personally have no issue with these topics being covered, I could see where some readers made find them odd considering they may not be perceived as being directly related to our career. It seems they are included in the book to cover things that are personal and should be addressed even though they aren't professionally related per-se. Again, not a bad thing but some may find it odd.
In conclusion, I would agree with most of the reviews on Amazon. This really is a great book and one I would consider a "must read" for all folks in IT. Does this mean it's a perfect 5 start book? That's very subjective but if it's not, I would say it's about as close as you can get without being perfect. Pick up a copy and see for yourself and you won't regret it.