Book Review - Code Simplicity, Max Kanat-Alexander

I hadn't expected to write another review so soon on the heels of my last one, but Code Simplicity by Kanat-Alexander from Google really surprised me. This is a short book, even an airplane ride length book, yet it's dense enough and informative enough for me to feel that re-reading it several more times would be awesome.

Let me get this out of the way first: this is not a how-to book for making software. There is no code in this book. This is a book on the philosophy of making software. If you are looking for concrete examples of how to re-factor your code, you will not find it here, but don't let that discourage you.

Kanat-Alexander does spend a fair amount of talking about how this book turns the making of software into a science. I don't really completely buy into the notion that this small book can actually do that, as I find his mathematics to be insufficient for such a claim. And in most cases, I feel like his categorizations of items into "Facts, Laws, and Definitions" to be, well, not rigorous enough from a scientific perspective. But in reading through this book, I wouldn't bother to get hung up on whether a particular statement is really a universal law or not.

Rather, I would read Code Simplicity with the idea that this is a philosophy you can use to understand how to make and maintain great software. If you are an experienced dev, there's a lot of very succinct principles that you can use to explain to novices or management about why you need to build software a certain way. If you are the novice, this will give you significant advantage because someone with years of experience has laid out some excellent starter principles for you. If you are a Product Manager, you can use this book to understand the software life cycle, and to help you plan in time for all the care and feeding that need to go into your software.

So the short answer? Yes, read this book. It's well worth the short amount of time, and if everyone in the field read it, the shared vocabulary alone that we'd reap from it would be worth it.

I got this book for free from O'Reilly as part of the blogger review program, which is awesome.