What's on your bookshelf?

Continuing the discussion from What's your Mac desk look like?:

Since you brought up bookshelves. I’ve got quote a lot of that. Here are some of the more interesting bits from mine…

Some of the books on my lower-shelf, which I reference from time to time:

  • Various important programming language texts for C++, C, Perl and Python
  • Design Patterns - an incredibly useful book for software design and development
  • Some of the most important reference books for the X11 standard

  • More programming languages (Cocoa and Lisp)
  • Unix references
  • Jef Raskin’s The Humane Interface

Old Mac references (and the first edition of Hillegass’s book on Cocoa programming):

OS/2 programming stuff, including many volumes of IBM’s incredibly useful reference books:

Old programming references:


  • Actor
  • Topspeed C (for MS-DOS)
  • Turbo Pascal - versions 3, 4, 5, 5.5 and version 1 for Windows

This is a fun bit of history. Pre-release references to Microsoft’s 32-bit Windows API. From before Windows NT was released:

And some other old 8-bit references and the 2nd edition of the C++ programming Language.


Ah, the Gang of Four’s Design Patterns book – that book is never going to go out of use. (That and Hunt & Thomas’ The Pragmatic Programmer.)

I retired from software engineering some years ago – mostly C++ and C. The Stroustrup books books are very familiar, but I haven’t seen C++ Gotchas before. It sounds similar to Scott Meyers’ Effective C++ – i.e., practical advice on what to avoid doing in C++.

Bookshelves?! Which? The room I am in has four sets. The only rooms in this house that don’t have at least two sets are the bathrooms (I always found reading in the bathroom counterproductive… :-) Do we have any selective criteria here?


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Paper books? How quaint! We got rid of most of our printed books when we went full time living in our motor home. No room for books. Much easier to store and transport e-books. Other than buying gifts I haven’t bought a physical book in years.

I love the idea of going digital with my books and living in a motor home. If you don’t mind my asking, what kind of motor home do you live in?

Tiffin Phaeton 40’. We were full time for 2 years while we tried to figure out where we wanted to live in retirement. Even though we’re in a house now we still take extended trips. Spent two months last year in the Canadian Maritimes. My first visit there.


Well, given the nature of TidBITS, I’d say you should share stuff related to Macs and computing in general.

(I’ve also got dozens of shelves of other stuff, but I don’t think most people here will care too much about the non-computer-related texts.)

I use on-line references for a lot of stuff today, like for a C++ reference, but a lot of these books are old and unavailable in electronic format.

Plus, it is often easier to use physical books for reference. It’s really easy to put Post It flags on important pages so you can quickly jump to the sections you frequently need to reference. Not nearly so easy for an e-book, especially if you’re already very low on screen real-estate.


Dewhurst’s book is a great read for experienced developers - pointing out common mistakes made by C++ programmers, along with why they’re mistakes and a better way to do the same thing.

Another really great set of references are the “Thinking in…” books by Bruce Eckel. These books explain how the design of certain languages (Java and C++) encourage applications to be designed in particular ways, and why you should think about your designs along those lines when developing with those languages.

His company (books, seminars, etc.) is Mindview and its quick links page has several great things, including links to the full text of Thinking In C++ and Thinking in Java.


I couldn’t agree more with this, David. We left the scroll behind around the first century, and never should’ve looked back.

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I’ll play, but I don’t have time for nearly as good photos as @Shamino’s—you’ll have to zoom in to see titles. These are the four bookshelves that contain tech books and boxed software. Remember that? You’ll even find the Mac OS 8 box.

Bookshelves in my actual office. At one point, many of these books were in somewhat frequent use. Now they’re basically just decorative, though I sometimes pull one out to make a historical point. All the ones on the top of the shelves are mine, and there are a bunch from friends too.

Bookshelf in the hallway, with more generic computing books, many from the library of the late, great Cary Lu. He left me 250 shelf-feet of books and software when he died, and I culled to the best stuff. And an SE/30 case. I don’t think it works at all.

Bookshelf in a spare room with old software boxes on it. Not sure what else to do with them. There are more in the attic.


Exactly. There is no room on my desk for a second or bigger monitor (partly because of all of the books… ;-)

And I actually find it hard to concentrate on large bodies of text on the screen, must be some kind of condition…

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I am fortunate enough to work in a large academic library, and my interests are pretty aligned with the collection scope of the library - so I effectively have an extension of more than 3 million books that I can check out at short notice, plus the ability to request for pretty much anything (that is not out of scope) ;). That gave me the opportunity to check out these titles recently:

Now I am going to browse at Mirror Worlds: Or: The Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox… How Will It Happen and What Will It Mean by David Gelernter - published in 1991, but will be an interesting reflection 32 years later, especially now that Apple Vision Pro is released.

My personal collection is mostly focused on design, travel and biographies - plus classic works that I can access via libraries, but nonetheless would like to refer to quickly (and perhaps for that warm feeling of owning those books).

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I’ll play too, here’s my bookshelf:

More than a couple overlaps there!

Note that it doesn’t include probably my most highly recommended book on programming, Writing Solid Code, which is on my bed side table for a re-read.

And here’s my software archive bookshelf, with some awards, and if you look closely enough, a picture of a particularly appropriate person on this forum ;-)


Hey! Nice to see our holiday cards making the cut for decorative display! :slight_smile:


I completely concur. I worked with Bruce back in the late 80s, doing embedded firmware development at the same company; he left a few years afterwards, and eventually started Mindview. Years later, when I needed to learn C++ (Visual C++ and MFC, oh my…), I took his Thinking in C++ class, based on, and in tandem with, his book.

Extremely thoughtful person and an excellent communicator – this really comes through in Thinking in C++. Also, his contributions to the C++ language over the years on the C++ Standards Committee have been significant. (And just a super nice person.)

That’s a really interesting reading selection!

I’ve never read Bertin’s book, but it’s acknowledged, along with some key examples from the book, in Edward Tufte’s books/seminars on of effective information graphics.

I need to take a look at it someday. (So many books, so little time – particularly when you get to my age!)

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How I wish I have the time to read all the books that look interesting! I think I have become aware of Bertin’s book from one of Tufte’s work as well (which is also in the library collection).

Also, there are some particularly interesting works recommended by The Economist’s data journalism team - one being W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualising Black America: The Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century - the richness of the visualisation contrasts with the availability of visualisation tools (or lack thereof) - and to think that most of the data and visualisations can be easily created today with a few lines of code in R or Python.

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Of all the things that have made me feel my own mortality over the years, I don’t think any have hit as hard as the realization that I am not going to read all the books I assumed that I would read “someday,” including books on my own shelves.


As a professional writer, I do a lot of referencing, and it depends on what I’m doing. Post-its or even random slips of paper are great to mark pages in a paper book. For ebooks with embedded text (like most pdfs), I can copy and paste onto another part of my 27-inch screen, then expand the text to a comfortable size for reading. I also cut and paste to get the spelling of long words or long names right. It’s also easier on my neck and eyes if the source and what I’m writing are both right in front of my eyes. But you must have a large screen or multiple screens for this to work. If I’m just reading, I prefer the sharpness and high contrast of paper to a screen, and my vision can’t deal with small type on a screen.

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Between leaving Ireland to emigrate to the US in the early Nineties and then returning before the Millennium I had two occasions where all my books were given away or donated. I emigrated with a carryon and a guitar, left a BA and half of a PhD in books with various folks. All Philosophy. No takers for my Computing books which I donated.

Don’t think I’ve bought a computing book this Century… As for now nearly all my books in the studio are photography related. There’s a few stacks around the room depending on what’s going on. I am constantly referring to these for teaching and inspiration.