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Become an awesome Software Architect with these 12 books

To help you become an awesome software architect, we have picked out our top four books to make 12 in total. We are looking at engineering books that have influenced both us at The Serverless Edge and our new ‘The Value Flywheel Effect’ book.

Become an awesome Software Architect with the 12 books that inspired us

We were having a chat over the past couple of weeks about engineering books to help you become an awesome software architect. Books have influenced us as avid readers and through using social media to find out what’s happening. There is a small number of books that have influenced both ourselves and ‘The Value Flywheel Effect‘ book as well.

So we figured we’d pick out our top four books and list them out. And then we can have a quick chat about them.

So Mark, putting you on the spot. What are your top four?

Top 4 books by Mark, Mike, and Dave

Mark McCann
So the top four are the ‘Continuous Delivery’ book, the ‘Accelerate’ book, ‘Reaching Cloud Velocity’, and ‘Working Backwards’.

Dave Anderson
Great choice. What about you Mike?

Mike O’Reilly
I can’t use any of Mark’s now! I value books that I can keep going back to or refer to quite a bit. And the ones that Mark listed are in there.

We’re doing lots of domain-driven design at the minute so the Eric Evans book ‘Domain Driven Design’ has a lot of good common sense. There’s a lot of good stuff that you can reference.

For the next one, I really like the ‘Extreme Ownership’ book. It’s not necessarily a textbook. It’s really about leadership, how to R&D it, and helping yourself to think for collaborative strategic conversation. ‘Extreme Ownership’ by Jocko Wellington is a great book.

The other one I’ve been looking at a lot lately because I’m not really a massive data guy. So I’ve been delving into ‘Design and Data Intensive Applications’ book, which is really good. The last one, I’ve read it a couple of times, is the ‘Ask Your Developer’ book. And in particular, Chapter Nine which is about what they do with their developer experience, self-service portal, etc.

Dave Anderson
That’s a great book.

My first one is Simon Wardley’s ‘Wardley Mapping’ book. I’m not sure that he has a name for it, but it’s free on Medium. It’s a really good read. And there is a print copy on Amazon.

‘Team Topologies’ is my second and most brilliant book.

I really like ‘Creativity Inc’ by Ed Catmull from Pixar. It is a weird book, but I think it’s brilliant. And then ‘The Software Architect Elevator’, by Gregor Hohpe. I think is a brilliant read. I just love that concept. So I think we should have a quick chat about them.

So Mark ‘Continuous Delivery? Why?

1. Continuous Delivery

Continuous Delivery by Jez Humble and David Farley

Mark McCann
It came out in 2011. And it has been massively influential in how high-performing teams deliver their software today. And you can refer back to it today. It is still as fresh as it was when it was written.

And a lot of teams would do well to actually read it again. To see what lessons they can take from it and apply it to their own ecosystem and environment. We see a lot of companies not striving for continuous delivery. They’re in a halfway house. They have an automated pipeline, but they’re not getting the benefits from a truly continuous delivery environment. It’s a world-class book full of good practice and lessons learned.

Mike O’Reilly
Their bite sizes on YouTube are really good. A lot of stuff from the book is really consumable.

Dave Anderson
Their new book is good as well: ‘Modern Software Development’?

Mark McCann
Their ‘Modern Software Engineering’ book is an excellent follow on from them. It came out this year and is a really great book if you want a more modern take.

Dave Anderson
Their original one is ahead of its time. If every company did continuous delivery, they would be flying. All right, Mike. So DDD is an old book?

2. Domain-Driven Design

Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans

Mike O’Reilly
It is a good book and it’s quite meaty. It’s good just to see it in print to refer back to genuine common sense such as how to describe a domain, good domain models, and the importance of collaboration, communication, and shared understanding. I really enjoyed their chapter on ubiquitous languages. Those sorts of things stand the test of time. You can be in different types of stacks or scenarios, but the knowledge is abstract so it’s broadly applicable.

In roles, where you are facilitating and designing, it’s good for checking your thinking. I definitely recommend that you have it on your bookshelf. Especially if you’re leading a team or working in architecture.

3. Wardley Mapping

Wardley Mapping by Simon Wardley

Dave Anderson
It’s a great book. And again, far ahead of its time. It’s 15 to 20 years old? My first book is Wardley Mapping by Simon Wardley. I think when you are writing a seminal book, you have got to have the headspace to think it all out. And then once the book comes out, and the topic is popular, it disappears into the ether like ‘Continuous Delivery’, ‘DDD’, and the Simon Wardley book.

It’s so dense. I have got a print copy of it. And I find myself always coming back to it. I think it was out in 2011. It’s chunky and quite academic. So it’s not exactly an easy read. But it’s ‘as deep as well’, as they say. So I’m a big fan and I always go back to it. I don’t take every word of it literally. But it’s definitely a good read and will challenge your thinking still to this day.

Mike O’Reilly
It’s definitely one of those where you think you understand something, then you go back to the book and realise that you thought you understood it okay. But now realise that you understand it more.

Mark McCann
With life experience and the experience of applying these tools and techniques, you get a fresh perspective. With more experience, you have a few more scars because you tried things that didn’t quite work. And then you go back into the book and realise that it makes sense.

Dave Anderson
Yeah, exactly. Mark, what was your second book?

4. Accelerate

The Cloud Book Accelerate on The Serverless Edge
Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren PhD, Jez Humble, Gene Kim

Mark McCann
My second book was ‘Accelerate’ by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim. This is a game-changer. I think everyone in the industry understands that. I remember I bought it at Easter time or actually it was March 2018.

Dave Anderson
Thats right! It was Good Friday!

Mark McCann
I was on holiday and I remember pinging you Dave to say that this book is awesome. It distills down and captures (with scientific backing) all of the things that we were trying to articulate or were trying to push or evolve in our ecosystem. It was a great accelerator for us. And it gave us validation for the things that we were trying to push. You refer back to it all the time.

All the stuff you need is there. The capabilities to drive improvement, the scientific backing and little snippets of good advice and guidance. It is one of the best.

5. Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Dave Anderson
Yeah, it’s brilliant. Mike, what was your second one? ‘Extreme Ownership’ by Jocko Willink?

Mike O’Reilly
It’s a weird choice. But I like how he breaks it down. I’m into history and I love applying real-world experience to significant scenarios. There’s some cracking guidance on how to own something and lead. One that sticks out is centralised command and leading up and down the line. I would recommend it. I’ve got it on Audible but I have also got the physical copy.

It’s a well-thought-out and structured book on how to think, modern leadership, and how to motivate people to be successful. I enjoy reading about how to think through systems, particularly in a leadership position, in technical orbs, and stuff like that. It helps you to think like a leader.

Dave Anderson
Yeah. It’s a brilliant book. Some people don’t like the military stuff. But it actually has solid leadership advice and the podcast is brilliant as well. It’s really worth a listen.

Mark McCann
With the military stuff, there’s no space for fluff.

6. Team Topologies

The Cloud Book Team Topologies on The Serverless Edge
Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais

Dave Anderson
Alright, so my second book was ‘Team Topologies’ by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais. I remember when this book came out, it was a complete game changer. We’d seen the presentations beforehand, with the 4 team types. It’s such a powerful question: ‘What type of team are you?’ And the response is: ‘What do you mean?’. The answer is that you’re a platform team, an enablement team, a value stream team or you’re not anything.

And all the techniques are in it with different tools and team APIs and stuff. I think it’s convenient. You can pick it up and implement it tomorrow.

Mark McCann
Yeah, it’s fantastic. It cuts through the socio-technical noise from large teams and enterprises. It helps you streamline your team’s workflow in a way that was hard to articulate before.

Dave Anderson
Exactly. Alright, Mark, what is your third book?

7. Reaching Cloud Velocity

The Cloud Book Reaching Cloud Velocity on The Serverless Edge
Reaching Cloud Velocity by Jonathan Allen, Thomas Blood, Werner Vogels, Adrian Cockcroft, Mark Schwartz

Mark McCann
It is ‘Reaching Cloud Velocity’. This is one that I refer to all the time. It has Wardley Mapping in it which is great. And it covers how to succeed in the cloud. In other words, what are the principles and tenets that you should apply? What are the cultural and organisational things you should think about as you’re starting to move to the cloud? It looks at the architectural approaches and patterns you should adopt.

And how to do security and governance. It also looks at what’s your business strategy, now that you’re in the cloud.

Dave Anderson
Pretty good. All right, Mike, what was your third one

8. Designing Data-Intensive Applications

Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann

Mike O’Reilly
Again, it is a weird one. I’m very ‘point in time’ with my choices! I’ve just been ramping up on data architectures. And the book ‘Designing Data-Intensive Applications’ is such a good book to do that. It goes into everything. It’s almost like a bible for anything data related such as streaming, different types of databases, and why you make decisions on certain types of databases. You get into the design and the nuance of it. And understanding the landscape.

I imagine it’s one of those books where you’ll have numerous cycles through it as you can progress through different scenarios. In terms of how it’s laid out, it’s really good. It’s broken into 2 to 3-minute blocks. So you can get straight into it and get perspective or context. I recommend it for anybody working in distributed or microservice architectures, dealing with different types of data and interactions. The book is getting good feedback.

9. Creativity Inc

Engineering Leadership culture described by Creativity Inc
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

Dave Anderson
My third one, which is also a funny one, is ‘Creativity Inc’, by Ed Catmull. The book is about Pixar, who went up against Disney by direct selling films. The full title of the book is ‘Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration’ Check out it! I loved the way they described trying to create something and having the discipline to make it. They talk about the inspiration of creating and then actually making it.

And how they structured the company and all the challenges they had. It’s interesting because you’ve seen all the Pixar films like Toy Story, etc. And Steve Jobs was part of it as well like because he was one of their main backers. It’s a brilliant book that is really nicely written with solid ideas. Alright, Mark, what was your number four book?

10. Working Backwards

Working Backwards by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr

Mark McCann
My number four book is ‘Working Backwards’ by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. We see Amazon from the outside eg., Amazon Prime, deliveries, and Alexa. But how do they actually do it? How can they be so successful and set themselves up for success? In what way is their leadership structured?

‘Working Backwards’ distills down and gives insight into how Amazon operates at that sort of scale. It looks at how they have remained successful despite their growth. It’s full of great insights on leadership principles, how they set up the flywheel, how they run their hiring process, and how they structured their organisations for success.

It shows how they really go after the two pizza teams’ mentality and model. But also how they maintain good company culture as they scale. The book is full of good advice, guidance, and actionable stuff that you can refer back to.

They go into their press release format with examples. So that you can apply the techniques in your context and environment.

Dave Anderson
Yeah, I love that book. I have spent years trying to work out what they are doing. So I was so glad they published the book. Alright, Mike, what is your number four book?

11. Ask your Developer

Ask Your Developer by Jeff Lawson

Mike O’Reilly
There’s another timing bias for this one. It is ‘Ask Your Developer’ by Jeff Lawson, looking at the developer-centric approach at Twilio. There’s a lot of good content on how to inspire great individuals and teams to be creative. There’s a good chapter on developer experience, their golden path, and off-roading.

And how they’ve organised around developer experience. We’re a big proponent of limiting cognitive burden and increasing developer experience. So it’s good to read about that in other orgs. I recommend it as a good read. It comes across well on Audible too.

12. The Software Architect Elevator

The Software Architect Elevator Book
The Software Architect Elevator by Gregor Hohpe

Dave Anderson
A nice bite-sized read as well. My last book is ‘The Software Architect Elevator’, by Gregor Hohpe. He originally wrote a blog called ‘The Elevator Architect’. So I keep getting the names, the wrong way around.

I love this concept by Gregor that an architect rides the elevator to talk to the executive in the penthouse, and then goes down to the basement to write code and all the floors in between. He talks about how an architect can behave and operate to be successful in a company.

Gregor is the ‘architect’s architect’. He is the author of ‘Enterprise Integration Patterns’ and books on cloud strategy and IT transformation. This book is a great read for understanding what modern-day architects should be like.

Mark McCann
We all refer back to that book and try to model ourselves. As a technical leader, you don’t compromise your principles, but you tailor your message for the audience you’re talking to. It’s a great way to coach tech people who are trying to move toward Leadership. It’s a great book on how to approach different contexts and people.

Good architecture is about communication

Dave Anderson
One of our famous phrases is: ‘Good architecture is about communication’. And that has puzzled many people to who I have said that to.

All right, so that’s the craic! That was a good bunch of books. Thanks for listening.

And look us up on, on @ServerlessEdge on Twitter, and on other channels like YouTube and your podcast player of choice. Thanks very much, everybody.

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