The Best Non-Technical Books for Early Career Software Engineers

Some problems are not solvable by code.

In my own quest for solving problems in the last 5 years, I’ve read dozens of books and applied their ideas to my own life. This list contains some of the best non-technical books that I’ve read. They’re the real deal.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

As a kid, I was totally awkward: typical nerd, irritated by other people, and rarely smiled. How to Win Friends and Influence People took my social skills to a new level. You’re not doomed to a life without social skills. This skill can be leveled up just like strength or blacksmithing. Think about a communication problem you might have.

  • Do you want to persuade other people?
  • Do you have trouble working with certain individuals?
  • Do you need to get someone to listen to you?
  • Is your job search hitting dead ends?
  • How do you handle a coworker who isn’t meeting expectations?
  • How do you make friends in a new city?
  • How do you charm a romantic partner?

This book is exactly what you need.

Ironically, the people who most need to use the principles in Dale Carnegie’s book are the people who think they don’t need to read the book at all. How to Win Friends and Influence People should be required reading for any communication class.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R Covey

Covey suggests seven foundational habits that high-agency people do, and how you can apply them to your own life. Habits are Archimedes levers that you can use to change your world. If you have a poor mindset where you blame other people and chance for everything, you’ll never succeed in the 21st century.

Take the initiative. No one else is gonna do it for you.

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

Captivate is an awesome, practical book about how to apply psychology to your people skills. Van Edwards touches on public speaking, nonverbal cues, predicting behavior based on personality, and ways to deepen a connection with someone. Absorb her ideas, and you’ll be a level better at talking with people.

Van Edwards also runs The Science of People, a blog dedicated to using science to improve interpersonal communication. It has a ton of articles and videos that build on the ideas in Captivate. I especially like this video on power of hand gestures.

Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Book Series

  • Little Black Book of Connections
  • Little Teal Book of Trust
  • Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude
  • Little Red Book of Selling

Jeffrey Gitomer is a philosopher who worked as a salesman. He’s not a sleazy jamoke at a used car dealership. His books touch on networking, interpersonal communication, negotiation, and mindset. I also found it interesting to peek behind the curtain of what salespeople do.

Honestly, Gitomer’s books were more useful than a university course on negotiation.

The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide by John Sonmez

This one has little bit of technical info in it, but the majority is a practical approach to your career in software. The huge book is broken up into easily digestible chapters that you can read in any order. Need to prepare for a whiteboard interview? What should you wear to work? How do you deal with your annoying boss? Sonmez answers all these questions and more.

Sonmez also writes about a wide variety of software engineering topics at www.simpleprogrammer.com.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

If you don’t know anything about personal finance, start here. Ramit Sethi is a personal finance genius. Thousands (maybe millions) have used his simple, practical principles to pay off debt, grow their wealth, and live the Rich Life they’ve always wanted.

Sethi takes in an unconventional approach to personal finance. For instance, you don’t have to pinch pennies by cutting back on 25¢ sticks of gum. Instead, focus your energy on the Pereto levers that really matter, like a $30,000 investment decision.

Sethi runs the IWT blog, which holds more personal finance tactics, as well as GrowthLab, which focuses on online entrepreneurship.

The Bogleheads Guide to Investing by by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf

As a software engineer, you have extra money every month. (If you don’t, go back and read Sethi’s book.) Bogleheads is a great introduction to investing. When you start out, you don’t know anything about investing, or you think that the stock market is too dangerous.­ Set those beliefs aside for a moment.

In order to retire, you need to save money. Bogleheads provides a no-nonsense guide on basic questions like:

  • How much should I save?
  • What do I do with my savings money?
  • What kinds of stocks and bonds should I invest in?

Follow the Bogleheads’ philosophy and stay the course. If you jump ship and dump everything into Dogecoin instead, you’ll regret it.

On the other hand, if you read these books and use the information that applies best to your situation, you’ll find yourself standing on the shoulders of giants.


(Legal disclaimer: The above references are opinion and for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.)

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