As you may already know, Programmers.SE will soon hold it's first ever, site-wide contest. However, there is one more thing we need community input on: prizes.

So, until Thursday, at 20:00 UTC, we will be accepting recommendations for incentives. But:

  • It has to be a book.
  • Keep it in a reasonable price range
  • Has to be somewhat on topic with the site.

The top 4 books voted will be the ones given out during the contest.

Get going!

  • 2
    Does the winner have to pick a book? Perhaps it would be better to provide some kind of gift voucher/card/token to a certain retailer (Amazon, since SO has some kind of referrer deal with them already) or to a retailer of their choosing. If it's a common book (PragProg, Code Complete), I'd suspect the people here have it. If it's a more esoteric book, then there's less motivation to participate.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 2:38
  • Gift cards will be a more effective way IMO. Also saves from the hassle of varying shipping costs etc. Or maybe allowing the winners to select the book they want from a pre-defined list might be better. Commented May 1, 2012 at 7:30
  • $30 is a pretty awful price point for programming books. Most are at least $35-40 on sale. Other sites have prize price points at $50: why is it so low here?
    – user8
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 7:59
  • @ThomasOwens I'm currently working on that. I will get back to you.
    – Dynamic
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 10:47
  • @MarkTrapp See my comment to Thomas (and Thomas's comment).
    – Dynamic
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 10:48
  • @ThomasOwens No on gift voucher/card/token from SE.
    – yannis
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 16:32
  • @YannisRizos Thanks for the link. I added to the discussion in the chat room, as well. I still think that choosing books up front isn't the best idea, especially considering the top books are ones that I suspect are owned by the types of people who are providing the best answers.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 18:23
  • Following a discussion in the Programmer Contest chat room, a new idea exists. The short summary is that the winners can pick their prize, within some minor guidelines. @Jae is going to write a new focal point question here on Meta, so I'm closing this one.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 19:15

9 Answers 9


Code Complete


Widely considered one of the best practical guides to programming, Steve McConnell’s original CODE COMPLETE has been helping developers write better software for more than a decade. Now this classic book has been fully updated and revised with leading-edge practices—and hundreds of new code samples—illustrating the art and science of software construction. Capturing the body of knowledge available from research, academia, and everyday commercial practice, McConnell synthesizes the most effective techniques and must-know principles into clear, pragmatic guidance. No matter what your experience level, development environment, or project size, this book will inform and stimulate your thinking—and help you build the highest quality code.


The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master


Straight from the programming trenches, The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master cuts through the increasing specialization and technicalities of modern software development to examine the core process—what do you do, as an individual and as a team, if you want to create software that’s easy to work with and good for your users. 2


Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

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Even bad code can function. But if code isn’t clean, it can bring a development organization to its knees. Every year, countless hours and significant resources are lost because of poorly written code. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Noted software expert Robert C. Martin presents a revolutionary paradigm with Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship. Martin has teamed up with his colleagues from Object Mentor to distill their best agile practice of cleaning code “on the fly” into a book that will instill within you the values of a software craftsman and make you a better programmer—but only if you work at it.


Don Knuth's Art of Computer Programming. Why? Because I want it and I'll never buy it.

As a whole it's more expensive than the paltry sum you mentioned. But seriously, this is the book that will get people doing your contest. If you're gonna do 4 at a time, you could just give it away every time!

  • I was certain someone would think that'd be funny. It's not.
    – yannis
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 3:58
  • 1
    Knuth has to be on the list. (I just hope he doesn't win.) :-D
    – tzerb
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 4:11

Mythical Man-Month

Mythical Man Month

  • 1
    Up voted for historical significance, but strictly speaking the Mythical Man Month is more a project management book than a programming book.
    – yannis
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 13:52

Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming


Peter Seibel interviews 15 of the most interesting computer programmers alive today in Coders at Work, offering a companion volume to Apress’s highly acclaimed best-seller Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. As the words “at work” suggest, Peter Seibel focuses on how his interviewees tackle the day-to-day work of programming, while revealing much more, like how they became great programmers, how they recognize programming talent in others, and what kinds of problems they find most interesting.


The Practice of Programming

The Practice of Programming Front Cover

With the same insight and authority that made their book The Unix Programming Environment a classic, Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike have written The Practice of Programming to help make individual programmers more effective and productive. This book is full of practical advice and real-world examples in C, C++, Java, and a variety of special-purpose languages. Kernighan and Pike have distilled years of experience writing programs, teaching, and working with other programmers to create this book. Anyone who writes software will profit from its principles and guidance


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You should learn a programming language every year, as recommended by The Pragmatic Programmer. But if one per year is good, how about Seven Languages in Seven Weeks? In this book you’ll get a hands-on tour of Clojure, Haskell, Io, Prolog, Scala, Erlang, and Ruby. Whether or not your favorite language is on that list, you’ll broaden your perspective of programming by examining these languages side-by-side. You’ll learn something new from each, and best of all, you’ll learn how to learn a language quickly.


Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, and Clifford Stein.

CRLS book
(source: wikimedia.org)

"Introduction to Algorithms, the 'bible' of the field, is a comprehensive textbook covering the full spectrum of modern algorithms: from the fastest algorithms and data structures to polynomial-time algorithms for seemingly intractable problems, from classical algorithms in graph theory to special algorithms for string matching, computational geometry, and number theory. The revised third edition notably adds a chapter on van Emde Boas trees, one of the most useful data structures, and on multithreaded algorithms, a topic of increasing importance."--Daniel Spielman, Department of Computer Science, Yale University

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