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Novels for Nerds
(Updated 2023)

Sven Woltmann
Sven Woltmann
Last update: November 27, 2023

Mostly I read technical books – books on programming – and books on Java in particular.

But now and then, when I get a good recommendation, I also read a novel. I want to recommend some of the books that fascinated me most.

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Book cover "The Phoenix Project - A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win"

by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

Link to the book at Amazon

An entertaining and insightful story about the transformation of an old, traditional IT department into a modern agile DevOps team.

Bill is appointed head of the IT department and is to help the “Phoenix” IT project, which is under massive pressure from features and deadlines, to succeed. He is confronted with problems that many of us know only too well: Uncompleted features planned months in advance; manual deployments that go wrong and keep the operations department awake night after night; developers who blame operations and vice versa; employees who turn directly to developers – bypassing all processes. Bill has 90 days to fix the mess; otherwise, his department will be outsourced.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data

The Unicorn Project - Buchdeckel

by Gene Kim

Link to the book at Amazon

“The Unicorn Project” is set in the same location and time as “The Phoenix Project”. It tells the story not from a management point of view, but from the perspective of top programmer Maxine, who is transferred to the Phoenix project as punishment.

There she tries to compile the Phoenix project and encounters problems that most of us know only too well: lack of documentation about setting up the development environment, missing accesses, insufficient tests, non-existent build and deployment automation, inadequate infrastructure – both for testing and production.

Maxine's determination and perseverance help her get closer to her goal step by step. In doing so, she encounters a secret underground organization, the “Rebellion”, which has the goal of replacing outdated approaches with modern software development principles.

Like its predecessor, the book shows what is possible when a traditional company is open to the necessary changes of the digital age. It is entertaining, easy to read, and it is pleasant to meet some familiar characters again.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

Project Hail Mary

project hail mary andy weir

by Andy Weir

Link to the book at Amazon

A man wakes up to find himself in a spaceship, light-years from Earth, with two dead bodies next to him. He can neither remember his name nor how and why he got into this spaceship or where it is flying to.

In several flashbacks, main character and reader alike gradually learn what happened.

And that's all I want to give away about the plot.

The novel contains numerous scientific-technical subtleties – for some readers, this might be going too far – for us programmers, it's just right :)

Be warned, though: the physical explanations are not always completely watertight. Sit back, enjoy the story, and don't try to get to the bottom of all the physical details.

All in all, it's an original, exciting, slightly humorous science fiction story that I recommend to every reader of this website.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

Ender’s Game

Book cover "Ender's Game"

by Orson Scott Card

Link to the book at Amazon

Ender’s Game is the first part of a science fiction epic and, for me, one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

The story is about a young boy, Ender, being recruited for a training program to defend Earth against a threatening invasion by an alien species.

I don’t want to tell you more about the plot. There are several follow-up novels – the first four parts are also available as a set: The Ender Quartet.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, including the sequels.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow - gabrielle zevin

by Gabrielle Zevin

Link to the book at Amazon

“Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow Again” is a moving story about friendship, love, loss, creativity, success, and failure – set in the fascinating pioneering days of the video game industry in the 1990s, when a small group of programmers could still change the world.

The main characters are lovingly developed, and their relationships with each other are extremely deep and complex.

A captivating read, even for readers not interested in video games.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.


Book cover "Seveneves"

by Neal Stephenson

Link to the book at Amazon

An epic science fiction story that feels like a work comprising several novels, and that captivated me from beginning to end. Something completely different than I’ve known before.

I don’t want to tell anything about the story so as not to take the tension away. I also recommend not reading the description on Amazon, because, in my opinion, it reveals too much. Barack Obama and Bill Gates both recommended this book.

The book has “only” 4.2 stars at Amazon – a rating that I cannot comprehend. Most readers criticize that the author describes technical correlations in too much detail. I liked that, and therefore, it is a definite recommendation for every other programmer.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.