Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Tester's Library

This week, I'm trying something different—The Tester's Library.

I've written many books, which is good, but sometimes the sheer number creates a financial problem for my fans. To make collecting the books easier on fans' wallets, I've begun to put together bargain-priced bundles of books to form beginning libraries for different audiences. At the moment, I'm planning a Tester's Library, a Developer Library, a Consultant's Library, and a Manager's Library. Perhaps more will come later.

The first one, The Tester's Library, can be found at

I won't release them all at once, leaving a bit of breathing room between one library and the next. This week, I've started with the Tester's Library, which consists of eight five-star books that every software tester should read and re-read. As bound books, this collection would cost over $200. Even as e-books, their price would exceed $80, but in this bundle, their cost is only $49.99. Here are the books, and why they should be in your library:

  • Perfect Software and Other Illusions About Testing
James Bach says, "Read this book and get your head straight about testing. I consider Jerry (Weinberg) to be the greatest living tester."
Perfect Software sets the stage for the bundle by answering the questions that puzzle the most people, but whose answers must be on the lips of every professional software tester:
• Why do we have to bother testing?
• Why not just test everything?
• What is it that makes testing so hard?
• Why does testing take so long?
• Is perfect software even possible?
• Why can't we just accept a few bugs?

  • Are Your Lights On: How to Know What the Problem Really Is
The tester's fundamental job is to identify problems in systems. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, this powerful little book will make you more effective at precisely identifying and describing problems. Any tester involved in product and systems development will appreciate this practical illustrated guide, which was first published in 1982 and has since become a cult classic. Are Your Lights On provides an entertaining look at ways to improve one's thinking power and the power to communicate effectively about problems discovered in testing:
  • First how to identify the problem.
  • Second how to determine the problem's owner.
  • Third who to discover where the problem came from.
  • Fourth how to decide whether or not to solve it.
Delightfully illustrated with 55 line drawings by artist Sally Cox, the book has changed the way thousands of testers think about the job of producing quality software.

  • Handbook of Technical Reviews (4th edition)
Experienced testers know that technical reviews are probably the most powerful testing tool. Every tester should participate in reviews, and this book explains how to do it.
One reviewer said, "For me there are many, many valuable lessons in this book. Not only does it provide a step-by-step explanation of how to run software reviews and how to get them accepted in the organization, what is even more important is that everywhere the "why" behind choices is explained. That allows me to transfer sound principles to a wide variety of settings. In every company reviews "work" slightly differently, and this book has helped me figure out how to match the implementation to the specific setting."
"Quite apart from the great content, I found the writing style a delight: witty, chock full of wisdom, and a breeze to get through. At over 400 pages it "looks" like a tome, but I went through it like a breeze. And I keep returning to it, which says a lot about the depth of coverage."

  • General Systems Thinking: An Introduction
For many years, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking has been hailed as an innovative introduction to systems theory, with applications in software development and testing, medicine, engineering, social sciences, architecture, and beyond. Used in university courses and professional seminars all over the world, the text has proven its ability to open minds and sharpen thinking.
A reviewer wrote: "In computing, a timeless classic is anything that is worth reading for any reason other than to obtain a historical context after five years. If that still holds true after twenty five years, then it is truly an extraordinary piece of work. That label applies to this book. It is not about computing per se, but about how humans think about things and how 'facts' are relative to time, our personal experience and environmental context."
"This is a book that is a true classic, not only in computing but in the broad area of scholarship. It is partly about the philosophy and mechanisms of science; partly about designing things so they work but mostly it is about how humans view the world and create things that match that view. This book will still be worth reading for a long time to come and it is on my list of top ten computing books.

  • What Did You Say?: The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback
Perhaps the most important—and most difficult—of the tester's jobs is giving information to developers about problems in the software they produced. This brief and engaging book can be of use to anyone who has to interact with other people. You'll enjoy the "read" so much that you may not realize how much you have gained - all in words of one syllable! 
• How to offer feedback when asked (or hired) to do so.
  • Why feedback tells more about the giver than the receiver.
  • How feedback is distorted or resisted by the receiver's point of view and defense mechanisms. 
  • How humans have struggled to understand each others' responses.
One reviewer wrote: "If I had the power to transport one book back in time and send it to myself, this would be the one. This is the book I needed when I became a people manager. It's also the book I needed when I began to raise my kids. In fact, I can't think of a time in my life when I did not wish I had more of the skills this book teaches. A simple but very deep book that causes a new level of understanding about how to talk to people with each reading."

  • More Secrets of Consulting: The Consultant's Tool Kit
Ultimately, a tester's job is like a consultant to developers, advising them on how to improve their products. Like all consultants, testers need tools to help them have their advice used productively.
Here's how a reviewer described the book: The "Consultant's Tool Kit" of the subtitle is actually a complex metaphor. Each component of the toolkit is a metaphor for a certain aspect of your personality and personal capabilities. For example, the wishing wand is a metaphor for understanding, and being able to ask for, what you want from a professional relationship. The chapter around this metaphor first explores why most people either don't know what they want or are unable to express it, and suggests ways to make your wishes clearer. It places this in a professional context, contract negotiation, and emphasizes how the personal ability to express and value your wishes will help you negotiate more successfully. 
In a similar way other chapters focus on developing wisdom and new knowledge, managing time and information, being courageous with your decisions, learning how to say yes and no, understanding why you and others are in the current situation, and keeping yourself in balance, avoiding burnout and other self-destructive conditions. 
These are all important not only to consultants, but to anyone trying to establish a more satisfying professional or personal life by managing problems, by self-improvement and by better handling their relationships to other people.

  • Becoming a Technical Leader
Ultimately, the best testers are leaders, guiding their organizations to better quality software products. Becoming a Technical Leader is a personalized guide to developing the qualities that make a successful technical leader. We all possess the ingredients for leadership, some better developed than others.
The book focuses on the problem-solving style–a unique blend of skills in 3 main areas: innovation, motivation, and organization. Ways to analyze your own leadership skills, with practical steps for developing those skills.
From one tester's review: "It is most difficult for a technical expert to transition from a individual contributor to a leader. This book tells you exactly how to do that !!! Brilliant, witty and extremely enjoyable. One of raw all-time classica on leadership. If you have only one book to read on leadership then this is it."

  • The Aremac Project

  • This is an intriguing fictional story, based on true events, showing how software testing, done well or done poorly, makes all the difference in the outcomes.

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