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IT pros pick their favorite books

Bridget Botelho

IT pros typically don't get a lot of time to read, but if a few moments of downtime pop up this holiday season, here are some peer book recommendations ranging from mainstream fun to super geeky.

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David Reynolds, a systems manager with the Rhode Island Blood Center and a certified ethical hacker said one of his favorite IT security books is The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers. It is basically a collection of stories from all sorts of people who have exploited vulnerabilities in systems, written by "one of the most celebrated and nefarious computer hackers of our time," Kevin Mitnick.

"The readers will find themselves intrigued at times and amazed at other times at the intricacies of these exploits," Reynolds said. "I would recommend this book, especially to anyone who works in the IT management realm, just to give you an idea of the capabilities of people who have a little bit of intellectual curiosity mixed with the time and the means to accomplish these feats."

Colin Dean, a programmer/developer and IT consultant, said one of his favorite books is Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks. The book on software engineering and project management was originally published in 1975 and is based on the premise that throwing more people or resources at a problem is rarely an intelligent solution, Dean said.

"Understanding and accepting this concept is an important thing, especially for nontechnical managers who don't understand how programming or IT problem diagnosis works," Dean said. "These managers are generally concerned only with raw performance metrics and the cost to the company, not the efficiency of getting it done or the accuracy of a worker's estimates."

For open source aficionados, The Cathedral and the Bazaar is a collection of essays by Eric S. Raymond, who is considered the de facto historian of the open source software community, Dean said. It includes essays Homesteading the Noosphere and The Magic Cauldron on open source dynamics, which can also be applied to teams with large proprietary software companies, he said.

Michael Keen, a Des Moines, Iowa-based writer and analyst, said Financial Intelligence for IT Professionals is a must read for everyone in IT, from administrator to manager.

"It amazes me that [IT pros] don't understand how to read a common financial statement as it pertains to their company, or if their company doesn't make that available, they don't know how the company makes money or who their customers are," Keen said. "This is what gives IT the reputation as a bunch of "bit twiddlers" that don't understand the business and can't talk intelligently about what is going on with the company."

Keen is also a fan of the book fruition: Creating the Ultimate Corporate Strategy for Information Technology, which he calls "one of the best books on the next generation of IT and business relationships and the elevation of the CIO to a more strategic role."

"Businesses are looking to IT for better value creation, and the majority of IT organizations today don't know how to do that. Chris Potts is one of the thought leaders in this industry on how to get IT and business more tightly integrated," Keen said.

Patrick Hynds, an IT manager, engineer and president of Nashua, N.H.-based Critical Sites Inc., said Essential SilverLight 3 by Ashraf Michail is a great resource for SilverLight users.

"It is written by one of the people who actually developed SilverLight for Microsoft. He covers the best ways to get the most out of the engine and even points out things that work better than others and why," Hynds said. "Lots of inside information, which is exactly what I need."

To escape work-related topics, you can't go wrong with Dan Brown, said Chad Znoj, a senior systems administrator with a large hospital in Providence, R.I.. Brown's latest book, The Lost Symbol (originally titled The Solomon Key), is on a lot of lists right now; it was ranked second on The New York Times best seller list for hardcover fiction on December 15.

Znoj said the story was a bit predictable, but that doesn't take away from the reading experience.

"[Dan Brown] uses [his books] as a way to get his own brand of information out there and to get people thinking. I constantly find myself Googling for things while reading his books. That's why I like them," Znoj said. "I would certainly recommend it -- or any of Brown's books."

And if you want funny, Roger Prata, a systems administrator for a major jewelry retailer in Cranston, R.I., suggests I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max."It is hilarious, but slightly off-color, as is Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer


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