Lately I’ve been trying to read longer coding books. Some history with “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” building on my weaker points with “Eloquent Javascript,” and branching out with “The Node Beginner Book.” The results with these, and many others, have been lackluster.

The process generally goes like this:

  1. I find a new book and am excited to read it. I feel it’ll solve all my issues if I religiously read and reread it.
  2. I put off reading the book for a few days.
  3. I finally start reading the intro and the first two chapters before stopping, thinking I’ll reach the best parts later.
  4. I rarely read the book again.

Not all readings go this way. A select few, like “Automate your Workflow” I read most of and found immensely helpful. But some were real bad, where I either never read them or they stole my clothes while I slept. But most followed the above four steps.

This all left me understandably confused with myself (and with some books - what’d they need clothes for?) over my reading habits. I have no troubles reading books about philosophy, dystopian fiction, general knowledge, or anything by George Carlin. What was my roadblock with more technical ones?

Right to the good part

In search of answers and a snack, I brought my laptop to the kitchen and went to some coding sites. I eventually wound up on CodePen and saw the roadblock: I learn much better by starting smaller.

I’m not saying coding books aren’t important. There’s lots of great info for people going deeper into certain topics. But those aren’t good first steps. Finding those pockets of passion means first working on something simpler. Going to sites like CodePen, a great resource for code like this, is better for several reasons:

  1. See what tools and tricks people are using right now. Get a direct line to the most useful info.
  2. Build a better, broader portfolio. It helps with getting experience, more perspective on our skill sets, and info on our weak points.
  3. Reinforcing the lessons and habits I know but haven’t taken to heart, instead of piling on newer ones and getting overwhelmed.
  4. Make customizable code modules for future use. For example, making a basic “Super Menu” for later projects.

See the Pen Super Menu by Maxwell Antonucci (@max1128) on CodePen.

Focus on what you enjoy

I think the root of this issue was feeling I had to know everything all at once. There’s infinite knowledge for coders to learn, and increasing pressure to learn more. I felt running through lots of detailed books was the best way to become an expert fast. But that skips over experience and problem-solving, which are at least as important as pure knowledge, if not more.

Starting smaller is a natural way to focus on what we love, build on top of it, and eventually finding those extra passions we’re willing to read long books for. Most importantly, we’ll enjoy and be challenged by our work as coders - and if that isn’t happening, what’s the point in doing our jobs?

This message from Hugo Giraudel on his AMA sums up this post very well, so I’ll end with it.

Keeping working on what you like, and the rest will arrive. It doesn’t need to happen all at once.

Cheers, Max A