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Is it a good idea if I put the books I read on my resume, or at least those related to software development?

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If you wrote a book, then certainly... but not if you've just read one. –  Dean Harding Feb 27 '11 at 23:02

21 Answers 21

up vote 58 down vote accepted

I've read a lot of resumes, some good, some bad, and they've never had a list like this. Honestly, it would indicate to me a candidate who has extremely little hands-on experience and is desperate to pad a thin resume. And a candidate who hasn't bothered to research common resume formats. Such a resume would most likely be circular-filed. By me, anyway.

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Honestly? We're assuming all other things being equal, a resume with the same qualifications, the same years of experience, the same former job responsibilities, but one listing a number of books read, you'd throw the one with the books away? You really must get too many resumes if you weed them out that quickly. –  nikie Feb 27 '11 at 23:33
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@nikie: What is the resume with the book list try to achieve? The ability to read books is a given for our profession and you are expected to stay up-to date by reading. Giving a list of books really does not give me any sense of their ability apart from an unease that they are trying to pad their resume for some reason. That in itself is not enough to throw it away. But the lack of understanding on how to produce a resume (there are a lot of books on the subject) is enough to throw it away. –  Loki Astari Feb 28 '11 at 2:22
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@Martin: I think everyone agrees that a list of books read is useless and weird, but the question is whether a resume with all other things being equal and a useless additional section should be thrown away. Surely you're trying to evaluate programming ability/experience (or whatever it is the job requires), not resume-making ability/experience. (Are candidates expected to read "a lot of books on the subject" of resume-making?) –  ShreevatsaR Feb 28 '11 at 4:50
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@ShreevatsaR: You are correct its hard to argue about hypothetical situations and what would actually happen when presented with the situation in real life. But saying that, human nature being what it is, we tend to like the familiar and dislike (distrust the unfamiliar). Thus why put yourself at the disadvantage of making your resume unfamiliar to the trained reader of resumes. If it is not going to gain you anything and has the potential to make your resume stick out in an odd way (ie negative). –  Loki Astari Feb 28 '11 at 7:44
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@user13645: But that raises the same question: All other things being equal, would you really throw away the CV with no real world experience and a few books on it, and instead invite the CV with no real world experience and a list of hobbies like swimming and playing piano on it? (Many people have those on their CVs) –  nikie Feb 28 '11 at 23:00

Save it for the interview

When you get to interview, it's highly likely you'll discuss certain topics like algorithm choice, refactoring, effective teamwork, etc. This'd be the time to discuss your experiences and optionally give references to widely-recognised books on those topics.

As an employer, I wouldn't be able to tell from listing the books on your CV whether you'd read them or just pasted them into your CV after copying from a 'recommended reading list' on Programmers/StackOverflow.

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Don't. A book is the source of knowledge, but it's the demonstration of that knowledge that really matters.

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Linked-In has an area for you to put books you read. You can just link your Linked-In profile from your resume. Then if they are interested in the books you read, they have the option to look.

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I see it as very tacky and opening yourself to a lot of problems you can avoid. For example, say you list Programming Pearls as a read book. What if the interviewer happens to remember something very specific in that book because he has also read it.

He asks you a question about it, and then you can't remember that specific bit. But hey, you read the book. It says so right here. You're immediately labeled as a liar in his head.

Just don't do it.

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I got a computer engineering degree without ever reading a single programming book. Did I learn a decent amount in college? Sure. Did I learn as much as I could have? No, not even close.

Having read books on the subject is an added bonus... something that shows you are interested in learning from the experts. You don't just copy & paste code or write code that seems "good enough." You went out there and read about why certain solutions are better than others, etc.

Should you put C++ for Dummies on your resume? Of course not. If those are the books that you've read, then the answer is definitely not. However, if you've read some of the more respected books, then I would say yes.

Bill Gates on Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming:

If you think you're a really good programmer . . . read (Knuth's) Art of Computer Programming . . . You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing.

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Try it, do an A/B Test

My guess is that it just depends -- though when ranking knowledge over experience, experience always wins. I'd suggest focusing on mapping and expanding the real world experience you have, instead of the books you're read.

If you do end up listing them, I'd suggest having a personal website -- with reviews of the books posted, and how you've applied the knowledge provided by the book in the real world.

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No. Having read a book doesn't mean you've comprehended it or retained any of it. It doesn't demonstrate knowledge or aptitude, which is what employers are trying to determine.

If you demonstrate your value in an interview, then want to mention that you acquired said value by reading books, that's perhaps useful information.

What if the three books Joe Resume Reviewer think every developer should have read aren't on it? You're just opening a can of worms you don't need to.

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I have never seen it either, but it may not be a bad idea.. you could list it under education, self taught section.

Beta test it, let us know how it works. I really can't see it doing much harm.

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Considering most programmers out there haven't read any programming books it might not be such a bad idea. Maybe a favorite programming book section, would certainly make for a good conversation in an interview.

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Consider it from the reader's point of view. Nobody reading a resume is going to say "Oh, wow, this guy read Code Complete and The Pragmatic Programmer! We'd better bring him in for an interview."

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A list of books read in your CV sounds like a bad idea. Big deal, you read the book - did you understand it? Can you apply it?

But what I think would be a good thing is to mention how you read something in a particular book, and did something interesting with it: maybe you applied Chris Okasaki's Purely Functional Data Structures to Java, or something.

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This could work if you have inside information about the person or company with whom you are interviewing. If you read on LinkedIn that the hiring manager is a big fan of a certain book, then putting that on your resume would be a way to get noticed by them.

I agree that most company's won't look at this as helpful, but I could see how it could work in isolated cases.

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I never saw a book (list) on a CV, either, but I think it's a good idea. People I interview regularly list languages even though they only learned them for fun, so why wouldn't you list books, if you read them throughly, did all the exercises, etc. Judging by the other answers here, it would probably depend on the person who reads the CV, though.

Another option would be to mention books in the cover letter. For example, if you apply for a job at a company that creates speech recognition software, you could write that you've read [insert standard literature about speech recognition here] and that you found it very interesting and would be excited to work in this field professionally. Of course, that only works for books that have some connection to the job you're applying for.

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Not on a resume. I could picture there being a case of it making sense in a cover letter or interview to make a point from a book if it seems applicable. For example, if a company mentions refactoring in a job description and you know a good quote from the book "Refactoring" by Martin Fowler, it may be useful to demonstrate this. Resumes generally are more for showing what experience you have rather than just having some knowledge on a subject.

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In your case, you're not just claiming to have read Fowler, but rather showing something that indicates that you've read and understood at least part of it. There's a difference there. –  David Thornley Feb 28 '11 at 20:51

Like most of the other respondents, I think it's a bad idea. What I would do is start a blog and review the books. Or write reviews on Amazon and come up with a clever way to link them on your blog. Mention the things you learned from the books and try to tie it back to your experience or side projects.

To me this would show that you're interested enough to be an active programmer, but not desperate.

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It will look strange on a resume. I don't think anybody does that.

However, books are a great thing to talk about during an interview. In fact, I was once asked by an interviewer what my favorite book on C++ was.

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If you really need some resume filler, how about taking some of the knowledge that you learned from all those books and making a cool application. You can probably squeeze in personal projects somewhere on the resume.

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I think it depends how you present that books on your resume. If it just a list, than it can smell like you have nothing to add or don't know what to add to your cv. But if you add it more like IT courses or certificates, it can be interesting.

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If you have to put it some where.

Do it on your profile in a professional networking site.

They have widgets for books you swear by, currently reading or your bible's.

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Don't do it. It won't make your CV look more impressive. You can mention the books that you have studied (in contrast to "read") during your interview. But be prepared to answer which parts did you like and which you didn't. An answer like "it's the best X programming book" is not sufficient and will make things worst.

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protected by Yannis Rizos Feb 25 '12 at 22:17

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