Book Cover - Book Review: The Programmer's Brain: What Every Programmer Needs to Know about Cognition

The programmer's memory (not brain) at work

The book is remarkably well-written. The author explains how our short-term memory (STM) and our long-term memory (LTM) help the working memory when reading, writing, thinking, and collaborating on code. She extensively uses research papers and classic experiments to introduce the key concepts, and making this research accessible is for sure one of the strengths of this book, but also its main weakness.

There is more to the programmer’s brain than what has been studied. Programming is a creative activity. Often, the most difficult problems are solved when running or when taking a shower. The book completely omitted this subject about the role of both hemispheres, which plays a key role in understanding how programmers operate on large codebases.

What I like about this book is it demonstrates you don’t have to feel stupid when facing a new task, or a new problem. Your cognitive load is just too high, and the book will help you find strategies to reduce it, and move on.

The book will benefit developers with just a few years of experience or experienced developers that mentor newcomers and have forgotten what it feels to learn programming. For novice programmers, I think learning programming must be fun, and trying to learn it by optimizing how your brain works is not the best approach in my opinion.

About the author

Julien Sobczak works as a software developer for Scaleway, a French cloud provider. He is a passionate reader who likes to see the world differently to measure the extent of his ignorance. His main areas of interest are productivity (doing less and better), human potential, and everything that contributes in being a better person (including a better dad and a better developer).

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