Since Big Money Matt opened up his summer reading list today, let me offer praise to a book, or rather a series of books, that could really change the world.
It's O'Reilly's Head First series, and it makes the Dummies series read like they were written for Einstein.
Tim O'Reilly has taken everything he and his company have learned training people in programming for two decades and condensed it into the format of this series. Even I can learn with it.
While I've been writing about programming and programmers for decades, I've never been able to actually do it. I'm like the sportswriter who can't hit.
But with the Head First Java book I was actually able to compile something, and comprehend the language's basics on one reading. With a baseball book like this Rick Reilly could get himself some scratch hits off a real pitcher.
One of the biggest problems in computing today is the shortage of young programmers, and one of the chief reasons for that is a shortage of readable, basic guides which can act as textbooks in high schools.
This is the first series of programming books I've ever seen which could actually be used for that. You could even use it in middle schools. It's that accessible.
The format is the key. There are lots of pictures, lots of puns, lots of white space, and the text is in small, accessible chunks. Then there are a collection of tests at the end of each chapter to emphasize the lesson.
As with any good teacher, the O'Reilly series attacks the material from a variety of angles. If you know it, or you're a quick learner, you can breeze right through. If you're like me they try everything possible to make things comprehensible.
I've got educators on both sides of my our family, teachers on my side and administrators on my wife's. Both sides would be very proud of what O'Reilly has achieved here. Any school with interest in putting together some programming classes would be wise to make this series their first-choice text.