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Sysadmins: What kind of books are you reading?

Let us know what type of reader you are and get some book recommendations from the experts.
scene unfolding from an open book

Image by Comfreak @ Pixabay

What is your preferred type of book?

142 votes tallied
56 votes
Professional Improvement
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Personal Improvement
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"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one." – George R.R. Martin

The above quote from a fantastic (albeit slow...C'mon Winds of Winter) author is something that really hits home for me. I have always enjoyed reading, however, my love for the escape that is offered by a good novel became really evident during my time overseas. The beauty of literature is that everyone enjoys it in their own personal way. Some people, like myself, love fictional stories. Others may enjoy self-help, professional growth, and even historical accounts.

We asked some of our contributors to give their recommendations for book reviews that sysadmins may enjoy. Check out what the experts are reading. 

Designing Data Intensive Applications by Martin Kleppmann

This recommendation comes from Sudoer Anthony Critelli.  

Modern sysadmins are expected to know far more than just basic commands and simple administration tasks. Often, we are asked to understand the ins and outs of how an application works and how that application interacts with other services. A key part of this understanding involves familiarity with the data that our applications ingest, process, store, and transfer.

Designing Data Intensive Applications takes a very deep dive into how distributed data systems work. From traditional relational databases to stream-processing systems, Kleppmann has a knack for breaking down complex distributed-systems topics into digestible and enjoyable prose. After reading this book, you'll have a deeper understanding of data processing systems, and you will be better positioned to support the latest and greatest technologies for the apps that your developers will want to deploy.

You can pick up a copy of this book here

Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet

This recommendation comes from contributor Jonathan Roemer.

When Marquet took over the US Submarine Santa Fe, morale was at an all-time low. Performance was so poor that the well-being of the ship and her crew was endangered, and retention rates were the worst in the entire fleet. He operated as a standard captain until, after his crew attempted to follow an impossible order simply because Marquet ordered it, he finally understood that the culture of followers that had been fostered on the submarine would be its downfall. By empowering his crew to make the decisions they were fully qualified to make and instilling a sense of ownership, Marquet turned these same individuals into one of the most high-functioning crews in the U.S. Navy. He understood the importance of ownership, responsibility, and empowerment. Through these principles we can build engineering organizations that are entirely comprised of leaders.

You can grab a copy for yourself here

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage by Cliff Stoll

This recommendation comes from contributor Alex Callejas. 

This is a classic story of spies during the Cold War, which actually did happen. It's a walk through the past that helps us to understand many of today's system security concerns.

You can find Alex's full review here

Site Reliability Engineering by Betsy Beyer and Chris Jones

This recommendation comes from Sudoer Chris Collins. 

Site Reliability Engineering describes exactly the challenges facing my team. We’re handling more servers per sysadmin than ever before—a ratio of hundreds-to-one where ten years ago it was dozens-to-one. Even with better automation tools and increased scripting, trying to handle that scale is challenging, and a new workflow has to be developed to deal with the load.

You can read Chris' full thoughts here

The Linux Command Line by William Shotts

This recommendation comes from Enable Sysadmin writer and editor Ken Hess. 

At 458 pages, it's not the largest book on the shelf. It's a fairly lean book by technology realm standards. Don't get me wrong, though; no one is going to read this book cover to cover. Well, I guess you could read it from cover to cover if you're very bored from being trapped at home during this quarantine. I prefer to use it as a reference. If I have a problem or a question that I can't resolve, I turn to the index and find what I need. Yes, I know about the internet, but I don't have to muddle through dozens of bad results and dead-end links with this book in my hands.

You can read Ken's full review here

Our hope on this System Administrator Appreciation Day (tomorrow, July 31) is that you will find inspiration in some of these books, or some of your personal favorites. If this inspiration leaves you wanting to write something of your own, contact the team here at and let us know. We would love to help you unleash your inner sysadmin.

[ Looking for another great book on system automation? Get started with The Automated Enterprise, a free book from Red Hat. ]

Author’s photo

Tyler Carrigan

Tyler is the Sr. Community Manager at Enable Sysadmin, a submarine veteran, and an all-round tech enthusiast! He was first introduced to Red Hat in 2012 by way of a Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based combat system inside the USS Georgia Missile Control Center. More about me

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