As a regular columnist in SunExpert and UNIX Review magazines, and an occasional reviewer of UNIX-related books, I have become well-known to the publicity departments of several publishers. This allows me to request just about any desired technical book, with a reasonable assurance that it will arrive (free) in a few days.

This is a bit like working in a chocolate factory; one's first reaction is to try some of everything. Soon, however, things begin to start tasting the same. Eventually, only new, unusual, or well-recommended items are requested.

I restrain myself pretty well these days, requesting only books that I might actually wish to discuss. I have also convinced my regular publishing contacts not to send unsolicited books on any topics except freeware and intermediate-to-advanced UNIX topics. The keeps the influx down to a few books per week, a manageable (if still somewhat intimidating) amount.

In the course of skimming and shelving these books, I have formed a few conclusions about which publishers are most likely to meet my tastes in technical reference books. Here are some notes which may assist you in your forays.

Getting Information

Most publishers now have Web sites; many of these are actually useful. (If the site isn't useful, send a note to the webmaster!) I also recommend the truly amazing Amazon web site (www.amazon.com), which purports to index a million titles, and has a pretty high hit rate, in my experience.

Larger publishers also send out glossy catalogs, including pictorial and descriptive information on their wares. If you let a publisher know that you like their products, they are quite likely to send you their catalogs. Be sure to say what sorts of books interest you, however, lest you get swamped in general-interest catalogs.

Addison-Wesley (www.aw.com)

Addison-Wesley is a broad-based technical publisher, but they have been publishing good computer- and UNIX-related books for a long time. Their "Professional Computing Series", overseen by Brian W. Kernighan, is particularly tasty, as is their Computer Science series. In my opinion, Addison-Wesley's "must have" titles include:

Free Software Foundation (www.gnu.ai.mit.edu)

The FSF is the administrative support body for the GNU Project. It has produced a variety of T-shirts, reference cards, and more than a dozen (authoritative!) books on GNU software, including:

McGraw-Hill (www.mcgraw-hill.com)

McGraw-Hill is a large, diverse publisher with some exceptional computer-related titles, including:

MIT Press (mitpress.mit.edu)

The MIT Press, also listed as a publisher of the classic "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs", finds the time to publish such offbeat, interesting items as:

The former is a wonderful exposition of computer jargon and associated folklore. The latter appears to have been published solely to prove a point about the first amendment and to annoy the NSA (both useful goals :-).

Morgan Kaufmann (www.mkp.com)

Morgan Kaufmann is best known for advanced books in the areas of artificial intelligence and computer architecture. They are branching out, however, and are worth watching for more general computer-related titles. Depending on your interests, I would recommend:

O'Reilly (www.ora.com)

O'Reilly and Associates is a relatively small publisher, but their areas of specialization match my own interests very closely. They publish a broad and deep line of books on freeware, the Internet, and UNIX. Although they have some introductory titles, most of their offerings are intermediate to advanced.

The following O'Reilly titles are definitely "must have":

O'Reilly's editorial quality is uniformly good, often excellent; nice touches like "lay-flat bindings" add to the convenience of their products. O'Reilly puts out a nice catalog / magazine called "ora.com"; to get on the mailing list, send your postal address to catalog@ora.com.

Prentice Hall (www.prenhall.com)

Prentice Hall is another old-time publisher of computer- and UNIX-related books. Their current "must have" books include:

USENIX (www.usenix.org)

USENIX, also listed as a co-publisher of the 4.4BSD manual set, publishes a wide variety of conference proceedings, concentrating primarily on open systems topics. Reading the papers isn't nearly as much fun as attending the talks, but the information is there, if you need it.

Wiley (www.wiley.com)

Wiley is a well-known technical publisher that occasionally puts out some really outstanding books, as:

Other resources

The publishers listed above are by no means the whole story; I occasionally receive good books on UNIX from other publishers. On the other hand, all of the above bear continued scrutiny, if you wish to have a current and solid UNIX bookshelf. For a somewhat different perspective on UNIX books, please see the book review article in this issue.