After DevOpsDays Raleigh 2017 I was going to dinner with friends. Along the way the topic of what’s up next came up. I mentioned I had a talk coming up at All Things Open but had no idea what I was going to discuss. We began batting ideas around and came up with a few good ones. One that we latched on to was creating a curated list of things to read to level up your DevOps skills and knowledge. DevOps was born. Today I had the opportunity to trial run the this as an Ignite Talk at DevOpsDays Detroit 2017.

This list is on GitHub, pull requests are welcome.


The Phoenix Project

  • Novel; Not your typical technical book
  • Transformation of Broken Organization towards DevOps Culture
  • Quintessential beginning of a DevOps journey
  • Pros: Easy to digest, can suggest to executives
  • Cons: The implementation details are fuzzy
  • Quip: We all know Brent. Help Brent not be Brent.
  • URL:

The DevOps Handbook

  • Handbook full of use cases and helpful examples
  • Years of experience poured into one book
  • The next step of a DevOps journey
  • Pros: Detail oriented, can give to technical staff
  • Cons: Not a quick read
  • Quip: You’re DevOps’ing if you quote this book.
  • URL:

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The Twelve-Factor App

  • De facto standard for implementing software
  • Good design principles for refactors and green field
  • Pros: Free; Up-to-date; Roadmap
  • Cons: State has to exist somewhere; lightly addressed
  • Quip: If apps only had 12 factors…

Release It!

  • Developer centric cases and examples for releasing
  • First edition out of print; second edition in December
  • Technical af
  • Pros: Looks at the SDLC holistically
  • Cons: Not readily available yet
  • Quip: Interesting that Release It! Isn’t released yet.
  • URL:

Continuous Delivery

Site Reliability Engineering

  • A collection of essays from Google SREs about how things are done at Google
  • A fantastic reference for various functions like on-call, onboarding, delivery, etc.
  • Pros: Free; solid examples of how to do things
  • Cons: You are not Google; embrace with caution
  • Quip: Google SRE is proof setting a pile of money on fire is a viable solution to engineering problems.
  • URL:

The Art of Monitoring

  • Opinionated HOWTO implementation guide to
monitoring at scale
  • Incredibly thorough book
  • Pros: Explicit; Detailed
  • Cons: Opinionated; Long; Perhaps too specific
  • Quip: If a book’s art worthiness is measured by weight then we have a winner (767 pages).
  • URL:

Effective DevOps

  • Culture centric focus on DevOps
  • Discusses collaboration, hiring, team building, etc.
  • Great for leaders and managers
  • Touches on a wide variety of important topics
  • Pros: Culture is hard; this helps
  • Cons: Etsy probably isn’t the best example anymore
  • Quip: Effectiveness is a good thing!
  • URL:

Enterprise DevOps Playbook

The Open Organization Guide to IT Culture Change

  • Community-produced companion to Jim Whitehurst’s 2015 book, The Open Organization
  • Like SRE book, a collection of essays
  • Focus on principles and practices of culture
  • Pros: Easy to read; diverse authors; inspirational
  • Cons: Not all pieces apply to everyone
  • Quip: “Being positive is sometimes difficult to do.” I wrote that? Wow. I had no idea.
  • URL:

Lean Enterprise

  • Big picture, business minded change agent
  • All phase guide to planning, organizing,
implementation, and measurement
  • Great for leaders and managers
  • Pros: Mindset changing readiness guide
  • Cons: None given the scope
  • Quip: This is not a weight loss book… Or is it?
  • URL:

Beyond Blame

  • Failure happens; Beyond Blame is a HOWTO in
making postmortems blameless
  • Great for individual contributors, leaders, managers
  • Pros: Guides you towards blamelessness
  • Cons: Emotions are hard, this isn’t a psychiatrist
  • Quip: I blame this book for your blame problems.
  • URL:

How Complex Systems Fail

  • “Post-accident attribution accident to a ‘root cause’ is fundamentally wrong”
  • Re-thinking failure in our systems makes them more robust
  • Pros: Makes case that RCA isn’t a solid process
  • Cons: None given the scope
  • Quip: You’re human so you’re the problem.
  • URL:

In Search of Certainty

  • Foundation shaking look at future
  • Great for individual contributors, leaders, managers
  • Pros: Helps manage a world we don’t know
  • Cons: Slightly terrifying
  • Quip: Death, taxes, and PagerDuty are the only certainties in life.
  • URL:

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It

The End of Heaven: Disaster and Suffering in a Scientific Age

The Art of War

  • In DevOps you SHOULD NOT have adversaries
  • I am willing to bet that anyone worth their salt has read this though
  • Tactics from this work should be used sensibly
  • “Know thy enemy”
  • Pros: Well known work studied in business, military
  • Cons: Not an easy read; multiple differing translations
  • URL:

“You are either building a learning organization or you will be losing to someone who is.” –Andrew Clay Shafer

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