Hey everyone,

I have a pretty long commute to and from work. I often use the time to read a programming book (currently Clean Code). Does anyone know of any ways in which you can learn 'better' while commuting? I'm looking at the best way of boosting my learning in that short space of time.




Software engineering radio has some nice podcasts you can download. http://www.se-radio.net/

5 accepted

Hi there,

Here are some tips which may aid you with knowledge retention and efficiency of learning:

  1. Bring a small memo pad and a pencil with you. Use it to take notes as you progress through your book. This is not to say "copy everything"; but rather, make outlines and mindmaps to help direct your learning and to keep the big picture in perspective. This may sound kind of silly, but it does help.

  2. As you read, think of possible real-world applications of key concepts and write them down for later reference.

  3. Annotate! If you own the book, you have the right to write all over it! I can't tell you how much this helps one's learning. Underline, circle, asterisks -- the works! I know the idea of 'defacing' a book may seem crude and off-putting to some, but I can't stress this enough. The book is as much yours as the author's, so don't be afraid to improve it.

  4. Taking #3 to the next level: co-create with the author. Maintain a 'dialogue' as you read, asking high-level questions about significance of concepts. If you can grasp the high-level concepts, the code comes naturally.

  5. Choose a book that is easy to carry and read as you go. It is annoying if the book is constantly slipping off your lap, closing itself .etc

  6. Don't listen to music with lyrics, as this can disrupt your concentration. Do (if you like) listen to instrumental music. Personally, I find the noise of conversations going on in the background manageable, but your mileage may vary.

  7. Be your own teacher! Write down assignments or interesting projects for when you get home. There is no substitute for writing code.

Laptops can be a bit cumbersome when commuting, and when you factor in the time it takes to pack/unpack it and boot it up .etc, breaking them out isn't worth the trouble. Also, depending on the area, you may not want to display a nice piece of hardware in public. It is probably wisest to focus on reading and note-taking on the bus, and remember to code when you get home!

I personally love reading on the bus -- it really helps to pass the time in an otherwise boring environment!

Good luck!


Buy a laptop and hammer out code


The best way to learn to program is to program. If you have a laptop that you can use that would be my best recommendation. As far as books go I like:

Design Patterns by Gamma, Helm, Johnson, and Vlissides and Code Complete by Steve McConnell

I am not sure what level of programming you are learning but these are two useful books for better programming.


I'd suggest this is a good reason to buy yourself a kindle! Books could get bulky to carry all the time, you could have the flexibility of many books with this device. If I ever get to commute in a bus I am buying it :) Some good software books that I liked are code complete, passionate programmer, programming pearls, algorithms and data structures in Java/C++, head first design patterns.


Listen to technical podcasts. There are tons of them out there depending on the technology you want to learn and it's one of the reason I love my iPhone. Podcasts can help you learn about new technologies and the discussion process usually gives a lot of insight into the techs specifically that a book has a harder time of capturing.

I am actually really suprised by how often I talk to other developers and many don't even understand the value in podcasts or in some cases what they even are.

It sounds like your commute doesn't involve you driving through so your hands are free to read a book, even doing some coding (get a laptop if you haven't got one already) and subscriber to many technical blogs with an RSS feed so that you can read them offline (tether a laptop if you can for even more flexibility to surf and learn on the go). If you did however have to drive, this is where podcasts would really be of use.

As for books, read Code Complete if you haven't already.