On the technical side two stand out above all others
Generic Programming and the STL - I love this book because it is incredible well structured, leading the reader through quite complex material in an almost mathematical fashion - concept builds on concept, idea on idea. Sometimes the pace is a little slow - like watching a floor being laid down plank by plank, you want to start walking on it before its "really finished".
The other is Design Patterns - a difficult book to read, because understanding only comes from putting these topics to use - so you need to return to this book several times as your understanding and experience grows. Again a precise, almost mathematical, treatment.
For a non-technical selection, I have two as well. I guess these books made me a better person, rather than programmer.
Collective Wisdom by Brent Kelly. I think you will have a lot of trouble finding it - it was published in Australia, written by a guy trying to understand why some people seem to always succeed, no matter how hard life gets for them. He'd lost his high-flying job, without warning, and was having trouble getting any work. And so he became depressed and spent the days watching daytime TV. Then it occurred to him that one of the presenters was always "up" - even though her troubled career was well known. He wondered how come she was able to always get her career going again each time. So he started asking successful Australians to talk about their lives, background, struggles and personal philosophy of life. He even had a previous prime minister and state premier (US equivalent is a president and state govenor, I guess). In the end he had enough material for a book about how these highly successful people dealt with personal challenges, and what they felt the future was for Australian youth. My favourite quote is by Peter Brock, a highly successful car racer and business man, who lost nearly everything, and bounced back. Asked his personal motto he replied
"Bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell."
The second "life" book is a biography of Dr Fritjof Nansen - I dont have an ISBN, so it may again be hard to find. His resume might be summed up as "Drifter, Scientist, Explorer, Diplomat, Humanist" - reflecting the disparate phases of his life. After starting and abandoning many careers, he eventually became curator of a museum, where he discovered nerve features in the brain still called Nansen fibres. He was the first to cross Norway on ski's, first to cross Greenland, held the record for closest approach to the North Pole, played a role in Norway's separation from Sweden, became ambassador to England, and finally worked on resettling refugees from the Communist rise and famine in Russia, as part of the League of Nations. The lesson I take from this is "Follow your passion, because your greatest work will flow from there."
And finally, my personal motto is from my old school
"Spectamur Agendo" - By your actions you will be known.
...reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled. - R P Feynmann
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