I've recently started reading a lot of software-engineering books. I've gone through a few good ones and a few bad ones. No matter how much programmers hate reading, or how much they object to this strange notion of "books", Joel On Software is the single best book for them to read.
If you're a programmer, get it now. If you work with programmers, get it now. If you manage programmers, or if you manage a company that employs programmers, you especially need to get it now. Those are not affiliate links. Joel isn't paying me to tell you this. I'm passing my copy around the office to anyone willing to read it, and everyone so far has given it glowing reviews. If any of my friends were programmers, I'd give copies as gifts. (Too bad all of them are law students.)
This book needs to be widely read and shared. The full title, technically, is Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity. The title itself is an incredibly accurate description of the book's contents. It's mostly about the art and practice of good software design, but contains a lot of other relevant articles as well.
Fortunately, you don't have to rely on my vague descriptions to get a taste of the book. Joel On Software is based, unsurprisingly, on a website called Joel On Software. Most of the book's sections are based on site articles (sometimes verbatim). I originally found the site from a link to Joel's User Interface Design section, which has actually become a separate book that I also recommend.
Start your Joel-reading experience with The Joel Test. Not only is it an incredibly valuable article (my company scores an 8 - pretty good), but it will introduce you to Joel's excellent writing style. He's clear, concise, funny, and informative.
As a side benefit of the book, Joel extensively cites references with footnotes in the text. For a young software engineer, these references compose an excellent reading list. I've discovered many of "the classics" simply by noticing that certain books occurred frequently in Joel's footnotes, including PeopleWare and The Mythical Man-Month.