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Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) 1st Edition

53 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596510046
ISBN-10: 0596510047
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description


About the Author

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in free software and open source technologies. His work for O'Reilly includes the first books ever published commercially in the United States on Linux, and the 2001 title Peer-to-Peer. His modest programming and system administration skills are mostly self-taught.

Greg Wilson holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh, and has worked on high-performance scientific computing, data visualization, and computer security. He is the author of Data Crunching and Practical Parallel Programming (MIT Press, 1995), and is a contributing editor at Doctor Dobb's Journal, and an adjunct professor in Computer Science at the University of Toronto.


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Product Details

  • Series: Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)
  • Paperback: 620 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (July 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596510047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596510046
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Eli Bendersky on September 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book came to being from a very good idea. The editors decided to go around and ask renown programmers and designers about snippets of code, software architecture, design or anything related they found beautiful and see as an example of good design.

Indeed, the idea is terrific. After all, besides books describing specific technologies we read on a per-need basis, what books do programmers have to read for inspiration ? Consider artists and architects, for example. They have peer art and work to study and be inspired by. Sure, code reading is highly recommended, but wouldn't it be great if someone had already collected all the good bits ? Wouldn't it be sweet for Brian Kernighan and Yuhikiro Matsumoto to tell you what they've found beautiful ?

Unfortunately, this books doesn't fulfill the high expectations I had from it. It's not bad, no, but it isn't as good as I hoped it to be. There are two main reasons for this:

1. Many of the authors forgot that they're writing for a paper book, and not an online article / blog entry. When reading a paper book, you can't just click on links to find out more information. Therefore, I'd expect many chapters to be more complete. The authors could have spent a few extra lines to explain a concept instead of referencing it to some online resource or (worse) a paid-subscription-access paper at ACM. This is a paper book - I want to read it on the bus to work. Had I wanted to read an online article jumping around links, I would just do that.
2. A few of the chapters in the book are just way too specific.
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468 of 507 people found the following review helpful By Dmitry Dvoinikov on October 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
The idea of this book is that thirty software developers and/or researchers (respectable ones, no doubt there), had to find the most beautiful piece of code and present its study. Each of them then writes a chapter and there you have it - a volume of "beautiful code" ! Simple as that.

If there was somebody to fully support the idea of such book, it would be me - I believe that the software industry already spent too much time and effort neglecting the art-and-craft in programming, pretending that it all can be reduced to hard math. Didn't work so far, did it ? Then I very welcome books like this one. But not exactly the one.

Let me put it this way - I couldn't say anything good about this book except that I adore the concept and found may be ten of thirty three chapters interesting (not necessarily beautiful). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say, but this lame excuse is the last good thing I could say for this book.

It was supposed to be pedagogical. Did not happen. Rather than making it timeless reference for the readers, the book made a tribune for the authors to talk about, uhm, just about anything. We know how programmers love to talk about what they do, and it's ok. But we also know that they often mumble instead of talking and it's very difficult for us to understand one another, no matter friendly or hostile. This is not to mention that there are no commonality in topics or style or language (programming or English) or anything. The editor had simply glued it together.

Not so bad you say, a good assortment is fine you say ? Let me tell you more, and it's all downhill.

It's as though you expected an album of paintings but instead got a book of random excerpts from chemical specifications for producing paints.
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106 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Benuck on July 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am always looking to for new ways to look at programming problems. I love studying new programming languages in order to bend my mind in new, uncomfortable ways. Both of these are reasons I enjoyed Beautiful Code.

Beautiful Code is a collection of essays from some well known software engineers. That said, I didn't immediately recognize many of their names (this is probably an indication of my lack of exposure in their fields of expertise). If you are like me, there is an alphabetical list of short biographical entries in the back of the book you can use to acquaint yourself with who wrote each chapter.

There are chapters from people in the Perl, Python, Ruby, Google, Scheme, and Haskell communities (among others).

I especially enjoyed reading about Google's MapReduce algorithm, Haskell's Software Transactional Memory, and Scheme's syntax-case macro system. These are subjects I have previously tried to tackle, but the explanations written in this book have helped me approach understanding far better than the academic papers on these subjects I have tried to read.

You'll have to put forth effort to follow the explanations in the chapters as the authors walk you through how they tackle a given problem. This leads eventually to the solution, but may involve many twists and turns along the way. These twists and turns show how the authors think and grants us as the readers insight into how they approach the problems at hand. It's the journey to the desination that sometimes matters more than the destination.

For example, I've long wondered abut the difference between hygenic and non-hygenic macros. Various descriptions on the web have given me some clue, but chapter 25 shows examples and explains the problem very clearly.
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