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Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) [Paperback]

Andy Oram , Greg Wilson
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 6, 2007 0596510047 978-0596510046 1
How do the experts solve difficult problems in software development? In this unique and insightful book, leading computer scientists offer case studies that reveal how they found unusual, carefully designed solutions to high-profile projects. You will be able to look over the shoulder of major coding and design experts to see problems through their eyes. This is not simply another design patterns book, or another software engineering treatise on the right and wrong way to do things. The authors think aloud as they work through their project's architecture, the tradeoffs made in its construction, and when it was important to break rules. Beautiful Code is an opportunity for master coders to tell their story. All author royalties will be donated to Amnesty International. tion.

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Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly)) + Beautiful Architecture: Leading Thinkers Reveal the Hidden Beauty in Software Design + Beautiful Data: The Stories Behind Elegant Data Solutions
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description


About the Author

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.

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.

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: 9.2 x 7.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great idea, mediocre execution September 27, 2007
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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461 of 500 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's beautiful, see ? SEE ??? October 25, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Code July 21, 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot of interesting material. Recommended.
This is an interesting book. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I certainly do not find all of the code featured in this book to be beautiful, but there is a lot of variety in... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Julian Richardson
3.0 out of 5 stars Requires construction of an intended audience
I haven't quite finished this yet but I have been enjoying it and Amazon asked me to review it.
You can trust my opinion because I bought the book to test reading textbooks on... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Seth Veale
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
If anything, this book is proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To my eye this collection is hit-or-miss. Read more
Published 15 months ago by T. Fricke
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read
as the headline says - if you want to learn how to really think about a programming task, you should read this book.
Published 17 months ago by Marc Barnholdt
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but dense and sometimes incomprehensible
I'm a first year computer science student, and a friend of mine recommended this book. With his suggestion, I bought it and read through it. The book is very disjointed. Read more
Published on March 21, 2012 by Jamie O
1.0 out of 5 stars hodgepodge of verbose thoughts from a diverse set of people
I have 25 years of programming experience. I found the book overly verbose while lacking true programming pearls. Read more
Published on December 27, 2011 by LinuxAndroid
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource
This book provides an excellent resource for expanding the way we (as computer scientists and software engineers) think about beautiful code.
Published on December 19, 2011 by NM
3.0 out of 5 stars get know how to code in elegant way
Andy and Greg collected quite impressive set of IT related essays and enclosed them within Beautiful Code. Read more
Published on July 26, 2011 by mko
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Code
Beautiful Code - The title immediately caught my attention and made me dream. I've been coding from the age of twelve and beautiful code always inspired me. Read more
Published on March 5, 2011 by MerlinDE
2.0 out of 5 stars Move Along Folks, Nothing Beautiful to See Here!
This book is remarkably bad, not because it's a boring book about programming from which you'll learn absolutely nothing. (That's not remarkable. Read more
Published on January 9, 2011 by David A. Bethune
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Release date Jun 15th -> Aug 20.
I just got the pdfs yesterday for review purposes. It's worth waiting for :-)
Jun 21, 2007 by Matthew B. Doar |  See all 4 posts
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