- Hardcover: 657 pages
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math; 2 edition (August 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0070004846
- ISBN-13: 978-0070004849
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 188 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Second Edition 2nd Edition
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It had a massive impact on me. It consumed me, to the point where I had difficulty finishing assignments for my classes (I did not study CS as an undergrad). What the book does is give you a vocabulary and knowledge about programming that is hard to find anywhere else.
The text, the examples and exercises, have a mathematical flavor, and that may turn off many potential readers, who would rather gadget around than find elegant solutions for the 8-queens puzzle or efficient algorithms to compute Fibonacci numbers.
I've lent this book to several friends who were interested in learning to program, and in all cases they have returned it to me, saying it went over their heads.
There seem to be two camps in computer programming:
- the gadgeteers, who want to hook devices together and make them do fun things
- the scientists, who appreciate computing as a medium in itself
This book is for the second type.
But it's worth the effort: By the time you are done you will know about imperative programming, functional programming, meta programming, lazy data structures and everything in between.
This is one book that should be on every programmer's list.
The discussion in the reviews usually concludes that this is the book that separates the computer scientists from the mere programmers. There is a definite logic to this. If you want a book that will have you churning out code that does something helpful in half an hour(because you don't think the several ways to calculate the Fibonacci Sequence are helpful), by all means, pick up Learning Perl or just read the Python documentation. They are great tools. If, however, you want to tool up on problem-solving technique a whole level or three higher up, SICP is for you. The Wizard Book is about learning to think better.
Here is where I diverge from the idea that this book is for only computer scientists, though. I am an artist, graduated from college with a BA in art, going to graduate school for an MFA. SICP is one of the books that changed how I work and think. It will make you a better programmer if you read (and reread (and reread)) it in the same way that learning Latin will make you understand language itself in a whole new way. I use ideas from SICP constantly, to design software, but also to design staircases. The book is slow-going, no doubt about it, but you'll have a whole new mental toolset at the end.
One caveat- this book is freely distributed in its entirety on MIT's website. I still bought a copy, though: who knows how long this internet thing will last, but SICP is going to be relevant forever.
To get a flavor of this book, search for "SICP Lecture 1a" in Google Video. It's the first of 20 lectures delivered by the authors of the book in 1986. If you decide to purchase the book, use it in conjunction with these lectures to get the complete SICP experience. You will come out of a smarter, wiser software engineer.
Also, how often do you see visionary computer scientists like Peter Norvig and Paul Graham give 5 stars to a book?