Sunday, 8 November 2009


Books are great! Some say the internet holds all the answers. I'd say it holds most of the answers and it will hold them all as soon as publishers, authors and hardware companies get off their own way and create serious mechanisms to manage (publish, buy, sell, read, own, share) digital books. If they're as stubborn as the music industry, this will not happen soon; but I think that, with the lessons learned from music, we're moving in the right direction. Let's see what the future holds (or let's ourselves make the future happen). For now, here's a list of technical books I've read lately and I'd like to recommend:

  • Beautiful Code

    This book is a must read. It is also a very easy read. It's comprised of series of write-ups by different authors of the likes of Brian Kernighan and Simon Peyton Jones where the authors have chosen a problem they've faced and solved "Beautifully". Each author has their own definition of beautiful code (great design, speed and reliability, testability, versatility and more), but all of them teach you valuable ways to think about problem solving, design and development. With languages from Haskell to C (through Python, Ruby, Perl Lisp and others) and topics from quicksort to software transactional memory (through Python's dictionaries, testing, debugging, mapreduce and the original implementation of Paint among others) I can assure you that this book will be of interest to any good computer scientist or software engineer. My recommendation: go buy this book and put it on your night stand; it is very easy to just read a chapter every day.

  • Real World Haskell

    This book is just amazing. It covers Haskell from zero-knowledge to advanced and has something to offer to programmers of most backgrounds. Those who have never programmed in Haskell (or even functionally) will definitely benefit from the paradigm switch and seeing the problems from another perspective. Those that already know Haskell will probably find it a little bit slow as it explores a lot of the basics, but there are, for certain, hidden pearls to be found on every section; plus, you can skim fast through the "Haskell" parts and get to the "Real World" parts to get great examples of the uses of this powerful, different, language.

  • Programming pearls

    This is a book of the like of Beautiful Code but written by only one author (Jon Bentley, who also writes a great article in Beautiful Code) and slightly older. It showcases a series of problems and different ways to approach and solve them. It is not so much focused on the solutions themselves but the way of thinking for arriving to those solutions. The problems in themselves are not overly complex, but the detail in which the different options are explored and the trade-offs and solutions presented is very appealing. All the problems are accompanied with the C code used for solving it but avoiding any unnecessary boilerplate. It's simply a great book to keep you sharp on your computer-problem solving abilities.

  • The algorithm design manual

    While I think this book is a little hard to read at some points it provides an amazingly complete set of algorithms, their implementations and example problems. One thing I liked a lot about this book is that it's not solely based in simple explanatory examples but also shows how the different techniques showcased in the book can be used to solve real life problems (that actually happened). But the really amazing thing of this book is that it contains a chapter with a comprehensive catalogue of algorithms categorized by the type of problem they solve. It is literally half of the book, they all have an illustration to represent what the algorithm does and it serves as a great reference for any future algorithmic problems you might encounter.

Honorable mentions go to:

  • Coders at work: a series of interviews with great programmers in which they expose their thoughts on programming along with their personal experience. As of today I've only read a few chapters, but I go so far as to recommend the whole book as it has left a very good impression.

  • Introduction to the theory of computation: a great introduction, from regular expressions, finite and push-down automatons to reductions and computability. Very well explained from an expert in the field. It is also well written and very short. Loved it.

  • Artificial Intelligence: a modern approach, this book contains at least introductory material to most fields in artificial intelligence. It has in-depth material about a lot of topics and instead of trying to deeply explore all of the areas of AI in one book (which would be impossible) it focuses on the most important areas and gives you a great introduction on the rest for you to go and read the papers or a more specific book.

Later this month I'll make a list of non-technical books I have read or am reading and I'd like to recommend.

Any technical books you can recommend me?
I am particularly interested in advanced data structures, modern concurrency (Programming Erlang is in my to-read list), compilers (Compilers by Aho et. al. is in my to-read list), optimization and computational geometry. But that's just a list of stuff that popped in my head this instant, so if you have any recommendations on another subject please be sure to let me know!

1 comment:

  1. Cooooooool post

    Voy a ver cuales puedo buscar.