Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think

Editors: Andy Oram and Greg Wilson
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2007
Pages: 618
ISBN: 978-0596510046
Print: 0596510047
Kindle: B0026OR2NG
Audience: Anyone who has an interest in programming
Rating: 4.5
Reviewer: Mike James

This collection of essays is approaching its 10th anniversary. It isn't a book you have to read, but if you are a programmer at almost any skill level you will find it deeply enjoyable.

Each of the 30 essays is about a piece of code that its invited author regards as the most beautiful they know. It’s a simple idea but one that allows a group of programmers to write about aspects of programming that we very rarely talk about. As programmers we discuss our current problems, extol the virtues of one language over another or describe some particularly messy bug that we have managed to solve but we very rarely present each other with code we consider good, let alone beautiful.

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This it is a difficult challenge and not all of the authors are successful in rising to it. We have a range of different styles and different languages used to present the principles of good code and this makes it harder to appreciate. If code is beautiful then it will be so when expressed in a pseudo code we can all understand. Another problem is that some of the authors don’t really tackle the problem of describing why the code they present in evidence is beautiful. They present it and say “see this code is beautiful” and if you don’t then you are left out in the cold without any real way to make a connection to what the author saw in it.

 

 

This said there are some gems and they are mostly from the authors that have a track record in expressing programming ideas – Brian Kernighan, Jon Bently, Charles Petzold, Brian Hayes and so on.  However, even in these essays you might well need to follow up the references to web articles or academic papers quoted. This makes the book far from self contained.

There is also the niggling doubt that perhaps the book fosters the idea that beautiful code is the invention of an inspired idiosyncratic genius rather than the result of a careful application of practice and principle – but why spoil an nice idea even if it isn’t executed as well as it might be.

You will almost certainly find something to interest you among the essays, but be prepared to skip large chunks. There is clearly scope for another book under this title but with a little more editorial control and direction aimed at teasing out what programmers actually think about the code they create.

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Other "Beautiful" titles

Beautiful Architecture Rated 4 out of 5 by Mike James

Beautiful Data Rated 3 out of 5 by Mike James

Beautiful Teams Rated 4.5 out of 5 by Mike James

Beautiful Security Rated 3 out of 5 by Harry Fairhead
Beautiful Testing Rated 3 out of 5 by Mike James

Beautiful Visualization Rated 4 out of 5 by David Conrad

Beautiful JavaScript Rated 4.5 out of 5 by Ian Elliott

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Java in 24 Hours (7e)

Author: Rogers Cadenhead
Publisher: Sams, 2014
Pages: 448
ISBN: 9780672337024
Print: 0672337029
Kindle: B00K6KG9CM
Audience: Java Beginners
Rating: 4
Reviewer: Mike James

Java in 24 hours? A tempting offer, but Java is has grown into a complex language. This edition of this long standing book cov [ ... ]



Arduino Project Handbook, Vol 2

Author: Mark Geddes
Publisher: No Starch Press
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-1593278182
Print: 1593278187
Kindle:B071DLMHBB
Audience: Beginners
Rating: 5
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead

The Arduino can be fun, but only if you have some ideas what to do with it - this book provides 25.


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Last Updated ( Saturday, 08 September 2018 )