The Art Of Computer Programming The Ace Gift For Any Programmer
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 07 December 2016

... unless they already have a copy. If you are looking for a programmer present this holiday season, there is one book, or set of books that should be top of any list. 

Note: There is an updated version of this article - see The Art Of Computer Programming - A Great Present.

There are many books that a programmer should read, but Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming, or TAOCP to use its common abbreviation, is a cultural icon. It is a little dated in its style and approach but it was started back in the 1960s when computers were still not commonplace devices. Before this time algorithms, ways of doing things, weren't really something anybody studied. Knuth's book changed all that and explained to programmers how to think about algorithms. If you want to know more about the project then read Donald Knuth & The Art of Computer Programming.

The Art of Computer Programming still isn't finished, and its unfinishedness is almost part of its cultural icon status, but people argue that a cultural icon is all it is. There was a recent Slashdot discussion Ask Slashdot: Have You Read 'The Art of Computer Programming'? and the range of responses were from  "it's difficult" to "it's irelevant" but notice that all of the commenters knew what they were talking about. You can't afford not to know what it is about. 

Have I read it?

No. I can honestly say that the idea of sitting down and reading all of the volumes cover to cover isn't my idea of fun but I have read large chunks of it, especially the first volume and I pick up one of the tomes about once a year. I know it's on my shelf and I feel better for it. Whenever I do dip into it for some algorithm or other I always get a deep sense of shock that something that I assumed simple has depths that just go on and on. Knuth isn't a shallow read and the reason the work isn't complete is that he just keeps going deeper. 

So if you haven't read it, or if you have a special programmer who doesn't have a copy on their shelves, buy at least the first volume - but for that extra special present go for the boxed set.

You might get a puzzled look - not all programmers know the work even though it is regarded as:

"the bible of all fundamental algorithms".

It is also worth knowing that the work is theoretical and mathematically slightly intimidating - it isn't a good present for any programmer who hates math. 

What is the best way to buy?

The top of the range model is the Boxed set of Volumes 1 - 4A:


You can buy it from, or your regional Amazon by clicking on its picture in the side bar. And if you do visit Amazon make sure you read the review by A Howard - a masterpiece and so true. 

Related Articles 

Knuth's 21st Not Christmas Tree Lecture 

//No Comment - Three Videos, Alan Kay, Donald Knuth & Bjarne Stroustrup
Donald Knuth & The Art of Computer Programming 

How not to shuffle - the Knuth Fisher-Yates algorithm       


To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, sign up for our weekly newsletter, subscribe to the RSS feed and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.



Final Date For VBScript Announced - What It Means

Microsoft has announced the official end of VBScript following years of reduced support. VBScript is one of the variations Microsoft created based on the original VB, and it has la [ ... ]

Celebrating Alan Turing

Today, June 7th 2024 is the 70th anniversary of the untimely death of Alan Turing. While we now commemorate him for his contributions to code-breaking computer science and artificial intelligence, sev [ ... ]

More News

C book



or email your comment to:





Last Updated ( Sunday, 10 December 2023 )