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Book Reviews: "Programming Pearls", "More Programming Pearls" and "The Algorithm Design Manual"

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  • Shlomi Fish
    Hi all, in this message I will review three programming books that I ve read lately: * Programming Pearls, 2nd Edition. * More Programming Pearls (1st and only
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2010
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      Hi all,

      in this message I will review three programming books that I've read lately:

      * Programming Pearls, 2nd Edition.
      * More Programming Pearls (1st and only edition so far).
      * The Algorithm Design Manual

      so without further ado, here are the book reviews:

      1. Programming Pearls, 2nd edition:
      -----------------------------------

      [info]
      * Author: Jon Bentley ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Bentley ).

      * Book homepage: http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/pearls/ .

      * On Amazon:

      http://www.amazon.com/Programming-Pearls-2nd-Jon-Bentley/dp/0201657880

      * 2nd edition published on 1999.
      [/info]

      I've heard this book mentioned in several places before buying it and reading
      it and it did not disappoint me. This book is absolutely great, with
      interesting coverage of interesting programming and computer-science related
      topics. It has an extensive discussion of optimising code, which I could
      appreciate, being very interested in it (see:
      http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Optimizing_Code_for_Speed ), and lots of other
      interesting stuff. The second edition was updated for modern times, and feels
      quite fresh.

      Bentley mentions in the book that he has written a book called "Writing
      Efficient Programs" which is now out-of-print with some techniques for
      optimising code, and I was saddened to hear that it is indeed out-of-print,
      because I'd like to read it. He does give a summary of the book in an
      appendix,
      though.

      The book contains many exercises, which I've mentally thought about most, but
      did not actually solve using the computer. But otherwise, I enjoyed reading
      this
      book and can wholeheartedly recommend it.

      2. More Programming Pearls:
      ---------------------------

      [info]
      * Author: Jon Bentley ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Bentley ).

      * Book homepage: http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/pearls/ .

      * On Amazon:

      http://www.amazon.com/More-Programming-Pearls-Confessions-Coder/dp/0201118890

      * 1st and only edition published on 1988.
      [/info]

      A fellow Perl programmer bought me this book as a birthday present from my
      Amazon.com wishlist because I put it there out of wishing to read the followup
      to the previous book in the series which I enjoyed. However, this book failed
      to meet my expectations, and I found it disappointing.

      It does not have the same focus on topics that interest me and instead
      contains
      many different topics. While not being completely bad, it fails to live up
      to the promise of the previous book, and I cannot really recommend it. The
      book is also showing its age.

      The book page on Amazon.com contains a single 3-star review for "More
      Programming Pearls" which kinda summarises my feelings.

      3. The Algorithm Design Manual:
      -------------------------------

      [info]
      * Author: Steven Skiena .

      * Book homepage: http://www.algorist.com/ .

      * On Amazon:

      http://www.amazon.com/Algorithm-Design-Manual-Steven-Skiena/dp/1848000693/

      * 2nd edition published on 1988.
      [/info]

      I received this book as an Amazon.com gift, after I placed it
      on my wishlist by inspiration from that of someone else. For some reason, it
      was sent to an old address of ours, which caused some confusion because
      I did not recall ordering it. But eventually I realised what happened.

      Based on the cover of the book, and its title, I got a somewhat different
      idea of what it would be about than what it really was, and thought it would
      be very technical and formal. However, this preconception was dis-spelled
      shortly after I started reading it. In fact, the book is quite offbeat,
      without
      too many rigorous proofs.

      The book is split into two parts. In the first one, we are given an overview
      of the theory behind algorithms with a lot of sample code in C, and with
      some "take home lessons", detailed "war stories", where the author explains
      how he implemented the topics covered in his work as a professor and algorithm
      designer, some exercises, and an accessible coverage of the subject. Some
      topics I liked there was the coverage of simulated annealing, his explanation
      of why he found genetic algorithms lacking, and the coverage of back tracking,
      all of which were missing from my formal computer science education.

      The second part of the book was nicknamed "The Hitchhiker's Guide to
      Algorithms" and provides an overview of the various algorithms and their
      implementations available for the various algorithmic objectives. While also
      good and enlightening, my only qualm is that it took me a long time to read,
      and by that time, felt the first part of the book was a distant memory.

      Still, this is a good book with good coverage of the subject of algorithmics.
      I can recommend it.

      ==================

      I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

      Regards,

      Shlomi Fish

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