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Books I found at my parents'

rhymes profile image rhymes ・4 min read

If you had a semi nomadic phase you know how your parents' house is the perfect long term storage place. So, most of my programming books are there. You should see how "happy" they are to have had them lying around for years.

Some are missing (kindle for the fireplace?) but I piled up those I found today and decided to turn them into a post.

But first, the photos:

Let's talk about some of the books.

  • Python Cookbook, 2nd edition. There was a time when Stack Overflow didn't exist and a book like this was worth gold (SO is from 2008, the book from 2005). A lot of its content was collected on a Python dedicated website but the book was expanded, contained better explanations and was full of anectodes written by a Python master, Alex Martelli. I wouldn't recommend it right now, neither its 3rd edition based on Python 3.

  • Despite the title, Introduction to algorithms is not really an introduction. It's edited by MIT Press and was on my university curriculum. I hated it: it's pedantic, boring, uses pseudo code and math notation and well... there are better books to uplift you from zero, especially if you're not a mathematician but a software developer. Still, its value is in its depth.

  • Head First: Design Patterns is the best book about design patterns. Better than the classic GoF. It's that good.

  • "Getting started with Arduino" is the result of me going to a workshop about Arduino in Milan, getting the kit for free, going back home and losing interest in hardware tinkering in three nanoseconds.

  • JavaScript: The Good Parts is still a solid book. It's pre-ES6 but the core of the language hasn't changed much (after all Babel can translate ES6 to ES-before-6). Back in the day this was a picture going around a lot:

There's something to be said about how weird JS used to be :-D

  • "Linguaggio C" is the K&R, one of the few books that's so famous that it's known by the initial of its authors. It's probably the first book about a programming language I read. It's really, really good and C can fit in your head. I mostly forgotten it though, damn you higher level languages 😂 A lot of language designers have to thank this book
  • I don't know how useful it's still is (these good practices are more widespread now) but High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers was a nice read. Written by Steve Souders which is a dude that knows one thing or two about speed and websites. I believe back then he was "Chief performance engineer" at Google or something like that. He also wrote one of the first tools to measure the performance of a website and its rules still have more or less the same names in Chrome's Lighthouse so many years later.
  • Programming Erlang was a breath of fresh air. I remember the first time I watched the famous "Erlang: The Movie" and discussed with fellow developers and we were all "WTF is thing?!? amazing!!" (kids and their toys :D). Nobody was using Erlang (well, apart from Ericsson and some obscure companies). Elixir wasn't even an idea I think. It made me play a little with ports and other ways to make Erlang talk to Python (or was the other way around?)
  • Practical Common Lisp is one of the best programming books full stop. Up there with K&R. It's even engaging, which is not that common in programming books. I think I read this one in my phase of "learning random languages just because". I had no intention in becoming a Lisp programmer and I still hate the parenthesis, but the book is awesome. You even write a database of MP3 files at some point. Talking about practical examples (Spotify didn't exist and people had lots of MP3 files on their hard disks :D)
  • RESTful Web Services was a book about REST written to the explain to the world the doctoral thesis that invented REST, but also a book that probably nobody actually finished reading (including me) so we all partly implemented REST but we call it REST because we're all hipsters of the web (yes, you too). I'm sure neither the guy who invented it, nor the authors of the book are very impressed by our REST architectures. DHH, Rails creator, famously said "Every developer working with the Web needs to read this book.". He went on implementing a non complete version of REST in Rails, like the rest of us. "Who needs hypermedia" was the "640 KB of memory should be enough for everyone" of its time.
  • Refactoring by Martin Fowler is the dead tree version of refactoring.com. The website is enough.
  • Twisted (born Twisted Matrix) is the cool uncle of a lot of concepts we found in more recent server side frameworks. Essentially is a framework to do single-process-event-driven networking stuff. From TCP to SSH to HTTP to IMAP to a lot more. It was also one of the best implementations of both the reactor pattern and the event loop I've seen. When I came upon Twisted the documentation was mostly a tutorial and read the source code, Luke. Oh, and it had deferreds (like JS promises but back when JS was neither the good parts nor ES6 :D). One of its former maintainers is around here on dev.to but I'll say no more because it's not my place to reveal identities :D
  • I don't think I've read The Ruby Way, didn't know I had it :D

Discussion

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mattnmoore profile image
Matt Moore

+1 for Headfirst Design Patterns, I love that book!

Martin Fowler is coming out with a new edition of Refactoring soon, I'm looking forward to it.

Great list of books, I've added a few to my reading list.

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rhymes profile image
rhymes Author

Martin Fowler is coming out with a new edition of Refactoring soon, I'm looking forward to it.

Nice to know! :-) Refactoring is one of my favorite subjects

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rhymes profile image
rhymes Author

Woah, the fact that it's going to use JavaScript is huge. This might help a lot of people in frontend now that the complexity of applications is only increasing.

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pyrodogg profile image
Skyler Kehren

From the title I thought perhaps you discovered one of your parents had a programming hobby or hacking history they kept from you. Nice collection.

I know I have a copy of Introduction To Algorithms floating around in storage from university times. These days however, it's my virtual library that is overflowing. I buy more technical books via humble bundles than I have any idea what to do with.

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rhymes profile image
rhymes Author

Ah ah the bug of buying books before you finished the previous ones. I have it took, but usually it's about novels. I try to force myself to not buy new books before I finish at least two. Two for one?

My Amazon wishlist has officially exploded. My justification is that they keep saying that smart people have more books than they actually read.

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Anthony Bouvier

I honestly still prefer a book when it comes to learning a language. It's how I started and it still clicks for me. I supplement with experimenting, watching videos, reading web pages too. But I still prefer a book when getting into a new language or framework.

In fact I often joke my brain is ruined for non-programming books actually. If I'm soaking a sore knee or back in the tub, I'm laying back reading a programming book not a novel. I just can't read much fiction nowadays (unless it is a gaming book for one of the various toy soldier type games I'm into at the time).

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rhymes profile image
rhymes Author

Ah ah I'm a bit on the opposite spectrum. I just can't sit down and slog through a programming book that much anymore. This is what I answered at the question

If we're talking about books in general yes, I couldn't live without them, on paper or in electronic form, I read quite a bit.

I love being transported for hundreds of pages in a well written fictional story. The character building, the mastery of the language, the clear OCD great writers have... if you combine it with the fact that most great fiction is just a metaphor on the real world (of the past, present or possible future)... well books are amazing!

If we're talking about tech books, I don't read that many anymore. I still value books about fundamentals but in general the size, the hefty price, the short span life and the impracticality of reading them in PDF makes me shy away from tech books favoring articles, tutorials, documentation and in-depth essays, or even reading source code. And to be honest, some tech writers who write books aren't good at writing books and this is a no-no for me as you might have guessed :-D I still have books bought in a frenzy that are basically the online documentation of the technology with some comments here and there. No thanks.

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Nicolas Cuervo

Every time I see a list like this I always wonder if people usually read these from cover to cover. I've tried to do so with some technical books about Python and C++, but I normally require more of my freetime than I was planning to give to those books, so I don't finish them page after page but then just skip to the parts I find interesting at the moment.

Most of the people I ask about this use these books as reference, rarely or never ever reading them from cover to cover but knowing them just good enough to know where to look for the thing they need while coding.

Do you read tech-books from the first to the last page?

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rhymes Author

so I don't finish them page after page but then just skip to the parts I find interesting at the moment.

I'd say it's perfectly normal. Not all engineers are good writers, some books require a lot of effort just to be comprehended

Every time I see a list like this I always wonder if people usually read these from cover to cover

Do you read tech-books from the first to the last page?

A book like the Cookbook is definitely a reference, but I glossed over all of it the first time, trying to find new tips or new ways of doing things. Like a kid with a volume of the encyclopedia before the internet was a thing :D

Keep in mind that a lot of these books are from early 2000s, when I started programming. In Italy was still a period where most of the country had dial-up connections (ADSL started spreading in 2004-2005), IRC and usenet were still huge, GitHub and smartphones didn't exist, nor StackOverflow and probably my concentration level was better. A book and mailing lists to talk to your peers were probably your best chances to get in depth knowledge of anything.

Right now I'm not that much into tech books.

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Joe Zack

Heh, we have a lot of the same books. I particularly enjoyed "Collective Intelligence".

I actually worked through the book in ColdFusion, because ya know - who cares about Python?

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rhymes Author

ColdFusion, that's a name I haven't heard in a while. Is it still around?

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thejoezack profile image
Joe Zack

It's still around, I know a few people still working on it but I don't think anybody has high hopes for it's future.

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biros profile image
Boris Jamot ✊ /

I quite never read programming books. Is that a problem ? 🤔
The only books I read were about OCaml, HTML & Squeak...

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rhymes profile image
rhymes Author

I don't do it either anymore. I would probably re-read two or three of those though.

Some of those books pre-date the amount of free material you can find now online. Github and StackOverflow didn't exist. It wasn't impossible without them but books were a shortcut, nowadays probably book are the long route :D

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Boris Jamot ✊ /

You're right but I think that reading books has many benefits compared to short online resources : they help to build up your mind much more deeply.

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Dian Fay

I recognized the K&R even in Italian just from the typeface and that shade of blue!

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rhymes Author

Yeah, that's unmistakable!

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Casey Brooks

Code Complete was the first programming book I read outside of those required for my college classes. I was given the book during my internship and all us interns went through it together.

It was a really great read, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to take the first steps out of trivial examples and college assignments, and into real-world programming.

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rhymes Author

Great recommendation!

Do you know if they plan a third edition?

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Michiel Hendriks

If you wanted me to feel old, then you succeeded. 👍

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rhymes Author

ahhahaa :-D

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Ben Lovy

You should read The Ruby Way, its nice :)

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rhymes Author

Duly noted :-)

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Ben Halpern

Have you read High Performance Browser Networking by Grigorik?

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rhymes Author

Nope! Thanks for reminded me. Pity that he stopped blogging a couple of years ago

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Massimo Artizzu

"Linguaggio C" is in Italian... Are you or your parents Italian? 🤔

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rhymes Author

Yes I am :-) I'm from Italy

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Xilin Sun

How do you pronounce the name of the K&R book? Like Linguaggio ci or Linguaggio see?

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rhymes Author

Like "Linguaggio Ci". You can hear a good pronunciation on Google Translate here