The book contains 33 essays written by well-known programmers, researchers and hackers. All essays are underlain by the same plot: the quest for the beautiful solution of a programming problem. This is the cause of book’s enchantment—after all, ain’t you as programmer involved in the same quest every working day?
Among all book’s chapters (frankly, I can’t speak about all because I’ve skipped some very technical ones) these have pleased me the most:
- Chapter 3 The Most Beautiful Code I Never Wrote, by Jon Bentley
- Chapter 24 Beautiful Concurrency, by Simon Peyton Jones
- Chapter 28 Beautiful Debugging, by Andreas Zeller
- Chapter 33 Writing Programs for “The Book”, by Brian Hayes
Essays of Bentley and Hayes are concise and demonstrate how to push the level of code beautifulness to the extreme. They earnestly demonstrate that thorough thinking on a problem leads to much more clear and error-proof solution than “code first, understand second” and “it already works—just keep it” approaches.
Mr. Simon Peyton Jones is a great narrator, he shows how one can teach computer programming in a fascinating way. His essay is about an approach to the concurrent programming in Haskell. And although I haven’t written a line of code in Haskell yet, all the story is clear to me and I even feel myself somewhat Haskell-infected.
The story of Andreas Zeller about an automated approach to the debugging contains a number of peculiar passages. For example:
…Still, my first publication on the topic had a hard time getting accepted. One reviewer frankly admitted he was so appalled by the weird approach, he would not even bother to read on toward the results.
And this one really made me laugh:
…But when I checked the results, it turned out that the test printed the following message on the screen and stopped:
NameError: name 'next_c_fial' is not defined
After three days of constant calculation, my script had stumbled on a dumb misspelling. I truly wished I had used a language with static checking rather than Python.
It’s a pity that not all chapters of the book are so brilliant. It seems that some authors were thinking that they’re writing some kind of a scientific article—and their essays are tremendously boring.