The Practice of Programming - Brian Kernighan and Rob Pike

The Practice of Programming is one of those books that looked interesting, but I never previously read it. The beginner-oriented material, epitomised by the sausage dog wearing a jumper waving at a flipchart on the front cover, means that it never seemed to earn my time or money. I think, in retrospect, that this was a mistake.

Make no bones about it, this is a book for junior programmers. Reading through it, I didn't really learn much new, with perhaps the exception of C style (having written C++ and Java for so long). What it did do is chime in nicely with my hard-won experience, and give me some confidence that I was thinking about things in the right way.

The authors are legends, and their experience well-worth listening to. While a tiny bit dated in places, it's like a cross between a style guide and Programming Pearls. There's a chapter talking about debugging, and throughout there's discussion of the bugs the authors put in the (relatively simple) examples strewn through the book. There's something tremendously reassuring about knowing that the programmers at this level still write buggy code (even if they're experts at fixing it up!). So often you see polished code with no real idea of the effort that went into it.

While the book didn't teach me anything radically new, I'm sure it'd have been a boon early in my career, when I'd probably still have said "Yeah, it's obvious", but at least it'd have popped a few more ideas in my head and put some weight behind the ideas. As it is, definitely worth the time of any junior dev.

Posted 2014-07-04.