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February 10, 2012  |  Decoding programming book titles  |  8234 hit(s)

Time again for some Friday Fun.  Ok, you know how they say that you can't judge a book by its cover? Well, I have a theory that you can make a pretty good judgment about a programming book by its title. See what you think.

The [Language] Programming Language
The Ruby Programming Language, The SQL Programming Language
The authors are really hoping you'll think that they've written their language's version of The C Programming Language, aka K&R. Not much chance that their books are a slim 250 pages like the original, eh?

[Language] in a Nutshell
Python in a Nutshell, VB & VBA in a Nutshell
Reference docs.

Programming [Language] or Pro [Language]
Programming Visual Basic 2008, Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework
This is a Serious Book, "by programmers, for programmers." Bound to be fat in order to accommodate the many heavy thoughts it contains.

The Definitive [Language]
JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, The Definitive Guide to Linux Network Programming
This book is big, and it's comprehensive, and it's probably not for programming novices, unless those beginners are unusually persistent or unusually smart. Likely to be good for experienced programmers, tho.

[Language]: The Good Parts
Java: The Good Parts, PHP: The Good Parts: Delivering the Best of PHP
You already know the language. Dammit, Jim, now learn how to use it right.

Learning [Language] or Beginning [Language] or [Language] for the Beginner
Learning ASP.NET 3.5, Beginning C# 3.0, Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner
The book is for the novice, tho it may not be clear if it's for a novice to programming or just to the language. Whether the book actually can teach novices is ... well, let's say it depends on the author.

Head First [Language]
Head First jQuery
For novices (see Learning et al, above), but claims to use unique pedagogical techniques that are "brain friendly." That might depend on your brain, tho.

The Art of [Language]
The Art of Unix Programming, The Art of Assembly Language Programming
The author wishes to invoke the spirit of Donald Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming and aspires to that level of comprehensiveness. Or perhaps they're inspired by Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (Was Knuth inspired by Julia?) Either way, is it possible that the author has an unusually large, er, ambition?

The Joy of [Language]
The Joy of Clojure, The Joy of Patterns
Joy in the title does not mean, I think, that the book adheres to the assume-nothing philosophy that Irma Rombauer made famous in The Joy of Cooking, just that the author enjoys the subject.

[Language] Cookbook
JavaScript Cookbook, ASP.NET MVC 2 Cookbook
Little algorithmic bites for easy and delicious results.

Idiot's Guide to [Language] or [Language] for Dummies
Complete Idiot's Guide to C++, COBOL for Dummies
Yeah, well. As an aside, I cannot prove this, but I think that the original Idiots book was John Muir's classic How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, which was a milestone not only in shop manuals, but in technical writing withal.

Teach Yourself [Language] in [Time Period], Learn [Language] in [Time Period]
Teach Yourself C in 24 Hours and about 4 million more
This book is not just for beginners, but for people who don't even really know what they're getting into. The false promise of these titles once inspired Peter Norvig to pen Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years, which is more like it.

[Language] the Hard Way
Learn Ruby The Hard Way, Learn Python The Hard Way
The whole "in 24 hours" nonsense (and maybe Norvig's reaction) have inspired Learn [Language] the Hard Way aka LCodeTHW. These books eschew shortcuts and oblige you to type in, character by character, the examples that they provide. A kind of programmer's version of Because It Builds Character.

[Language] for Evil Geniuses
Programming Video Games for the Evil Genius
"Hey! Programming is FUN!!"

And then there's the weird stuff ...

Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!
No one seems entirely sure where this title came from, but people have picked it up (e.g. re: refactoring and Flexbox) and we'll be seeing more of it, I predict.

why's (poignant) Guide to Ruby
Foxes and chunky bacon. A, er, unique approach to programming books. Nothing else quite like it for the time being.

Alan Humphrey   10 Feb 12 - 4:15 PM

I think the "Joy" books also try to capture the "The Joy of Sex" vibe. Especially if they have tasteful line drawings.

mike   12 Feb 12 - 6:30 PM

@Alan, I'm trying to imagine the tasteful line drawings that we might find in, say, The Joy of C++. :-)