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Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,430 ratings  ·  55 reviews
How do the experts solve difficult problems in software development? In this unique and insightful book, leading computer scientists offer case studies that reveal how they found unusual, carefully designed solutions to high-profile projects. You will be able to look over the shoulder of major coding and design experts to see problems through their eyes.

This is not simply
Paperback, 563 pages
Published July 3rd 2007 by O'Reilly Media
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Dec 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable book, but really mis-titled. A more descriptive title would have been:

"Leading programmers describe code they've worked on and are proud of, and then awkwardly wrap some discussion of 'beauty' around it."

However, that's a good book too, and this was. I liked the cross-disiplinary flair, and the ideas that were presented as 'beauty'. It's not a good 'skills' book, but it's a good 'mindsets' book.
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Beautiful Code is another non-animal O'Reilly volume, with high aspirations. As the sleeve submits: "How do the experts solve difficult problems in software development?" If this book (or any) had been able to have answered that question, reading it would be a head-spinning experience indeed.

The book's chapters are each the domain of a different prominent software developer or writer, and several are elegant outlines of what is unarguably some of the best code out there - Apache Webserver,
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
In Yukihiro Matsmoto's chapter on Ruby he says "Most programs are not write-once ... it is therefore more important by far for humans to be able to understand the program than it is for the computer." That's the essence of beautiful code to me. Unfortunately the book is littered with code that's clever, but not beautiful. There are plenty of chapters that are neither... exercises in what the author hacked together in Perl on their holiday. It's still a fairly interesting read, and I'd rate it ...more
Christian Brumm
May 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Some very nice chapters, others below the quality of an average blog post. I guess if you ask (for example) the inventor of a programming language for a chapter it's hard to say "that's crap" in editing. Anyways, poor job in selecting the chapters, could easily be 100 pages.
Jan 06, 2008 rated it liked it
The good, the bad, and the "ow my head hurts".

This is not a light book. It is not an easy book. It is not a book that I would recommend to those uninitiated into the rather painful world of computer science, rather than software engineering.

The book asked leading programmers to contribute commentaries on what they considered butiful code, and why they consider it beautiful. Some of the authors have managed to succeed in this (dare I use the word?) beautifully, understanding that their audience
Mike Thompson
Part of my mental picture of an art student is seeing them spending hours in The Louvre, slowly moving from gallery to gallery, studying the works of the great masters. I may have it all wrong. The last time I took an art class was in seventh grade, but it feels right. It seems obvious that part of learning how to create great works of art is internalizing what the world considers great art.

The editors' goal with this book is to create a museum through which the aspiring software craftsman may
Noah Sussman
Jan 01, 2008 marked it as to-read
While I didn't finish the whole book, I have read Douglas Crockford's essay on writing a JavaScript parser in JavaScript, and Tim Bray on using regular expressions to extract data from log files.

The Crockford essay is the first article I've ever read on parsing. It's not the first article I've seen on the subject, just the first one I've managed to get through all the way. Crockford's a really good explainer in general, plus the familiarity of the language helped a lot. Now I actually understand
Sean Macdonald
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: hackers cum engineers and engineers cum hackers
I went in with high expectations because of the title, and the list of contributors. They were dashed. Every so often in the wild I come across beautiful code. It speaks for itself. It is concise and unassuming, yet powerful. I did not come across any in this book (or if I did, i was too dense to see it, which is possible). It seems I am more likely to find beautiful code @
Hao Ca Vien
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful Code is an insightful journey into the minds of some of the greatest programmers to date. Many hot topics are traversed with explanations, jokes and anecdotes that enliven the journey. Beautiful Code is a true compendium of 2000's greatest programming topics and is a must-read for all aspiring programmers.
Gary Lang
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
As I read elsewhere, a better description of this book would seem to be “programs I have written and how I would describe them as ‘beautiful’ since the O’Reilly editor asked me to”. It’s fine – I like hearing programmers talk about their work. Not much new here (yet another MapReduce description) but might is probably very instructive and even inspiring for people starting out.
satej soman
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty hit-or-miss but the hits (e.g. Rob Pike's regex matcher, the SVN delta tree editor, Simon Peyton-Jones's explanation of software transactional memory, among others) make up for the misses (anything about parsing or generating XML or reminiscing about pet projects).
Timur Koshel
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
The book has 2-3 (or less) nice chapters. It wasn't worth to read the whole book.
Oct 16, 2016 added it
I'll have to re-read this… I finished it so long ago, I've forgotten what I got out of it. :-(
Nov 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-tech
A collection of essays from programmers, some about beautiful aspects of code, some about how a programmer thought about a problem, and some about whatever aspect of programming the writer felt like writing about. Royalties from the book are donated to Amnesty International, which explains why the theme isn't the driving force behind this collection.

This is not a book for beginning-level programmers. Mastery of the fundamentals, such as Code Complete, The Pragmatic Programmer, and their ilk, are
Yevgeniy Brikman
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
A mixed bag, but overall, worth reading.

Pros: I think programmers do not spend enough time studying the code of others, so books like this are an important step in encouraging the study of this craft. Each chapter of the book is written by a different (often famous) programmer, uses a different language, and discusses a different domain, so you get to see a huge range of different types of code. Multidimensional Iterators in NumPy, Distributed Programming with MapReduce, Beautiful Concurrency,
Dave Peticolas
May 10, 2014 rated it it was ok

This is a large collection of articles on the subject of beauty in software engineering. There are some real gems here, including articles by Brian Kernighan and Jon Bentley.

There are also a lot of rather dry articles where the author basically pats himself on the back for some project X he worked on.

I suppose that's what they were asked to write about, but Kernighan, who has no doubt written more beautiful code than any other author, has the class and the tact to pick someone else's code to

Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: programming
The quality (and my enjoyment) of these essays varied quite a bit. The overall quality seem much higher in the first half of the book, the last half was a big slog for me. I ended up skimming some of them, as otherwise I never would've finished.

It's not just that the essays were outside my areas of interest (I enjoyed some of them for that very reason), but more that they had little of interest to say. The "beautiful code" theme was also rather broadly interpreted. One essay in particular was
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: computer programmers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What a fantastic book on design. This book is very much a novelty, but I think that most senior software engineers with some design experience under their belt can really appreciate the insight that their peers and/or betters are doing and have done to solve the kinds of challenges you're facing. It's also a good way to tell if your career arc in software is moving towards the kind of software you WANT to be writing, because the projects that were dissimilar to my current work didn't seem like ...more
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: development
Sectioned into 33 short chapters, each differing in authorship, the book covers a diverse range of programming topics. "Leading Programmers Explain How They Think" was an apt choice of subtitle. This tome is geared towards one who actually uses code to solve problems, practicing developers who are still improving their craft and the like; for others it is likely to be an extremely trying exercise in patience and ultimately not very rewarding.

In a way reading this book is like allowing someone to
Sep 09, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: programming
The idea behind the book is sound: experienced programmers tell you about how they solved complicated programs and unique and efficient ways. In practice, the book reads more like a series of success stories, and it almost feels like the programmers are gloating rather than teaching at times. The useful information contained in this book isn't really anything I haven't carried away from other books in a much clearer context. This might be an interesting book if you like the historical factor of ...more
David Lindelof
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook
A collection of 30+ essays on various definitions of what constitutes 'Beautiful' code. Some of the essays are outright brilliant; none is mediocre. One of them helped me break through a programming job I was working on.

The book could be going slowly at some points. Some essays are particularly hard to read/understand. But overall I definitely think that this book will make you a better programmer.
Daniel Schulte
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Great idea. Not executed as well as it could have been. The beginning chapters were awesome and memorable (especially the one about quick sort), however the middle chapters were boring and not really all that interesting. Instead of talking about why things were beautiful, they just talked about their code and their design. I really liked the quicksort chapter and the colinear chapter because they walked us through the thoughts of leading developers.
Patrick Boykin
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
The idea of this book is excellent since many programmers need to think more about how to build beautiful (not necessarily clever) code. However, not all of the chapters really strike rise to the standard I expected. Overall, it's a nice book to have and to read, but several of the chapters could have been removed, so read the ones that interest you, skip the ones that don't.
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
I've only read bits and pieces of this, but some of the articles I found TRULY WONDERFUL . I suspect, though, that which articles are "wonderful" will depend very much on each individual reader.

My friend Mark Bernstein will probably write a lengthier review on one of his blogs. I will include a link to it when I run across it.
Connor Stack
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: programming
Definitely don't read it in order. I started doing that and got bored. It's much better if you skip around. Some of my favorite chapters:

1. A Regular Expression Matcher
3. The Most Beautiful Code I Never Wrote
18. Python's Dictionary Implementation
28. Beautiful Debugging
29. Treating Code as an Essay
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computer
Definitely interesting to read about the different approaches great programmers have taken in solving interesting and difficult problems.

There were a few chapters that seemed to drag on with pages of PERL and Unix 'C' code; however, the regular expression matcher, computational geometry and JS parsing chapters are worth the price alone.
Deryck Hodge
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
There are some great essays here and some long and winding, less interesting, essays here. I read them out of order and sporadically and enjoyed the book, but there was a part of me that was disappointed. Perhaps there's no way to avoid too high of expectations with a title like this. But overall, certainly worth a read.
Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is not a book that tells you how to write beautiful code, but is a book that will broadly expand your knowledge on code design by analysing several cases studies and how they have been solved in a beautiful way according to the solver perspective.
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
I didn't quite like it. It's fun to read things related to people you've worked with, but most examples are labored, longish and really not that beautiful. A few of them are worth reading on their own, but they don't justify buying the book, I my opinion.
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