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Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  461 ratings  ·  75 reviews
This is just a small Ruby book. It won’t crush you. It’s light as a feather (because I haven’t finished it yet—hehe). And there’s a reason this book will stay light: because Ruby is simple to learn.

[Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby is released under the Attribution-ShareAlike License. So, yes, please distribute it and print it and read it leisurely in your housecoat.]
website, 176 pages
Published 2007 by Attribution-ShareAlike License (first published 2005)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  461 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Dec 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
I don't know if I should mark this as read. I've gotten half way through the book and I've given up. It's just not my cup of tea. I'm not a Ruby beginner, so nothing to gain there. (I do hope no one has considered the examples to be good form. Some are very poor.) The "story" is completely impossible for me to follow. I've enjoyed my share of absurd, dark humor, but this one didn't work for me. I'm taking a risk because perhaps it all makes sense in the end.

Taking nothing away from Why. He is mu
Thomas Wolfe
Sep 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Thomas by: Ryan Grove
Shelves: programming, ruby
I decided to read this book based on Ryan Grove's (of and Joel Spolsky's (Joel on software) praise.

Lots of unique humor (that is usually completely off topic) and engaging cartoon characters made this one of the best programming books I've read thus far. Actually, I'd say it's one of the best books I've read thus far.

The ending was pretty depressing in my opinion. So as _why makes very clear from the beginning, he wants you to weep, but you may not only weep due to the beautifully cra
Gaelan D'costa
For perhaps the first time, computer science instruction and /literature/ fuse into one perfect specimen.

Whenever I feel down and out about my profession, I come back to this book to remember that there are people who may one day actually overcome this supposed split between the humanities and the technologies that modern society seems to function under. This is the first positive answer to the question of whether computer science can be adapted (without appropriation) into works of art.

Beyond t
Ruby  Tombstone Lives!
Apr 23, 2013 marked it as to-read
Programming huh? And here I was, thinking someone had finally gotten around to writing my unauthorised biography. Sigh..
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Not a great way to learn Ruby, but it deserves credit as the first (and, as far as I know, only) novel written about Ruby, and for its contribution to Ruby culture.
Bojan Bozic
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is pure awesomeness!!! It's by far the weirdest, coolest, and overall greatest introduction to a programming language ever written. Must read for so many different reasons. ...more
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This guy is positively insane :) I suspect, Ruby-related stuff from the book could be fit on to a single A4 cheat sheet, while a number of story lines included made the thing bloat quite a bit.

I'm not sure if it could insensibly infect someone from non-IT folks with enough of dose Ruby, but anyway I found it really fascinating read.

This book is also a great example of common geekish English - I'll use stories from it as a reference themes for small talk in case I'll have too much attention from
Jared Housh
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a programming book... from outer space. Ruby for the criminally insane, as a friend put it. This is, without a doubt, the best programming book I've ever read (an admittedly low bar). The sidebars and illustrations alone make this book worth reading. On the flip side, I'm not sure I retained much about Ruby. I did, however, come away with Chunky Bacon, so all is not lost. ...more
Mihai Damian
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is definitely like no other programming book you've ever read; exactly as why promises in the book's introduction.

If you expect a clean introduction to Ruby then this is not the book for the job. why combines examples well suited for non-programmers with more advanced concepts that only someone who's ever written a few programs will understand or appreciate.
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
a fun, quirky intro to ruby. not a lot of interactive exercises, but it gives you fun mnemonics to remember parts of the ruby language (we'll see how well they stick though). having studied programming before definitely helps you get through this one. ...more
chris tierney
May 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Entertaining and provides some good mnemonics for ruby syntax. Unfortunately it goes downhill near the end as the details about ruby take a back seat to the weird story, and it remains (probably forever) unfinished.
Piotr Zurek
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Definitely worth the read, not necessarily to learn Ruby.
Oct 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
I refuse to finish this awful book.
Craig Vermeer
Jul 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: tech
A programming book written by a crazy person. Interesting.
Burton Kent
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reminds me of a Lewis Carroll ("Alice in Wonderland") story written in the first person. Actually it's arguable what "person" it's written in.

It's funny but after awhile the "novel" part gets distracting. I'm on chapter 5 and I give up. He's telling a story and dropping little bits of Ruby in it, it's not helping me learn or structure how I think about Ruby. If anything it's getting annoying and ruining Ruby for me.

Other people might learn differently and get something out of it. I'd like more s
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
While I am fine with story-based approach to technical topics, I think they are hard to get right and they need to be done "right" for the reader. In this sense, this was not my cup of tea. I thought it had too much story than content about Ruby; hence, too slow for my taste. I gave up after four chapters. ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very good book, much more than a simple guide to Ruby, an adventure beyond the strange imagination of Why's the Lucky Stiff, a must-read to new Rubyists, and to someone who is learning how-to programming. ...more
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: programming

I always forget how dark and unhinged this book becomes at the end.

A true classic though. I feel like it's still being imitated today by absurd humor programming books like Clojure for the Brave and True, and Learn You a Haskell For Great Good.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I would credit this book with the reason I started finding computer programming interesting.
J Angel
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If there was a 6 this is a 6
Oct 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: technical
Poignant Guide-inspired works like Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! imitate the wacky cartoons but mostly dispense with the random stream of whimsy storytelling. That could be a good or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. I'm undecided.

The whole thing is almost too quirky. Despite some strong elements, the whimsical stories get incoherent, and I think it would be a better book if _why had just toned down the frantic imagination a little and woven the stories more slowly: I can get behind
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a very entertaining introduction to Ruby, and it covers many key concepts. I don't think it was quite comprehensive enough: when I was learning, I had to heavily really upon the API, blogs, and other web resources to make enough sense of the concepts to apply them, but when you know enough background to understand all of the concepts, the book has little value over entertainment.

That said, it's funny; it's lighthearted; and it approaches programming in a new way. The Ruby community is kn
Anton Antonov
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: technical
Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby is a book that has been on my list for months. I've been going in and out the book trying to find inspiration to finish it but always coming short.
Today I finally gathered enough (insanity) to finish it. My opinion on the book hasn't changed.

While it's one of a kind, highly creative and maybe entertaining to some people, the book does a poor job at explaining anything.

I dare to say that the book isn't that accurate either. It lacks exercises,
has weird code examples a
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't think there exists another programming book in the world that mixes comics, literature, and code examples into such a strange and interesting (and unfortunately unfinished) stew. Of course it's made even more interesting due to the author's "infosuicide" once his real identity was "outed" (he's always saying in the book he might burn out and blow his head off one day). Once it gets going and you see what the book is, the story line and comics slowly draw you in; I found myself really lik ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
A truly strange book about life, programming and everything between.

I found Why The Lucky Stiff when Smashing Magazine covered his disappearance but haven't come around to reading his Guide to Ruby until now.

It's a strange book, by a strange man, but if you're up for a challenge I recommend reading it. I found a mirror of it and read the whole work in about two weeks.

The book is a mix of a strange journey in space, richly illustrated and who will show you some basic fundamentals in Ruby.
Senthil Kumaran
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Poigant means that something is s so beautiful that tears shed from eyes. In
this case, the author says that Ruby code is so beautiful that tears will shed
from your eyes when you read it.

Yukihiro Matsumoto created Ruby in 1993 but I came to know about in the context
of a web development framework called Rails. This book, thankfully does not
teach you rails, but instead teaches you the Ruby Language, which in my opinion
is a greater aim to have.

Author cheerfully says that "Ruby" is the computer's lan
Anderson Evans
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think this is an important book. I'm often more interested in _why's style and conception of work than I am by his content. Often I feel like the programs are vague, and the train-of-thought infused pseudo-storylines often lose me... that said, nobody else is writing programming books of this flavor. The graphic narrative, the prose narrative, and an exploration of an object oriented programming language sound like they could never be more than three distinct genres... but it turns out such an ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fact
This is what happens when you feed the liner notes and the marginalia. Strange little world that's going on here. With a narrative of these two creatures guiding your hand on learning Ruby programming, it's offbeat and a little odd. The example lessons are neat, straight-forward and at a level that allows you to get a feel of the language and its idioms. At times it feels like we're witness to an existential drama, a brain that unfolds upon itself and is trying to find its footing. Other times w ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computers, ruby
Why's Poignant Guide is a remarkably unique and fun approach to teaching the Ruby language. The author's use of cartoon characters and quirky commentary really keeps things fresh, making this book an absolute must read (or at least skim) if only to demonstrate that there is still room for creativity and fun in the programming book space.

The book won't make you an amazing programmer... It will, however, serve as a great introduction to Ruby, particularly if supplemented with a more traditional ru
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Why The Lucky Stiff, the author of this book, seems absolutely crazy. In spite of the craziness, I thought this was a fairly decent way to gain some exposure to Ruby. I'd even suggest this book for people who have never programmed before. The author's style, while completely odd, is also approachable from a learning perspective. There were times when the book got too weird for me, but I think I have a basic understanding and respect for some of the neat things that can be done with Ruby. Dwemthy ...more
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From Wikipedia:

why the lucky stiff (often known simply as why, _why) was an anonymous, but prolific writer, cartoonist, musician, artist, and computer programmer notable for his work with the Ruby programming language. Along with Yukihiro Matsumoto and David Heinemeier Hansson, he was seen as a key figure in the Ruby community.

His best known work is Why's (p

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