[linux-elitists] 32 essential computer books?

Ben Woodard ben@zork.net
Thu Dec 18 12:39:16 PST 2003

On Thu, 2003-12-18 at 10:02, Jim Thompson wrote:
> Tanner Lovelace writes:
> > Don Marti wrote:
> > > Well, I just looked at the shelf by my desk and 32 books fit
> > > on it.  Strangely enough, I also found out a way to send books
> > > to the Linux User Group of Iraq, which needs books for its
> > > library, at the US book rate.
> > > 
> > > So what would be the top 32 books to send them?
> The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-3, Donald Knuth.

I think that these are fine books but I'd have to argue with you
regarding them.  I think it is important for any programmer to have good
algorithms and data structures experience but these books are not the
way to get it. Plus they are terribly out of date not necessarily with
regard to the information that they have but with regards to the place
that the information has in the wider realm of computer programming.

I think that the day has passed when we want people doing their own
implementation of X,Y, or Z data structure or algorithm. I think for
maintainability sake, and to foster faster code development we should be
strongly suggesting to the underlings that they use already extant
libraries like glib with reasonably bug free and optimized versions of
many of the fundamental building blocks. Later on when you are writing
something very specific that needs to be carefully optimized, e.g.
google's caching algorithm, you can delve deeper than thing that are
handily available in freely available libraries.

The only one that I would really recommend is volume 2 the one on
semi-numerical algorithms but that is really for people who want to do
computation not necessarily people who want to use computers. But
knowing first hand what a lot of these numerical algorithms are actually
used for, I can honestly say that at this point in world history and
with the current political and law enforcement climate as it is, I
wouldn't feel exceedingly comfortable sending Knuth TAOCP Vol. 2 to
Iraqis for much the same reason that I think it would be unwise to be
seen sending them textbooks on how to build supercomputing clusters.
A little later on I think that it would be fine but right now, I think
that it might throw up a red flag that might hinder later efforts.


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