REVIEW - The Practice of Programming


The Practice of Programming


Brian W. Kernighan, Rob Pike


Addison-Wesley Professional (1999)




Francis Glassborow


August 1999



Whatever language you program in I think you will benefit from reading this book

I have heard it said that 'common sense' is one of the rarest of commodities. I think there is some truth in that so do not misunderstand me when I say that this book is full of good common sense. In addition it is written in highly readable English.

The nine chapters cover most considerations when programming (as distinct from analysis and design). Alongside chapters on style and notation (I think the Harpist will love those) we have chapters on debugging and testing.

I have only one reservation with this book, I question whether the authors have actually read all the books they list as suitable for supplementary reading. (For example did they really read and approve of Steve Maguire's Writing Solid Code ? Certainly it is a book that would improve the average programmer's code but at a cost of making it harder for them to improve further - see 'Deconstructuing Solid Code' C Vu 7.5) Perhaps that one is an aberration. In my younger days I held that book in higher regard than I do now. In most cases the titles listed for supplementary reading are ones that I hold in high regard.

Pick up a copy, choose any chapter and start reading. I think you will then feel motivated to buy yourself a copy, though you might pretend that it was to give to some pestilential colleague whose code was always unreadable, bug-ridden and untested.

Whatever language you program in I think you will benefit from reading this book (even if for some rare readers it is just a warm feeling of having been doing the right things all along).

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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