Monday, May 18, 2009

Books anyone?

Like many geeks, I have a book addiction. If I'm near a bookstore I start to feel the need to go inside and check out their collection on the various subjects that interest me, or might interest me in the future. And if I'm online and bored, I just might surf some bookstores or publisher websites.

I'm not so picky in my buying, but I am in my reading. Sometimes a book just proves it's not worth the time, a pity but there's always other interesting stuff out there. So save your time, put it on the shelf and start to read something hopefully better. Oh, and try to read some reviews before you buy (note to self).

Today I posted a few book reviews on's book promo forums. I thought I'd share them on my blog as well. Also, I have finished reading my 'Start to Run' book. In the sense of sound mind, sound body there's a short review on that as well.

Don't forget to check out RubyLearning, you can learn Ruby for free! Oh, and yeah, you can now even win a copy of popular books :-)

As I'm writing this, the shipping of 'learn to program, 2nd edition' was announced in my mailbox. Yummie, new book!

Learning Ruby by Michael Fitzgerald, O'Reilly publishing.
This was my very first introduction in Ruby. After Having seen a friend build a Rails website in a few minutes I was impressed and wanted to know about Ruby.
The bookstore had two books on ruby, this one and the other being the massive pickaxe. I chose this book since I was not prepared to read such a huge book. I just wanted a brief into to see what it was all about.

Learning Ruby
The book starts with the basics and a quick tour of Ruby. After the first two chapters you start to have a rough idea about what Ruby is and what it's for. After the two introductory chapters, the usual language basics follow. Conditional loops, strings, math, arrays, hashes, working with files and classes are all dealt with. After that one chapter deals with various things such as processing XML, reflection, metaprogramming, RDoc and embedded ruby. The last chapter is a brief intro on Rails.

The title of the book was a poor choice. It should have been something like 'introducing ruby' for example. The best feature of this book was its shortness and simplicity, while still giving a good introduction to the world of Ruby. What I missed were some short introductions on things such as TDD, Merb, Sinatra, Shoes etc. After reading this book you won't have the feeling you have 'learned' Ruby. You have a good picture of what it is and what it can do. You know a bit of the syntax and how to use irb and check out documentation. You also know about a few extra things such as RDoc and Rails. The book is well written and I had no problems running the code for all except a Tk example. It's a nice book for the absolute beginners in programming, but I think there are better suited books for the absolute beginners out there. Instead, people who have a bit of experience in other programming languages, and just want to know what all the fuss is about will enjoy this book. This book is not for those that really want to learn about the language and it's inner workings and reasoning behind it.

Publisher's website.

Some alternate reviews (I agree with most of them).

Ruby Cookbook by Lucas Carlson & Leonard Richardson, O'Reilly publishing.

I bought this book on a shopping spree. Just needed a 3rd book to add to my shopping basket for a '3 = 2' promotion, it had good reviews so I bought it.

Ruby Cookbook
This book is not a straightforward learning book. It contains just a whole lot of 'recipes', small solutions for common problems. This book is not meant to be read in your bed from beginning to end. Rather it's something to grab on to when you want to do something but don't know how. Each chapter deals with a certain topic such as system administration, GUI's, multitasking, testing, webservices, Rake, databases, Internet services, Rails, metaprogramming and a whole lot of more basic language recipe's such as matching strings with regular expressions or comparing floating point numbers. It's a big fat book with nearly 900 pages.

Well, this is somewhat difficult as it's not a book to read from beginning to end. When I used the book, I have always found the solution for my problem in no time. It just covers a whole lot things. The recipes are short and clear and contain references for further information. It's a really good book and writing this review I am actually surprised I have used it so little times. Since it's such a big book, and not something to read in one piece, It's easy to put on your shelf, forget about it and use Google for help, like I did. The fact is however, that in all cases I thought about the book, it provided the answer I needed.

Given that, this book's pretty efficient. It saves a lot of time providing solutions and you don't even have to read the whole thing. Personally I think this book comes not to it's right on the bookshelf, but more as a desktop companion. Consider a digital version to keep around anr CRTL-F when in need.

Publisher's website

Some alternate reviews.

Practical Ruby Gems by David Berube, Apress publishing.

I stumbled on this book on an Internet auction site. Not having any clue about what rubygems were I thought the 10,- euro price would pay itself back. Read on to see my thoughts about the book...

Practical Ruby Gems
This book contains three parts:

Part 1 deals with what gems are, how to install them and do version control.
Part 2, the biggest part of the book, contains chapters that deal with different Gems. All of them contain a description and one or two practical examples on how to use the Gems to get something done. All code is explained after that. The book focuses mostly on Gems that can be used in a web development or sysadmin context.
Part 3 is about creating and distributing Gems yourself.

I think the book is a nice read for starters who finished reading their first Ruby book and now want to create something useful. But I think it can be informative for more expierenced Rubyists as well. It's pretty well written but I found that a few code listings contain flaws. This is mostly because the Gems used have been renamed, made obsolete by different gems or had other adjustments. So it's mostly due to the books age (April 2007) and some specifics of my operating system (Ubuntu). The publisher has not posted any errata and the downloadable code is flawed as well (at least on my system). This was a bit disappointing, but my opinion is that it's still a valuable book that will save you time in the long run. I bought the book second hand for 10 euro's so I'm pretty positive about purchasing it. But I think I would not spend the full price on the new book, but rather wait a possibly second edition or a good discount offer.

Publisher's website.

Some alternate
reviews (mind the dates).

Start to Run by Evy Gruyaert, Lannoo publishing.

I bought this book to serve as a companion for the fantastic 'start to run' podcast. My main reason was to have some more background info on the do's and dont's in running.

Start to Run
First things first, this book is only available in Dutch/Flemmish language as far as I'm aware of.
The book is about 158 pages and is built up around 4 different themes being: Running expierences, Running tips, stretch and yoga exercises and food tips and recipes. Four experts provided the content for these themes: an expierenced ports coach, a fysiotherapist with an expertise in revalidation, a chef and a runner.

I liked the book. I enjoyed the motivating writeups from evy. I think having the running schedules on print is pretty handy, so now I can easily lookup what my next running session will look like. The stretching exercises are very good. I don't think yoga can be learned from just a few pictures however, but I don't really care about yoga. If you do, check out wii sports or buy a dvd or go to a club or something. There are plenty of good tips for starters in this book, one thing I learned which is a recurring message is to take it easy. But I did not like the recipes. Though food is something really personal and you might like them. I expected some more practical meals for some reason. Many recipe's look a bit too complicated for somebody who just had an exercise. Also, many of the ingredients are not available in the average supermarket.

Overall I recommend the book if you just started to run. It might also be a good present.

Publisher's website.

Some alternate reviews

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the kind comments on my book Learning Ruby. I appreciate it. Feel free to say hello. Find me at