Review: Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!

Some weeks ago I was contacted by No Starch Press asking if I would like to review one of their latest books: Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! by Miran Lipovača. I accepted it because I was already interested in reading the book and it would be the perfect opportunity to learn Haskell more properly since my adventures with it were limited. Basically just scratching the tip of the tip of the iceberg. And so, after getting the book I started to read it and solving some Project Euler problems as training exercises.

First, I must say I learned a lot and had some real fun while doing it! The book is very well written and presents a lot of material aimed to true beginners. Although it should be noted that it’s not a text for beginners in programming, only for those who don’t know Haskell. And the text really focuses on the language and skips unnecessary stuff, which is quite good because you start working with Haskell immediately. Another good thing of the book is the actual pace. The information comes at the right speed! You never feel it’s going to fast or too slow, or that suddenly things become too complicated. It builds your knowledge of Haskell in the right amount, especially if you take some time to do some coding of your own (in this regard, implementing some problems in Project Euler is great). Only the last chapters of the book start to become more hard to grasp at a first reading because it deals with advanced concepts that will need more training from a beginner.

As I said before, the book is very well written and I enjoyed the style a lot. It’s not the same kind as Land of Lisp but has some common points. The author has a sense of humor while not filling the text with lots of jokes or provocative humor; it just feels natural. The cartoons that populate the book are not comics and just have a figurative role. I must confess that sometimes they just fill space but others they help making the reading more nice. Again, no cartoons or comics in the style of “Land of Lisp” (I guess that is a real unique book). My only complain with the book is the lack of coding exercises, or mini-projects suggestions, at the end of each chapter. This wouldn’t be a complain if the book was more structured around mini-projects that would force you to code something larger than small functions. They exist, e.g., the task list, the calculator, but more would be a nice addition.

Did I learn Haskell with the book? Definitely yes! And it was fun :-) Naturally I’m still at a beginner’s level but if I keep coding a little more in Haskell, for example, re-implementing some of my current projects, I believe I can consolidate what I’ve learned and be ready to pass to a more intermediate level. I have not read other Haskell books but if you want to learn the language, have a good grasp of its capabilities and what you can do with it, this is a good book to achieve it and I recommend it without a doubt!

Finally, a word about No Starch Press. It is great that a publisher like them is investing in books and authors of more unconventional languages. I wish more will be published in the future :-)

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4 Replies to “Review: Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!”

  1. Thanks for this review. I think I’ll pick up this book in a few weeks. Heh, this reminds me of when you recommended PG’s ANSI Common Lisp and I read it from cover to cover instead of studying for my exams. :-)

    1. Hi Luís!

      It’s a nice introduction to Haskell, I’m sure you will like it. I am also curious to read “Real World Haskell” but I guess that needs to wait some more time.

      And I’m glad you decided to read PG’s book instead of studying for the exams. No only it is a much better reading but also I’m sure you learned a lot with it :-)

  2. HI Jorge
    I am fully agree with you. Its really nice book for beginners and i learned Haskell from this book. After reading this you can definitely go for real world Haskell and it has lot of programming exercises also.

    1. Hi! Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely try to read RWH but I guess I will only have time around the summer. I still need to get more used to Haskell but it is a very interesting language. I still prefer Common Lisp and I doubt that will change but perhaps Haskell can make me to enjoy Clojure a bit more ;-)

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