Some thoughts on The Book of Ruby

Disclaimer: No Starch Press provided me a free copy for review.

Ruby is a programming language that I always liked and somehow prefer it to Python. I used Ruby for some prototyping but when you have Common Lisp, it becomes hard to use any other language. When No Starch Press offered me the opportunity to review The Book of Ruby I was curious because the two previous books I’ve read from them were simply excellent. I already have four books on Ruby so I was wondering how this one could compare to those but most important, if would follow the same style as Land of Lisp and Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!. After reading the book, unfortunately, my feelings are mixed. Let’s see.

The book is well-written, with a good structure, covering beginner topics to advanced ones. It contains 20 chapters (without the introduction) and 4 appendixes. The initial chapters focus on the basics of the Ruby language. The later ones focus on more advanced parts of Ruby and more specific topics, for example, debugging and Ruby on Rails. This is a positive aspect of the book since for someone starting with Ruby can have in a single source access to several important topics. The chapters also have a Digging Deeper section at the end, presenting interesting discussions of the topic at hand. Also a nice read was the last chapter since it deals with the dynamic aspects of the language (use of eval, etc).

However, the book has some issues. The most important one is about the coding style, or the lack of it. The book is not consistent, does not follow Ruby conventions and it shows quite easily. I believe this is bad for a novice programmer in the language since it makes examples harder to understand, not to mention other things. Second, the book does not have the same fun style as the other No Starch Press books. This is a not problem per se but since the book subtitle is A hands-on guide for the adventurous, the reader is more or less mislead to think it follows the other books fun style. Third, the examples are too contrived and a few project ideas are missing. Ruby is a very nice language and with it you can do lots of things without writing lots of lines. So, it is a little disappointing that a book that aims itself for someone that wants to learn the language (but not programming from scratch) is not offered with some pointers in how to expand what is learning.

To conclude, the book is nice but probably is not the best book for a complete novice and not the best ruby book.

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