Stack OverflowWhat Programming Book would you NOT recommend to Developers?
[+60] [38] EnderMB
[2008-10-08 18:21:31]
[ books recommendation criticism ]

Like a lot of people on Stack Overflow I love to read books about programming, almost as much as I love to read the lists that people add onto their websites, Blog's and this very website.

However, for every gem there are a thousand turds, and to one developer a gem could just be a shiny turd to another.

Whilst there are hundreds of book questions on this website asking users to recommend books that they have loved I have decided (after looking for a similar question and not finding it) to create a list of books that users have detested. After all, if we're going to fork out money for these books it'd be a good idea to get both positive and negative aspects out there.

Please refer to a specific book, and with it add an image of either the latest version or the version you have read. Also, if you have the time please comment on the answers to provide your experiences with the books.

I'm just glad to see that I haven't read any of the books listed. - Peter LaComb Jr.
Great question - I have debated getting some of these in the store - Nick
It just donned on me that there are so few authors of programming books actually involved in the community. You'd think many more of them would be here on SO and have something to say about this thread. - John
[+73] [2008-10-08 18:27:41] Ben Hoffstein

Anything with the words "Teach Yourself x In 24 Hours".

alt text

is this one of those books that has 24 chapters, one for every hour. as if you're going to sit there for 24 hours and absorb one chapter every hour and suddenly become an expert. - Dana
(5) I learned C++ (my first real programming langauge) from one of these. It was enough to teach me the real basics. Then I started actually writing code (lots of it) and discovered how terrible the advice was. That forced me to discover good coding habits on my own -- the best way to learn - rmeador
I've always wondered why people choose to write these kinds of books. I imagine that the money isn't all that bad and that people will buy them, but it's a great way for you to lose credibility. - EnderMB
(2) @EnderMB: Perhaps the author has no credibility even before starting the book? - Sergio Acosta
Although not a development book itself, I got bought Sams Teach Yourself Linux in 24 hours. Chapters would assume knowledge of things that only got covered in later chapters. It was enough to ensure I never buy a Sams book in the future. - SpoonMeiser
(1) PHP in 24 hours was great for me, so I can't agree there. - skeen
I learned C++ with teach yourself C++ in 21 days really well. - nlaq
(3) I found Scott Mitchell's "Teach Yourself ASP.NET 2.0 in 24 Hours" to be generally excellent. I title is a gimmick. No one does one continuous 24 session and learns the whole topic. Nevertheless, the content is good. - RussellH
(3) "24 Hours" is being taken way too literally. First, it's a marketing gimmick. Second, I don't think the author intended you to pull an all-nighter to work through the book. Instead he or she broke up the subject into 24 chapters, each of which can be completed in roughly one hour. - Barry Brown
I'm not generally opposed to 24 hour books, but I agree with SpoonMeiser. I bought Teach Yourself Linux in 24 hours and had the exact same compliant. - Slapout
+1 @barry brown and -1 for answer - Click Upvote
(1) I have a couple of these books, they aren't as terrible as some people are making them out to be. They are designed to be very basic 1-hour lessons to be done once a day for 24 days. For getting down the very basics of a new language, these books are good for a beginner. - GSto
NOT TRUE, "HTML4 in 14 days" was the best book I've ever read on html..wait, oh yeah it says days not hours as you mentiond. Then, I must agree. - Dave
[+46] [2008-10-09 20:46:20] Greg Beech

I would very strongly recommend against Data Structures and Algorithms in C#:

alt text

This was the review I left on Amazon:

I found this lying on a colleague's desk and had a flick through; I didn't read much to be honest but what I did see was enough of a warning to make me write this: DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.

There are things like a Queue class implemented using an ArrayList as a backing store "because of its dynamic properties". I can only assume he means amortized doubling here. The book boasts about "not using big-O notation" which is a damn good job because the dequeue method is implemented using RemoveAt(0) giving O(n) performance in all cases, when with a circular buffer an O(1) implementation can be trivially achieved (except in the case when the buffer is full, of course).

The next structure is a priority queue. You might imagine this would be done with some sort of heap; a binary heap in an array being the typical implementation. Instead it's also done with an ArrayList and every time an item is added it copies the items into an array, sorts them, and then puts them back into the ArrayList. The same goes for dequeue. So while you could find an implementation of O(lg n) performance for both enqueue and dequeue on wikipedia, he goes for O(n) in both cases.

I was so appalled, and so angry that somebody with clearly no knowledge of data structures was allowed to publish this rubbish, that I didn't read any more. Neither should you. If I could give it minus 5 I would.

(9) Wow, that's... wow. - Adam Jaskiewicz
[+39] [2008-10-08 22:40:05] Zee JollyRoger

The Manga Guide to Databases [1] Do I need to explain why?


Is this a real book? - SpoonMeiser
Yes, I found it on Amazon. - Bill the Lizard
(3) Yes, the book is real. A part of my soul died a little bit when I found this book. Amazon link:… - Zee JollyRoger
(19) The professional part of me knows that this is an awful book, but the rest of me wants to read it more than anything in the world. - EnderMB
There's also a Manga Guide to Statistics. - R Siefkas
I must have this book... - Dave Sherohman
(1) Wow I must buy this book. Perhaps it contains even more horror than Uzumaki! - Quibblesome
AHH! THE HORROR! - The Wicked Flea
Sweet Sailor Moon! How did you find this? - Cameron MacFarland
The end-all-be-all database book for otakus! I gotta buy this book! - icelava
@Cameron: A good friend of mine found it and linked it to me. I think the "how he found it" should be remain a myster. ;) - Zee JollyRoger
At only $14, and being illustrated, it's so absurd I'm tempted to buy it and leave it on my desk. - TravisO
(4) "Do I need to explain why?" Yes, remember -- don't judge a book by its cover. - Slapout
(2) must... not... buy... silly... book - Rob Allen
That's fricking great - Justin Johnson
How long will I have to wait for the Manga Guide to the art of computer programming? - MattyW
While maybe an amusing read, maybe, you really have to be a total n00b to get anything out of the manga guide. I actually read the entire thing in borders one day and at the end I felt like I actually knew LESS about RDBMs. Buy this book to confuse and irritate anyone that happens to see it on your desk. - TokenMacGuy
I actually saw this one in a book store. A real, physical, brick-and-mortar book store. Agh! - aehiilrs
I have to get the Calculus edition! XD - Julian
(2) I'm buying the whole series so I can earn my Manga certification! - kirk.burleson
[+35] [2008-10-08 18:24:26] Ben Hoffstein

I thought Beautiful Code [1] was a huge, disjointed letdown.

Beautiful Code


Thanks. I was considering buying this one on Amazon. What in particular didn't you like about it? - finnw
(1) A vote up for you, for a vote down for this book. - pmlarocque
why was it such a letdown? - Dana
(2) The Amazon reviews sum it up better than I can, but I found little, if any, beautiful code or interesting insights in the book. It was downright painful to finish it even though I'm so interested in the subject matter. - Ben Hoffstein
Title promised more than it delived :( - s t
I agree. Disappointing. - Kristopher Johnson
It's about 1/3 interesting, and 2/3 boring or just plain wrong. That's the downside of collecting essays from a bunch of programmers, I guess. - Mark Bessey
It wasn't all great (or even good!) but I though there were some gems in there. - Drew Hall
While there was plenty of stuff that was too niche, I thought it was worth it for the handful of excellent essays. - GaryF
Yeah, that's about the experience I have with a lot of collections of stuff by various people in any domain. Sometimes they're worth it for the gems, other times you just wish they had pared it down to two or three essays. - Adam Jaskiewicz
I thought some of it was interesting. Buy if you're into reading literature more than reading code though. Most of it was beyond the scope of anything I'd probably touch upon though. - Dalin Seivewright
It was a great bed time read. It wasn't the greatest of books but it was a challenge to write i assume. I think that it's a lot easier to criticize it than built it ourselves. All in all a 2.5 out of 5. - dassouki
[+21] [2008-10-08 19:08:38] KeyserSoze

The Art of Computer Programming [1], by Donald Knuth.

Let me preface by saying Donald Knuth is awesome, and anyone who could read and comprehend The Art of Programming would be a better computer programmer for having done so. However, between the amount/complexity of mathematics, and the amount of assembly language, the vast majority of programmers will not work through the exercises. Without working through the exercises, the value gained from 'reading' the book is dramatically lessened. The book is seriously dense, it is not a light read, and anyone who buys it without that understanding will end up with the book sitting on their bookshelf unread.

IMO it's better to buy a book you'll get value out of, than one that you could get value out of, but don't.

PS: I have a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a master's in Computer Science. I've 'read' my 3-volume set of "The Art of Programming" once, with about the amount of dedication and time devoted to it that I'd spend with a similarly sized novel. I'd be lucky if 10% of the material really "sunk in". I'd like to be able to give the books the attention they deserve, but that probably won't happen any time soon.


(1) Ouch! Criticizing Knuth? That's blasphemy! - Kluge
(2) Your mistake is in pretending you can read any real technical material like a novel. You're right, most developers would become better at what they do if they worked through a bit of Knuth properly. That many don't is their fault, not the books. - simon
(25) lol. You're not supposed to read it, you're supposd to put it prominently on your bookshelf and pretend you're cleverer than you actually are :) - gbjbaanb
> That many don't is their fault, not the books. Correct! But regardless of fault, I still wouldn't recommend Knuth to most people. I'd recommend something like "The Pragmatic Programmer", which is much easier to benefit from. - KeyserSoze
@gbjbaanb: so... knuth is the tolstoy of computer literature? - Mostlyharmless
I'd have to agree. There's lots of good information in there, but unless you're primarily an academic computer scientist, there are much more readable books out there. - Mark Bessey
(1) It's an academic book! Approach it like that. It's not an intro book, but there's quite a few gems inside. I dust off TAOCP every so often -- in particular, things like the transform from uniform -> gaussian random number generation, and the recurrence relation for updating mean/standard deviation. - Jason S
So what book would you suggest if one were to have a solid and detailed coverage of different algorithms? - egaga
(3) I think the value of this book is not that it teaches you about being a good programmer, but that it teaches you how to think like a good one, or at least how one particularly good one thinks. I've never visited this series and found a particularly good formula to apply to my own code, but I apply the reasoning expressed frequently. In short, I disagree. - TokenMacGuy
Yeah, this thing's awful. They sat on my bookshelf for a few years, with page 2 dog eared, before I sold them on Amazon. Congrats to all who've read the series. You should get a "Knuth" patch! - kirk.burleson
[+20] [2008-10-08 18:30:56] Jason

Any book with 17 authors is usually bad. Any book with a timeframe in the title - "7 days", "24 hours", etc. Any book titled "Teach Yourself..."

Are you sure? I could imagine books with titles such as "Learn Objective C and Cocoa in six to eight weeks" being about as good as it gets. - svinto
I disagree. I've read many books in these categories that were good. - kirk.burleson
[+19] [2010-05-11 18:31:43] bogumil

Anything written by Steve Holzner [1].

Steve Holzner

He has published more than 100 books, about 5-10 books per year. Books about almost every possible language or technology: Visual Basic, C++, Java, .NET, PHP, Perl, HTML, XML, Ajax, JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby on Rails, Django and many others. "Teach yourself ... in 21 days", "Design Patterns For DUMMIES" and even "Quantum Physics For DUMMIES".

JohnMcG has already said it in his answer: [2]

How likely is it that the same person is an expert on C++, SQL Server, PHP, and project management, and has time to write books on each subject?

Beginning Ruby on RailsDesign Patterns for DUMMIESEclipseJava After Hours: 10 Projects You'll Never Do at WorkDjango: Visual QuickPro GuidejQuery: Visual QuickPro GuideSecrets of RSSPHP The Complete ReferenceAJAX: A Beginner's GuideAjax: Your visual blueprint for creating rich Internet applicationsTeach Yourself Visual Basic .NET 2003 in 21 DaysTeach Yourslef XML in 21 DaysTeach Yourslef JavaServer Pages in 21 DaysMicrosoft Visual C#.NET 2003 Kick Start


(1) No man, this guy is a genius and if Knuth wouldn't have written his books already, Steve would have written them as well. - ufotds
The "Design Patterns For DUMMIES" made me chuckle :D - Helper Method
[+16] [2008-12-24 15:45:27] Shawn


This book was really disappointing. I picked it up on vacation few years ago when I was trying to learn to write custom AJAX. The first 98% of the book were JavaScript examples. The last chapter was a paragraph like this, and then a few examples of implementation:

Ajax is a subject so complicated, entire books have been written on it! Instead of writing your own, check out Yahoo's Ajax Library at [link].

(4) I can't see the image. Maybe the link is dead since yout first posted it? - Decio Lira
I like that quote :> As an alternative: Professional Javascript by Zakas is pretty good. - ufotds
[+13] [2008-10-09 20:41:59] yalestar

I've found many Wrox books to be poorly edited and mostly filler. The covers are hilarious, though.

(5) They also tend to spend an inordinate number of pages(chapters, really) praising Microsoft for the gift of .Net. They could save entire trees by leaving out the bits about how fantastic .Net is. - Rob Allen
(1) ...but Wrox books then to be very thorough, making them an excellent source for building foundation in most topics! Take their JavaScript book for example, excellent if you want to understand how JavaScript works. - Julian
+1 I got a couple of wrox books when I was starting out with SQL Server and they taught me squat - El Ronnoco
@Julian: sorry, Professional javascript is more like an exception I think, although they have a few other good ones like Professional C++. The professional line in general seems to be of quite a higher standard than the Beggining line... - ufotds
[+12] [2008-10-08 18:31:52] Chris Young

C: The Complete Reference by Herbert Schildt, see C: The Complete Nonsense [1]

The Annotated ANSI C Standard, annotated by Herbert Schildt, see

alt text

I also assume that all "for Dummies" books are terrible. I have only personally read C for Dummies by Dan Gookin out of morbid curiosity, and it was quite clear the author didn't really know C. Later editions may be an improvement.

alt text


Erm, I liked the C for Dummies books and I found them the be the only for Dummies books worth a damn. - Schnapple
It might be well written and easy to read, but its technical accuracy is terrible. The author lacked fundamental knowledge of the language. - Chris Young
Agree about the Schildt books but some of the dummies books are good (I haven't read C for Dummies.) - finnw
Herbert Schildt is a fine author if you're never going to use anything you read about. If you think technical accuracy is important, though, you'd best look elsewhere. He's easy to read, but not nearly as right as he should be. - Greg D
Why write a program that's technically correct when you can write something like MS Excel. - Kibbee
(3) I've heard it said that the reason the official ANSI C standard is more expensive than Schildt's annotated version is that the annotations actually have negative value :-) - Mark Bessey
(1) ha ha...dummies should not be learning C anyway :P - shyam
I started with Complete Idiot's guide to HTML4 in 2000 :P - alex
(3) The original DOS for Dummies, also by Gookin, was a fantastic book. You definitely want to learn C from K&R, though. - Bill the Lizard
@Greg D - I like "Schildt" books. What are the technical inaccuracies? - kirk.burleson
@kirk burleson: (for starters) - Greg D
I think this is why some books should be open source. It's pretty difficult for 1 author and a couple of proof readers and editors to catch all the errors in a lengthy volume. But with the help of thousands of proof readers, you could create a 100% accurate reference. And seeing as there are obviously people out there willing to proofread these books and even document each and every error, there's no reason why you couldn't incorporate those fixes into the actual book and re-release a more accurate edition. - Lèse majesté
[+12] [2009-09-14 06:23:15] brianegge

A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates [1]

alt text

There are much easier ways to find random numbers.


(2) wow; amazing, +1 - TokenMacGuy
(3) "There are much easier ways to find random numbers" - this statement cries for examples... - Jørn Schou-Rode
I'd rather buy a dice set :) - Michał Piaskowski
[+10] [2008-10-08 18:49:36] JohnMcG

If you see books on seemingly disparate topics written by the same author, it's generally good to steer clear.

How likely is it that the same person is an expert on C++, SQL Server, PHP, and project management, and has time to write books on each subject?

About the same likeliness as most programmers who claim to know the same or more. - kirk.burleson
(2) Just because you know a subject well enough to make use of it doesn't mean you're qualified to write on it. It's very plausible that a single programmer can know 10 different languages, technologies, and software development concepts well enough to make use of them at work. That is not the same as claiming to be an authority on each subject and have something to teach others who are also familiar with them. - Lèse majesté
[+8] [2008-11-04 17:46:09] Huntrods

Any "first edition" of a new language by Dietel & Dietel.

They have a bad habit of taking a similar language book and using global "search and replace" to get the new book out first.

Probably their worst effort EVER was their first edition of the C# book. It was just their current Java book with "cut and paste". Horrible.

Generally, it takes about 3 editions for any author to get a new language book "decent".


Couldn't agree more, Dietel and Dietel suck. - jonathan.cone
The last comment is not accurate. Counter-example: Kernighan & Ritchie got it right first time - and the second time too (standard C was a somewhat different language from the one they first described). - Jonathan Leffler
(4) ...and the Java book was a cut-and-paste job from the C++ book. - Bill the Lizard
@Bill the Lizard: I used to work for them, nearly all of their "language" books are cut & paste of whatever the first book they wrote was. To add insult to injury, when I was there a few years back the "translation" was done by interns. - R0MANARMY
[+6] [2008-12-05 05:04:26] John T

Any book offering to teach you a full language in and out in under a month is utter garbage.

(1) looks like some sams buyers are butthurt and down voted me - John T
(3) @John T - Sounds like you're butthurt about being down-voted. - kirk.burleson
[+6] [2008-10-11 00:59:24] Doug L.

I'm showing my age here, but I just can not stand the Head First series of books. They are not written for anyone born before 1970 that's for sure. However, I'm probably in the minority as far as SO users [1]. In reality, I have not seen many bad reviews of the series (no one but me 'detests' these works...). Personally, I need more words and fewer photos, cartoons, etc.


(1) It's definitely not an age thing. I struggle with the Head First books because there are some things I find easy and some things I find hard, and whilst it's good for learning something difficult I really don't need someone explaining a simple concept that I can already handle. - EnderMB
I have read a couple of these.. light reading. The ajax book was pretty good. I would not NOT reccommend this book, but I would reccommend NOT telling people you read these.. o wait.. - community_owned
(1) Mixed feelings. Enjoyed HTML/CSS/XHTML one - I'm not primarily a web developer, and only wanted a quick overview. Didn't like the one on object oriented design. Just seemed so basic - kept thinking "surely anyone who's ever programmed knows not to do THAT" - MarkJ
Well, some people disagree with me for sure - I've taken some negative votes since October :) (Good thing it's a wiki now...) - Doug L.
Agree with @EnderMB - Deepak Singh Rawat
I'm not a huge fan of them. The design patterns book gets rave reviews, and yet when I read it their examples are exactly where I wouldn't use design patterns. - kyoryu
The first few I read were golden. However, there are a few poor ones in the series. HF Java, HTML & Design Patterns are great. I didn't rate HF C# and HF PHP & MySQL. The jury is out for HF Web Design. - Steven Keith
(1) I read (most of) the design patterns one and after all the pictures and funky drawings and 'humour' I just wanted to get me a copy of GoF which was mentioned right at the start. - El Ronnoco
[+6] [2008-10-08 18:27:48] J.J.

The "Game programming in X languge" series. They spend lots of pages teaching very little.

[+6] [2008-10-08 18:24:01] Dana

I'd advise against any book that is a regurgitation of an API with some added examples. Google easily makes these books obsolete and allows you to more easily find answers that are relevant to your topic. These books never get too specific about issues either. How many times have we seen 1000 page books that don't tell you anything useful?

Books like this C# book are pretty much paperweights [1]


+1 - I couldn't agree more. - Ben Hoffstein
(2) Actually I found that exact book to be incredibly helpful. Granted I was trying to get my bearings in ASP.NET at the time but the simple explanations in this book gave me insight into all sorts of things. - George Mauer
Yeah, that book is dire. - BlackWasp
I agree with George. This book was a HUGE help to me when I was getting my hands dirty with C#. I have two copies of this book and is a great refresher. - user279521
If you've never touched ASP.NET, it's a good book (I used the 2.0 version of it). If you're already familiar and want just the change-set since previous version...there are better resources out there. - R0MANARMY
(1) I agree with George to.With this kind of books you should not read every page!,but when you want to learn something about ASP.Net you will find it very explained in this book(in most cases) so I don't think 1000 pages is a bad thing. - M.H
[+5] [2009-01-07 16:16:59] Slapout

alt text

Data Structures Demystified
It's a good idea for a book. But too many errors make it difficult to learn the technical material they're trying to teach.

I have this too, and I agree. If I know enough about a topic that I'm writing in corrections, I don't need the book. - Bill the Lizard
I'm really glad that I asked this question now. This is probably the fifth book I've found here that I've actually considered buying that I won't now. - EnderMB
I hate books with errors! I can't remember which book it was but within the first ten minutes of reading it I saw a syntax error in a code example and I thought 'forget this' :D - El Ronnoco
[+4] [2008-12-26 01:34:48] Cameron MacFarland

Programming Microsoft Composite UI Application Block and Smart Client Software Factory

Pretty much the only book (and thus only documentation) on the Composite Application Block for WinForms.


  • Has about 100 pages of content, spread over 200 pages (alot of whitespace, entire pages for half-page screenshots etc.)
  • Only covers an overview of CAB and SCSF, doesn't explain key concepts and requires the reader to consult the CAB and SCSF documentation for any real detail.



Please name the book you are talking about--hotlinking images doesn't always work (and disposable image hosts tend to throw away images after a while). - Lèse majesté
[+3] [2010-06-26 15:38:04] ufotds

Cover image

What I found in this book:

  • 448 screenshots, for a book on a text based technology, duh???
  • 20 odd errors by page 250 after which I gave up reading it.
  • slandering powergrep for having an error, which of course it didn't, as was proved by one of the 488 screenshots.
  • very bad structure. You wouldn't find one table in this book giving an overview of the regex metacharacters, not even in an appendix. It is all spread out throughout the entire book.

I complained [1] and filed all the errors, but after 4 years the errata page [2] still has only one entry, you couldn't have guessed it, about a corrected screenshot. One error I didn't file.

The worst thing about having bought such a book is that you can not even pass it on to a friend, or a library... You couldn't possibly wish someone to read this. All you can do with it is light your stove...

Proposed alternative: Mastering regular expressions by Friedl.


[+3] [2008-12-24 15:04:44] Daniel Daranas

alt text

Introduction to the Personal Software Process, by Watts S. Humphrey.

It's the software book with the highest percentage of useless and misleading concepts that I've read. It will teach you to make software estimations by counting the number of loops, to make the first code review even before compiling, etc.


@EnderMB, unfortunately I threw the book away and I can't check it. From what I remember, the author asserts that his method does work and that if you try it, you will see it for yourself. He proposes you to follow his method and draw your own conclusions.

The main problem I see with his method is that it feels way too old fashioned and seems to be relevant only for old ways of doing software, but not for OO software and modern IDE's. Also, I found the forms it includes for tracking your stupid mistakes (including typos) very boring and irritating to use.

From an Amazon review by A Customer:

"Lastly, most of the data used to show how things improved after using the Personal Software Process was from 2 groups, one "real world" company and a group of students. Both groups only had around 15 people. Even combining both groups a sample of 30 programmers is not overwelming evidence. A larger sample is needed."

In short, IMO 95% of the book was a massive waste of time.

Update 2

For further information on the process described in this book, see this question [1].


Does it contain any hard data to show that these methods are worthwhile? - EnderMB
"make the first code review even before compiling" - Well...we do want the code reviews to have some value. I'm sure meaningful errors abound when you haven't even compiled, let alone run your code. - Dunk
This book isn't that great. But the PSP does work and there are numbers to support it (poke around the SEI website for info). But if you want learn the PSP, you should really get "A Discipline for Software Engineering" and/or "PSP: A Self-Improvement Process for Software Engineers". Both do a much better job of explaining what the PSP is, how you can use it, and what benefits you can reap. - Thomas Owens
[+3] [2008-12-05 05:10:45] jonathan.cone

I have a book laying around somewhere that I wish I could find: Operating System Concepts in Java.

  • It was several hundred pages
  • It didn't contain any well-formed Java
  • There are several more relevant languages for learning operating system architecture
  • It was the worst

(2) It is hard to imagine why you would pick Java to explain OS concepts. - Bill the Lizard
Exactly, the title says it all - MarkJ
But that book as pretty dinosaurs on the cover! Actually, back in college, I accidentally bought the C version of the book (7th edition) for a class. Not only does the C version have a nicer cover :), but the information is actually pretty useful. (I also have the Java version of the 6th edition, for comparison.) - mipadi
[+3] [2008-12-13 21:27:06] Khaled Al Hourani

"Pro whatever" from Apress is full with unnecessary explanations and it's better named "Beginner whatever" instead of Pro.

The Golden Rule is whenever you find a big book, it's probably full of useless explanations.

many big books are one topic are just as you say, but there are a few monster sized cookbook type tomes that are overflowing with useful and compact code examples. Many of the '* Gems' books are like this. - TokenMacGuy
Could you give me an example please? - Khaled Al Hourani
(1) Steven Sanderson's Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework is one of the best tech books I've read in a long time. Maybe it depends on the author. - UpTheCreek
[+3] [2008-10-08 18:24:15] user18044

Any book of over a 1000 pages covering only a development environment.

[+3] [2008-10-08 18:24:19] Robert Elwell

alt text

While it's a decent enough reference, I was just a little disappointed with Sams' PHP and MySQL Web Development. I think they jumped around a bit too much.

I agree, usually when i see a Language and Language book, I find that 97.5% of the book is focused on teaching you the languages and 2.5% on the interactions between both. The book could be summed up in a 60 page booklet - dassouki
This is a good book to learn php and I would actually recommend it. - kirk.burleson
[+3] [2008-10-08 18:38:02] EnderMB

To start things off, if you see this book please tear it from the shelves and wipe you feet with it. Java Software Solutions
Java Software Solutions by John Lewis and William Loftus

This book is fantastic if you've never touched a computer before and you're looking to write a couple of nifty programs to show your friends, but for anyone that's even dreaming of programming for a living it's terrible. I don't believe this is as much a fault with the authors as it is with how it is recommended. When this book is used as the recommended text for first-year university students I cringe, simply because those that want to learn shouldn't have to be walked through Java by a lecturer that's mistaken themselves for the students' mother.

The book works, I've worked through the books and the examples compile and work as intended. However, by the time I had written anything worthwhile using this book I could've worked through far more examples if I were using another. It takes too many pages to explain trivial things and that's what ruins the book for me.

If you are 16 and new to this whole writing software thing in general then this book might get you programming in a year, but if you're looking to learn any quicker than that invest your money in another book. Thinking in Java is still my favourite Java book and topped up with the Sun tutorials you really cannot go wrong.

+1 for Thinking in Java. Eckel's books were great for learning C++, and I can only imagine that TIJ is similarly helpful for Java. - Maulrus
[+3] [2008-10-11 00:45:53] Jason Down

Microsoft® ADO.NET 2.0 Step by Step

If you're looking to learn ADO.NET, I found the book Microsoft® ADO.NET 2.0 Step by Step by Rebecca M. Riordan to be rather useless. It's one of those books that shows how to use wizards and not really teach you anything. If you need to do something slightly different from the example you have no hope if this is your main resource for learning. I guess a step by step book might be intended for an audience that just wants basic examples though.

It would be a much better investement in time (and money) going with the ADO.NET Core Reference and, to a lesser extent, ADO.NET 2.0 Core Reference books, both by David Sceppa.

Just my opinion based on my own experience.

You must have skimmed through it because this book tells you exactly how to use ADO.NET 2.0 with wizards and with code (VB and C#). Of course, Enterprise Library makes it all moot. - kirk.burleson
[+3] [2010-05-16 16:41:45] John

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Pro Linq [1]
There is not a single good thing I can say about this one. It is very poorly written and mostly a really sloppy duplication of the MSDN docs. Save the money, read about it on MSDN.


[+2] [2010-05-16 16:46:58] AaronM

Too many people in this are complaining about books for the wrong reasons. So many people have said things like "anything with a time frame", but some of them, the main ones that spring to mind being the Sam's 21 days books, are great as an introduction, so long as that's what you treat them as. Of course they're awful if you're expecting completely mastery of the language, but that's not what they're made for, they're just there to give you a solid enough ground to expand from.

That said, I have to say no-one should touch the For Dummies ones, or at least the C++ one, I haven't looked at the others but it they sound to follow the same pattern. And I realise how that can sound with what I just said, but that thing is useless as even an introduction. God only knows how anyone's supposed to get anywhere with an OO language, when only given such a fleeting glimpse at the concept of an object.

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[+2] [2008-10-08 21:09:42] Patrick Huizinga

As un-recommended by Jeff Atwood [1] himself:


I'm torn between voting this one up or leaving it. My other SitePoint books are fantastic for getting started with languages, but having never read this one and to only hear that it's not recommended by one of the authors is concerning. - EnderMB
(2) No he only doesn't recommend it because it is specific and Jeff stated that specific books don't have the "lasting" value of really good books. I'm sure the book is actually quite good. - Quibblesome
[+2] [2008-10-09 18:53:13] projecktzero

This will piss off a few people, but I would not recommend Programming Perl to anyone who wants to do Perl. To me, it seemed to ramble on and on. There are much better Perl books.

ok. yes, it pissed me off. but I won't down vote, because I guess you have a right to your incorrect opinion. :P i learned perl on the Llama and afterwords, The camel was my bible. - stephenbayer
The camel isn't organized as well as I'd like for a reference book. Once I find something in it, it's excellent. - David Thornley
(1) The Camel is really a book about Perl's semantics and standard library. It doesn't tell you how to use Perl. It discusses underlying concepts first, then the useful tools built on top of them, but that means it covers "require" before "use", when you really ought to use "use" most of the time. - Sean McMillan
@projecktzero , what other Perl books would you recommend ? - xxxxxxx
(2) Learning Perl, Intermediate Perl, The Perl Little Black Book, Perl Best Practices - projecktzero
(1) I learned Perl from this book (as my second programming language when I was just starting to get into CS). I first found this book in my local public library, and think it's tremendously good read, full of well-explained witty examples and interesting tidbits of Perl culture. Gotta love the camel. - Cameron
[+2] [2008-12-24 16:55:29] Jason S

Javascript: almost all books on the language. They tend to give lots of simple web-type examples that use up half their paper on source code, and don't really teach you much about the language itself. I've seen many books that have included bad or questionable programming practices.

SQL/databases: SQL Queries for Mere Mortals [1] and Database Design for Mere Mortals [2]. I had a friend who recommended these highly. They're all right for beginners but they do too much hand-holding, and once you get a handle on the basics I found them to not be very useful.

Here's what I expect from a really good technical book on a language or subject:

  1. Clear, high-level overview of the subject. Why do we care about ATL or JAXB?
  2. Clear, detailed explanation of important concepts. I can't learn the syntax if I don't understand the concepts the syntax implements.
  3. Simple examples to illustrate the borderline: namely, the subtle difference between correct/good use of the tool/language, and erroneous/bad use of the tool/language.
  4. Examples/explanation of good practices/style. Most Java books illustrate the case conventions of class/method/variable names.
  5. Examples for important design patterns. I own a copy of Design Patterns [3] and it's a great book but it's not language specific, and a really good book on Javascript/Java/C++ etc will give examples of how these design patterns can be used within the language.
  6. Practical examples. It's fine to have abstract examples of classes called Animal, Bird, Mammal, Sheep, Vehicle, Truck, Car and Sportscar to illustrate issues with inheritance and hierarchy, etc. -- but other than illustrating these concepts they're useless to someone writing programs for datalogging/parsing/numerical analysis/etc. RAII [4] in C++ is a good example that should be discussed in context of resources like files/sockets/windows etc. that are much more real than Car and Bird.
  7. Breadth: At least some coverage of all areas of the subject.
  8. Depth: Where it's important.
  9. References. No book can or should try to cover everything. But it should give good recommendations for where to learn more detail of the various topics within the subject.

(1) One exception to your (completely correct) JavaScript list: Douglas Crockford's "JavaScript: the Good Parts." He does a good job of going deep into the language. - rtperson
true. That one I like. - Jason S
(1) And "Javascript: The Definitive Guide" -- it's one of the few books that actually makes clear the difference between Javascript and the DOM. (and covers both; The Good Parts avoids the issue by not covering the DOM, which makes it much less useful as a reference.) - Sean McMillan
Javascript for web developpers by nicolas Zakas is a great book... - ufotds
[+1] [2010-10-20 20:36:37] Vasil

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The third edition was a huge pile of nothing special. I really regret spending money and shelf space on it. The topics covered are all over the place.

[+1] [2009-01-08 17:55:04] Mike Hofer

I have a problem with any book about C# that can't even get it's version number right, and identifies it by a year, rather than a version number.

I loathe any book by Wrox press. As a Grammar Nazi (pardon the expression), their stark refusal to pay a decent editor to proofread the books drives me nuts and I refuse to contribute to their coffers.

[+1] [2008-10-08 19:00:21] pmlarocque

Applying Domain-Driven Design and Patterns: With Examples in C# and .NET

Applying DDD and Patterns with Examples in C# and .NET

It is not that one should not read it, but read Eric Evans book [1] instead and spend time applying it instead of reading a second book on the subject.


Yeah! I agree. There are a lot of books like that "Design Patterns in C#", "Extreme Programming in C#", etc that just essentially copies Gamma or Beck and rewrites the code examples in C# instead of java. Just read the originals instead. - Sergio Acosta
I strongly disagree. The Evans book is a masterpiece, but it lacks in sufficient concrete application of the ideas. The Nilsson book is a great compliment to Evans. - moffdub
I'm going through this book right now and am regretting I bought it. Mixture of homegrown frameworks with so-so literature style urges me to put it off all the time. :( - user21952
[0] [2010-10-20 22:17:16] Steven Keith

Pro ASP.NET in C# 2008. Possibly the most boring book I have bought. Better to get the Wrox ASP.NET 3.5 book, and take it from there.

Written as a guide; but definitely a verbose reference. Meh.

[0] [2010-11-29 19:02:04] Helper Method

The GoF book.

Yes, the content is pure gold, and you may get more wisdom out of it than 10 other great books but I found it's a pain in the ass to read.

If found Design Patterns Simply [1] a much better read, even if it was not that deep a the GoF book.


[-12] [2008-12-24 14:43:42] George Mauer

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Head First Design Patterns.

Leafed through the whole thing while at borders yesterday. While it goes in depth on the simple ones like Factory, Adapter and Decorator which you should be able to grok from the wikipedia page, it leaves only a page or two for the more interesting ones like Visitor that you might actually struggle with.

Edit: Lest I sound completely uninformed, I was at borders for about 2 hours and so I at least scanned 80% of the book. I am also a fan of the Head First series. The complaint is specifically that this book goes on and on about intuitive concepts like Adapter where just the example would have sufficed but when it comes to something that a beginner might actually struggle with it sticks those patterns in the appendix where it gets a page long summary with no example. I was quite disappointed.

It is quite good for a beginner though. - Ken Yao
Damn. I bought this book a while ago but am yet to read it. - EnderMB
I liked it. It was a fun read. The whole Head First series is great for self-learners who like a quirky style. - Barry Brown
I liked this book. The unconventional style was refreshing and made it easier to read. I thought this was a great introduction to design patterns. - Ryan Taylor
(10) I disagree. It is a good book. You shouldn't tell someone to not read a book that you haven't even read. - Slapout
It's got really good reviews generally. I own it, I haven't picked it up yet though. - Kezzer
(4) This is a good first introduction to design patterns. If you already know a lot of them, you won't learn much. That's pretty much the case for the whole Head First series, or any book targeted at beginners. - Bill the Lizard
-1 for "Leafed through the whole thing while at borders yesterday.", in agreement with @Slapout. - Rob Hruska
I have this book - the examples were funny and instructive. I was able to move from this right into "refactoring to patterns" (Kerievsky) without missing a beat. I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor. - Rob Allen
Newbies to design patterns with a sense of humor would definitely benefit the most but it's not a book I would reread. Better to have read & reread GOF. Even better to know the reason why these patterns "disappear" in higher level languages. - Alan
(5) The GOF book and this are aiming at two different things. The GOF book is a reference, whereas this is an introduction - and a very good one at that. - Dan
Let me be clear, "leafed through it" because I was there for about 2 hours. I think I at least scanned 80% of the book. The complaint is that the book goes on for pages on stuff that is absolutely intuitive but gives literally one page for anything harder. Downvote me all you want. - George Mauer
I would bet that if you were to actually read the book you will find that many of those "simple" concepts that you understood from GoF are not what you thought they were. This is an excellent book, I'm sure there is something to learn for everyone. Just less for really experienced developers. - Dunk
-1 If you are at the right phase of your learning this book is great - Willbill
What phase of learning do you need to be at to require 15 pages on Adapter? I just had another look at this book last week and while it gets its point across it also wastes your time doing it. That time could be spent giving Visitor more than an appendix treatment. - George Mauer
The book won a Jolt award, they must be doing something right, no? Also the Head First books are (IMHO) mostly intended for beginners - and you are supposed to do the exercises, otherwise you're not really getting the benefit of their offbeat approach. Jolt award reference: - MarkJ
-1 This is the one 'Head First'-book I found usefull. Of course, if you're well versed in design patterns, use GOF or Fowler instead. - Ruben Steins
I've finally read this book and I have to agree that HHDP isn't that great a book. For example, there's no reason to take so much time to explain something as simple as the Factory Method and Abstract Factory patterns. It does a good job of explaining it, but it's so long-winded! - EnderMB
I found this book incredibly helpful. I went from having some basic OO knowledge, to understanding how and why to implement various patterns. It really help me fill some gaps in my knowledge and I think any beginner who doesn't know anything about design patterns should read this book. - bkildow
Wow, all this time and I'm still getting feedback on this thread. It seems that a lot of people are purposefully misinterpreting my complaint. I am not saying the book was "too beginner level" I am saying that no beginner needs so many pages of shallow discussion on Factory pattern. And as for their examples for how to put patterns together, that was encouraging, but I see no reason why instead of having 20 pages on applying adapters they couldn't have done something less intuitive - decorator, chain of responsibility or even visitor. - George Mauer
(11) Stay away from books the cute chicks looking up at you and the words "head first" - Bill Ataras
(1) lol @Bill Ataras - xxxxxxx
I got this book when it was the only Head First title available. I really liked it. The exercises were great for visually- and kinesthetically-oriented learners such as myself. Obviously, the authors focussed on the patterns they thought were more important. A lot of the OO concepts in the book are not intuitive to beginners! - Barry Brown
I have found all Head First books to be a struggle to get past the first chapter. - user279521
I read this book and I think it is a great introduction, if not the best, into design patterns - KroaX
Jeff had a valid criticism of this book: - Cameron MacFarland
(1) I dislike this book. From what I read of it (which was a good amount) it seemed like a great book on how to misapply design patterns. And that's not because I'm one of the 'design pattern skeptics' you often see... - kyoryu
Oh NOW you guys are agreeing with me. I hope you're at least up-voting. - George Mauer
lol with @Bill Ataras - Steven Keith