Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review - The Art of Readable Code by Dustin Boswell and Trevor Foucher; O'Reilly Media

Programmers Dustin Boswell and Trevor Foucher present The Art of Readable Code: Simple and Practical Techniques for Writing Better Code with the underlying premise that, "code should be easy to understand." This practical and clearly-articulated text provides sound advice to assist the reader with both fundamental and advanced techniques to write code which is easy to read and understand. With chapters organized into four progressively complex sections, Boswell and Foucher focus first on basic improvements to code, offering tips about naming, commenting, and aesthetics which are applicable to almost any code, both simple and advanced. Progressing to variables, loops, and logic and then to code reorganization into functions, the authors lead the reader through important lessons and a wealth of examples. The book culminates in a study of code testing and a case study analysis of code development, applying the principles offered in the preceding chapters.

This collection of solid programming advice is bolstered by numerous code examples in several mainstream programming languages, yet is presented at a level which is accessible to a broad audience. Whether a student needing guidance, a novice programmer, or a more experienced programmer who could use a reminder about good practices the reader is certain to glean valuable tips which will help him or her write better code. The authors are successful in creating an easy and fun read which can either be traversed cover to cover or selectively, with the help of the contents pages and index. Supplemented with expressive cartoons and quotations (including Yoda!), each chapter concludes with concise summaries which embody the key principles presented. A further reading list is also provided.

As a self-taught intermediate programmer, reading this book has helped me identify some areas in which I could make my existing code better. The authors draw attention to warning signs that code is not as easy to understand as it could be. I only wish that I had encountered this sage advice several years earlier before developing coding habits which need correcting. The success of Boswell and Foucher in their endeavor to educate programmers in the oft-overlooked area of creating code which is intuitive to the reader is evident to me because reading this book has caused me to reflect, learn, and resolve to write better code.

Practical, enjoyable, and very readable. Recommended for students in computer programming and any programmer, of any level of experience, who has looked back at his/her code of several months ago and thought, "What does this part do?"

O'Reilly Media provided me with a free electronic copy of this book. Learn more about The Art of Readable Code at

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