Languages and Books

Levi Pearson levi at
Thu Jul 21 14:25:41 MDT 2005

On Jul 21, 2005, at 2:10 PM, Eric Jensen wrote:

> I've been strictly a web scripter with Perl and PHP and I am  
> wanting to
> branch out.  I've seen you guys talk about all kinds of books and
> languages and so I am asking for a few recommendations and  
> opinions.  I
> took a C/C++ class 6 or 7 years ago and have been really thinking of
> resuming that so I can make some Windows/X-Windows apps.  I'd rather
> learn on my own since my last C/C++ instructor was horrid.  He was way
> too hard core nerd and loved math and Fortran.  Out of 30+ students, 2
> would pass his Intro class and that is because it was their 2nd or 3rd
> time through.  He eventually had a nervous break down and they  
> found him
> running around town naked and screaming incomprehensibly.  So I am a
> little hesitant to go that route again.  Anyhoo, recommendations are
> very appreciated.

My recommendations are a bit unconventional, but I'll make them anyway:

For a strong computer science education, read (and do the exercises  
for) The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which is  
available for free online at: 

It will teach you Scheme while it teaches you computer science, and  
you will be a better programmer afterwards even if you never touch  
Scheme again.

I happen to also really like Common Lisp, and a great introduction to  
it is a book called Practical Common Lisp, also available in full  
online at:

It'll teach you how to make spam filters, mp3 streaming apps, and web  
apps in a language that covers the gamut of language features.   
Master Lisp, and very few programming paradigms will be unavailable  
to you.

I haven't read it, but I've heard good things about Programming from  
the Ground Up, which starts you off with assembly language in Linux.   
This is a good complement to the Lisp books, as it approaches  
programming from the machine perspective rather than the  
computational theory perspective.  Both are useful and well-worth  
learning if you want to be a well-rounded programmer.  This book is  
also available for free here: 

Unfortunately, I don't know any good C++ tutorial books to recommend,  
but Stroustrup's "The C++ Programming Language" would be great to  
have as a reference, at least.  Unless you have a specific need to  
learn C++, I'd recommend taking a look at Digital Mars D as a more  
modern C language that will be easier to learn than C++ and less  
likely to blow your leg off. :)


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