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Tech Book Face Off: The Shallows Vs. Thinking, Fast and Slow

After my book review on Pragmatic Thinking and Learning and How the Brain Learns, I received a recommendation to read another book, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. I decided to go with it (thanks +Helton Moraes), and I ended up pairing this book with another popular book on how the brain works and how we humans think, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Through these books I have a personal goal (it's good to have a goal when reading) of finding ways to regain control of my mind and hopefully improve my thought processes. Do these books help clear a path to that goal? Let's see.

Design Patterns in Ruby front coverVS.Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby front cover

Practice Programming Through Play

I'm a big fan of puzzle games for exercising your mental muscles while having some fun at the same time. Solving puzzles through your own powers of thought gives a certain kind of satisfaction that is especially rewarding. Games like Sudoku, Tetris, and Rubik's Cube are great for strengthening mathematical thinking and visual-spacial intelligence.

Nowadays we seem to have an endless supply of puzzle games on mobile devices to keep our minds occupied during all of the spare moments of the day. It's fine to use puzzle games to fill up the empty spaces of time, but I've found some games that entice me to go much deeper. Lately I've been getting into games geared towards introducing kids to programming concepts. Lightbot and Cargo-Bot are games that teach young kids the basics of programming by setting up sequences of simple instructions for on-screen robots to carry out in pursuit of a goal. While these are kids' games, and quite good ones at that, I've also found them to be excellent practice tools for me.

Tech Book Face Off: Design Patterns in Ruby Vs. Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby

I've been in a good book-reading mood lately, so I'm writing up yet another Tech Book Face Off. This time I wanted to dig into some more Ruby books, since I've felt like I still have much to learn about this wonderful programming language. I also wanted to work on writing better organized programs, so I targeted some books on program design. The books on deck are Design Patterns in Ruby by Russ Olsen and Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby by Sandi Metz. Let's see how they compare with each other and with some of the other books I've read on design.

Design Patterns in Ruby front coverVS.Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby front cover

Tech Book Face Off: Pragmatic Thinking and Learning Vs. How the Brain Learns

To work and succeed as a programmer, it is necessary to constantly learn new things. The faster and better you can learn new tools, new technologies, and new techniques, the more effective you can be as a programmer. On a personal level, I also have a fascination with learning. What are the best ways to learn new things? What can I do in a practical sense to learn more efficiently? How does the brain process, store, and recall new experiences, anyway? I've felt like I've always been a fairly adept learner, but I've never done any amount of research into how I could do even better. These are the questions I set out to answer while reading through two books on how to learn: Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt and How the Brain Learns by David A. Sousa. Let's see what secrets these books reveal about how to learn better… faster… smarter.

Pragmatic Thinking and Learning front coverVS.How the Brain Learns front cover

Tech Book Face Off: JavaScript: The Good Parts Vs. JavaScript Patterns

After learning a new language and getting comfortable with its syntax and feature set, it's a good practice to explore how to write well in that language. Each language has its own quirks, and writing well in a programming language means learning how to write in it idiomatically—how to structure statements, functions, and the entire program in a way that is most efficient for that language, and how other programmers expect things to be expressed in that language. I figured it was high time that I learn more idiomatic JavaScript, so I picked up a couple of books on the subject: JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford and JavaScript Patterns by Stoyan Stefanov. Both books are fairly slim, easy reads, but there's no need to read both. Let's see which one comes out on top.

JavaScript: The Good Parts front coverVS.JavaScript Patterns front cover

Learning Without Understanding

It's funny what you can do without knowing what you're doing. For instance, I started programming in Lisp over a decade ago without even knowing it. I realized this, when a few months ago, I started learning the Scheme dialect of Lisp and things felt oddly familiar. I had seen function names like car, cdr, and cons before, along with all of those parentheses. It turns out that I had already learned another dialect of Lisp called SKILL, and I had had no idea what I was learning at the time. I wonder if I would have learned more and gained a wider understanding of the development environment I was working in had I understood what I was doing those many years ago.

Tech Book Face Off: The C Programming Language Vs. The Little Schemer

I decided it was time to take a look at two of the oldest books on my tech book list, the famed The C Programming Language from 1988 by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (a.k.a K&R) and the not quite as old The Little Schemer from 1995 by Daniel Friedman and Mathias Felleisen. In the world of programming, these books are ancient, but I still hoped to gain something from reading them because new (or at least forgotten) insights can often be gleaned from old books.

I have been programming in C and C++ for nearly two decades now, so picking up a few insights was my main goal with K&R. I didn't expect to learn a ton of new stuff about the language since it's such a small language and I've been using it for so long. As for The Little Schemer, I have heard so many good things about this book and the Scheme programming language (a dialect of Lisp) that I was excited to see what it was all about. I was surprised by both books, and probably not in ways that you would expect. Let's take a look at both books in more detail.

The C Programming Language front coverVS.The Little Schemer front cover