MacDirectory Magazine

Warren Manser

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Page 40 of 115

BOOK REVIEWS THINK LIKE A PROGRAMMER REVIEW BY RIC GETTER Congratulations. You just finished that C++ class. You have a good sense of syntax and structure. And you have a pretty decent idea on where to find the more arcane stuff you couldn't commit to memory. Are you a programmer? You know a programming language. The next step (and a giant leap for many) is to learn how to think like a programmer. That, in fact, is the apropos title of V. Anton Spraul's latest book from No Starch Press, an imprint well known for thinking a bit outside the box when it comes to books on technology. Think Like a Programmeris actually a series of lessons in problem solving. It focuses on the C++ language, but his ideas can be broadly applied. His book starts out with a series non-programming puzzles, where Spraul lays the groundwork for the approach to problem solving he will take in succeeding chapters. Can figuring out how to transport a fox, a goose and some corn across a river really relate to pointers and dynamic memory issues? The author convinces us that the answer is most certainly, yes. His methods for solving these puzzles illustrate the basics of approaching a problem: the importance of having a plan of attack, finding similarities to problems you've already solved and figuring out how to break a problem down into more manageable parts. The author has been teaching introductory programming and computer science for more than 15 years and his skill as an educator becomes obvious as you work your way through the book. As he moves through C++, he starts out gently with using arrays for dealing with data, moving from simple sorting and later making a case for the usefulness of multi-dimensional arrays. Other topics he covers include working with memory management and pointers (avoiding the many pitfalls of memory mismanagement), making the best use of classes, using recursion (and when not to) and using code libraries to cut down on your workload. He concludes the book with a useful chapter that shares the book's title, taking a step back to look at techniques for planning out your projects, working and developing your strengths and avoiding common pitfalls. He goes deeper into what it takes to be not only a good programmer, but how to effectively develop the skills you need to become a better programmer. Though each chapter begins with a helpful review of the structures he'll be covering, the book assumes you have a working knowledge of the language. Spraul makes writing about complex subjects seem easy. He's able to maintain an easy, conversational tone even as he delves into some of the more arcane aspects of C++. Like any top-notch instructor, he knows his students as well as his subjects, appreciates and respects their desire to learn and, from years of experience, understands the kinds of trouble newcomers can get into. Though targeted at new programmers, Thi nk Like a Programmer may be a worthwhile read for more than a few veteran coders. Thi nk Like a Programmerby V. Anton Spraul; $34.95 ($27.95 Ebook), No Starch Press ( 2012; 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1-59327-424-5

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