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On programming, the cookbooks and notebooks and actionbooks and handbooks and essentialbooks and practicalbooks and appliedbooks can grind you down. Sometimes it's good to absorb material other than learning how to do something expedient really really quickly.

I'm on my second reading of Tom Passin's book. I wish it was people's first exposure to the Semantic Web and not stuff like the American Scientist or Metacrap articles. Tom's book balances Semantic Web hype and potential. If you have strong preconceptions or objections to the AI aspects of the Semantic Web (or you simply think it's a crock), this book might offer a pragmatic enough explanation of the stack to be convincing. The key questions that remain for me as a practitioner and were not answered by this book are, how do I map RDF 'assembler' onto the kinds of domain models developers use every day, and not unrelated, what's the upgrade path for something like the Petstore Demo?

Robert Sedgewicks Algorithm's in C++ part 5 (!) is all about graphs and their algorithms. I've been getting around to reading this for years, and finally picked it up last week. I have a mild fascination for graphs, but this was one of those texts I had filed away as something you're 'obligated' to read because it's good for you. It turns out to be beautifully written and presented, so much so, I didn't really mind the fact that the examples are C++ pseudo-code. It's also made me realize how rusty my computer science has gotten; I'm definitely struggling in places. As every tutor I ever had in art college told me; keep your hand in.

The third is Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters, a compedium of his online essays. While not popular in the Java community right now, Paul Graham is one person who's writing I end up going back to (along with Richard Gabriel, and Philip Greenspun back when he was a technologist). Graham is something of a techno-contrarian, and I find some of his arguments inconsistent, but I suspect some of these essays will stand the test of time after reading them in book form. This is probably a good book to give family members and friends if you've been unsuccessful in explaining why programming is absorbing and fun (tell me the guy on p86 wasn't having fun), or perhaps if you're entertaining thoughts about doing something insanely great.

I love the tone and consistency of writing in the Economist. I don't love the tone and consistency of writing in this blog. I'm finding this a hugely useful and informative book. And very readable for a reference, but that's what you'd expect.

August 31, 2004 12:55 AM


John D. Mitchell
(August 31, 2004 06:29 AM #)

Hackers and Painters is the current Java.net Bookclub topic (which just started today). Join the discussion: http://forums.java.net/jive/forum.jspa?forumID=21

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