Mstation Book Reviews
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Tue, 01 Mar 2005

Art of Computer Programming

Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming,
Addison Wesley

This has been out for quite a while, so why review it now?
One answer is that this is the newish revised third edition
and another is that discounts were being offered on the website
recently for this title.

Donald Knuth is one of my comp sci heroes. Faced with a nasty
looking production of an early book, he sat down and developed
TeX which is still widely used and is at least an install option
in most decent Linux disributions. As well as that he wrote this
title and others besides while teaching at Stanford and other places.
He has retired now from active teaching but is still writing.

This title is three hardcover volumes in a slip case. The production
values are very good, as you'd expect, and as well as looking
very nice on the bookshelf, it also makes an excellent bookend.

The three volumes have two chapters each and each chapter is
considered to be a semester's work by Donald Knuth. That gives you
an idea of the density of it and the sort of time you might expect
to need to come to grips with the material.

You don't actually need a full-on maths background (Knuth suggests
high-school algebra as being a useful level) but you do need to be
unafraid of equations and flow diagrams and the like.

The three volumes tackle Fundamental Algorithms, Seminumerical
Algorithms, and Sorting and Searching. We are led through all this
by crisp prose that makes numerous practical asides. Knuth 
doesn't ever lose sight of the object here -- which is computer

Is it about art though? It certainly is about craft. I'll leave
you to dredge up your personal definition of art to judge.

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