The Book of Ruby

One of the first things to say about the Book of Ruby is that it not for those who do not already know how to program, although it can be useful for those introducing themselves to Ruby. Huw Collingbourne has set himself the task of covering every aspect of Ruby's core language that a programmer might be interested in, which means that a lot of what is considered familiar to programmers gets missed out. When the blurb says it will not 'bog you down with a lot of theory', it really means it, and Huw only brushes over the proper use of object orientated programming, assuming that the reader has experience in other OOP languages. Other subjects such as functional programming and metaprogramming get a chapter each on the mechanics with respect to Ruby, but most of the detail on why and how you would use such things are crammed into the "Digging Deeper" sections at the end of each chapter. The "Digging Deeper" sections themselves are excellent, usually covering the edge cases and the finer details, but they are dense, and the nature of the material it covers means that if you don't read these sections, you might miss critical information.

So who is The Book of Ruby useful for? If you need a readable reference for writing Ruby code, The Book could be invaluable: all the basics get their own chapters, which doesn't make for stimulating bedtime reading, but is useful if, for instance, you are trying to remember all the different ways to delimit strings. At the same time, Huw has a good mix of text to code snippets, so don't expect pages and pages of tables. Even more useful are the later chapters, which give (admittedly brief) introductions to the most popular Ruby tools de jour and also cover topics such as threads, which you won't often need, but can be very difficult to learn. Of necessity Huw has only scratched the surface on these subjects (especially in the chapter "Dynamic Programming", which I personally found disappointing) but having quick guides to Rails and YAML in the same book as a core guide is definitely a nice bonus.

To summarise, this is a nicely written (and nicely printed) guide to Ruby that covers everything you would expect from a Ruby guide in untiring detail. If you are a programmer looking to write a large program suite in Ruby, this could be very useful. If, however, you are looking for something on the theory behind Ruby or the details of its implementation, this probably is not the book for you.


Laurence de Bruxelles


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