Reading Beginners' Books

I am reading the Pragmatic Programmers' new "Starter Pack" books. Most of the content is nothing new to me, but I always enjoy reading good books about the basics.

I like seeing things put simply. The real world is rarely simple, and we forget how following a few easy-to-understand principles can help de-complexify things. Reading beginners' books reminds me that while software development can be chaotic, it can be kept under control.

Reading well-written books for beginners gives me pointers on how to better explain the concepts to beginners (or to non-beginners who shoud know better). Sometimes I even learn something new myself.

Reading beginners' books reminds me of my youth. I remember where and when I first learned these things. I try to remember what I did before I learned the lessons. I remember how I learned the lessons - generally, the hard way. I remember my teachers, mentors, and fellow students. I remember the time when writing a linked-list was the most challenging thing I had to do.

The danger of reading a book for beginners is that it sometimes gives me a false sense of mastery. "I already know everything in this book, so I am no longer a beginner," I think, or "See, it really is just that easy." But those false feelings don't last for long, so I don't think that indulging in them once in a while causes any harm.

Of course, the best thing about a well-written beginners' book is that it is a well-written book. Such books are so rare that they should be celebrated whenever they are found, no matter what the subject matter or level of expertise required to understand them.

© 2003-2023 Kristopher Johnson