Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think

When published, this collection of essays edited by Greg Wilson and Andy Oram will likely be of interest to LtU readers.

Among the contributors are Brian Kernighan, Simon Peyton Jones (whose contribution we already discussed) and Kent Dybvig.

Take a look at the ToC and let us know which essay titles intrigue you the most...

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And the more interesting question...

Who would you invite if you were editing such a volume?

To make the challenge a little harder, I begin by nominating Oleg. So think again, and suggest someone else...

Arthur Whitney

Of K "fame." His mind is so far out there compared to the way most programmers think and work.

And Chuck Moore (Forth) for similar reasons.

"Beautiful Debugging"

..sounds interesting. I don't usually associate debugging with much beauty.

Unless this is along the lines suggested by Jon Bentley's title: "the most beautiful code I never wrote" -- i.e. its easiest to debug code that doesn't need to exist because you were able to solve a problem in a very simple/elegant way.

[edit: oops, this was supposed be a "comment", not a "reply"]

other variants of Correct, Beautiful, Fast

Go through the ICFP winners, pick one that's particularly nice, and solicit a chapter from one of the authors. (Unfortunately Elliotte Rusty Harold took away most of my proposed chapter title, "Correct, Beautiful, Fast: Pick Three".) I competed in the 2004 contest, and looked at the winning dunkosmiloolump entry afterwards. I thought it was pretty intimidatingly pretty for something banged out by a team under a hard 72 hour deadline. And since the contest has run for many years now, for all I know that is not the most intimidatingly pretty entry.

Also, perhaps it's not code exactly, but how about a chapter on a beautifully simple and powerful algorithmic theme? E.g., skip quadtrees, or Hopcroft partition refinement.

Robert Dewar

I've found his code remarkably easy to read.


Not all of it is all that easy, but he is a brilliant programmer and his code is highly recommended reading.

See also: previous

See also: previous discussions of code reading.

...has been published

I just got my copy yesterday and cannot say I have done more than flip through it and sample some of the essays. The print is small and the book large.

There do not appear to be too many topics that directly address programming languages, but since they all deal with code it appears that many would inspire worthwhile programming-language-related discussions.

A few essays stand out:

  • "Syntactic Abstraction: The Syntax-Case Expander", R. Kent Dybvig.
  • "Treating Code as an Essay", Yukihiro Matsumoto.
  • "Code in Motion", Laura Wingerd and Christopher Siewald.