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Thinking in C++, 2nd ed. Volume 1

©2000 by Bruce Eckel

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C: Recommended Reading

Resources for further study.


Thinking in C: Foundations for Java & C++, by Chuck Allison (a MindView, Inc. Seminar-on-CD ROM, ©2000, bound into the back of this book and also available at www.BruceEckel.com). This is a course including lectures and slides in the foundations of the C Language to prepare you to learn Java or C++. This is not an exhaustive course in C; only the necessities for moving on to the other languages are included. Additional language-specific sections introduce features for the C++ or Java programmer-to-be. Recommended prerequisite: some experience with a high-level programming language, such as Pascal, BASIC, Fortran, or LISP (it’s possible to struggle through the CD without this background, but the course isn’t designed to be an introduction to the basics of programming).

General C++

The C++ Programming Language, 3rd edition, by Bjarne Stroustrup (Addison-Wesley 1997). To some degree, the goal of the book that you’re currently holding is to allow you to use Bjarne’s book as a reference. Since his book contains the description of the language by the author of that language, it’s typically the place where you’ll go to resolve any uncertainties about what C++ is or isn’t supposed to do. When you get the knack of the language and are ready to get serious, you’ll need it.

C++ Primer, 3rd Edition, by Stanley Lippman and Josee Lajoie (Addison-Wesley 1998). Not that much of a primer anymore; it’s evolved into a thick book filled with lots of detail, and the one that I reach for along with Stroustrup’s when trying to resolve an issue. Thinking in C++ should provide a basis for understanding the C++ Primer as well as Stroustrup’s book.

C & C++ Code Capsules, by Chuck Allison (Prentice-Hall, 1998). This book assumes that you already know C and C++, and covers some of the issues that you may be rusty on, or that you may not have gotten right the first time. This book fills in C gaps as well as C++ gaps.

The C++ Standard. This is the document that the committee worked so hard on for all those years. This is not free, unfortunately. But at least you can buy the electronic form in PDF for only $18 at www.cssinfo.com.

My own list of books

Listed in order of publication. Not all of these are currently available.

Computer Interfacing with Pascal & C (Self-published via the Eisys imprint, 1988. Only available via www.BruceEckel.com). An introduction to electronics from back when CP/M was still king and DOS was an upstart. I used high-level languages and often the parallel port of the computer to drive various electronic projects. Adapted from my columns in the first and best magazine I wrote for, Micro Cornucopia (To paraphrase Larry O’Brien, long-time editor of Software Development Magazine: the best computer magazine ever published – they even had plans for building a robot in a flower pot!) Alas, Micro C became lost long before the Internet appeared. Creating this book was an extremely satisfying publishing experience.

Using C++ (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1989). One of the first books out on C++. This is out of print and replaced by its second edition, the renamed C++ Inside & Out.

C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993). As noted, actually the 2nd edition of Using C++. The C++ in this book is reasonably accurate, but it's circa 1992 and Thinking in C++ is intended to replace it. You can find out more about this book and download the source code at www.BruceEckel.com.

Thinking in C++, 1st edition (Prentice-Hall 1995).

Black Belt C++, the Master’s Collection, Bruce Eckel, editor (M&T Books 1994). Out of print. A collection of chapters by various C++ luminaries based on their presentations in the C++ track at the Software Development Conference, which I chaired. The cover on this book stimulated me to gain control over all future cover designs.

Thinking in Java, 2nd edition (Prentice-Hall, 2000). The first edition of this book won the Software Development Magazine Productivity Award and the Java Developer’s Journal Editor’s Choice Award in 1999. Downloadable from www.BruceEckel.com.

Depth & dark corners

These books go more deeply into language topics, and help you avoid the typical pitfalls inherent in developing C++ programs.

Effective C++ (2nd Edition, Addison-Wesley 1998) and More Effective C++ (Addison-Wesley 1996), by Scott Meyers. The classic, must-have texts for serious problem-solving and code design in C++. I’ve tried to capture and express many of the concepts from these books in Thinking in C++, but I don’t fool myself in thinking that I’ve succeeded. If you spend any serious time with C++ you’ll end up with these books. Also available on CD ROM.

Ruminations on C++, by Andrew Koenig and Barbara Moo (Addison-Wesley, 1996). Andrew worked directly with Stroustrup on many aspects of the C++ language and is an extremely reliable authority. I’ve also found the incisiveness of his insights to be refreshing, and have learned much from him, both in print and in person, over the years.

Large-Scale C++ Software Design, by John Lakos (Addison-Wesley, 1996). Covers issues and answers questions you will encounter during the creation of big projects, but often smaller ones as well.

C++ Gems, Stan Lippman, editor (SIGS publications, 1996). A selection of articles from The C++ Report.

The Design & Evolution of C++, by Bjarne Stroustrup (Addison-Wesley 1994). Insights from the inventor of C++ about why he made various design decisions. Not essential, but interesting.

Analysis & design

Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck (Addison-Wesley 2000). I love this book. Yes, I tend to take a radical approach to things but I've always felt that there could be a much different, much better program development process, and I think XP comes pretty darn close. The only book that has had a similar impact on me was PeopleWare (described below), which talks primarily about the environment and dealing with corporate culture. Extreme Programming Explained talks about programming, and turns most things, even recent “findings,” on their ear. They even go so far as to say that pictures are OK as long as you don’t spend too much time on them and are willing to throw them away. (You’ll notice that this book does not have the “UML stamp of approval” on its cover.) I could see deciding whether to work for a company based solely on whether they used XP. Small book, small chapters, effortless to read, exciting to think about. You start imagining yourself working in such an atmosphere and it brings visions of a whole new world.

UML Distilled by Martin Fowler (2nd edition, Addison-Wesley, 2000). When you first encounter UML, it is daunting because there are so many diagrams and details. According to Fowler, most of this stuff is unnecessary so he cuts through to the essentials. For most projects, you only need to know a few diagramming tools, and Fowler’s goal is to come up with a good design rather than worry about all the artifacts of getting there. A nice, thin, readable book; the first one you should get if you need to understand UML.

The Unified Software Development Process by Ivar Jacobsen, Grady Booch, and James Rumbaugh (Addison-Wesley 1999). I went in fully prepared to dislike this book. It seemed to have all the makings of a boring college text. I was pleasantly surprised – only pockets of the book contain explanations that seem as if those concepts aren’t clear to the authors. The bulk of the book is not only clear, but enjoyable. And best of all, the process makes a lot of practical sense. It’s not Extreme Programming (and does not have their clarity about testing) but it’s also part of the UML juggernaut – even if you can’t get XP adopted, most people have climbed aboard the “UML is good” bandwagon (regardless of their actual level of experience with it) and so you can probably get it adopted. I think this book should be the flagship of UML, and the one you can read after Fowler’s UML Distilled when you want more detail.

Before you choose any method, it’s helpful to gain perspective from those who are not trying to sell one. It’s easy to adopt a method without really understanding what you want out of it or what it will do for you. Others are using it, which seems a compelling reason. However, humans have a strange little psychological quirk: If they want to believe something will solve their problems, they’ll try it. (This is experimentation, which is good.) But if it doesn’t solve their problems, they may redouble their efforts and begin to announce loudly what a great thing they’ve discovered. (This is denial, which is not good.) The assumption here may be that if you can get other people in the same boat, you won’t be lonely, even if it’s going nowhere (or sinking).

This is not to suggest that all methodologies go nowhere, but that you should be armed to the teeth with mental tools that help you stay in experimentation mode (“It’s not working; let’s try something else”) and out of denial mode (“No, that’s not really a problem. Everything’s wonderful, we don’t need to change”). I think the following books, read before you choose a method, will provide you with these tools.

Software Creativity, by Robert Glass (Prentice-Hall, 1995). This is the best book I’ve seen that discusses perspective on the whole methodology issue. It’s a collection of short essays and papers that Glass has written and sometimes acquired (P.J. Plauger is one contributor), reflecting his many years of thinking and study on the subject. They’re entertaining and only long enough to say what’s necessary; he doesn’t ramble and bore you. He’s not just blowing smoke, either; there are hundreds of references to other papers and studies. All programmers and managers should read this book before wading into the methodology mire.

Software Runaways: Monumental Software Disasters, by Robert Glass (Prentice-Hall 1997). The great thing about this book is that it brings to the forefront what we don’t talk about: how many projects not only fail, but fail spectacularly. I find that most of us still think “That can’t happen to me” (or “That can’t happen again”) and I think this puts us at a disadvantage. By keeping in mind that things can always go wrong, you’re in a much better position to make them go right.

Object Lessons by Tom Love (SIGS Books, 1993). Another good “perspective” book.

Peopleware, by Tom Demarco and Timothy Lister (Dorset House, 2nd edition 1999). Although they have backgrounds in software development, this book is about projects and teams in general. But the focus is on the people and their needs rather than the technology and its needs. They talk about creating an environment where people will be happy and productive, rather than deciding what rules those people should follow to be adequate components of a machine. This latter attitude, I think, is the biggest contributor to programmers smiling and nodding when XYZ method is adopted and then quietly doing whatever they’ve always done.

Complexity, by M. Mitchell Waldrop (Simon & Schuster, 1992). This chronicles the coming together of a group of scientists from different disciplines in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss real problems that the individual disciplines couldn’t solve (the stock market in economics, the initial formation of life in biology, why people do what they do in sociology, etc.). By crossing physics, economics, chemistry, math, computer science, sociology, and others, a multidisciplinary approach to these problems is developing. But more importantly, a different way of thinking about these ultra-complex problems is emerging: Away from mathematical determinism and the illusion that you can write an equation that predicts all behavior and toward first observing and looking for a pattern and trying to emulate that pattern by any means possible. (The book chronicles, for example, the emergence of genetic algorithms.) This kind of thinking, I believe, is useful as we observe ways to manage more and more complex software projects.

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Last Update:02/01/2000