The argument over whether programming should be learned through books or digital resources is one that is frequently raised and provides a range of viewpoints on efficient teaching techniques.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Both books and digital resources provide unique benefits, but practical application is crucial for mastering programming skills.
  • Learning from books allows for a tailored pace and deeper understanding of concepts.
  • The most effective learning strategy often involves a combination of book study and practical coding experience.

A Reddit community is currently exploring the effectiveness of different programming learning methods. Members are curious: Can you effectively learn a programming language through a book? This question sparks a comparison with other methods like tutorials and documentation, exploring the varied experiences of learners who’ve mastered languages through different mediums.

Insights on Learning Programming: Books or Digital Resources?

When it comes to learning programming, there’s an ongoing debate between traditional book-based learning and modern digital methods.

The conversation in the Reddit community reveals a diverse range of experiences and preferences for learning programming. Some members fondly recall starting their programming journey through books, such as “The C Programming Language,” and various Basic language manuals. These anecdotes highlight a time when learning from printed materials was the norm, emphasizing the longstanding value of books in the programming world.

Yeap. Learned C from the book “The C Programming Language”, and before that I learned Basic and Assembly from books and magazines.

I learned C programming from the book and I have no idea how I got that book or who gave it too me, probably stole from one of my older cousins. I was in 8th standard. That got me into programming. There were many great books, like  Atari Basic, Apple Basic, C-64 Basic, Microsoft Basic, Quick Basic, Tiny Basic, and many, many more.

Many contributors express a preference for books, mentioning their ability to control the pace of learning. Books allow learners to skip over familiar concepts and spend more time on challenging sections. This personalized approach, according to some users, is more challenging to achieve with video tutorials. Additionally, books are often seen as more meticulously crafted, with each sentence thoughtfully constructed to maximize understanding and impact.

I prefer learning from books. It allows me to “jump” over areas that I’m already comfortable with and to slow down in areas that are new to me or I don’t understand. Yes, I suppose you can do that while watching a video, but it’s easier to do in books, IMO. That’s just my personal preference. Everyone is different.  I would also add that books are generally more carefully curated. Every word and sentence has been reviewed and decided upon for maximum impact.

However, an important point raised in the discussion is the distinction between theoretical knowledge and practical application. Learning to code, much like learning a spoken language, requires more than just reading about it; it demands active practice. One user’s experience encapsulates this sentiment, stating that they didn’t truly understand C until they began to write their own code, despite initially learning from a book.

It depends on what you mean by “learn”. If you mean “know enough of the language that I can read it”, then books or tutorials might be sufficient. But if you mean “be able to actually write code using it”, then you have to actually write code using it. For contrast, I saw this youtube video a while back where the person had actually earned a minor degree in the French language, including knowing what all the parts of speech were and the verb forms and all that – and when they went to France, they couldn’t actually carry on a conversation in French. They had “learned” French, but they hadn’t learned how to speak French. Using a language is a performative thing. If your goal is to use it, then you have to actually use it, to develop skill in that. You will need some preliminary work (e.g. tutorials, classes, reading books) to get the basics going, but you won’t have “learned” it until you go past that. I first started learning C by reading the K&R book. But I didn’t really know C until I tried to express my own thoughts using it.

To me watching videos is likely similar to lectures, but reading a book and practicing coding on your own time is likely going to make the concepts stick the best in your head.

The conversation suggests that while books can provide a solid theoretical foundation, the mastery of programming skills ultimately relies on practical application and hands-on experience. The blend of book learning and practical coding seems to be the most effective approach for many in the programming community.

Top 10 Coding Books for Beginners

Embarking on the journey of learning programming can be an exciting venture, especially with the right resources. Here’s a list of the top 10 coding books for beginners, each offering unique insights and learning experiences:

🧠 Think Like a Programmer: An Introduction to Creative Problem Solving by V Anton Spraul
This book enhances skills across various languages with a focus on problem-solving, helping to develop a coder’s mindset.

💾 Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
Petzold provides a readable explanation of how programming and code are integral to daily life, using concepts like Braille and Morse code.

🔓 Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition by Jon Erickson
This book offers an overview of hacking as creative problem-solving, including techniques like hijacking network communications.

🧼 Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin
Focusing on writing efficient and maintainable code, this book trains readers through examples and code analysis.

🕵️‍♂️ The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick and Robert Vamosi
Mitnick teaches digital privacy and security in the Big Data era, providing advice for both beginners and advanced users.

📚 Learning JavaScript Design Patterns by Addy Osmani
This book is a primer on design patterns in JavaScript, showing tried-and-true patterns used by developers.

👨‍💻 The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
A bestseller among programmers, this book offers valuable advice for software developers, weaving in short stories and anecdotes.

👥 Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp
Lopp shares his management experience in Silicon Valley, providing insights for both managers and developers.

🧠 Make Your Own Neural Network by Tariq Rashid
An introduction to AI programming and neural networks, this book is accessible even to those new to Python programming.

💼 The Self-Taught Programmer: The Definitive Guide to Programming Professionally by Cory Althoff
Ideal for self-taught programmers looking to professionalize their skills, this book covers a wide range of programming topics.

Each book in this list offers unique insights and practical knowledge, making them invaluable resources for beginners in the programming world. Whether your interest lies in understanding the basics, hacking, AI, or refining your coding skills, these books provide a solid foundation for your coding journey.


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