Should I buy books?

Rustaceans,

I am finally going to get REAL serious about learning this language.

I've written code. I've studied the online docs in the past. In general the online docs (and community) are great. So, should I buy any books - paper or otherwise? Is it worth it?

I'm an extremely experienced dev in general; I just want to learn this language, everything about it, as well as possible.

What are the standout Rust books in 2023?

Idk how we can answer this for you. I personally don't really like programming books. I haven't bought or read one in years and I haven't had any issues learning languages without them. That being said, I have heard good things about Rust for Rustaceans. I have not read it though.

1 Like

A proper answer would be an opinion from someone who has read both the popular Rust books and the online docs and drawn some conclusion whether the former are "worth it" - whether they give one someone the docs (or blogs, etc.) don't.

Yes, books are worth it! It is worth supporting authors and paper is a better medium for learning. Mara Bos's book on atomics is really good.

1 Like

I would say yes, though there are many ways to learn: video courses or YouTube videos, tutorials, online "book" or reference material or "real book" whether ebook or hard copy.

My favorite Rust books after you read The Rust Book online, is Zero To Production In Rust by Luca Palmieri, great for backend web work, and Rust For Rustaceans by Jon Gjengset, great deep dive into Rust. You can't go wrong with these.

But it also depends on your specific area of interest, e.g. systems, backend, frontend, etc

2 Likes

I found the O'Reilly book Programming Rust to be very valuable. I read it after the online book and it had far better explanations for some things. I'm also reading Rust for Rustaceans now, and it looks solid.

1 Like

Don't waste time and money on books, especially not in dead tree format. If you are as experienced as you say, then you'll have no problem building actual projects in the language and reading the documentation/googling solutions to common problems. You can always post your code here too, and get useful feedback from multiple people.

Books get outdated quickly and are annoying to learn programming from (nobody wants code on paper except for the very worst kind of university exams); they are also disproportionately expensive, at least in the US where most programming material is coming from (100-200$ each? really?). I stopped buying programming books around 15 years ago and never regretted it.

5 Likes

Certainly there's no substitute for designing and writing and debugging code. I agree.

But books and courses teach valuable lessons that are really hard to learn on your own. I have never spent $100+ on a programming book (except maybe years ago at university which is of course a scam). But Rust books for $30 or $40 USD is well worth the investment. They will be valuable for several years at least.

I'm very much in favour of books. Having someone knowledgeable and experienced package up and present much of what you need to know on a topic in a nice, self consistent, clearly delineated, self-contained lump is wonderful. Much better than reading through a reference book or desperately search the net for disconnected snippets and clues.

As for dead-tree or ebook, take your pick. I. love the ergonomics of a real-dead tree book.

Having said that, in the programming language world, or computing in general, there has always been piles of "pulp" books written. Made impressive by their sheer size and weight. Quickly churned out to capitalise on whatever the latest buzzword technology of the day is. They have often been pretty much useless.

So a couple good books, like the famous Kernigan and Ritchie "white book" on C, for Rust would be wonderful.

I generally don't like programming books, even well regarded famous ones like SICP or Design Patterns (I'm sure lumping those together has ruffled some feathers!) seem, frankly, pretty dumb at best and dangerously misleading at worst.

But there seems to be a sweet spot like Scott Myers' Effective C++ books, where the advice is specific enough to a language or environment to be technically founded but general enough for it to be useful for most any program you make: the already mentioned Jon Gjengset's book "Rust for Rustaceans" is, unsurprisingly for anyone who's watched his streams, excellently written and highly informative, and fits neatly into that class of book.

Perhaps even more specifically focused books that are specific to your field could be useful, but honestly unless you're essentially learning a mathematical field (eg linear optimization, fluid dynamics, game theory, etc) you're probably better served by more up to date web resources, which often also get to the point a lot quicker!

Books have a lot more writing than online documentation. They can cover things like motivation, "why things are the way they are", and aid you in developing mental models.
A lot of online documentation suffers from putting everything at the same level of importance while books can quickly direct you to the core concepts that you should learn first.
But, code in books is outdated before the book is even published.

If you like reading or find that you learn well from books, I recommend looking for books that focus more on history and prose explanation rather than code

2 Likes

Oh yeah. As far as as I can tell SCIP is about computer science, or programming in general. Whereas Design Patterns is all about overcoming all the problems one faces with OOP.

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate this color.

And, yes, after programming for 42 years I probably should not need to seek advice from the Internets.

But I like the color.