Book Review: Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional

I think Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional is a better first Ruby book than the venerable Pickaxe.

The previous statement is almost heresy in the Ruby community. Don’t get me wrong, you should own the Pickaxe. It’s a great book and certainly lives up to it’s description as “the definitive reference to Ruby”. However it’s much more of a reference book than an introduction to the language. And it’s huge - 864 pages. This is not a book you can just throw in your bag and carry around with you. It’s a book you would keep at your desk perhaps, dog-eared and coffee stained. In this role, it is ideal. As an introduction to the language, however, it leaves something to be desired.

Beginning Ruby, on the other hand, is an excellent (and I would argue more approachable) introduction to the Ruby language, written by one of it’s more notable users. Peter Cooper is well known, in both the Ruby and Rails community. He runs the Ruby-centered blog Ruby Inside, and has developed a number of applications in Rails, including the Snippets code repository, which was subsequently sold to DZone. Peter also has done a fair amount of writing over the years for a variety of sites.

The book is broken up into three primary sections, plus a handful of appendices:

In addition to these sections, there are three appendices. The third appendix, called “Useful Resources” contains pointers to a lot of online resources which would likely be unknown to someone new to Ruby. I didn’t find much in there I hadn’t seen already, but I’ve been using Ruby for a little while. The first two appendices are a primer and reference for Ruby. These are both very good, and would be useful as references for a new developer (or someone who doesn’t have the entire ruby syntax committed to memory yet, like me).

Weighing in at over 600 pages, this is a comprehensive book. At the same time, it’s quite a bit smaller than the Pickaxe, which makes it much more portable (there’s also a PDF version available for $10 if you’ve purchased the dead-tree edition, for the ultimate in portability).

As with the last book I reviewed, this one appears to have been well technical reviewed. I didn’t notice any errors. I also enjoyed Peter’s writing style, which is concise but not dry.

In summary, if you want to learn Ruby, Beginning Ruby: From Novice to Professional is the book to buy.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. There were no conditions other than that, but in the interest of full disclosure, now you know.