What did you like about this book?

What did you like about this book?
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

When I was studying in the first year of my undergrad studies, one of the frequent suggestions I received was to read 'The C Programming Language (K&R)' book by the creators of the C programming language, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Richie.

It was not just famous among the seniors and my mentors. It was famous even online. It stood in 4th place among the single most influential book every programmer should read. It was also one of the books that I could find very easily in my college library. Because of all these reasons, it was natural for a student like me, who knew nothing about programming to pick it.

I borrowed the book from the library, came to my room and started reading it. After reading for five minutes, I was confused. I looked at the book's cover page to ensure that I didn't borrow a foreign language book because that's how it made me feel. I could not understand even small things. After confirming that I was holding the correct book, I realised the bitterness of my situation and still chose to continue.

The C Programming Language, First Edition Cover

Cover Page of K&R, first edition.

Things fell apart when I came to Section 1.2 of the book. This section had the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion code. After reading that code, I felt I had made a terrible mistake by choosing Information Technology as my branch of my studies. The code was intimidating, and that scared me to an extent. I was horrified looking at the naming convention of the variables. That's such a high standard, no way I would make it.

Immediately, I started to make alternative plans to spend the next four years getting a job in a different stream. This activity, however, was futile. So after some time, I gave up and went out for a walk, hoping it was too early to finalise anything (or maybe I didn't have many options left).

Thankfully for me, things changed over time. I read various other books and thus I didn't had to choose an alternative plan.

Overtime, I learned that K&R was not a beginner-friendly book. I wondered how people could recommend that book. Did they even read it? I do not know, but I can bet most of them did not.

Maybe next time, if someone recommends a book, I will ask them. "What did you like about this book?"

At least with this question, I can find out if the recommendation is genuine.

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