Exercises for Programmers: 57 Challenges to Develop Your Coding Skills

Brian P. Hogan

Published by

Pragmatic Bookshelf





Reviewed by

Dave Hay


7 out of 10

It’s been a while since last I reviewed a book, so I wanted to end the year with ... a review.

Our friends at The British Computer Society (BCS) kindly sent me a copy of Exercises for Programmers: 57 Challenges to Develop Your Coding Skills by Brian P. Hogan a few weeks back.

This is available on Amazon but my e-book came via a different route, thanks to BCS.

The purpose of the book is to, via a series of exercises, teach the reader the fundamentals of computer programming. The book is language-neutral, so it makes no difference whether you choose to use C, Java, Python, Swift etc. as the focus is on teaching one how to solve a problem in code, rather than how to use a particular language.

Through a series of increasingly complex problems, the author coaches the reader in the art of problem-solving, demonstrating how one can output data, perform calculations, compare strings, develop re-usable functions, sort data, use public APIs etc.

This took me back to my student days, where the instructor would set an exercise, for example, write a programme to output the Fibonacci sequence, or print Pi to 32 decimal places etc.

Whilst this is a useful way to teach one HOW to programme, I found the exercises to be a little repetitive, and overly frustrating, perhaps because I’m not the ideal target audience i.e. I first learned to write computer programs more than 30 years ago, and I don’t program for a living.

Additionally, whilst the book does set out each problem clearly, it does not provide any example solutions, even for the most simple of problems. This means that there’s no obvious feedback loop between teacher and student. Again, it’s perhaps my bias, but I’d have preferred to see a few example solutions, showing how the problem might be solved.

Don’t get me wrong - this is a very useful book, and one that I’d definitely recommend to students of computing, but I’m not wholly convinced that it’d be the right tool for every job.

Perhaps it’s down to the different ways that we all choose to learn, but I’d have personally preferred fewer, longer exercises, focused upon teaching a few fundamental concepts in one fell swoop.

As an e-book, this comes in around 263 pages in length, comprising, quelle surprise, 57 discrete exercises (challenges), each increasing in complexity, building upon the preceding chapters.

So, in conclusion, whilst this is an excellent book, I’d definitely recommend that the reader either be completely new to computer programming, or, perhaps better still, read this in conjunction with other, more detailed, tutorials.

Out of 10, I’d give this 7, taking into account the reservations expressed previously.

Before I finish, I want to thank Becky Youe at BCS for kindly providing me with this book to review.

Further information: Pragmatic Bookshelf

January 2016