Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

book evaluation criteria

When I evaluate a book, I read reviews, etc.

But I also look at how many books the author has written.

If he has written many books, that means the author is a "serial writer" :) - he churns out books quickly, without carefull research and often without something really new or effective to write.

Often the first book in such a series of books is good, and the rest are just attempts to cash in on the popularity of the first book.

Monday, April 26, 2004

This is an interesting criteria.

On the other hand, if an author writes one bad book that sells accordingly, he won't be tempted to "churn out" more books.

Ignore my ignorance
Monday, April 26, 2004

If you can find a copy of the book you are evaluating in a local bookstore, just flip through the pages and see if you like it.

Your criteria is no more reliable than any other really.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I try to get the author in for an interview, so I can see if he puts the closing curly braces on the procedures he writes on the whiteboard.


Monday, April 26, 2004

Oh that's rich!

yet another anon
Monday, April 26, 2004

Also, that's not a very good criteria.  I can't figure out why you'd want some sort of shortcut criteria like that.  Why not ... look on-line for reviews (filtered by your own sensibilities), take note of the publisher, look at the table of contents, and if you feel that compelled go to the bookstore and read some passages to gauge the writing style?

I usually just do the first two and I've rarely been disappointed.

yet another anon
Monday, April 26, 2004

I also look at the Index and see how comprehensive and useful it is...because many a times after the initial read that is where I turn to to locate information!

Code Monkey
Monday, April 26, 2004

Steve MConnell has written 4 or 5 good books  (Code Complete, Rapid App Development, etc.).

Thank god he's a serial writer.

My criteria is to READ a section of the book to see if they're a good *writer* and look at the table of contents to see if the book has good coverage of the material.

Mr. Analogy
Monday, April 26, 2004

i just look at the covers.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I look at the price.  'Cause we all know that you get what you pay for, right?  (not unlike this comment ;-)

Monday, April 26, 2004

I usually buy work-related books after reading a review.  If it's relevant and sounds at all interesting in a review, I order it (it helps that the company pays for it, not me).  If I'm looking for books on a specific subject, I check on Amazon and get a coupel that have ok reviews.

If it's a good book, it stays on my shelves and I use it. If, after reading some of it, it turns out to be not-so-useful, then it goes to the company library.  I've found that the vast majority of the time, there's something of value in most of the books, enough to justify buying without any more research than this.

For personal fiction/non-fiction, I do a lot more evaluation, usually reading library copies, reading in Chapters, reading reviews, checking discussion groups for the author.  e.g. I like Neal Stephenson's books, but there's no way I'm gonna buy Quicksilver w/out reading it first.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I've been looking at publishers quite a bit.

Wrox Press is truly a book mill and I suspect gets people excited about churning out a book by putting those gigantic author pictures on the cover. I stay away from Wrox Press as a result because the books tend to be first attempts, poorly edited, etc...

On the flip side, I don't think I've ever read a bad O'Reilly book. Out of about a dozen I own, I only have one that's mediocre (Domino in a Nutshell).

Mark L. smith
Monday, April 26, 2004

While I do look at reviews of a book on, it's also important that there be some code examples to try out and that the author is an experienced developer who can actually write.

Also, I think some of the Wrox books are good, though I could do without the authors' faces on the covers.

I agree that O'Reilly books are very good. Apress and Manning also have some good books too.

One other thing, I've been trying to avoid the 300/400/500-page books that you could use as a doorstop. Sometimes less really is more.

Java Developer
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home