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Perl Cookbook by Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington
ISBN 1-56592-243-3
Copyright 1998, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.

Capsule Review

Excellent book. 5 stars out of 5.

Who should be interested in this book?

  • All Perl programmers
  • Anyone interested in learning Perl
  • Particularly, anyone who learns best by example

Full Review

There are very few books I consider essential to a good Perl library, and the Perl Cookbook is one of them. The information is excellent, and I think O'Reilly hit a home run when they combined Tom Christiansen's attention to detail with Nathan Torkington's wit.

Like many people, I learn best by looking at examples and tweaking them to see what happens. If you're like me, you'll love this book. Nothing but examples start to finish. 733 glorious, fun-filled pages of them.

The book is also thoughtfully and carefully organized. The first few chapters are basic, introductory Perl, and then the book gradually builds through process management and interprocess communication, finally ending with CGI programming and web automation. And within each chapter, the examples slowly escalate in complexity, so that even as you're learning how to do what the example is about, you're also coming across more and more advanced language features and idioms.

So, is there anything wrong with the book? Some people may be put off by its rather disjointed feel. Take Object Oriented Perl, for example. It is, of course, about writing object oriented programs with Perl. Every chapter is directed toward that theme.

But the Perl Cookbook, by its very nature, has no single unifying theme. It's about doing just about anything you can think of in Perl. So, every chapter stands on its own, and to a large extent every section is autonomous, as well.

The question is, is this really a bad thing? I would argue that it isn't. The book is exactly what it claims to be. A recipe book. Recipe books don't read like novels. The recipes are organized in sections -- casseroles, desserts, meats, and so forth -- but I better not have to go back and read the Bread Pudding recipe in order to make Banana Pudding. So, the Perl Cookbook is organized exactly as it should be. Into neat little free-standing recipes.

However, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out the one real problem with the Perl Cookbook. The title. The book's title is Perl Cookbook. Why couldn't they have put a "The" at the beginning? I thought I'd eventually get used to it, but it still irritates me. Oh, well. Nothing is perfect, I suppose.

So, in summary, an excellent book, especially for those of us who learn by example. Go get one right now.


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