As always, the last weeks of January are present-time for those of us who are judges in the Jolt Awards, which I launched 16 years ago (how old I am. How very old.)
This year, two books that I thought were exceptional didn’t make the final ballot: Vincent Maraia’s The Build Master and Michael Scott’s Programming Language Pragmatics. Maraia’s book is a look into the problems of operating an automated build system in medium- to large- settings (essentially, if the software takes more than a few minutes to compile and link) and, from the discussions of the judges mailing list, its absence from the finalist list is a real surprise. Scott’s book is more academic, but is a great discussion of a topic near and dear to my heart, which is programming languages as a worthy subject of study in and of themselves. Usually, such studies are integrated into discussions of compiler design and implementation, but Scott rightly sees these as two different subjects.
Of the books that did make the finalist cut, so far I’m most impressed by Peter Seibel’s Practical Common Lisp. I haven’t programmed in Lisp since I edited AI Expert magazine back in the early 90s and I’ve never been tempted to pick it up again — until I read Seibel’s book. He does an exceptional job of introducing (or reminding) readers to Lisp’s unique expressive power.