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3.3 out of 5 stars37
3.3 out of 5 stars
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 1997
Being a Freshman at MIT and having to use SICP as the textbook for my Intro to Comp. Sci. class, I have a passing urge to really slander this book. It is certainly very rigorous reading, with concepts and examples presented in the manner of a a gushing fire hydrant. From the opening concepts of abstraction and compound procedures, SICP builds at a blazing pace, covering much more than just the basic material one would expect from a first-semester Comp. Sci. class, including topics which ought to be tucked away in later courses such as streams, register machine code, and compilation. However, the rewards of keeping up with the pace of SICP are tremendous, as the reader will undoubtedly have gotten quite a firm grasp of computer science and its challenges (Abelson and Sussman have included some of the on-going research topics of Comp. Sci. in SICP as exercises). SICP is a treausre of knowledge waiting to reward those willing to suffer in reaching it. I have personally both suffered and been rewarded. And if I ever get thirsty now, I have learned the art of drinking out of a spewing fire hydrant.
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2001
This is a book that will change your perception of how to program, and what a program is really doing. It can't be read casually because it is important to think carefully about what the authors are saying.
The book illustrates how programming can be raised from writing a series of instructions minutely detailing how to do a task, to the higher level of simply specifying what should be done.
If you look at the other reviews, you will see that this book receives either 5 stars, or just 1. I would suggest that if you understand what this book is about, then you will also give it a 5 star rating.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2000
I am sure this book made excellent reading for any student taking Computer Science. But as I am studying on my own, I too find this book the best on the market. The exercises, the examples are all very rich and get to the point quickly. The book is very well supported by its website. The presentation is very fluent, clarity is its best feature. I feel I can finally learn the basics without being drown into lots of particularisations. This book feels more like the algebra of programming as opposed to many other programming books I've read which mainly give 'numerical examples', to keep the analogy. If basic maths (A level maths should be enough) is something you don't have much in common with than you may find this book hard to follow. Maybe a different approach may be of more use to you. But if like me you had a more consistent mathematical background, than this book is exactly what you need to get you into programming with no waste of time and effort.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2011
SICP (a common code name for this book, along with the "Wizard Book", and sometimes the "Purple Book"), is a true classic of computer science. Note this is a Computer Science book, in fact it is a book about Computer Science, it is not a book about computing.

As the title suggests, but appears to be ignored by many reviewers, this is a book about the structure and interpretation of computer programs; it is not a book that teaches you how to write computer programs. However, if you are interested in the grandest and deepest ideas around the structure of computer programs then this book is superb. The ideas initially presented are clear and appear to be simple, but the text then leads you into considering the very deep and fascinating issues relating to the different styles of programming presented.

I first read this book twenty years ago, and even the thought of the adventures of "A. Hacker" and friends still makes me smile.

A master piece. This is a book that is meant to be enjoyed; it is not a book that shows you how to do things; it is a book that presents you questions.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 1999
I first encountered SICP (1st edition) as a computer science student in the mid 80's. I would consider this book to be the single most significant influence on my development as a programmer, even though I never used it in a course. This is one of the few programming texts out there that attempts to go to the roots of computer science. Yes, the examples are difficult to work out, but they're worth it. If you are looking for any easy "A" in your CS class, then avoid this book. If you are interested in programming as an actual intellectual discipline, as opposed to something you just hack until it compiles, then check out SICP.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 1999
This is not a book for mass consumption, as the negative reviews below (and eventually above) clearly indicate. This is a book about how to structure complexity so that it remains easily understandable and manageable. You may think this is obvious, yes? But do you know how to do it for immensely complex systems? That's what this book is about. It's the difference between being a mediocre programmer and a virtuoso. If you plan on writing code that will actually be looked at again, if you plan on designing anything anyone will ever care about, if you want your view of computational systems to change how you look at the world, this book is first on your reading list. If you want to write spaghetti code for a living, get "C++ for Dummies" instead.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 June 2013
After years of imperative programming in C, this book is mind-opening. The large lambda emblazoned on the cover should be an indication that this book is focused on understanding functional programming, rather than a "teach yourself X in 5 seconds" approach.
Well written and a great introduction to programming, both in Scheme and in general.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2009
Great book to read for someone from an imperative background (like me). I believe it's 100% relevant today.

I'd recommend getting hold of the lectures from MIT's site to accompany the book. Sussman comes across as utterly engaging in these.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 1998
Turning tradition upside down, this book builds up abstraction and theory rather than teaching where to put your semicolons to introductory computer science students. The upside to this is not that I can now sit down and write a commercial program, but rather that I can translate a problem in my head into an actual algorithm, something that other texts make you learn over a long time. Sure the book is challenging, but in the eyes of a computer nerd that's what makes this book so great.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 1997
My first exposure to this book was as a freshman at MIT in '86. Since then I've been exposed to an awful lot of computer science books. And I'm afraid the term "awful" has applied all too often. This book still stands out in my mind as one of the best comp. sci. texts I've ever read. It encompasses so many different areas of computer science that it has only been when I reread it years later that I really appreciated the full scope of the topics the book hits. Every footnote seems to branch off into another interesting facet of comp. sci. It is a bit challenging (it was geared to MIT students) but is definitely worth the read. If you get it make sure you track down MIT Scheme, the language used throughout the book, it'll help you get the most from the book, and is very interesting in its own right. In my opinion the approach the authors take is a much better one than that traditionally followed by "introductory" computer science texts.
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