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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very diverse - but mostly good stuff
Paul Graham is clearly a man with opinions. This collection of essays ranges from the trials of being a nerdy teenager (absolutely brilliant) to neo-liberal politics (definitely not my thing) to how to fix spam (interesting) to the merits of various programming languages (in case you're wondering, Lisp is the greatest...)

I'd recommend any programmer to read...
Published on 8 Nov 2006 by G. Bache

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Realising your hacker potential for you...
In between the right wing, Ayn Rand-style lecturing on the virtues of the untrammelled free market, there are some important and interesting insights here into the mind-set of programmers, or at least that of Paul Graham. His writing is robust, full of folksy wisdom that he transliterates to the world of hacking, partisan and partial in its expression, but always...
Published on 3 Jan 2011 by Dr. G. SPORTON


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very diverse - but mostly good stuff, 8 Nov 2006
By 
G. Bache (Göteborg, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age (Hardcover)
Paul Graham is clearly a man with opinions. This collection of essays ranges from the trials of being a nerdy teenager (absolutely brilliant) to neo-liberal politics (definitely not my thing) to how to fix spam (interesting) to the merits of various programming languages (in case you're wondering, Lisp is the greatest...)

I'd recommend any programmer to read this book. He has a very different perspective to most modern writers and that's refreshing, though I don't always agree with his conclusions. He also writes very well and it's a good read.

Unfortunately I would guess that large sections of it are off limits to non-programmers: it's hard to buy a book when you're not going to get half of it. Even the supposedly non-techie chapters tend to throw in comments about (for example) static typing here and there.

Chapter 1 is a brilliantly insightful "nerd's eye" view into how secondary school culture works and everyone should read it (particularly anyone with an interest in teenage education).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on startups and programming, pinch of salt on politics/ Philosophy, 21 Jan 2014
By 
A. I. Mackenzie "alimack" (Glasgow, Scotland.) - See all my reviews
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Paul Graham has a lot to say in this book, and he says it very clearly.
When he confines himself to start-ups and programming he makes a lot of good points. He's undoubtedly an excellent programmer and his thoughts on start-ups and lisp (mainly) are interesting and backed up by experience. His essays on why nerds re unpopular is excellent.
However on essays such as `How to make Wealth' and `Mind the Gap' he demonstrates the shallowness of his thinking. His politics are libertarian, and he repeatedly justifies the idea that inequality doesn't matter and that the rich earn their money. Both of these are debatable at best, and he makes various howlers - such as the amount of dollars the US government creates has a top limit, programmers tend to be libertarians (maybe in the US but I've ever met one in Britain) etc. He has a point when he says differences in productivity should give rise to differences in wealth but it's very hard to believe that's what's happening in the top 1% of income.
So as long as you ignore this, it's an interesting read, note also that all of these essays are free on PG's website.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Stimulating read, 1 Jan 2013
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Well worth a read even after all these years especially when you think this was written pre-Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Personal Favourite!, 5 Dec 2011
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I absolutely loved reading this book. I didn't want it to end. The insights to many aspects of IT and life were very interesting to me. This is the kind of book you shouldn't read in bed because you'll never go to sleep! Anybody interested in IT and programming should read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant, clear writing, 4 Oct 2011
An intelligent, clear, well-written book. I give it 5 stars. No question. Theres nothing boring or ivory tower about this book. I really wish more authors had his gift for clear, brilliant thinking and really good writing.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking read, 9 Mar 2005
This review is from: Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age (Hardcover)
As the title suggests this book is made up of a collection of essays ranging over a number of subjects. I found it generally light reading and even where it becomes more complex, notably the section about spam filtering, the book is clear enough to get the gist of what is being discussed without delving into the technicalities to deeply.
Since reading the book I have been recommending it to people of all technical backgrounds to help them understand the techies in their lives.
The book also explains why many people who consider themselves hackers don't fit the Hollywood/press usage of the term, i.e. a hacker is not someone who breaks into computer systems but someone who enjoys the creative processes involved in computer programming. From that point of view I am certainly a hacker, at least in some degree, and can identify with many of the views in the book.
Whether you're a techie or not this book is well worth reading if you ever come into contact with computer systems or the people who develop them.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Realising your hacker potential for you..., 3 Jan 2011
By 
Dr. G. SPORTON "groggery1" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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In between the right wing, Ayn Rand-style lecturing on the virtues of the untrammelled free market, there are some important and interesting insights here into the mind-set of programmers, or at least that of Paul Graham. His writing is robust, full of folksy wisdom that he transliterates to the world of hacking, partisan and partial in its expression, but always confidently and bravely asserting something contrary to received wisdom. This alone recommends it, in a book that challenges the imagination and notions about how something as technical as programming requires the artist's imagination to realise its full potential.
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17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Art of programming? More like libertarian tract, 11 Jun 2007
By 
Hannah Dee - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age (Hardcover)
I thought this book would cover the art of programming. Don't know why, something about the title perhaps?

Instead it's a libertarian, elitist, political tract: small companies are good, big companies are inefficient, making money is good, geeks are good (OK, I'm not going to argue with that one). I've learned nothing at all yet about programming, and all sorts of stuff about running companies, startups, capital, wrapped up in a load of elitist garbage.

We all know (well, those of us involved in computing) that some programmers are gifted, and a gifted programmer can perform more than 10 times better than just a good programmer. What I was sort of hoping for from this book (judging by the blurb and its other reviews) was some insight into what this difference was, maybe with a view to upping my own game. Instead, I get a series of rants about how these elite programmers are held back in big corporations, and how people who perform 100 times better should be paid 100 times more. If I wanted to read a political science book, I'd have bought a book by someone who knew something about political science - Graham might be a gifted hacker, but his politics are naive and his exposition is a rant rather than an argument.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hugely disappointing!, 18 April 2012
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I can't describe how disappointed I am in this book and it's writing, though "rambling narrative" may be a more accurate description. Having taken in the other reviews prior to purchasing the book I confess my surprise to finding it so immediately objectionable. I'm currently averaging a book-a-week and most of them are business stories or experiences, this is the first one I've felt compelled to review, and negatively.

In particular I would bring the authors attention to two things. Firstly that in the preface you describe Steve Jobs as a programmer; this couldn't be further from the truth given what articles and stories I've read over the years. Secondly I think it a serious misjudgement to include the paragraph "E tables contained the kids with mild cases of Down's Syndrome, what in the language of the time we called 'retards.'"; as someone with a disabled relative and a cousin with Down Syndrome - true account or not - I found this offensive.

Would recommend prospective buyers download a sample before purchasing!
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Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham (Hardcover - 28 May 2004)
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