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on 29 November 2007
This book is collection of 15 years work and is widely used and highly respected in scientific computing. It seems churlish to criticize it.
However, Numerical Recipes is not without its faults. In my experience (optimisation, MCMC sampling) the algorithms given do not adequately represent the ones available in the field. There is only one global optimiser (simulated annealing), no non-linear contrained optimisers and no mention of slice sampling for instance. This incompleteness would be helped by including a wide ranging bibliography for each group of algorithms. However, I found the references quite limited.
The book describes itself as a cookbook for cooks. Although this is a worthy aim, it cannot compare to reading the original papers or reviews of algorithms available in journals. In essence, this further reading is what someone needs to do in order to alter an algorithm for their own needs.
The shortcomings could be forgiven if the book provided a way of getting something , relatively simple, working quite quickly. However, you have to type the code in yourself or pay extra to get it in electronic form. Using either of these methods, the licencing terms are restrictive and are for personal use only. This made the book an expensive disappointment for me, especially since free alternatives like the GNU scientific library exist.
On the plus side the descriptions of the available algorithms are excellent given the limited space available to describe them. The authors also include tips based on their experience and mention why a particular algorithm may be more popular despite being no better than some of the others. To my knowledge, Numerical Recipes has no decent competition when it comes to the description of algorithms.
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on 25 December 2009
Numerical Recipes requires no introduction, as it has been the most often used and taught from book on numerical methods for more than two decades. Its objective has always been to teach practical numerical methods, and in the meantime provide code which, although not a professional numerical library, can be used in practice. In my opinion, all editions fulfilled this goal to a great extent. During the time passed since the first edition, a great development took place in computer hardware, programming methods and numerical algorithms. This development also made its way into Numerical Recipes: more methods are included and the code became much more closer to what one expects from a numerical code library (i.e. it is now much easier to extend NR code with exception handling, global variables have been eliminated). Most importantly, the new version of the code is written in object oriented C++, which makes even the code itself, but more importantly, code based on NR routines, much more readable. At the same time, the readability and clarity of the text has been retained in the new edition, despite the growth in the material covered. The level of mathematical rigor also has not changed, and is in accord with the main objective of the book; the routines are explained, but some mathematical details and technicalities are omitted. The reader interested in these can look them up in the references or can supplement the book with a more mathematical one, eg. the one by Bulirsch and Stoer.
The only backside of Numerical Recipes is the somewhat restrictive license of the code. If one is planning to use the routines in programs made for their own research, then one will not run into this problem. Even sharing code between researchers should not pose any difficulties, because most probably the other researcher also owns a copy, and they only have to share the parts written by themselves. However, including the code into open source projects is impossible. In such a case, alternative code libraries, such as LAPACK and GSL have to be used.
Summary: if you intend to use numerical methods, get a copy. As with all editions, its very easy to learn from NR and to get started using its routines. Keep in mind however, that you might have to use another code library if you intend to distribute your program source.
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on 16 March 2009
I am an old user of Numerical Recipes and, in particular, of the C version (2nd edition). This third edition has for sure expanded its scope (and this is good). However, far too much is not self-contained, and depends on external material in electronic form. We are in the Internet era, but this does not mean a book should not *fully* stand up by itself!
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on 22 June 2009
Some months' hesitation preceded my review of this book. When a book in its third edition reaches over a thousand pages, anyone may reasonably expect the balance to have drifted off a little. I therefore agree with the reviewer who criticises the omission of certain topics in optimisation and suspect that this indicates that a fourth edition might be a step too far.

On the other hand the criticism that you have to transcribe the source code examples manually IMO is a little ill-considered, if only because most code examples in most similar books need a lot of revision to attain the kind of code quailty required for high-integrity applications. Nor do I think it a demerit to refer to external material. Indeed, I would feel let down if such a book did not contain such references - and the ones that are given are IMO very well chosen both for breadth and focus.

One last (and perhaps churlish) niggle: As a software engineer I am irritated by the slowness of mathematicians to abandon use of "goto" statements, but this is arguably among the least of the books failings.

Apart from that this book covers a very wide range of topics and on the whole does what it sets out to do pretty well. It may not give you the answers you are looking for but it is an excellent starting point for deeper investigation in every area that it does cover. IMO serious users of numerical methods should have this edition on their bookshelves.
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on 25 February 2014
This legendary textbook in its 3rd Edition, takes as into a low flight over the land of almost all scientific algorithms. By using plain C++ one can really master the knowledge that our species managed to formulate into applied and workable computer techniques. Every scientific domain that has already been translated into the language of the well known and understood mathematical methods, in this book will find its perfectly built in C++ computable counterpart. John Piliounis, Physicist, MSc. Electronics Engineering
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on 10 December 2012
If you are serious about computers this is a must have. It is well written and gets down and dirty with maths functions. Does what is says on the cover. I bought it for the section on FFTs but have already noted sections for future projects.
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on 4 December 2012
One of the best books of numerical methods. Amazing having it).Some paragraphs were added comparing with the second edition. Like it.
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