Beautiful Programming Books


A quick question: What are the most beautiful programming books that you’ve ever read? The type of book that, when you cracked it open, made you just want to stare at the code forever. (Beautiful, non-programming but still technical, books are also acceptable.)

On a related note: What’s the best code formatting that you’ve ever seen? (Color, font face, font size, etc.)

These questions may, or may not be, related to this.


Currently, my favorite for “most beautiful programming book” would have to be “Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists“. The code is elegantly written, is crisp, and tightly spaced. I wish the code, itself, could’ve been printed in color, with syntax highlighting, but that seems like a necessary sacrifice to make with most technical books. (Side note: I’m a huge sucker for hardcover programming books – I desire more of them since having acquired this one.)

“Most beautiful technical book” would have to be Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. I love the stark contrast of the, simple, diagrams against the smooth text. I’ve you’ve never held a Tufte book, then you don’t know what a beautiful book can look like.

My favorite syntax highlighting scheme would be Gruber Dark, by the always excellent John Gruber.

However, Gruber Dark generally isn’t acceptable for print (nor is it particularly situated for code – I have to bash it around a bit to get something that I like). Unfortunately, I don’t have a particularly memorable light syntax-highlighting scheme; input here would be most appreciated.

Bonus: I’m in love with the Shoes programming guide Nobody Knows Shoes. _why’s sheer zaniness, whimsy, and deep programming knowledge is exactly what the programming world needs. If there were more books like his (see also: Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby) the programming movement would be in a better place.

I’m completely convinced that programming has a strong symbiosis with art and that the two are entirely intertwined. I’ve been constantly exploring to try to get to the root of this relationship but, like most things, it’s a never-ending inspection. Pointers to the roadsigns are appreciated.

Posted: December 28th, 2007


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