15 February 2007

Richard or Edna? (And Graham Hutton's Programming in Haskell)

For some reason, Richard Bird's Introduction to Functional Programming Using Haskell, 2nd Edition, is now listed on Amazon as written by "Edna Bird" (and coauthored by "Wadler" with no first name). Assuming Richard is not actually undergoing a transformation along the lines of Walter Carlos to Wendy, this looks like an error...

Anyway, my copy of Graham Hutton's Programming in Haskell arrived from Amazon. The first remarkable thing about this book is that it is the thinnest book on Haskell I've yet seen. The highest page number is 170. It is even thinner than The C Programming Language, Second Edition.

What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means the chapters are very brief. It is a beginner's text aimed at novices, even those who may have not programmed (in any language). I would definitely consider using it as a textbook for an introductory programming class. (I have a dream about teaching a programming class to gifted high school students or college first-year students before they have had their minds corrupted by too much Java or C++; we'd learn a little Haskell, Scheme, and Dylan, in that order, and then use our perspective gained to take a brief look at Java, Pascal, and BASIC. In that order, implementing a parser for Pascal and a complete implementation of BASIC. We'd start with this book. But anyway).

The explanation of curried functions (or how "all functions with multiple arguments are curried") is the clearest I've seen. So is the explanation of basic types and classes. His chapter on recursion is also a model of clarity. (I'm pleased to see it goes above and beyond Fibonacci numbers). In general, Hutton seems to be encouraging his readers to think like programmers think, but he doesn't require very many words to get his ideas across.

If you are busy like I am, you don't have time to read a long review, either, so I'll just conclude by saying that this looks like the introductory Haskell text!


Guillaume R. said...

Mmm A book which I like too and which is quite thin (for me indeed) is the one written by Hudak (the haskell school of expression).
Have you read this one?

Paul R. Potts said...

I have not read Hudak's book yet. Thanks for the suggestion!