Knuth has a Posse, Me!

Knuth has a Posse, Me!

Originally uploaded by cmdln

My pile of books to read is, not surprisingly, quite tall. I am hardly alone in this respect. My wishlist, though, has crept north of three digits. I don’t put most of those books on my public wishlist since it is a bit overwhelming and I tend to buy them on my own on a regular basis.

I put Knuth’s “The Art of Computer Programming” on my public list since it is a bit pricey and not of immediate use to my day job. I didn’t expect anyone to purchase it for me. At most, I thought I might receive a gift card some day that would make enough of a dent for me to splurge on the remainder.

Imagine my surprise when I opened a package from my mother to find the hardcover, boxed set nestled inside. My delighted squeal was followed by an attempt to explain my exuberance to the wife who is not acquainted with the works of Knuth.

I have many books on my technical book shelf. More than a few the quality of which are best measured by the width of their spine. A few, like Design Patterns, The Progamatic Programmers, and Effective Java are much loved and well thumbed. The Knuth set is now the crown jewel of my technical library and I look forward to making my best effort to reading them cover to cover. I fear doing so may take me almost as long as the author has been working on them.

Two of the volumes in the boxed set I received are of the third edition. The original copyright on the first volume is as old as I am. In the preface, Knuth still describes these as works in progress. And the series is not yet complete. I think there is something like six or eight volumes in total planned. Knuth clearly means to cover all the worthwhile fundamentals of computer science and he is well qualified to do so.

I think likening it to Newton’s Principa is a fair comparison in terms of the breadth, depth and importance of the work. And Knuth is still with us and working in the field.

Flipping through the first few pages of Volume 1 reveals a tidy flow chart, a procedure for reading the first book. I am relieved to see a box marked, “Relax”. I am very much going to enjoying disappearing into these books as my time and other pursuits allow.

Thanks, Mom.

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