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Hackers & Painters review

November 4, 2012

Hackers and Painters : Big Ideas from the Computer Age is a collection of essays written by Paul Graham. I think you can find them all on his personal web page here:

If you are not planning on buying this book, I at least highly recommend to read the essays online. They are awesome, but lets get ourselves there. After all, I’m writing a review.

Paul Graham

First lets talk about Paul Graham himself. Not in a sense of his bio, you can find it on his website. But about him as a person. Of course, he might be completely different, but this is how I see him through the book and online essays.

He is a hacker, LISP evangelist, OOP critic and in fact a critic in general. That is the most important. He is a critic and skeptic of all the things.

He is also very opinionated and together with his skepticism, it makes this book really great. I could easily say that he has a strong opinion about any topic. The book is about computers in general, but Paul will take a chance to state his opinion not only on that. One example could be his view on social issues. We can all remember how jobless young people flooded the streets of NYC in 2012 and later all over the world (with the 99% bullshit). What they were protesting against is what Paul Graham states as a sign of healthy society. And he is completely right.

One of his chapters is called “What You Can’t Say” and throughout the book he always says what is the opposite of what the majority would believe. Sometimes I would agree with him and read with a satisfied smile on my face seeing how he crushes those that “know wrong”. Sometimes I would disagree and would read with other kind of pleasure thinking of arguments I could use against him.

The Book

The book is written in a very great style. It is almost as having a real conversation with author, not just reading. It got me smiling, laughing and grinding my teeth. But most importantly it got me thinking numerous times. I’ve read it mostly on the bus and at least half of the time I was not actually reading. I was looking through the window playing with ideas and memories that were generated by the words written in the pages. If this is not a sign of awesome book, I don’t know what is.

Who should read it? Well, hackers of course. Even if essays are quite old (the book was published in 2004 and essays written even a longer time ago), the great ideas are time-proof and the book is full of them. It will inspire, motivate and overall make you a better programmer.

Anyone else? Probably those that have to deal with hackers on the daily basis. You know: wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends. This book reveals how the brains of a hacker work. Not all chapters of course (programming languages are probably not very interesting to those who don’t code), but some of them are highly recommended. So if you have a hard time understanding your life partner who happens to be a hacker, give it a go. I’d recommend reading first 7 chapters.

But wait, you might say, there is another kind of people that deal with hackers on the daily basis. Technical people that don’t know anything about technology. You know, most of the project managers and software analysts. To be fair, even most of programmers. Those that should be good at understanding how things work down there but really don’t. Should they read it? Without a doubt. If they would listen to the words in this book, real hackers will start to hate them less, projects will fail less and in result we all would deliver a better software.

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