Today’s book review is on C# 5.0 in a Nutshell: The Definitive Reference by Joseph Albahari and Ben Albahari and published by O’Reilly. This book makes up like my 5th or so O’Reilly book and I find the book publisher really publishes smashing hits or hot messes. I never found ones that were in the middle. But not to worry, this book is one of the good guys! At roughly 1064 pages this book packs a lot of goodies into a nice to hold book.
One thing I like this book, and it seems a bit humorous to say this, but is the way each chapter is “tabbed” so that you can see where various chapters are by looking at the side of the closed book. This does two things, it makes it visually easy to find where each chapter starts and stops as well as shows you how many chapters there are in the entire book. It makes flipping to a specific section of the book a bit easier to do and can give you an idea of how big that section is going to be without needing to flip through all the pages.
We also like the quality of the paper and it is good to see many of the books coming out these days are not skimping out on that detail. I still have some old bible books and Wrox books made with the pages that looked like newspaper and eventually would turn an off color that just made them horrible to look at. I think it might have been back when they were trying to use recycled paper or something.
The book content is jam packed! Every page uses up almost the entire page and contains charts, tables and text in generous amounts. But it doesn’t feel too overwhelming when you are reading it. The book is definitely a “definitive reference” book and covers tons of stuff. I would put it on par with the Java Complete Reference book we reviewed earlier in the way of coverage. So between that Java book and this C# book I feel pretty cozy that my bases on those two languages are covered. As a reference book it is not exactly meant for teaching programming but to be used as a simple lookup resource for when you are working away and need to know a class, interface or signature definition and can’t quite find everything about it. Microsoft has made the MSDN library pretty easy to use and if you use it with this book you can certainly get the idea on pretty much every topic in the language.
This book features a nice mix of both code examples, definitions and some explanation text. I would say it is almost 50/50 between code and text and just about every class described has some kind of usage example code to go along with it. Some of what this book covers is LINQ, Networking, Framework fundamentals, Threading, Security and just about everything in between.
The font is the typical font you find in O’Reilly books and I have never been a fan of it. I am not quite sure what exactly the font is but it always seems like a narrow cartoony type of font… probably Garamond. It isn’t completely unbearable but I think there might be a few better fonts out there for printed material. They also don’t make that much of a difference between fonts when it comes to code and the text so they almost blend together except for a slight heavier font for the code. Again, not a deal breaker.
I am usually one for packing as much data as you can but I think they maybe went a little too far with this book. I think the people of O’Reilly need to perhaps add a bit more whitespace to the pages even if that blows the page limit up by 50 pages or so. Because of the cramped nature of the book content it won’t make it very easy to read straight on through. I mean the book isn’t made for that but if you wanted to try they certainly don’t make it easy. Long time O’Reilly fans however may be right at home with this book. I just don’t think it is the best use of space I have seen in a programming book.
This book is certainly a great reference book to have and I am glad to have it on my shelf for the occasional look-up when MSDN isn’t my main go to resource. It is easy to find the sections and jump straight in, get what you need and jump out and any attempt to start reading more than a few pages might annoy you do to the cramping font. But there is no denying that the book is just packed fully of everything C# has to offer and I strongly recommend it to experts as well as any beginners who need a reference book to compliment other material they might be using/studying. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this book a 7.5. If they can add a bit more spacing it could easily be an 8.5.
Thanks for reading and hope you find the book as useful as I have.