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Recommended Ruby and Rails books (August 2009)

I finally got around to updating the Ruby and Rails book pages. The existing list was getting a bit obsolete and I didn’t like the idea of recommending old books to newcomers. I also had some interesting new entries.

Without further ado:

A few people may disagree with the choices, but I think most experienced Ruby and Rails programmers, who’ve read those books, will concur with my recommendations. I’m quite confident that these are, all things considered, some of the best books available on the subject.

A word to the publishers

As tempting as it is to collect Ruby and Rails books, these days I don’t feel I can economically justify the act of purchasing every Ruby or Rails book put out there. So if you are a publisher or an author, and you’d like for me to consider your book, you are certainly welcome to send me a review copy. I will definitely read it, but only include it on these lists if it’s either outstanding or as good as the existing ones. If it’s a programming book that’s not related to Ruby/Rails, yet is really good, I would consider reviewing it on my blog.

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7 Responses to “Recommended Ruby and Rails books (August 2009)”

  1. Robert Young says:

    You really should update this intro text to explain why no PickAx (I saw the general disclaimer). Since this is _the_ book in the minds of most who haven’t already delved deeply of Ruby, not mentioning it leaves one hanging. (I have it and the Flanagan/Matz book, and couldn’t name a reason to exclude one or the other. But I cleave more toward Python anyway.)

    You should have valid reasons for not mentioning it, and knowing why not to use a book can be just as useful as knowing why to use a book.

  2. C Cole says:

    +1 Pickaxe Ruby & +1 Well Grounded Rubyist

    All of these on your list were good to me, but mostly for one read only. The pickaxe is a necessity since it’s a reference manual that one needs to refer to and the Grounded gives you that ‘ahaa!’ moment–it’s the only book that decently explains ‘self’.

  3. Robert you pose a very good question. When I prepared the Ruby page, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the Pickaxe book out of the list.

    First, a premise. I feel that we should push Ruby 1.9 forward as a community. Rails 3 will come out at the end of the year, probably December 2009 or January 2010, and it will consider Ruby 1.9 to be the preferred Ruby implementation. I realize that as of today learning Ruby 1.8 is still important, but having to give a slant to the list of books, I prefer to opt for future-proof ones.

    Back to your question, the second edition of the Pickaxe is a solid Ruby book divided in two parts, an intermediate tutorial on the language, and a reference at the end. As far as 1.8 tutorials go, I feel that The Ruby Way (2nd edition) has more substance to it and many more examples. It’s also beefier when it comes to metaprogramming. If we’re looking for a reference-style, The Ruby Programming Language is absolutely excellent for that. And it has the advantage of being newer, more concise, and covering both a recent version of Ruby 1.8 (e.g., 1.8.7) and 1.9.

    Listing both books in the intermediate category, I don’t feel like there is a need for a third one – not one that’s based on Ruby 1.8 at least. If you were to buy both The Ruby Way (2nd edition) and The Ruby Programming Language, they would complement each other quite well. I don’t feel that the same could be said for the old pickaxe.

    Programming Ruby 1.9, may be a whole different story though, since it would be up-to-date, cover 1.9, and be both a reference and a tutorial. I don’t own this edition yet. When and if I’ll do, I’ll consider its inclusion for sure.

  4. segun says:

    Hi Tony,

    Do you know of any book that covers Messaging and Ruby and/or Rails in very great detail?

    A client is asking for me to develop sorta like an intranet to distribute messages to all stores under his superstore business – to all his store managers.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.


  5. @Segun, there is an upcoming book, which is currently available as a rough cut on Safari Books Online, that covers this topic a bit, called Distributed Programming with Ruby by Mark Bates. Of the existing books in print, Ruby in Practice has a chapter on asynchronous messaging. The former is the most promising one for what you may need to do.

  6. Segun says:

    @Tony: I am so very grateful. Keep up the good work!

  7. I have 4 of the seven Rails books! (the last 4)

    I think you also forgot to add Sitepoint’s “Simply Rails 2” awesome book for a beginner.

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