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Vital Bookshelf

Date:  9th February, 2004


When I'm writing code, for Shapeshifter or otherwise, I always have the same library close to hand...

Programming Perl

You could probably count, on the fingers of one hand, the number of Perl programmers who don't have "the camel book". Programming Perl is the definitive textbook for this much-maligned language. Of course it should be good, the authors are Larry Wall (the creator of Perl), Tom Christiansen and Randal L. Schwartz, the Gods of the Perl world.

The book is extremely well organised with a sublime index. This goes a long way toward its overall appeal.

I also hugely enjoy the geeky humour that's liberally interspersed throughout the text.

"Programming Perl" is often referred to as the Perl Bible, a moniker I heartly endorse.


I picked this one when I first started learning SQL in 1999. I chose this book after spending several hours in WH Smith, reviewing the extensive SQL volumes available. I remember being apprehensive about abandoning my extensive knowledge of flat-file databases and making the move to the relational type, even though I knew this was the way forward both personally and professionally.

This book seemed to have been written just for me. It has extensive coverage of the SQL, along with dedicated sections detailing the programming API's for C, Perl and PHP, all of which I use. The book also has a huge section dealing exclusively with administration and maintenance and around 20 pages discussing optimisation. I was (and remain) impressed with the logical progression of the writing. Paul DuBois starts with the expected overview and, very gradually, the text goes deeper and deeper into the complexities of SQL.

The index isn't as friendly as Programming Perl's, and I think DuBois could have included more real-world problems and solutions. But these are minor criticisms, MySQL is a well-written, in-depth and novice-friendly. I never touch the database without having it close by.

Unix Unleased (System Administrator's Edition)

My web-servers run Linux. I have eleven Linux titles on my bookshelf, that I never use. But then I don't need to because I have "Unix Unleashed" on my desk. I have never come across a *nix textbook as thorough as this one. With 1342 pages, you'd expect the coverage to be extensive, and it is. This huge volume has almost 100 pages of indices, a real plus when you need to know the details of an archaic command in a hurry.

All the major variants are covered: SVR4, HP-UX, Solaris, AIX, BSD, IRIX, SunOS and Linux, with good comparisons of their differences.

Instant HTML

Instant HTML seems out of place when grouped with the heavyweights above. However, I have found that this is a handy little reference book. When I'm creating templates or CSS files, I invariably turn to Instant HTML when I forgotten some obscure detail.

It's good to have around but I'll probably replace it with an up-to-date, XHTML equivalent when I find one.

I should also mention the following titles which, although referred to less frequently, are still essential reference books for me: