Reading Group?

Timothy J. Salo salo at
Fri Mar 27 18:02:19 UTC 2020

On 3/26/2020 7:59 PM, Brian H wrote:
> I was wondering if there would be any interest in a reading group for
> the book "The Art of Computer Programming" starting with volume 1. I
> am not a programmer by trade, but work with code very closely for
> work. I was hoping to read this to further my understanding of
> computer science in the academic sense and I was hoping others would
> join me on this journey so I am not alone.

I'm not sure I would start with Knuth.  It's a bit dated and a bit
peculiar.  And, I don't think that I have seen it used as a textbook
for quite some time.  I don't see my copies of Knuth (I think they are
in my storage locker).  But, for example, Knuth defines an
imaginary machine architecture, the MIX machine, and uses that for
a bunch of his examples.  Today, algorithms are more likely to
be described in Java, Python, or just pseudo code.  In my view,
getting familiar with the MIX machine seems sort of pointless.
Or, maybe this was dropped from the current editions.

If you want to [really] study algorithms, I recommend "Introduction
to Algorithms" by Cormen, et al.  But, Cormen probably expects some
background in discrete math and probably even in algorithms.  There
are also another one or two widely used book on algorithms.  I think
I have pointers to these somewhere.

A reading group in discrete math might be a good topic for those
who want some background in academic computer science.  I think
that Rosen's "Discrete Mathematics and its Applications" is still
used, but there are several good texts available.  Every computer
science curriculum has (or should have) a course in discrete
math.  You can check and see what departments are using as a
textbook.  Or, you can dig around Amazon and find something that
people like, but isn't priced as a textbook.

You might also consider "cracking the Coding Interview" by
McDowell.  I have described this as an introduction to
computer science for non-majors.  In particular, it doesn't
require the math background that an introductory computer
science course would.  Plus, it's a lot cheaper than a

There are undoubtedly other good intro to computer science
books.  But, I would consider alternatives to Knuth.

By the way, it may not be in the current editions, but in
the introductions to the early editions, Knuth stated that
he intended to cover all of computer science in 17 volumes.
I don't think he got past volume 3.


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