I am currently following the red dragon book:
But most of the time, I have difficulty understanding the kinds of stuff in the book. Though the content is fine, and I end up asking questions on cs.StackExchange or StackOverflow. Then I thought of reading the reviews of the text and find out whether it is only me who is facing is the problem or there are people like me as well, finding the language hard to understand. Then I came across the review page of this book in good reads and among many reviews, I found one which explains the problem with the text probably. Here it is:
Good content, horrendous writing.
The good thing about this book is it is comprehensive and covers a lot of ground from different vantage points. For example, the parsing chapters also cover the design of lex and yacc apart from basic topics. The type checking and runtime environment chapters had examples from C and ML to cover different scenarios.
Now the bad parts. The book is awfully written and I cannot understand how can a book in its 2nd (or 3rd?) edition continue to be so bad. It was shoddy writing throughout but the prize for the worst writing is these topics:
- Discussion of bottom-up parsing where they directly jump to deterministic graph without discussing the nondeterministic version.
- Implementation of L-attributed SDTs with an obtuse parser stack.
- Implementation of type unification with their shoddy graph data structure.
- Implementation of run time system for ML using "display" which is incomprehensible.
Another consistent problem is their horrible use of passive voice. This interacts really badly with their discussion of mathematical aspects. While the use of passive voice might be excusable, its shoddy use is not.
Reading this book often felt like deciphering some ancient text. I needed to translate a lot of obtuse writing into something that can be understood in my head. This translation happens for all readings involuntarily but it was alarming I had to consciously do it for this book.
I am not sure why is this book called a "classic" computer science book. It is more like a kind of book that students are forced to study by their professors. This book is impossible to read unless you are following some other source. I followed Prof. Alex Aiken's lectures
This book might be responsible for the unpopularity of the study and research in programming languages. I agree compilers are not easy but this book has taken a difficult topic and made it incomprehensible thereby doing a disservice to this whole field of study.
I am not criticizing the text or authors. The only thing is that probably the text does not suit a self-learner like myself. Could anyone suggest a compiler text to substitute the red dragon book possibly? A book with easy language, such that one easily understand what the authors tried to mean just by reading a sentence once. This would help a self-learner to focus more on the concept rather than getting lost in finding out the meaning behind the lines.
A book that is lucid and easy to read and equivalent in power to the red dragon book as far as the contents and the examples are concerned.