In 2013 and 2014 I read four Haskell books. In this post I’m making mini-reviews for each of them, chronologically ordered.
Learn you a Haskell for Great Good
Learn you a Haskell for Great Good is one of the best computer science book I had the occasion to read, and I even admit I was a little sad once I finished it! It exposes the main concepts of Haskell in a very pedagogic way and clear writing style. After reading the book, functors, applicative and monads become easily understandable. The only drawback is that this book is not enough to start with Haskell, there are no explanations of how to create a Haskell project using Cabal, use libraries, test your application etc. I think it’s okay for an introductory book but one should be informed. The book is suited for people without experience with Haskell or functional programming.
Developing Web Applications with Haskell and Yesod
I read Developing Web Applications with Haskell and Yesod to discover other ways of building web applications, as I mostly had experience with Clojure and Compojure. I enjoyed reading this book which is short but contains a lot, going from the frontend to the backend and explaining a lot of subjects: HTML templates, sessions, authentification, persistence with databases etc. You discover how a statically typed language can help you building a web application with more guarantees. The only drawback for me was that even after reading one book on Haskell, some of the type signatures of functions were still hard to understand. Some familiarity with monad transformers prior to reading this book may help.
Real World Haskell
The goal of Real World Haskell was to bring Haskell to a less academic audience by showing how Haskell could be used for “real world” applications, at a time where there weren’t so many Haskell books there. In this sense I think the book succeed. There are a lot of interesting subjects tackled in this book, like profiling and performance analysis but I did not really enjoy reading it. Either the examples were a bit boring or the writing style was too dry for me, in the end I had to fight to finish this very long book (~700 pages!). I nonetheless appreciate that this book exist and I may use it in the future as a reference. The book is a bit outdated and some code are not valid anymore ; it was not a problem for me since I didn’t try out the examples but this should be considered if you want to learn Haskell with it.
Beginning Haskell is a paradoxical book. The truth is this book should
not have been published because its edition and proof-reading are too
bad. What do you think about a book where the first code sample is
map listOfThings action instead of
map action listOfThings
on page 4, come one… Also the subtitle reads “a Project-Based
approach” but this seems to be exaggerated since you will only get some
code samples there and there… That being said, I really enjoyed
reading this book! I don’t know if it’s a good introductory book but
it’s surely is a correct second book on Haskell. It explains how to use
Cabal, test an application, use popular libraries like Conduit, build
parsers with attoparsec, building a Web Application with Scotty and
Fay etc. It includes advanced topics like type programming (enforcing
more constraints at the type-level) and even a small introduction to
Idris. Conclusion: either burn it or read it.
There are more and more books on Haskell newly published or coming, this makes me happy as this broaden the Haskell community, shows that it is growing and makes it easier to learn the language. Reading is not enough to learn so at the moment I’m writing small Haskell projects to go from a beginner to intermediate level.