Early Reviews

“Absolutely amazing! A page turner, just like Harry Potter for the technically minded.” —Tobias Svensson from review at return 42;

“This book is so interesting I did 60 minutes on the treadmill yesterday instead of the usual 30 because I couldn’t stop reading.” —Joel Spolsky on Joel on Software

“Coders at Work should inspire readers to learn about the wider context of their craft and stop the reinvention of the proverbial wheel” —Vladimir Sedach from review at Slashdot

“Peter Seibel asks the sort of questions only a fellow programmer would ask. Reading this book may be the next best thing to chatting with these illustrious programmers in person.” —Ehud Lamm, Founder of Lambda the Ultimate - the programming languages weblog

“I highly recommend it.” —Andy Mulholland, CTO, Capgemini

“I have long known the names and of the work of about half of the programmers in Peter Seibel’s wonderful book, Coders at Work; and it is fascinating to read their ideas about their lives and their ideas about programming. Better yet, I have now learned about the lives and philosophies of the other half of the programmers in the book, whose systems were known to me but the programmers themselves were not. Anyone interested in computer programming and what makes a great computer programmer will enjoy this book.” —Dave Walden, original member of the BBN ARPANET team

“These are wonderful interviews and this looks to be a bible for any programmer who aspires to be better.” —Peter Christensen, Founder of GeekStack.com

“This book is dead sexy. When it comes out, you should definitely get a copy.” —Joseph F. Miklojcik III from review at jfm3> _

“Superb book!” —Prakash Swaminathan from review at CloudKnow

“Read it, because then you will know the greatest coding brains.” —Amit Shaw from review at Teleported Bits

“One of the other core questions Peter asks is, what books would you recommend to help a developer learn programming? For me, this book joins my short list—it takes you away from the limitations of learning within a single company or community, and shows you the breadth of experiences that can make someone a great developer.” —Marc Hedlund from review at O’Reilly Radar

“The range of topics covered is just astounding.” —Chris Hartjes from review at @TheKeyboard

Based on nearly eighty hours of conversations with fifteen all-time great programmers and computer scientists, the Q&A interviews in Coders at Work provide a multifaceted view into how great programmers learn to program, how they practice their craft, and what they think about the future of programming.

Some highlights

“I write a lot of programs and I can’t claim to be typical but I can claim that I get a lot of them working for a large variety of things and I would find it harder if I had to spend all my time learning how to use somebody else’s routines. It’s much easier for me to learn a few basic concepts and then reuse code by text-editing the code that previously worked.” —Donald Knuth

“The problem with object-oriented languages is they’ve got all this implicit environment that they carry around with them. You wanted a banana but what you got was a gorilla holding the banana and the entire jungle.”—Joe Armstrong

“When I was 30, 35 years old, I knew, in a deep sense, every line of code I ever wrote. I’d write a program during the day, and at night I’d sit there and walk through it line by line and find bugs. I’d go back the next day and, sure enough, it would be wrong.” —Ken Thompson

“I think one of the most important things, for me anyway, when building something from the ground up like that is, as quickly as possible, getting the program to a state that you, the programmer, can use it. Even a little bit. Because that tells you where to go next in a really visceral way.” —Jamie Zawinski

“I think we’ve got people now who are just as smart as the people we had 30 years ago and they are being pushed to the limits of their abilities as people were 30 years ago. But the difference is that it’s not possible to understand everything that’s going on anymore.” —Guy Steele

“By the time I graduated there actually was a computer-science department, but I stuck with math as my major. It felt like doing all the requirements for a computer-science major was like majoring in IBM.”—Peter Norvig

“When the limestone of imperative programming is worn away, the granite of functional programming will be observed.”—Simon Peyton Jones


Peter Seibel is either a writer turned programmer or programmer turned writer. After picking up an undergraduate degree in English from Yale and working briefly as a journalist, he was seduced by the web. In the early '90s he hacked Perl for Mother Jones Magazine and Organic Online. He participated in the Java revolution as an early employee at WebLogic and later taught Java programming at UC Berkeley Extension. In 2003 he quit his job as the architect of a Java-based transactional messaging system, planning to hack Lisp for a year. Instead he ended up spending two years writing the Jolt Productivity Award–winning Practical Common Lisp. Since then he's been working as chief monkey at Gigamonkeys Consulting, working on Coders at Work, learning to train chickens, practicing Tai Chi, and being a dad. He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife Lily, daughter Amelia, and dog Mahlanie.