Review: Core Java for the Impatient

I’ve just finished reading Core Java for the Impatient by Cay S. Horstmann. I also own Scala for the Impatient by the same author, and I really loved that book. Having had previous experience with Scala, I was excited to read up on the newer features introduced in Java 8. Maybe it’s because I’m a C# developer professionally, but I’m really impressed with the new Java 8 features.

Horstmann’s books are excellently written for existing developers to quickly become familiar with newer languages and technologies. This book isn’t meant for a beginning programmer to dive right into software development using Java 8, but if you have C#, Java, Scala, or other C-style experience you’ll be set. The pace is excellent and the book flows really well.

While it’s expected that you’re already a proficient programmer, I didn’t get the feeling that it was expected for the reader to understand functional programming. Java 8 introduces a lot of functional style which I’ve seen existing Java developers complain about. I’ve also seen C# developers complain about Java verbosity. While I can’t help people who dislike functional programming, I can say as a C# developer that Java 8 really helps reduce the verbosity of the language.

Before Java 8 you’d have to construct a whole new class that implemented a single method if you wanted to create a Runnable (I have limited experience with pre-Java 8, so forgive me if that’s incorrect). In Java 8, you can assign a runnable to a lambda expression. The compiled code will still contain a one-off class but you as a developer don’t have to worry about those details. This kind of syntactic sugar really makes for more readable and more maintainable code. This is the first material I’ve read which covers Java 8, so I assume Horstmann has covered everything. I actually don’t think Java could have packed anything else into Java 8 that wasn’t covered in this book. It’s hard to believe so much great content was presented in less than 500 pages.

The book is written to appeal to the applications programmer, so Horstmann offers a lot of material such as functional concepts in the Collections and Streams chapters, annotations support, date/time improvements, and internationalization. He doesn’t walk you through creating a parser or an actor system like he does in Scala for the Impatient, but he does give you the necessary information to create a maintainable application in Java. The fact that you’ll learn how to create and process annotations as well as to perform runtime compilation of classes opens a world of possibilities (these sections obviously only touch the surface).

The book also covers Nashorn, a JavaScript REPL that provides access to Java types. I have node.js experience, so this really interests me. I’ll need to investigate the performance implications of running Java code from within this JavaScript environment, but this also opens a lot to an applications developer. For example, if you want to play around with a type in Java’s core library, you can fire up a REPL and instantiate the type rather than going through the rigamarole of creating a throw away project. As a C# developer, I use LinqPad regularly on Windows and Mono’s `csharp` interactive shell on OSX.

Again, I love how concisely the content is delivered. The code that accompanies the book is well structured, allowing the reader to quickly jump between text and the full implementations of the code in the book.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how information with short examples are presented in the chapter’s text and exercises are presented at chapter end to give a more hands-on experience. If you skip over the exercises, you’ll still get all of the important material of the chapter.

I would recommend this book to any non-beginner who wants to learn about Java 8.

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)

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