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Reviews on Practical Ocaml

Apress released a book titled Practical Ocaml and while I was excited about the book and read the interview with the author. However, after looking briefly through the comments on Lambda the Ultimate I might have to reconsider purchasing this book.

Ehud comments:
I haven’t seen the book yet, but it’s really sad if the book is as problematic as this thread indicates. I had high hopes for the “Practical X” line of books. I thought it might become an O’reilly-like brand for books about non-mainstream language

Matt comments :
This book is a big disappointment. As already noted, it has some severe stylistic problems and the writing is uninspiring, to say the least. But by far the worst problem is that the author’s knowledge of his subject is simply insufficient. This shows up all over the place, but I’ll highlight two examples that I think exemplify the issue.

William comments :
Some items are given only a superficial introduction (e.g. variants — a very important part of OCaml), and then used fairly heavily two chapters later without so much as a pointer back to their introduction for people skimming the book.

and finally Merjis (one of the technical reviewers) writes on his blog :
I only wrote one candid assessment, and decency and privacy prevent me from disclosing what was in it. I will just say that it was not positive.

Needless to say, a very disappointing round of comments. The part regarding poor introduction of material then abusing it later on is a serious flaw in my assessment of the book. I have been suffering this problem for years on many different topics (maybe it’s just because I’m brain damaged) and it’s one of the major things I always am critical about when evaluating the learning process on anything. Crappy treatment of the foundations you are trying to build the rest of your mental model on is terrible.


  • A Lambda the Ultimate contributers view on Ocaml the language itself is available here
  • A much better (and free) introduction to Ocaml (supposedly) is available here
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