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Judging a book by its publisher

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I'm a big fan of technical books and have a nice big stack of somewhat unread technical books lying in my room. However whenever I get fascinated by a new technology and decide to pick up a book for it, I'm swamped by the sheer number of books available on most subjects. Amazon reviews are my first choice for a decision but if I'm standing in a bookstore with no other way to decide, here's what I do - I pick up a book which seems to have good content and good typesetting. A famous author also helps. Obvious right. However, how exactly should I pick up a set of books to scan in the first place?

Here lies my approximate art of judging a book by its publisher. Its not guaranteed to work every time, but it has a more than reasonable success rate for me till now. My favorite publisher by far is NoStarch Press. Their authors really know their stuff, the typesetting is of good quality and the books are great value for money. These guys are one publishing house that has never let me down and I can't recommend them enough. Some of their cooler books include - How Linux Works by Brian Ward, Wicked Cool Perl Scripts, Ruby by Example and Ubuntu for non-geeks.

PragmaticProgrammers also have some high quality books and the Pickaxe a.k.a Programming Ruby, Learn to Program and the Pragmatic Version Control series are top notch. I usually look for books from these two publishers first and they are pretty easy to find in a big stack due to their unique covers. Another publishing house that I trust is MIT Press. They published classics like Essentials of Programming Languages, Readings in Database Systems, SICP a.k.a the Wizard book and the Scheme Programming Language by Kent Dybvig. What more is needed! Apress is doing some fantastic work with books like Practical Common Lisp and Beginning Ruby. Their work has a good, consistent feel to it and I've never been too disappointed with their books, on most occasions highly pleased.

Finally come two big publishing houses - John Wiley and O'Reilly. They've published books on almost every computing subject that I am or would be interested in. If all else fails, these are the publishers I'd look to, to find some hidden gem somewhere. After all this is how I found out the Llama book.

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