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Keywords: Java, object oriented, design patterns

Title: Effective Java

Author: Joshua Bloch

Publisher: Addison Wesley

ISBN: 0201310058

Media: Book

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Verdict: Essential for any serious Java developer

Although it's not a new title, Joshua Block's Effective Java is one of those classics that invariably crop up on people's list of top Java books. And, when the question comes up 'what book do you recommend for someone who's past the beginner stage?', this is usually the top answer.

The book assumes a good working knowledge of Java and object oriented development, it's not by any stretch of the imagination a tutorial or introduction. Instead it aims to teach a set of best practice techniques which can be applied to real world coding problems. This isn't about design as such, it's certainly not a set of design patterns, though there is an element of it here.

What the author does is list 57 techniques which will make your Java code more robust, easier to maintain and easier to reuse. These techniques are grouped by theme, such as 'Creating and Destroying Objects', 'Methods Common to All Objects', 'Classes and Interfaces', 'Serialization', 'Threads' and so on. Each item is illustrated with sample code, cross-referenced to other items and given a thorough explanation.

For example, Item 8: Always overide hashCode when you override equals, explains the principles of object identity, principles which are essential to the understanding of anything but a simple application. Bloch not only gives a thorough explanation, he shows what happens when this rule is violated.

Aside from providing a set of proven techniques, Bloch discusses the pros and cons of each, explaining the reasons not just the rules. The effect is to give a much deeper insight into the structure of Java and object orientation in general. It's why the book rates so highly amongst so many Java developers. It's as though years of hard-won experience have been distilled into a single book.

For someone taking the step up from beginner the chances are that many of the techniques will be way beyond you, or perhaps the advantages are not as clear as you would want. However, as your coding matures it is likely you'll come back to the book again and again.

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