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Work of art
am 3. Juli 2014
The four volumes cover the foundations of computer programming including such classical problems as sorting, searching, tree-based structures and random number generation. The coverage of the included subjects is quite exhaustive but some topics are not covered at all and are expected to appear in the following volumes (4B, in preparation, for example). The material is not presented in an introductory manner but rather succintly. It would probably take much more than the 3000 pages to render all information accessible to a broad audience. Nevertheless, the text is mostly self-contained and a determined reader should not need much more than a good grasp of highshool mathematics to understand most of it. It would otherwise be handy to refer to other, easier texts for introduction to discrete mathematics, logic and probability before attacking the most difficult sections.
The exercises are one of the strongest points of the book and complement the text by covering important extensions of the material presented. Some are easy, many are hard and several are open research problems. Spending the time to attempt the exercises or simply trying to understand the (provided) answers is a very rewarding activity.
The attention to detail is simply stunning. Prof Knuth will go to extraordinary depth, including reference to centuries-old manuscripts and accurate historical information. He even insists on writing names in the original script (for example, ancient Greek or Chinese) where appropriate.
The typographical presentation is legendary, as appropriate for the person who developed TeX. The quality of the paper, the binding and the typesetting are top-notch and a pleasure to behold.
Finally, I feel that the price is quite reasonable for a work of this quality and certainly compares very favorably with many textbooks of this length.