REVIEW - Introduction to Algorithms


Introduction to Algorithms


Thomas H. Cormen




Mit Press (2001)




Francis Glassborow


December 2001



This is a dauntingly solid tome from the keyboards of a group of authors of high repute. However note the publisher, this gives an immediate clue that this book is going to be very much an academic one.

The prerequisites for reading this book are about first year college mathematics or a good level of achievement at A level mathematics in the UK. More worrying for many is the way authors of books like this one use symbols for which many have no referents. Such things as upper case thetas and Hebrew letters serve as a barrier between the inquiring acolyte and the approved of elite. I often have a distinct impression that some academics write in such a way that only those that have paid their dues as diligent students in academia will feel comfortable with their studies.

If you want a deeply theoretical introduction to algorithms and are willing to be a diligent student burning the midnight oil then this would be a good book for you. However if you want a more pragmatic approach and think in terms of algorithms expressed in pseudocode then leave this book on the shelf.

I fell about laughing when I read the preface. Let me quote you a few sentences from the section addressed to the teacher:

This book is designed to be both versatile and complete. You will find it useful for a variety of courses, from an undergraduate course in data structures up through a graduate course in algorithms. Because we have provided considerably more material than can fit in a typical one term course...

Or addressed to the student

We hope that this textbook provides you with an enjoyable introduction to the field of algorithms. We have attempted to make every algorithm accessible and interesting.

Even if I agreed that that was a worthwhile goal, I do not believe the style of presentation found in this book is compatible with it.

For the right reader this is a very good book but I would not use it with average students (I would never use a book with this one's claimed range with average students) nor would I recommend it to a working programmer.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.