Tim Cooke

Review: Functional Thinking: Paradigm Over Syntax

Cover art for Functional Thinking book

The Book

AuthorNeal Ford

PublishedJuly 2014


Book Websiteshop.oreilly.com

Author Websitenealford.com

If you’re familiar with functional programming basics and want to gain a much deeper understanding, this in-depth guide takes you beyond syntax and demonstrates how you need to think in a new way. Software architect Neal Ford shows intermediate to advanced developers how functional coding allows you to step back a level of abstraction so you can see your programming problem with greater clarity.

Each chapter shows you various examples of functional thinking, using numerous code examples from Java 8 and other JVM languages that include functional capabilities. This book may bend your mind, but you’ll come away with a much better grasp of functional programming concepts.

The Review

Date22nd January 2016


The purpose of Functional Thinking is to help intermediate to advanced programmers familiar with imperative programming to start thinking in a more 'functional' way. At 157 pages it's not a big book, which is not a criticism. I am encouraged to get stuck in knowing that it's unlikely to be a hard slog.

The chapters are cleverly laid out to take you through the shift in mindset as you progress through the book. From "Why": usual intro stuff, to "Shift": where Ford runs through the fundamental building blocks presenting some problems solved in Java, Scala, Groovy, and Clojure, to "Cede": giving up control of low-level machinery to the runtime freeing you to work on more relevant problems, to "Smarter, not Harder": presenting language features that solve common problems such as caching and lazy loading.

The book extensively uses Java8, Scala, Groovy, and Clojure for the examples. It turns out the languages are not consistent in their naming of the core constructs so it was incredibly useful to link the concepts to the different implementations. A good smattering of examples using the Functional Java library for pre-Java8 JDK's will be a welcome addition to developers keen to start using the tools but stuck on old JDK versions.

The last part of the book gives a run through of the new functional language support in Java8 and concludes with a discussion the polygot world where developers work with imperative and functional paradigms together.

As a Java developer I found this a good introduction to Functional Programming and found the level of abstraction just right for me to get a handle on the concepts without getting lost in code. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of code, but its for example rather than explanation.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.