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Wed 10 August 2022

Book Review: The Rust Programming Language

Posted by Simon Larsén in Reviews   

I've been learning Rust on and off for the past few months, and The Rust Programming Language has been my primary learning resource during this time. It's a great introduction to the language, and is even freely available online.

Here, I'm reviewing the 2018 print version. Although a little bit out of date by now, there's nothing that's become obsolete, so I can still recommend even this version. For the most up to date version, the online one is however the way to go.

The Rust Programming Language
by Steve Klabnik, Carol Nichols
Released June 2018
Publisher(s): No Starch Press
ISBN: 9781593278281

The book in a nutshell

The Rust Programming Language is really a book where the title perfectly captures what the book is about. It teaches Rust mostly by practical examples, and for the most part the examples are self-contained and executable. For some concepts, examples are either missing or more illustrative than executable, but these are few and far between.

The book also to a large extent explains programming concepts, and has a rather elaborate section on concurrency. It however isn't on a beginner level, and doesn't go out of its way to intuitively describe what a variable is, or how looping works. I would rate this a great book for someone who is already somewhat familiar with programming concepts, but it's not the best resource for getting started with programming as a whole. It's the perfect "second language book".

What I liked

This book is incredibly well written and organized. Concepts to be learned are first presented on a high level, and then the authors drill into the details. But not too far into the details; at several points we are referred to other resources to acquire a deeper understanding for certain concepts. It's also a great standalone resource for learning Rust as it covers surrounding tooling like rustup and cargo in addition to the language itself. You can learn Rust to a decent level of proficiency from this book alone.

The well thought out pacing of the book carries over to the code samples, which are excellent through-and-through. There are some rather tricky concepts to get your head around in Rust compared to other programming languages, and the code samples are crucial in getting the point across. These are also presented in a top down fashion. By that, I mean that the higher level code is presented first containing calls to yet to be defined functions that are presented later.

As a crude example, imagine that we want to present a program that adds two numbers and prints the result. That may look like so:

fn main() {
    let sum = add(1, 2);
    println!("{}", sum);

And then we define the add function after having presented the high-level idea we want to implement:

fn add(lhs: i32, rhs: i32) -> i32 {
    lhs + rhs

This top down approach to presenting code samples really helps in getting a good idea for what needs to be done before how it is actually implemented. I strongly prefer this approach to a bottom up one, where you start with the low level how before getting to the high level what.

The book ends with a project on building a multithreaded web server, which is meant to solidify many of the concepts taught throughout the book. It's a great way to close out a great book.

What I didn't like

This is my first book review where I can't come up with something that I overtly did not like about a book. There are things the book lacks, such as more beginner-friendly introductions to core programming concepts, but I feel that's by design rather than thoughtless omission. The book would simply be way too long if it had to include such things as well.

Perhaps I will find something to be annoyed with as I revisit this in the future, but as it stands I am completely pleased with my reading experience.


This is a great book to learn the Rust programming language. It's not appropriate for absolute beginners, but I think that may be simply a consequence of Rust being designed to tackle rather advanced problems. I would not recommend a budding programmer to start out with Rust, and so it seems completely natural to me that the official learning resource doesn't cater toward such a crowd. That being said, you don't need to be a seasoned programmer to get value out of this book, as concepts are explained with quite a lot of "backstory". You don't need to be overly familiar with the problems Rust attempts to solve (memory safety, for example) as the book clearly exemplifies the problems before outlining the solutions.

As The Rust Programming Language is freely available online, I whole-heartedly recommend it for those looking to dive into Rust. I see no good reason to go looking elsewhere for resources when there's such a great one staring you right in the face. This is the starting place for a prospective Rustacean!