Programming Elixir [Review]

Mar 07, 2016

Table of contents:

  1. About the book
  2. What I liked about it
  3. Conclusion

For many of today’s Ruby developers, their first real guidebook to the language came from Dave Thomas’ Ruby “Pickaxe” book.

Dave is a well respected member of the Ruby community and the Pickaxe book was the ultimate introduction to the Ruby programming language.

Like a lot of other people, Dave discovered Elixir and found a new perspective and a new way of solving difficult problems in a world of highly connected, always on applications.

Programming Elixir is Dave’s “Pickaxe” book for learning Elixir.

About the book

“Programming Elixir” is an introduction to the Elixir language that is brief, but to the point. Dave mostly showcases the areas of the Elixir programming language that he finds the most interesting.

However, there are many topics that are purposely left out of the book as it’s not trying to be the “ultimate resource” for learning Elixir. The book aims to be more of a appetiser, than a full-blown meal.

The book does touch upon quite a few of the most important aspects of the Elixir language including working with multiple processes and OTP (Open Telecom Platform).

What I liked about it

I really like Dave’s style of writing. You can feel his genuine enthusiasm seeping from every sentence, and so I find his books really easy to read. So many technical books try to be devoid of any personality, which makes them dense and hard work. I definitely felt inspired to keep learning more about Elixir after reading this book.

The thing I probably liked most about this book is the exercises and challenges that force you to put into action what you’ve just read.

It’s easy to just breeze through a technical book like this and get to the end without really gaining a solid understanding of what you’ve just read.

I find even just the mechanical experience of typing out the code makes me remember things better than just reading it. It also gives you a better feel for the syntax so when you are ready to start writing your own Elixir code it starts to flow more easily.

And of course, you will inevitably run into difficulties. A big part of being productive in a new language is being able to diagnose and solve problems in your code. Going through introductory exercises will give you a jump start on dealing with those early niggling problems so you can avoid them in the future.


“Programming Elixir” is an excellent introductory book if you are taking your first steps on your journey with Elixir.

The book will give you a broad, but shallow, overview of the language and some of the key concepts that you should know about.

If you are coming to Elixir from a language such as Ruby, Python, or PHP, the book helps you shed the Object-Oriented Programming perspective so you can start thinking with a Functional mindset.

This book is not really for beginner programmers as there is a lot of terminology that you are expected to be familiar with. But with that being said, I don’t think Elixir is really the right language choice if you’ve never wrote a line of code before.

But if you do have a solid understanding of pretty much any other programming language, you should be fine to read this book and start exploring Elixir.

I think in years to come, we will look back on “Programming Elixir” as required reading for any newbie Elixir programmer.

Philip Brown


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