Book review: Essential C# 3.0 by Mark Michaelis

Sometimes I'm being asked what book I'd recommend for learning C#. Until recently, I was hesitant and didn't know what to answer. It depends, among other things, on the following factors:

  • Whether the learner has existing programming background
  • Whether he or she wants to learn the language, or the .NET framework as well
  • Whether the learner is already familiar with C# 1.0 (2.0) and wants to learn primarily about C# 3.0 features, such as LINQ

Well, now I have a good answer for the majority of the cases. Mark Michaelis, a C# MVP, wrote a great book called Essential C# 3.0. It requires pretty much no programming background, and beginners can ramp up easily. One immediate thing about Essential C# 3.0 is that the book is very easy to read. You literally swallow page after page freely and effortlessly. This is one of the major reasons why I'm recommending this book to beginners who ask me where to start.

The first several chapters introduce basic programming concepts - variables, statements, control flow, methods, and continue gracefully to the .NET type system, classes and objects. It's nice to know that even when you're learning the basics, you're learning the latest version of a modern language and an industry standard.

The book continues to do a great job at the intermediate level, with chapters about classes, inheritance, interfaces and value types. A great asset is a special chapter called Well-Formed Types, which collects a series of useful information and best practices, such as overriding object members, referencing other assemblies, generating XML comments, finalization and garbage collection etc.

C# 2.0 features are covered well in a dedicated chapter about Generics and also in other parts of the book (iterators and yield return, anonymous methods).

Of course, given the book's title, C# 3.0 features and LINQ are introduced and explained well in the following chapters: Delegates and Lambda Expressions, Collection Interfaces with Standard Query Operators, Query Expressions. Several other chapters show more aspects of using the C# language: Events, Exception Handling, Building Custom Collections.

Finally, an advanced C# user will find a lot of interesting things here as well. I was particularly attracted by a great chapter on Reflection and Attributes, and the two "icing-on-the-cake" chapters: Multithreading and Multithreading patterns. I've learned a lot of new things for myself here. Also, throughout the rest of the book, special "Advanced Topic" fragments provide a lot of value to an experienced reader. For example, I've learned that the new operator generates newobj IL instruction for reference types and initobj for value types - I didn't think about this distinction before.

To sum up, a great book about C# for every reader - beginner, intermediate, advanced. It's not only about the language - CLR is also covered pretty well (IL, garbage collection, JIT, AppDomains, reflection, threading). This book doesn't cover any of the applied libraries (such as ASP.NET, ADO.NET, WPF or Silverlight), but even without it, it's already more than 700 pages thick. I also really love the formatting, fonts, spacing and illustrations - very ".NET-style".

A great read and highly recommended.