My method for finding the best books on any topic.

by Joe Jean | on Jun 20, 2014 | under: General


I recently read an article about the importance of Computational Thinking. It is important because it helps you think about ways you can use computers to solve problems -- something that the knowledge of a programming language's syntax does not necessarily provide. So, I decided to read a good book about the subject. But first, I had to find the book. In what follows, I will explain how I went about finding a great Computational Thinking book using Amazon and users' feedback. You will be able to apply those same techniques to find books on any other subjects that interest you.

Since we are living in the era of internet and e-commerce, we can buy almost anything online. Moreover, people also give feedback about what they buy online. These feedbacks can be useful for future potential buyers. One of the most popular online retailers where people shop and write product reviews is Amazon. They sell different variety of products from books to groceries and garden items. So to find my book I head over to Amazon.com.
In the search bar, I change the department from "All" to "Books", type the name of the topic- in this case "Computational Thinking"-- and hit enter or click "Go". A result page will show.

Now that you have the search results from Amazon, all you need to do is go through the list and pick the books that both match your search query and have good reviews. Depending on the popularity of the subject matter, sometimes you will find books with a great number of reviews but at other times -like in this case - you will find books with just a few reviews or no reviews at all. Normally, my choice of a book is based on the average number of positive reviews it has. Therefore, I would be less inclined to buy a book that does not have any reviews or that has an average review of less than 3 stars. But I have also discovered that it is important to actually read some of the reviews, especially the negative ones. What happens sometimes is that someone will write a negative review not because the content of the book was of poor quality but because the paper was or because the shipping took too long. Thus, I would not take into account such reviews in my buying decision. I'm more interested in the quality of the information provided in the book.

So, in our case, what should I do? Well, this is going to be a tough call because unfortunately it seems like the literature on this particular subject is quite limited. Amazon has provided of course many results but only a few are directly related to "Computational Thinking". After scanning the search results, I realized that the best match is the first book called: "Computational Thinking for the Modern Problem Solver" by David Riley. Sadly, this book has no reviews yet. That does not mean the book is not great but I just do not feel confident in buying it without seeing what others who have bought it have to say about it. My next best alternative is the book titled "Computational Logic and Human Thinking" by Kowalski. Although it is more about "Computational Logic" than "Computational Thinking", it has 3 positive reviews which provide me with more confidence in the quality of the materials presented. So, I bought this book.

As you can see, in this particular case it was not easy for me to find a great book. However, this is due to the fact that there are not many books on this particular subject matter yet. But, I'm pretty sure that by using the simple techniques presented in this article you will have more luck finding some of the best books on a given subject matter that you want to study.





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