Book Review – Hackers and Painters

Paul Graham founded a company called Viaweb that let firms
build online stores that was sold to Yahoo. Paul is one of the leaders of Y Combinator, a sort of meta startup that invests a small amount in a large number of web-based companies. His book Hackers and Painters is a series of essays about these topics and others. He writes about an eclectic mix of topics – how to start a successful company, the challenges with the education system and the evolution of programming languages. Paul has broad knowledge, his understanding of art history is arguably as strong as his understanding of programming languages. However, unlike say Malcom Gladwell the quality of his essays is more mixed. He certainly has great perspective on what can make a start up successful and his knowledge of software languages is encyclopedic (if a little biased towards Lisp). If you want to learn more about software programming languages or want to do a start up, then this might be a useful book, but otherwise I’d just recommend skimming some of his best essays such as this one on startup mistakes and insightful quotes which can be found on www.paulgraham.com

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