What I’m Reading: Advanced Compiler Design and Implementation by Steven Muchnick

A couple months since my last book review, and I’ve finally slain this beast.

The Gyarados of Compiler Textbooks

Although Muchnick wrote Advanced Compiler Design and Implementation in 1997, he confidently surveys the compilation process, followed by an in-depth eight hundred pages of compiler information-gathering and optimizations. He clearly explains dozens of low to high-level optimizations.

Muchnick explains in his forward that the book targets Master’s and PhD level Computer Scientists or similarly competent industry professionals, and therefore, I had not been introduced to some of the math concepts, such as lattices, that he provides brief coverage for. I know that I’ll need to review those topics in advanced mathematics prior to rereading this book, as I feel I missed a lot of detail due to my unfamiliarity. Despite added benefits for reading this book after covering Set Theory and Lattices, Muchnick stays light on proofs and simply isn’t as taxing to read as Donald E. Knuth.

Muchnick covers obvious optimizations with the same enthusiasm and good humor as obscure or highly theoretically driven ones, in a way that I can only effectively communicate with meme-based humor:

He writes all of the algorithms in this book using ICAN, a pseudo-language with striking similarities to ML or Haskell, although it also contains some iterative syntax as well. While the text explanations accompanying the algorithms communicated their intent effectively to readers well-versed in data structures, ICAN felt a little wonky and I really wish Muchnick had just given in to the lambda and written the gory code details in a strongly-typed functional language.

Haskell Clippy
ICAN see you’re writing a book on compilers. Would you like some help with that?

I highly recommend Advanced Compiler Design and Implementation by Steven Muchnick as a part of any low-level developer’s library, or for students as a follow-up to Appel’s Modern Compiler Implementation in ML.

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