Book Review: C++ Lambda Story

Wed
13
Jan 2021

C++ Lambda Story book

Courtesy its author BartÅ‚omiej Filipek, I was given an opportunity to read a new book “C++ Lambda Story”. Here is my review.

A book with 149 pages would be too short to teach entire C++, even in its basics, but this one is about a specific topic, just one feature of the language – lambda expressions. For this, it may seem like even too many, depending on how deeply the author goes into the details. To find out, I read the book over 3 evenings.

The book starts from the very beginning – the description of the problem in C++98/03, where lambdas were not available in the language, so we had to write functors - structs or classes with overloaded operator(). Then he moves on to describing lambdas as introduced in C++11, their syntax and all the features. Every feature described is accompanied by a short and clear example. These examples also have links to the same code available in online compilers like Wandbox, Compiler Explorer, or Coliru.

In the next chapters, the author describes what has been added to lambdas in new language revisions – C++14, C++17, C++20, and how other new features introduced to the language interact with lambdas – e.g. consteval and concepts from C++20.

Not only features of lambda expressions are described but also some quirks that every programmer should know. What if a lambda outlives the scope where it was created? What may happen when it is called on multiple threads in parallel? The book answers all these questions, illustrating each with a short, yet complete example.

Sometimes the author describes tricks that may seem too sophisticated. It turns out you can make a recursive call of your lambda, despite not directly supported, by defining a helper generic lambda inside your lambda. You can also derive your class from the implicit class defined by a lambda, or many of them, to have your operator() overloaded for different parameter types.

Your tolerance to such tricks depends on whether you are a proponent of “modern C++” and using all its features, or you prefer simple code, more like “C with classes”. Nonetheless, lambda expressions by themselves are a great language feature, useful in many cases. The book mentions some of these cases, as it ends with a chapter “Top Five Advantages of C++ Lambda Expressions”.

Overall, I like the book a lot. It describes this specific topic of lambda expressions in C++ comprehensively, but still in a concise and clear way. I recommend it to every C++ programmer. Because it is not very long, you shouldn’t hesitate with reading it like it was a new project you need to find time for. You should rather treat it like an additional, valuable learning resource, as if you read several blog articles or watched some YouTube videos about a topic of your interest.

You can buy the book on Leanpub. I also recommend visiting authors blog: C++ Stories (new blog converted from bfilipek.com). See also my review of his previous book: “C++17 in Detail”. There is a discount for “C++ Lambda Story” ($5.99 instead of $8.99) here, as well as for both books ($19.99 instead of $23.99) here - valid until the end of February 2021.

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