book-reviews

R Inferno

by Patrick Burns

Rating: ★★★

A concise, no-nonsense survey of a number of trip-ups, common errors and unexpected behaviours in R. There is no effort here to explain in detail the underlying workings of R, but I thought this was a strength -- the full description of the language would be much drier and less immediately useful. The book is also not an introduction to R, and I think that to get the most value out of it you need to have already been butting up against issues with the language for a little while. Some of the material is simply a reminder of programming basics, for those coming from other backgrounds, but other various bits of arcana are valuable for users at all levels, and I definitely learnt some things during the read-through. I don't expect to remember it all, but knowing about the failure cases should help minimise future bafflement.

Other reviewers caution that the book is slightly outdated, but I didn't find many areas where this was important -- most of the examples I tried out worked as described, with the notable exception of the lazy evaluation issue with lapply which seems to no longer require the use of force.