Book Review: Coding Interview Questions by Narasimha Karumanchi

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Programming and computer science is growing rapidly but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a job if you’re not prepared. Naturally you need to learn the material, but you also need to be prepared for the interview questions thrown at you when applying for a programming job.

I think Coding Interview Questions will prove valuable solely to programmers who need to study the fundamentals first. This could include Jr. database engineers, DevOps guys, backend developers or anyone related to the programming side like data analysts.

This book covers a lot of mathematical concepts along with programming subjects like tree structures and basic algorithms. Nothing is too detailed so it’s perfect for the absolute beginner applying for a junior position. It will not help experienced developers but it can be a powerful asset when just getting started.

Book Contents

In total the book pushes past 500 pages with over 20 different chapters.

Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of programming from tree structures to computer networking and algorithms. Everything is covered in detail but the topics are very basic.

This book is clearly meant for a complete beginner or someone fairly inexperienced with programming. These questions aren’t really softball questions, but they’re not complex either.

Each chapter covers a certain subject and includes a handful of different questions with potential answers. The author’s answers are correct and certainly not faulty, although I would’ve expected the organization to be a lot better for an interviewing prep book.

You can tell which subjects are covered just by the table of contents. If these topics look too simple then I’d recommend a different book. And if you need a huge list of potential programming questions check out this GitHub repo full of examples.

The chapters break down as follows:

  1. Programming Basics
  2. Scripting Languages
  3. Design Interview Questions
  4. Operating System Concepts
  5. Computer Networking Basics
  6. Database Concepts
  7. Brain Teasers
  8. Algorithms Introduction
  9. Recursion and Backtracking
  10. Linked Lists
  11. Stacks
  12. Queues
  13. Trees
  14. Priority Queue and Heaps
  15. Graph Algorithms
  16. Sorting
  17. Searching
  18. Selection Algorithms
  19. Symbol Tables
  20. Hashing
  21. String Algorithms
  22. Algorithm Design Techniques
  23. Greedy Algorithms

Each of these chapters has sections covering different questions you might face about each topic. If some of these topics look confusing to you then I would absolutely recommend this book as a study guide.

The author actually suggests that Data Structures and Algorithms Made Easy would be a comparable study book.

If you’re anywhere past that level of logic then definitely pass on this book and instead opt for Cracking the Coding Interview.

Pros & Cons

I think the best thing about this book is the clarity of direction for whoever needs it. Some people don’t want to be expert programmers and that’s totally fine. In this scenario Coding Interview Questions will be a valuable asset.

The content is approachable from a beginner’s perspective because it’s not overwhelming at all. You should have no trouble keeping up with the content regardless of your current background in computer science.

However the book’s positive trait is also a downside. The simplicity is definitely too simple for anyone with an inclination towards intermediate-to-advanced programing.

Also there are many typos which I’m typically willing to overlook. One or two, maybe even 3-4 typos are acceptable as long as the content is good. But there are so many typos even in the code that I have a tough time recommending this for a study book.

I think the organization also leaves a lot to be desired and this will be a tough book to reference again in the future. The chapters are outlined clearly but the internal contents are jumbled up too much. The writing style also seems to jump around to the point where I sometimes get lost trying to understand what the author is saying.

The writing is for the most part correct and understandable(barring typos). But I think the author had a tough time organizing his thoughts in a way that would make sense to readers.

However I can’t say it’s really that bad. The questions and solutions in this book are correct. They will help you practice for a basic programming interview and they will build your confidence before your first interview.

Who Is This For?

Absolute beginners who don’t have a job in the field will get something from this book. It’ll at least act as a study aide to make you think about the right questions and put you on the right path for data structures and basic algorithms.

I also think this book will help people who are entering fields that are programming-adjacent. Data science, big data analytics, server administration and conversions/tracking all relate to programming but don’t focus solely on code.

If you hope to enter any field that would require rudimentary programming skills then this is your book. However it’s really only targeted at this group of people.

If you’re a more advanced developer with a few years experience then I do not recommend this book at all. Programming Interviews Exposed would be a better(and cheaper) option with about 150 fewer pages of intro material.

I don’t want to say that Coding Interview Questions has no value. It certainly does make you think about the basics of Q&A in a typical development interview. It doesn’t really explain the underlying logic very well, but it’ll at least get you thinking about how to answer these questions.

Final Summary

For what this book promises I think it delivers well enough. But what it delivers may not be exactly what you’re looking for.

Coding Interview Questions is fractured and covers too many subjects without enough detail. The questions are rudimentary and they objective seems to be memorizing answers rather than fully comprehending the theory behind the questions.

This book almost reads like an introductory guide to interviewing for coding jobs. The questions covered are not very technical, and they really just scratch the surface of more advanced subjects like algorithms. If you’re trying to learn these higher-level topics I’d recommend a detailed guide like Introduction to Algorithms just because it covers the subject in much more detail.

However if you’re still new to the computer science world or are looking to apply to a data science job then this book will give you a solid leg up. It likely won’t help you land that Sr. Engineering job(in fact I’ll guarantee it won’t help).

But it will answer most of your common questions and set you on the right line of thinking when interviewing. If you do need something more advanced for interviewing I would instead recommend Cracking the Coding Interview.

The reason I have to give this book a mid-grade mark is the poor organization and the lack of clarification in the title. This is undoubtedly a beginner’s book and while this doesn’t have to be stated in the book’s title, it certainly would clarify the book’s target audience a bit more.

Review Rating: 3/5


Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.