Grokking Algorithms: An Illustrated Guide for Programmers and Other Curious People 1st Edition


Grokking Algorithms: An Illustrated Guide for Programmers and Other Curious People 1st Edition

Author: Aditya Y. Bhargava.
Edition: 1st Edition
Year: 2016
Language: English
ISBN 13: 978-1617292231;
Publisher: Manning Publications;
ISBN 10: 1617292230;
Pages: 258
File: PDF
Price: 5.99$
Digital Delivery: Via email

Grokking Algorithms: An Illustrated Guide for Programmers and Other Curious People 1st Edition


Grokking Algorithms is a fully illustrated, friendly guide that teaches you how to apply common algorithms to the practical problems you face every day as a programmer. You’ll start with sorting and searching and, as you build up your skills in thinking algorithmically, you’ll tackle more complex concerns such as data compression and artificial intelligence. Each carefully presented example includes helpful diagrams and fully annotated code samples in Python.

Learning about algorithms doesn’t have to be boring! Get a sneak peek at the fun, illustrated, and friendly examples you’ll find in Grokking Algorithms on Manning Publications’ YouTube channel.

About the Technology

An algorithm is nothing more than a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem. The algorithms you’ll use most often as a programmer have already been discovered, tested, and proven. If you want to understand them but refuse to slog through dense multipage proofs, this is the ebook for you. This fully illustrated and engaging guide makes it easy to learn how to use the most important algorithms effectively in your own programs.

About the eBook

Grokking Algorithms is a friendly take on this core computer science topic. In it, you’ll learn how to apply common algorithms to the practical programming problems you face every day. You’ll start with tasks like sorting and searching. As you build up your skills, you’ll tackle more complex problems like data compression and artificial intelligence. Each carefully presented example includes helpful diagrams and fully annotated code samples in Python. By the end of this ebook, you will have mastered widely applicable algorithms as well as how and when to use them.

his book is designed to be easy to follow. I avoid big leaps of thought. Any time a new concept is introduced, I explain it right away or tell you when I’ll explain it. Core concepts are reinforced with exercises and multiple explanations so that you can check your assumptions and
make sure you’re following along.

I lead with examples. Instead of writing symbol soup, my goal is to make it easy for you to visualize these concepts. I also think we learn best by being able to recall something we already know, and examples make recall easier. So when you’re trying to remember the difference between arrays and linked lists (explained in chapter 2), you can just think about getting seated for a movie. Also, at the risk of stating the obvious, I’m a visual learner. his book is chock-full of images.

The contents of the book are carefully curated. There’s no need to write a book that covers every sorting algorithm—that’s why we have Wikipedia and Khan Academy. All the algorithms I’ve included are practical. I’ve found them useful in my job as a software engineer, and they provide a good foundation for more complex topics. Happy reading!


The first three chapters of this book lay the foundations:

  • Chapter 1—You’ll learn your first practical algorithm: binary search. You also learn to analyze the speed of an algorithm using Big O
    notation. Big O notation is used throughout the book to analyze how slow or fast an algorithm is.
  • Chapter 2—You’ll learn about two fundamental data structures: arrays and linked lists. these data structures are used throughout the
    book, and they’re used to make more advanced data structures like hash tables (chapter 5).
  • Chapter 3—You’ll learn about recursion, a handy technique used by many algorithms (such as quicksort, covered in chapter 4).

In my experience, Big O notation and recursion are challenging topics for beginners. So I’ve slowed down and spent extra time on these

The rest of the book presents algorithms with broad applications:

  • Problem-solving techniques—Covered in chapters 4, 8, and 9. If you come across a problem and aren’t sure how to solve it efficiently, try divide and conquer (chapter 4) or dynamic programming (chapter 9). Or you may realize there’s no efficient solution, and get an approximate answer using a greedy algorithm instead (chapter 8).
  • Hash tables—Covered in chapter 5. A hash table is a very useful data structure. It contains sets of key and value pairs, like a person’s name and their email address, or a username and the associated password. It’s hard to overstate hash tables’ usefulness. When I want to solve a problem, the two plans of attack I start with are “Can I use a hash table?” and “Can I model this as a graph?”
  • Graph algorithms—Covered in chapters 6 and 7. Graphs are a way to model a network: a social network, or a network of roads, or neurons, or any other set of connections. Breadth-first search (chapter 6) and Dijkstra’s algorithm (chapter 7) are ways to find the shortest distance between two points in a network: you can use this approach to calculate the degrees of separation between two people or the shortest
    route to a destination.
  • K-nearest neighbors (KNN)—Covered in chapter 10. his is a simple machine-learning algorithm. You can use KNN to build a recommendations system, an OCR engine, a system to predict stock values—anything that involves predicting a value (“We think Adit will rate this movie 4 stars”) or classifying an object (“hat letter is a Q”).
  • Next steps—Chapter 11 goes over 10 algorithms that would make good further reading.

What’s Inside the ebook:

  • Covers search, sort, and graph algorithms
  • Over 400 pictures with detailed walkthroughs
  • Performance trade-offs between algorithms
  • Python-based code samples

How to use this ebook

The order and contents of this book have been carefully designed. If you’re interested in a topic, feel free to jump ahead. Otherwise, read the chapters in order—they build on each other.

I strongly recommend executing the code for the examples yourself. I can’t stress this part enough. Just type out my code samples verbatim (or download them from, and execute them. You’ll retain a lot more if you do.

I also recommend doing the exercises in this ebook. The exercises are short—usually just a minute or two, sometimes 5 to 10 minutes. hey will help you check your thinking, so you’ll know when you’re on track before you’ve gone too far.

Who should read this ebook

This book is aimed at anyone who knows the basics of coding and wants to understand algorithms. Maybe you already have a coding problem and are trying to find an algorithmic solution. Or maybe you want to understand what algorithms are useful for. Here’s a short,
an incomplete list of people who will probably find this ebook useful:

  • Hobbyist coders
  • Coding boot camp students
  • Computer science grads looking for a refresher
  • Physics/Math/other grads who are interested in programming

About the Reader

This easy-to-read, picture-heavy introduction is suitable for self-taught programmers, engineers, or anyone who wants to brush up on algorithms.

About the Author

Aditya Bhargava is a Software Engineer with a dual background in Computer Science and Fine Arts. He blogs on programming at

Table of Contents

about this book

1 Introduction to algorithms
What you’ll learn about the performance
What you’ll learn about solving problems
Binary search
A better way to search
Running time
Big O notation
Algorithm running times grow at different rates
Visualizing different Big O run times
Big O establishes a worst-case run time
Some common Big O run times
The traveling salesperson

2 Selection sort
How memory works
Arrays and linked lists
Linked lists
Inserting into the middle of a list
Selection sort

3 Recursion
Base case and the recursive case
The stack
The call stack
The call stack with recursion

4 Quicksort
Divide & conquer
Big O notation revisited
Merge sort vs. quicksort
Average case vs. worst case

5 Hash tables
Hash functions
Use cases
Using hash tables for lookups
Preventing duplicate entries
Using hash tables as a cache
Load factor
A good hash function

6 Breadth-first search
Introduction to graphs
What is a graph?
Breadth-first search
Finding the shortest path
Implementing the graph
Implementing the algorithm
Running time

7 Dijkstra’s algorithm
Working with Dijkstra’s algorithm
Trading for a piano
Negative-weight edges

8 Greedy algorithms
The classroom scheduling problem
The knapsack problem
The set-covering problem
Approximation algorithms
NP-complete problems
Traveling salesperson, step by step
How do you tell if a problem is NP-complete?

9 Dynamic programming
The knapsack problem
The simple solution
Dynamic programming
Knapsack problem FAQ
What happens if you add an item?
What happens if you change the order of the rows?
Can you fill in the grid column-wise instead
of row-wise?
What happens if you add a smaller item?
Can you steal fractions of an item?
Optimizing your travel itinerary
Handling items that depend on each other
Is it possible that the solution will require
more than two sub-knapsacks?
Is it possible that the best solution doesn’t fill
the knapsack completely?
Longest common substring
Making the grid
Filling in the grid
The solution
Longest common subsequence
Longest common subsequence—solution

10 K-nearest neighbors
Classifying oranges vs. grapefruit
Building a recommendations system
Feature extraction
Picking good features
Introduction to machine learning
Building a spam filter
Predicting the stock market

11 Where to go next
Inverted indexes
The Fourier transform
Parallel algorithms
Why are distributed algorithms useful?
The map function
The reduce function
Bloom filters and HyperLogLog
Bloom filters
The SHA algorithms
Comparing files
Checking passwords
Locality-sensitive hashing
Diffie-Hellman key exchange
Linear programming

answers to exercises


I first got into programming as a hobby. Visual Basic 6 for Dummies taught me the basics, and I kept reading books to learn more. But the subject of algorithms was impenetrable for me. I remember savoring the table of contents of my first algorithms book, thinking “I’m finally
going to understand these topics!” But it was dense stuff, and I gave up after a few weeks. It wasn’t until I had my first good algorithms professor that I realized how simple and elegant these ideas were.

A few years ago, I wrote my first illustrated blog post. I’m a visual learner, and I really liked the illustrated style. Since then, I’ve written a few illustrated posts on functional programming, Git, machine learning, and concurrency. By the way: I was a mediocre writer when I started out. Explaining technical concepts is hard. Coming up with good examples takes time, and explaining a difficult concept takes time.
So it’s easiest to gloss over the hard stuff. I thought I was doing a pretty good job until after one of my posts got popular, a coworker came up to me and said, “I read your post and I still don’t understand this.” I still had a lot to learn about writing.

Somewhere in the middle of writing these blog posts, Manning reached out to me and asked if I wanted to write an illustrated ebook. Well, it turns out that Manning editors know a lot about explaining technical concepts, and they taught me how to teach. I wrote this ebook to scratch a particular itch: I wanted to write a book that explained hard technical topics well, and I wanted an easy-to-read algorithms ebook. My writing has come a long way since that first blog post, and I hope you find this ebook an easy and informative read.

Reviews of the customers about the ebook:

  • Travis:
    I’m gonna keep this short (EDIT: that..definitely didn’t end up happening) because I haven’t gone through the whole ebook yet, so **disclaimer** on that part. But after just the first couple of chapters, I was very impressed.I’m a ‘seasoned’ programmer, I would like to think (industry experience at a “top” company, CS degree, coding all my life, etc), and so almost all of this ebook is “review” for me. I’m going back through fundamentals in preparation for coding interviews, as I’m back on the market for a job. I’d say this book does these things very well:

    1) Fills in the gaps that might’ve always been there – What I mean by this is, if you maybe got a bachelor’s in computer science, there could easily have been some material that just didn’t completely sink in or that your curriculum didn’t focus on. I think going through this ebook is a great way to make sure those gaps are filled.

    2) Explains concepts in an easy to grasp form – The examples that are used in the book are great. There’s one example early on with big O involving drawing 16 boxes on a piece of paper. One way is to draw 16 boxes one at a time – yielding O(n). Another way is to fold that piece of paper in half each time. This gets your 16 boxes in only 4 folds – big O(log n). It’s simple, yet a great way of showing the difference between the two.

    3) Keeps your attention – I love to buy books and then not read them… it’s a talent that I exercise often… One thing I can say about this book is that it actually keeps my attention, and I enjoy reading it. That’s saying a lot of it can do that. How much good is a book if it’s too boring to focus on and get through? If you don’t read it, it doesn’t matter how quality the content is.

    I’ve recommended this book to several people in my life already, and I wish I still had my Amazon affiliate account setup because I feel like a freaking spokesperson for the thing..! Haha.

    In summary: I would recommend this book to a very wide range of people—ANYONE in computer science looking to get a job, anyone trying to get a degree or just take anything CS-related, anyone interested in some of the CS fundamentals, anyone looking to review computer science concepts, anyone wanting to dip their feet into a new field of study they haven’t explored before.

    I wish I had this ebook when I was an undergrad—It would’ve saved me so much headache and difficulty.

    I’ll update this review once I’ve finished more of the book, but from what I’ve gone through so far, and compared to plenty of other programming books (algorithms, interview prep books, etc), it’s by far my favorite.

  • Dev:
    After going through a few different data structure and algorithm books and even part of Cracking the Coding Interview, and reading Grokking Algorithm’s, I realize how much easier it is to get even the more difficult concepts by the way the author draws out examples. And when I saw draw-out examples, there are illustrated examples that make it so simple even a kid can get these concepts that even experienced developers struggle with. Also, where other authors fail, Adit includes key insights about why and when to use certain algorithms and data structures that just make sense. Even if you don’t understand Python (the most simplified/elegant language I’ve seen so far), this book is a must-read if you’re interested in interviewing or even if you’re just trying to gain a better understanding of data structures and algorithms.
  • Shane:
    I’m a front-end dev without any formal computer science education. In the past, when I heard terms related to algorithms and big O notation, they seemed scary and made me feel totally unqualified to be part of that world. But the reality is, a lot of these concepts seem more difficult than they really are. When they’re presented in simple terms with examples and illustrations, you start to realize that it’s not beyond you at all – you just haven’t learned it yet. This book does an incredible job of making these concepts accessible. I recommend it to anyone without a formal CS background, whether you’re new to programming, or like me, have been doing it for a long time but haven’t had much exposure to algorithms. I recently used this book as a resource when preparing for coding interviews, and it was invaluable. I give it a ton of credit for helping me land my current job in a role I didn’t think was possible for me just a few years ago.
  • Bamieh:
    An amazing ebook for non-programmers interested in learning about the world of computer science. The ebook might also be very useful for undergrads entering the field.The author starts by providing a general introduction to the concepts of algorithms and analyzing their time using Big O notation. The book gradually advances the reader into various concepts in algorithms to paint a clear picture throughout the book:
    – A few necessary data structures.
    – A few algorithm implementations for sorting, searching, and finding the shortest path.
    – Graph algorithms for modeling networks.
    – K-NN is a gentle intro to classification problems and machine learning.

    The ebook introduces the main methods for problem-solving techniques including:
    – Divide and conquer: breaking a problem into smaller pieces
    – Approximation algorithms and NP-complete problems: greedy algorithms are used when calculating the exact solution will take too much time
    – Dynamic programming: optimizing a solution given a constrain by breaking it up into subproblems and solving these subproblems first (knapsack problem)

    Finally, the author wraps up by introducing the reader to concepts from various branches of computer science. The author provides hints on learning about each of these topics moving forwards:
    – Binary Trees for B-trees, red-black trees, heaps, and splay trees.
    – Inverted Indexes: building search engines
    – Fourier transform decomposing signals into the frequencies that make it up.
    – Parallel algorithms: MapReduce.
    – HyperLogLog and Bloom filters: probabilistic data structures and algorithms.
    – SHA functions: encryption and data integrity.
    – locality-sensitive hashing: Simhash functions where small changes only change the output slightly.
    – Diffie-Hellman key exchange: public-private keys for secure data sharing.
    – Linear programming: maximizing a solution given a constraint, Simplex algorithm.

  • Ron:
    I’m not big on rating things, but I had to for this amazing book. This is by far the best introduction to algorithms out there, especially if you have not encountered them before. If you’re a dev new to coding from some other field and lack a CS background, start here. If you are a VISUAL LEARNER, start here. If you like the light, easy text to get acquainted with an idea, start here. If you want to learn the basics and learn them well, start here. After you read this book you’ll be ready for the more dense ones.
  • Seamus:
    This is a great supplement to any computer science student taking a course in algorithms. Definitely NOT a substitute for more academic books and instruction on the subject, but definitely a great way to de-mystify what is for many people the hardest part about getting a degree in CS. The section on Dynamic Programming in particular is very helpful as it focuses on the principles and uses drawings to illustrate, and approaches the subject very gradually. It doesn’t help (or even mention) things like coming up with or solving for recurrences, and doesn’t have much in the way of real code examples, but that’s actually a good thing as it helps keep the focus on the ideas rather than the implementation.I also can’t say enough good things about the layout! They were generous with the whitespace, which helps with clarity and focusing on one idea at a time.
  • C.Pustejovsky:
    Aditya Bhargava does an amazing job explaining core concepts related to algorithms using pictures, diagrams, examples, and exercises sprinkled throughout his ebook.He uses Python for his code examples which is a very accessible programming language in terms of both popularity and readability. This is a great choice for beginners who will likely be checking this book out first before diving deeper.

    Finally, he points out the topics he considers to be outside the scope of the ebook. This gives the reader plenty of starting points for continuing their journey into algorithms and data structures.

  • Joseph:
    I just finished reading this book and I wish I had it during my time in college. This book has supplemented my understanding of algorithms and has taught me different ways from which to view an algorithm. I would definitely recommend this book to any student about to take a course in algorithms because it will supplement your learning and introduce different perspectives and perhaps cover any algorithm you didn’t cover in class. The book features popular algorithms like binary search, breath, and depth-first search, and Dijkstra’s algorithms. It is well written and has plenty of examples, exercises for you to make sure you are understanding the material. One of my favorite purchases!
  • Jony:
    The book is perfect for people that have a non-CS background and are working in IT related field or transitioning to it. It doesn’t go into details and internals of algorithms or data structures, just explains what they are, why they are used in plain English with simple real-life examples and illustrations. No classic phone book example for binary search, thanks for that to the author. That is why this book is called ‘Grokking…’. Anyone who is beyond the ‘Grokking…’ level can proceed to Cormen’s ‘Algorithms Unlocked’ and classic CLRS book.
  • Ashlee:
    I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I’m not sure how comprehensive it is, but it’s definitely a great supplement for anyone attempting to learn more about algorithms, data structures, and computer science generally. It’s a pleasure to read, with very informative drawings and clear explanations. It really helped drive home some concepts that I was either hard for me to comprehend or remember from [drier, less engaging] sources. I’ve also found the practice questions and answers to be very helpful for technical interview preparation. I would wholeheartedly recommend this for anyone who needs to learn about algorithms and data structures for work or those who just have a passing interest in the topic.

Buy more ebooks:

The Algorithm Design Manual (Texts in Computer Science)

Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems

Cracking the Coding Interview, 6th Edition: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions


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