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Why The Lucky Stiff’s Delightful Foreword for Beginning Ruby

By Peter Cooper / March 25, 2011

I started Ruby Inside in May 2006 as a promotional vehicle for my then in-progress book, Beginning Ruby. It eventually went on to be published by Apress and is now on its second edition having sold quite a few copies.

It's typical to choose someone who's better known than you in the field to write a foreword for you to lend some legitimacy to your book and I only had one choice: Why The Lucky Stiff. As with many Rubyists, Why was a hero of mine and I wanted to go with the unusual route of an illustrated foreword. Surprisingly, Why readily accepted the challenge.

The foreword turned out great. Why disappeared for a few months after submitting his first drafts so we stuck with them but he had more planned. Many readers of Beginning Ruby have commented on how much they love his work, but today I discovered that several people I know well had never seen this work (because, of course, competent Rubyists don't need an introductory book). So here's a copy and paste of Why's foreword for Beginning Ruby for all to enjoy:

If you want to check out Beginning Ruby, give this PDF a look. The 2nd edition is a couple of years old now so ignore the Rails bits. Oh, and shh...


  1. J says:

    I miss him still.

  2. Geoffrey Grosenbach says:

    I've been unable to find my first-edition original copy of Beginning Ruby ever since he disappeared. I think he reached out and retracted it.

  3. Peter Cooper says:

    Oh yeah, that's why we had to get a second edition printed ;-)

  4. Mark Wilden says:

    I must be the only person alive who just doesn't find _why all that amusing.

  5. Peter Cooper says:

    Are you vegan? It might be all that chunky bacon.

  6. mwmitchell says:

    @Mark Wilden, who ever said he was amusing??

  7. Marc-Andre Cournoyer says:

    Yeah, I totally agree w/ you Mark...

    You are the only person alive that doesn't find why amusing :p

  8. lakshmanan says:

    As soon as I read his name in your tweet -- For a minute, I thought he has come back...

  9. dotemacs says:

    @Peter Thanks Peter, this is a great post.

    @Mark Wilden Romans said it the best: De gustibus non est disputandum

  10. AnonymousCritic says:

    @Mark I agree with you because didn't find him amusing either. His code was fantastic but his book was unreadable.

  11. Simon B. says:

    Any chance that the veil will ever be lifted on what happened to _why? I can't help but be both curious and sad about the whole thing.

  12. Allen Lee says:

    Missing _why! He led me in the world of ruby, and inspired me greately.

  13. David D. says:

    Does this mean there's a third edition right around the corner? I downloaded the PDF and I have to say, your book is very, very good for a beginner like me. I've been thinking about, putting off, attempting and failing to learn ruby for a long time, and the books I've had so far (Pickaxe, Mark Slagell's Teach Yourself Ruby in 21 days) haven't really clicked. Yours is sweet - straightforward, practical, clear and readable.

  14. Peter Cooper says:

    @DAvid: Thanks for the support. I'm glad you're enjoying it! If it makes sense and you'd like to, buy the print version sometime ;-)

    If there's a third edition, it's not around the corner, alas. Nothing has been said about it. I suspect I've annoyed the publisher enough to make them think twice, to be honest, though I'm not sure I'd want to write for them again anyway.

  15. Ashish kumar says:

    It's a nice post!!!

  16. David D. says: is shipping it to me as we speak :)

  17. Barth says:

    _why? should change his name to _where.
    _where is _why?

  18. Igwe says:

    Like some kind of elephant that's a bat and a pygmy horse... but also ... YOUR FRIEND!
    _why shoulda've been a comedian

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  20. Sijo K George says:

    Actually what happened to why? Where is he now?

  21. Brazen says:

    Darn you for reminding me why I had to put all the black keys back on my piano!

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