I purchased the book to help me out with the recurring task of quickly understanding the nature of unfamiliar large software projects. Kudos to Mr. Spinellis for tackling this subject, which is a large part of the everyday work of programming.
Unfortunately, I feel that this book was of very limited use to me as an experienced programmer, and suffers from a rather basic flaw (as a topic). The problem is that the art of code reading is really the intersection of a deep and/or broad understanding of programming, in conjunction with a deep and/or broad understanding of the tools and practices employed. One could well assert that this book is about *debugging* unfamiliar codebases as much as it is about *reading* them, since code comprehension is a component of code debugging. This is a rather apt analogy, since many have attempted to describe the black art of debugging just as Mr. Spinellis has attempted with reading, and with no definitive "must-have" coverage to date.
The result is that I felt the book rushed through important programming concepts that were either extremely basic (global variables, while loops, conditionals, blocks), or language-specific (C typedef, arrays, function pointers), or too deep for the book to address adequately (trees, stacks, queues, hashes, graphs). With regard to the latter, I found it odd to be reading a lot of text about basic data structures, when it seemed to me that I should be assumed to already have this knowledge if I wanted to read code that used it. And if I did NOT know about basic data structures, I should be reading a book about data structures rather than a book about code reading. Software patterns are also presented (though not by the name, I think). If I was to encounter a codebase that employed some programming concept I didn't understand fully (for example, red-black trees), then I would first go to a book on data structures -- not a book on code reading.
Following the sections on what I would consider mandatory prerequisite understanding are some brief chapters software engineering concepts (version control, build systems, project organization, packaging, system structures), which might be useful to a reader who had never worked on a large-scale project before.
After all of the coverage of what I would consider prerequisite knowledge, the penultimate chapter finally gets to the topic of tools and techniques for actually reading code. This chapter is in fact what I had hoped Mr. Spinellis would devote the book to. Unfortunately, most of the tools and techniques presented are very basic and quickly encountered by any programmer: regular expressions, the fact that many editors include browsing support, the grep utility, differencing tools, the idea that you could write your own tools, using the compiler to emit warnings and preprocessed code, that beautifiers exist, profiling and annotating printouts. And that's it, in about forty pages, followed by a chapter devoted to an example session.
On the whole, I think this book comes up short. If you have a few years of programming experience under your belt, then you've already encountered the basic tools and techniques presented. If someone resorted to this book to learn about a basic programming construct, then they could read my code, but I'd be nervous about letting them modify it, until they read more focused texts.
I'm rating this book at three stars because there are some good pieces here and the effort was laudable. In the end, though, I really don't think that anybody needs this book on their shelf.