Rust for Rustaceans: Idiomatic Programming for Experienced Developers

Rust for Rustaceans: Idiomatic Programming for Experienced Developers

Master professional-level coding in Rust.


One of the goals listed on the Rust 2018 roadmap was to develop teaching resources to better serve intermediate Rustaceans—those who aren’t beginners but also aren’t compiler experts looking to design a new iteration of the borrow checker. That call inspired me to start live-streaming coding sessions where I implemented real systems in Rust in real time—not toy projects or long-winded introductions to basic concepts, but libraries and tools I would actually use for my research. My thinking was that Rust newcomers needed to see an experienced Rust programmer go through the whole development process, including design, debugging, and iteration, in order to understand how to think in Rust. While a beginner could attempt the same things themselves, it’d likely be far slower and frustrating since they would also be learning the language along the way.

Many developers said that my videos provided a good way to learn to use Rust “for real,” which was very exciting. However, over the years, it also became clear that the videos weren’t for everyone, or for every situation. Some developers prefer to be more in control over their own learning and would rather have a teaching resource they can consume at their own pace. Others just need to understand a particular topic better, or find out how a specific feature works or is best used, and for those situations, a six-hour coding video isn’t that helpful. I wanted to make sure that intermediate resources were available for those people and situations as well, which is what ultimately made me decide to write this book. My aim was to distill all that time spent teaching intermediate Rust by example into solid textual explanations of the most important intermediate topics.

I realized early on that the book would complement the videos, not replace them. I remain convinced that the best way to quickly gain experience in a language, barring actively working with it yourself daily, is to watch someone experienced use it. But in my time writing this book, I’ve also found that this format works incredibly well as a comprehensive, by-topic reference that collects lots of knowledge in one place, which is where coding videos fall terribly short. The coding sessions help develop your Rust experience, intuition, and taste. The book teaches you the theory, mechanisms, and idioms of the language. And ultimately, a developer needs all of the above to truly excel at what they do.

Now, many many words and iterations later, what you have in front of you is my attempt at plugging another hole in the set of intermediate Rust teaching resources. I hope that you find it useful and that we’re now one step closer to fulfilling that roadmap goal!

You’ll Learn:

  • How to design reliable, idiomatic, and ergonomic Rust programs based on best principles
  • Effective use of declarative and procedural macros, and the difference between the
  • How asynchrony works in Rust – all the way from the Pin and Waker types used in manual implementations of Futures, to how async/await saves you from thinking about most of those words
  • What it means for code to be unsafe, and best practices for writing and interacting with unsafe functions and traits
  • How to organize and configure more complex Rust projects so that they integrate nicely with the rest of the ecosystem
  • How to write Rust code that can interoperate with non-Rust libraries and systems, or run in constrained and embedded environments

Brimming with practical, pragmatic insights that you can immediately apply, Rust for Rustaceans helps you do more with Rust, while also teaching you its underlying mechanisms.

What’s in the Book

This book is written both as a guide and as a reference. The chapters are more or less independent, so you can skip directly to topics that particularly interest you (or are currently causing you headaches), or you can read the book start to finish for a more holistic experience. That said, I do recommend that you start by reading Chapters 1 and 2, as they lay the foundation for the later chapters and for many topics that will come up in your day-to-day Rust development. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll find in each chapter:

  • Chapter 1, Foundations, gives deeper, more thorough descriptions of fundamental Rust concepts like variables, memory, ownership, borrowing, and lifetimes that you’ll need to be familiar with to follow the remainder of the book.
  • Chapter 2, Types, similarly provides a more exhaustive explanation of types and traits in Rust, including how the compiler reasons about them, their features and restrictions, and a number of advanced applications.
  • Chapter 3, Designing Interfaces, covers how to design APIs that are intuitive, flexible, and misuse-resistant, including advice on how to name things, how to use the type system to enforce API contracts, and when to use generics versus trait objects.
  • Chapter 4, Error Handling, explores the two primary kinds of errors (enumerated and opaque), when the use of each is appropriate, and how each of these are defined, constructed, propagated, and handled.
  • Chapter 5, Project Structure, focuses on the non-code parts of a Rust project, such as Cargo metadata and configuration, crate features, and versioning.
  • Chapter 6, Testing, details how the standard Rust testing harness works and presents some testing tools and techniques that go beyond standard unit and integration tests, such as fuzzing and performance testing.
  • Chapter 7, Macros, covers both declarative and procedural macros, including how they’re written, what they’re useful for, and some of their pitfalls.
  • Chapter 8, Asynchronous Programming, gives an introduction to the difference between synchronous and asynchronous interfaces and then delves into how asynchrony is represented in Rust both at the low level of Future and Pin and at the high level of async and await. The chapter also explains the role of an asynchronous executor and how it makes the whole async machinery come together.
  • Chapter 9, Unsafe Code, explains the great powers that the unsafe keyword unlocks and the great responsibilities that come with those powers. You’ll learn about common gotchas in unsafe code as well as tools and techniques you can use to reduce the risk of incorrect unsafe code.
  • Chapter 10, Concurrency (and Parallelism), looks at how concurrency is represented in Rust and why it can be so difficult to get right in terms of both correctness and performance. It covers how concurrency and asynchrony are related (but not the same), how concurrency works when you get closer to the hardware, and how to stay sane while trying to write correct concurrent programs.
  • Chapter 11, Foreign Function Interfaces, teaches you how to make Rust cooperate nicely with other languages and what FFI primitives like the extern keyword actually do.
  • Chapter 12, Rust Without the Standard Library, is all about using Rust in situations where the full standard library isn’t available, such as on embedded devices or other constrained platforms, where you’re restricted to what the core and alloc modules provide.
  • Chapter 13, The Rust Ecosystem, doesn’t cover a particular Rust subject but instead aims to give broader guidance about working in the Rust ecosystem. It contains descriptions of common design patterns, advice on staying up to date on additions to the language and best practices, tips on useful tools and other useful trivia I’ve accumulated over the years that isn’t otherwise described in any single place.

The book has a website at with links to resources from the book, future errata, and the like. You’ll also find that information at the book’s page on the No Starch Press website at

More about the author

Jon Gjengset, Jon Gjengset has worked in the Rust ecosystem since the early days of Rust 1.0, and built a high-performance relational database from scratch in Rust over the course of his PhD at MIT. He’s been a frequent contributor to the Rust toolchain and ecosystem, including the asynchronous runtime Tokio, and maintains several popular Rust crates, such as hdrhistogram and inferno. Jon has been teaching Rust since 2018, when he started live-streaming intermediate-level Rust programming sessions. Since then, he’s made videos that cover advanced topics like async and await, pinning, variance, atomics, dynamic dispatch, and more, which have been received enthusiastically by the Rust community.

All content is for demonstration purposes, we do not store files, please purchase the printed version of the magazine after reading.

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