The Art & Science of JavaScript

Author: Cameron Adams, James Edwards, Christian Heilmann, Ara Pehlivanian, Dan Webb, Simon Willison & Michael Mahemoff
Publisher: Sitepoint, 2008
ISBN: 978-0980285840
Aimed at: Programmers already familiar with JavaScript
Rating: 4
Pros: Presents clever techniques
Cons: Too many authors
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot

JavaScript is a strange language. Because it is dynamic you can take what looks like a very simple, primitive even, language and turn it into whatever you want. The key to this is to invent new idioms, standard boiler plate ways of putting instructions together to do something surprising. You could call any one of these idioms a pattern if you wanted to but they are really closer to the syntax and semantics of the language than the term pattern might suggest. As a result currently JavaScript books fall into two categories – those that teach you the basic use of the language without inventing any new idioms and those that specialise in almost nothing but new idioms.

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This book is all about idioms and is full of interesting examples of doing clever things. Don’t both reading it if you are new to JavaScript because you won’t understand what it is trying to achieve. While not explicitly about Ajax all of the techniques are aimed at creating rich interactive web applications and they make heavy use of the DOM and JavaScript’s ability to work with HTML/XML DOM objects. For example we are told how to work with a table, sort columns and so on using JavaScript. For my tastes though the authors don’t go quite far enough as it would have been easy to wrap the entire table construct as a JavaScript object and do away with the HTML in Spartan Ajax style – but it is still mostly excellent stuff.

There are however two problems with this book that you need to be aware of. The first is that you are going to have some compatibility problems with the XHTML, DOM and other supposedly standards-based examples. The second is that overall this book is a mess. The reason is that its written by a collection of authors and hence isn’t a single person’s unified view. This is a shame because it makes many of the excellent ideas difficult to place into a framework that we could call “advanced JavaScript”. A highly recommended book as long as you want to read some very clever JavaScript and can put up with a motley collection of topics trying to hang together as a coherent book.

 


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Metaskills, Five Talents for the Robotic Age

Author: Marty Neumeier
Publisher: New Riders
Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0321898678
Audience: General
Rating: 3.
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank

The back jacket of this book has the strapline “Help! A robot ate my job!”, and Neumeier’s idea that he wants to get across is that current employment problems aren’t  [ ... ]



Learn Python the Hard Way

Author: Zed Shaw
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Pages: 311
ISBN: 978-0321884916
Audience: Beginner
Rating: 3.5
Reviewed by: Mike Driscoll

Now in its 3rd edition, is this a useful introduction for Python beginners?


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