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Review Book Review: PPK on JavaScript

Discussion in 'Articles, Reviews and Interviews' started by tripwire45, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

    From the author's post on Amazon: My first book,"ppk on JavaScript", is about basic JavaScript. Not basic as in "simple scripts for simple sites", but basic as in "performing basic tasks", such as registering an event handler while making sure the this keyword continues to work, or knowing under which circumstances a string is converted to a number (or vice versa). All JavaScripters need such knowledge. If you're a standards-aware CSS wizard, this book is definitely for you. I wrote it with you specifically in mind..."

    I know that a lot of books on HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, etc... are written with the beginner in mind. Someone who may want to use these tools in putting up a simple website to display personal content such as family pictures and the like. If that's your situation, avoid this book at all costs. Koch makes it clear that he wrote this book for "a standards-aware CSS wizard". If that's not you, move on to another JavaScript text.

    This is not to say that Koch's book isn't for the "beginner". It is for the "beginner" if you have mastery in the realms of HTML and CSS and perhaps an acquaintance with JavaScript. This book is advertised as the jumping off point between dabbling with JavaScript and mastering it. This book is for the beginning professional web designer who is looking to continue to enhance their (his or her) skills in this realm. If that's you, start paying attention to this review.

    One of the basic benefits and challenges of this book is that Koch doesn't "make up" sample portions of JavaScript to teach from. He goes for the real world effect by using eight actual, "for real" scripts in his book. On the one hand, that makes it difficult to learn individual elements and subelements of the code, but on the other hand, it does what I've always dreamed a book would do...actually teach you how to do "real stuff" instead of unrealistic, imaginary problems that would never apply to solving an actual scenarios. If you're up to that sort of challenge, you're going to love this book.

    I suppose chapter one had to be written the way it was but it tended to blur the identity of the target audience. Page 2 contains a box with the title "JavaScript is Not Java". Given the statements made in the author's quote at the beginning of this review, I'd hope the person this book was written for would understand that distinction. I don't imagine that the person who's never heard of JavaScript before would be the individual who'd benefit most from reading it. Still...let's continue.

    On one level, the book seemed to get to a slow start. Like a runner eager for the race, I was anxious to actually get to some code examples and start hammering away at the keyboard. On the other hand, Koch treated the subject of JavaScript the way an archaeologist might treat a delicate artifact...delighting in its subtle nuances and explaining its heretofore misunderstood meanings. Koch seems to understand his subject not only at the level of web programming but also in its historical and functional contexts.

    This isn't the book for a mechanic. If all you want is a straight forward "how to" book or one only containing examples of particular tasks, I can recommend Christian Wenz's JavaScript Phrasebook (and this is not to put down Wenz's work...it is a very fine guide showing the reader how to perform specific JavaScript tasks...but it's not meant to do more than that). Koch's book is for the person who wants to do more than copy and paste code into a text editor and create popups and downdown menus. This book has been written for someone who wants to "understand" JavaScript.

    I don't believe that any one book can contain the sum of all knowledge on a subject or teach the sum of all knowledge. I do believe that "PPK on JavaScript" fills a previously empty niche in that it's not for the rank beginner and doesn't claim to be the "definitive guide" on the subject, either. Neither is it combined with XML or does it even mention AJAX (which as become quite a buzzword these days). If "AJAX" is one of your goals, try learning JavaScript and XML first as individual entities (which they are) rather than going for the "gold ring" before you can even reach up to the pony on the merry-go-round.

    Suffice it to say, that Koch wrote this book for those who are neither "fish nor fowl". It's not for the strict newbie nor for the seasoned expert (although the "old school" programmer would see some benefits). It fills an educational gap that has long been needed to be filled. The book treats JavaScript as a mature subject with the right to stand on its own...not a programming language for an amateur nor as a road to more advanced goals. If you are serious...really serious about learning JavaScript and you want to be able to use JavaScript as a tool in its own right, "PPK on JavaScript" has something for you.

    A bonus: go to Koch's site http://www.quirksmode.org to find plenty of example code and a long valued resource on learning JavaScript.
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