Book Review: Speaking JavaScript

Book cover of Speaking JavascriptThe doctor tells me that, once I am released from the institution, my life will be just fine. My recollection of how I got here is rather vague. The doctor says it was because of depression, low self-respect, and chronic fear of JavaScript objects. I have no reason not to believe him.

I have been coding websites for quite a long time. Almost two decades. I learned HTML, embraced CSS when it came along, and I got excited about Flash at the time when everybody else did. I always sort of knew JavaScript. Whenever I got stuck I could rely on the help of a real programmer (i.e. a Java or PHP developer) – the people who treat JavaScript more like a hobby than a “real” programming language. This type of convenience, however, creates an unhealthy dependency. Therefore I decided to learn JavaScript myself. Properly.

LearningJavaScript is not easy. There are numerous online classes, and quite a few of them are even free, except that you pay the price in the form of coding examples that require you to create cute dog and cat objects and “woof methods” or, even worse, if/else statements that involve Justin Bieber. A painful reminder that all medicine tastes bitter. But I don’t give up easily: I am serious about JavaScript.

So here’s what I did: I enrolled in an Advanced Javascript class at the O’Reilly School of Technology and purchased the printed version of Speaking Javascript by Dr. Axel Rauschmayer.

The subtitle of Speaking Javascript says that it is “an in-depth guide for programmers,” so I was rather surprised — I dare say almost disappointed — when the book arrived in the mail. Can you believe me when I tell you that it is only about a mere inch thick?!! I remember that the only other JavaScript book I ever owned, David Flanagan’s JavaScript – The Definitive Guide, was at least twice that thick. Should I be alarmed that this “in-depth guide” appears to be suspiciously lightweight?

It turns out that its compact format is one of the book’s biggest strengths. Explanations are short but exactly to the point, without unnecessary references to pop culture or pet peculiarities. Instead, Dr. Rauschmayer (whose personal blog also offers a wealth of information on JavaScript) generously sprinkles code examples throughout each chapter that are both strikingly simple yet incredibly helpful. For instance, take this example, illustrating that primitive values in Javascript can’t be changed:

It is bare bones but contains everything it needs in order to explain its concept (or quickly remind me should I have forgotten). I find this incredibly refreshing. And time-saving. Speaking JavaScript is beautifully precise throughout its 436 pages. It is not arranged into lessons and does not offer to help you build yet another awesome and fun game involving Justin Bieber. Instead it covers everything I could possibly want to know about JavaScript as a programming language, its advantages and disadvantages, and does so in a clear, distraction-free way. This is a fact that can’t be praised highly enough. I wish all programming books were written this way.

The doctor says that if I consult Speaking JavaScript on a daily basis I may soon be released from the institution. I have no reason not to believe him.

Title: Speaking JavaScript
By: Dr. Axel Rauschmayer
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Pages: 436
Price: $49.99 (print)

About Uwe Kristen

After graduating in Scottish Literature at University of Glasgow in 1996 Uwe put down his empty glass and left the pub. He took the next airplane to New York City and started coding websites. He still codes. He still reads.