Compact Horrors of JavaScript

JavaScript is notorious for the nasty surprises it springs on the unwary programmer, especially since it looks like many perfectly sensible languages (and is deceptively named after one). Two compact books present its mind-melting horrors in concentrated form, so as to quickly bring the unfortunate JavaScript neophyte up to speed. Douglas Crockford’s 2008 classic long served as the standard introduction, but in my opinion has been superseded by David Herman’s all-around superior title. As always, both reviews have been added to the Developer Books archive.

Effective JavaScript — David Herman, Addison-Wesley 2012

Herman’s slim but excellent book easily holds its own next to Effective… classics by Joshua Bloch (Java) or Scott Meyers (C++). He expects some JavaScript experience but covers that language’s many perversions so lucidly and thoroughly that I would also recommend his book as an introduction for programmers versed in other “curly braces languages.” All the seemingly absurd patterns in professional JavaScript code, like anonymous functions that are immediately executed, will finally make sense. Read this book if you have to deal with JavaScript in any capacity whatsoever.

JavaScript: The Good Parts — Douglas Crockford, O’Reilly 2008

Until David Herman’s Effective JavaScript, Crockford’s 150-page overview was the standard primer on the language’s unusual capabilities and shocking defects. Unfortunately, Crockford wastes much of his limited space on pointless grammar diagrams, excessive code samples, and overly specific API references. While he does eventually get around to explaining JavaScript’s distinctive features (for good or bad), Herman does a far better job there and has essentially obsoleted Crockford’s classic.

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