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What Is the Best Book for Learning JavaScript?

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“What’s the best book to learn JavaScript?” is a question that I’ve heard asked a lot lately. There are certainly a lot of to choose from. A quick search of Amazon reveals that (at the time of writing) 34 new JavaScript books have appeared in the last 30 days. And another 40 are marked as coming soon. Madness!

So how should you go about choosing the right book for you? Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but today I’d like to present three of my favorites. I hope they will provide some inspiration and offer additional pathways to explore on your learning journey.

Note: We all have preferences about how we learn, as well as what we expect from learning material. This is not a definitive list, rather a selection of books that I enjoyed and which have helped me further my JavaScript knowledge.

Eloquent JavaScript, 2nd Edition

1. Best Book for Learning JavaScript - Eloquent JavaScript, 2nd Edition

Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke is a book is aimed at ambitious beginners. The author assumes no prior JavaScript knowledge on the part of the reader and does a great job of introducing them to the language in an informative, yet entertaining way. One of my favorite things about this book is that it doesn’t just focus on the mechanics of the language, rather it teaches the fundamental concepts of programming and computer science to boot.

The book is split into three parts — the first concentrates on the language itself, the second concerns using JavaScript in the browser and the third (and smallest) part is devoted to Node.js. It also contains exercises and project chapters (in my opinion a great way of reinforcing the concepts learned). These see readers build such things as an artificial life simulation and their own programming language (I did say ambitious).

Although Eloquent JavaScript starts of slow (looking at variables, functions, basic control flow etc) it soon picks up the pace with topics as recursion, polymorphism and higher-order functions being covered in the first part of the book. This might mean that the absolute beginner has to take multiple passes at the reading, but it also means that there plenty of good stuff for the intermediate level programmer to get their teeth into.

My only gripe with Eloquent JavaScript is that it focuses on ECMAScript 5 with ES6 hardly getting a look in. This is a shame (and I hope it is addressed in the next edition), but overall I don’t think that it detracts from the value of the book as a great learning resource.

Eloquent JavaScript is available as a paperback, as well a being free to read online.

You Don’t Know JS

2. Best Book for Learning JavaScript - You Don't Know JS

You Don’t Know JS by Kyle Simpson is a series of books that examine the inner workings of the JavaScript language. Book one of this series assumes little or no prior JavaScript knowledge and introduces various programming building blocks which are explored in more depth in subsequent books. Saying that, I would hesitate to recommend this series to a beginner, as by the end of book two (Scope and Closures) the author is already tackling some pretty advanced stuff. For example exploring closures through implementing his own module loader.

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