Simply JavaScript (Book review)

A book that is sub-titled “Everything you need to learn JavaScript from scratch” is obviously not aimed at experienced JavaScript developers. However I don’t think Simply JavaScript is suitable for absolute beginners either, since it contains programming examples that aren’t all that easy for someone without at least some programming or scripting experience to wrap their head around.

The authors, Kevin Yank and Cameron Adams, get off to a great start by explaining the three layers the Web is built on (presentation, content, and behaviour) and how CSS, HTML, and JavaScript should be used for each separate layer. When a JavaScript book starts by talking about unobtrusive scripting and even mentions that perhaps JavaScript isn’t always the best way of solving a problem, you can be reasonably sure that it’s been written by someone who knows about modern Web development.

Since this book is not aimed at JavaScript experts, there is a whole chapter devoted to explaining the basics of programming with JavaScript. Variables, statements, conditions and loops, functions, and objects are all talked about in an easy-to-understand way, accompanied by plenty of code examples and illustrative figures.

After the first two introductory chapters, the authors dive into some actual programming for the next several chapters. The DOM, events, animation, form scripting, finding and debugging errors, and Ajax are all discussed in one chapter each. The final chapter takes a look ahead at the future of JavaScript.

Throughout the book, the Core JavaScript library is used to make some common DOM scripting tasks easier. I hadn’t heard of Core before, but it seems to do the job and is very lightweight. It’s so small that the entire source is included in the book.

Overall I think the authors do a great job of explaining JavaScript. The examples and code are easy to follow and explained well, and the book is written in a friendly and inviting tone. I picked up a few tips and tricks from reading this book, which for me makes it worth the time it took to read it.

Revisiting the sub-title of this book, I think the audience that will get the most out of it falls somewhere in between the novice and expert levels. To me it seems best suited for designers or developers with a decent knowledge of HTML and CSS and some familiarity with JavaScript. If that describes you, I can recommend Simply JavaScript.

As with all SitePoint books, there are sample chapters you can download to find out if the book is right for you.

Simply JavaScript
Authors: Kevin Yank, Cameron Adams
ISBN-10: 0980285801
ISBN-13: 978-0980285802

Posted on January 17, 2008 in JavaScript, Reviews


  1. To me it seems best suited for designers or developers with a decent knowledge of HTML and CSS and some familiarity with JavaScript.

    That describes me perfectly. I’ve found the book really easy to read and a great introduction to the fundamentals of JS.

    I’d also recommend it to anyone interested in JavaScript who knows a little about the language and Web design in general already.

  2. January 17, 2008 by actuel

    What if you know little about javascript but have an interest in beginning to tackle the subject? Any suggestions for a Javascript newbie?

    thx a

  3. I’m a JS newbie also, I can put together and tweak other peoples code and I can do basic PHP (I know it’s not the same but closer than HTMl/CSS) and that’s about it…for now.

    I may go for this book.

  4. Hi,

    I have also read the book and it was really fun, because the authors described the examples in a really easy way, like you said roger. And english is not my native language, but nevertheless i understood everything! I have also read “Accelerated DOM Scripting” from Snook, which was a bit difficult…

    So if you are totally new to javascript i can recommend first reading “DOM Scripting” from Jeremy Keith then read “Simply Javascript” and you will improve your knowledge…:-)

  5. Yep, this book not for the total beginner, but for the developer who has some JS experience and wants to improve his coding skills. It really teaches how you to write nice cross browser javascript.

    Next on my list is Dustin Diaz’s ‘Pro Javascript Design Patterns’.

  6. I do like this book and would recommend it too, but one thing I don’t like about it is it’s reliance on the Core library. While the library is nice it hinders learning when you use a library to do things. For example, instead to teaching how to build cross-browser event listeners it just uses an already rolled solution.

  7. @actuel If you’ve ever done any coding before, even BASIC, then you’ll probably be able to understand the book. If you can understand (most of) the following terms you’ll be fine: function, variable, statement, scope

    @Ryan If you’ve done some basic PHP, and you can hobble together other people’s javascript code you’ll be fine with this book.

    @mark I’m not 100% sure the complaint about the core library is very fair - not only is the source provided in the book as Roger stated in the post, the cross-browser event listener function is actually explained in detail.

  8. January 31, 2008 by Rollo

    Received my copy today. Thanks for the recommendation, I’m hoping it will get me on a firmer footing with the Google Maps API. Disappointed that I couldn’t let you have a cut of the price (buying from a local Amazon store, the only quick and cheap option). Perhaps this means that we need more open standards for online marketing affiliation (or something).

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