By Michael Woloszynowicz

By Michael Woloszynowicz

Saturday, January 14, 2012

JavaScript Enlightenment - Reviewed


A couple of weeks ago a copy of Cody Lindley's JavaScript Enlightenment book made it onto my desk and I approached it with a good degree of skepticism. With the plethora of JavaScript books already in print, why would we need another? Helped somewhat by the books unintimidating length I dove into the first chapter and before I knew it, I was half way through. Much to my surprise, the book managed to provide a fresh perspective on a well-covered topic and was actually enjoyable to read.

Although the author states from the outset that the book is not intended for JavaScript neophytes, I somewhat disagree. While I agree that it's not for those new to programming in general, I believe that it would serve as a good introduction to the JavaScript language. Most step-by-step guides provide a high level and broad overview of JavaScript topics in order to accelerate the process by which you can write something concrete. JS Enlightenment does a good job of presenting often confusing concepts in a clear and simple manner that would make future reading more effective and increase the depth of learning. It achieves a good deal of its clarity through a copious use of well documented examples that are simple to understand but provide a great deal of insight into the language. For those already familiar with JavaScript, there's still a lot of value to be had from this book and will serve as an excellent reference if something should slip your mind.

JS Enlightenment serves up one of the clearest treatments of the prototype chain that I've seen to date, and while it leaves out complex inheritance examples, it leaves you with a strong foundation to pursue more advanced concepts through further reading. Some other topics the book is especially good at explaining include:

  • The various forms of object construction, the constructor property and the use of typeof and instancof
  • Primitive values and object conversion during use as well as object literals
  • Complex object storage and comparison
  • Scope principles and prototype chain lookup
  • Function passing and invocation, the arguments property and basic closures
  • How "this" works and how to achieve the desired object context through call and apply

All this being said, it's by no means a complete treatment on writing JavaScript applications, but the author never intended it to be. Much like a good web application, this book is good precisely because of what it leaves out. It never pretends to be more than it is and delivers on its mission of providing “a short and digestible summary of the ECMA-262, Edition 3 specification, focused on the nature of objects in JavaScript”. When paired with a more "how-to" style book like JavaScript The Good Parts, or Eloquent JavaScript, a reader will achieve a greater breadth and depth of knowledge then if left to those books alone. Unless you're a JavaScript expert, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the book here and prepare to be enlightened.

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