Two good books for learning JavaScript, jQuery

Since about March this year, I’ve been searching for a few good, clear books to recommend to journalists and students who are interested in learning to use jQuery — with an eye toward getting ready for HTML5.

You could just leap straight into jQuery, but I think it would make more sense to get a handle on how JavaScript works — then go on to learn about jQuery. (See my earlier post Looking at jQuery for visual journalism for a gentle introduction to why jQuery is important.)

The JavaScript Pocket Guide (pub. April 2010), by Lenny Burdette, provides a straight-to-the-point introduction to JavaScript, and I found it surprisingly readable (and skim-able too). Under 300 pages, it does not try to be comprehensive, but also it does not shy away from the higher-level and more difficult things JavaScript can do. I love it that the author makes it easy for  you to play along using Firebug, a free plug-in for the Firefox Web browser.

You do not need access to a Web server (except for a few examples in the final chapters) to use JavaScript. For that reason especially, I think JavaScript is a good language to use for teaching journalists the basics of programming, such as variables, loops, and functions. I haven’t tested this book with students yet, but I feel really confident that it’s going to be more usable with beginners than a lot of the other books I’ve looked at.

jQuery: Novice to Ninja (pub. February 2010), by Earle Castledine and Craig Sharkie, was recommended to one of my students, and like the JavaScript book above, it is surprisingly reader-friendly without being lightweight or “dummy” oriented. It uses jQuery version 1.4 (the latest one).

Please note, these books assume that the reader has at least a basic knowledge of how HTML and CSS work to make Web pages appear and function as we want them to. See this page for some suggestions on how to get started if you are new to using HTML or CSS.

Also, thanks to a tip from a student, I recently learned that some public libraries offer free access to their patrons to Safari Books Online — and both of these books are available through Safari! So, log in to your local public library’s Web site and look for a link to “downloadable media” or something similar.

For related posts, check out the “code” category here in this blog.

4 Comments on “Two good books for learning JavaScript, jQuery

  1. “You do not need access to a Web server (except for a few examples in the final chapters) to use JavaScript. For that reason especially, I think JavaScript is a good language to use for teaching journalists the basics of programming, such as variables, loops, and functions.”

    FWIW, I think you could apply this to most any language. Not dumping on JS, but you don’t need a Web server to run Python, Ruby or other languages.

  2. Good point, Derek. I need to be more clear. I’m thinking about students in a school lab (no root access) or even on their own laptops (don’t want to walk them through an install process), so what I should have said: JavaScript runs in your browser with no … hm … no need to install anything, or to access the command line? (How’s that?)

    The reason I want to avoid a language install or setup: By the time you get every student through it, they already hate programming. 🙂

  3. True, although if they have an Apple computer, they have Python and Ruby already installed 🙂

  4. You are correct (as usual!) — and when our MacBook requirement takes effect, maybe we will start training journalism students to use Python!

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