As with last year, these aren’t necessarily new books released in 2016. These are the books I discovered that most contributed to my learning and advancement in 2016. New books face a disadvantage in their hopes to be so honored — I prefer free books or library books. Having said that, free online books are at a disadvantage because I don’t own a tablet (and, if I did, it would be WiFi only limiting where I could read these online books) and my screen-space is taken up with the apps I use to do my coding and testing (books belong on my literal, not my pixel, desktop). I do have a Kindle eReader, but free eBooks are at a disadvantage because they almost always suck.
MY BIG, FAT, RAGE QUESTION: What ever happened to “Print-Friendly”? It would be so great if articles and books I found could be printed in an easily-read manner that didn’t waste paper. Is there a snippet of code that consciously, purposely prints a final page with just a couple lines on it? That’s not so bad when it’s the page’s footer — I can opt not to print (or throw away) that one — but, when it’s the last half of the last paragraph, that really sucks. Even if I don’t need that last paragraph, the OCD in me rises up and I must still print and keep it.
See Also: 2015 Books of the Year
There aren’t many. The number of sites I’d recommend for learning grew much more this year than my list of books. For the most part, these are in no particular order.
Best thing about this is Nixon doesn’t isolate writing functions, or forms, or databases … you learn like you’d want to — in context, in practical, real-world ways. Nixon is also a very good writer. O’Reilly means you won’t get frustrated by poor editing, poor proofing, or crappy code and/or directions that don’t work. Picked up an old edition at the library just based on the PHP/MySQL content and kept it as long as I could. I still need to go back and get it again. It’s frequently checked out and often has holds. New it’s almost $40. Used it’s under $10.
If, like me, you want to know what stuff is and does and why — as opposed to what code to write for X to work so you can finish the project — Modern Web is delightful. Terms, technologies, and tools I’d scanned or glossed over and those I’d never heard of are explained in understandable (1 point) and interesting (2 points!) ways.
From my March 30 post: “You should probably already be in love with No Starch Press. I kept passing by The Modern Web by Peter Gasston but it might just be my new favorite book from them. I was hooked instantly once I gave it a chance and although I’m only on page 21, I’ve been educated and enlightened. Not just informative but entertaining and stimulating. Yay for my library having a copy. I would never consider picking up a book on CSS but, based on this experience, I’m going to check out his Book of CSS3.”
My entire post from April 15: “I stopped reading The Modern Web by Peter Gasston for a bit because I thought, ‘Okay, the rest won’t be this good … it’s slowing down’ but picked it back up on a whim and then, wham, it started being so great again. I can’t believe how awesome this book is. I wish I’d found it months ago.”
Plug-In PHP: 100 Power Solutions by Robin Nixon
Currently ripping through this. I thought the author’s name sounded familiar but didn’t make the connection until this morning. If I’d noticed the word “Plug-In” in the title, I probably wouldn’t have checked out this book. The good news, as I see it, is I would actually have called the book 100 Awesome Task-Based PHP Snippets Explained In-Depth and Extremely Well. I love that Nixon is a true hacker-geek who proudly admits to using PHP to download and store all of Wikipedia locally in case he wants to look something up offline. I’m quite fond of authors who take the time to say, “If X doesn’t work, it’s either because you screwed up Y or there’s a Z-factor, in which case you should …”
Learn Python the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw
Honorable Mention (Holdovers from Last Year)