2016 Books of the Year

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.

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, CSS & HTML5 by Robin Nixon

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.

The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript by Peter Gasston

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.”

Learn HTML5 and JavaScript for iOS by Scott Preston

I thought this would be creating mobile apps using HTML5 and JavaScript. I hoped so. Isn’t learning all this JavaScript (including libraries and frameworks), PHP, MySQL, and Python enough? I have to learn Java and Swift, too? Once I realized this book covered “merely” making mobile-friendly (read: screen-size) web apps, I was disappointed. But, like Modern Web (though not to that extent), I was pleasantly surprised. Preston explained things in enlightening ways that actually made me angry at the nameless clowns who wrote the crap I’d read on those topics before. Preston inspired many of those “Why didn’t they just say that?!” moments about which I’ve ranted many times before. And, there are enough things I didn’t know (and things I didn’t know about things I did) that I’m working through the books samples and exercises. Preston is a good author … who should punch his proofreader and editor in the face (this specifically applies to the 2012 edition I got from the library).

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

Hard, PDF download, or read free online. The introduction is called, “The Hard Way Is Easier” and I agree. Shaw is also very strict about adhering to the hard way. He frequently asks, “Something doesn’t work?” followed by “Did you use something I told you not to or do it in a way I didn’t tell you?” then with “I told you so. Now go back and do it how I told you.” I love it. Obviously, this isn’t one of those “Learn language X using … some thing you’ll probably never really use and, even if you did, this method won’t help you learn language X in and of itself” resources. He’s also got Hard Way books on Ruby, C, SQL, JavaScript, and … ooh … just noticed Regex which I desperately want and need.

Honorable Mention (Holdovers from Last Year)

  • JavaScript and jQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development by Jon Duckett