on 31 March 2012
These are the promises on the back cover...
... "Read less, learn more" .... "You'll learn how to : ..."...
Alas, the book fails to deliver.
I'm a professional programmer with over a decade's commercial experience in programming, and I bought this jQuery reference after buying "Professional ASP.NET MVC3" and within a week of buying that book felt like I'd been using MVC3 for years. I felt that I needed something to do the same for my jQuery skills and so I bought this jQuery reference book thinking it would be a quick way to get up to speed on jQuery.
How wrong could I be!
This jQuery reference has to rank as one of the poorest written books I've read in a long time. It serves as neither a reference nor a tutorial.
The main problem is the grammatical style that the author uses. Or rather the poor grammatical style.
The grammar at first glance appears fine. The sentences taken in isolation look like good english and the spelling is correct. It feels like it's been thoroughly proof read. In fact, put against the MVC3 book I mentioned earlier, this jQuery book has far fewer of what you might think of as grammatical 'errors' in the traditional sense.
Yet that MVC3 book is far easier to read - in fact I'd go as far as to say the MVC3 book is a pleasure to read, whereas reading this jQuery book is like torture. If you don't already know jQuery, your head will hurt. If you do already know, then why do you need this book?
Where this jQuery book falls down, is in the cohesion of the text (or rather lack of).
Now, before I go any further, I will acknowledge that this book claims to be a reference book. So why should I expect cohesion? Well, unfortunately, I don't feel that this really is a reference book. If it were, then...
-o- ... much of what it explains in words, would have instead been tabulated,
-o- ... the indexing and overall structure would be far better than it currently is. (Open it up on most pages and you don't get a feel for where you are in a 'reference' sense),
-o- ... the (short) index wouldn't send you head first into chapters with lengthy hard to follow explanations (which I'll get onto in a minute),
-o- ... and the final 25 pages (out of the 146 in total) would not be separately called a 'quick reference' in its own right!
So apart from those last 25 pages, the other ~80% of this book is, as far as I am concerned, not a reference. Now that in itself wouldn't necessarily bother me - I was as much after a quick tutorial as I was a reference book, so I'd be happy with either.
Now if we consider this book as a tutorial book instead of a reference (after all it does say on the back "You'll learn..."), the selection of the chapter topics would actually seem to be fairly good.
Unfortunately that's where the good structure comes to an end. Within those chapters, the paragraphs and sentences are a real headache to follow. There are a number of problems that cause this, here are just a few (I don't have time or space to cover them all),....
-o- The subject within a paragraph (and even within single long sentences) constantly keeps changing, typically in a seemingly ad-hoc manner. (In (English) technical terms, lexical chains are short and numerous meaning it's hard to keep track of what the author is referring to)
-o- Sentence to sentence cohesion is almost non-existent even within single paragraphs. The subject (actor) from one sentence to the next constantly changes, and rarely follows from the prior sentence.
-o- The author keeps switching between third person 'formal' language (as might be expected of a good reference), to informal 'personal' instructions for example suggesting how 'you' might do things (as might be expected of a good tutorial). But the author flits around from one to other quite literally from one sentence to the next, leaving you bemused and confused as to how you should be reading (or using) the book.
-o- Where cohesive devices are used, they leave you scratching your head. For example, where anaphoric references are used, the number of prior subjects/objects typically forces you to re-read the prior text to disambiguate the reference. (To be fair, upon re-reading you can normally resolve the uncertainty, but you really do have to concentrate hard and re-read whole blocks of text slowly and carefully to do so. Which is not great if you're trying to use this as a tutorial!).
-o- And at the other extreme, the author also fails to use such references (anaphoric references) when they would actually have been clear and appropriate, which then gives you the impression that a new subject has been introduced when in actual fact the author is still referring to the same subject as the previous sentence. Arrrggghh!
Overall, the language used (as described above) is the biggest let down of this book, and the main reason I have only given it two stars. JQuery is not that difficult at all, so there's no reason at all why the text in this book should be anywhere near as difficult to follow as it is.
To be honest, I was tempted to only give it one star, but having subsequently out of necessity used repeated google searches to learn the jQuery basics (independently of this book), upon re-reading this book I can see that it does at least cover the subject area reasonably comprehensively, and for that reason I've given it two stars rather than one.
But there is one final bugbear that I can't let go without mention... the chapter on the jQuery UI library. This chapter is quite simply a con.
Don't be fooled by the page numbers. Page 108 is blank. Page 112 is blank. Page 111 finishes before it even gets half way down the page, and the first page of the chapter, page 109, starts one around third of the way down.
The net result is that the chapter fills a smidgen of just over 2 sides of paper.
The first paragraph of this chapter states - "You can find the library and its documentation at [...]".
The rest of the chapter - little over 1 compact sheet of paper - contains little, if anything, of any substance; what is there in this chapter is vague and imprecise.
The rest of the book is, to be fair, comprehensive in coverage but let down (very badly) by the authors style.
This jQuery UI chapter is let down by the same (poor) style but just as significantly its complete lack of content. So much so with the latter (the content), that I really don't think it is even acceptable that this chapter is allowed to be listed in the table of contents.