Holiday Reading 2008

January 5, 2009

The Definitive Guide to Django, Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Available free online!

I wanted to learn Django, a Python web development framework. This book was the direct introduction I needed.

The online documentation for Django is a necessary supplement. Thanks to Agile Web Development With Rails, I have high expectations of a book introducing a web framework, and The Definitive Guide had holes. The book doesn’t say anything about testing Django sites, for example.

Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell has knack for telling me things I already know and making me enjoy it. Outliers covers the role of practice and circumstance in the creation of extraordinary achievers. The 10,000-hour rule and other topics are old news to a former cognitive science student like me but the stories made an enjoyable read. My political side is intrigued by Gladwell’s emphasis of the real-world consequences of cultural values. It’s a tightrope topic to talk about because culture correlates with race but he does a great job of staying politically correct while making his point.

JavaScript: The Good Parts, Douglas Crockford

A concise introduction to JavaScript.

Crockford develops a library of useful JavaScript tools and presents arguments against the use of many language features.

The best summary I can come up with is “Use JSLint.”

Pro JavaScript Techniques, John Resig

Resig is a young (low twenties) JavaScript expert who has earned gobs of credibility thanks to jQuery. I can’t touch his JavaScript hackery but his book doesn’t live up to its title. The topics choices feel haphazard. There is some coverage of JavaScript events, a bit about CSS, some extended examples, and an appendix with a JavaScript reference. 

He builds up a library that is similar to jQuery. Frustratingly it isn’t, so I still needed to go learn jQuery separately. Some of the extended examples contained errors. To top it off, the book is badly edited: 

“The result is rather interesting and, albeit, quite complex.”


The book is saved by its excellent selection of external links. Resig is plugged in to the JavaScript world, so there were great reading recommendations throughout the book.


To learn Python, JavaScript, Django and jQuery by doing, I built Profrank, an idea I had early last semester. Next step: Demos and iterations. 

Not Quite Done Yet…

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