Book Review: jQuery in Action 3rd Edition

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jquery in action

I’ve been writing jQuery for years and I could never give it up. When I first learned jQuery it blew me away how much easier the syntax was compared to vanilla JavaScript.

In today’s age of rapid web development and countless 3rd party libraries there is no reason to avoid jQuery. It’ll save you headaches, time, and help you abstract more complicated methods with ease.

And if you’re looking for the perfect resource to get started then jQuery in Action should be your first choice.

The authors are quite knowledgeable and one of the authors Yehuda Katz contributes to the jQuery core(along with being a co-creator of EmberJS). The book’s 3rd edition has been updated to replace older concepts and to include minor topics that haven’t been covered before.

If you’re brand new to jQuery then reading jQuery in Action cover-to-cover will be the best educational experience you can get.

Book Contents

The previous edition came with 475 pages and in this 3rd edition we’ve finally passed 500 pages total. This is honestly the tome of jQuery for anyone just getting into the JS library.

The book breaks down into three major sections containing a total of 15 chapters.

Part 1: Starting with jQuery

  1. Introducing jQuery

Part 2: Core jQuery

  1. Selecting elements
  2. Operating on a jQuery collection
  3. Working with properties, attributes, and data
  4. Bringing pages to life with jQuery
  5. Events are where it happens!
  6. Demo: DVD discs locator
  7. Energizing pages with animations and effects
  8. Beyond the DOM with jQuery utility functions
  9. Talk to the server with Ajax 260
  10. Demo: an Ajax-powered contact form

Part 3: Advanced Topics

  1. When jQuery is not enough…plugins to the rescue!
  2. Avoiding the callback hell with Deferred
  3. Unit testing with QUnit
  4. How jQuery fits into large projects

The very first chapter talks about the ideas behind jQuery and how it works on the web. This is very gentle and perfect for someone just getting into the framework.

But the second part is the longest and the most valuable. Each chapter introduces new topics that force you to really think about how jQuery can be applied to project work. You’ll follow along with code demos that force you to think about properties, DOM manipulation, Ajax requests, and other common methods.

One thing I really like about the 3rd edition is the attention to detail. The latest version of jQuery moved event listeners to the .on() method. The author notes this and mentions how outdated functions like bind() still work, but are not recommended.

Plus all the source code is available for free on the official GitHub repo.

jquery homepage 2016

The very last section was my favorite because it covered topics I had never touched before. I’ve done JavaScript unit testing but never used QUnit before.

This jQuery book is targeted at beginners and even with my years of experience I’m still learning stuff! To me that’s the mark of an incredible book.

Who Is This For?

I would recommend this book for basically anyone interested in jQuery. The book covers a lot of ground and in 500+ pages you’ll learn a lot more than you expected.

People who should read this book:

  • Devs who know JavaScript but don’t know jQuery
  • Devs who know a little jQuery but want to learn more

If you have no experience with JavaScript then I’d recommend starting elsewhere. JavaScript: Novice to Ninja is my usual recommendation because it’s the best newbie-friendly intro to writing proper JS code.

Those who know a little bit of JavaScript can still get by without proficiency. The goal of jQuery is to reduce raw JS code, but you still need to know concepts like properties and functions and method parameters.

Anyone who holds a bit of knowledge in JavaScript and/or jQuery will learn a lot from jQuery in Action, provided they put in the work and actually do the lessons.

Pros & Cons

I try to be the least biased in my reviews but I did enter this book with a solid understanding of jQuery. So I apologize if these come off as bland, but this is my pros & cons list:

Pros:

  • Practical examples help you learn when & why to use jQuery
  • Completely up to date with all the latest features
  • The writing is clear and very nurturing for beginners

Cons:

  • Definitely lacking on the number of code examples
  • Difficult index to browse on a whim

I really like the writing style and how the authors put their ideas together. I already had knowledge of jQuery but I could not explain it with this much clarity even if you paid me.

These authors are not just great developers, they’re also great writers and teachers.

But I do wish the authors put in a chapter that encapsulated everything together for one final webapp. jQuery is perfect for single-page applications(SPAs) and this book could’ve covered a little about that with a better example.

Content organization is decent and I think the topics that get covered are done in great detail.

I personally had trouble using the index to look up certain methods in the book. The jQuery docs help you understand the syntax, but I wanted to see their examples for event handlers and triggering exceptions for events. The index isn’t useless but it just doesn’t cover as much as I wanted.

The main point is that beginners really can learn jQuery from this book. It may not give you the blueprint for a perfect workflow, but it will introduce you to every major component that makes jQuery the best open source JS library to date.

Also if you pick up a copy of the print book you get the digital copy for free. This is common with all of Manning’s books and it’s one of my favorite things about their publications.

Final Summary

I would rarely say that I love reading web dev books. However this one is that rare exception.

jQuery in Action proves that learning to code jQuery can be fun and educational.

The authors are exceptionally qualified and their writing style will speak to everyone from a complete beginner to a fairly-adept jQuery developer. Content also covers so much variety that even devs who know jQuery can learn something new.

I do wish there were more examples to demonstrate the advanced topics in real-world scenarios. For this I have to knock off a bit from my rating.

But this book basically deserves a perfect score and in truth it’ll get you moving fast with jQuery. Definitely worth picking up to learn jQuery from scratch and it’s even keeping around as a future reference guide.

jquery in action book cover

Review Rating: 4.5/5