20 Best JavaScript Books To Go From Beginner to Advanced

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If you’re an aspiring web developer then you’ll need to learn JavaScript. It’s a staple for frontend work and it’s the fastest growing language powering dozens of free tools & libraries like Node.js.

Before you can dive into anything complex you’ll need to study basic JavaScript first. And in this post I’ve curated a massive collection of JavaScript programming books to master the language.

If you’re willing to put in the time and practice then these books will only help you improve faster with fewer obstacles.

Best Beginner JavaScript Book

If you’re brand new to JavaScript and want a reliable intro I recommend JavaScript: The Definitive Guide. It’s a massive book with a ton of information but it’s well formatted for beginners. The writing style is fairly technical but also detailed enough that you’ll take away everything there is to know about JS development.


Professional JavaScript for Web Developers

The most practical way to learn JavaScript is by creating realistic applications. Most people learn JS for the web so the best exercises are web-related tutorials.

Professional JavaScript for Web Developers offers a massive 960-page guide into the wild world of JavaScript development. It starts at the very beginning explaining what a scripting language is and how it works in an HTML file.

But you’ll quickly move into exercises covering basic methods, parameters, the object model, and how to manipulate the DOM(Document Object Model) using JavaScript.

Typically you’ll use JavaScript to manipulate the page somehow by restyling elements or removing/adding content to the page. This book clarifies the purpose of JavaScript using examples to show how it can work in the real world.

Later in the book you’ll learn about Ajax and the XMLHttpRequest method that makes Ajax possible. All-in-all a great book, although somewhat technical for complete beginners.


JavaScript: The Good Parts

Author Douglas Crockford is well regarded in the JavaScript community. His writing is considered very easy to understand while also being technical enough to get into the real details of this language.

Many developers recommend JavaScript: The Good Parts because it’s a genuinely detailed book about all the most important stuff in JS. It’s pretty short with only 175 pages but it teaches you all the fundamentals with a clear tone.

You’ll learn about the basic syntax of JavaScript for namespaces, functions, operators, loops, and even the basics of OOP.

But this book isn’t just a plain intro guide. It actually covers the JS language explaining what makes it so great and why developers should spend their time learning it. Highly recommend this book for beginners and experienced coders alike.


You Don’t Know JS

This entire book series is mindblowing for how much detail is inside and how much you can learn. The updated version of ECMAScript 2016 grants even more power to JS developers and this is a main talking point in this series.

You Don’t Know JS spans a total of six different books starting with the basics and moving through objects, scopes, closure, and ES 2016 changes.

Each book is pretty short averaging about 100 pages. But throughout the entire set you’ll learn more about JavaScript than you could ever hope to pick up by skimming the Internet. Lessons are well organized and geared towards beginner-to-intermediate developers who wanna get into web scripting.

Whether you’re trying to learn Node or build JS games or just use some JS on your website, these books are invaluable to the learning process.


JavaScript: The Definitive Guide

There are few books that stand out like JavaScript: The Definitive Guide because of its teaching style and sheer volume of content.

The current 6th edition of the book totals over 1,000 pages with dozens of chapters on all the important features of JS. This book is far above anything you’ll find online because it’s written in a way that forces you to think about coding principles, then put them into practice on your own.

What I find most interesting is how this book works well for all experience levels. Beginners will learn something new on pretty much every page, however skilled developers will also pick up a lot from this book.

It does teach you JS ideas like classes, objects, client-side storage, JS APIs, and similar complex topics. But it also teaches you how to properly code these ideas using best practices for modern web development.

Easily the best investment for any JS developer or aspiring developer who wants to pick up some key pointers and write incredible reusable code.


Beginning JavaScript

For something a little easier to dive into check out Beginning JavaScript by Paul Wilton and Jeremy McPeak.

This book clocks in at just under 800 pages and it’s a massive guide to the JS ecosystem from the perspective of a complete novice. The lessons are easy to follow regardless of your skillset and they use practical code snippets to keep you engaged.

Unfortunately the Kindle/digital version is almost unusable because the code snippets have improper spacing.

Developers like digital versions because you can sometimes copy/paste right from the book into your IDE. However this version is useless for that so you’ll be much better off grabbing the print copy.

Still for a complete beginner this teaching style offers an excellent way into the deep ocean of JavaScript.


JavaScript and jQuery

Jon Duckett’s books are typically recommended for beginners who aren’t sure where to get started. He’s an expert frontend developer with a keen eye for explaining critical concepts in great detail.

His book JavaScript and jQuery looks into the JS language from a practical perspective. The goal of this book is not to help you master everything about JavaScript.

Instead it’s structured around how you can use JavaScript in the real world to create applications that work well and provide value to the user. Early chapters cover the fundamentals of JavaScript but you’ll quickly move into DOM manipulation and handling user events in JavaScript.

Then mid-way through you’ll switch over to jQuery which abstracts the code and simplifies your workflow.

Once you learn jQuery for the web you’ll almost never rely on vanilla JavaScript ever again.

But much like you’d learn basic PHP before learning Laravel, you should also learn basic JavaScript before jQuery. And that’s exactly what this book aims to do by using realistic examples to keep you engaged the whole way through.


JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual

I’ve always been a fan of the “missing manual” series because these books usually offer tons of concrete advice, not to mention a few techniques that even professionals don’t know about.

JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual is a massive 680-page book covering the basics concepts of JavaScript along with a whole lot more.

Currently in its 3rd edition this book is a goldmine of exercises and scripts that make learning JavaScript a breeze. Each chapter gets straight to the point and there isn’t much filler or theory involved in the teaching process.

You will spend a lot of time punching in code to understand loops, methods, parameters, variable scope, and other common features. But through practice you’ll also pick up some good coding habits which makes this one of the better intros to practical web development.

If you only want to learn JavaScript(and/or jQuery) for frontend coding then this missing manual is the only guide you’ll need.


Effective JavaScript

Once you get past the fundamentals you may be itching for more. There’s always another level you can reach with JavaScript and it typically comes from how you execute your code.

The book Effective JavaScript is written for intermediate-to-advanced coders who want to ultimately write better code. It offers 68 unique ways you can tackle certain problems and organize your code to run more efficiently.

You’ll learn about OOP techniques along with prototyping your applications. Most of these 68 tips revolve around common idioms and best practices for writing JavaScript. There is no single “best” way to do anything, however there are standard practices that many programmers follow.

If you are a complete beginner you might keep this book nearby as a reference and as further learning materials. But you should already understand the basics of JS before even thinking about how to improve your code.


The Principles of Object-Oriented JavaScript

By default JavaScript is not an object-oriented language. You have to learn how OOP code works and how to apply this into your JavaScript development.

Luckily there’s resources like The Principles of Object-Oriented JavaScript to help you get there. It’s a fairly short book with only 120 pages but the writing style is superb. It’s concise and very thorough covering all the OOP principles like inheritance, constructors, and dev patterns.

But I will admit the code snippets in this guide are not amazing. They certainly aren’t bad either, but I have seen better code examples in other books with clearer explanations.

I’d say this guide reads more like an OOP guide using JavaScript as the base language. It’s a solid intro to OOP development but it really helps if you’re fluent in JavaScript before starting this book.


High Performance JavaScript

When you have a smaller website you don’t need to consider how bulky your code is or how well it operates. But when you’re serving high volume traffic this is where JavaScript performance comes into play.

High Performance JavaScript by Nicholas C. Zakas is the foremost guide on page speed and quality development. You’ll find tons of techniques on how to eliminate bottlenecks in your code and how to reduce overly-complicated logic.

Zakas works as a frontend developer at Yahoo! so he spends a lot of time optimizing code to run fast. But this book also talks about deployment and testing to ensure your webapps are highly performant no matter what phase of development you’re in.

Some of the biggest factors include HTTP requests/Ajax requests along with complicated DOM manipulations that can slow down the browser’s rendering engine.

This book is a must-own for any serious frontend developer and it’s one of the most detailed books on the subject of performant JS code.


Functional Programming in JavaScript

JavaScript has been around for decades but it seems only recently it’s swooped into the frenzy of functional programming.

This paradigm is completely different than OOP or procedural programming and it looks at JavaScript from a totally different perspective. Luis Atencio is quite the knowledgeable dev and it shines through in his book Functional Programming in JavaScript.

In this guide you’ll learn about functional programming from the ground-up and how you can apply this to your JS scripting.

Atencio talks about code extensibility, modularization, and unit testing to determine performance issues. He also shares ideas on when functional programming works best and which applications benefit the most from FP design patterns.

You don’t need to ever learn functional programming to become a web developer. But if you want to push yourself into this popular programming paradigm then Atencio’s book is an excellent place to start.


Object-Oriented JavaScript

On the flip side here’s another book covering the fundamentals of OOP design with JavaScript. Again JS was not built to do this naturally so it takes careful thought to design classes/objects and structure your programs accordingly.

Object-Oriented JavaScript is a fairly older book yet the lessons are still extremely relevant. It spans 330+ pages with a few dozen chapters on best practices for OOP scripting.

You should already be very comfortable writing JavaScript on your own before moving onto this book. It does not hold your hand or guide the reader as if they’re a complete beginner to the language. Instead it dives right into OOP best practices and what sort of tools you’ll need for testing.

Many of these tools are outdated but they still work comparably, sort of like DevTools compared to Firebug.

Outside of the publication date I’d mark this book well worth studying if you want to dive into OOP JS programming.


Maintainable JavaScript: Writing Readable Code

Professional developers will always vouch for a quality codebase. Nobody wants to muck around with confusing code and it’s a real problem with legacy systems.

Whether you’re building websites for yourself or with a team, you’ll always need to go back and make changes over time. Maintainable JavaScript: Writing Readable Code teaches you how to build your sites properly so your JS code isn’t just readable, but it’s also easy to extend and customize over time.

The author Nicholas C. Zakas has penned a few JS books and they’re all phenomenal, especially this one. It teaches you how to think about projects before you write a single line of code and how planning can make a huge different in any project you start.

You’re encouraged to think about function/variable names and how you add spaces into your code. You’ll also learn how to use tools like JSLint to gauge quality and find potential syntax errors.

File encodings and style guidelines are also discussed which are two important subjects that don’t relate directly to coding, but they affect the overall output quality of your scripts.

Once you’re using JavaScript for real websites you should try working through this book in your spare time. You’ll notice a tremendous leap in your abilities and how you plan new projects.


jQuery in Action

Every Manning book I’ve ever read goes into great detail with tons of practical examples. jQuery in Action is no exception and it’s one of the best jQuery books for action-oriented developers.

If you learn best by doing then this book is for you. This is the title I suggested as the best choice in my jQuery book list and I still stand by that decision.

Currently in its 3rd edition this book spans 500+ pages of exercises teaching jQuery syntax and best practices. You’ll learn how to manipulate the DOM and how to handle user input, along with running Ajax requests to your server or through 3rd party APIs.

Each chapter builds upon the last so you’ll work from the bare-bones essentials up to the top of the jQuery pyramid.

It’s a great book for complete beginners and experienced developers alike with plenty of tips & tricks to go along.


Learning React

It seems like everyone and their grandma loves React.js. This is a frontend library that works on its own virtual DOM to manipulate elements and share them through an MVC architecture.

If you don’t understand any of those terms then you’ll definitely like this book.

Learning React does not assume any prior knowledge of React.js.

The whole library does seem pretty wacky at first. It also comes with a steep learning curve so it may be a few weeks before you even understand why React is so crucial to modern frontend development. But the lessons in this book treat the reader like a complete beginner and it aims to bring React.js into your modern workflow.

With a total of 350 pages and loads of exercises to work through you’ll pick up all the basics of React through this book. Practice makes perfect and with guided practice you’ll reach perfection even quicker.


Building JavaScript Games

It’s wild to think how far we’ve come that JavaScript can be used to build games. JS used to be a web-only feature and even 10-20 years ago it was barely supported.

Nowadays with fundamental JS knowledge you can get your feet wet in game development with Building JavaScript Games by Arjan Egges. The book is a treasure trove of information about game programming for browsers and mobile devices.

You’ll learn all about the many JS libraries for adding audio, game controls, graphics, and payable assets onto the screen. Much of this relies on the HTML5 canvas element but you can also build native applications using JS libraries too.

Since game programming is such a detailed topic you can’t expect to become a master just from reading this book.

However this is the #1 best starting point for JS game developers who want a serious introduction to the field.


JavaScript Enlightenment

Working with vanilla JavaScript forces you to learn how the real syntax operates and what you can do with this language. JavaScript Enlightenment takes this idea to the next level as a guided tour into the underbelly of this language.

You’ll learn how to go beyond typical JS frameworks and how to solve debugging errors on your own. JavaScript can be one of the most frustrating languages to fix because it doesn’t throw errors like a normal compiled language.

But with this book you’ll learn some invaluable techniques on testing, inheritance, and complex topics like manipulating the HTML head object.

Ever wanted to run complex mathematical functions or understand the different variable scopes? Confused about how null objects work? Then this is the only book you’ll need and it’s guaranteed to bring your JS knowledge up a couple notches.


Understanding ECMAScript 6

Many developers confused JavaScript for the ECMAScript language. In reality they are both very similar and JavaScript is based on the ES6/ES2016 ruleset.

This means it’s valuable to learn ECMAScript because it’s a fundamental “core” part of JavaScript development. The book Understanding ECMAScript 6 is perhaps the best guide to getting started without getting lost in all the madness.

You do not need much prior knowledge to read through this book although it helps if you can write some basic JavaScript.

This is meant to educate developers on the differences and behaviors of ES6 and how JavaScript relates to the language. You’ll learn about data storage with sets/maps and how to use ES6 promises to improve asynchronous development.

By far the best ES6 guide you can find and it’s all very relevant to ES2016 and beyond.


Testable JavaScript: Ensuring Reliable Code

Code testing is a necessary evil to ensure the quality of your scripts. Not many developers bother with this because it can be tedious or just plain boring.

But if you’re willing to read through Testable JavaScript: Ensuring Reliable Code you’ll realize code testing can actually be a lot of fun! It all depends on how you test your code and if you understand why you’re running tests.

This book covers a whole bunch of complex topics from linting to multi-file debugging, unit testing, and event-based JS architecture. You’ll also learn about load testing and how to use tools like Selenium to cut down the hassle of testing.

At the very end of the book you’ll find some handy automation tools you can copy and reuse for testing real projects. This guide will help shave hours of time off your project work so it’s well worth grabbing once you’re somewhat adept with scripting.


Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja

Secrets of the JavaScript Ninja is one of the best advanced JS books out there just from the level of detail and the topics covered. It’s also partially authored by John Resig, the creator of jQuery.

Anyone serious about web development as a career needs a copy of this book. It’ll take you so much farther than trying to solve things on your own, not to mention all the advice from professional JS devs is a goldmine of information.

Working through each chapter can feel like a challenge because there’s so much to consume. This is one of those books you’ll come back to many times because it’s packed with so much stuff.

You’ll find a ton of great tips on topics like asynchronous development and closures, but you’ll also find a ton of pitfalls to avoid along the way. Efficient performant code is a focal point the whole way so you can rest assured you’re learning the best way to approach any challenge.

This is the ultimate book for any serious JS developer. If you can’t find any good material to help advance your skills then take a peek at this book and see what it offers.

Since there’s so much you can do with JavaScript it can feel like an intimidating language. But don’t let this turn you away from learning!

Complete beginners just getting started have a bunch of great options. I recommend JavaScript: The Definitive Guide because it’s very thick and works well as a reference guide too. But you might also like the book series You Don’t Know JS for its levity and practical approach to the subject.

But no matter what your skill level there’s plenty of material in this list to bring you from a novice JS developer to an expert in everything from frontend development, React/jQuery, and even JS game dev too.

Author: Jaime Morrison

Jaime is a jr. designer interested in mobile UI/UX research and frontend web development with JavaScript frameworks. He covers general news and useful resources in the web design space.