Book Review: Getting MEAN with Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node

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getting mean book

For years the LAMP stack was the holy grail of web development. And for the most part this is still true. But a newer stack called the MEAN stack has emerged with Node.js powering the backend.

There’s so much to learn about this stack and MEAN can be incredibly intimidating even to experienced developers. Thankfully this book by Simon Holmes does a great job explaining each part of the MEAN stack to get you comfortable with every layer.

Getting MEAN with Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node delivers on all these technologies with examples and clear explanations. This book teaches you how to build in a MEAN environment by studying each underlying technology in detail.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to make the switch or even just toy around with a Node.js backend. It’s a big adjustment but just like all areas of programming, you get out what you put in.

Book Contents

At 440 pages long this book is no joke. You dive right into the fundamentals of MEAN by breaking down each individual technology in the stack.

Each chapter advances you along the path where you’re slowly adding puzzle pieces to create the big picture. Here’s a list of all the chapters:

  1. Introducing full-stack development
  2. Designing a MEAN stack architecture
  3. Creating and setting up a MEAN project
  4. Building a static site with Node and Express
  5. Building a data model with MongoDB and Mongoose
  6. Writing a REST API: Exposing the MongoDB database to the application
  7. Consuming a REST API: Using an API from inside Express
  8. Adding Angular components to an Express application
  9. Building a single-page application with Angular: Foundations
  10. Building an SPA with Angular: The next level
  11. Authenticating users, managing sessions, and securing APIs

There is a lot of theory in the first two chapters which explain the core principles of MEAN development. You’ll read about each individual technology layer: Node.js, Express.js, MongoDB and Angular.js. The author then explains MEAN architecture and proper design patterns.

Once you hit chapter 3 you’ll start coding with a very basic Express/Node project.

The chapters teach you individual concepts one at a time. This way you learn each layer of the stack and begin to see how it all connects.

The first lessons teach you to create a basic website using Express and Node. Then you create a local Node web server and install MongoDB. With a Mongo database you can use Angular to manipulate data and display it properly on the frontend.

By chapter 6 you’re writing a custom API to connect into the Mongo database. It should be obvious by the chapter titles that this book is not for complete novices. You need some experience writing code and working on the web before you dive into MEAN.

Even if you’ve never done a LAMP stack and you want MEAN to be your first, you still need to understand the web server and JavaScript well enough to follow these tutorials.

By the last two chapters you’re building an SPA(Single Page Application) with Angular and moving into session management. Authentication is a tricky beast but the author explains this in a very detailed yet approachable style.

The clear writing makes this book approachable from all angles. But the difficulty is still there and knowledge of JavaScript is a must.

This is why beginners can get blindsided because the book starts off very easy, but quickly ramps up in difficulty.

If you’re willing and ready to learn full-stack MEAN development then I would highly recommend this book over any other.

Pros & Cons

Overall I think the content is stellar. Simon has a great way of writing that makes concepts super easy to digest. If you’re eager to get into MEAN development this book will teach it to you the right way so that you’re studying each layer in the stack one by one.

The examples are also top quality and each chapter connects into previous chapters. You’re constantly building on top of existing knowledge so you’re basically forced to learn every part of the MEAN stack.

This also makes it easier for you to apply these techniques in your own projects.

The biggest downside is complexity. The book seems really simple and you can dive into the first few chapters with ease. But if you’re not proficient with JavaScript then you will struggle to understand the examples in chapters 4 and higher.

This really isn’t a downside. But it is a potential reason that someone might not like this book.

Another downside is that some of the code snippets do not work for current versions of these technologies, specifically Angular. I didn’t have too many issues but I did have at least two problems when copying the code and trying to run on my computer.

This is not the author’s fault and in truth it should’ve been expected. The current JavaScript ecosystem moves so fast that within a couple years these code samples could be considered outdated.

But I still learned a lot from these tutorials because they teach how to think when you’re building on a MEAN stack. You get a comprehensive explanation covering every single part of the MEAN stack in great detail. The code repository also comes in handy so that you can study existing code rather than typing it all out from scratch.

Working from scratch really is the best part of this book. You’re getting to the core of MEAN without relying on too many 3rd party plugins or modules.

By the end you’ll definitely have intermediate skills in MEAN and you should be comfortable building another web application from scratch.

Who Is This For?

You really need to understand the basics of web development before picking up this book. If you don’t already know JavaScript or any database engine then get back the basics and start there.

While the author does an incredible job explaining the details of a MEAN stack, he does not hold your hand all the way. You are expected to have some intermediate knowledge of web development to apply to the process.

If you already know the fundamentals of backend development & database management then this book should do wonders. You do need to know the basics of programming JavaScript but you don’t need to be a JS wizard.

This book is really for intermediate-to-advanced web developers who already work on their preferred stack and want to dive into MEAN. The code samples are comprehensive and you can download all the code online from the official GitHub repo.

If you need a book that’s slightly less challenging I’d recommend Web Development with Node and Express by Ethan Brown. It’s less comprehensive but it works much better as an introductory primer on the subject.

Final Summary

Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn MEAN from scratch. Simon focuses on each individual layer in the stack and guides you through the process of truly understanding how a MEAN app works.

I will say the content is difficult. You can be a complete beginner and read this book, however you’ll need to fill in the blanks by researching your own problems in Google as you go. This book can’t take a novice web developer and make them a MEAN expert.

But this book can take a curious web developer with drive and help them understand the core fundamentals of a MEAN web application.

Getting MEAN with Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node would be my preferred suggestion for anyone that wants to learn MEAN the right way. There are other books but I think Simon’s clear writing style offers the perfect introduction to one of the web’s most innovative stacks.

getting mean book cover manning

Review Rating: 5/5

Author:

Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.