Time Enough

A few weeks after it was published I picked up Bulletproof Web Design, Dan Cederholm’s latest contribution to the web standards bookshelf, and indeed to the betterment of all humankind. I was going to hold out until a second pressing so I could get the elusive page 196, but I just couldn’t wait and had to get my grubby hands on it. Which is silly because, at the rate I read such books, it could be years before I finish it, if ever. A few weeks later I picked up Jeremy Keith’s DOM Scripting and poor Dan was set aside for the newcomer.

I have a tendency to collect web design books, read a few chapters, then shelve them unfinished, often with the original receipt of purchase still bookmarked forlornly between pages 82 and 83 where I left off.

A modest collection of web development books

But web books aren’t really intended for cover-to-cover reading. Most are organized and designed for random access, for browsing and skipping in search of specific nuggets. That’s why they have tables of contents and indices. Many even tell you at the start “If you’re already knowledgable in whatever bit of deep geekery we’re about to delve into, skip ahead.” The best ones include chapter summaries and those handy little marks on the edge of the page to facilitate chapter-flipping (thanks, Friends of ED). I do often skip around, reading chapters of interest and passing over others. They’re textbooks, not novels, so I feel no guilt at all about not finishing them. That is, until I meet the authors.

Now the SXSW buzz is building steadily, and I shall be attending with plans of rubbing elbows with some of the standardista luminaries I had the honor of meeting last year. Many of these people whom I respect and admire so much have written excellent books that grace my shelf. But I must confess that I haven’t actually completed a single one of them. At the risk of offending some of my idols, these are a few seminal web design/development books I own but haven’t yet finished. (Disclaimer: Amazon links include my associates ID, so I earn kickbacks on items purchased. Buy them all. Hell, buy two of each!)

This is not to say any of these books are boring — far from it. Designing With Web Standards is quite the page-turner until that last chapter. Joe Clark’s writing is so slick and witty I plowed through those 212 pages in just a few days before being distracted by some loud noise or shiny object. And Jeremy Keith has a way of explaining JavaScript in such a straightforward, plain-English way that I not only wrote a quickie DOM script of my own after only a few chapters, but I actually understand what it does. I’ve learned a lot from reading books about the web, even if I never do find out who the real killer is.

These volumes are all great resources, well worth the cover price, and are valuable additions to any growing design library. I’ve read enough of each that I can still confidently recommend all of them. Some day I may even finish reading them myself.

A scene from the classic Twlight Zone episode 'Time Enough at Last'


  1. I can identify with this – I have a stackl of ’em to read, but there’s always something else more pressing. Currently I’m reading Stuart Langridge’s book on Sitepoint and I’m interested to see how that compares with Jeremy’s book (‘cos I really need a refresher course in JavaScript!). See you in March, Craig!

  2. Yeah, most of ’em are good for reference only, though Jeremy’s book is a great cover-to-cover read. I finished Jeffrey’s book in a straight shot, but I agree on the ending; I had it figured by the end of Chapter 3 :-)

    Having just spent the last few weeks laboring over a few chapters for the upcoming 3rd Edition of Web Design in a Nutshell, I have to say that it is hard to write something that is essentially a reference book as anything other than that. It’s especially difficult with a Nutshell book too. That said, I gave it my best to make my three chapters (which just happen to be consecutive) flow.

    I’m interested to see what you think of it when we hang in March (or perhaps you’ll write about it here… it was work-for-hire, so pimping my “kool-aid” with your Amazon Associates ID will make you money, not me… I’ll be expecting a cut).

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