JavaScript Book by David Flanagan, and Man-made Complexity in Computer Language

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: 6th Edition

Nearly all of the books about JavaScript are quite awful. They contain errors, poor examples, and promote bad practices. Important features of the language are often explained poorly, or left out entirely. I have reviewed dozens of JavaScript books, and I can only recommend one: JavaScript: The Definitive Guide (5th Edition) by David Flanagan.

— Douglas Crockford JavaScript the Good Parts in his blog at

Am very impressed with this book.

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[JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: 6th Edition By David Flanagan. At Buy at amazon ]

Outdated by today (as of 2013-06-10). It does not cover ES2015, which is necessary.

However, of all old books, this is best.

The book is also written in concrete style. (it just talk about the language. It doesn't talk about “patterns”, or “idiom”, or methodology. Rather, it gives you facts about the language, and with practical tips, so you really understand the core.)

The book can be divided into 3 parts.

JavaScript Definitive Guide 2020

New edition:

JavaScript Definitive Guide 2020 XGGCb
[JavaScript: The Definitive Guide: Master the World's Most-Used Programming Language 7th Edition By David Flanagan. At Buy at amazon ]

Normally, if you've been programing for a few years, you can quickly start to program in a new lang. You just learn the basics: data types, loops, list/array, function/objects, module, then you can practically code anything you want, albeit in a non-optimal way. But, you'll have a lot questions, especially with complex languages. Questions like scope, evaluation model, and the language's overall “model”. What happens if you do xyz. Understanding these makes you a true expert in that lang. To understand a lang well, is to be able to have a sense of a mathematical model of the language.

(and almost all modern langs are quite complex, including Java, Python, Ruby. Now, JavaScript is easy to use, but it turns out it's quite complex too actually, the hairy details of its prototype inheritance. Very few languages have simple models (Mathematica, Lisp, do)) (a language with a simple model, would be one that its syntax and semantics can be specified in just a handful of rules.)

David Flanagan drills down on the real tech detail of JavaScript language. And the book is really good. (i've read the book cover to cover few times now.)

The Cost of Complex Language

Most popular languages are exceedingly complex. The problem is that, you spend years to master them, but, new language comes out and replaces it, and the time you spend learning that language doesn't contribute your understanding to computer science or math in any way. What you learned is sometimes called “artificial complexity”, “man-made complexity”, unlike certain complexity in math or comp sci, that are inherent, unavoidable. Perl, C, C++, and unix tech (Shell, Apache) are good examples of man-made complexity. Lisp, in general, are the polar opposite.