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

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

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.

JavaScript the definitive guide q93mh
JavaScript Definitive Guide 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. (see: [ Formal language ] [ ].) [see Math Notation, Computer Language Syntax, and the “Form” in Formalism])

David Flanagan drills down on the real tech detail of JavaScript language.

I've only read parts of the chapters on JavaScript Objects, 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.

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