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What are the Best Books to Learn JavaScript in 2021?

What are the Best Books to Learn JavaScript in 2021? I now receive this question with some frequency on the JavaScript Learning Space from aspiring Javascript developers.

The fact that our followers want resources for the current year is a good thing. This means they know the books need to be timely.

They are asking this question for good reason. Learning Javacript presents beginners with several challenges, including:

  1. Information changes quickly in the field of technology, and it is difficult to keep up.
  2. JavaScript is one of the more challenging programming languages to learn, so I hope these recommendations provide some guidance and a good starting point.
  3. There are numerous JavaScript frameworks like Angular, Vue, Ember, Backbone as well as libraries like jQuery and React. Frameworks and libraries are advanced topics, so this post will cover books to help you learn vanilla JavaScript. You can pick up React and relevant JavaScript frameworks when you’re ready and you possess a good command of the JavaScript language.
  4. JavaScript was revised significantly in 2015. Thins means you will likely find book recommendations that cover outdated JavaScript syntax. The recommendations I provide below will help you learn the new ES6 syntax. You will need to know ES6 well in order to work with modern libraries like React.

With this in mind, I decided to write a detailed post on my Top 4 Books to Learn JavaScript in 2021. After we cover the recommendations, I’ll briefly mention a few popular books that are still touted as great learning resources and why they are not worth the time of those who are new to JavaScript. I will also circle back to a couple of other influential authors at the end of this post.

Top 4 Books for Learning JavaScript in 2021

woman looking at books in library

Eloquent JavaScript, 3rd Edition – Written by Marijn Haverbeke, Eloquent JavaScript is the darling of JavaScript books and earns a spot on most top ten lists. Haverbeke takes a whimsical approach and provides beginners with fun, doable projects that help you harness the power of JavaScript. Projects include building a robot, creating a game, and even inventing your own programming language.

The third edition of Eloquent JavaScript published in 2018 covers modern ES6 syntax.

JavaScript: A Beginner’s Guide, 5th Edition – John Pollock’s book, published in 2019, provides a modern introduction to programming. The book begins with the basics and progresses to more advanced JavaScript concepts like object-oriented programming and interactive web development. If you have no prior programming experience and want to ensure you thoroughly learn the important aspects of the JavaScript language, this book is a good place to start.

Modern JavaScript for the Impatient – If you have experience with another programming language, then I recommend this book by Cay S. Horstmann. Horstmann does a great job of explaining what to avoid when programming in JavaScript and pitfalls that plague even experienced web developers. He assumes that readers understand programming concepts like functions, object-oriented programming basics, functions, loops, etc. Once you learn the basics from either Eloquent JavaScript or [removed] A Beginner’s Guide, this book will provide you with valuable tips and some extra practice.

JavaScript The Definitive Guide, 7th Edition – I recommend this book ONLY after you have used at least one other JavaScript book. This book is hands down one of the most comprehensive books on the language.

That said, the author goes into great depth for each topic. If you start your JavaScript learning journey with this book, you won’t learn how to build anything for awhile. Flanagan’s book will serve you best as a reference when you need to spend more time with a topic. I recently used it, for instance, to deepen my understanding of promises and asynchronous JavaScript.

When you are ready to take a look at this book, make sure you get the 7th edition. Any prior editions will be outdated.

Once you have learned JavaScript from at least one of the books recommended above, you will be ready for more advanced topics that include React, a modern front-end library and Node.js, which is back-end, server-side JavaScript.

Video Courses to Consider

Personally, I like to learn from a combination of books and video courses. Changing the media on which I learn keeps my approach to a new topic fresh. If you would like to add a video course or two to your JavaScript learning library, check out Which is the Best Online JavaScript Bootcamp for You?

Postscript: Books I No Longer Recommend

The books that I used to learn JavaScript are outdated or only taught the basics. I mention them here because they are still revered in many popular blog posts.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript

At first, I liked this book by Mark Meyers. It served as a great introduction to the language.

After completing the exercises, though, I realized I didn’t have the real-world skills to complete a project. And, because the book was published in 2013, it doesn’t cover ES6 syntax, so I can no longer recommend it.

Interactive Front-End Web Development

I also liked learning JavaScript from Interactive Front-End Web Development by Jon Duckett. Prior to ECMA2015, Jon Duckett’s book on JavaScript was invaluable. Unless it is significantly revised and updated, the book teaches outdated JavaScript syntax.

JavaScript The Good Parts

Once effective, JavaScript The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford is no longer a book I recommend, once again, because it is outdated. Crockford’s influence on the JavaScript language, however, cannot be understated. If you are able to find a video or a talk by Crockford within the last year or two, then I’d encourage you to check it out.

You Don’t Know JS

The You Don’t Know JS series by Kyle Simpson were once invaluable resources for JavaScript developers with a high skill level. Not all of the books in the series have been updated, though. If you check these out, make sure that the book you’re reading in this series covers ECMAScript 2015.

These books definitely served their purpose while I learned JavaScript as a beginner, but the syntax they teach will not help you build skills valued by employers unless you want to get a job maintaining legacy code. At some point, you will likely need to work on applications that do not use ES6 syntax, and when that day comes, these books will be important references.

At some point, knowing the old syntax will help you when you are asked to work on an older project. In 2021, though, it’s best to begin books and courses that cover ES6 syntax.

In general, if you see a book on JavaScript that mentions “var” for variable and makes no mention of “let” or “const”, the book won’t likely teach you modern JavaScript

Time to Get Started

I hope the recommendations in this post give you a good starting point for learning JavaScript. Feel free to submit any questions to the JavaScript Learning Space. We publish questions to the space if they use proper grammar and are well formatted. You can also leave your question in the comments section on this post.

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  1. As someone interested in understanding the Javascript language, I find the list of your recommended books extremely useful. Particularly as you provide hints on what to expect from each book. You know, I always find coding and programing topics intimidating. But this article has made it easier for me to get the hang of it. What grabbed my attention was your first recommendation, the Eloquent Javascript, 3RD Edition, purely because I love the task-based learning form. What a better way to learn Javascript than to get hands-on with doable projects. Thanks a lot for this excellent post.

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