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Best Books for Learning Web Development: How to Study Effectively

best books for learning web development

Best Books for Learning Web Development: How to Study Effectively

Key Points

  • Books for learning web development still have their place in the ever-changing landscape of web development.
  • JavaScript and HTML are fundamental skills that are necessary for almost any stack or framework in web development.
  • Specializing in a popular framework can make you more marketable and allow you to work on existing projects.
  • Even experienced web developers should continue learning and refreshing their skills through books.
  • Recommended books for learning web development include ‘You Don’t Know JS Yet’ for intermediate JS learners, ‘Don’t Make Me Think Revisited’ for designers, ‘HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites’ for practical learners, ‘Eloquent JavaScript’ for all skill levels, ‘Learning Web Design’ for beginners, and ‘The Road to React’ for React learners.

Books for learning web development might seem a little old-school. Web development these days feels like the Wild West. There’s a plethora of different frameworks, tech stacks, and development tools available. And everything always seems to be changing so fast.

Just knowing HTML and Javascript is no longer enough. Even picking a framework or stack to learn is a challenge in itself. With everything available, it’s easy to be paralyzed by the amount of choice.

But even with the sheer number of learning resources out there, from YouTube to Udemy and everything in between, books still have their place. Whether you’ve been in web development and want to improve your skills or you’re just starting, we’ll list some great books for learning web development so you can hit the ground running.

What Should I Learn?

If you want to graduate from simply throwing together no-code websites with Wix and Squarespace, and actually build a real handmade product, you’ll need to learn web development. As much as there is available, it is possible to find a path and stick to it. Regardless of where you may end up in web development, there are a few things you should know. Let’s start from the beginning.

The Fundamentals

Almost all web development still relies on JavaScript and HTML. It’s almost unavoidable for almost any stack or framework to use these in some way. The good thing here is that you’ll be able to take these skills with you.

Javascript has been the most commonly used language among developers for several years now, according to the Stack Overflow developer survey. Love it or hate it, it’s one of the most popular languages available. 

Javascript and HTML alone won’t make you stand out, but it’s impossible to do anything without these fundamentals. 

Specialization

If you’re already on a solid foundation, then the next major step is to pick something to try. This can be a framework or full-stack, but ensure you choose something popular in the industry. You’ll have time to learn other frameworks once you have a marketable skill.

Angular, React, and Next.js are all great choices — but find the one that speaks to you. Knowing a popular framework means you’ll be able to work on existing projects. What’s nice is even if the framework you end up using is different than the framework you choose, there are a lot of similarities among the most used. Don’t worry much about specializing in the beginning.

Moving Forward

After getting some experience in something that works, you should be able to advance your career. Once you’ve gotten that new job or amazing promotion, you’re not done! Web dev is a double-sided coin. 

Even if you’re comfortable where you’re at, don’t stop learning! Even pros have a hard time keeping up with web development. Things are constantly changing, updating, and innovating. Keeping a few books on your shelf will help you stay fresh — pick one up for a quick read every now and then and refresh the fundamentals.

Our Recommendations for Web Development Books

Sure, web development can evolve, but the fundamental skills needed have been relative for the last few decades. To keep you on track, we’ll be recommending some books covering not only fundamental skills but also exploring what current frameworks offer.

Best Overall: You Don’t Know JS Yet — Kyle Simpson

Best Overall
You Don't Know JS Yet: Get Started
$18.95
  • Great book for all skill levels
  • Shapes fundamental skills
  • Rewritten and updated in 2020
  • Helps to refine your skills
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 11:46 am GMT

Even if you’re already familiar with JavaScript, hold on! As offensive as the title might seem, this book is not just for beginners. You Don’t Know JS Yet goes over a lot of the information you might skip when learning JavaScript or skipping straight to TypeScript. 

You Don’t Know JS Yet offers an in-depth look at how JavaScript works under the hood. From explaining certain behaviors to demystifying abstract functions, you’ll find a comprehensive understanding of the language. 

This book brings to the surface what most JavaScript developers don’t know about. This makes the language all the more amazing as you’ll see that most of what JavaScript is used for only scratches the surface of its true capabilities.

You probably won’t like this book if you are a JavaScript newbie — it skips all of the basics since many other books already cover it. Instead, it helps you refine the skills that many other books gloss over. It’s a short book, too. It is therefore easy to pick up and skim whenever you need something.

ProsCons
Great book for all skill levelsOne of a two book series
Shapes fundamental skillsNot a full web development resource
Updated in 2020

Check out You Don’t Know JS Yet on Amazon.

Best for Designers: Don’t Make Me Think Revisited — Steve Krug

Best for Designers
Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Voices That Matter)
$19.79
  • Has something for developers of all levels
  • Written by a pro in design
  • Written very practical
  • Fun to read
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 12:10 pm GMT

As important as all of the code is, web developers are programmers, designers, and artists all at once. Don’t Make Me Think Revisited is focused on making your designer and artist hats fit better. 

No matter how proficient you are in producing the most efficient JavaScript code and the most optimized CSS, user experience can’t be coded. Creating intuitive, informative designs is another skill you have to hone. 

Focused on helping you guide your users, this book covers principles of good design from an expert in the industry who worked with companies like Apple, Lexus, and Bloomberg.

ProsCons
Written by a pro in designPublished in 2013
A short read (this can also be a con)Concept focused, no code
Has something for devs of all levels

Check out Don’t Make Me Think Revisited on Amazon.

Best for Practical Learners: HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites — Jon Duckett

Best for Practical Learners
HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites
$17.29
  • Large info-graphics used to help simplify new or complex concepts
  • Printed in full-color
  • Code samples
  • Each topic is presented on a new page for easy reference
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 12:56 pm GMT

Despite JavaScript dominating the web, HTML and CSS are just as prevalent, if not more. There are few true competitors to the niche these tools fill. It’s not like HTML and CSS haven’t evolved, but at their core, they’ve remained mostly the same over their more than two-decade existence. This is where HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites comes in.

This book is aimed at anyone trying to make a website, so it’s not as technical as you might expect. There still are technical aspects, but it’s not the focus of the piece. This book focuses on how you can structure your pages using these tools. 

Jon Duckett's books on learning web development
Jon Duckett also has several other books in his series to help you learn web development.

This goes hand in hand with other design books, as you can bridge the gap between what looks good in your mind, and how you can get that onto a screen. If you’re already familiar with HTML and CSS concepts, you might be able to skip this, but there’s always room to expand what you know.

ProsCons
Framework agnosticPublished in 2011
Fundamental concepts covered in detailSkips JavaScript integration of HTML sites
Useful for all skill levels

Check out HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites on Amazon.

Best All Around Book: Eloquent Javascript — Marijn Haverbeke

Best All Around Book
Eloquent JavaScript, 3rd Edition: A Modern Introduction to Programming
$21.99
  • Offers hands-on projects
  • Covers many common issues
  • Thoroughly revised third edition
  • Requires beginner coding skills
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 01:25 pm GMT

If you feel like the previous recommendations are below your skill level, then this book is for you. Eloquent Javascript shows you key concepts that take beginners and intermediate programmers to the next level.

If you want to produce top-tier code, the sections covered here will make you look like a pro with varied sections and tons of projects to complete. This book covers tons of common issues and eloquent ways to handle them.

Eloquent JavaScript
Eloquent JavaScript starts with the basics, teaching you everything you need to know to become a JavaScript master.

This book also is pretty modern, so you’ll be learning relevant information. As timeless as JavaScript is, there have been amazing innovations in even just the last year, so enjoy the relevance this has while you can! It starts from the basics — but don’t be fooled. It goes deep. And as one of my first books, I can say it is still helpful to this day.

ProsCons
Published in 2018Falling behind modern JavaScript
Offers hands-on projectsRequires beginner coding skills
Covers many common issues

Check out Eloquent Javascript on Amazon.

Best Book for Beginners: Learning Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics — Jennifer Robbins

Best Book for Beginners
Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics
$39.17
  • Lots of learning resources included
  • Covers all necessary concepts
  • Ideal for students and professionals
  • Help you learn various techniques
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 01:40 pm GMT

Do you want to start web development but have no clue where to start? Well if the other options here seem too niche or overwhelming, Learning Web Design is the ultimate start guide. This book covers all aspects of web development.

For beginners, learning to code is intimidating. Almost every developer starts with a moment of “I have no idea where to start.” This book aims to alleviate that and walks you through step by step towards becoming a full web developer.

From the tools you’ll use to the advanced concepts you’ll need to master, this book has it all. If you’re only looking to buy one book from this list then start here!

ProsCons
Covers all necessary conceptsRedundant for intermediate skill levels and above
Published in 2018
Lots of learning resources included

Check out Learning Web Design on Amazon.

Best for React Learners: The Road to React — Robin Wieruch

Best for React Learners
The Road to React: Your journey to master plain yet pragmatic React.js
$28.49
  • Beginner friendly
  • Direct examples and problems solved in React
  • Companion site available
  • The digital version is updated regularly
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/07/2024 04:20 pm GMT

If you want to learn a framework but aren’t sure which is right for you, try React. React is one of the most popular frameworks available and has held a serious market share since its release. The Road to React is a great resource to get started on all aspects of this framework.

This book is aimed at beginners but acts as a great resource for readers of all skill levels. Beyond just React, this book covers other concepts such as testing, optimization, and TypeScript

If you want to jump right in as a beginner or get familiar with this framework past your fundamental skills, this is the book for you.

ProsCons
The digital version is updated regularlyFocused only on React
Beginner friendly Skips some fundamentals
Companion site available
Direct examples and problems solved in React

Check out The Road to React on Amazon.

How to Pick the Best Books for Learning Web Development

The last thing you want to do is go out and buy every book on web development that you see. I made this mistake — and it led to a case of analysis paralysis. In other words, I couldn’t figure out where I wanted to start. There was just too much information.

If you’re just starting out, you want to take it slow and start small. I suggest just picking up one book to work through. As you learn, you can work on projects that put into practice all of the concepts you’ve learned. Only when you find that there are blank spots in your knowledge that one book just doesn’t cover, should you think of picking up more books. Because if you’re not making money as a developer yet, you really shouldn’t invest more money than you can afford.

web development books
Besides the books we’ve mentioned here, you’ll find tons of specialized web development books to help you master every nook and cranny of this field. Never stop reading and learning!

What to Know Before Buying a Book

So, if you should only buy one book to start, what should you know first? Well, you really don’t need to know anything. Your first book can be your baby steps into the field. But you should know what your goals are and what you hope to achieve by getting the right web development book.

If you are, like many, only using web development as a stepping stone toward becoming a software engineer, then you should pick a book that has some degree of back-end focus rather than a front-end or design-focused book. Titles like Eloquent JavaScript are perfect for this since JavaScript is widely used in both front and back-end development.

And just because we’re recommending books does not mean that you should shy away from video tutorials. They have their place. Some of my favorite channels on YouTube like Traversy Media, Fireship, and FreeCodeCamp have taught me worlds of information. But they’re better for quicker, more digestible lessons.

Using One of These Books: What it’s Like and How to Maximize Your Experience

The great thing with books — unlike video tutorials on YouTube — is that they stick around. You can refer to them again and again, no matter what you’re working on. Read through once, bookmark the points of interest or things that you want to try, and get to work on your project.

Take a book like Jon Duckett’s HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites. This one gives you all the ingredients you need but gives you free rein to build websites to your specs. You can follow along closely, or you can take only the elements that you want and create your own Frankenstein of a website. The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t just read it and set it aside. Read a little, implement what you read, and come back to the book only when you run into problems.

Say, for example, you get to work on building a website. You can follow along up until the point of spinning up your environment and loading in some basic elements, and let your creativity fly once you get the groundwork down. Once you’ve exhausted all the information you can get out of a basic book, you can pick up a more advanced book and learn how to implement more complex functionality into the same project.

Spend just as much time coding as you do reading, and you’ll start to see something concrete come together. Before you know it, you’ll be job-ready (or freelance-ready, if you want to work for yourself).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I learn web development from books?

While books can act as an amazing resource, you’ll be missing something if you only stick to the page. Learning web development requires hands-on experience that reading can only supplement. Use books as a tool and not as your only resource.

What is the best way to learn web development?

Like anything, web development is best learned by doing. Follow examples and projects from any resources you can find, but to truly learn you’ll have to code and problem-solve without relying on outside resources as a crutch. Use books and courses to fill the gaps in your knowledge, but solidify that knowledge with practice.

How can I teach myself web development?

Start by reading! See what tools you’ll need, come up with a project, and see how you can implement it. Work on making good-looking designs and interesting functions to accelerate your learning. Most importantly don’t be afraid to fail!

Is 3 months enough to learn web development?

If you can put in the effort three months can be enough time to go from zero experience to an entry-level amount of knowledge. 3 months isn’t a long time but a little bit of practice and learning every day can make a huge difference.

How do I become a web developer with no experience?

Find resources catered for you! “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Laozi) The only way to get started is to start knowing what you don’t know. Look into what coding is. Look into what web development means. Even if you don’t understand a lot of what people are saying or certain topics seem confusing, you now have a new topic to study.

How old is too old to learn web development?

I see this question a lot, and the truth is that there’s no age limit to learning web development. Yes, it is a complex field, but it changes so much that often, professionals have to spend as much time learning as newcomers. A good web developer isn’t defined by age but by the effort you’re willing to put in and the willingness to work hard. It’s never too late to learn a new skill.

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