For as long as I've been keeping track of books about Web authoring (over two years now) I never cease to be amazed. Whodathunkit! By the time you read this I'll have logged over 4000 titles in my database of books for Web authors. You can look them up at the WWWiz book site.
Who is buying all these books? They range from the mundane to the arcane (sounds like a bunch of saturated hydrocarbons). I've probably seen more of these books than most, but when asked for a book recommendation on a particular subject I'm usually at a loss. Every book has it own style, temperament, and tempo and each reader will respond more readily to one than another. So, in spite of the recommendations below, you should always go to a bookstore and check it out for yourself.
This month I've got the usual assortment of Web authoring books plus one novel I just finished that I liked. (I read a lot more novels than I care to recommend.) To learn more about these books visit their Web sites using the links found below.
The Book Reviews
Word 97 Annoyances by Woody Leonhard, Lee Hudspeth & T.J. Lee (O'Reilly & Associates, $22) is a great concept for a book. Rather than attempt another soup to nuts tutorial on Word this book is written for the active Word user and deals with improving the program performance and your own productivity. The premise of this book is that Word is replete with poor design or simply stupid features. Covering everything from program installation through customizing the toolbar through writing VBA scripts to virus protection, this book sets out to right the wrongs. I recommend this for anyone who has been frustrated with Word or simply wants to increase their productivity. The lead author, Woody Leonhard, is one of the world's leading experts on Word and I have read his books and used his software in the past. You might also want to check out O'Reilly's other annoying titles.
Also recently released, two of my previous favorites are now out in second editions. Check out David Siegel's Creating Killer Web Sites, 2nd Ed. and Coloring Web Graphics.2 by Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin.
Java How to Program, 2nd Ed. by Harvey & Paul Deitel (Prentice Hall, $51) is now available in its second edition and is fully updated for the JDK 1.1. It's been exactly a year since I recommended the first edition. This book not only covers the latest features of Java 1.1 but (they claim) all the examples have been rewritten and recompiled. There's an old saw about journalism or public speaking that goes something like "tell 'em what your gonna tel 'em, tell 'em, and tell 'em what you told 'em." This book is a perfect example. Each chapter begins by laying out the objectives and ends with a detailed summary including all the tips, caveats, and other observations therein. Finally, there are self-review exercises and many homework exercises to keep you very busy with this college-style textbook. Be prepared to work hard if you select this book, it's not a walk in the park. That's a promise, not a threat. There is no CD-ROM but the examples can be downloaded from the authors' Web site.
Photoshop in a Nutshell by Donnie O'Quinn & Matt LeClair (O'Reilly & Associates, $20) is a convenient desktop reference covering all the tools, menus, and palettes. There is also a rather large appendix covering the common techniques used in Photoshop and another with all the keystroke shortcuts. (You'd have to be WordStar fan to love these. If you're too young to remember WordStar just say a prayer of thanks.) The book is sensibly organized with section tabs on the page ends and the contents and index are quite complete if you don't have the patience to thumb through the pages. Each tool, menu item, etc. is accompanied by it keystroke shortcut and a description of its common uses and errors and special notes. Moreover, each of the common uses is delineated in step-by-step instructions in the Common Techniques appendix, 170 in all. This book is suitable for all levels of Photoshop users and should be a useful companion when working with this complex program.
Hacker Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Network Security by Lars Klander (Jamsa Press, $55/CD-ROM) is a rather daunting book and is well beyond my own ken. Yet I can recognize its importance and feel it's worthwhile to call to your attention. The increasing use of the Internet, Intranets, and Extranets increases the general level of vulnerability, not to mention a shortage of qualified people to run all these networks. This book reviews all the network connection protocols and where the weaknesses are and how to protect your network. Specific advice is given on identifying and repelling intruders and security issues with Java and CGI scripts are also covered. The book covers all the popular network platforms: Unix, Windows 95/NT, and Novell. The CD-ROM includes trial version of some security software for Windows NT, NetWare, and Unix systems. Additional freeware and shareware programs have been collected and made available at the Jamsa Web site.
Core Java 1.1, Vol 1. Fundamentals by Cay S. Horstmann and Gary Cornell (Prentice Hall, $40/CD-ROM), now in its third revision, is targeted at serious programmers who wish to put Java to work on real projects. However, it doesn't require knowledge of C++ or object-oriented programming (OOP). The book has twelve chapters that emphasize cross-platform application development with applets taking a back seat. This is good. There are altogether too many books that cover applets already. In this first volume the authors cover the basics of the Java language and OOP. Kudos to the authors for acknowledging the role of UCSD Pascal in the development of cross-platform applicationsthis fact seems to have eluded most authors who've written on the history of Java. This book covers displaying images (the right way), handling events, developing cross-platform GUIs with the AWT, data structures, and exception handling. The second volume will cover streams, multi-threading, network programming, JavaBeans, and more. These authors have an excellent reputation and the previous incarnations of Core Java have been very well received. The CD-ROM contains the examples in the book and the JDK 1.1.
XML: Principles, Tools, and Techniques, World Wide Web Journal: Volume 2, Issue 4 by Dan Connolly (Guest Editor) (O'Reilly & Associates, $30) is the first book on the emerging new standard for Web documents. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It is positioned somewhere between HTML and SGML, providing extensibility for the former but not being quite as complex as the latter. For example, XML will allow you to define your own markup tags and attributes, encode math equations, and publish databases automatically. This book, actually the Fall 1997 Issue of The World Wide Web Journal has a few editorial pieces, a few reports from the W3 Consortium, and more than a dozen technical papers covering various aspects of XML and its relation to other aspects of Web publishing (cascading style sheets, browsers, Java, Perl, etc.) This book is required reading for anyone trying to stay ahead of the game in Web authoring. (Note: The World Wide Web Journal is available at $100 for an annual subscription4 issues).
Web Graphics Bible by Ron Wodaski (IDG Books, $50/CD-ROM) is a big brute of a book with just about everything you need to know about Web graphics. The book has 22 chapters in three parts covering the basics of Web graphics, publishing graphics on the Web, and design related issues. Many of the chapters are enhanced with tutorial material on the CD-ROM and all of the chapters have a Web tour on the CD-ROM showing great examples and additional resources (such as where to download graphics tools). One of the things that particularly impressed me in this book was the discussion of basic design principles and artistic composition. This is very valuable information for Web page designers who aren't schooled in graphic design. Also, throughout the book there are references to techniques with specific graphics software such as Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro. In addition to the things I've already mentioned, the CD-ROM contains many shareware, trial version, and demo software. The book also has a Web site with more free stuff and other goodies.
If your graphics interests tend to animation in particular you should check out Web Animation for Dummies by Renée LeWinter & Cynthia L. Baron (IDG Books, $25/CD-ROM). This books small size (~350 page) belies it comprehensive coverage of the subject. It covers planning an animation, effective use of color, use of type, photos, and clip art, preparing images, and file sizes. Then it discusses many of the freeware, shareware, and commercial animation programs, with specific instructions on using some of the more popular ones. (Note that the book covers both Macintosh and PC software.) Finally, all the Dummies books have a Part of Tens, replete with useful tips on what you absolutely must know about the subject. The multi-platform CD-ROM contains samples from the book (in moving color) plus other sample goodies and trial software.
Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML by Laura Lemay (Sams.net, $30) is now in its fourth edition and continues to be one of the best books for newcomers to Web programming. The first edition was one of the very first books on HTML and Laura Lemay herself has become something of an icon in Web publishing. Naturally, HTML has come a long way since that first edition and you might expect it's got to take more than a week to learn it all. In fact, the book has two "bonus days" covering new material (and the other seven days are more heavily packed too). The book covers all the basics and this new edition covers the standard HTML 4.0 enhancements plus those particular to Netscape Communicator 4 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4. The sections on tables, frames, and forms have been expanded and there are new sections on Dynamic HTML and Style Sheets. If you're new to this game you can't go wrong with this book. If you're an old hand you might be better off with books that are specialized to the newer material.
Comanche Moon by Larry McMurtry ( Simon and Schuster, $28.50/but heavily discounted everywhere) is the final book in the Lonesome Dove quartet. Chronologically, it would be the second book in the series. The saga of the flippant Augustus McCrae and the taciturn Woodrow Call continues in this rather large book. It's hard for me to judge how accurate the Lonesome Dove books are in their portrayal of Western life in the period surrounding the Civil War. I can't say that they have the ring of truth, but they are nevertheless fascinating. I've enjoyed all these books but am feeling melancholy as I near the end of the book. I don't want it to end as it's like the loss of a good friend when you finish a book you really enjoy. What will I do next? The book is a must for all Lonesome Dove fans, don't wait for the paperback. All you others, go get a copy of Lonesome Dove and start there.