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Book Review - Head First Java (O Reilly)

By Andrew Pollack on 10/23/2003 at 07:35 PM EDT

Book Review - Head First Java (O Reilly)

Among all the unlikely things that could happen, from world peace to IBM realizing suddenly that with Domino they already have the world by the short hairs, the one really unlikely thing that could have happened has happened.

Yours truly, the official naysayer and curmudgeon to the whole java move at IBM, after spending an unhealthy amount of time trying both technologies, has chosen to focus on Java and writing in Java to the various JVM implementations over the Microsoft .Net path. It is certainly not the direction I expected to pick, but a choice had to be made and Id like to think Im better than the guy who sticks to his complaints in the view of what he knows is the right answer. Ill go into why in a later entry.

This book, `Head First Java` published by O Reilly gives new meaning to their marketing phrase `Theres an O Reilly for that.` I picked this up because several others I respect had described it in terms like `revolutionary` and a described a radically different approach to the textbook. They were (are) right. I have a bookcase of computer language text books and reference manuals. Many are quick good and frequently referenced. None are `read` for content. I just dont (or never did) learn that way.

I have had only one really breakthrough experience in the past learning by any method other than brute force – that is, repeatedly banging my head against a subject until though wrote and focus Im able to understand fully the topic. The previous experience I speak of was from a pair of video tapes that came with the Borland Turbo C++ 2.0 Professional kit that was given to me by a Borland sales rep. when I worked at Corporate Software some twelve years ago. I cant tell you why it worked then, but I can tell you why it did now. O Reilly, in fact, tells you in the first few pages why theyve taken this approach. Instead of a text lecture, to write this book theyve brought in experts in cognitive process and learning to work directly with the subject matter experts. Clearly theyre looking for a way to compete more effectively with the `whatever for Dummies` books. In typical O Reilly fashion, theyve taken a scientific and well considered approach. The result is funny, irreverent, topical, interactive, and brilliant. As I write this, Ive just consumed and fully understood the first quarter of the book, while on a 777 bound for London. Ive read for four straight hours, every page. Ive penned in the answers in the lessons, figured out the `5-minute mysteries` at the end of each chapter, and had a great time doing it. Ill admit to skimming some of the items – I pretty much know what a loop is, for example, but even there focusing on the differences in concept and use within the language has been hugely helpful.

Reading this book is like sitting in the speakers lounge at a view conference, learning from – and laughing with – peers. Thats the most accurate description I can give you. If you want to UNDERSTAND Java, go buy this book. The parts Ive read have clarified the things I was already using with some success, into solid understanding of whats happening and how to do it in a more `java-like` manner.

There are  - loading -  comments....

I'm glad you liked the book...By Thomas Duff on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
It's been one of my favorites, and I plan to recommend it highly in an upcoming presentation that Joe Litton and I are doing for our Domino/Notes user group next month.
By Ben Langhinrichs on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
Well, I bought the book myself, and was planning on taking it on my trip to London (following you by a few days). I've read some of it, and liked it a great deal, but a long haul read is the best way of knowing whether it "speaks" to me or not. I hope so, as I am pretty language-agnostic and need a better understanding of Java than I have had so far (which is mostly picking through stuff and leaning heavily on C++ experience).
It is goodBy Ben Poole on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
I'm still going through it, and I think it's excellent. Complete change of subject with regards your new design: I like it! Just a couple of niggles: the centre content pane doesn't come through in Safari (and therefore presumably Konqueror), and the char set encoding must be weird: the post above has some weird characters in it for me (Firebird 0.71 on WinXP).
odd character issue?By Andrew Pollack on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
Are you guys still seeing this?
Character issue looks fixed now.By Thomas Duff on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
i like the new formatBy jonvon on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
...and totally agree about the book. i haven't been through a quarter of it yet, but definitely like it a lot!! you are right, the approach and writing are brilliant. back to the format, this is way easier to read!! thanks. just saw your rss feed, am subscribing now. ALL of which is kewl, i like this blog and had trouble getting into it with the old format.
LOLBy jonvon on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
flames of all kinds... you are 2 funny dude!
thanks allBy Andrew Pollack on 06/23/2004 at 11:21 AM EDT
Thanks all, Your positive comments are much appreciated. They make the time spent developing my own blog software worth it beyond simply the learning experience. All I can add is -- you ain't seen nothing yet.... (oh, and I promise to figure out the wierdnesses with CSS rendering for some of you when I get back! - Andrew

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