A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript review cover photo that asks if its worth it in 2021

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript review (2021) || Best JavaScript book for beginners?

In today’s A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript review you’ll learn if this book is right for you in 2021.

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TLDR

🔔 Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript is one of the best resources for newbie web developers.

🚀 It features one-page chapters and online companion exercises.

🧭 Grab A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript here.

cover of book A Smarter Way to Learn Javascript by Mark Myers

Originally published in 2014, A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript swept the “JavaScript for newbies” book niche by storm. With back-to-back 5-star reviews, it seemed to be the best book for JavaScript beginners.

But technology changes fast.

And JavaScript isn’t exactly known for being the easiest language to learn.

Fun fact: JavaScript was created in 10 days.

And because JavaScript was hastily written, it has a lot of quirks.

But still, author Mark Myers wrote A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript in the simplest way possible.

So instead of wanting to throw your computer at the wall, you’re actually learning how to code in JavaScript. Woot!

Let’s explore how he did that.

1. One-page-ish chapters. One chapter per day.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript takes the baby step concept to a whole new level. But at the same time, it isn’t condescending. Author Mark Myers uses a mix of teaching styles to help make the JavaScript stick.

This includes:

Chapter 50: Setting field values open book A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript by Mark Myers
Chapter 50 of A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript.
  • Short Chapters – easy to digest chunks
  • Coding Examples – plenty of visuals
  • Real World References – uses every day scenarios to explain concepts
  • Interactive Exercises – test your skills online

To illustrate, each chapter is only one or two pages.

excerpt from A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript using "99 Bottles of Beer" as an example of for loops

He recommends you only do one chapter a day. This is so the concept actually sticks to your brain. . .Rather than cramming a ton of stuff and not remembering half of it.

Further, most concepts are broken down into chunks of sub-concepts.

For example, working with strings is broken down into four chapters:

  • Measuring length and extracting parts
  • Finding segments
  • Finding a character at a location
  • Replacing characters

And realistically each chapter takes ten or fifteen minutes for most people to read. So the rest of your study time can be spent working with JavaScript.

2. Author Mark Myers doesn’t make assumptions about you.

This may seem like a silly point, but as an “outsider” (he doesn’t work in the tech industry) he doesn’t make any assumptions about you.

Mark Myers headshot
Author Mark Myers

Look around at other resources and you can see how often this becomes a problem.

Many instructors working in the tech industry assume you have pre-existing knowledge of certain things…Despite the fact that these are NEWBIE LEVEL TOPICS. And that can cause you to walk away or give up all together. (As a self-taught dev, I know the feeling all too well).

At the very least, it’s frustrating and time wasting. Because now you have to keep looking for another resource that respects that fact that you’re new.

On the other hand, Mark does not make assumptions! So it is truly newbie friendly. (This goes for his other books in his Smarter Way series, too).

3. Online exercises for each chapter.

After you read each chapter, you’re invited to test your knowledge with the online exercises. Basically, you log on to his website and select the chapter you’re working on.

Progress bar to indicate I’m on Chapter 2, challenge 7.

From there, you’ll be challenged with a collection of questions relating to the topic.

For example, you’ll work with challenges like:

  • fill in the blanks
  • typing out code snippets
  • drag and drop code
  • JSFiddle – an interactive code editor
screen shot of drag-and-drop coding editor exercise
A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript drag-n-drop challenge

This is a good feature to really help the concepts stick.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript review: Online Coding Excerise Note

I did have an issue with a A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript.

And that is the quality of some of of the online exercises. While the questions are good, a few were buggy on my browser.

I’ve found the best browser to use is Chrome, but there are still some bugs regarding correct answers.

For example, in one instance I gave the correct answer, but it was still marked as incorrect.

This was not a common situation, but it was confusing when it did happen.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript review: Is it still relevant in 2021?

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript was published in 2015.

In web development years, that’s ancient history.

And the fact is, a major update to JavaScript came in 2015. This update is known as ES6 and includes many features developers use regularly.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript does NOT include ES6 features.

For example, you will learn the var keyword rather than const and let used in ES6.

Further, you will define functions with the function keyword, rather than the “fat arrow” => that ES6 uses.

Normally I would recommend that newbies find a more modern book. But A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript is an exception. Why? Because there’s nothing like it for new developers.

And if you’re completely new to coding, syntax is far less important than learning programming fundamentals and problem solving skills.

For example, learning why and when we use functions is far more important than the characters used to type it.

And there are plenty of additional resources you can grab to expand your JavaScript knowledge.

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript Review: Final Thoughts

A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript may be years old, but most of it is still extremely relevant for new web developers.

Just remember that some of the syntax in certain chapters will look different once you start exploring JavaScript. And some of the exercises are buggy.

But still, for what it offers, I do recommend it for most new developers.

Ultimately, if you’re considering learning from A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript, review your learning path. This book is still relevant for many new web developers, but it’s not for everyone.


Ready to dive into more JavaScript learning resources? Check out our post on JavaScript Resources: The Ultimate Guide for Web Developers in 2021.

  1. What is A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript?

    A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript is a book written by Mark Myers. The book includes a large set of online exercises where you can practice what you read in the book. Each chapter of the book is one or two pages and takes about 10 minutes to read. A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript is newbie friendly and great for aspiring web developers.

  2. Is A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript worth it?

    Yes, we certainly think A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript is worth it. Features include short chapters, online companion exercises and all the information you need to get started coding in JavaScript. Author Mark Myers doesn't make any assumptions about you, so it is a truly newbie friendly book.

  3. What books did Mark Myers write?

    Mark Myers is the author of A Smarter Way to Learn JavaScript. A Harvard graduate, he has also written other books in the Smarter Way series, including a Smarter Way to Learn HTML and CSS, A Smarter Way to Learn jQuery, and A Smarter Way to Learn Python.

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