computer with text that says you don't know javascript yet book series review

You Don’t Know JavaScript Book Review (Kyle Simpson)

You Don’t Know JavaScript is a 6-book series that covers one of web development’s most vexing topics. Although JavaScript is the de facto language of the web, its ubiquitous presence doesn’t make it easier to understand.

Let’s face it. JavaScript, although everywhere, is tough.

6 books from the You Don't Know JavaScript series by Kyle Simpson

But thankfully one of its champions has done his best to explain this mysterious language. Author Kyle Simpson rips open JavaScript to expose both complex and simple features.

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TLDR: You Don’t Know JavaScript Review

You Don’t Know JavaScript is a 6-book series that breaks down the essence of the language.

✏️ Author Kyle Simpson is a de facto JavaScript guru.

✈️ If you’re new to JavaScript, start with the intro book Up and Going (aka Get Started).

🔎 And if you finally want to understand closures, Scope and Closures is for you.

🧭 Two of the books have been updated to version 2.0. Check them out here.

What Books are Included in the You Don’t Know JavaScript Series?

The six-book series includes:

  • Up and Going
  • Scope & Closures
  • ES6 & Beyond
  • Async & Performance
  • Types & Grammar
  • this and Object Prototypes

Each book tackles a chunk of JavaScript, illustrating many of the methods behind the madness. For example, Scope and Closures shows you…You guessed it, JavaScript scope and closures.

Further, you’ll dig into:

  • Nesting lexical scopes with functions and blocks
  • Functions remembering variables via closure
  • Modules (one of the most important code organization patterns in programming)
  • And more.

Simpson neither cuts corners nor wears kid gloves with these books. There are numerous code examples with thorough explanations.

Further, he emphasizes theory over implementation. This is a welcome relief to those of us who want to learn the “whys” of JavaScript in a world of “hows.”

For example, here is a page from Scope and Closures that dives into hoisting:

page from you don't know javascript scope and closures book with code snippet

What Others Are Saying About You Don’t Know JavaScript

Developer reviews of this series are largely favorable. As OhhDenny Services, LLC says:

 I have been working with JavaScript for over a decade and even reading this intro it brought me to deeply think about ‘use strict’ that I had never thought about before. I credit these series to my increase of excitement in wanting to learn JavaScript at a deeper level.

Further, writing about Scope & Closures Niall claims:

This should be onboarding material for any JS developer because it is packed full of detailed, digestible content that will improve even the most senior engineer. I found myself learning how to communicate and articulate the hows of JS a lot better after reading the book.

You Don’t Know JavaScript YET: An Updated Version Featuring ES6

A few reviews mention that the original editions of You Don’t Know JavaScript are feeling a bit dusty. This is largely due to the lack of ES6. However, there are other small areas that could use updates as well.

best web developer books You Don't Know JS Yet: Get Started book cover with chess pieces

Fortunately, Kyle Simpson is in the process of updating the entire series. Further, two books have already been updated and published. The new series is called You Don’t Know JavaScript Yet.

Both Get Started ( a revamp of Up & Going) and Scope and Closures are published under the new series. And although there is no firm release date yet for the other four, hopefully it’ll be sometime in 2021. From a developer perspective it would be nice to have all six in my (updated) collection.

My Experience as a Web Developer with this Series

I picked up the You Don’t Know JavaScript paperbacks a few years ago. This was when I was a code newbie and desperate for any insight into the language.

Unfortunately, most online tutorials steer far, far away from JavaScript theory. While it’s understandable, it’s also unfortunate. For me personally, having more newbie-friendly materials that discussed the “innards” of JS would’ve been fantastic.

cover of book You Don't Know JavaScript: Up & Going by Kyle Simpson sitting on a rock

However, the Up & Going book in particular was UBER helpful. Again, in the new series it’s been rebranded Get Started.

Take heed though! The books in this series are really short. That said, because the information is so heavy, the brief length makes JavaScript seem manageable. When I finished Up & Going it felt like I had just completed a mini-JavaScript course. There weren’t any projects or anything hands-on. But I still learned a lot. Finally, insight about JavaScript that wasn’t implementation! That’s about as rare as the animals on the O’Reilly book covers.

A New JavaScript Mindset

There was one thing in particular that continues to stick out to me. It was Simpson’s philosophical musings in this introductory book.

Open book You Don't Know JS: Up & Going with hand and rock background
JavaScript at the beach

He mentioned that JavaScript gets a bad rap not because the language itself sucks, but because people don’t take the time to understand it. Although I still don’t entirely agree with his assertion (you can’t escape the fact that JavaScript was literally developed in 10 days), I do get what he’s saying. In fact, Simpson’s statement has been pivotal in me reflecting more on JavaScript’s…shall we say more intricate features. His perspective has given me more patience with the language.

And that’s where this book series really delivers value for me. It’s the technical aspects combined with a new mindset when approaching JavaScript.

I recommend checking out this series if you’ve been frustrated with JavaScript. You may just come away with a new perspective. . . While also understanding the tough stuff like closures and this.


Want to read about more good web development books? Check out our list of 12 Best Web Developer Books for 2021.