Alongside reality

Many years ago now, I wanted to get more serious about learning JavaScript. JavaScript: The Good Parts seemed to be the most consistently and highly recommended JavaScript book. I made a mistake with it—one I think you can make with many books relevant to type designers, too: I attempted to read it cover-to-cover.

Whether or not this particular book is as good as its reputation is immaterial: it’s not how its intended to be read (and many books like this will actually tell you as much).

Some books in our field feel like they should be on your shelf, or that someone will ask you if you have read it, and you will be able to say “Yes.”

Reading a book like this start to finish, instead of applying or referencing it, got me there and not much further.

While I was already writing plenty of JavaScript and jQuery in isolation, what worked for me was a real (side) project that actually had utility for others—it was much easier to understand, say, how to manipulate a string of text in a certain way, or why I would want it as an array, when I actually had a use case, rather than abstract puzzles.

I’d like to think I wouldn’t fall into this trap again, but I think type books can do this a bit more subtly than programming books. They are visual, they are much more likely to be beautiful objects in their own right, not just reference manuals. And of course we love them for that reason too, but it depends on what you want out of them.

There’s no substitute for having these books open alongside you, as you do the real thing.

Until next time,