It's hard to believe that a history of the early days of computing and (pre-Internet) networks could be exciting. You'd think a book about engineers would be about as thrilling as reading a calculus text. Yet in Where Wizards Stay Up Late, Hafner and Lyon have breathed life into a story about early computer geeks and their vision of a nationwide network. At times the book reads almost like a novel. Hafner is particularly good at characterization, and by the end you feel you almost know the major players, such as Paul Baran, Larry Roberts (the director and midwife of ARPANET), and the BBN engineers who created the first network.
- Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of using this book as bedtime reading material.
The other night I couldn't get to sleep, so I thought, I'll start Zeldman's book on web standards, that ought'a knock me out. Wrong. At 4:30 a.m., I looked up and realized dawn wasn't too far off. I didn't care. I finished the chapter I was reading and barely kept myself from starting another.
The title of this book is particularly apt because solutions for designing with web standards is exactly what it's about. Beyond that, the book is difficult to define. It's not a sermon on web standards, although almost every example shows the benefits of doing so. On the other hand, it's not just a manual on CSS, although Cederholm shows how to markup and style everything from lists to forms to layouts.
It isn't often you can call a technical book lovely, but this one is. The Zen of CSS Design is one of those rare books in which every element seems to come together in perfect balance and harmony. Kind of Zen, actually. In my admittedly inexpert opinion, this is the best book on web design to come out this year. For me personally, it's been the best I've ever read. I don't know if it is the result of a random congruency of time, level of learning and need, but this book has inspired and excited me about web design more than any other.
I'll make you bet. I'll bet you that, after finishing Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think, you will have a brief head-scratching moment when you think "Well, yeah. I knew all that. Sheesh. I just blew 35 bucks." A few moments later it will dawn on you that while, yes, you did somehow know most of what Krug says--or at least it seems you must have known it; it was all so obvious--you've never actually done much of what he suggests.