“The Little Book on CoffeeScript” by Alex MacCaw; O’Reilly Media

I’ve had quite a bit of interest in Javascript over the past year or so, probably because it provides quite a bit of ease in ‘playing around’ with code. What you write can pretty quickly be tested out, using any old browser. Gradually I’ve been exploring O’Reilly’s books on the subject, or which there are a staggering number, so when I saw that ‘The Little Book on CoffeeScript” was available, I jumped at the chance to check it out.

CoffeScript, it turns out, is a programming language that transcompiles to Javascript, and has a syntax that’s kind of like Ruby and Python. I won’t junk up the review with a bunch of detail on the language; instead, I highly recommend you pick up this book. At $7.99US for the eBook and well under 100 pages, this is a quick read, a great value, and a highly entertaining book on a nearly new subject.

Alex MacCaw has done a great job with just 60 pages of room to address the subject. I was initially turned off by CoffeeScript as a language due to a similarity to Ruby, a language that regular readers here may recall I find really hard to love. But MacCay’s brief style of explaining sometimes over-discussed subjects found me changing my mind of CoffeeScript. While I still find some aspects infuriating, like white space that ‘matters’, this book has ultimately won me over, in particular his explanation of CoffeeScript’s conversion of equality operators (‘==’ and ‘!=’) ┬áto strict equality operators (‘===’ and ‘!==’). Likewise, his writing is sprinkled with Monty Python-ish examples, something I’ve always enjoyed while reading much denser examples in huge Python tomes. In this way he reminds the reader that CoffeeScript owes quite a bit syntactically to Python as well as Ruby.

I can’t say that my opinion is without criticism though; while MacCaw’s writing is refreshingly succinct, I feel like he could discuss some things a little more fully, such as installing CoffeeScript and especially mixins, a subject that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around. This is a minor gripe though, since this is meant to be a brief book.

All in all, I’ll heartily recommend “The Little Book on CoffeeScript”. It’s a pleasant read that an intermediate user can breeze through in a sitting and use as a launchpad for further explorations, once you’ve learned how interesting CoffeeScript can be.