ASP.NET In a Nutshell, 2nd Edition
For those old-timers out there who remember the pre-Internet era, O'Reilly's Nutshell series of books is the 21st century equivalent of Waite Group Press' prehistoric Bible titles. The second edition of O'Reilly's popular ASP.NET In A Nutshell is even approaching the page count of those old Bible books. However, O'Reilly is a successful publisher that is keenly aware of its programmer audience and has honed its author pool, smartly edited the content to focus on what matters in the real world, and even optimized the book's trim size to pack as much information in as portable a package as possible.
There are a lot of ASP.NET reference books circulating in the marketplace today, and separating the wheat from the chaff can be a daunting task. I've been fortunate enough to read over a dozen ASP.NET reference and tutorial books throughout the course of my book-reviewing career, and I can honestly state that few approach the concise quality of subject matter that this second edition provides. The format follows that of other O'Reilly Nutshell books, wherein the technology's libraries are analyzed in just enough detail to answer those quick look-up reminders. Readers looking for an ASP.NET tutorial will not find it here. Nutshell books are geared toward intermediate and advanced developers who, like an English professor, occasionally rely on a large dictionary to look up the more esoteric constructs. In this respect, ASP.NET In a Nutshell admirably succeeds.
With nearly 1,000 pages of text, it could have been easy to get lost in had it not been for the Type, Method, Property, and Field Index preceding the book's index. However, what would have made this type of index even more valuable would have been the inclusion of page number references next to the entries. Yes, it would have cluttered the list. But it would have saved readers from having to cross-reference the location of these keywords in the main index. Perhaps one day when these reference titles are all in portable electronic form (yes, I know O'Reilly offers their Safari subscription-based online book repository, but that only works well in a continuously connected online environment), the pain of index-induced page flipping will go the way of the typewriter. But for now, publishers will need to continue to strive to make their printed content look-ups as frictionless as possible.
The book is presented in three parts: Introduction to ASP.NET, Intrinsic Class Reference, and Namespace Reference. The introductory section provides a quick refresher of ASP.NET's facilities (configuration, data access, security, etc.). The Intrinsic Class Reference section details the various Http* classes (Context, Exception, Request, Response, etc.). The first and second sections provide good detail and just enough of an example to drive the point home. The Namespace Reference section consumes over half the book, listing every public property, method, and event for each of the various System.Web.* namespaces. Each list is prefaced by a brief explanation of the purpose each class serves. The authors have obviously polished their instructional skills from the first edition by distilling each description into the most important message necessary to convey. Not once did I experience fatigue or frustration when reading these blurbs. Instead, my typical reaction was, "OK, got it." Conversely, I never experienced a "Eureka moment" where a new trick or technique was uncovered. The obvious reason for this is that Nutshell books are not structured to deliver this kind of unexpected reading experience. Those moments are reserved for O'Reilly's ASP.NET companion book Programming ASP.NET, 2nd Edition (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/progaspdotnet2/).
I have always been a fan of O'Reilly's enlightening library of technical titles, and I am especially satisfied with this ASP.NET reference. Any serious ASP.NET developer should buy this book if they haven't done so already.
- Mike Riley
Title: ASP.NET In a Nutshell, 2nd Edition
Authors: Andrew Duthie and Matthew MacDonald
Publisher: O'Reilly and Associates
Pages: 998 pages