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Head First Java: Your Brain on Java - A Learner's Guide 1st Edition

84 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596004651
ISBN-10: 8173666652
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Condition: Used: Very Good
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Editorial Reviews Review

It has taken four years, but with Head First Java the introductory Java book category has finally come of age. This is an excellent book, far more capable than any of the scores of Java-for-novices books that have come before it. Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates deserve rich kudos--and big sales--for developing this book's new way of teaching the Java programming language, because any reader with even a little bit of discipline will come away with true understanding of how the language works. Perhaps best of all, this is no protracted "Hello, World" introductory guide. Readers get substantial exposure to object-oriented design and implementation, serialization, neatwork programming, threads, and Remote Method Invocation (RMI).

Key to the authors' teaching style are carefully designed graphics. Rather than explain class inheritance (to cite one example) primarily with text, the authors use a series of tree diagrams that clarify the mechanism far more succinctly. The diagrams are carefully annotated with arrows and notes. Also characteristic of the unique teaching strategy is heavy reliance on exercises, in which the reader is asked to complete partial classes, write whole new code segments and do design work. Though there's little discussion of why the exercises' correct answers are what they are, it's clear that the practice work was carefully designed to reinforce the lesson at hand. If you've waited this long to give Java a try, this book is a great choice. --David Wall

Topics covered: The Java programming language for people with no Java experience, and even people with no programming experience at all. Key concepts read like a list of Java features: Object oriented design, variable type and scope, object properties and methods, inheritance and polymorphism, exceptions, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), network connectivity, Java archives (JAR files), and Remote Method Invocation (RMI).


"I can heartily recommend it ... It takes a lot of effort to produce a book this good and it's going to be difficult to sustain." - Computer Shopper, October 2003 "In general the book works well. I found it interesting in the way that it presented Java in a not overtly technical manner; the prose was readable and generally well structured. For example the coverage of object references I thought was well done remaining accurate while being clear to a non-expert reader." - James Robert, CVu, April 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Head First
  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (May 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8173666652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596004651
  • ASIN: 0596004656
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

490 of 504 people found the following review helpful By Juntao Yuan on July 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
When I first saw "Head First Java", it reminds me of the colorful "conversational English" books I had when I started to learn English years ago. The casual, humorous books have turned out effective for English language learning. Is that style good for the Java language learners as well? Is this type of books for beginners only?
With those questions in mind, I started to read "Head First Java". Since I consider myself a Java expert (I wrote a Java book myself, after all), I decided that I would NOT read the book from cover to cover. Instead, I would randomly flip through the book for the humorous stories and photos. I figured that if I cannot learn much new about Java from a "beginner" book, I can at least have some fun.
Geez, I was wrong. I was ADDICTED to the book's short stories, annotated code snippets, mock interviews, puzzle games and brain exercises. They are not only entertaining but also informative. It may be a beginner's book but the stuff they cover are definitely deep enough for expert readers as well (e.g. multiple inheritance, polymorphism, inner classes, threads, RMI, ... just to name a few). The best of all is that I can actually remember the things I learned from the book because I associate them with the stories and pictures. I guess it has something to do with the fact that both sides of my brain are active when reading this book: The right side is for the stories and the left side is for the technical and logic stuff.
There are other great Java books (e.g. "Thinking in Java" by Bruce Eckel) in the market. But they are all very serious and require the readers to spend hours to read entire chapters.
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
In all my years of reading technical books trying to learn new skills, the closest I have ever come to a book like this was when I first read a Dummies book. I liked it because it presented information in a humorous fashion that made things easy to comprehend. This style takes that type of learning to a whole new level. Using a combination of writing style, graphics, illustrations, and sample code, they draw you into each subject in such a way that you can't help but learn and understand.
This book starts with the basics of Java and progresses clear through to RMI and JINI. Granted, those last subjects are just touched on, but at least you're exposed to them. Even after all the Java tutorial manuals I've read, I still got a lot out of this book. For instance, I always was sort of fuzzy on the event listener logic. The Head First explanation was one of the most understandable (and entertaining) treatments of it that I've ever read. Likewise, inner classes were always confusing to me. The coverage of that subject here makes it sound so simple.
And why do you need this if you're a Notes/Domino developer? If you've never worked with Java, you're probably intimidated by the subject and afraid to get started. Don't be... This is the most fun you'll ever have learning a new skill. While it doesn't talk specifically about how to code a Java agent in a Notes application, you'll learn the concepts and the syntax you'll need to be able to do that. Once you have those skills in place, you can move on to a book specific to using Java in a Notes environment (such as Domino Development With Java by Tony Patton). The book doesn't assume you're a programming guru to get started.
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154 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Paul VINE VOICE on November 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Who do Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates think they are? Don't they know that learning a programming language is supposed to be hard? Don't they know that it is supposed to involve suffering? Apparently not, as they have written a complete introduction to Java that is fun to read and easy to understand. If we don't stamp this out now, students will start expecting their teachers to be entertaining!
The book is an excellent introduction to Java. It covers all the typical topics of a basic introductory text and some extra including serialization, networking, and distributed computing. Each topic is covered in a fun way with important information highlighted. The authors use stories, fake interviews, pictures, and assorted other clever techniques to catch your imagination and make the topics memorable. There are plenty of exercises (with answers) to help you check to be sure you understood each chapter. And there are plenty of fun programs to code including a cool music machine instead of the typical "reverse a String" exercises.
If you are looking for a traditional text then this book is definitely not for you. Instructors should think carefully whether this book fits in with their style of teaching. This book is not for everyone but if you want to learn Java and object oriented programming in fun and unique way then this is the book you want. Now I just have to figure out how to keep it away from my students.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Johannes de Jong on June 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
I had the pleasure of reading Head First Java as Kathy & Bert turned out the chapters. Though the book has not hit the stores yet, I'd like to share my experience reading the work copy of the book.
I'm a 47 year old programmer that has basically seen it all in my 25+ years in IT. Though I've been busy with Java for more than 2 years, I until recently still saw myself as an absolute beginner. Why you might ask? Well for starters all my Java was simply "hobby" work, I did not use it at work. Secondly, and the most important reason, is that I simply did not understand and grasp some of the key concepts of OO that one needs to know to be able to fully use the capabilities Java has to offer.
As fate would have it, the work copy Kathy & Bert's book became available to me as I started to work in a new department where I have to program in Java. I was drowning. I had to keep on asking the youngsters on the team for assistance. You can't believe what that does for your self-confidence. But as I read more and more of Head First Java I found myself sitting in tech meetings not only understanding what was being said but I was actually coming up with some fresh ideas that helped us re-design our systems to become fully OO.
Why is that so. Simply because of the unique way Kathy and Bert teach and share their knowledge. The best way for me to describe this book is by using the teacher at school that we all have encountered in our school careers. You know the one that enthusiastically drew the most elaborate drawing on the black board to explain his point, the one that simply generates interest in his subject purely because of his sheer love of the subject he teaches. Now imagine that teacher in book form. The Head First way, your favourite teacher in a book.
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