CS intro w/ Java and a bit of book review

I’m currently taking a basic Java course that’s supposed to go to the proper level to take the SCJA (Sun Certified Java Associate) certification, the first step in the Sun Java cert track.  Instead of using the standard book that my university recommends, I’m using Big Java by Cay S. Horstmann (ISBN 978-0-470-10554-2).  I’ll post a few thoughts here on this book.

So far so good.  I’m about four or five chapters in, and I think I have a good feel for the flow of the book.  I’ve done several other starter programming books (Zelle’s Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science, and an intro JavaScript course as well), but Big Java surprised me starting out.  Unlike some other courses that mainly start out with syntax and primitive data types, this one started out with class design and OO concepts.  It even teaches the student to use a few Swing components (JFrame and JOptionPane) early on in order to make the usual “monkey trick” exercises a bit more interesting.  I like this approach, as it makes the introductory chapters easier.

I like Horstmann’s writing style.  It’s concise and clear, and the code examples are good.  I have yet to find an error in any of the examples.  I’m reading it on Skillsoft Books 24×7, an online book service and it’s been good so far.  I do kind of wish I had the paper copy, but that’s just how I am.  Anyhow…

A big help to me was that I started with JavaScript and Python.  Java’s syntax is very similar to JavaScript’s, so it gave me a head start to coding in Java.  The combination of JavaScript’s syntax with Python’s OO perspective gave me a good foundation from which to move through Big Java.

One more thought – I’ve worked through some programming books that have virtually no exercises.  This, IMO, is a terrible way to help people learn.  If you’re writing a beginner book, you MUST provide practice opportunities for those who can’t come up with their own.  Big Java does a great job of providing practice opportunities at multiple complexity levels.  The exercises build on each other (to some degree), and I feel they are quite effective.

So I do recommend the book for a self-taught Java beginner.  I’ll post more about it as I go along.

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