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Keywords: Java, open source, APIs
Title: Wicked Cool Java
Author: Brian D. Eubanks
Publisher: No Starch Press
Verdict: An interesting and engaging read
Sporting one of the worse titles in the history of Java book publishing, 'Wicked Cool Java' is an odd compendium of material that makes the book hard to categorise. It's not a how-to book, though there's lots of how-to material in it. It's not a tutorial, though there's stuff on some of the newer core APIs, such as regular expressions, XML and string utils. It's not even an advanced Java book, though the book assumes a degree of competence that means it's not a title for beginners. So, what is and is it any good?
The main idea behind the book is that Java can be used to do lots of good stuff, and much of this good stuff means moving beyond the key APIs from early releases and delving into some of the newer libraries and looking at a range of open source frameworks. As such it's an intermediate Java book, sort of.
The author spends time poking around some of the later Java libraries, particularly those relating to strings, regular expressions and XML processing. This is done in bite-sized chunks, with easily digested bits of code and concrete examples to get your teeth into. Each chunk is clearly flagged with the relevant Java release, so if you're stuck on Java 1.4 then you can steer clear of Java 5.0 code easily enough.
In addition to looking at some of the packages that come with the language, the book also includes lots of open source packages and APIs. In particular the chapters on the semantic web, scientific and math apps, graphics and charting and multimedia allow the author to trawl through a wide range of open source libraries of various degrees of complexity and maturity. The bite sized chunk idea is used here as well, and it makes for a book that's great for dipping into.
It's not the sort of book that you'll necessarily want to read cover to cover, but there's nothing to stop you doing that. It's not completely disjointed, there are links across chapters as libraries are used in different ways, it's just that you can take read a bit of this and a bit of that and still make sense of it. Overall the book is a good place to pick up ideas, to look at a range of projects and code snippets and find out about new libraries and useful APIs.