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Title: Ajax For Web Application Developers
Author: Kris Hadlock
Publisher: SAMS Publishing
Verdict: Good for the web developer wanting to move to Ajax, not so good for the beginner
In terms of the core material - how Ajax works and how to build a set of components that you can deploy across multiple applications - the writing is concise and to the point. While you don't have to be a guru to make sense of it all, knowledge of object oriented programming is definitely a bonus. By the same token any existing knowledge you have of XML and the document object model (DOM) will also help. For those who don't have that background you'll have to work harder to make sense of what goes on at times.
The emphasis on using design patterns and best practices really sets the book apart from many others on Ajax. There's far less emphasis here on gee-whizzery than on the kind of solid development practices that makes for well-engineered and scalable code. The server side of the Ajax equation is not neglected, and there's some good material on the database end of things. For the most part it's assumed that you've got PHP running on the server and that's what you'll be talking to the database via. In addition to XML, there's also coverage of JSON as the principal alternative mechanism for interacting with the backend.
To conclude then, this is a good book for those who've already done some web application developer, it's a less choice for the absolute beginner.