6 React Books worth reading: Learning React while quarantined

Hans McMurdy
May 4, 2020 · 9 min read

In the last article, I wrote about JavaScript books and went over the selection process when it comes to choosing potential books for the curriculum as a coding teacher. In this article, I ’ll be covering books about React, React Native, and the MERN stack (Mongo, Express, React, and Node).

Photo by Hans McMurdy

Why React?

If there is a single javascript front-end library or framework you should learn, teach or adopt, it may have to be React.

Once a small library for the web, React has grown into a large and very diverse ecosystem that effectively empowers developers to learn one core “library” and apply it’s core concepts to a suite of additional libraries and frameworks to build UI components for the web, mobile apps, and even VR.

Those reasons as well as the demand and popularity of React, make a compelling argument to learn the core library and a few others. For those unfamiliar with React lets clarify a few things:

  • React is a library, not a framework.
  • It was released in 2013.
  • Introduced JSX, an xml like super-set of JavaScript used to describe UI’s on the web
  • React started gaining popularity around 2015 as the JS community was learning to adopt the newest language standards known as ES6 /ES2015.
  • React-Native was also introduced in 2015 further adding to its popularity.
  • React VR was released in 2017 and renamed React 360.
  • React Ionic was released in 2019

There are several different libraries and frameworks developed and maintained by Facebook with key differences.

  • React — The core library that the three others below are built on top of. It is a declarative, component-based library for building UI that you learn once and can use everywhere.
  • React DOM — A library that renders React components for the web.
  • React-Native — A framework for building native apps on iOS & Andriod.
  • React-360 — A framework for creating web-based 360 and VR content.

There are also a few other React related projects by Facebook that are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Finally, there are countless components, hooks, libraries, and frameworks made by the greater react community such as react router, remix, react ionic, and countless others that help you build websites faster.

So if you’re excited and ready to learn React,

Here are a few book recommendations to help you.

Introductory Books

The first half of this article will be concerned with books that are reasonably safe for beginners and intermediate level developers. However, they do largely assume you have a working proficiency with JavaScript. My goal here was to narrow it down to 4 books that give readers such a solid understanding of React that they are confident enough to not only build the projects in advanced books but also try and improve upon them and explain the project they build well enough to pass an interview.

React and React Native 📖540

By Adam Boduch, 2018

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you are completely new to react, I highly recommend this book.
It’s packets full of illustrations, plain explainations and even assessments to make sure you have a solid understand of React whether you use it for web or mobile.

Surprisingly, this is arguably one of the best introductory books on the React ecosystem.

The book probably has the most visual illustrations of any other book I’ve read on React. Additionally, it has assessments that come in really handy if you need to train a team or teach students. Moreover, it teaches React fundamentals really well for several different react libraries, the core react library, react-dom for web, react-bootstrap, react-router, redux and react-native for targeting mobile apps.

Although the projects are a bit weak and it uses older versions that don’t have hooks, the book makes up for it with the explanations, illustrations, assessments, and diversity of React libraries covered. Overall, it’s a great book for beginners who know a little JS, want to learn to React, and aren’t sure if they want to focus on the web or native mobile app development.

Learn React with TypeScript 📖492

By Carl Rippon, 2018

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐⭐⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐

If you are hoping to eventually join a major company as a React developer,
I would definitely recommend checking out this book as it provides a foundation for writting clean, maintainable code using TypeScript.

Why a TypeScript(TS) book? Well, to be honest, I’m not the biggest TS fan.
That being said, if there is one introductory book I’d recommend, it would be this book. I had originally written reviews for two other introductory books and had planned to include them in this article but after reading this book, I removed them because the explanations of core react concepts are just better.

Rippon’s Book provides a great introduction to TypeScript with the first 2 full chapters (~100p) being dedicated entirely to the subject. The rest of the book explains core react concepts within the context of TS in simple but effective code examples.

In particular, the book covers core React topics such as:
— lifecycle methods & hooks,
— routing,
— managing state with Redux,
— working with forms,
— API’s and GraphQL,
— and even a bit of testing.

All of this helps give the reader a lot to build on to write clean React code and serves as a great introductory book. What the book may lack in terms of practical projects is more than made up by the depth of knowledge while remaining concise and easy for beginners to digest.

My one minor complaint would be that testing is saved until the end of the book rather than introduced closer in the beginning. It’s a bit of personal difference but I would assume the whole point of building a React app with TS, is to provide a foundation for cleaner code and better coding habits. Most coding books do this, so I can’t blame the author, however, it has the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the idea of testing as an afterthought, rather than being truly test-driven development. Although this is seemingly minor, it has the effect of giving readers less practice with TDD and consequently making them less comfortable with it.

React Design Patterns and Best Practices 📖~326

By Carlos Santana Roldán, 2019

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book is honestly one of my favorite intermediate level books. The author is a senior engineer at Snap Inc & the book provides an indepth understanding of react under the hood.

The first two chapters do such a great job at breaking down react’s fundamentals that even my high school students found it easy to understand.

Although there are overlapping topics from the previous book, this book covers JSX and a few others in very simple terms.

Moreover, the book has a significant focus on Server-Side Rendering (SSR), performance-optimization, CSS in js, testing, and deploying a react app. Also, the examples are generally a bit more applied as opposed to concepts and theory.

Learn React Hooks 📖426

By Daniel Bugl, 2019

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐⭐⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was hooked within the first two chapters.
I cannot recommend this book enough.

Coding puns, aside, it really is an amazing book. Not only does it cover react hooks but it also covers the under-the-hood working of react hooks by breaking down what useState is actually doing.

React is a trendy subject and there is a high demand for not just an understanding of react but also for having an in-depth knowledge of JavaScript. More specifically there is a demand for functional, declarative programming paradigms and even the under-the-hood working of react. Thankfully, this book does exactly this and the assessment questions at the end of each chapter definitely help test your knowledge so you can feel a but more confident about what you just read.

Advanced Project-Based Books

After you have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of React, React Native, and react hooks, its worth considering learning the MERN stack (Mongo, Express, React, Node) and maybe even a little VR for the web. Here are a few books to help you build on what the previous books covered and hopefully modify them with your own knowledge and use cases.

MERN Quick Start Guide 📖536

By Eddy Wilson Iriarte Koroliova, 2018

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐

This is a great introduction to MERN stack.
Assuming you are talking about Mongo, Express, Redux, Node…

As far as quick-start books go, this book job does an amazing job covering Express, API’s, Mongo, and Redux. The chapters are overall very well organized, even for beginners.

Most of all though, the explanations of core concepts and code are worded in plain, simple, and concise ways that even my high school students found it easy enough to follow. The express chapter, in particular, does a fantastic job of breaking down the most common middleware and how to use them.

However, in my personal opinion, the book fails to deliver when it comes to the React chapter. In fact, I honestly recommend avoiding the last chapter entirely and read Bartłomiej Dybowski’s article(s) on Server-Side Rendering in React because it does a much better job of explaining how to integrate React into Express.

Full-Stack React Projects 📖440

By Shama Hoque, 2018

Explanations ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Assessments ⭐ Advanced Topics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Shama Hoque’s book definitely isn’t intended for complete beginners but I would recommend it for some fun MERN stack portfolio items. Also, the good news is the second edition is coming out soon.

The book has four main projects:

  1. Social Media Platform
  2. Online Marketplace
  3. Media Streaming Application
  4. VR game

By the end of the book, you should have at least 4 projects that are worth showing off.

Why you should sign up as a medium member?

First and foremost it encourages technical writers like myself to write more content. Second, I use the passive income from writing to put into my newborn’s college fund. So every read and every penny goes to his future. That being said, if you can afford Netflix, you can probably afford a $5 medium account so please consider signing up for a paid account

Additional Articles You May Enjoy

If you are still a bit new to JavaScript, I highly recommend checking out my last article on some JavaScript Books.

Many have heard the term ES6 by now. But very few talk about how the abandoned ES4 spec not only became ES6 but also led to the creation of Node.js and radically redefining the JavaScript language as a whole.

Additional Resources:

Below are some additional sources react recommends on their page:

About the Author

Brett “Hans” McMurdy is a self-taught developer with 6+ years of experiance in front-end, back-end and several major areas in between.

He’s currently a stay home dad who’s looking for a full time job, check out his Linkedin if you are interested in hiring him.

In the meantime, he’s working on a few cool open source projects that should make you consider sponsoring him.

1. He’s writing an open source book on JavaScript that teaches the language with node.js instead of a browser. It’s also a remote development environment powered by GitPod so you don’t need a fancy computer, just open up the book and start learning with a preconfigured environment.

2. He’s creating some simple but powerful vscode extensions.

3. He’s wants to launch a free class on Twitch when he reach 50 followers.

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Hans McMurdy

Written by

Writing a JavaScript Book, looking for a job where I can code, teach & mentor. https://git.io/JeNi2. linkedin.com/in/brett-hans-mcmurdy

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Hans McMurdy

Written by

Writing a JavaScript Book, looking for a job where I can code, teach & mentor. https://git.io/JeNi2. linkedin.com/in/brett-hans-mcmurdy

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +788K followers.

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