New Crop of Rails 2.0 Books
In 2007, more than a dozen Ruby on Rails books debuted — only to be almost instantly made out-of-date by the release of Rails 2 toward the end of the year. In many respects, books written for Rails 1.2 are usable with Rails 2.0, but they can be problematic. If they use the scaffold generator in their examples, or dynamic scaffolding, the examples simply won’t work as written. And there are many small ways, such as the enhanced syntax for migrations, in which a Rails 1.2 book will teach a way that works, but is no longer optimal.
There are now some great Rails 2.0 books out, making life a lot easier for new and experienced Ruby on Rails programmers. Here’s a quick rundown of the recent books.
If you’re new to Rails and don’t have a lot of programming experience, Patrick Lenz’s Simply Rails 2 provides a great start. It explains all the concepts clearly and doesn’t assume much software development background. The example site built throughout the book is a Digg clone, which serves well to illustrate all the key topics.
Getting Started with Rails, for Experienced Developers
If you have some web application and object-oriented programming experience, then you may want a book that goes deeper and explains things more fully, but doesn’t take time to explain programming basics. Agile Web Development with Rails, which was for some time the only Rails book, is a great book for developers with some experience.
The second edition of this book, which is the newest available in print, is based on Rails 1.2, and the nicely detailed “Depot” shopping-cart example fails under Rails 2.0. The depth of this book also creates many places where the differences between the versions is significant.
Fortunately, the third edition is now available as a beta book. You can download today’s version as a PDF file, in which most of the critical updates have already been made, which comes with frequent updates, and also pre-order a printed copy so you’ll have one as soon it comes out the fall.
After a slew of tutorial books in 2007, most of which are written for Rails 1.2, there’s been a recent surge in deeper, more advanced books that add a tremendous richness to the available Rails books.
The Rails Way is great reference work for Rails developers. It is not a book to start with, but it’s one I’d want to have by my side for reference once I had my bearings.
Advanced Rails Recipes includes dozens of short, focused articles explaining how to accomplish a particular Rails task. There’s a tremendous amount of accumulated community knowledge in this book, which was written by Mike Clark with contributions from many people in the community.
Practical REST on Rails 2 Projects, by Ben Scofield, is the first book to deeply explore the use of RESTful web services as implemented in Rails 2. It even includes an example of a Facebook application.
Deploying Rails Applications is the first book to really tackle Rails deployment in all of its complexities. With a cast of authors that includes Ezra Zygmuntowicz, Bruce Tate, Clinton Begin, Geoffrey Grosenbach, and Brian Hogan, this book encapsulates a lot of hard-earned knowledge and will save a lot of people a lot of pain.