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My biggest complaint with almost every book I see is that it is either:
1. Overly simplistic, focused on teaching you how-to with almost no underpinnings of WHY
2. Overly complex - useful as a reference but very hard to get going with and actually build some pages.
I posted about what I see as the biggest missing piece a while back in "New To The Web"
H - T - M - L means HyperText MARK-UP Language. It was not created to be a layout program,
no matter what perception your favorite WYSIWYG editor may be trying to create. It's a way of marking
up a document with a standardized code so that lots of browsers on lots of platforms can read the
document and get the logical sense of it.
So if I start by thinking about creating a graphic beauty, the way I would when creating
a print brochure, well, I'm in for a huge battle. But if I start with a document and think
about how to MARK IT UP so that it makes a kind of universal sense, then I'm more in
tune with the way the web was created....
read more [webmasterworld.com]
O'Reilly has a great reference-style book (as usual), and the bookstores are choked with many, many, many how to titles.
The background on the protocols is one of the best basic reads, with some really important information not usually given in garden variety HTML books.
I can't say I've found them to be very good, but they are my second choice, O'Reilly books are always my first choice. But there is one exception, I found that Wrox HTML/XHTML book was very poorly executed, unusually poorly for Wrox. It included a blatantly self serving chapter from one of the authors, pushing his particular software. Very annoying.
The better at programming I get, the more I like the O'Reilly style, it's very sophisticated, it takes me years to finish up with one of those, all the books in front of me on my desk are O'Reilly books, without exception. They are the only books I will spend $50+ dollars on new, because I know that each one will stay permanently in my reference bookshelf.
For more specific tutorials, the web is a great resource, and of course places like php.net.
Once you've got a decent handle on things, you'll be better equipped to leaf through the more advanced books. I prefer O'Reilly for detailed explanation and as a reference (not just for HTML, but for practically anything to do with coding). For a thorough take I like their HTML: A Definitive Guide (3rd edition?), but I also continue to pick up Jennifer Niederst's Web Design in a Nutshell (2nd ed) for quick, solid reference (which is its very purpose).
Keep in mind that you won't write HTML in isolation -- you need to pick up something that addresses CSS as well. (Castro's book does a decent job of getting you started on this too. For more advanced study & reference, Eric Meyers Definitive Guide [another O'Reilly title], though the book by Niederst mentioned above is a useful reference here too.)
Incidentally, for the O'Reilly books (and doubtless for some other publishers) you can look on their web site for sample chapters.
First is a website at [htmldog.com...] - as in a webmaster's best friend :-) Patrick Griffiths has written lessons for HTML and CSS in beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. They are called guides on the site and are currently found on the top of the left side of his site. He also has an HTML tag reference and CSS Properties reference. (I have printed and bound these guides and references for teaching my kids, so as such I made my own book from his materials.)
Second is two books by Dan Cederholm at [simplebits.com...] First read "Bulletproof Web Design". I read and worked through all the examples from this book in two days. Then read "Web Standards Solutions" - this one takes a little longer to read as it does take you through evaluating the 'old school' methods and shows you why the standards compliant solution is better.
I have been following the push for web standards since CSS first came out in 1996, but these resources I mentioned here have been the best for me to understand in practical ways how to put standards compliant design and coding techniques to real world use. There are other resources and authors who are excellent as well (Jeffrey Zeldman for example), but you will find plenty of references to their work in the books by Dan Cederholm and on the HTMLdog site.
[edited by: tedster at 6:26 pm (utc) on Aug. 24, 2005]
[edit reason] make links live [/edit]
I personally feel that learning the strict version of mark-up is the key to future-proofing your knowledge, rather than learning transitional mark-up of either type. The essence is learning to separate rendering from semantic content, and that's where strict mark-up shines.
You can still mix things up too much with transitional code (even transitional xhtml), and not every website needs xhtml -- or even WILL need it. If you need some xml functionality, then that's good, but otherwise there is no strong reason not to use html 4.01. But definitely learn what strict mark-up is and stay away from those deprecated attributes!