Book Review: CSS Secrets by Lea Verou

Stefan Baumgartner

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In 2012 I saw one of Lea Verou’s talks for the first time. And if you every had the opportunity of seeing her, you know that you are in for a treat. Her unique way of teaching all those nifty CSS tricks is not only entertaining and engaging, but also a huge motivation for your own work. Every time I returned home from one of those conferences, I tried recreating those tricks and secrets (as she calls it) at home. Using her interactive slides I managed to recreate a good deal of what she’s shown, but sometimes I wished I had some sort of documentation ready. Well, this is now available with her book “CSS Secrets”.

Reading CSS Secrets is like watching Lea on stage. You get 47 common design issues shown, and find some secrets in CSS that provide a solution. Each secret tries to solve one design issue in the most applicable way. The solution is geared towards being accessible, efficient and maintainable. What you get is a journey from the most obvious solution to the one which meets every criteria Lea emphasizes. Along this journey you tackle several techniques, ending up with lots of new knowledge about different CSS properties and their corresponding values. In doing so, those learnings stick with you. And this is one of the wonderful things about this book. You think you learn how to style translucent borders, but what you really learn is to use things like padding-box. Generating striped backgrounds helps you understand that linear gradients behave just like regular images. When styling pie charts you actually learn that properties like animation-delay exist. Those are the things you carry over to your own work.

It has to be noted that this book is also extraordinarily well written. You practically can hear Lea speaking to you as she guides you step by step to the final solution. Also, her introduction chapter is well worth the time, showing you how the W3C works internally, how standards are made and what actually is necessary to make good CSS. From the start you know that this is a professional book for advanced CSS developers. Perhaps the only one of its kind.

This is not your average CSS book. This is a challenging read that changes the way you looked at CSS forever. I recommend – no – I urge you to read this book. An instant classic and a must-read for anyone who codes CSS.

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