In my experience, books on web development that lack a strong technical foundation tend to be poorly written; one of the reasons I began writing this blog was the prevalence of error-filled, wrong-headed dead-tree guides to HTML. However, I do understand the need some people have to hold a book in their hands: sometimes, people find that a particular author or approach “speaks” to them in a way that allows the material to make sense. For those people, I have compiled the following list.

(Please note that these suggestions are intended for additional reading: a book will never be required for any classes that I teach. Also note that these books cover HTML and CSS Levels 1 and 2 only; books for HTML5 and CSS3 are a separate entry, as will be suggested reading lists for PHP/MySQL, JavaScript, typography, and web design. I have linked to the appropriate page on Amazon’s Canadian site for each book; students in my classes will also find many of these books in the library or available at the library website in electronic form.)

From a technical perspective, there are few books better than the O’Reilly series. With distinctive animal woodcut print covers, written by authors with serious technical skills, these are the go-to books for understanding web development standards:

HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide, Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy
Probably the best general technical reference to XHTML as a standard. Not many creative examples, but a thorough explanation of the technology and how it should be used.
CSS: The Definitive Guide, Eric Meyer
An equivalent to the above, only for CSS, written by one of the leads behind the CSS specification.
HTML & XHTML Pocket Reference, Jennifer Niederst Robbins
A quick, light, and reliable “cheat sheet” for XHTML: all of the tags and attributes, in dictionary form. Useful for moments of “what was that element again?” or as a form of pocket flashcard for study.
41q38VgWwLL._SL160_CSS Pocket Reference, Eric Meyer
The equivalent of the above, but for CSS.

Technology writer David Pouge started writing the “Missing Manual” series for Apple products several years ago, and the imprint has expanded to cover a wide range of technology, with contributions from different authors. Spec-savvy, but with a lighter and more humorous approach that some people find makes the books more relatable than the cut-and-dry prose of the O’Reilly series.

CSS: The Missing Manual, David Sawyer McFarland
A fun and slightly more creative approach to CSS, while still retaining good technical chops.