Skip to content

15 search results for "manga guide"

Survive! Inside the Human Body

This is a special review. This time around, I am including three books in a new educational manga series. I originally intended to produce three individual reviews, but I’m pretty excited about these books and don’t want to make you wait. The series was just published, so if it isn’t on your local bookstore shelves now, it will be soon.

Survive: Inside the Human Body, Volume 1: The Digestive System, Volume 2: The Circulatory System, and Volume 3: The Nervous System are being published by No Starch Press, the same people who brought us the Manga Guide to series, several books from which I have reviewed here in the past. Like that series, this set of books was originally published in another country (Korea, this time) and licensed by No Starch and translated into English. During this process, the information in these books was reviewed by medical doctors for accuracy. The story line was also updated in a few places to adjust the fun to an English-speaking audience.

There is much to love in this series. The information is useful and detailed. I’ll tell you more about that in a paragraph dedicated to each volume. In all the volumes, the illustrations are beautifully done, colorful (not black and white!), and genuinely add to the experience without distracting from the information or the story line. There are lovely samples to view on the No Starch site at the links above.

The three volumes have one story line that arcs across the set. It is a cute story that is pretty typical in its use of standard manga motifs like overstated graphic representations of emotions. In all three volumes, at the end of each chapter, there are a couple of pages that step out of the arcing story line that give more academic details with just enough detail to tie up any loose ends that the reader may have without crossing the line into overwhelming the reader.

The first volume covers the digestive system. It covers everything from the mouth to the anus and all the stuff in between. Beautiful illustrations show useful details and help the reader understand what the action describes. We learn about how food is processed, how nutrients are absorbed, how beneficial gut flora are vital to the process, and how waste is eliminated.

The second volume covers the circulatory system. Here we learn about blood and its components, the liver and filtration, the heart, the lungs and oxygenation, the bones and blood creation, blood types, and we even get a few bonuses with side tracks into skin, the nose, and the ears.

The third volume centers on the nervous system. Topics covered include the brain, different kinds of cells in the nervous system, and the diagnostic tests that can be used by doctors to investigate when problems occur.

Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy. See also: Are All Book Reviews Positive?

More reviews coming soon

I moved house recently, and I got behind. I have several books in a pile waiting to be read and reviewed, and now that the dust has settled from the move, I’m ready to get back to it. I don’t have a time frame, but in the queue are books on databases, technical writing, and another entry in the Manga Guide series, this one on linear algebra. I’ve read enough of these to be certain they will be worth mentioning, but I also have several more that I haven’t even opened, so there may even be more than those three in the coming weeks.

The Cartoon Introduction to Calculus

How did calculus come to be? Why? Who was involved? What does this have to do with pineapples (page 84)? These and other questions are integral to this book, which is not derivative of any other I have read. Okay, enough puns. Let’s get to the facts.

The Cartoon Introduction to Calculus is my favorite calculus book ever. Written by Grady Klein and Yoran Bauman, Ph.D., the book is informative, interesting, and insanely funny. That is not an easy task considering the subject matter. I got a C in calculus as a university freshman, and although I understand the topic better today, I really wish this book had existed at the time.

All the important topics are covered. The reader begins by being introduced to the history of calculus with both Leibniz and Newton and the questions they were exploring that lead each to “invent” or “discover” (pick your own side, I’m not taking one) the mathematics involved. We learn about The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, limits, derivatives, how this is useful in applications like economics, all the way to integrals and how they are used in physics. I sincerely wish the practical applications had been made this clear to me when I first encountered the subject!

There are other books out there that do a pretty good job of presenting this material clearly and well, such as one I reviewed ten years ago. What makes this book stand out is the writing and illustration. It is funny, and that is disarming. Bauman, who is billed as “The World’s First and Only Stand-Up Economist” and Klein, a previous work of whose I reviewed six years ago, pair up to write an easy-to-read, interesting, laughter-producing, intelligent guide to a tough topic for many. I’m impressed.

Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy.

The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics

The is the second statistics-cartoon/manga mashup book that I have reviewed. The first one was about four years ago. Both books are pretty good, but they each present the topic differently. The previous book tells one main story as the book progresses, and statistics is taught because this story exists. It contextualizes the academic topic while expressing it in a simpler way and then adds the complex mathematics at the end of each chapter of the story that fit that chapter’s needs.

The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics teaches the basics of statistics using comics to illustrate various portions of the greater topic. Each chapter in the book covers a very specific facet of statistics, and each of these chapters build upon those that came before it. We start with a nice introduction that gives a high level view of what statistics can do for us and why we should care. This leads into discussions of numbers, random raw data, sorting, sample size, variables, simple and complex analyses, generalizing from a sample to a wider population, parameters and the central limit theorem, normal distributions, probabilities, inference, confidence, hypotheses and testing, and what statistics can and can not tell us (probability vs. certainty). All of the mathematics are contained in the back of the book and are referred to in the text when and where appropriate.

What makes this book stand out are the illustrated examples used throughout the book. Rather than being a book with one main narrative or plot, this is a non-fiction prose book that has occasional illustrated stories used to clarify complex concepts. Some are simple, like talking about how to determine how many fish in a lake fit a certain category. Others are more imaginative, like exploring whether male or female dragon riders are faster while taking into account dragon size. Regardless of whether the examples are more realistic or more whimsical, they are well thought out and useful. The illustrations throughout the book are nicely drawn and consistently appropriate.

I’m sure the question out there is whether I like this book better or the first one I reviewed. The honest answer is that I think both books are very well done, but each will appeal to a different audience within the population of people struggling to grasp the main concepts of statistics. Some, especially the math-phobic, will find this book more useful with its authors’ decision to move the mathematics to the back of the book and concentrate on the bigger picture and its parts. Others will appreciate the similar progression of topics of the other book, which puts the math at the end of the chapter and immediately reinforces what was just taught. Both are worthy entries in the education-focused manga/comic library.

Disclosure: I was given my copy of this book by the publisher as a review copy. See also: Are All Book Reviews Positive?

Reading up on SQL

About four weeks ago I read a manga introduction to databases that I enjoyed thoroughly and reviewed. As I mentioned in that review, that sparked an interest in learning more. I’ve used databases for years, and my simple level of experience has served me well, but now I want to know more. I decided to start by brushing up on my knowledge of SQL. The three books discussed in this article are a good introduction. I have another book on my shelf that goes deeper into database theory and I will review that book later. Let’s start with a brief introduction to each of today’s books, which will be followed by a short comparison.

First, I read sitepoint‘s Simply SQL by Rudy Limeback.

I liked this book. It was easy to read and understand. I liked that the code focus is on using ANSI standard SQL as this gives knowledge that will work across platforms on multiple database systems from free options like MySQL to common proprietary ones like Oracle and SQL Server. The examples are clear and well written and the figures are wonderful (as is usual in sitepoint products).

This book is not intended for people who wish to learn to become database administrators. It was written for web developers who want to have a better understanding of the basics of SQL. This is an important fact. If you fit this role, this book is excellent.

The coding style was easy to read, but there were some odd quirks that I didn’t like. For example, as noted by the author himself, he likes to put commas at the beginning of lines when making lists. This is the only place I have ever seen that done. Now, this isn’t technically wrong, but it is unusual. I would have preferred to see code examples written with strict adherence to commonly accepted standards as this makes the task of reading other people’s code or writing good and readable code easier. However, I guess doing it this way can also be seen as a benefit as it will remind the reader that there is more than one way to do things, and that in the real world he will be sure to encounter non-standard methods and have to adapt. Honestly, that is my only big complaint about the book, and it isn’t a deal breaker.

Next, I read the new second edition of O’Reilly‘s Learning SQL by Alan Beaulieu.

If a person is looking to become a database administrator, or just needs to get up to speed on the basics with some understanding of what they are doing and why, this is an excellent place to start. However, this book does require that you have some experience with computers, especially a base knowledge of what a database is and how or why programs might want to interact with one. This isn’t a book for someone who is a complete novice to the realm of data storage and interaction, but rather intended for people who know what they want to do and why and need an in depth manual for how to accomplish the task of storing, retrieving, and using data but who may be a complete novice at doing so using SQL.

I love that the book is written by a very experienced Oracle administrator, but uses MySQL (version 6.0! –the only book I have seen so far to do so since this release is so new) as the base for all examples and instruction. The book itself focuses on teaching the ANSI standard clearly and well, but gives great examples using one free and open source product that is available for any reader to download and install on their system, with instructions on how to do so. Then, the author discusses some of the differences that may be discovered by readers as they move into the real world and begin to interact with other database systems from other vendors.

The book uses examples that are well formed, clear, and which adhere well to standards. I especially appreciate that the examples use good coding technique that is easy to read and would be a joy to maintain in the wild if it were discovered by a person taking over responsibility for a database they did not create.

Finally, I picked up a copy of another O’Reilly book, SQL in a Nutshell by Kevin Kline with Daniel Kline and Brand Hunt, which just released a third edition that is greatly expanded

This book is intended as a reference, not an instructional text. It serves this purpose well with pages and pages of great examples. The book is not focused on databases and SQL from a specific vendor, but gives great data and comparisons of commands and queries using ANSI SQL (SQL2003, aka SQL3) and then adjusting as needed for MySQL 5.1, Oracle 11g, PostgreSQL 8.2.1, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008. If you are responsible for moving data from one vendor’s product to another, or if you are responsible for databases from multiple vendors, this book could be a Godsend. Really, if you only use one of these products, the book is still a great value.

Keep in mind, this is not an instruction manual. This is a compilation of commands with examples. The goal is not to lead gently, but to get directly to the meat of using SQL, to give clear and detailed information about each command, its syntax and options, and several examples of usage. If that is what you are looking for, and especially a book with comparisons across platforms, this book will serve you very well.


Each of these books does a good job of fulfilling its goal of communicating to a specific audience. They all cover the basics, and the first two do a great job of teaching them in a logical and clear order, but in varying depth. If you are interested in learning SQL, hopefully this will help you determine if one of these offerings would be useful to you.

For people focused on web design and who only want to learn some of the basics, I feel quite good recommending Simply SQL. As with most of their offerings, this sitepoint book is dedicated to helping web developers improve their craft and they do a great job of serving that specific population. I was disappointed with the author’s decision to use his preferred coding style rather than the standard format, but the difference isn’t really so great as to be a huge problem.

I would imagine most people reading my blog would end up sharing my preference for Learning SQL. This second edition is clear, very well written, uses beautiful code examples, and has wonderful exercises at the end of each chapter (with solutions in the back of the book) to assist you in learning. I love how the book uses MySQL to teach, but doesn’t ultimately limit itself to only one database product and that the author has a wealth of real world experience using many products and takes time to discuss some of the differences without getting bogged down or too distracted from teaching good, portable ANSI SQL basics.

Finally, I don’t think the average person will have much use for SQL in a Nutshell, but for those who work with databases regularly, the book is sure to find a place of importance on the reference shelf. As I read through the examples, I appreciated how clearly and completely the different implementations of ANSI standards were delineated for each of the products covered and how differences from the standard were clearly noted and defined for each.