Annotated Bibliography

Welcome to my digital humanities bookshelf! Here you will find well organized, clearly written books introducing you to some of the most frequently used programming languages and computer science concepts in digital humanities projects. All books are available through Safari Online unless otherwise indicated (your college/university probably has an institutional subscription to Safari through ProQuest; ask a librarian if you’re not sure).

Each category will have two (max 3) books. There are, of course, many other books on each subject, but the purpose of this page is to give beginners (or those who want to move beyond basic knowledge) an easy place to start their journey.

I started this list with the books I’ve found most helpful, but there is always room for growth. If you would like to add a book and/or category to the list, contact me (and prove you’re not a spambot) at the reverse of the following string: “ude.ogacihcu@reuabaj”. Please include your name, a brief description of the book’s intended audience/ purpose, and why it is, in your opinion, one of the best books on its subject matter.

Current Categories

Future Categories (recommendations welcome!)

  • XML
  • PHP
  • Javascript/Ajax
  • Database Design (if anyone knows a really good intro to this for non-computer scientists, please let me know. I studied it in college, but none of my books are really appropriate)
  • And more!

Websites and Web Design

Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML
By: Elisabeth Robson; Eric Freeman
Publisher: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Pub. Date: December 8, 2005

Intended Audience: Anyone who wants to learn how to build a website from scratch. No prior programming experience necessary.

Why This Book: I am a big fan of O’Reilly’s Head First series, they have hit on a great way to understand and retain big concepts. This book gives you a solid grounding in building websites.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

Head First Web Design
By: Ethan Watrall; Jeff Siarto
Publisher: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Pub. Date: December 23, 2008

Intended Audience: People who want to learn the design principles (and tricks for implementing them) behind compelling, informative websites. They assume you have already know XHMTL and CSS.

Why This Book: It is a fount of useful information and good examples for how to create many different types of web pages. Topics covered include:, Information Architecture, writing for the web, how to protect your designs with copyright, how to create an invoice for web design work, any many more. Between this book and Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML I learned everything I know about web design.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer


The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd Edition
By: Edward R. Tufte
Publisher: Graphics Press (not available in digital form)
Pub. Date: May 2001 (2nd edition)

Intended Audience: People interested in good ways to display large amounts of data. No prior knowledge of statistics or graphical design required. The book does not go into any programming specifics, for that see Visualizing Data below.

Why this book: “The classic book on statistical graphics, charts, tables. Theory and practice in the design of data graphics, 250 illustrations of the best (and a few of the worst) statistical graphics, with detailed analysis of how to display data for precise, effective, quick analysis. Design of the high-resolution displays, small multiples. Editing and improving graphics. The data-ink ratio. Time-series, relational graphics, data maps, multivariate designs. Detection of graphical deception: design variation vs. data variation. Sources of deception. Aesthetics and data graphical displays.” (description from

Recommended by: Wayne Graham, Head of Research and Development, Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia

Visualizing Data, 1st Edition
By: Ben Fry
Publisher: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Pub. Date: December 18, 2007

Intended Audience: People who want to visualize data. No programming experience required, seriously.

Why This Book: The author has thought long and hard about how to apply “best practices” for visualizations (laid out by Edward Tufte and co.) to digital environments. He has broken the process down into easy to understand steps and uses those steps to create compelling visualizations from a wide range of data sources. Fry also co-wrote the open-source visualization language Processing, which this book uses to create the visualization examples. Processing was created to give people the pen and paper “sketching” experience in a digital environment. It is very easy to learn and there is free IDE you can download to write and run your code.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

Ruby on Rails

Agile Development with Ruby on Rails
By: Dave Thomas and David Heinemeier Hansson
Publisher: The Pragmatic Programmers LLC (not available on Safari)
Publication Date: 2007

Intended Audience: People who want to learn rails, but probably already have (at least some) programming experience. The authors expect you to have a favorite text editor, know how to use a terminal window, etc. but do not expect that you are already know the ruby programing language or have that much familiarity with database design.

Why this Book: It has a good introduction to Rails, Ruby, and the Model-View-Controller architecture that rails uses to create websites and connect them to databases. The extended example is well thought out (even if at the end you have a basic e-commerce site . . . not too useful for digital humanities). There is an extended discussion of rails principles in the second half. This is the book that got me started, but before I really knew what I was doing I had to read The Rails Way.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

The Rails Way
By: Obie Fernandez
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Pub. Date: November 16, 2007

Intended Audience: Rails developers. Sorry, this book is not for beginners, but it is indispensable if you want to personally create solid projects in Ruby on Rails.

Why This Book: I wish there was a book like this for every programing language/application. The Rails Way explains why the best practices you learned in the introductory book of your choice (see above) really are the best way to write code in rails, and how to solve your programming problems by taking advantage of how the language and application are constructed.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

Advanced Rails Recipes
Edited By: Mike Clark
Publisher: The Pragmatic Programmers LLC (not available on Safari)
Publication Date: 2008

Intended Audience: Rails programmers. At least intermediate (if not advanced) rails programmers. The book provides great code snippets, but they are just that, snippets. The authors assume you know enough to integrate their code into your larger project without help.

Why This Book: A how-to for all the complicated stuff you’d rather not figure out on your own — seriously look at the table of context, it read like the to-do list for my project. Also, great to show to your rails developer (if you have one) as a starting point for a conversion on what you want your rails app to do for you.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

Geographic Information System (GIS)

How to Lie With Maps By: Mark Monmonier
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (not available in digital form)
Pub. Date: May 1, 1996

Intended Audience: No special knowledge required.

Why this Book: Good, basic introduction to the practice of cartography and how maps always distort what they claim to represent.

Recommended By: Kelly Johnston, GIS Specialist, Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia

Making Maps
By: John Krygier and Denis Wood
Publisher: The Guilford Press (not available in digital form)
Pub. Date: August 17, 2005

Intended Audience: People who want to get started using GIS software and concepts. No prior knowledge required.

Why this Book: “A concise, down-to-earth guide to creating maps using GIS, this book is visually engaging, clear, and compelling–exactly how an effective map should be. Featuring over 300 maps and other figures, including instructive examples of both good and poor design choices, the book covers everything from locating and processing data to making decisions about layout, map symbols, color, and type. For students, professionals, and others who want to make better maps, this is an essential, uniquely helpful resource. The author’s website ( offers excerpts from each chapter, links to related sites, and a regularly updated blog on the topic of making maps.” (product description from Amazon)

Recommended by: Kelly Johnston, GIS Specialist, Scholars’ Lab, University of Virginia

Semantic Web

Programming the Semantic Web, 1st Edition
By: Toby Segaran; Colin Evans; Jamie Taylor
Publisher: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Pub. Date: July 14, 2009

Intended Audience: programmers who want to learn how they can implement semantic web concepts in their own projects. The code examples are in python (which is very easy to read even if you’ve never seen it before, I hadn’t before picking up this book and haven’t had any problems).

Why This Book: Ok, I haven’t finished it yet, but from what I’ve read so far, this is the book I have been looking for. Basically, it is designed for all of us who’ve heard about the semantic web and thought, “OK . . . but how does it work?” I’ll update this section when I’ve finished the book.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

Regular Expressions

Mastering Regular Expressions, 3rd Edition
By: Jeffrey E. F. Friedl
Publisher: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Pub. Date: August 8, 2006

Intended Audience: not for the faint-of-heart. This book is aimed at programmers who genuinely want to master regular expressions, in all their types and flavors. No one programming language is required, although there are chapters that delve into the specifications of Perl, Java, .NET, and PHP so you should know at least one of those languages to be able to make full use of the book.

Why This Book: Do you want to master regular expressions? Really understand how and why they work, under what conditions, and how to write the most efficient regular expression possible in the language you are using? If you answered yes to all those questions (and you know some Perl, Java, .NET, or PHP) then this book is your new best friend. It is a dense read, but more than worth it in the end. A working knowledge of symbolic logic will ease your way, but then I think everything life is made easier by a working knowledge of symbolic logic, so you may want to take that last bit of advice with a grain of salt.

Recommended By: Jean Bauer

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