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In a previous tip, I reviewed David Chapple's excellent book Understanding .NET. Since that tip appeared, I've fielded requests from readers for a book that's less architecturally motivated, and that provides more of an overview of the nuts and bolts, or pieces and parts, from which the .NET environment is made.
After a bit of research and a few phone calls to some friends who teach introductory .NET classes, I came up with Robert B. Dunaway's book: The Book of Visual Studio .NET, from No Starch Press. I've known Bill Pollock, the publisher of this outfit, for about three years, as our paths have crossed at some conferences: he's an outright iconoclast, but he creates books that embody his company's name and that usually offer clear, cogent and useful explanations and demonstrations of various computing tools and technologies. This book is a very nice case in point.
Like other reviewers of this book, I found the coverage between its covers to be much weaker on Visual Studio .NET than its title would suggest, but I did find its descriptions of the composition and workings of the .NET environment clear and insightful. As long as you don't buy this book expecting it to focus on VS.NET, but look to it instead to provide better understanding of how the .NET environment works and behaves, you won't be disappointed. Numerous examples throughout the book use Visual Studio .NET during the design, coding, compilation and troubleshooting phases of development to illustrate the various points the author makes, so it's not fair to say the book has no Visual Studio coverage. But since only one of the book's twelve chapters deals explicitly with VS.NET tools, it's important that prospective readers know that this is no reference book on VS.NET, but rather a great .NET primer and demonstration.
Nevertheless, the entire book is full of useful observations, explanations and interpretations of what .NET is and how it works. This makes it a great alternative to the Chapple book, especially for those more interested in internals information.
Ed Tittel is a principal at LANWrights, a division of CapStar. He writes and teaches regularly on various computing topics, including XML, software development, IT certification, and information security. E-mail Ed at email@example.com, with questions, comments, or tip suggestions.