I have always wanted to review a book in which I wouldn't have to use terms like `not for the beginners', `power users only', `not the for non - initiated'. People will find it quite hard to believe but the titles I am about to discuss, is more than capable of taking a complete novice to a much more competent level. Networking is a vast, expanding field and for someone who has no prior knowledge and experience, the titles are a great platform to embark on that journey of learning. I will go through this review, in the same trajectory I went through in my mind as I read through the material, and how they appealed to me. I will talk holistically about both titles at the same time, as apart from the subject matter differing for the obvious reasons, they both have the same merits in terms of style, delivery and impact.
I must agree, the hard bound books can be a bit daunting to look at when you take them out of the equally hard bound box. But then one must appreciate the accomplishment of the writer when you go through the material itself. The books are quite sturdy and if any topic should frustrate you, both these books can take a fair amount of beating. But I would advise, it is better to take a deep breath, go away and try to tackle it another day. I find this technique, much better than nursing an injured wrist or even knuckles, while trying to punch them in frustration.
When I started learning about networks a long time ago, I didn't have either of these titles as an aid. And now that I have, I can straightaway know what I was missing out on. I have been in lectures and seminars, where people did their level best to make things complicated and scare me away. I should have spared myself from all that hassle and just sat down with these books instead. For those of you, who feel the same, don't feel left out. Grab these titles with both hands (and both feet, if you're feeling that enthusiastic). I cannot guarantee you will become next to demi - gods in Cisco, but I can assure you, that you won't regret it.
We sometimes forget the purpose of a book, the moment there is an exam or assessment at the end of a piece of text/material. The content of the book(s) become irrelevant. The book becomes a means to an end or in this case the certification. The objective changes, from learning, to obtaining a badge. I cannot emphasise enough, how important it is to understand and conceptualise the topics in your head, in comparison to memorising the content and throwing it up in an exam.
These books are a foundation to a journey which is both rewarding and prestigious. The writer has gone to great lengths to ensure the books serve this purpose. I'm not denying the fact that there is an exam that you would want to pass. And this is another area these books excel in as well. I have frankly, never seen a more structures, and lucid explanation on exam preparation. The writer gives you the road map for this. But my personal opinion is, once you travel on that road and near your destination, you will be so engrossed and immersed in the journey itself, the destination would just be another milestone you pass by. I bet you, you won't stop at just a CCNA!
Worth mentioning are some features like `Do I already know this?' (DIAKT) quiz. I remember getting frustrated when I would get this wrong. But I later realised that I'm not meant to know it all. If I did, why was I reading these books in the first place? The objective is to teach, if I have learnt it already, what's the use of walking into the classrooms? On the flip side, I also realised that if I did get all the DIAKT questions right, it still made good sense of going through the chapters anyway. Nothing clears your vision than a dose of re-vision!
I also liked the `Note' sections which are well placed all over each and every chapter. Whenever it said `Note', you do make a mental note of it. Then they tend to get imprinted in your memory for ever. This was immensely helpful and rewarding at times, especially in terms of the CCNA exam.
If the 1500 plus pages doesn't quench your thirst, there are 2 DVDs to devour on. They contain loads of practice sessions, scenarios, and videos to learn from.
All the chapters in both books follow a very logical rhythm and they have been sub - divided into optimum sized chunks to enable maximum comprehension for all types of readers. The quantity of aids i.e. figures, images, schematics, tables and diagrams are quite exhaustive and enhance the ease of comprehension. Apart from the subject matter put down in simple words, each and every image, does paint a thousand words themselves!
In conclusion, I would sum it up by saying that both books individually and together, form a very rewarding learning tool. Even when you have finished reading both of them, and passed your certification, you will tend to go back to them every now and them for a refresher. They also serve the purpose of a good reference guide. This is a solid foundation for anyone who wants to climb the ladder in networking, become a professional and gain knowledge in core Cisco products. Not the mention, they are so effective in introducing an amateur to the world of networking.
Certain people might argue that there are so many other books that might serve the same purpose in varying degree of success. My opinion is that, these books not only are a stepping stone for networking, but also a great tool in obtaining a professional qualification. I would recommend these titles, and the certification itself for anyone who wants to have a career in networking.
If I was asked to point out something that was missing from these books, the only thing I could possibly say, would be a reference to Cisco's recommended CCNA Network Academy website, www.Firewall.cx :)