I've recently had the chance to use and review the Authorised Self Study Guide CCNA and here are my thoughts/views.
Initially, on seeing the pack arrive on my desk, I was filled with dread. Here were two books about Cisco equipment that I had to read through, and which would theoretically give me all the skills I need to undertake the exam, which is quite a tall order, and I don't like doing exams and would rather just learn by using (and breaking) the equipment. So, imagine my surprise when I started to read the first book, and discovered that it wasn't as scary as I thought.
The first book in the set in designed around the ICND1 part of the exam. I opened the book and was very glad to see that the lessons started "right at the beginning" The book works on the idea that you have never done any computer network stuff before and takes you step by step through the basics. One of the things I enjoyed about the initial part of the book was that it didn't just "jump right in" but took time to explain the history of what it was teaching to help you understand more. As the book progressed I came to enjoy the history lessons, and the light and easy reading style of the book. Throughout the book, all the little acronyms are turned into "beginners speak" so you don't get lost in the terminology.
I found the progression of chapter in the book to be very clever. Before you move on to the next chapter, you will have covered quite thoroughly everything you need to understand the concept of the chapter. However, to make sure you have, they provide test questions at the end of each chapter. I have to admit that having got some of the answers wrong, I've gone back and re-read the section concerned. The one thing I feel would have been a nice addition would have been some software. My colleague had the chance to review the Cramm Study book and that has a simulated test/learning environment CD. I feel this might have been a good addition to the Lab Books, but maybe next time.
The further into the book you get, obviously the more technical it gets. At this point, I'd have started to get worried and "run away". However, the book still managed to keep a light and easy style, thus making the difficult technical stuff easy to understand. One of the great things I found about the books is that sometimes there are concepts and ideas that you just can't read. The people writing these books have obviously had occasions like that, and to resolve this, they put lots of pictures, screen shots etc. To me this was a blessing; there were occasions where the concept just didn't make any sense to me. However, the diagrams and screenshots made up for that. I found some of the diagrams and tables so useful that I've made my own version of them and now have them on and around my desk to help keep the ideas fresh in my mind.
One of the other benefits we can't miss to mention about the book, is the popular 'Safari Service'. No it's not something you do in a Landrover in the desert somewhere far off land. I'll let the book explain.
"This book is safari enabled"
The safari enabled icon on the cover of your favourite technology book means the bok is available through Safari Bookshelf. When you buy this book, you get free access to the online edition for 45 days.
Safari Bookshelf is an electronic reference library that lets you easily search thousands of technical books, find code samples, download chapters, and access technical information whenever and wherever you need it.
To gain 45-day Safari Enabled access to this book
Go to the website in the book and enter the code on the inside of the book.
So, all in all, I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about Cisco equipment but doesn't know where to start.
Note to Editor.
My 9/10 rating was purely because I would have liked to see an accompanying CD with test questions/test exam. However, on a purely book review basis, I'd give the book a 10/10