Programming Books: The 10 Best Books to Learn Programming

14 min read
Updated: Sep 16, 2019

Learning a new programming language can be a tough task, but if you get hold of a good book, spend time, and have the dedication, then learning to code can be made fun and easy. Read on if you are looking for best programming books available out there in the wild that help you master the art of programming.

Talking a bit about books, books never fail to provide needed information in the best possible way, and there is no dearth of good programming books that cover the depth and breadth of computer programming, provide guidance, instructions and industry best practices to develop projects of all sizes and complexity.

Some of these books target computer science students and beginner programmers, whereas others target more experienced programmers who intend to develop specific skill set, for example, iOS apps development, Android development, website design and development, games development, big data, machine learning, performance optimization, concurrency, security, networking and much more.

The beginners programming books typically cover the core concepts and are focused mostly on one specific programming language like Python, PHP, JavaScript, Swift, C, C++, C# or R etc. and the more advanced books are mostly subject oriented like data science, performance optimization, Networking, Data visualization, Hybrid apps development etc., and much more.

What are the Best Programming Books for You?

The answer to this question completely depends on your final goal, the programming language that you are interested in, whether you plan to get into web development, mobile apps development, data science, enterprise software development or just looking for some help to finish off your college or university projects and assignments. It also depends on your current programming experience and the money you can spend.

You might also like – Best Websites to Learn to Code

If you are an absolute beginner, then Python is a great option to start learning the basic concepts of programming. Python also happens to be the first programming language of many computer science students and is taught in many universities. One good book on Python to learn programming is – Python Crash Course.

The Self Taught Programmer is another great book to start learning programming, without any prior experience. On the other hand, if you are planning to learn web design and development, then HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites is the perfect choice for beginners.  

Java, A beginner’s guide is another good book to learn java and programming concepts in general. The list is vast as many authors have taken great efforts to come up with brilliant writings to make learning programming as easy as possible. Our team has done some research and come up with the top 10 books available in the market that make learning to program an absolute breeze.

Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction (By Steve McConnell)

From his vast knowledge available from research, academic experiences and regular practice, Steve McConnell has come up with techniques, principles and guidelines for effective software construction, and in the book, he backs up his advice with real examples and research.

The book covers details around managing projects of all sizes and complexity, coding style, strategies around testing, code organization, commenting, developer collaboration and much more. In a nutshell, Code Complete by Steve McConnel is a practical guide to programming and has been on the top charts for more than a decade, the latest revision specifically is arguably the best programming book of all times.

What I like the most about this book is its presentation style, which is in a story format, making the study engaging and interesting. The book contains code examples in Java, C++, C# and Visual Basic etc., but the key focus is on the fundamentals rather than language syntax.

If you want to learn systematically how to code using the right methods, this book offers what you must not miss.

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (By Robert C. Martin)

The cost of code maintenance and management is much higher than developers think in the beginning. and it goes up exponentially as the size and complexity of the software increases. Almost every organization that doesn’t follow clean code practices loose countless hours in understanding and modifying the poorly written code.

This is the book that focuses greatly on the principles and best practices of writing clean and understandable code. The book consists of three main sections, where the first section covers the patterns, guidelines and principles of code organization for maximum readability and easy code maintenance.

The second part takes you into real world scenarios and picks up many cases studies where a poorly written code is transferred into the code that is efficient and of highest quality. The third section is more like a summary of techniques, learnings and best practices.

“The code that works doesn’t mean quality code”

The code snippets taken as examples are in Java but the principles are applicable to any programming language. This is a must-read book for every student of computer science, a working coder, tech lead and project manager.

Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual (By John Sonmez)

This book takes a different approach all together and is not for you if you have not written any piece of code yet. his book is written by John Sonmez, who himself is a developer and a life coach and focuses more on soft skills required to build a great career in programming.

The book also talks about best practices to create a better code-life balance for a software engineer rather than telling you how to write, John also emphasizes on topics like maintaining productivity, managing personal finance and investments etc., from the view point of a developer.

  • You get to learn the below four skills from the book –
  • How to build your own personal brand and succeed in career
  • Step by step guidance on how to learn and acquire any skill quickly
  • How to stay fit and when your job is all day sitting
  • Strategies to safeguard your future by investing at the right time in the right areas

This one is among the best programming books of all times and we recommend this to anyone and everyone in the field of software development, not to learn the code, but to be a coder with great work life balance.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master (By Andrew Hunt, Dave Thomas)

This book authored by Andrew Hunt and Dave Thomas illustrates the best programming practices in an interesting manner by using thought provoking analogies and examples. The book considers modern age programmers and organizations and highlights unique techniques and specializations in field of software development these days.

The book specifically focuses on below key points –

  • Writing dynamic and scalable code that doesn’t become obsolete soon in the fast-moving world
  • Use of assertions, exceptions and contracts to ensure a stable and solid code
  • Avoid duplicity of knowledge, reuse what already exists
  • Focus on requirements of end users
  • Automate where possible and enable software to do more with less code

Additionally, there are mentions about architectural techniques to build the software in a right way. In conclusion, you can learn a great deal from this book about the best practices for taking requirements, writing flexible and adaptable programs, testing and automation.

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs 2nd Edition (MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, By Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman)

This book is a revision of the previous edition ‘Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs’, which made quite an impact on the computer programming curriculum in the last few years. The current version, 2nd Edition takes the learnings to the next level and reflects many years of teaching experience of authors at MIT.

The book emphasizes on the concepts of functional programming, lazy evaluation, various computational models for optimization, numerical programming and much more. Lots of new examples have been added in the recent release to help you understand the concepts effectively.

In our opinion, this book can help you learn a lot if you want to build a good foundation in computer science.

Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions 6th Edition (By Gayle Laakmann McDowell)

Cracking interviews is a skill and I know many programmers who are best when it comes to writing the code but fail miserably to clear the interviews at large organizations. Being well prepared beforehand is so much helpful that it gives the candidate an edge and reflects greatly in the overall attitude of the candidate while sitting in front of the interviewer.

In this book, Gayle Laakmann McDowell shares 189 programming interview questions which are of difficulty ranging from basic to highly advanced. The author has the experience of coaching and interviewing hundreds of engineers. The knowledge that she shares through this book can help you perform at your very best at competitive interviews of top companies.

The book contains tips to derive solution for each of the 189 questions, and provides guidance to solve similar questions that gets asked in the real interviews. Solving the algorithm on the fly during an interview is not an easy feat but this book prepares you well with proven strategies to easily deal with algorithm questions, it also provides valuable tips on behavioral questions and the recruiting process of top companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook.

On the flip side, this book also covers tips and guidelines for interviewers on how to come up with good interview questions for hiring quality developers.

The Self-Taught Programmer: The Definitive Guide to Programming Professionally (by Cory Althoff)

This book is arguably the ‘people’s favorite’ when it comes to books on learning programming. It is among the best sellers and has received highly positive reviews with impressive ratings on Amazon.

Before we talk about what the book is all about, let me tell something about the author. Cory Althoff is a self-taught programmer who spent a whole year trying to learn programming on his own. The inspirational story is that he succeeded in his pursuit and landed a job at e-Bay as a software engineer. This whole journey made Cory write this book on programming, so that others don’t have to struggle the way he did.

The book is divided into 6 sections. The first section teaches you to learn Python 3 programming and enables you to write your first code. The second section enables you to learn Object-oriented programming thoroughly and to create more powerful Python programs. The third part is intended to teach you tools like Git, Bash, regular expressions and databases.

The next part teaches you the fundamentals of computer science which includes computer architecture, data structures, algorithms and network programming.

The fifth section allows you to learn to program for the production software development process, testing, and the finest coding practices to follow. Finally, the book gives you tips for getting a job and working in a team.

Fantastic, isn’t it. Go grab a copy of one of the best books on coding.

Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming (By Eric Matthes)

Talking about best programming books, this is another one in the wild and gives a good introduction to programming and a must read if you are a beginner. Python is an easy to learn language and the way this book is organized, you can start to write code on your own within a matter of hours of study.

The author gives a thorough and fast-paced introduction to programming using Python. The first half of the book introduces the basic concepts of programming like lists, dictionaries, classes, and loops, and has exercises at the end of each section to give you enough practice in writing clean programs.

The remaining section of the book provides insights into doing real world programming projects. It picks up projects including Space Invaders-inspired arcade game, interactive visualizations using Python libraries and a web app.

If are looking forward to learning Python programming or the core concepts of programming in general, this book is essential. The simple step by step approach that it follows would help you learn to code without a struggle.

HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites (By John Duckett)

HTML and CSS are the building blocks of the web and this book is the best in the business when it comes to learning HTML and CSS, highly rated by readers and incredibly easy to follow.

The book considers you to be a non-programmer and doesn’t really want you to become a high-end programmer, it is for anyone and everyone including admins, hobbyists, graphic designers, content writers. John Duckett presents HTML and CSS code in a very enjoyable way and doesn’t let anything get even near to boring.

HTML and CSS is more about presentation, style, layout and graphics etc. and this book ensures that you feel home by using lot of infographics, colorful theme and fantastic photography throughout in a very engaging manner.

Overall, John Duckett has done a marvelous job to make HTML and CSS learning easy and fun.

Java: A Beginner’s Guide, Sixth Edition (By Herbert Schildt)

This one is among the best java books of all times and a great option if you intend to learn Java programming, including Android development. The book is written by the best-selling author Herbert Schildt and provides understandable step by step guidance on writing Java code.

This book starts with the basic concepts including creation, compiling, and running a Java program. Then the author takes you to more complex areas like syntax, keywords and constructs that are integral parts of Java.

This book also goes good with some of Java’s more advanced features too, like multithread programming, generics, and swing. New Java SE 8 features such as lambda expressions and default interface methods are described as well. Towards the end, book comes up with step by step tutorial on JavaFX, the latest interface of Java.

In a nutshell, “Herbert Schildt” covers all the core concepts of Java and programming in the book which is designed with the principles of right way of learning and includes sections filled with windfall information, hand on exercise, tips and quizzes to reinforce what you learnt.

Conclusion – Best Programming Books

Learning programming can be a nightmare without the right set of books at hand, the authors like Steve McConnell, Robert C. Martin, John Sonmez, Andrew Hunt, Dave Thomas, Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, Julie Sussman, Cory Althoff, Herbert Schildt, John Duckett are experts the field of programming and have practical and real life experience in teaching and executing projects of all scales and sizes, and on top of that, they are expert authors and know how to make learning fun and easy.

Furthermore, do not worry much about the original publication date of the book, since these books keep on getting further revisions with inclusion of latest features and in any case, the core concepts and programming language do not change for decades and the books never go obsolete in general.

I hope you liked this article on 10 best books to learn programming. So, figure out your end goal and grab one of the books mentioned in this article. Also, do share your views, reviews, and thoughts about any of the programming book that you have already read, via comments! Keep programming, it is fun, it is life. Cheers!

Further Reading

–         Best Programming Languages

–         Best Defect Tracking Tools

–         Mobile Programming Languages




@noetic here, the founder of I love coding, quantum physics, and working on my brain to manipulate time.

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