13 Best Computer Science Books To Read In 2021

Computer science is a diverse field. It doesn’t only include programming but also theoretical studies of algorithms and computation information. Computer scientists design and analyze algorithms to solve problems efficiently and assess the performance of software and hardware.

To become a good computer science engineer, it is important to learn every subject very carefully. This includes topics such as computational complexity theory, probability theory, cryptography, formal logic, and theory and design of programming languages.

There are a set of core skills needed for computer science, such as the ability to evaluate and compare the efficiency of programs, a good understanding of computer architectures, and knowledge of tools and patterns used to develop interpretable, maintainable code.

Below, we have listed some of the best computer science books that are used by universities and professional developers to improve their skills. While the books themselves vary dramatically, each book is extremely informative and has remained a timeless addition to the ever-changing field of computer science.

13. Growing Object-Oriented Software, Guided by Tests

Author: Steve Freeman, Nat Pryce
Released in: 2009

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

Test-Driven Development (TDD) is a proven method for delivering quality software in less time. It is based on a simple idea – create tests for the program before writing the program itself. However, it is not as simple as it sounds: it takes a lot of skill and judgment to deliver the best.

Growing Object-Oriented Software teaches you how to develop and grow your project that is reliable, coherent, and maintainable. This book covers everything that developers face in the TDD, from implementing TDD efficiently to testing the most complex features.

It helps your write cleaner and more sustainable code. Authors have used plenty of examples to explain how TDD functions at multiple levels, how TDD, mock objects, and object-oriented design come together in real-world software development projects.

If you perform testing on a daily basis, the introduction may seem slow. But as you read through chapters, you will find many interesting details. Eventually, it helps you figure out where your current project is lacking in terms of testing.

12. Designing Data-Intensive Applications

Author: Martin Kleppmann
Released in: 2015

Suitable for: Intermediates and Experts

Today, we have tons of tools for creating, scaling, and maintaining data, including relational databases, NoSQL datastores, message brokers, and stream or batch processors. How do you figure out what’s the best choice for your application?

Designing Data-Intensive Applications is a comprehensive and practical guide that covers the strengths and weaknesses of many different techniques for processing, storing, and handling data.

While software and hardware keep changing, the basic working concept remains the same. This book teaches you how to apply those concepts in practice and how to fully utilize data in modern apps.

The author’s writing style is actually nice and quite colloquial for a technical book. However, if you are a beginner (who isn’t familiar with common network protocols), reading this book may feel like talking to a really smart person that sometimes forgets to give contexts for some very technical stuff he mentions.

11. Release It!: Design and Deploy Production-Ready Software

Author: Michael Nygard
Released in: 2007

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

This book won’t teach you the importance of object-oriented design or how to write super efficient code, but it will surely affect the way you write your code. It emphasizes things you must do to get your project into a state where it can be deployed safely in a production environment.

Release It! shows you how to design and architect your software for harsh real-world conditions. It covers many different case studies and useful advice, which will help you minimize the pitfalls that cost businesses huge effort and money every year.

The book has two editions: the updated (second) edition covers challenges faced by today’s system (today’s applications are more complex, large, and heavily virtualized). It also discusses the discipline of applying randomness to unveil systematic problems.

Overall, it will help you develop applications that tackle real-world challenges, implement zero-downtime upgrades and make cloud-native apps resilient. No matter if your tech stack is based on Java, C#, .NET, or another system; no matter if you are working in a private data center or on a public cloud; most of the patterns (suggested in this book) apply most of the time to most of the aspects of your project.

10. Building Microservices: Designing Fine-Grained Systems

Author: Sam Newman
Released in: 2014

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

In the past decade, distributed systems have become more advanced — they have shifted from large, code-heavy apps to smaller, self-contained microservices. Creating these systems is now more difficult and complex than ever.

The author takes a holistic approach to analyze microservices (a relatively new trend in computer science) from many different aspects. He has used several examples, practical advice, and real-life experiences, which lead to an enjoyable read.

The book covers all the factors that you must consider when developing, handling and growing microservice architectures. It dives into a modern solution for modeling, integrating, testing, implementing, and tracking your own autonomous services.

Overall, the book is quite short with only 250 pages, and will take only a day to dig through. Every chapter ends with a nice summary.

9. Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change

Author: Kent Beck, Cynthia Andres
Released in: 2004

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

Extreme Programming literally changed the way software development is generally practiced. The book has two completely different editions: the first one was released in 1999, and the second one was released in 2004.

What’s so “extreme” about Extreme Programming? Well, it teaches four very important things about software development:

  • Pair programming: The entire program written by a team of two on a single desktop leads to a higher quality of code.
  • Flexible planning: You should prioritize every task and do what is most important at the moment. You can set your goals every day and, if necessary, include customers in the team to make better, informed decisions.
  • Design for change: Don’t treat any part of the project, including documentation, as completely fixed. Make everything flexible enough so you can modify them when necessary.
  • Unit testing: Automated testing of each module is essential for delivering efficient code.

While these ideas were cutting-edge in 2004, they are still relevant, interesting, and inspirational because of the revolution they sparked. All in all, this book is great for developers who like solving organization, business, and software problems.

8. Fundamentals of Software Architecture: An Engineering Approach

Author: Mark Richards, Neal Ford
Released in: 2020

Suitable for: Beginners

This one provides a comprehensive overview of many aspects of software architecture. It portrays software architecture in a modern light, taking into accounts all the methods and techniques developed in the past decade. More specifically, it covers:

  • The technical basis of several architectural decisions
  • Engineering practices and operational strategies that have drastically changed in recent years
  • Repeatable metrics, valuations, and results that add rigor to software architecture
  • Efficient team management, meetings, presentations, negotiation, and other soft skills

Overall, it is highly recommended to all engineers who are interested in learning more about the architect role and software engineering practices. We do not advise you to read the entire book at one time; check what best fits your current position and keep it as a guide for future architecture decisions.

7. Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software

Author: Eric Evans
Released in: 2003

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

Domain modeling plays a major role in software design. Using domain models, developers can better express functionalities and translate them into software implementation.

Despite its obvious importance, there aren’t enough resources or guides that describe the effective methods of incorporating domain modeling into the software development process. This book fills that void.

Domain-Driven Design doesn’t explain any particular programming language to technology. Instead, it presents a huge set of design practices, fundamental principles, and experience-based techniques that facilitate the software development projects facing complicated domains.

This book will help designers, object-oriented developers, and system analysts build rich, practical domain models and leverage them into effective, long-lasting software implementation.

Overall, the book is informative and fun to read. The author has dozens of interesting stories, and he has a way with words.

6. The Mythical Man-Month

Author: Frederick Phillips Brooks
Released in: 2018

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

The Mythical Man-Month is a classic book on the software development process, which demolishes many persistent myths. The author’s observations are based on his experiences at IBM while managing the development of a batch processing operating system named OS/360.

One of the most common (as well as dangerous) myths is the belief that hiring more developers in a project means it will be completed more quickly. It is also not possible to accurately measure the useful work in Man-month, a hypothetical unit of work representing the work done by one person in one month.

The author has used several graphs and real incidents to better explain his points. Some observations may now be a little dated, but most of it is still pretty relevant.

5. A Philosophy of Software Design

Author: John Ousterhout
Released in: 2018

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

A Philosophy of Software Design is a short book with several good pieces of advice. It talks about two strategies to reduce the complexity of software systems:

  • Embracing simplicity: Complexity is generally caused by dependencies and obscurity. Thus, the goal is to minimize the number of dependencies and make the information as clear as possible.
  • Embracing modular design: Every module (whether it’s a class, library, or service) should have a simple interface that can provide a high-level abstraction to clients so that they don’t have to depend on or care about implementation details.

The author has discussed common design errors, deep vs. shallow modules, general vs. special-purpose interfaces, levels of abstractions, information hiding, and the rules to split or keep code (methods) together. It will make you see complexity and modularity in a slightly different way.

4. Algorithms (Fourth Edition)

Author: Robert Sedgewick, Kevin Wayne
Released in: 2011

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

Kevin Wayne and Robert Sedgewick’s Algorithms is extensively used in universities and colleges worldwide. It covers almost all crucial algorithms and data structures currently in use, including the 50 algorithms every developer must know. There are six chapters in the book that describe

  • Scientific and engineering basis for comparing algorithms
  • Various sorting algorithms
  • Various symbol-table implementations such as binary search trees, hash tables, and red-black trees.
  • Crucial graph-processing problems such as mining spanning trees, breadth-first and depth-first search
  • Many string processing algorithms, such as substring search and regular expressions.
  • Connections among scientific computing, systems programming, operations research, commercial apps, and intractability.

And since the book includes lectures, Java code (plus the standard libraries they use), exercises, and programming assignments, it is perfect for students and teachers.

3. Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code

Author: Martin Fowler, Kent Beck
Released in: 2018

Suitable for: Intermediates and Experts

The term ‘refactoring‘ refers to a controlled technique of improving the design of an existing codebase while preserving its external behavior.

This book explains what exactly refactoring is (in detail), why every programmer should refactor, how to identify code that requires refactoring, and how to refactor efficiently, irrespective of the programming language used in the project.

The book starts with an easy example describing the entire process. It then proceeds to a few introductory chapters that cover more issues around refactoring and how exactly refactoring can make object-oriented code simpler and easier to maintain.

It contains about 70 refactorings, each with explanations, motivation, mechanics, and simple examples. All tips are illustrated with ‘before’ and ‘after’ code, along with a clear explanation. The last section provides a quick look at refactoring research.

The book is not all about refactoring; it is also for understanding how professionals think about their code. Junior developers can use these methods even in writing the first line of their code.

Read: 15 Best Sci-Fi Books

2. Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture

Author: Martin Fowler
Released in: 2002

Suitable for: Intermediates and Experts

Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture is written for experienced developers who use new tools and technologies to build powerful applications. The book explains that despite advances in programming techniques, the same design ideas can be used to solve common problems.

The author has translated more than 40 recurring solutions into patterns, which can be applied to all enterprise application platforms. To better explain each architectural aspect, he has divided the book into two parts.

The first part includes lessons on creating enterprise apps, and the second part is a comprehensive reference to the patterns themselves. You will learn how to use and implement each pattern while developing an enterprise application.

The book contains plenty of detailed code examples (in C# or Java) and UML diagrams to better explain each concept. Although some examples are outdated, the patterns explained in the book can still be useful in modern projects.

Read: 17 Of The Interesting Science Books To Read This Year

1. The Art of Computer Programming [Volume 1]

Author: Donald Ervin Knuth
Released in: 1973

Suitable for: Intermediates and Experts

The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms, is a perfect learning resource for people interested in computer science and mathematics. For coders, it provides cookbook solutions to their everyday problems.

The book has two sections. The first section covers various useful mathematical tools, the MIX processor, principles of simple machine architecture, and techniques of implementing subroutines and co-routines.

The second section presents data structures (lists, stacks, queues, arrays, and trees) and methods for implementing and handling these structures. You will learn Huffman encoding, garbage collection algorithms, dynamic allocation algorithms, and the challenges associated with them.

It’s not exactly a light read; it offers an excellent set of tools that can be applied in many scenarios. The problem sets are concise, intriguing, and a much better substitute to solving sudokus in the free time.

Read: 17 Best Programming Books To Read

The content is accurate and well written with some delicious humor. It’s rare to find a computer scientist as enjoyable to read.

If you find this book interesting, you can check its later volumes, which cover semi-numerical algorithms, sorting and searching, and combinatorial algorithms.

Written by
Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a professional science and technology journalist and a big fan of AI, machines, and space exploration. He received a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. To find out about his latest projects, feel free to directly email him at [email protected] 

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