17 Best Programming Books To Read In 2021

Programming is one of the most sought-after fields, which presents candidates with plenty of opportunities to learn and earn. However, to thrive in this field, you need to be continuously learning and evolving your skills. And what could be better than books to learn from?

The best kinds of programming books are the ones that don’t just tell you about the syntax and semantics of languages but also help you think, organize, and become a better coder. They teach you how to solve problems efficiently, which is indeed the most crucial lesson for a programmer.

There are numerous articles on the internet claiming to be the list of must-read programming books, but they all recommend the same old books. Finding good and fresh resources has become really tricky.

To make this job easier for you, we have listed some of the best programming books written specifically to give you a solid foundation in all areas that are important to a better coder. If you read just one of these, you will be a step ahead of nearly everyone around you.

17. Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited

Author: Steve Krug
Released in: 2013

Suitable for: Beginners

The author makes the topic of web usability genuinely entertaining. Along with a light writing style, he gives a touch of wit to keep your attention from cover to cover.

The book makes you think deeply about usability and accessibility. All chapters are logical and concise. There are plenty of examples explaining the author’s point of view and showing how different stakeholders in web projects can contribute to the site’s usability.

In my opinion, everyone should read this book — designers should read it to learn golden rules before they put pen to paper, coders should read it to understand the technical requirements of implementing usability, and project managers should read it to stimulate the brain to think and view the world in new ways.

16. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

Author: Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister
Released in: 2013 (Third Edition)

Suitable for: Beginners

Written by two software consultants, Peopleware is a famous book about software organization management. It emphasizes the fact that most problems of software development are human, not technical. 

The book explores the conflicts between individual work perspective, corporate ideology, and workspace theory. Most subjects are presented as principles backed by authoritative sources or some concrete story.

Any working person (doesn’t matter whether he/she is a manager or being managed) should read it because it tells you about building successful and effective teams in a very concise and straightforward manner.

15. Working Effectively with Legacy Code

Author: Michael Feathers
Released in: 2004

Suitable for: Intermediates

Feathers’ book is over 16 years old. Yet, its content doesn’t get outdated. It includes a catalog of 24 dependency-breaking methods that allow you to make changes safely in your program.

The book teaches you how to work with large, untested legacy programs, how to accurately identify the spot where code changes are required, and how to handle applications that don’t seem to have any appropriate structure.

You will find plenty of techniques that can be applied in any language or platform, including C, C++, C#, and Java. Some techniques seem outdated, but you never know when you might need them.

14. Make Your Own Neural Network

Author: Tariq Rashid
Released in: 2016

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

What would you normally expect when you buy a book related to artificial intelligence. Definitions on every page? Theorems and proofs? Lots of math? Numerous dry paragraphs? Well, this book is different. You will get exactly what you need to understand the topic and put it into practice—nothing more, nothing less.

It teaches you how to make your own neural network (in Python) and train it to recognize human handwritten numbers. The book is divided into three sections:

  • Section 1: introduces the mathematical concepts underlying the neural networks.
  • Section 2: covers the basics of Python programming language and how to build a neural network that can learn to recognize handwritten numbers.
  • Section 3: explores the techniques for improving the neural network’s performance and testing it on your own handwriting.

For people who are completely unaware of how neural networks work, this book can be a perfect eye-opener and give the foundations for future learning.

13. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware & Software

Author: Charles Petzold
Released in: 2000

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

This book opens up the world of computing through a brief linear storytelling format. Starting with older technologies such as Morse code, Braille, and Boolean logic, the author gradually catches up to the modern era with talk of HTTP and WWW.

He then explains more recent development, including topics like ASCII, operating systems, and floating-point math. To make chapters interesting, he has also used metaphors and analogies sparingly.

Whatever your technical skills are, this book will charm you, and perhaps even awaken the technophile within.

12. The C++ Programming Language

Author: Bjarne Stroustrup
Released in: 2000

Suitable for: Intermediates to Experts

Written by the father of C++ himself, this is the world’s most trusted and widely read book on C++. It provides complete, authoritative coverage of the C++ language, its key design techniques, and standard library.

This 1300-page book can be divided into three sections. The first section (chapters 2-5) is a crash course on C++. The second section (chapters 6-29) is a structure tutorial section. The last section (chapter 30-44) explores the standard library, which is as important and integral part of C++ as the language itself.

If you want to learn the language quickly, this is not for you. However, if your goal is to become a master (it takes a lot of time and effort to get there), this is the book for you. It’s a long and very technical read that covers every aspect of the language from basics to esoteric in great detail.

11. Introduction to Algorithms

Author: Thomas Cormen, Clifford Stein, Ronald Rivest, Charles Leiserson
Released in: 2001

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

This book covers a wide range of algorithms in detail, from classical algorithms in graph theory to special algorithms in number theory, computational geometry, and string matching.

Everything is explained in a very simple language without sacrificing depth of coverage or mathematical rigor. But don’t expect a pure cookbook of algorithms that can be copied or downloaded.

If you are a beginner, you need to read every chapter carefully. The exercises at the end of each chapter will help you better understand the concept you just read. Just throw enough man-hours into this textbook, and you will learn concrete approaches to determining how hard you are making the computer work.

10. Effective Java

Author: Joshua Bloch
Released in: 2017

Suitable for: Beginners to Experts

Since its first edition (published in 2001), Effective Java has changed dramatically. The author has updated the title to take advantage of the new Java version and library features.

Like previous editions, every chapter contains multiple sections (each written in the form of a simple, standalone essay that provides insights into Java platform subtleties) and updated code snippets.

The book covers almost all important Java features as well as the good and bad practices of several libraries that we use today. Since it’s hard to remember everything (even for experienced programmers), I would advise you to keep it as a reference book when you are coding.

9. Fluent Python

Author: Luciano Ramalho
Released in: 2015

Suitable for: Experts

It is always a pleasure to follow authors who really understand a programming language and have good didactics. Luciano Ramalho is one of those authors. He writes about Python with passion but without hiding its pitfalls and flaws.

While some chapters look very simple, others cover quirks and intricacies, touching the very core of the language. It covers Python data model, data structures, functions as objects, control flow, and metaprogramming.

Overall, this 700-page book will introduce you to Python’s core features and libraries and teach you how to make your code faster, shorter, and more readable.

8. Code Complete

Author: Steve McConnell
Released in: 2014 (Second Edition)

Suitable for: Beginners to Experts

This classic book has been fully updated and revised with hundreds of new code samples and leading-edge practices, illustrating the science and art of software development.

The book is divided into seven parts: the first six parts are laying the foundation, writing high-quality programs, variables, statements, and code enhancements. The seventh part is about software craftsmanship (character, style, layout, and documentation).

In my opinion, every programmer with 2-3 years of experience should read this book. Although it is not applicable to all software development processes and can be dated in some places, it certainly conveys ideas that all programmers should understand and embrace.

7. Deep Learning

Author: Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio and Aaron Courville
Released in: 2016

Suitable for: Experts

This provides an immense amount of detail for neural networks and the deep versions of them. The writers have categorized the difficult topics in a way that conveys the ideas smoothly.

The book is divided into three sections:

  • 150 pages of background: covers relevant concepts in numerical computation, probability theory, information theory, and machine learning.
  • 300 pages of application: This is the core part that includes deep feedforward networks, sequence modeling, convolutional networks, and optimization algorithms. It surveys various applications in natural language processing, bioinformatics, and videogames.
  • 200 pages of research topics: covers theoretical topics like representation learning, Monte Carlo methods, and deep generative models.

This book is for people who are already familiar with the concept of deep learning and want to explore its theoretical background. It is also very good for Ph.D. students and researchers whose works revolve around artificial intelligence.

Read: 50 Shades of Computer Programming Laws

6. Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach

Author: Stuart Russell, Peter Norvig
Released in: 2015

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

This book is not only a great introduction to artificial intelligence but also serves as a survey course in technical writing. It doesn’t presume a ton of background beyond some exposure to mathematical notation and a basic understanding of algorithmic efficiency or computational complexity.

The book contains everything you might want to know as far as artificial intelligence is concerned. Every concept is very well explained and loaded with examples to help you pick the real meaning behind it.

It also covers practical implications in the same field, such as speech recognition, machine translation, robotics, and more. Read it, re-read it, and treat it with care — you will reap the reward for a long time to come.

Read: 8 Best Artificial Intelligence Programming Language

5. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship

Author: Robert Cecil Martin
Released in: 2007

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

The author of Clean Code is most recognized for developing numerous software design principles. In this book, he has introduced the best agile practices of cleaning code ‘on the fly.’

It features lots of code snippets, and you need to identify what’s wrong with it and what’s right about that code. The book teaches you how bad code looks like and how it should have been written in the first place.

There are three sections. The first introduces the patterns, principles, and practices of writing clean code. The second contains many different case studies. The third contains a list of heuristics gathered while making the case studies.

While most examples are java centric, anyone with an interest in producing better code can read this book — whether you are a software developer, team lead, system analyst, or project manager.

4. Cracking the Coding Interview

Author: Gayle Laakmann McDowell
Released in: 2011

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediate

Cracking the Coding Interview is the most expansive, detailed guide on how to ace your programming or software development interviews.

It starts by explaining the ‘why’ of technical interview, how to practice for non-technical questions, how to analyze and break down problems, how to write efficient code, and how to respond to acceptance and rejection.

Then you will find over 180 programming questions and answers, which form the bulk of the book. Each section begins with a discussion of the core knowledge and approaches to tackle similar problems, diving into exact techniques to solve them. You will also find a link in the book so you can download, compile, and analyze solutions yourself.

3. Grokking Algorithms

Author: Aditya Bhargava
Released in: 2015

Suitable for: Intermediates and Experts

It’s a disarming take on a core topic of computer science. The book teaches you how to apply algorithms to real-life problems you face in your daily life as a coder.

It starts with simple problems like searching and sorting. As you build up your thinking skills, you will tackle more complex topics such as hashing, graphs, greedy algorithms, MapReduce, P vs. NP, data compression, and more. Everything is explained using illustrations and visual examples.

Whether you are developing mobile apps, video games, or business tools, you will learn algorithmic methods for solving problems that were previously out of your grasp. For example, you will be able to understand how data compression works using Huffman coding, write a spell checker using graph algorithms, and more.

Read: 14 Best Programming Software For Writing Code [2020]

2. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software

Author: Erich Gamma, Ralph Johnson, Richard Helm, John Vlissides
Released in: 1994

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

Capturing a wealth of experience about the design of object-oriented software, the “Gang of Four” presents a catalog of simple and concise solutions to common design issues.

The book starts by describing what patterns are and how they can be useful in object-oriented tools. It teaches you how these patterns fit into the software development phase, and how developers can utilize them to solve their own design problems most efficiently.

The book is split into two sections, with the first two chapters explaining the advantages and disadvantages of object-oriented programming, and the remaining chapter exploring 23 classic software design patterns. It includes plenty of examples in Smalltalk and C++.

It is regarded as an important source for object-oriented design theory and practice. Over half a million copies have been sold in 14 languages.

1. The Pragmatic Programmer: Your Journey to Mastery

Author: Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
Released in: 2019

Suitable for: Beginners and Intermediates

This is the second edition of the influential book the Pragmatic Programmer published in 1999. Two decades later, this new edition re-examines what it means to be a modern coder.

It includes several tips to improve the development process in a pragmatic way. It covers a wide range of useful topics, from career development and personal responsibility to architectural methods for keeping the code flexible and easily maintainable.

Read: 14 Best Programming Software For Writing Code

This book will teach you how to

  • Capture real requirements
  • Write dynamic and adaptable code
  • Bullet-proof your code with assertions and exceptions
  • Test code rigorously
  • Use automation to make development more effective

If you’ve been frustrated by the methodologies of most programming books, you should give this one a try. It has everything that you need to become a pragmatic programmer.

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] 

View all articles
Leave a reply