10 Books Every Programmer Should Read

There is saying that if you learn from your mistakes, you will only going to learn few things, but if you learn from other's mistake, you can learn a lot of things in short time, and what could be a better way to learn from someone's experience then reading books. Programming as a career is about constant learning and updating yourself, but unfortunately, there is no right way to begin. School and Colleges are far behind when it comes to real world programming, and every computer science graduate is not lucky to work in a company which is great in training. Only viable option is to read the book and follow advice from the great programmer and authors who are gone to that path. I still regret that why I didn't come to know about Clean Code when I started programming. These are the books which can change your career, can make you a better programmer. These books are more about a way of thinking, organizing, and becoming better at the craft of software engineering. They won't make you better at any particular programming language e..g Java but they will help you to become a better Programmer.

There is one more thing I like about all these books, you can read them in the couch, in bed or even in your daily commute to work. I mean you don't need a compiler or IDE to trying the stuff in the book to see how it works like other hardcore programming books. For example, you won't get anything from Java Concurrency In Practice without writing applications, executing tests and understanding output. Even though I have read them already, I have PDF versions of these books in my iPad and read them in my commute to work. BTW, in order to get most from any programming book, coding and trying out their example is a must.

1) Programming Perls
This is the first book I read for preparing programming interview. It contains some of the toughest problems for newbie and if you try to solve them by your own, you will learn a lot. They challenge your understanding of core concept in memory, CPU, and algorithms. Some of you might think that this book is out of date, as it first published in 1999, but you will be wrong. It's a true classic and all the analysis, explanations are still valuable for any programmer. It's a great book to practice data structure, algorithms design, searching, sorting, heaps and performance tuning techniques. To give you a glimpse of what you get, try to solve this problem by your own:
"How to sort up to 10 million unique non-negative integers, all of which are less than 107 in 1.25M memory? What if we have only 1M (or less) memory available? What if our integers are not unique, but number of occurrences of each value is limited?"
Salute to Jon Bentley for creating a masterpiece, it fully justifies its name "Programming Pearls".
Best Programming books to read

2) GOF Design Patterns
How many of you have surprised when you see your senior partner solving problem in more elegant way by applying object oriented design principles and design patterns? Well, I am. When I started my career I didn't know anything about design patterns and how it helps to write better code. I came from C, C++ background and what I know was to write code in some classes or structures and use main to test the stuff. It was when I started learning Java and its API I come to know about things like Collections.sychronizedList(), which is used to synchronize a List in Java and BufferedReader which is used to read character data are examples of Decorator design pattern. I realize the true power of design pattern when during a code review, one of my senior partner re-factor my big if-else block into state design pattern. Now coming back to the book, Design Patterns, Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software is another classic and original source of those 23 patterns put together by famous Gang of Four, Eric Gamma, Richard Hel, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides. I was in doubt to recommend Head First Design pattern or this book because frankly I was benefited more from Head First, but again serious developer doesn't like Headfirst style and being classic, this book can't be ignored. BTW, if you like Head first series, then go for Head First Design pattern, another gem.
10 books every programmer must read

3) The Mythical Man Month
You must read this book if you want to know about software development, estimates, project management and things which can go wrong in software development. I always wonder, why creating a multistory building can be better planned and can be better estimated than building a software. Why all other industry has better tools, process, and quality controls than software world and this is one of the books which help you to understand why. If you aspire to become a project manager, this is the must-read for you.
Must read books for programmers

4) Clean Code
My favorite, I have read it almost 3 to 4 times and still love to read it. I always regret why I didn't get a copy of this book when I started my career. Uncle Bob has done a fabulous job teaching craftsmanship of software development through his series of books and this one is simply best. You will learn how to name your variable, how to write better methods, how to structure your code better, what is the code smell, why the solving problem in one way is wrong and why another way is better. You will connect more if you are a Java developer, but I think any object oriented programmer e.g. C++ or Python will benefit from general advice about code, programming, and art of software development. If you like the style of Uncle Bob, you can also take a look at Clean Coder, the second part of this book, which will help you to become a better professional programmer.
Great books to learn Programming

5) Refactoring by Martin Fowler
Once you finish Clean code and hungry for more then this is the book to read. It is the best book an intermediate programmer can read, it will help you to teach the art of refactoring which is the second step towards clean code, first step being designing and writing test. In this book, you will learn step by step how to make your code better. It will also help you to learn test-driven development, a proven strategy to write clean code, as you can't refactor code without having enough test cases. In order to get most of this book, not just read but do the examples at your pace. This books about doing things along with reading. The great thing is Martin is very clear about why you do that refactoring and how it improves the code quality.
Best book to learn code refactoring

6) The Design of Everyday Things
Many of you would be surprised to see this book in a list of must read books for programmers, some of you might be thinking what the heck a 27-year-old book is doing in the list created in 2015, as this book was first published in 1988 with the title "The Psychology of Everyday things".  I recommend this book because programmers are curious by nature and they are heavily involved in designing of the product, and this book will teach you how design serves as the communication between product and user. You will be a much better designer and have an understanding of how things works after reading this book. If you need another reason, this is one of the best seller created by Donald A. Norman.
list of good programming books

7) Effective Java
Wow, my another favorite and holy grail of Java developers. Understanding of Java API is incomplete without reading this book. This book is written by none other than Joshua Bloch, who has written a lot of important code in JDK e.g. Java Collection framework and many core classes in java.lang package. Almost all Java developer is familiar of this book and if anyone has not read it, go read it, this is simply great. You will not only learn best practices but also understand the reasoning behind why Java API is designed that way, as you are getting first-hand information from the programmer who has created that. I don't think, I need to convince any Java developer to read this book but for my C++, Python and Ruby programmers, you can learn a lot about API design, design patterns and writing clean and robust code from this book. I told you about learning from other's experience and Clean Code and Effective Java is the best example of that philosophy.
Best Java Books Ever

8) Clean Coder
This is the second part of the Clean Code, not officially but usually considered it. As the name suggest first part teach you about how a professional programmer write code and this part teaches you how to behave as a professional developer. It's a book about the code of conduct for Professional Programmers, as tagline rightly suggests. I like this book because of Uncle Bob's storytelling and style which feels like he is talking to you, you will feel part of the conversation and you will learn how a professional developer should behave in the different situation. You will learn how to say Yes and how to say No, sounds funny? but this is the best lesson I have learned from this book. I am sure you will not regret about missing this book.
Must read book for every programmer

9) Domain Driven Design
The software is complex and anything which helps you to reduce that complexity or allow you to better deal with that complexity will much appreciate. Domain Drive Design is a rather different way to develop software and that's why I have included this book in my list of must read books for programmers. Eric Evans has done a fabulous job in explaining this term "domain driven design" and showing how it can work to tackle complexity. An intermediate and experienced developer would understand the value of domain knowledge. In fact, a programmer cannot become a subject matter expert and design a better system without knowing about his domain. This is the reason, programmer stick to one domain e.g. Finance, healthcare, Insurance etc. Its combination of both domain knowledge and programming skill which makes you a better programmer.
great book on domain driven design

10) Coders at work
I feel lucky that a book like this is available in my time. Coders at work are based upon nearly 8 hours of interview with fifteen all-time great programmers and computer scientists. You will learn from their experience by following this interview about how great programmers learn to program, how they practice their craft, and what they think about future of programming. You will feel excited by just reading the table of contents and knowing the names of the programmers, which include greats like Joshua Bloch, Peter Norvig, Donald Knuth, Ken Thomson, and Jamie Zawinski. I strongly recommend that every programmer should have a copy of this book in his self or at least PDF version in his iPad or Kindle. This books is not only interesting but motivating and expand your vision, thoughts, and experience.
Books to become better coders

That's all about my list of 10 books every programmer should read. You don't need a technical book, full of code every time to become a better programmer. I agree that Programming and Coding are two important aspects of a programmer's job, but there are more things as well. In fact, you do need some books, which shares real experience from programmers of last decade. These books motivate you and fill new energy. These books are not for any programming language expert e.g. a Java or C++ developer, instead, it's for all programmer and software developer. Before learning Java, C++ or Python it's important to learn to program. Languages are just tools, not art. The craftsmanship of programming is in these books. In today's busy world, I highly recommend you to have ebooks, pdfs in your iPad, Kindle or your smartphone and read it whenever you get some free time, you will feel recharged.

If you like this article and hungry for more, check out my post 10 Articles Every Programmer Must Read, I am sure you will find it interesting.


  1. Pragmatic Programmer, Passionate Programmer, Working Effectively With Legacy Code, Patterns of Enterprise Architecture, Game Programming Patterns is good about design patterns usages/examples used in games (I wish there would be more books, that is brilliant material). Also Practices of an Agile Developer, (pragprog books in general are very good and well explained and concise).

  2. Nice list, thanks. I think "Applying UML and patterns" by Craig Larman and "UML Distilled" by Martin Fowler, also must be read!

  3. Object Oriented Software Construction, 2nd Edition

  4. excelent list!!! thanks

  5. Surprised to see no book related to algorithm and data structure in this list. If you can include the book on design patterns, algorithm and data structure are even more important than that. I would suggest, "Introduction to Algorithms 4th Edition" to include in this list.

  6. Sorry to nitpick, but it's "Programming Pearls", not "Programming perls".

  7. Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think - is also a good pick.

  8. Code Complete - is a good pick too.

  9. I highly recommend "Think Like A Programmer". Nice list BTW. :)

  10. A good list. A writing tip, touch up on the words "then vs than", your grammar makes the reader stumble.

  11. There must be a typo in Jon Bentley's problem. There are only 107 non-negative integers less than 107. I suspect it should have read "less than 10**7".

  12. If you seriously want to become a good programmer , I suggest to take a look at these books to learn Algorithms. You should be good at algorithm and data structure to write good code. Once you done, that you can look at these books to improve coding skill .