Top 10 Books Every Programmer Should Read

There is a saying that if you learn from your mistakes, you will only going to learn few things, but if you learn from other's mistakes, you can learn a lot of things in a 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. Schools 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 that is great in training. The other viable option is to read books, join online courses, and follow advice from the great programmer and authors who are gone on that path, and learning from the book is the most tried and trusted way of all of them.

I still regret that why I didn't come to know about Clean Code when I started programming. These are the books that can change your career, which can make you a better programmer.

These books are not about teaching you the syntax and semantics of programming languages like Java, Python, or C++, but they 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 like 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 on the couch, in bed, or even in your daily commute to work. I mean, you don't need a compiler or IDE to try 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 the output. Even though I have read them already, I have PDF versions of these books on my iPad and read them on my commute to work. Btw, in order to get the most from any programming book, coding and trying out their example is a must.

12 Books Which Can Make You a Better Programmers

Without wasting any more of your time, here is the list of the top 10 books every Programmer, Software Engineers, Developer, and Coders should read. These books touch on different areas of Software Development like Coding, Design, Architecture, Algorithms, Data Structure, Problem Solving, Planning, and Project Management, and work culture.

Going through these books will give you years of experience acquired by their authors in working with some of the best places and people.

10 Books that Can Make You a Better Programmers

1. System Design Interview – An insider's guide  by Alex Xu

System design is an important skill for programmers and developers and this is one of the best book to learn about System Design. While this book is created to prepare candidates for System design interviews, it is also a must read for all programmers. 

Authored  by Alex Xu, with insider knowledge, this guide offers invaluable insights into the intricacies of system design, a crucial aspect of technical interviews. With a focus on preparing candidates for success, the guide covers various aspects of system design interviews, including key concepts, problem-solving strategies, and real-world scenarios. 

This resource provides a structured and practical approach to mastering system design, catering to both beginners and experienced professionals seeking to enhance their interview performance. There are two volumes of this book and together they cover a lot of system design concepts from scalability to rate limiting, API gateway to Microservices and much more. 

With its insider perspective, the guide equips readers with the knowledge and strategies needed to navigate complex interview scenarios, making it an essential tool for anyone aspiring to excel in not just system design interviews but also to become a better software developer and advance their career in the technology industry. You can also combine this book with ByteByteGo course for better learning. 

"Software Engineering at Google: Lessons Learned from Programming Over Time," authored by Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck, and Hyrum Wright, is a comprehensive guide offering valuable insights into the world of software engineering. 

With a remarkable rating of 4.6 out of 5 from 686 reviews, the book delves into the crucial distinction between mere programming skills and the broader knowledge needed to foster sustainable and healthy codebases. 

Drawing from their extensive experience at Google, the authors provide a candid and insightful exploration of how leading practitioners manage and evolve software over its lifecycle. The book focuses on Google's distinctive engineering culture, processes, and tools, shedding light on how these elements contribute to the effectiveness of an engineering organization. 

You will gain a deeper understanding of three fundamental principles: the impact of time on software sustainability, the influence of scale on software practices, and the trade-offs inherent in design and development decisions. 

This work serves as an invaluable resource for software engineers seeking to elevate their skills and navigate the complexities of codebase evolution in a dynamic and demanding environment.

3. Programming Pearls

This is the first book I read for preparing a programming interview. It contains some of the toughest problems for a newbie, and if you try to solve them on your own, you will learn a lot. They challenge your understanding of the core concepts in memory, CPU, and algorithms.

Some of you might think that this book is out of date, as it was 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 on 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." 

Btw, if you are preparing for coding interviews, then I also suggest you check out the 11 essential coding problems course on Udemy by Y K, an ex-Google engineer who is also the famous Youtube @ CS DOJO, his explanation style is really remarkable and this course will help you to learn these difficult concepts better. 

Best Programming books to read

4. The GoF Design Patterns

How many of you have been surprised when you see your senior partner solving the problem in a 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 the 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 patterns.

I realized the real power of design pattern when, during a code review, one of my senior partners re-factor my big if-else block into the 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 the 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 the Head First series, then go for the Head First Design pattern, another gem.

And, if you need some help with implementing these patterns and you like to watch videos to learn things then the Design Pattern library course on Pluralsight is another good companion. I have personally found that this combination is great for learning and understanding classic design patterns. 

10 books every programmer must read

5. The Mythical Man-Month

You must read this book if you want to know about software development, estimates, project management, and things that 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 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

6. 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 like, 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, like a  C++ or Python, will benefit from general advice about code, programming, and the 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. Just to let you know that Mosh Hamedani, a famous Udemy instructor also has a course on the Art of Writing Clean code, I found it quite awesome a good companion for this book, you may want to check that out, btw examples are in C# programming language.

Great books to learn Programming

7. Refactoring by Martin Fowler

Once you finish Clean code and are hungry for more, then this is the book to read. It is the best book an intermediate programmer can understand; it will help you to teach the art of refactoring, which is the second step towards clean code, the first step is designing and writing the 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 book is 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. You may know that most of the modern Java IDE like IntelliJIDEA come with powerful refactoring capabilities and you should use it as much as possible for refactoring your code.

If you need some help I suggest you take a look at the Refactoring Java with the IntelliJIDEA course on Udemy which shows some hands-on examples and live refactoring or Java code. 

Best book to learn code refactoring

8. 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 this list, 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 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 work after reading this book. If you need another reason, this is one of the best sellers created by Donald A. Norman.

list of good programming books

9. Effective Java

Wow, my other favorite and holy grail of Java developers. Understanding 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, like the Java Collection framework and many core classes in java.lang package.

Almost all Java developer is familiar with 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 experiences and Clean Code, and Effective Java is the best example of that philosophy.

10. Clean Coder

This is the second part of the Clean Code, not officially but usually considered. As the name suggests first part teaches you about how a professional programmer to writes code, and this part shows you how to behave as a professional developer.

It's a book about the code of conduct for Professional Programmers, as the 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 a different situation.

You will learn how to say YES and how to say NO, sound funny? But it's not easy to say those two words when it comes to the real job. You need to learn the art of both sayings No and saying Yes so that it has the desired impact and this is the best lesson I have learned from this book. I am sure you will not regret reading this book.

Must read book for every programmer

11. Domain-Driven Design

The software is complex, and anything which helps you to reduce that complexity or allows 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 the 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 a programmer sticks to one domain, like 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

12. 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 interviews 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 the 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 a PDF version on his iPad or Kindle. This book is not only interesting but motivating and expands 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 essential aspects of a programmer's job, but there are more things as well.

In fact, you do need some books, which share real experience from programmers of the last decade. These books motivate you and fill in a new energy. These books are not for any programming language expert, like a Java or C++ developer.

Instead, it's for all programmers and software developers. Before learning Java, C#, JavaScript, or Python, it's crucial 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 on your iPad, Kindle, or your smartphone and read them whenever you get some free time, you will feel recharged.

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Thanks for reading this article, if you like these books, then please share them with your friends and colleagues as well. If you have any questions or feedback, then please drop a note.

P. S. - If you like this article and are hungry for more, check out my post 10 Things Every Programmer Should Learn, 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!

    1. I think UML is strictly an optional skill. For the majority of developers it is useful on a whiteboard to communicate efficiently with other developers. It is a very small minority of developers who have to create UML based documentation, and an even smaller minority who do so for any reason other than that it is a deliverable for the project.
      Almost no one uses UML as a a fundamental design methodology anymore.

    2. I agree but I still suggest you to learn UML, especially to experienced developers. It's a great tool in your arsenal and very effective to convey your thoughts and design.

  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".

    1. Oh Yes, Sorry for typo. It is indeed "Programming Pearls"

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

  8. Code Complete - is a good pick too.

    1. Yes, I second Code Complete 2. This is a very good book. All the books listed in this blog post are good as well. Thanks!

  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 .

  13. Thank you ........ Very Good Books.

  14. This is awesome. Great work! I think we need somebody to post aspect of computer programming and list of books that covers that aspect

  15. There is one book you missed that should be read by every programmer, "The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" by Ableson and Sussman. See the SICP website for a copy.

    This should probably be read a a 3rd or 4th book on programming. It applies to any programmer who knows more than one language.

  16. Sir can I start my career as software engineer at the age of 40.iam mechanical engineer

    1. Yes, you can, just learn some in-demand skills and gain some experience by doing freelancing.


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