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Top 6 books to learn Java Virtual Machine, Garbage Collection, and Performance [UPDATED]

In the last couple of years, I have seen a trend of many Java developers wants to learn more and more about JVM internals and how Java Virtual Machine and its different component works. This trend was not so strong in the last decade, but with more and more focus on concurrency, performance, and scalability, Java developer is exploring JVM internals, Garbage collection, and Performance tuning in more detail. Unfortunately, there are not many good books to learn about JVM internals and their different components, but fortunately, we have an excellent Java Virtual Machine specification to learn fundamentals. It is also the most up-to-date reference because Java and JVM are kept changing, especially after Java 10.

Once you know the fundamentals, you can easily apply the more advanced concepts. I receive a lot of emails about the recommendation of the best books to learn JVM internals and garbage collections from experienced Java programmers, and hence I decided to write about this post to share some of the best books on JVM internals and Java performance, Garbage collection, and memory management in general.

The books in this list are solely for advanced Java developer who has at least 4 to 6 years of Java working experience under their belt. It's not for beginners, and most likely lot of concepts will go top of your head unless you understand critical components like JIT, Garbage collector, Java heap structure, byte codes, and other JVM internals.

Btw, if you prefer online courses, which I do nowadays, I also suggest you check the Understanding the Java Virtual Machine series of courses on Pluralsight, which covers memory management, Security, and Class Loading and Reflection.

6 Best JVM Internals and Java Performance Books for Experienced Developers

Without wasting any more of your time, here is my list of some of the best books to learn JVM internals, Garbage Collection, and Performance tuning in Java. Though you don't need to read all the books to become an expert in JVM internals, you choose the one book along with the specification and stick with it. Once you have good knowledge, you can check other books to learn more about them.

1. Optimizing Java by Benjamin J Evans

The Optimizing Java: Practical Techniques for Improving JVM Application Performance 1st Edition
by Benjamin J Evans, James Gough, and Chris Newland is one of the best books to understand how Garbage collection and JVM works internally.

I originally missed this book on the list because I haven't read it until Ben suggested it in the comments, but just reading a couple of pages, I was convinced that this book deserves mention in this list.

Many books focus mainly on G.C., but this one describes many more aspects of JVM internals like threading, JVM internal memory representation, bytecode, JIT compilers, etc. Moreover, the book contains an overview of many useful tools that can help you on a daily basis work with JVM.

This book is also much more approachable in this list than some specialized books like The Garbage collection handbook, which is excellent for people who want to learn G.C. algorithms in-depth but may not be needed for most of the developers.

If you need some help and want to see things, in reality, I also suggest you check out the Java Application Performance and Memory Management course by Matt Greecroft and Virtual Programmers. It's a wonderful course to learn how to analyze heap dump, improve Java performance, understand GC logs, and solve memory leaks. I highly recommend it.

Best books to learn JVM and JIT in depth

2. The Java Virtual Machine Specification, Java S.E. 14 Edition

This is the most authoritative source to learn about a new Java virtual machine that comes as part of the JDK 12 release. So it includes lambda expression, method reference, static factory method, string in switch case, and other language enhancements made in the Java S.E. 14 release and previous releases.

In my opinion, The Java Virtual Machine Specification, Java S.E. 14 Edition by Tim Lindholm, Frank Yellin, Gilad Bracha, and Alex Buckley is the best book to learn JVM internals but it's not very readable.

When I first tried to read this specification, I was overwhelmed with the depth of the knowledge and wording, but slowly I picked it up. I don't read it end-to-end but rather use it as reference material when I need to learn a particular topic.

No doubt it's an excellent reference and must-read guide for JVM internals by any Senior Java developers, and I accept the readability issue with the complexity of the subject matter unless we have proper JVM internal books aimed at average Java developers. However, if you want to learn more about JVM memory stuff, then the Java Memory Management course on Udemy is also an excellent resource.

Best books to learn Java Virtual MAchine

3. Java Performance: In-Depth Advice for Tuning and Programming Java 8, 11, and Beyond by Scott Oaks

This is the book I recommend to the average Java programmer to learn about JVM internals. It's not as detailed and sophisticated as the above two books, but it contains enough detail on both Java Virtual Machine and Garbage collector, which I believe every experienced Java programmer should know.

 With a pragmatic approach, the author bridges the gap between coding and testing, asserting that anyone working with Java should possess a profound understanding of how code behaves in the Java Virtual Machine. 

The book, rated 4.6 out of 5 stars, presents practical insights into Java application performance using both the JVM and the Java platform. It delves into the nuances of various Java platforms and compilers, demystifies the workings of Java garbage collection, and introduces four essential principles for optimal performance testing.

This book is the new edition of The Java Performance The Definitive Guide By Scott Oaks which I have included earlier on this list which is  undoubtedly the best book to learn JVM internals for many Java programmers who are keen to learn the fundamentals of JVM and how different components of JVM works. 

In short, a must-read book for every experienced Java programmer. You can also combine this book with the Java Multithreading, Concurrency & Performance Optimization course by Michael Pogrebinsky to further learn Java performance optimization by actually watching and doing. 

best book to learn about Java Performance

4. The Garbage Collection Handbook 

One of the exciting parts of the Java Virtual machine is automatic memory management, which is done by a Garbage collector. Garbage collection is a very complicated process and involves a sophisticated algorithm to collect unreachable objects without affecting the performance of the Java application negatively.

The Garbage Collection Handbook: The Art of Automatic Memory Management (Chapman & Hall/CRC Applied Algorithms and Data Structures series) is one of the best books to understand Garbage collection algorithms in a systematic and practical way.

If you are a senior Java developer with a focus on G.C. tuning and performance improvement, then this is the must-read book for you.

best book to learn about Garbage Collection in Java

5. Java Performance by Charlie Hunt

This is another book I used to recommend to my readers and students before I come across Java Performance The Definitive Guide By Scott Oaks, but it holds its ground even after that book claimed a lot of market share on the Java performance topic.

Both Binu John and Charlie Hunt are the authority on JVM options and Java Performance space, and they teach essential JVM internals information in a much more readable way than you find in The Java Virtual Machine Specification, Java S.E. 8 Edition book.

The only drawback is that it's not up-to-date, but once you know the fundamentals, you can easily upgrade yourself with more recent concepts and development by reading these specifications and articles.

hands-on book to learn about  Java performance

6. Java Performance Companion

This is like the updated version of the previous book o learn about JVM internals and performance tuning. Again author Charlie Hunt teamed with Monica Beckwith, Poonam Parhar, and Bengt Rutisson to teach you how to improve the performance of Java applications.

This is the most up-to-date book but only covers Java S.E. 8, which is not bad given most of the Java applications are still using Java S.E. 8.

best Java performance books for experienced programmer

That's all about some of the best books to learn JVM internals. These are great books to understand both theory and practical about how a Java virtual machine works, How garbage collector works, and how the Just in time compiler optimizes the performance of Java programs.

As a senior Java developer it's also expected from you to know Java in and out, and with an increased focus on JVM internals, G.C. tuning, and performance improvement, it would be imperative for an experienced Java developer to learn more and more about JVM and Garbage collector.

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Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like these best Java performance and JVM internal books, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback, then please drop a note.

P.S. - If you like to learn from courses, then you can also check out this list of best courses to learn JVM and Garbage collection better. The list contains some of the best books on the topic of JVM internals and performance tuning.


  1. I'll admit to being a little disappointed not to see my book "Optimizing Java" on this list. I'd like to think that we were a little more accessible (& useful in day-to-day work) than, for example, the Garbage Collection Handbook, which is an excellent book for GC implementors but not very applicable to the vast majority of Java application programmers.

    1. Hello Ben, definitely, Optimizing Java deserved a mention in this list. It's indeed more approachable for Java developers than GC algorithm book. I'll add this book into list now.


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