Across the country and throughout the world, software developers are among the most in-demand professionals. Studying computer science, whether as a major in college or through self-study, can prepare you for a career in software development, coding, project management, and other related careers, many of which are very well paid. Whether you dream of working for a tech giant like Google or Meta or just want to learn some basic code for a personal website, computer science resources can teach you valuable, transferable skills that will help you succeed in our tech-dependent world.
How We Picked the Best Books for Computer Science
To create our list of the best computer science books, we gathered an initial list of 121 books from bestseller lists published by The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. To narrow the list down, we identified books commonly recommended on Reddit and Goodreads. We also based our choices on the book’s utility and accessibility. We made sure the books are well-respected and that they reflect the cutting edge of computer science knowledge and practice.
The 20 Best Computer Science Books
Computer science books vary widely in their approach and intended audience. In this list of the 20 best computer science books, you’ll find everything from coding handbooks to the history of today’s giant tech companies and everything in between. Whatever your level of computer science skill, you’ll find resources to guide your continued learning.
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles PetzoldBuy Now
Our top pick for computer science books is Charles Petzold’s Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, which provides readers of all backgrounds with a peek inside how computers actually work. The author uses lots of illustrations and draws analogies to familiar languages, such as Braille and Morse Code, to build a bridge between the known and unfamiliar.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian ChristianBuy Now
Algorithms to Live By explores how we can use computer algorithms to solve common decision-making problems and better understand how our minds work. This interdisciplinary book shows how you can use computer algorithms for everything—from finding a life partner to locating a parking spot and organizing your email inbox.
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, 2nd Edition by Harold Abelson, Julie Sussman, and Gerald Jay SussmanBuy Now
Written by MIT computer science professors, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs is a comprehensive computer programming text for scientists who want to understand the math and theory behind programming. The book is dense but delivered with a light touch and will be especially engaging to students with an academic background in mathematics.
Algorithms, 4th Edition by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin WayneBuy Now
Algorithms is the most widely used college textbook on algorithms and is assigned as required reading at universities around the globe. The book comprehensively addresses the most important algorithms in use and comes with access to an online companion site rich in additional resources. The textbook and online content also integrate with a MOOC.
Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. MartinBuy Now
Robert C. Martin’s Clean Code teaches you how to recognize and write code that not only works but is clean, elegant, and less likely to cause problems down the line. You’ll learn what good code is, how to turn bad code into good code, and how to best format and test code.
Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, 2nd Edition by Steve McConnellBuy Now
Code Complete is a clear, pragmatic guide to computer programming and software construction. The book combines insights from academic, research, and commercial practice and includes hundreds of code samples. The emphasis is on minimizing complexity and maximizing creativity. It’s an encyclopedia of best practices for writing effective code.
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfeeBuy Now
The Second Machine Age is a New York Times bestselling book that looks at how technology is transforming the world as we know it. The book explains that in the coming years, digital technologies and computer algorithms will take over many of the tasks humans currently carry out — such as doctors diagnosing patients. In addition to laying out these changes, the authors detail a plan for a new path to prosperity.
Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook by Workman Publishing and Grant SmithBuy Now
Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is a reference guide written for middle school students. It contains easy-to-follow diagrams, charts, images, and explanations, and is akin to reading the class notes of the smartest kid in school. The book is praised by adolescents and adults alike.
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick BostromBuy Now
Written by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence posits that if machine brains surpass human brains in measures of intelligence, then machines might replace humans as the dominant species on Earth. The book lays out different scenarios and causes readers to ponder questions about how to engage with technology now in order to ensure our survival into the future.
C Programming Language, 2nd Edition by Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. RitchieBuy Now
Written by the developers of C, C Programming Language is a complete guide to ANSI standard C language programming. This textbook is not suitable for beginner computer science students, so it’s important that you have a working knowledge of basic computer science principles before diving in to learn C, which is one of the more difficult programming languages.
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks JrBuy Now
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering is one of the most influential and evergreen books on software project management. The author, Frederick P. Brooks Jr., wrote a series of essays that draws on his experience as a project manager in the IBM System/360 computer family and then for its huge software system OS/360.
The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture by John BattelleBuy Now
The Search is about much more than how Google became one of the most massive, profitable, and game-changing tech companies in history. It’s also a big-picture book about how we got here and where we’re going, covering the past, present, and future of search engine technology and how it will continue to impact every sphere of life.
C Programming Absolute Beginner’s Guide, 3rd Edition by Greg Perry and Dean MillerBuy Now
C Programming Absolute Beginner’s Guide offers true beginners a clear, simple-to-follow, step-by-step introduction to understanding and using the C programming language. The book takes the time to explain each step clearly so you can self-study your way to using C. The concepts you learn here can help you learn other programming languages as well.
Computer Science Principles: The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science by Kevin P. HareBuy Now
Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions by Gayle Laakmann McDowellBuy Now
Cracking the Coding Interview prepares you to ace job interviews for software developer roles. This book uses real interview questions from top tech companies such as Google and Facebook. You will learn and/or review everything from the most basic to the toughest algorithm questions you can imagine. The book offers five concrete strategies for tackling algorithm questions and techniques to prepare for the soft skills component of the interview.
Data Structures and Algorithms with Scala by Bhim P. UpadhyayaBuy Now
Data Structures and Algorithms with Scala is designed for time-pressured students and software professionals with a working knowledge of the object-functional language Scala who want to improve their skills. Besides the content knowledge delivered, the book contains many exercises and with answer explanations to help you put what you’ve learned into practice.
Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John VlissidesBuy Now
Design Patterns introduces 23 previously undocumented patterns that allow you to create efficient, elegant, and creative designs without reinventing the wheel. The book teaches you how these design patterns fit into the software development process and where and when you can use each pattern. Each pattern also includes code that shows you how to implement it.
Designing Data-Intensive Applications by Martin KleppmannBuy Now
Martin Kleppman’s Designing Data-Intensive Applications walks you through the pros and cons of different technologies that process and analyze data to equip you to select the best one for your needs. The book teaches software engineers and architects how to make the most of the data solutions available today.
Effective Java, 2nd Edition by Joshua BlochBuy Now
Written by one of the developers of Java, Effective Java teaches you the ins and outs of the Java programming language. The book addresses not only the “what” but also the “why” to help you understand the behind-the-scenes reality of Java. It’s appropriate for students or any professionals who have some background in computer science and want to learn Java.
Introduction to Algorithms, 3rd Edition by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, and Clifford SteinBuy Now
Introduction to Algorithms is a textbook that provides an in-depth look at a broad range of algorithms in an accessible, user-friendly way. You’ll get the most out of the textbook if you have a working understanding of data structures, linear algebra, and discrete mathematics. The new edition adds lots of exercises and problems so you can test your skills in practice.