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The 9 Best Programming Books I Have Read (so far)

Below you can find a non exhaustive list of the best programming books I have read so far. I have read a lot more books about programming, but most of them I read and promptly forgotten about them: they are not worthy of being in this list of bests. I am reading currently a few more (Code Complete, Thinking Forth), and maybe they can make it into a list like this that my future self writes.

And now, the list of the best programming books I have read so far. I'm currently on and off with Thinking Forth, but it is still to early to tell if I like it. I like Forth programming (as I like Lisp, C or almost any other language...), and so far the book looks damn good. But there's a lot to learn from there and it will take me a while to grasp it... and consider turning this into a list of 10 books.

Do you have a really good programming book to suggest? Please post it in the comments, I'll try to have a look at it.



Best Programming Books: Kernighan and Ritchie C
Kernighan & Ritchie's The C Programming Language

This was one of the first programming books I read on its fullest, and probably the only one I was really forced to do so. In my first year in the University, I was required to program in C, and previously I had only programmed in Basic (Visual Basic, GW-Basic, QBasic), Pascal (Turbo Pascal for MS-Dos and Windows). The first semester was ok, as we were taught the basics of the language, but I wanted more and started reading this book (loaned from the library). I like it a lot, learnt a lot and I still think that its clear style and simple examples make it the best language specific programming book I will ever read... If we don't pit it against the following. Obviously, this is a 'dry' book: I would never recommend it to someone who was beginning to learn programming... But he should read it.



Paul Graham's ANSI Common Lisp

This is probably the best programming book I have read. I learnt about Lisp a long, long time ago, but stalled on it until I stumbled upon Graham's site, and read his somewhat inspiring history behind Viaweb. Decided to give it a try, and have loved this language since then. My first buy from Amazon was this great book, and won't ever regret having bought it, would probably even be one of my 10 books to take to a desert island. Worth a buy, and even a second buy to give it as a present to a programmer friend.





Friedman & Felleisen's The Little Lisper

A little and short gem among programming books, teaches recursion, some programming and a little subset of the Lisp language to anybody in a little number of pages. It is worth a read, even if you have been into programming for a long time.




Update: readers suggested that The Little Schemer is better, these days (for price, mostly). But the same review applies



Hunt & Thomas' The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

This is probably one of the most recommended books on programming, and for a clear reason: it will make your life easier, once you grasp everything it has to teach. Buy it. Now. And read it as soon as you have it.




Adobe's Chapter 8 of The Postscript Programming Language Reference Manual

The PPLRM is a huge book, with lots and lots of information. And yet, the only part I have ever used is Chapter 8: Operators. Almost anything can be found in here, if you know how stack-based languages go. Concise and to the point: is just a chapter on how operators work.

Buy on Amazon link (full book, of course)



Watt & Mangada's Basic para niƱos

This translates as Basic for kids, and it is a really lovely book. My first programming book, I learn a lot from it (although maybe too many goto's ;) It is a wonderful book for teaching programming to children between 5 and 11 years old. Do you readers know if there is something similar but up-to-date?

Not available to buy (AFAIK)


SAMS' Teach Yourself Python in 24 hours

Yes, I fell for the Teach Yourself X in N hours/days, but this book is good. It feels more like an introduction to the language than one of those standard rubbish books. But after a while, you grow to hate the Mayan calendar examples the author loves, sadly.



Friedman & Felleisen's A Little Java: A Few Patterns

I though I should give a try to another Friedman-Felleisen combination. This is not as good as The Little Lisper, but it does not mean it's bad!. Just not the same type of book. Worth a read to get some insights in Java, but loaning from the library would be a safer bet. I would not probably buy it.

Buy on Amazon link
Buy on The Book Depository (free international shipping)


Abelson & Sussman's The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

A classic one... Known as The wizard book, for its cover. But I think I just read half of the book, from re-reading the Contents. Maybe I forgot everything? Focused on programming in Scheme, it teaches a lot about general computer science. Worth having, but it is quite a hard read. It is freely available.




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Written by Ruben Berenguel