Should software developers read books? In a world where an ocean of information is available online, reading books on software development might seem unnecessary. However, a good book is an incredible way of learning a subject in a structured manner, without missing out on critical topics.
In this article, we've compiled a list of the top 15 software development books every software engineer must read to strengthen their understanding of the fundamentals and principles of software development.
While you won’t become a great software developer just by reading these books, they surely can guide you on how to become one. Also, some principles and concepts are best learned from these software development books.
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After doing the required research and learning which books had a lasting impact on the careers of software developers, we’ve put together the top 15 software development books:
- Code Complete
- Clean Code
- The Pragmatic Programmer
- Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
- Introduction to Algorithms
- Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
- Programming Pearls
- Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
- The Clean Coder
- Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
- The Art of Computer Programming
- Head First Design Patterns
- The Mythical Man-Month
The Best 15 Books for Software Development
Good problem-solving skills are developed by enhancing your comprehension skills. And how can you do that? By reading. As a software engineer, you need to develop these skills, and the top 15 software development books we have lined up for you will help you do just that.
#1 Code Complete
Author — Steve McConnell
Number one in the list of software development books, “Code Complete: a Practical Handbook of Software Construction, 2nd Edition,” is one you might have skimmed through at least once in your career. It includes topics such as coding, testing, design, and debugging.
While this book should be picked up by every software engineer out there, it is especially recommended for beginners because it will help them gain the confidence they need to constrict software.
#2 Clean Code
Author — Robert C. Martin
Even though it was written way back in 2008, Clean Code remains an evergreen software development book for learning the principles of written clean programming code. It is filled with examples that’ll help you understand how to make refractor code more readable and maintainable.
Further, it also has a lot of chapters on the common mistakes programmers make. Although the examples included in this book are made in Java, it is still beneficial when working with other object-oriented programming languages.
#3 The Pragmatic Programmer
Authors — David Thomas & Andrew Hunt
Filled to the brim with technical as well as professional practical advice for developers, this software development book is an excellent pick. The book explores the themes of what it means to be a modern developer and other related ones.
Published in 1999, many concepts of this book are still very much valid. One of the most important things that this software development book will teach you is how you can improve the development process.
Author — Martin Fowler
“Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code, 2nd Edition” is a software development book that decodes refactoring and answers several questions that you might have about the topic:
- Why should I refactor my code?
- How is a code successfully refactored?
Once you’ve read this software development book, you’ll have a much better understanding of the process and principles of refactoring.
#5 Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software
Authors — Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson & John Vlissides
The oldest software development book on this list (released in 1994) takes you through the 23 software design patterns. These design patterns can help create designs that are flexible, reusable, and elegant.
This book is great for architects or developers who are building a complex system. The examples written in this book are in C++ and Smalltalk.
#6 Introduction to Algorithms
Authors — Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest & Clifford Stein
Also called CRLS, it’s one of the most popular books on the different kinds of algorithms. This software development book is a detailed guide for all readers — from beginners to professionals.
Every chapter in the book is self-contained and can be studied as a separate unit. Algorithms have been explained in English as well as pseudocode.
#7 Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs
Author — Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman & Julie Sussman
An excellent option for those looking to learn the fundamentals of programming, this lean software development book (also known as SICP) is packed with valuable concepts. The book describes the four most important paradigms of programming languages:
- Applicative programming
#8 Working Effectively With Legacy Code
Author — Michael Feathers
This is another popular software development book. It provides strategies to tackle large and untested legacy code bases. And while you might be thinking that legacy code isn’t a problem in our times, you are wrong.
Even though we might have clean, maintainable code and microservices, legacy code continues to be a challenging problem for several companies. With the help of this book, you’ll be able to get the legacy code ready for testing and see where the code needs changes.
#9 Programming Pearls
Author — Jon Bentley
One of the most influential software development books, it helps you in developing a programmer’s mindset. Each concept has been explained using practical problems along with numerous solutions.
The book challenges its reader to learn the core concepts in memory, CPU, and algorithms with a gradual increase in the difficulty level so that you master every concept.
#10 Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture
Author — Martin Fowler
Another valuable item in the list of software development books by Martin Fowler, it helps you in understanding several concepts such as designs to choose from (MVC, MVVM, templates), how to access your data, etc.
It provides more than 40 patterns to solve common problems when creating enterprise applications. But since this book was released in 2002, some concepts such as REST, JSON, or cloud, are missing.
#11 The Clean Coder
Author — Robert C. Martin
“The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers” is another gem on the list of software development books by Robert Martin. It includes practical advice on estimating, coding, refactoring, and testing.
If you read this book and practice it, you’ll be able to:
- Handle conflicts, tight schedules, and unreasonable managers
- Navigate high-pressure situations without burning out
- Get into the flow of coding
#12 Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software
Author — Petzold Charles
This book in this list of software development books will help you understand older concepts such as Morse Code, Braille, and Boolean logic, giving you a deeper insight into vacuum tubes, transistors, and integrated circuits.
Further, it also explains several new age concepts such as floating-point arithmetic, operating systems, GUIs, and packet-based communication protocols.
#13 The Art of Computer Programming
Author — Donald Knuth
A great entry in the list of classic software development books, the book is widely praised by some of the top programmers in the world because of the combination of mathematical exactness and outstanding humor throughout.
Starting with basic programming concepts, it covers various techniques and programming algorithms and detailed explanations.
#14 Head First Design Patterns
Author — Eric Freeman, Bert Bates, Kathy Sierra & Elisabeth Robson
One of the best software development books on design patterns, it teaches readers the best practices for creating software that is functional, reusable, elegant as well as flexible. Further, it even has great visualizations that’ll help you learn new concepts.
The examples in this book have been written in Java, so if you know the programming language or any other object-oriented language, it could be very helpful.
#15 The Mythical Man-Month
Author — Frederick Brooks
Referred to as a Bible by many software developers, this is one of those software development books that helps you understand concepts around the essence and accidents of software engineering.
This book focuses on Brooks’ Law which means, “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
FAQs on Software Development Books
Q1. What books should software developers read?
Some of the most important software development books are Clean Code, The Pragmatic Programmer, Mythical Man-Month, Woking Effectively With Legacy Code, among others.
Q2. Which is the best software development book?
While there are many options, you can go for, Clean Code and Cracking the Coding Interview can be beneficial in becoming a better software developer.
Q3. How do I learn to code using software development books?
Most software development books out there are filled with examples and solutions that’ll help you understand programming languages better and more in-depth.
Q4. Which three software development books can shape the way you think about software development?
The top 3 software development books that can greatly impact your understanding of the subject are Code Complete, The Pragmatic Program, and Clean Code.
Q5. What is meant by clean code?
Clean code is a code that is easily understandable and can be easily changed as well. The most popular definition of clean code is code that is easy to understand and easy to change.
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