Best Computer Science Books

Updated August 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
411 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best computer science books

Last Updated August 2020

The world runs on computers. Everything we do from our jobs to our entertainment is dependent on technology. Even our health is monitored by apps these days — your smartwatch probably knows as much about you as your doctor does. If you want to have an edge, something that makes you stand out no matter what you do, grab a computer science book and start learning.

The best computer science books focus on what you want or need to learn and will advance your understanding from basic to more complex topics without leaving any holes. Additionally, they go deep enough to satisfy your knowledge needs and are written in a way that’s clear and engaging.

A solid foundation in computer science can enrich your life and open doors, keep reading. If you’re looking for a computer science book that can give you the information you need, check out the favorites we’re highlighting here.

Every time you press a button or touch a screen on a device, remember that someone had to first tell that device exactly what to do when you press that button or touch that screen.

Key considerations

Types of computer science books

Everyone has a different reason for wanting to learn more about computer science. The key to finding the best one for you is placing your focus on the computer science books that cover the type of material you wish to learn.

Level: It’s very important to choose a computer science book that starts where you are in your knowledge. For instance, if you’re an absolute beginner, you don’t want to purchase a book that assumes you already have a thorough knowledge of algorithms.

History: Some computer science books are excellent when it comes to mapping out timelines filled with critical moments in the evolution of technology. They also help you to really get to know some of the iconic individuals who made those technological advances possible. However, when it comes to actual math, science, and problem-solving strategies, these types of books aren't of much use. Be sure the books you’re considering provide the type of information that you seek.

Focus: Many computer science books are broad and superficial, giving you a good summary of what you need to know, enough to carry on a conversation at a party, but they don’t go deep enough into any subject matter to give you an advantage in the work world. If you need to fully understand network architecture, for instance, look for a book that offers more than a few cursory paragraphs on that topic.

Thinking strategies: A great deal of coding work is more about solving problems than understanding the nuances of a particular language. If you’re interested in writing code, consider the broader scope benefits to purchasing one of these types of books.

Languages: Sometimes you do need to know all the quirks of a particular language because that’s all you’ll be using. If you were traveling to France, you'd need to learn French. If you’ll be working with C++, then you need a book that focuses on C++.

Study guides: There are a few computer science books that assume you already have a fairly firm grasp of the subject, so they’re designed to help you pass specific exams. If this is your situation, a test prep book is probably the best option for you.

EXPERT TIP

The best way to learn is by doing. Look for a computer science book that encourages hands-on learning.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

After you find some books that are in line with what you need, there are a few other elements to consider.

Accessibility

When a book is a hard read, either because of awkwardly constructed sentences or unnecessarily large and confusing words, it prohibits learning. If you choose a book that necessitates reading each page five times before it becomes a little less murky, you'll probably give up before you give yourself a fair chance. Look for a book that is easy to read and comprehend on the first pass.

Binding

Paperbacks are the more affordable option, but hardcover books are far more durable (in most cases). Whichever type of book meets your usage needs and your budgetary concerns should be the one you select. Of course, there are digital editions of many, if not all, of these books, too, if you prefer reading on a tablet, phone, or computer.

Additional content

Many computer science books link to additional materials online. Typically, these materials are free, but you can only access them once you purchase the book. In general, the more resources you have at your fingertips, the greater your learning comprehension will be. If you'd like to have the richest, most rewarding learning experience possible, look for books that allow you to explore beyond the pages.

It doesn't matter which field you work in or how old or young you are, computer science is what drives our modern world, and the greater your knowledge is on that subject, the better chance you have of success in any endeavor.

Computer science book prices

Inexpensive: If you’re looking for an inexpensive book, between $7 and $12 will get you a paperback that is either very targeted or somewhat general, with only a cursory look at computer science or the principles of computer science. If either one of these is what you need, you're in luck because you won't need to spend a great deal of money.

Mid-range: From $12 to $25, the books are longer, so they can go into greater detail. Many of these books are also written to better engage an individual who wants to pursue knowledge independently, so they’re more prone to explaining principles at the beginner level.

Expensive: If you want to gain an in-depth understanding of a broad range of computer science principles, consider books in the $25 to $40 price range. These will likely be a tougher read, and some chapters may go deeper than you require for general knowledge, but unless you’re thinking about majoring in computer science, this price range should be sufficient.

Premium: Note that college-level textbooks are also available for the enthusiast who wants to dive deeper, but these are only for the most serious of individuals because they can run you $100 or more.

EXPERT TIP

The best way to understand is by experimenting. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the pages of your computer science book to investigate principles that intrigue you.


Staff  | BestReviews

Computer science jobs

  • Cloud engineer
  • Computer hardware developer
  • Computer research scientist
  • Cyber security consultant
  • Database administrator
  • Database developer
  • Game developer
  • Information systems manager
  • IT project manager
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Mobile app developer
  • Multimedia programmer
  • Network administrator
  • Network architect
  • Software developer
  • Systems analyst
  • Technical writer
  • Telecommunications manager
  • Web developer
  • Wireless engineer

Other products we considered

As noted above, everyone has a personal reason for wanting to learn more about computer science. Bearing this in mind, it's possible that you'll want a broader selection of computer science books to choose from. The following are a few more highly rated options. Computers Made Easy: From Dummy to Geek by James Bernstein does not cover programming, but this book does explain how computers work. Designed for beginners, Bernstein covers everything from peripherals to troubleshooting, so you feel genuinely comfortable using a computer.

Think Like a Programmer: An Introduction to Creative Problem Solving by V. Anton Spraul also doesn't specifically teach you how to program. It trains you on how to think like a programmer. By reading this book, you’ll develop a wide variety of thinking strategies so that you’re equipped to solve any coding problem you come across.

Beginning Programming: All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies by Wallace Wang is for anyone who is looking for a reference book that covers everything from HTML to encrypting algorithms. At nearly 700 pages, it touches on all the key aspects of computer science from understanding databases to robotics.

It doesn't matter what information a computer science book covers. If it isn’t presented in a way that engages the reader and allows them to steadily progress, gaining knowledge and insight, it hasn’t done its job.

FAQ

Q. What skills or interests do I need if I want to excel in computer science?
A.
The obvious one is math. If you aren’t a fan of math, computer science may not be enjoyable for you. Additionally, you must be a great communicator, not only with computer code but with words as well. You must be able to clearly outline and present a set of instructions to a machine and to people, so they understand how to best use what you've created. However, most important of all is the desire to solve puzzles and think creatively, because the largest, most essential component of computer science is being able to solve problems, often in imaginative ways that no one else has considered, which, coincidentally, means you also need to be creative.


Q. How do I know if computer science is right for me?
A.
With all the amazing things computers allow us to do from gaming to sharing photos with the world, you have to be careful that you don't mistakenly think you like computer science because you like what you can do with computers. For example, everyone enjoys a good book or movie, but not everyone has the drive, determination, and skills to be a writer or director. Do you prefer using or do you prefer creating? If you can honestly answer that question, then you’ll know if computer science is right for you.
 

Q. Why would I want to get a book on computer science if that's not my chosen career?
A.
Computers are everywhere. The better you understand technology, the greater the advantage you will have in life. Even if your job has nothing to do with creating new technologies, you will still be using technology to get your job done. If you’re clueless and do nothing to change that, expect to be left behind.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
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    Ana
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
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    Editor
  • Ciera
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    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
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    Web Producer

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