You can learn a lot about coding just by trying it. But for expert advice and insight into the past and future of the computer science field, you’ll want to open a computer science book.
Computer science textbooks build useful skills, while computer science fiction can be fascinating, fun, and informative all at the same time. Computer science books on philosophy provide insight into the relationship between computers, logic, and human experience.
Here are our recommended computer science reads to get you started.
Craftsmanship: the best books for teaching computer science
Computer textbooks and non-fiction provide insight into computer systems, processes, and technologies. They also provide advanced information to enhance your knowledge as you explore the latest ideas in computing.
Computer books range from comprehensive to extremely specialized. From training manuals to textbooks, works like these take up space on the shelves of computer science students, professionals and hobbyists.
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Mat
By Douglas R. Hofstadter
This book explores maps and the links between formal systems. Hofstadter identifies formal systems as the foundation of all mental activity. He uses Kurt Gödel, MC Escher and Johann Sebastian Bach to illustrate the nature of human intelligence and mind. Short stories, puns and riddles flavor the work.
Introduction to the Theory of Computation
By Michael Sipser
The book facilitates a clear understanding of simple and complex computer theory topics and concepts. Practical exercises and exercises accompany the practical and philosophical exploration of theorems, proofs and comparable mathematical treatments.
land of lisp
By Conrad Barsky
This book is an accessible guide to one of the oldest and most influential coding languages, LISP. Barski’s comics, games, and pictures introduce LISP syntax and semantics. Readers learn how to program games, use advanced features like macros, and build a web server with LISP.
The design of everyday things
By Don Norman
Norman’s book presents simple rules for functional design. The work incorporates ideas from ecological psychology, ergonomics, behavioral psychology and communication. Computer scientists might appreciate his advice on user-centered design.
The little schemer
By Daniel P. Friedman and Matthias Felleisen
This book presents computer science as an outgrowth of mathematics via the Scheme programming language. It uses illustrations to explain complicated ideas. The book’s conversational tone helps make a difficult topic accessible to computer novices and advanced programmers alike.
Types and programming languages
By Benjamin C. Pierce
Pierce presents a comprehensive guide to type systems and programming languages from a theoretical and practical point of view. Programming examples and exercises accompany each section. Topics include simple type systems, universal and existential polymorphism, and type operators.
Fiction: the most entertaining books on computer science
Computer literacy isn’t just in textbooks. The novels explain the history of computing, its role in today’s society, and how it could influence our future.
Computer science fiction books can give you insight into a new aspect of the field or explain something you couldn’t quite grasp in textbook form. They can also bend your mind, give you a sense of escape, and make you think about the relationship between humans and computers in a completely different way.
By DF Jones
The first book in the trilogy of the same name, the book explores the creation and power of a supercomputer called Colossus. The speed, artificial intelligence and authority acquired by Colossus propel the creation of a rival, Guardian. Struggles of man against machine, of machine against machine, of man against man run through the work.
The divine machine
By Martin Caidin
Published in 1968, Caldin’s novel follows Steve Rand, a cyber technician working on an artificial intelligence project for the government. Dubbed Project 79, the creation quickly spirals out of control, prompting Rand to take action.
By Neal Stephenson
Stephenson intertwines the lives of Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse and his grandson, Randy. This quick and seemingly prophetic work explores technological developments and the aftermath of World War II, the rise of the Internet, and the importance of data encryption.
By Mikhail Voloshin
Voloshin’s main character, Danny, lived as an obscure computer scientist until tech investor Jason Tuttle brought down his employer. Danny offers Tuttle his IT services. The new job goes awry when Danny gets mixed up in the Russian mafia.
The moon is a harsh mistress
By Robert Heinlein
Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel is set on the moon, where a self-aware supercomputer rules a penal colony. The book sheds light on the complex relationships between humanity, technology, morality and freedom.
When Harlie was a
By David Gerold
Harlie (short for Human Analog Replication Lethetic Intelligence Engine) works like an artificial intelligence machine. Harlie is tasked with understanding human behavior. Its creator, David Auberson, panics when he realizes that Harlie knows a lot more than he could have imagined.
Philosophy: Required Reading for Computer Scientists
Why combine philosophy and computer science? Philosophy uses logic and reason to answer humanity’s biggest questions and examine the human experience – goals shared by some computer scientists.
Philosophy and computer science have their foundations in logical reasoning. The former is concerned with words, while the latter applies numbers and symbolic forms.
Books on computer science and philosophy explore how the two disciplines relate and inform each other and how they can progress together.
By Atul Gawande
This book encourages the use of checklists for large and small tasks. Using stories from around the world, Gawande highlights the effectiveness of checklists and how they can promote change. Computer scientists will appreciate the book’s focus on getting it right.
Ethics in the Information Age
By Michael Quinn
This book advocates careful consideration of the long-term and short-term consequences of technology by examining its social and ethical advantages and disadvantages. Quinn uses ethical theories to discuss and analyze issues facing IT professionals and contemporary computer users.
how the mind works
By Steven Pinker
This work asks fundamental questions about the human mind. Pinker combines cognitive science, evolutionary biology, information technology and art to explain how humans think and behave. Combined, these disciplines can provide insight into the future of the human mind and artificial intelligence.
Buyer beware – and enjoy
The computer science books on this list give you different perspectives on the discipline. Some are more technical, while others are aimed at a general audience. Reviews can help you decide if each book belongs on your reading list.
Old computer manuals can be hard to find, so be sure to use a reputable seller or publisher. Some sellers may offer scanned and printed or digitally produced editions at a lower cost. Always check reviews (and make sure they match the product being sold) before buying a book from a third-party seller.
Most importantly, enjoy diving deeper into computing.