The Greatest Software Development Books of All Time

The Greatest Software Development Books of All Time

There is a question that is often asked: do I have to read books to become a better developer? Usually the question is yes, but when you ask which books? You will get different answers from different people as there are so many topics in the field of software engineering. Over the years, I developed a routine for reading a lot of books, so taking into account my own experience, the experiences of many peers I talked to, as well as other sources that compiled similar lists [1][2][3][4][5] (some of them use analytics to calculate the score), I compiled a list of the best books that any software developer should read at some point in a career.

Just to take a brief note, just reading these books will not make you a great developer, for that you will need many years of development, but you will gain insight into some guiding principles that you can apply. In addition, by reading them you will avoid making some common mistakes in development.

This list is not complete, as there are always some new and good books, but these made the biggest impact in the careers of many software developers, and since there are mostly language diagnostics, they can be used using any programming language.

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One of the greatest software development books ever written by Uncle Bob Martin in 2008. It was written to teach software engineers the principles of writing pure programming code. There are a lot of examples inside that show how to re-factorize code to be more readable and maintainable. In addition, it contains chapters on common mistakes made by all kinds of programmers and chapters to explain SOLID principles of object-oriented design. Although the examples in the book are made in Java, it is just as useful for other object-oriented programming languages.

In addition to this book, there are several books in the Uncle Bob series, such as Clean Coder, Clean Architecture, etc.


This book is filled with both technical and professional practical advice for developers to become better developers. It explores what it means to be a modern developer, by reviewing topics ranging from personal responsibility and career development to architectural techniques. Although written in 1999, it is still valid in many respects. The unique thing about this book is that it teaches you a pragmatic way with a collection of tips to improve the development process. Authors advise e.g. readers to learn a text editor and use it for everything and also recommend using version tracking software for even the smallest projects.


Some people consider this book to be the best practical guide to programming, highly recommended for beginners. Again one of the books written more than 15 years ago, still valid today. It deals with topics such as design, coding, debugging and testing. In more than 900 pages, authors describe how to write programs for humans first and then for computers, how to share your code in the form of domains, and how to master the human qualities of top coders (humility, curiosity and most importantly, keep your ego in chess).


Probably the most famous and oldest books from this list (published in 1994.). It describes 23 software design patterns in three different categories, to create more flexible, elegant and reusable designs without having to rediscover the design solutions themselves. An idea for a design pattern as a recyclable form of a solution to a design pattern was taken from the architect Christopher Alexander. It is a must-read for an architect or developer of a complex system. The authors are often referred to as Gang of Four (GoF). The book contains examples in C ++ and Smalltalk.


In this book, Martin Fowler writes about improving the design of an existing code. It represents refactoring as a process of modifying a software system in a way that does not alter the external behavior of the code but enhances its internal structure. By using refactoring as a technique, it is possible to take a bad design and rework it into a good one. In the book you can find a catalog of more than 40 proven refactorings with details of when and why you should use them. In the first edition, he uses Java as the main language, but these principles apply to any object-oriented language. In the second edition, the primary programming language used in the book is JavaScript.


One of the most famous books on all kinds of algorithms in depth (also known as CLRS). It represents a comprehensive guide for all kinds of readers, from beginners to professionals. Each chapter is relatively independent and can be used as a study unit. Algorithms are described in English and pseudocode, so you can be familiar even with someone who did not do much coding. It can be said that it is more of a theoretical book than a practical one. The book covers topics such as data structures, fast algorithms, graph theory, computational geometry and more.


This book is one of the best books to learn the basics of programming (also known as SICP). It represents a basic course in technical programming at MIT and uses a chart to show different programming concepts. The book explains the four best-known paradigms of programming languages: imperative, logic-based, object-oriented, and applied programming.


In this book, Michael Feathers offers different strategies on how to deal with large and untested older code bases. The book is important as almost all developers at some point in their careers have to work with an older system and it still represents the most challenging issues for many companies. The book goes deep into the understanding of the general process of a software change such as. adding features, fixing bugs, optimizing performance, etc. In addition, it will teach you how to get legacy code ready for testing and identify where to change the code. Examples in the book are written in C, C ++, C # and Java.


The book represents one of the most influential books that helps a person think like a programmer. Each concept in the book is covered by practical problems and different solutions. The book challenges the reader to understand the core concepts of memory, CPU and algorithms and gradually increase the difficulties instead of giving the answer right away. “Programming Beads” is a slightly different book than others on this list, and it represents a solid way of teaching problems with data structures and algorithms, especially searching, sorting, and so on.


Another book on this list from a prolific author Martin Fowler who deals with business application development practices. The book teaches you different concepts, such as: if you put your application correctly in layers, you are aware of different presentation designs that you can choose from (MVC, MVVM, templates), how to access your data, etc. Martin provides over 40 patterns as solutions to common problems in designing business applications. It comes with a lot of UML diagrams and code examples in Java and C #. Consider that the book is from 2002. so it lacks some of the modern concepts such as REST, JSON or cloud.


Honorable mentions

In addition to the top 10 books on software development, there are many more great books that are not easy to exclude from this list. Here are some of the ones I would highly recommend reading:

  • The Art of Computer Programming, written by a famous computer scientist from Stanford University, Prof. Donald Knuth. This book is very popular and highly praised by many of the best programmers in the world for its combined mathematical accuracy with unique humor throughout the chapters.
  • Head First Design Patterns, is a book that describes design patterns and best practices used by other developers to create functional, reusable, elegant, and flexible software. It is also packed with amazing visualizations that will help you learn new concepts more easily.
  • Cracking the Coding Interview can be highly recommended to anyone who wants or needs to take coding interviews. The author explains how to look for hidden details in questions, divide problems into small chunks and become better at learning concepts. In addition, it provides 189 real interview questions and solutions.
  • Enterprise Integration Patterns is a book that describes how applications exchange data and communicate. It includes message patterns, message components, and some real-world examples of how a banking system would be designed.
  • Object-oriented analysis and design is a guide to how we design software, and it provides a lot of background theory as to why you would do object-oriented programming using UML. It is written by Grady Booch, IBM Fellow and author of the UML language.
  • The art of testing device. This book focuses on device testing as a crucial thing that any developer needs to do to deliver a good piece of software. The book explains core competencies on how to unit test, how to scope it, and what to unit test.
  • Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams is one of the classics of software management. It talks about why managers give so much leeway to their teams to get things done, and why there are so many jelled SWAT teams at Microsoft that are remarkably productive. The book approaches sociological or political problems, such as group chemistry, “flow time” and calm in the work environment.
  • The Mythical Man-Month discusses productivity and tackles one of the myths that the time it takes an engineer can be shared equally if you hire more engineers to do the job. It writes about how to handle project delivery delays, communicate effectively as a project manager, and how to handle project iteration.
  • Domain-driven design: Tackling complexity at the heart of software addresses how the process can be translated into software. It described what a process looks like for someone who does not write software and how to communicate about a process so that it can be translated into a software system.
  • The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win is a tale about a fictional business that transitions to the DevOps model from an older, less integrated work model. It talks about challenges in coordinating between operations and development, and how to make that bridge.
  • Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual. Every programmer needs some soft skills in his professional life, especially as the responsibility grows over time, so this book comes perfectly in place. Interacting with colleges, clients, how to talk with confidence or the ability to negotiate is something you will find in this book. In addition, it includes some of the productivity tips on how to build the right habits to improve productivity.


[1] 20 most recommended books for software developers

[2] 10 best programming books you should know

[3] Top 10 books that every programmer should read once

[4] The 10 best software engineering books of 2019

[5] – Computer and technology books

In the next blog posts I will write more about some amazing technology specific books, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading. If you have suggestions for this list or feedback, feel free to leave a comment below.


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