best computer science books [learn computer science asap]

14 Best Computer Science Books in 2021 [Learn Computer Science ASAP]

🧠 Did you know? The world’s first computer named ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) weighed over 27 tons and took up 1800 square feet of space.

What is computer science?

Computer science is the study of computers and computational machines. It covers everything from algorithms to theory, design, development and application of software and hardware systems.

Simply put, computer science allows you to program a computer to make it do what you want. 😈

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TLDR: Best Computer Science Books

🔥 Best Overall 🔥
Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach

💥 Best for Newbies 💥
Computer Science Distilled

💸 Best Value 💸
Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook

🎖️ Honorable Mention 🎖️
Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science

Best Computer Science Books

1. Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach is one of the best computer science books overall.

↘️ Ideal for: computer science newbies
↘️
Topics covered: computer science fundamentals with Java programming

Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach uses Java programming to teach you computer science fundamentals. With an applications-based approach, you’ll learn concepts in:

  • math
  • science
  • engineering
  • finance
  • commercial computing

After learning basic programming elements such as variables, loops and arrays, you’ll discover object-oriented programming.

You’ll also focus on broader disciplines of computer science using:

  • search and sort algorithms
  • fundamental data structures
  • scientific techniques

And beyond.

➡️ Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach is co-authored by Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne, authors of the popular banger of a book Algorithms, 4th Edition.

What computer science students are saying about Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach:

This is a wonderful introduction to computer science. The author is very careful and precise with his definitions and descriptions.

quant 42


🏁 If you learn better by watching videos, check out the computer science courses offered on Treehouse.

2. Computer Science Distilled

Computer Science Distilled is one of the best computer science books for newbies.

↘️ Ideal for: independent learners
↘️
Topics covered: computer science foundations

Computer Science Distilled touts itself as a “fast and easy computer science guide.” You’ll learn the foundations necessary to program computers such as:

  • strategy
  • data
  • algorithms
  • databases

You’ll also learn about the principles that enable computers to work.

➡️ Computer Science Distilled is geared towards readers who prefer to learn independently as opposed to an academic setting.

Maximum value between variables in Computer Science Distilled.

🏁 How does computer science fit into your life? Check out the course Computer Science: Programming with a Purpose on Coursera.

3. Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook gives you the most bang for your buck.

↘️ Ideal for: computer science newbies; young learners
↘️
Topics covered: computer science and coding fundamentals

Best. Computer. Science. Book. Ever… Pretty much, anyway.

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is kind of like Head First books: Instead of walls of boring text, you’ll find diagrams, mnemonic devices and illustrations to help you learn computer science concepts. Some of what you’ll learn includes:

  • algorithms
  • binary code
  • computational thinking
  • boolean expressions

And much, much more.

You’ll also learn programming in Scratch and Python.

➡️ Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook advertises itself as a middle school study guide. But don’t let that turn you off. Readers of all ages have found this book useful.

Take Liz M for example:

When I ask someone to explain things in simple, easy to understand English when it comes to computer sciences and coding, THIS is what I mean…

Liz M

🔥 Geena’s Hot Take

Don’t be afraid of books listed for middle or high schoolers. There is NO SHAME in starting small when learning the fundamentals of computer science.

I have plenty of programming books geared towards kids and guess what? I understand basics concepts better than I ever would have with books aimed towards adults that assume you know more than you do.

Do yourself a favor and pick up Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook.


🏁 If interactivity is more your speed, check out the course The High School Guide to Mastering Java and AP Computer Science A on Educative.io.

4. Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science

↘️ Ideal for: general audiences, history buffs
↘️
Topics covered: computer science history

Ideas That Created the Future is unlike any other computer science book on our list.

Instead of teaching you the hows of computer science, you’ll go on a journey through the evolution of computer science with 46 papers. With writings by everyone from Aristotle to Gordon Moore, you’ll learn about:

  • theory and practice
  • architectures and algorithms
  • logic and software systems

And more.

➡️ Ideas That Create the Future documents discoveries and inventions related to computer science, primarily from 1936-1980.


5. Computer Science: An Overview

↘️ Ideal for: computer science newbies, students
↘️
Topics covered: computer science fundamentals

Computer Science: An Overview contains over 1000 questions and exercises to help you learn computer science from the ground up. You’ll learn computer science through the lens of Python programming in this full-color textbook.

➡️ Computer Science: An Overview is meant to be used in conjunction with Introduction to Computer Science courses.

What computer science students are saying about Computer Science: An Overview:

Don’t judge a textbook by its price, particularly this one. It may very well be one of the best textbooks I have used so far on my academic journey.

Barreness of a Busy Life


6. Invitation to Computer Science

↘️ Ideal for: computer science newbies
↘️
Topics covered: computer science basics

Similar to Computer Science: An Overview, Invitation to Computer Science is a textbook. But instead of Python you’ll find a non-language specific, algorithmic introduction to computer science. With ample exercises and practice problems, you’ll discover:

  • hardware
  • software development
  • virtual machines
  • applications

You’ll also find real-world content covering privacy, cloud computing and net neutrality.

➡️ Invitation to Computer Science takes a hands-on approach to teach the fundamentals of computer science.


7. Computer Science Illuminated

↘️ Ideal for: computer science beginners, students
↘️
Topics covered: information, hardware, programming

computer science illuminated book cover with hands holding tablet

Computer Science Illuminated rocks it hard.

It uses low-level programming languages and pseudocode to introduce computer science concepts. After laying the groundwork, you’ll look at 6 layers in computer science:

  • information
  • hardware
  • programming
  • operating systems
  • applications
  • communications

You’ll also find content on cloud computing, big data and system security.

➡️ Computer Science Illuminated takes a language-agnostic approach to computer science.

text and diagram with boolean expression
Gates and circuits in Computer Science Illuminated

8. Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science

↘️ Ideal for: computer science and data science newbies
↘️
Topics covered: computer science, data science

Intro to Python best python books for beginners cover with multicolored elephant

Ok, now it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room… literally.

Intro to Python takes a unique approach where you’ll explore data science alongside computer science while learning Python programming. Using real-world datasets and artificial intelligence technologies, you’ll work on hundreds of examples, exercises and projects.

After a general introduction to Python, you’ll discover:

  • control statements
  • functions
  • lists and tuples
  • dictionaries and sets

And on the data science end of the spectrum, you’ll work with natural language processing (NLP), data mining and machine learning.

➡️ Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science is for computer science newbies who want a head start in the field of data science.


9. Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science

↘️ Ideal for: computer science newbies, students
↘️
Topics covered: computer science basics

python programming book cover with ocean and mountains

Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science by John Zelle focuses on the basics of computer science. You’ll learn core computer science concepts through the scope of Python. Because Python is an easier programming language to learn, it’s often preferred and recommended for beginners.

See what readers are saying about Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science

introduction to computer science books 5-star review

… For anyone looking to break into the world of programming, this is the place to start.

Nicholas DiMucci


10. Classic Computer Science Problems in Python

Classic Computer Science Problems in Python is one of the best computer science books for intermediate Python programmers.

↘️ Ideal for: intermediate Python programmers
↘️
Topics covered: algorithms, neural networks, adversarial search

In Classic Computer Science Problems in Python, you’ll use proven scenarios, exercises and algorithms to learn more advanced computer science concepts such as:

And much more.

You’ll explore dozens of coding challenges while uncovering solutions that will leave you a more efficient coder.

➡️ Classic Computer Science Problems in Python is for intermediate Python programmers.


11. Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners

↘️ Ideal for: computer science and programming newbies
↘️
Topics covered: computer science and programming concepts

If you’re learning anything related to computer programming, you’re almost always guaranteed to run into a book on Packt Publishing.

Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners teaches the building blocks of programming languages and other computer science concepts. You’ll learn the fundamentals of computer programming while exploring tips, techniques and best practices. You’ll also:

And more.

➡️ Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners teaches you computer science with an emphasis on practical implementation.


12. Computer Science Principles

↘️ Ideal for: computer science beginners
↘️
Topics covered: info security, impacts of computing

computer science principles cover with backlit keyboard

Computer Science Principles takes you on a journey into learning computer science fundamentals like:

  • what an IP address is
  • TCP/IP and DNS
  • HTML and CSS
  • how a hard drive stores large amounts of data

And much more.

You’ll also explore newer concepts added to this edition like Boolean logic, information security, and the impacts of computing.

➡️ After reading Computer Science Principles, you should be able to edit photos, design websites and code using JavaScript.


13. A Programmer’s Guide to Computer Science

A Programmer’s Guide to Computer Science is one of the best computer science books for experienced programmers.

↘️ Ideal for: experienced programmers
↘️
Topics covered: algorithms and data structures, problem-solving techniques

A Programmer’s Guide to Computer Science is a hands-on guide intended for experienced programmers. You’ll learn some of the most frequently referenced topics in computer science such as:

  • algorithms and data structures
  • problem-solving techniques
  • complexity theory
  • graphs

And more.

➡️ The claim of A Programmer’s Guide to Computer Science is that they’ll teach you the same amount of information as a four-year computer science degree.


14. Computer Science Unleashed

↘️ Ideal for: advanced computer science newbies
↘️
Topics covered: fast-paced introduction to computer science

Computer Science Unleashed is a high-level overview of:

  • data science
  • networking
  • computer security

In this accelerated guide, you’ll learn everything from how the Internet works all the way up to predicting the future with machine learning.

➡️ Computer Science Unleashed is a non-academic, fast-paced guide to higher-level computer science concepts.


Best Computer Science Books: Conclusion

Today we looked at the best computer science books including:

🔥 Best Overall 🔥
Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach

💥 Best for Newbies 💥
Computer Science Distilled

💸 Best Value 💸
Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook

🎖️ Honorable Mention 🎖️
Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science

So whether you want the best of the best or are on a budget, we think these are the best computer science books out there.


Computer scientists are also reading:


  1. What are the best computer science books?

    Overall, we think the best computer science book is Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach. For newbies, we liked Computer Science Distilled. And for value, we chose Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook.

  2. What is computer science?

    Computer science is the study of computers and computational machines. It covers everything from algorithms to theory, design, development and application of software and hardware systems. Simply put, computer science allows you to program a computer to make it do what you want. You can learn more about computer science by reading books and taking courses, many of which are listed in today's article.

  3. Is the book Computer Science Distilled worth it?

    Yes, Computer Science Distilled is worth it. Computer Science Distilled touts itself as a “fast and easy computer science guide.” You’ll learn the foundations necessary to program computers such as strategy, data, algorithms, and databases. You’ll also learn about the principles that enable computers to work.

  4. Where can I learn computer science?

    Books are an excellent resource to learn computer science. But if you prefer more hands-on learning, online courses may be more your speed. In today's post, we look at plenty of computer science books and even a few courses.

  5. What are the best computer science courses?

    There are a few computer science courses we really liked. Computer Science: Programming with a Purpose can be found on Coursera. Educative.io has a course The High School Guide to Mastering Java and AP Computer Science A. Also, Treehouse has a few computer science courses we were impressed with.