best introduction to computer science books for 2021 with faded black background

9 Best Introduction to Computer Science Books for 2021 [Learn Computer Science ASAP]

A number of careers fall under the umbrella of computer science. For example, you can choose to pursue software development. Or you could take a more artistic route like movie animation.

Because it’s such a broad topic, you’ll want to start with the absolute basics and work your way up to mastery in your particular field.

So we’re looking at some introduction to computer science books so you can start learning today.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation if you buy something. Read my disclosure for more details.

TLDR: Introduction to Computer Science Books

🔥 Best Overall 🔥
Practical Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Python 3.6

💥 Best for Computer Science Newbies 💥
Computer Science Illuminated, 7th Edition

💸 Best Value 💸
Computer Science Principles

Introduction to Computer Science Books

1. Invitation to Computer Science, 8th Edition

Invitation to Computer Science by G. Michael Schneider and Judith Gersting is a textbook offering a contemporary overview of computer science.

This is a non-language-specific book that uses an algorithms approach. However, there are optional online modules for:

  • C++
  • Java
  • Python
  • C#
  • Ada

This will help you learn a specific programming language.

In addition to algorithms, you’ll learn about:

  • hardware
  • virtual machines
  • applications
  • software development

And beyond.

In addition, you’ll learn about more modern concepts like privacy, drones and cloud computing.

There are plenty of exercises and practice problems to work on throughout Invitation to Computer Science. There are also 20 online labs.

Internet hosts graph in Invitation to Computer Science

Interested in taking online computer science courses? Check out these computer science courses on Treehouse.


2. Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science

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

Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science by Paul and Harvey Deitel is unique because it focuses on beginner concepts in both computer and data science. So if you’re not interested in data science, this may not be the book for you.

Using real-world datasets, you’ll work on hundreds of examples, exercises and projects to reinforce Python concepts in data and computer science. In addition, you’ll work on implementation case studies which will give you hands-on practice with Python programming.

You’ll also learn about programming artificial intelligence, Big Data and the cloud.

Because Intro to Python for Computer Science and Data Science focuses on much more beyond computer science, it might be one of the more difficult introduction to computer science books.

But if you’re up to the challenge, this may be the book for you.


3. Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science, 3rd Edition

Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science by John Zelle is updated for Python 3. It’s designed to be used as a primary textbook for college-level courses, so it’s ideal for students who learn best with academic curriculum.

First you’ll learn about the core skills of computer science:

  • problem solving
  • design
  • programming

And these are all tackled in the Python programming language.

There are plenty of graphics, examples and practice problems throughout the book. You’ll also find true/false and multiple choice quizzes.

But don’t expect to get a complete education in Python. Rather, you’ll understand Python in the scope of solving computer science problems.

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

Nicholas DiMucci, Customer


4. Computer Science Illuminated, 7th Edition

Computer Science Illuminated by Nell Dale and John Lewis is one of the best introduction to computer science books for beginners.

Using a language-neutral perspective, you’ll learn about things like:

  • hardware
  • programming
  • operating systems
  • applications
  • communications

And much more.

You’ll also learn about cloud computing, Big Data, system security and beyond.

While real-world examples are presented in pseudocode, you will find a chapter with introductory lessons in programming languages like Python, JavaScript and C++.

Lesson on gates and circuits in Computer Science Illuminated

Want to learn more? Check out the course Computer Science: Programming with a Purpose on Coursera.


5. Introduction to Computer Science

Introduction to Computer Science by Perry Donham is a well-rounded take on the fundamentals of computer science.

First you’ll learn about the history of computer science. Then you’ll learn how computers store and use data.

From there, you’ll learn how to:

  • write JavaScript programs
  • format a webpage
  • reduce file sizes

And much more.

In later chapters, you’ll become familiar with computer hardware and learn how computers communicate over networks.

Finally, you’ll learn about privacy and security, e-commerce and the function of operating systems.

Introduction to Computer Science is geared towards students with no technological background.


6. Practical Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Python 3.6, 3rd Edition

Practical Programming by Paul Gries, Jennifer Campbell and Jason Montojo is by the well-known tech publisher The Pragmatic Programmers. It’s been used in colleges and universities worldwide by tens of thousands of students.

You’ll learn about the core concepts of computer science such as:

  • design
  • algorithms
  • testing
  • debugging

And you’ll do it all while learning the fundamentals of programming in Python 3.6.

You’ll start with the absolute basics like learning what programming is and how to write a simple “Hello, World” program.

Then you’ll dive into fundamentals such as designing and using functions, using methods and beyond.

You’ll also learn about some more complex computer science concepts like:

And beyond.

You’ll learn about all of these while writing programs to solve real-world problems.

By the end of Practical Programming, you should feel comfortable writing quality code in Python 3.6.

…There is no singular book that will teach you everything you need to know about Computer Science… but this book is an amazing stepping stone in the right direction.

J. Lepage, Customer

🔥 Geena’s Hot Take

My hot take? Not this time.

The Pragmatic Programmers are always putting out hot takes. And Practical Programming is no exception.

This is another banger that takes you from zero to hero… from knowing absolutely nothing to feeling confident behind the wheel of computer science.

Check it out – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


7. Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners

Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners by Joakim Wassberg is for students with no programming experience. Here is where you’ll learn computer science concepts and coding techniques.

First you’ll learn the absolute basics about computer programs and how to apply the concepts to different programming languages. You’ll learn this with thorough explanations in pseudocode.

Then you’ll learn how to execute code on a computer.

After that, you’ll learn about different types of applications you can create as a computer programmer. So you’ll learn about:

  • statements
  • variables
  • data types
  • operators

And more.

As you progress, you’ll learn how to control the flow of your programs and reuse code.

Finally, you’ll learn best practices to help you write professional, clean code. In addition, you’ll explore different programming languages so you can decide which is best for you.

System architecture diagram in Programming for Absolute Beginners

8. Computer Science Principles

Computer Science Principles by Kevin Hare is one of the best introduction to computer science books we could find. Updated in 2020, it’s got over 30% new content such as:

  • Boolean and logic gates
  • databases
  • compression
  • information security

And the impacts of computing.

But you’ll start by learning the basics such as learning what an IP address is and how a hard drive stores data.

Then you’ll learn some major skills such as how to design websites, code in JavaScript and organize spreadsheets.

Computer Science Principles also contains an appendix on JavaScript where you’ll learn about strings, math objects, documents and beyond.

This book is ideal for advanced learners interested in learning the fundamentals of computer science.

Looking for an AP computer science course? Check out Ace AP Computer Science A on Educative.io.


Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, 2nd Edition

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Algorithms by Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman, et al. is one of the best introduction to science books this year.

In this second edition, you’ll find new implementations of programming systems including interpreters and compilers.

It’s meant to mirror a course presented at MIT.

You’ll learn how to deal with time in different computation models:

  • objects with state
  • concurrent programming
  • functional programming
  • lazy evaluation

And beyond.

Finally, you’ll work on higher-order procedures like stream processing.


Introduction to Computer Science Books: Conclusion

Today we looked at some of the best introduction to computer science books.

Best Overall
Practical Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Python 3.6

Best for Computer Science Newbies
Computer Science Illuminated, 7th Edition

Best Value
Computer Science Principles

So whether you’re looking for the overall best, best for newbies, or best value, we think there’s something for every aspiring computer scientist.


Up Next:


  1. What are the best introduction to computer science books?

    While there are plenty of introduction to computer science books, we think three are a cut above the rest. For best overall, we think Practical Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Python 3.6 is the way to go. For computer science newbies, we think Computer Science Illuminated is the best book. And for value, we think Computer Science Principles takes the win.

  2. Is the book Practical Programming worth it?

    Practical Programming by Paul Gries, Jennifer Campbell and Jason Montojo is by well-known tech publisher The Pragmatic Programmers. It's been used in colleges and universities worldwide by tens of thousands of students. You'll learn about the core concepts of computer science such as design, algorithms, testing and debugging. And you'll do it all while learning the fundamentals of programming in Python 3.6. You'll start with the absolute basics like learning what programming is and how to write a simple “Hello, World” program. Then you'll dive into fundamentals such as designing and using functions, using methods and beyond. You'll also learn about some more complex computer science concepts like object-oriented programming, databases, and creating a graphical user interface (GUI). You'll learn about all of these while writing programs to solve real-world problems.
    By the end of Practical Programming, you should feel comfortable writing quality code in Python 3.6.

  3. Is the book Computer Science Illuminated worth it?

    Computer Science Illuminated by Nell Dale and John Lewis is one of the best introduction to computer science books for beginners. Fully updated, it's designed to be an introductory computer science textbook. Using a language-neutral perspective, you'll learn about things like hardware, programming, operating systems, applications, communications, and more. You'll also learn about cloud computing, Big Data, system security and beyond. While real-world examples are presented in pseudocode, you will find a chapter with introductory lessons in programming languages like Python, JavaScript and C++.