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Ten Best Programming Books for Beginners 2021

Call me old fashioned.

Few things feel better in my hands than a printed, perfect bound, glossy-covered, programming book. 

When I started coding in 1986 at the age of twelve, the only way to learn to code was from books.  I was the kid, by the pool at my Grandmother's reading Programming the Commodore 64 (highly recommended) or the ever-popular Creating Arcade Games on the Commodore 64

I guess old habits die hard, because, today, in the age of Kindle, and online courses, my go-to is still a printed book for learning.  I still have a room full of printed books, and buy new ones each week.

Regardless of whether you read printed books or the kindle version, programming books can be enormously helpful in learning to code.  

These are the Ten Best Programming Books for Beginners:

Web Design with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and jQuery Set | View on Amazon

Jon Duckett

I am cheating a bit here-- This is really two books (often sold as a set) and these books are truly a work of art. 

Full-color examples and a design worthy of awards makes John Duckett's web development primer easy to read and fun.  The book has been a best-seller among web development books for years and the information is still relevant.

Few technical books feature a design that is truly inspirational but, Duckett's books manage to inspire you with design while maintaining clear instruction. 

These books also may be purchased separately as HTML and CSS: Design and Build Web Sites and JavaScript and JQuery:  Interactive Front End Development.


Learning Web Design | View on Amazon

Jennifer Niederst Robbins

I really like this book because it has a text-book approach that can make for very effective learning.  This book has been around for over a decade and is now in its 5th edition.  You may be surprised to find a book this old on the list of top programming books for beginners in 2021, however, it truly stands up.

Because this book is designed as a textbook, you'll find activities and self-quizzes in each chapter that are valuable in making sure you retain what you read.  

I wish I had this book when I taught Introduction to Web Development at the college level.  This book is far superior to any of the books we used at the time.


Murach's JavaScript and jQuery | View on Amazon

 Mary Delmater ad Zak Ruvalcara

Generally, any of the books in the Murach's series is a winner, but their JavaScript volume is particularly good.  If you want exhaustive and detailed coverage of the JavaScript programming language and jQuery library, I'd highly recommend this excellent book. 

Murach books always have tons of code examples, clear explanations, and a ton of exercises that you can do to further your learning.


Learning Python | View on Amazon

Mark Lutz 

 Learning Python by Mark Lutz is another classic. 

Python is one of the most popular languages you can learn today (see Jobs for Software Developers:  What Language Should I Learn?).  With the explosion of big data and data analysis jobs, it seems everyone is learning Python.  

With Lutz's book, Learning Python is easy.  While many of the books from the Safari imprint are not really designed for beginners, you'll find this book to be the exception.  

At over 1,500 pages, this book is a bear, but, you'll find comprehensive coverage of Python, without overly complex explanations designed for advanced developers.


Grokking Algorithms | View on Amazon

Aditya Bhargava 

Algorithms get a big yawn from most who are learning to code. 

When someone is struggling with the topic, this is ALWAYS the book I recommend.  Algorithms is an evergreen topic and Bhargava's book has stood the test of time.  First published in 2016, Grokking Algorithms dispenses with many programming book conventions, to instead present material congruent with the way people learn.

You'll find this book full of short, understandable explanations, and hand-drawn cartoons that illustrate every concept.  The exercises are on-point and you'll complete this short book with a much better understanding of this important topic.



iOS Programming 14 for Beginners | View on Amazon
Ahmad Sahar

Just published in November 2020, this hot-off-the-press book will take you from zero to hero if you want to learn iOS Development with XCode Apple's native development environment.  

Sahar's book manages the trifecta of clear explanation, great coding examples, and helpful images in this text.  Follow along with Sahar as he starts with the fundamentals and continues through important topics like SwiftUI and submitting your work to the Apple App Store.

Sahar does a great job in this book covering XCode, the tool used to build iOS apps, the Swift programming language, and how to actually tie the Swift language to interface elements.  This book is highly recommended!


Hello Swift: iOS app programming for kids and other beginners | View on Amazon

Tanmay Bakshi

Written by teenage programming book author Tanmay Bakshi, this book speaks to kids who want to learn the Swift programming language-- the language used in iOS development.  If you have a pre-teen or teen interested in development and you're looking for a place to get them started, order this book.

Just because the book is geared towards those who are pre-driver's license age, doesn't mean the book is dumbed down.  Just the opposite-- Bakshi respects his audience and uses examples in the text that kids can relate to.

Here's a secret:  Adults love this book too and can learn from it!


The Principals of Beautiful Web Design | View on Amazon

Jason Beaird and Alex Walker

There are loads of books that teach you how to write website code.  This book has a different purpose:  to teach you the visual design critical to creating beautiful websites.   This book is one of the ten best programming books for beginners even though it's not technically a programming book.

I think every developer needs some exposure to visual design-- Because often, as developers, we're faced with the opportunity to do some visual design and do it wrong.  I recommend this group for developers who need to learn some visual design and those who want to add design to their digital skillset.


The C Programming Langauge | View on Amazon

Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie

The book that started it all, about the language that started it all, by the two guys who started it all.  This book was originally published in 1978, and since has been revised.  Still a classic, this book will take you through the C language. No GUI's, no fancy libraries.

This book clearly explains the C language, which is the basis for just about every language used today.  (And C, itself, is still used along with its children C++, C# and Objective C).

This book is old-school computer science at its best.  If you want to understand how and where it all began, get this book and enjoy the musings of these two legends of computer science.

Bonus Fact:  Author Dennis Ritchie worked at Bell Labs and created both the C language and Unix.  Unfortunately, his death went virtually unnoticed when he passed away at the same time as Steve Jobs.


Learning C# by Developing Games with Unity 2020 | View on Amazon

Harrison Ferrone

If game development is your thing, you need to know about the Unity Game Engine and the C# programming language.  C#, based on C, is most associated with the .net framework.  However, the use of C$ has expanded greatly and it's now the primary language used for scripting with Unity.

Ferrone makes learning C# fun as you learn the language in the context of the Unity game engine.  As you're learning C# you're simultaneously learning Unity and creating 3D arcade-style games!  

There is no more fun way to learn coding and development!

Any favorites that you have that we missed?  Put your recommendations down below so others can take advantage of these great programming titles!

Disclosure:  This article contains Amazon affiliate links.  If you purchase the books from these links I will receive a small monetary reward.  The author of this article has relationships with multiple publishers-- some have books listed here, others not.  Titles were chosen based on book quality only.

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