Top Choice C and C++ Books
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 24 September 2018
Article Index
Top Choice C and C++ Books
C++ Top Books
C/C++ Put To Work

There are some big name classics in the C and C++ books on this bookshelf, and many have received our maximum five star rating - more as a percentage than for other languages.

In almost a decade I Programmer's book reviewers have read and commented on over 1500 programming titles. That's only a fraction of the programming books published, but we try to cover the important ones. In Programmer's Bookshelf we recommend the books you might find helpful at different stages in your personal development.

If you want to read more of the original review click in the link in each title. Clicking on the book jacket in the side panel will take you to Amazon. If you just want to find out more about the book click in the top portion of the thumbnail to open the book's product details page. If you do decide to make a book purchase, accessing Amazon from a link on I Programmer means that we are credited with a few cents - so thanks to all of you who support us in this way.

Classic C 

C Programming Language (2e)

Author: Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis M. Ritchie
Publisher: Prentice Hall,
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-0131103627

If you're going to talk about C books, you really have to start with the classic by Kernighan and Ritchie. Reviewing this second edition, Harry Fairhead admits he still thinks of the book as K&R, and that he learned C from the first edition and was enthusiastic about it, and the C language, as a result. 

Harry points out that this is not a book for a beginner and it makes no attempt to teach you how to program. He also says that  the true classic is the first edition, and you can still buy secondhand copies for much less than the second edition, so if it is just a trip down memory lane you desire this is the one to buy.

If you buy this book expecting to get a hand-holding approach to C suitable for a beginner then you are going to hate it. This is, as I said at the start, a book aimed at the programmer versed in another language - preferably Fortran or assembler.

Harry says that despite the majority of the material being thirty years old, the book is still a lot better than many books on C that simply present the language as if it was a slightly modified version of Java or one of the other modern languages. C has a link to the past, just like this book. So despite reservations, for the right reader this is a very quick and painless way to learn C. 

21st Century C

Author: Ben Klemens
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 408
ISBN: 9781491903896

Reviewer Mike James gave this book 4.5 stars, and recommends it to every C programmer but the very beginner. However, despite this, he argues with the title, saying that this is not a book to take you into 21st Century C, as the main concerns of the book have been important since the early days of C, and that writing good C has always had the same objectives.  

Mike concludes:

"If you are fairly good a C programming then read this book to be even better. It is full of intermediate to advanced ideas. Personally I still think that C seems a lot easier and a lot more logical when you know how it relates to the machine architecture it was designed to mimic. I guess that this is the sense in which the book is 21st century in that this knowledge is becoming increasingly scarce." 

C Programming Absolute Beginner's Guide

Authors: Greg Perry & Dean Miller
Publisher: Que
Pages: 352
ISBN: 978-0789751980

While the books so far have not been suitable for beginners, this book is aimed specifically at that market.  Awarding it 4.5 stars, Mike James says that the first thing to say is that this is a book for the absolute beginner, but that doesn't mean the same things as "clueless". So while the book is suitable for the complete beginner, that only applies to a beginner who is wanting and willing to learn the very low level concepts of computing. You are going to have to put some work in no matter how easy the book attempts to make it.

Pondering whether C should be a first language of choice, Mike's conclusion is that it does get you closer to the inner workings of the computer and it is a good stepping stone to C++ and more advanced languages. There are easier ways to get into programming than C but this book makes C about as easy as it can be, as long as you are prepared to do a lot of reading and a lot of thinking.  For the intelligent beginner this is a good way to learn C. 

Head First C

Author: David Giffiths & Dawn Griffiths
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 591
ISBN: 978-1449399917

Another book aimed at beginners, reviewer Bill Cunningham described this book as trying to present material as simply as possible using illustrations, like all Head First titles, to show the reader complex concepts in a simple manner.

 Bill awarded the book 4.5 stars, and concluded he would recommend this book for the beginner programmer and those who would like a peek at data structures and computer science concepts. This book covers quite a lot of material and functions, but is very UNIX centric in its approach.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 24 September 2018 )