Top Choice C and C++ Books
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 24 September 2018
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C++ Book Choices 

Programming: Principles and Practice Using C++

Author: Bjarne Stroustrup
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Pages: 1312
ISBN: 978-0321992789 

Giving this book 4.9 stars, Mike James asks:

"Who better to learn C++ from than the man who invented C++ and depending on how you view things was, and is, a hero or set the course of programming back many years!"

He points out that the problem with C++ is that it is flexible, so flexible that you can write it in styles that make it look very different from the simple straightforward textbook approach. As a result many programmers believe that it's no place to start learning how to program.

Clearly Bjarne doesn't agree because this book is aimed at the complete beginner. However, even if you are a complete novice you will probably want to skip the introduction (and perhaps even later bits) because the approach is very wordy.

Mike says the book would make an excellent course text book and it is one of the few that could succeed in teaching you C++ with good style and understanding just by reading it - but it is long and some are going to find it slow and plodding. He says the book isn't just an introduction to C++. It attempts to educate you in the wider issues and ideas of programming. This means that even though the presentation is slow paced you will need the intellectual apparatus to understand some of the subtle ideas. 

A Tour of C++

Author: Bjarne Stroustrup
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 978-0321958310 

This is a five star read, according to reviewer Mike James, even though he says that if you are looking for a leisurely tour of C++, something to ease you into its way of thinking, this is not the book for you. This is a fast-paced tour and in 200 pages you get a lot of information.

This is a compact book based on the first few chapters of The C++ Programming Language, Fourth Edition and if you already have the Stroustrup's classic tome book you probably don't need this one, but it is a useful summary and at less than 200 pages a good book to have handy when you want a refresher. The material has been processed to make it self-contained and to enlarge on points that would be covered in a later and longer treatment. 

This is a very rapid paced tour of C++ and it goes well beyond the core language and into the standard library and its use.  It is more a primer of the language for someone who knows it but has temporarily forgotten some of it. If you know K&R's "The C Programming Language" then a good way to describe it as similar in style but for a much bigger and more sophisticated language than C. For this reason it occasionally fails to provide enough background to help you understand some subtle point. 

This is a highly recommended book, but if you find it tough going don't be surprised. 

Discovering Modern C++

Author: Peter Gottschling
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 978-0134383583

This book impressed Mike James enough for him to award it the full five stars, even though he describes it as 'strange, but in a good way'. Mike says the subtitle gives the game way immediately: An Intensive Course for Scientists, Engineers, and Programmers, and that this is very accurate. He describes the book as a mix of bottom-up presentation in the style of, say, K&R, plus a very chatty style, full of off-the-cuff remarks. This makes it a strange mix of a reference manual and a discursive introduction to ideas.

Mike's conclusion is that this is an excellent book as long as you are not a complete beginner and are a scientist or similar and are particularly interested in C++ as a numerical or scientific programming language. if you fall outside of this target audience then how much you will like the book depends entirely on how far outside the audience you are. If you do fit the requirements, this is a great book, so if  you are a scientist and a programmer wanting to use C++ in a modern idiom, then go and buy a copy.

C++ Without Fear

Author: Brian Overland
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Pages: 624
ISBN: 978-0132673266

Alex Armstrong gave this book 4.5 stars, and said that the overall feel of the book is that it is a straightforward account of C++. Topics are generally introduced in the right order and this minimizes forward references to ideas not yet covered. There are very few gimmicks in the presentation and as long as you are prepared to work though the material it should succeed in teaching you C++. However, if you are a complete beginner you might find some of the ideas difficult to get into you head at first. The only solution to this problem is to keep working at it and give it time.

The book does downplay object- oriented programming to an extent, but Alex felt this might suit some beginners, and apart from that, the book is very good. While it doesn't provide a hard line object-oriented approach, it would make a good companion to a course that did. Overall, Alex recommended it unless you are a complete-complete beginner or a dummy. Alex reviewed the second edition, but this has now been updated to a third edition that covers the C++14 standard and the free Microsoft Visual C++ Community Edition.  

Optimized C++

Author:  Kurt Guntheroth
Publisher: O'Reilly
Pages: 388 
ISBN:  978-1491922064

If you think that the one rule about optimization is don't do it then you should read this book, according to reviewer Mike James, who gave it the maximum five stars. Historically, Mike blames the reluctance of developers to optimize as being due to a well known quote attributed to Donald Knuth:

premature optimization is the root of all evil.

As a result many books on optimization start off with the command "Don't!". However, Mike says Sometimes optimization is essential, and this book is a really good introduction to the ideas that you need to approach optimization in the right way.


The book makes a clear case for when optimization is worth the effort and how to find out if it is in a particular case. In addition the book provides lots of anecdotes and personal experiences of the author. He was so convinced that he said:

"If you don't want to read to the end of this review and you are a C++ programmer just go and buy a copy."

Mike's conclusion was that there is even some value in the book if you are a C programmer or even if you program in some other language, but most of the advice targets C++. If you want to create more efficient C++ programs then this book is a must and it's a good read if you just want to broaden your knowledge of C++.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 24 September 2018 )