All About Android Books
Thursday, 11 September 2014
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All About Android Books
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A Programmer's Bookshelf article on Android is well overdue as we have over forty reviews of books on this subject. So we are now in a good position to pick the best books for developer's with differing backgrounds and requirements.



When it comes to books, I Programmer's mission is to provide unbiased reviews that you can trust - and they are written by those who use and understand the technologies concerned. Although we can only cover a fraction of the new programming books published, we try to include those that seem important and topical and this means we end up reading some that are dull and boring and even find some that are capable of misleading and confusing the reader.

For Programmer's Bookshelf, however, we pick only ones that we can recommend, with a range to suit developers with different interests and at different levels of expertise.

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.



In reading through all the reviews that the team has produced on Android there is a common theme - that Android programming is difficult  to get started with. To quote Harry Fairhead:

Android is a complex and generally poorly explained platform


Mike James makes a similar comment:

Android is a tough platform to get started on. You need to know Java, the Android framework, the IDE, the architecture of a typical Android device and so on.


Android programming is a messy business - all those screen resolutions, Android versions and different sets of tools

So finding a good book about Android at the level that is right for you is a good first step if you want to develop for this increasingly popular platform that is becoming dominant for smartphone and tablets. And as learning Android programming is made easier if you already know Java, that where we start this round up.

Best books on Android for Java programmers

Awarding Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide a rating of 4.9 out of 5 (Excellent) Mike James concludes:

As long as you know Java reasonably well this is a good place to start an exploration of Android programming.



The book is described as "fairly chunky" and "covering a lot of ground in its 500 or so pages". It has 37 short chapters and the material is  based on the Big Nerd Ranch Android Boot Camp course. This makes it a "do-it" sort of book that it doesn't spend a lot of time giving you the bigger picture of the structure of things.  Its level ramps up quite quickly and Mike warns that if you look at the start of the book as an indicator of how the middle and end of the book work then you might feel a bit cheated. He also points out that the level of explanation starts to decrease as you progress through the book, but says:

As long as you are a smart programmer this shouldn't be too much of a problem as the difficult part of getting started with Android is getting to grips with the overall system - Activities, Views, Fragments and so on. These are the ideas that make Android a bit different from other systems. When you get down to calling an API to get map data then it isn't much different from other map APIs on other systems.


Learning Android assumes that you know Java and have a fairly good understanding of most aspects of programming. It tackles the task of introducing Android using a single big example of a Twitter app so it is for those who like a hands-on approach.


Recommending it with a rating of 4.5 (Very Good), Harry Fairhead concluded:

Overall this book is great - as long as you can cope with the pace. It also probably isn't as effective if you are simply reading it for ideas and missing out on trying to build the example app. What this means is that you need time to work with the book and this doesn't make it a fast track to Android.If you like to learn new technologies via a real world application then you will want and love this book.


It is worth noting that this review was based on the first edition of the book, which is still available. There is a newer version that has attracted the criticism that it switches between two examples in a confusing way.


A book that also has a 4.5 rating and is "Highly recommended" by Harry Fairhead, but which that takes a different approach is Pro Android 4. According to his review:

It starts off with a useful and informative introduction to the Android project. This is important because it tells you things that other books often skip over so as to get you started on actual coding as quickly as possible. So if you want to learn about why the Dalvik VM is used and what the design objectives of Android were this is the place to start.



Admitting that while the book explains things clearly it makes no attempt to dilute the information with jokes or anecdotes - it just gets on with it. It also doesn't go in for complete examples and expects you to know what you want to do with the information so some readers may find its approach "too dry to swallow".

Harry concludes:

This isn't a get-you-started guide, but it is a get-you-there resource that you will consult when you need to implement something in particular. Personally I liked it and it really should be on the bookshelf of every serious Android programmer, even if at its present size it would strain the average shelf.

a reference to the fact that this is a 1200-page tome.

An Android 4 version of this title, slimmed down to 1020 pages, is currently available with a new edition appears to be in the pipeline.





Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 October 2014 )