Getting the hang of coding might be confusing for a complete beginner. There are dozens and dozens of Java books on Amazon — it’s so easy to get lost! How about a little piece of advice, based on experience of the other Java learners? If you still haven’t put together your reading list for 2021, we’re here to help with our choice of the best books for Java learners.
The best Java books for beginnersThese are completely safe sources for ones that only start to learn coding in Java. We advise you to have a look at all of them, because they use different approaches in presenting core concepts. When you get stuck with a certain topic in one book, the chances are strong that you will get a clear explanation somewhere else.
1. Head First Java by Kathy Sierra & Bert BatesIf you can’t imagine a clear explanation without a proper visual, like scheme, diagram or a graphic drawing, you’ll enjoy this book for beginners. It’s arguably the best introduction to Java, which explains the core language and the concepts of OOP on the real-world examples. Even though it’s a book, it has a very “user-friendly interface”: you’ll get engaged from the first page till you finish it. You won’t immediately start to code after you read Head First Java, but you will understand without any difficulties the logic of this language and its main concepts. Each chapter ends with exercises and puzzles: they will help you memorize the material.
Pros: engaging storytelling, great illustrations, and real-life explanations. Probably the best book to learn Java from scratch. Cons: sometimes the puzzles are a bit confusing.
2. Beginning Programming with Java For DummiesYou have all the right to be skeptic about “the dummies series” since they are of no use for readers with even a minimal experience and understanding of any subject. But due to the plain language, they explain the main terms simply without any confusions. You will learn the major things you need to start with Java coding, like how to install Java, compile code and complete different practical exercises after you finish the reading. It is as easy as books for kids.
Pros: very simple examples and lots of “how-tos” if you have no idea of programming concepts. Cons: nothing more than a plain introduction in Java.
3. Java: Programming Basics for Absolute Beginners by Nathan ClarkAnother book for readers with a zero experience in coding will guide you step-by-step through the basics. You will learn how to choose an IDE and write the first program. The book familiarizes you with Java Development Kit and Java Runtime Environment and gives the description for each part of the code in examples. It serves as a rather good preliminary environment before you delve into more serious subjects.
Pros: smooth intro to Java programming and its main features. Cons: there’s no profound explanation of the Object Oriented Programming concept, this is why some practical examples might be confusing.
4. Java: A Beginner’s Guide by Herbert SchildtGenerally, Schildt’s guide is considered to be among the 3 or at least 5 best books for Java beginners. But this book requires a little bit more understanding of programming comparing to the previous sources. It will deepen your understanding of Java origins and its relations to other programming languages. It is profound research about the core concepts of Java which explains the code by line and guides you from the basic understanding of data types, classes and objects to more complex concepts like lambda expressions and functional interfaces. The great part of this book is a self-test section at the end of each chapter. Pros: a plain tone of voice, self-testing, full coverage of Java core. Cons: you need at least a small prior understanding of programming.
5. Core Java Volume I — FundamentalsDon’t mind the impressive 1000 pages — you can easily read this book from cover to cover. It puts aside the playful tone and focuses on detailed explanations of Java core. Each chapter is devoted to a certain subject, starting from introduction to the language and Java programming environment and moving to data structures, objects and classes and so on. Unlike many books for beginners, Core Java gives an explicit coverage of collections and generics, which is useful for real programming. All in all, it is a great reference book. Read it once and return to it anytime you need to refresh your knowledge.
Pros: a full reference to Java Core and attention to collections and generics, profound explanations. Cons: some topics, like generics, are covered less diligent than others.
6. Think Java: How to Think Like a Computer Scientist by Allen Downey and Chris MayfieldThis book for complete beginners will teach you how to think in code. Like many others, it starts with an introduction to OOP. It is also a rather good reference book. Each chapter has the vocabulary and exercise sections to consolidate theory and master the skill of programming thinking. It is more suitable for beginners than readers with even a small experience in coding. For starters, it is simple and kind of fun to read. Pros: a source for adjusting your way of coding, practice, basic concepts explained clearly. Cons: cannot be considered as the complete reference for core Java; the same level of complexity in all exercises.
Java books for advanced learnersYou’re already familiar with the main concepts and have already made coding your daily habit? Cheers to that! Let’s move forward to Java books, which will deepen your knowledge and set a focus on the number of useful topics in real-world coding.
7. Effective Java is written by Joshua BlochThis is not a book for a complete beginner but is must-read research for every Java developer. You will quickly see that it’s written by an expert with a serious practical background, because it explains not only the general subjects but the subtleties, too. If you want to understand the inner processes and get a clue of how and why they are arranged this way, this book serves the purposes well. Each chapter consists the “items” with lots of practical advice and a good review of the latest Java features. It will teach you how to write the code and how to do it well. Pros: easy to read, covers best practices in programming, useful advice for improving your coding. Cons: requires an understanding of core concepts and at least a small experience in coding.
8. Java: The Complete Reference by Herbert SchildtProbably you won’t start learning Java from scratch with this book, but sooner or later you will refer to it, as it’s a well-structured fully-featured source on Java programming with examples from the real world programming. It covers the Java 8 APIs, and clearly explains the basic concepts and beyond that. The “additional” material is devoted to JavaBeans, servlets, applets, and swing. So it’s totally right decision to have this book on your bookshelf or on your book reader.
Pros: the real world examples, clear and detailed explanations, a good reference for the latest Java APIs. Cons: requires a basic knowledge of Java programming.
9. Java 8 in ActionIf you need a Java 8 book with full coverage of its features, this one is for you. It will be easier for you to understand the material with some background in Java. But what’s great about this book is the many-sidedness of practice. The examples include both “proper” and “wrong” code samples. Just be sure not to mix them up :) All in all, this is a book with an obvious focus on practice, so you can use it as an additional source for the enhanced studying.
Pros: focused on practice, shows the difference between the right and the wrong code. Cons: requires supplementary sources for a deeper understanding of Java basics.
10. Thinking in Java by Bruce EckelThis book offers you a rather refreshing approach to explaining Java fundamentals. It has a focus on Java language design and behavior, and includes many detailed explanations. You will get the understanding of how each topic fits in with OOP. The basic subjects are fully covered on the first 200 pages of the book. The larger part can help you to cover the new ground. It is one of those books, which you will return to even after years of studying and coding. Although some of the examples are a bit outdated, this book is still a profound source for learners, because it actually teaches you to think like a Java programmer and encourages you to code.
Pros: a thorough source, plenty of code samples and exercises, excellent explanation of OOP concepts in Java. Cons: might be too complicated for a beginner.
11. Learning Java by Building Android Games: Learn Java and Android from scratch by building six exciting games by John HortonAndroid is among the most popular mobile operating systems, and Java is one of the major languages for building apps on it. If being a mobile developer is your goal, why not take one of the best books for learning Java programming in this field? For the record, this book doesn’t require a Java proficiency. The level of difficulty grows gradually from the key subjects (variables, loops, methods, object-oriented programming). After each stage, you’re given a task to develop your own game for Android platform, six of them in total. Not a fan of game development? Still worth trying to see Java programming in action.
Pros: a practical guide to game development. Cons: serves a specific goal.
12. Java in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference by Ben Evans and David FlanaganJava in a Nutshell was written not only for experienced Java programmers but also for the beginners. The newest (seventh) edition is based on Java 11, that is, it has everything that a novice developer needs to know. The book is not lengthy, there are many examples, Java APIs, Java Concurrency Utilities and best development practices are reviewed. The book is easy to read. You can learn the basics of the language as well as useful programming techniques and new trends in Java. Pros:
- Brief and good presentation;
- There is everything you need;
- A good description of modern tools.
- Good examples.
13. Core Java for the Impatient by Cay S. HorstmannThis book is a perfect Java introduction for software developers who work with other programming languages. Core Java for the Impatient is organized as a quick reference. Use it to find the answer to a specific question if you forgot something or previously programmed in other languages. The texts are very short, there is only useful information. The book describes well lambda expressions, input-output streams, modules. However, don’t forget that this book is not for complete beginners, so, there is no explanation of what a variable or cycle is. However it contains information about fundamental structures, collections, annotations, generics, logging, multithreading. Pros:
- Particular and short presentation;
- A very good selection of relevant topics for study by novice Java programmers.
- Good examples.
14. Learning Java: An Introduction to Real-World Programming with JavaThis book is not for complete beginners. Learning Java: An Introduction to Real-World Programming with Java will be useful for you if you know Core Java at least on a basic level and can write easy programs. However, when you can do it, this book helps you to understand all the concepts, classes, libraries, lambdas, input/output, connections to the web, etc. The good things about it is that it contains modern versions (Java 11 for this moment) of Java concepts, explores thread facilities and concurrency, and regular expressions. This book has realistic, and interesting examples, avoiding typical learning cataloging features. The examples are pretty simple, but with a thought where you can use them in the real world. You can find very useful information for novice programmers at the end of the book. The last chapter talks about using Java directly for web applications and web servers very useful for novice programmers can be found at the end of the book. Pros: engaging examples, Java modern versions concepts, discussions about web applications and servers. Cons: complicated for complete beginners.
15. Grokking the Java Interview by Javin PaulA renowned companion for all aspiring Java and intermediate developers, Javing Paul has collected his most helpful interview tips in one book. Taking into account the high competition and the vastness of the language, it is very difficult to pass an interview even for a junior position (I would say, first of all, for a junior position). Besides, passing an interview is a separate skill, akin to performing on stage. The author claims to have met people who are well versed in Core Java concepts, know how to write algorithms, but do not focus on what is needed for the interview. The book contains many questions about OOP, collections, multithreading, working with databases, garbage collectors and design patterns. The so-called "telephone interviews" are highlighted separately. Pros: Very useful for those preparing for an interview, most of the questions you are likely to get will be covered here. Cons: Some of the answers are very superficial and do not provide an understanding of the subject.
General-purpose books on programmingThese books should be on your list somewhere between the sources for the newcomers in Java and readers with a slight experience. They will broaden your scope about coding in general and teach you the major concepts of programming, creating clean code and getting started your career. Here’s our choice of the best programming books for beginners, regardless of the language they learn.
16. Head First Learn to Code by Eric FreemanHead First series is presented by the best book to learn Java and also books on learning other programming languages. This one is devoted to programming in general. You will easily recognize the unique style of narration once you open it. Read this if you need a hand of the key concepts of coding in a fun and easy to understand way.
Pros: gives a general understanding of programming. Cons: uses examples on Python (as it is considered to be easier for newbies).
17. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. MartinWhen you’re new to programming, you don’t pay much attention to your code style, as you’re focused on avoiding the obvious mistakes. But improving your style is very important in your further work. This book will show you the difference between good code and bad code and teach you major rules of writing clean and readable code, using the best practices. The book is highly recommended for beginner developers.
Pros: good examples and advice on crafting a readable code. Cons: come rules are taken to an extreme.
18. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles PetzoldWell, this is not a beginners’ book on Java, but it is a must-read for every developer. It will help you to clearly understand how computers work, from hardware to software. The author covers a wide range of subjects like electricity, circuits, relays, binary, logic, gates, microprocessors, code, and others to gradually create an understanding of how computer technology works. After reading this book, you would see behind the pixels on your desktop and know what’s happening every time you use your devices.
Pros: a great summary of computer technologies, lots of examples. Cons: some part of the book might be complicated.
19. Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowellThis is the best book for Java learners that have a goal to get a job as a software developer. It includes a wide list of practical questions and solutions you might be asked during a coding interview. Of course, the time zips along and many trends in “testing” developers change, but this book will help a newcomer to seize the idea of what to expect. However, we advise you to update your insights on forums and Java communities.
Pros: prepares for the real-world coding interviews. Cons: won’t help you without additional sources.
20. Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people by Aditya Y. BhargavaIf you need the best book about algorithms, this one may be the right choice. It is comprehensible for readers with an entry level of knowledge and presents popular algorithms such as sorting and searching in a graphical manner. Not many people would say that this specific subject is very exciting. This is why a visual approach to presenting data will help the newcomers to quickly engage themselves in learning. The book is divided into short chapters with a variety of examples, so you perceive the new information in the right proportions. And a plain and vivid narration will guide you through the concepts in such a way that you’ll be prepared to advanced content.
Pros: visuals, engaging narration, full coverage of fundamentals. Cons: great for beginners, but cannot be considered as a full reference.
21. Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, Clifford SteinIf you can’t get enough of algorithms, try this one. The unusual feature of the “Introduction…” is that it includes examples in a “pseudocode”. Despite it’s been presented as an introduction, it has a large scope of covered topics, and the whole concept of data structures and algorithms is explained pretty well. It is written in plain English and covers everything you need to know. The only thing is that it’s focused on describing algorithms rather than designing them. Still, it is a good reference book. If you feel you need to learn more about algorithms, then keep this book in mind.
Pros: a detailed catalogue of algorithms to which for a variety of situations. Cons: a lack of practice, requires a background reading.
22. Think Data Structures: Algorithms and Information Retrieval in Java by Allen B. DowneyThis is a helpful guide for utilizing data structures in Java programming. It will be an easy read for experienced developers, as it goes beyond the fundamentals straight to the deep understanding of interfaces, arrays, hash maps, jsoup using, etc. Each chapter includes an introduction to the topic, example, additional explanations plus the exercise to consolidate theory. You will enjoy the clear language and plain examples and how this book helps you to implement your knowledge immediately.
Pros: a condensed material with useful examples. Cons: might be tough for the novices. Well, we’ve finally reached the end of our list of best books to learn Java. Applauses for you being so patient and curious! Have you already read some of those? Do you have other books to recommend? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! Updated June 23, 2021