The 12 Best Coding Books for Beginners in 2023

In today‘s increasingly digital world, learning how to code has become an invaluable skill. Even if you don‘t plan to become a software engineer, understanding the basics of coding can benefit a wide range of careers—from digital marketing to data analysis to web design and more.

One of the best and most affordable ways to start learning coding is by picking up a good book targeted at beginners. While coding bootcamps and online courses can also be great options, self-learning through coding books allows you to go at your own pace, on your own schedule, and often at a fraction of the cost.

But with so many coding books on the market, it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you have no prior programming experience. To help you begin your coding journey, we‘ve compiled our picks for the 12 best coding books for beginners in 2023.

Our recommendations cover a range of the most in-demand programming languages, including Python, JavaScript, Java, C++, and more. We‘ve included both general books on coding principles and language-specific guides to give you options based on your goals and interests.

When evaluating books, we looked for:

  • Clear explanations of coding concepts that don‘t assume prior knowledge
  • Straightforward examples and exercises to practice what you‘re learning
  • Engaging writing that makes complex topics more approachable
  • Emphasis on coding fundamentals and best practices you can carry into any language

Without further ado, here are our top beginner coding book recommendations for 2023:

Best Overall Beginner Coding Books

These books offer an excellent primer on coding basics for those with no programming experience. They focus on fundamental concepts that apply across almost all programming languages.

1. Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Author: Charles Petzold
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: How computers work, binary code, circuits, programming languages, algorithms

Petzold deftly explains how computers operate at the most basic level and how code instructs them to complete tasks. This book is a fascinating look "under the hood" at what is going on inside a computer. While it doesn‘t teach the specifics of writing code, it provides an essential foundation for understanding how code powers software and hardware—perfect for absolute beginners.

2. The Self-Taught Programmer: The Definitive Guide to Programming Professionally

Author: Cory Althoff
Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Python programming, coding fundamentals, data structures, algorithms, getting a programming job

As the title suggests, this book is targeted at self-taught aspiring programmers with no computer science degree. Althoff, a self-taught programmer himself, focuses on the most important aspects of coding in plain, easy-to-understand language. The book not only teaches you programming basics in Python, but also provides helpful information on landing your first programming job.

The main drawback is that the book exclusively uses Python for all examples. However, Python is one of the most beginner-friendly languages and the concepts can carry over to learning other languages.

3. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Authors: Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Coding best practices, problem-solving, debugging, testing, automation, agile development

While this classic programming book is more advanced than the previous two on this list, it provides invaluable advice on what it takes to become a successful programmer. The authors share hard-earned wisdom and philosophies from their decades of software development experience.

The book focuses more on the mindset, habits and problem-solving techniques of an effective coder rather than the specifics of any one language. It provides a wealth of programming best practices and tips for writing better, more maintainable code. An excellent read for beginners to grow into as they start to get the hang of coding basics.

Best Python Books for Beginners

Python has exploded in popularity in recent years for good reason—its clear, readable syntax makes it one of the most beginner-friendly programming languages. It‘s widely used for everything from web development to data analysis to artificial intelligence. Here are our top Python book picks for beginners:

4. Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming

Author: Eric Matthes
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Python fundamentals, dictionaries, loops, classes, files, testing, data visualization, web apps

This hands-on guide quickly gets you writing real Python programs to solve problems and complete projects. Matthes explains core Python concepts in a clear, concise way while providing plenty of exercises to practice your new skills. Later chapters walk through larger projects like building interactive visualizations with Plotly and creating web apps with Django.

Some reviewers felt a few of the more advanced topics could use more explanation, but overall this is an extremely comprehensive guide to Python for beginners. The second edition has been fully updated for Python 3.

5. Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners

Author: Al Sweigart
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Python basics, flow control, functions, lists, dictionaries, strings, pattern matching, web scraping, Excel/Word/PDF automation

Sweigart takes a unique approach by teaching you Python fundamentals through writing simple programs to automate everyday tasks like organizing files, scraping data from websites, updating spreadsheets, and more. The book makes learning Python feel fun and immediately useful rather than overly theoretical.

The book does an excellent job explaining potentially confusing topics like regular expressions in an accessible way. It even touches on more advanced techniques like programmatically controlling the keyboard and mouse. A helpful resource for office workers looking to automate repetitive parts of their job.

Best JavaScript Books for Beginners

JavaScript is an essential language for any aspiring web developer to learn. It powers interactive and dynamic behavior on websites, from animations to form validation to interactive maps and more. Check out these top JavaScript books to start learning this versatile web development language:

6. Eloquent JavaScript: A Modern Introduction to Programming

Author: Marijn Haverbeke
Amazon rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: JavaScript basics, functions, objects, classes, error handling, Node.js, browser development tools

Haverbeke, a seasoned programmer, explains JavaScript fundamentals and programming best practices in clear, eloquent prose. The book features plenty of code examples, illustrations, and exercises to test your understanding at the end of each chapter.

While the first half of the book is very accessible for beginners, some of the later chapters do veer into more advanced topics like asynchronous programming. However, the majority of the book is focused on providing a solid foundation in vanilla JavaScript. A great pick for aspiring front-end web developers.

7. JavaScript and JQuery: Interactive Front-End Web Development

Author: Jon Duckett
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: JavaScript basics, programming concepts, jQuery basics, APIs, error handling, debugging, content panels, form enhancement

Duckett is known for his visually engaging, well-designed programming books and this guide is no exception. The book features full-color diagrams, photos and annotated code examples on almost every page, making it very easy to follow along.

In the second part of the book, Duckett also provides an introduction to jQuery, the most popular JavaScript library for simplifying HTML document traversing, event handling, animating, and Ajax interactions. While some argue that jQuery is no longer as relevant as it once was, it‘s still helpful to be familiar with it as a beginner since many older websites still use it heavily.

One drawback is that the book came out in 2014, so some of the web development best practices are a bit outdated (for example, it doesn‘t cover newer JavaScript features like promises or arrow functions). However, the fundamentals it teaches are still valid.

Best Java Books for Beginners

Java is one of the oldest and most widely-used programming languages. Its "write once, run anywhere" principle means Java code can run on all platforms that support Java, making it extremely versatile. Many large enterprises choose to build applications with Java. Here are two of the top books for learning Java as a beginner:

8. Head First Java: A Brain-Friendly Guide

Authors: Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates
Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Java fundamentals, object-oriented programming, distributed programming with RMI and network sockets, threads, Java web apps

If you‘re completely new to programming, the Head First series is a great place to start. Sierra and Bates break down complex Java concepts into simple, easy-to-grasp language and fun visuals. The book takes a "what you need to know first, worry about the details later" approach, allowing you to quickly start writing real code.

One thing to note is that the book was published in 2005, so it doesn‘t cover the newest features in Java. However, the core concepts it teaches are still relevant. If you already have some programming experience, you may find the book a bit too basic.

9. Effective Java

Author: Joshua Bloch
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Java best practices for objects, classes, libraries, methods, generics, enums, lambdas, streams, concurrency

Written by the lead designer of Java at Google, this guide distills years of experience into 90 best practices for writing clear, effective Java code. It assumes you already know the basics of Java and delves into how to make your code more robust, reusable and maintainable.

While not the best fit for complete beginners, this book is an invaluable resource to grow into as you start to get more comfortable with Java fundamentals. The latest edition has been updated to cover modern Java features like lambdas and streams.

Best C++ Book for Beginners

C++ is the language of choice for many applications that need fast runtime performance, such as operating systems, game engines, and scientific computing algorithms. It has a steeper learning curve than languages like Python or JavaScript, but is a rewarding language to learn.

10. C++ Primer

Authors: Stanley B. Lippman, Josée Lajoie, and Barbara E. Moo
Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: C++ basics, strings, arrays, expressions, statements, functions, classes, templates, iterators, algorithms

Widely considered one of the best books for learning modern C++, this guide walks you through core C++ programming concepts and techniques in painstaking detail. The authors explain every concept from first principles, making it accessible even if you have no prior C++ experience (although some familiarity with basic programming concepts is helpful).

Later chapters cover more advanced C++ features like move semantics, lambda expressions, and container classes. At over 900 pages, the book is quite comprehensive and not a quick read by any means. But it will give you a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of C++.

Other Beginner-Friendly Programming Books

Beyond the languages covered above, there are several other beginner-friendly programming books worth checking out:

11. HTML and CSS: Design and Build Websites

Author: Jon Duckett
Amazon rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: HTML fundamentals, text, lists, images, tables, forms, video audio, Flash, CSS color, text, boxes, lists, tables, forms, images

While HTML and CSS aren‘t technically programming languages, they are essential skills for any web developer to know. Duckett provides a highly visual, well-designed guide to building attractive, standards-compliant websites with HTML and CSS. The book doesn‘t assume any prior web development knowledge, making it very beginner-friendly.

12. SQL QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner‘s Guide to Managing, Analyzing, and Manipulating Data With SQL

Author: Walter Shields
Amazon rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Key topics covered: Relational databases, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLite, creating databases and tables, modifying data, queries, aggregate functions

Structured Query Language (SQL) is the standard language for communicating with relational databases. In clear, concise chapters, this book teaches you how to write SQL queries to retrieve and modify data in a database. Shields walks through examples in popular open source databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite.

As you can probably guess from the title, this book is meant as a quick introduction and isn‘t as comprehensive as some of the other guides on this list. But it will give you a good grasp of SQL fundamentals that you can build on.

Start Coding with Confidence

We hope this list of the best coding books for beginners in 2023 provides you with a good starting point on your programming journey. Remember, there‘s no one "best" programming book or language—the right choice depends on your goals and learning style.

The most important thing is to just start coding, even if you feel intimated at first. Choose one of the books on this list that sounds interesting to you, and commit to working through it on a consistent schedule. You might be surprised at how quickly you can start grasping programming basics.

Of course, books are just one of many ways to learn coding skills. Online tutorials, interactive coding websites, video courses, programming bootcamps, and real-world projects are all valuable learning aids as well. Aim to mix and match a few different learning methods to keep things interesting and get practice applying your new skills.

Learning to code takes dedication and persistence, but remember that every expert programmer was once a beginner too. With time and practice, you‘ll be well on your way to mastering the art of coding. Happy programming!

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