This page lists some books about various aspects of software development and software engineering that I (Roscoe Bartlett) have read over the years, especially during a particularly intense period in the 2007-2008 time frame. I provide a brief overview of the content of each covered book and why I think it is useful (or essential) to read the book and what to look for in each book. These books (along with the personal application in the following years of the principles and practices presented in them) represent my basic education in software engineering. Hopefully these books will help others the way they helped me.
- A) General Software Engineering Books
- B) C++ Books
To provide some context and motivation for this reading list, here I describe some of my background and experiences related to my software development journey. It is my hope that others can avoid the path that I took and instead educate themselves about software development sooner in their careers.
When I started my Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1996 at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), I knew that I liked writing code and I liked the challenge of learning and mastering the C++ language. My first C++ book was “C++ Nuts & Bolts for Experienced Programmers”, 1995, by Herbert Schildt, and I read that book cover-to-cover in about 2 days. A few months after that I read Bjarne Stroustrup’s book The C++ Programming Language, 2nd Edition. While that book mostly just covered the C++ language, Stroustrup made some references to writing tests and some other basic software engineering best practices but it was minimal (after all, this was a book about a programming language, not software engineering). Later in my first year of graduate school, I was introduced to the book Design Patterns by a computer science Ph.D. student at CMU. Armed with the knowledge of C++ and Design Patterns, I set about writing a sizable amount of software implementing advanced numerical algorithms for constrained optimization as part of my Ph.D. work (the optimization package at that point was called rSQP++ for reduced successive quadratic programming).
When I started working at Sandia National Labs in 2001 after my Ph.D., I continued writing object-oriented parallel numerical software in C++, extending my Ph.D. software package rSQP++ to support parallel computations with MPI (where the name was changed from rSQP++ to MOOCHO). Around 2003, I added the source code (and history) for MOOCHO to the Trilinos project version control repository. Once in Trilinos, I created or significantly contributed to many Trilinos packages. By 2007 I had written a lot of software and was a prolific contributor to Trilinos (the largest contributor to Trilinos in terms of number of commits and lines of source code). During that entire period from 1996 till 2007 I believed that I was writing quality object-oriented C++ software. Then, in 2007, I began reading a larger portion of the modern software engineering literature (some of which is highlighted in the lists below) and came to realize my own knowledge gap in best practices for creating and maintaining quality software. After this realization, I began applying many of the software engineering best practices to my CSE projects and realized significant improvements in productivity and the overall quality of the software I was writing. However, I was also horrified to realize that, prior to gaining this knowledge, I had created tens of thousands of lines of CSE software of insufficient quality and that I was now in a position to have to maintain.
It is my hope that this reading list will be useful and help motivate others to obtain this knowledge and skills earlier in their professional careers (sooner than I did). Once armed with this knowledge, there is no going back!
A) General Software Engineering Books
Here is a set of books that I have read about general software engineering that is largely independent of programming language (but is biased toward object-oriented languages) that I would recommend to anyone who is serious about software development.
A.1) Most Recommended Software Engineering Books
This section lists the books that I have read that I would mostly highly recommend to anyone who is serious about software development. These books are listed in the approximate order of importance and the order that I would recommend people read them in depending on interest and focus.
- McConnell, Steve. Code Complete (Second Edition). Microsoft Press, 2004
- Feathers, Michael. Working Effectively with Legacy Code. Prentice Hall, 2005
- Martin, Robert C. Agile Software Development (Principles, Patterns, and Practices). Prentice Hall, 2003
- Evans, Eric. Domain-Driven Design. Addison Wesley, 2004
- Poppendieck, Mary and Tom. Implementing Lean Software Development. Addison Wesley, 2007
McConnell, Steve. Code Complete (Second Edition). Microsoft Press, 2004
This is the single most useful book I have ever read about software development. I wish I had read the first edition of this book back when I first started doing serious programming (in about 1996). Steve McConnell is one of the most respected voices in the software engineering community and he gives sound advice on nearly every aspect of software construction. Areas covered range from basic layout and construction of statements, control structures, functions, classes, files, modules etc., to broader software engineering issues like dealing with defects, software quality engineering, and documentation. Steve articulates several important principles of software engineering like The General Principle of Software Quality (i.e., improved quality makes software development cheaper, more predictable, and lower risk) and its corollaries. Since reading this book my standards for writing clean, clear, and robust code have gone way up. After reading this book, I now look at the design, structuring, and layout of software with the same level of standards that I apply to writing journal quality papers.
Disclaimer: Steve’s advice on C++ is not the most current. He appears to be a much more accomplished C programmer. For specific C++ advice, refer the Effective C++ (3rd edition) and other C++ references given below.
Feathers, Michael. Working Effectively with Legacy Code. Prentice Hall, 2005
Legacy software is very hard to modify and extend, as it often relies on obsolete software and hardware, lacks testing, and may have no developers familiar with its complexities. This book gives us hope that we can use targeted, incremental unit testing and refactoring to turn legacy software into better tested, understood, and extensible software while implementing and delivering new functionality at the same time.
If you’ve read Refactoring and felt a little uneasy about how this would apply to large, nasty software projects, then Working Effectively with Legacy Code is the book to read. Michael mentions and reviews many of the object-oriented principles in Agile Software Development as well as other bits of information that you can find in other great books about software development. Working Effectively with Legacy Code is the logical culmination of Refactoring and Test Driven Development; it’s where the rubber meets the road when combining unit testing and refactoring.
The definition of “Legacy Code” given in this book is simple but often shocking to the uninitiated:
Legacy Code == Code Without Tests
Micheal Feathers States:
Code without tests is bad code. It does not matter how well written it is; it doesn’t matter how pretty or object-oriented or well-encapsulated it is. With tests, we can change the behavior of our code quickly and verifiably. Without them, we really don’t know if our code is getting better or worse.
He lists four reasons to change software:
- Adding a feature
- Fixing a bug
- Improving the design (i.e. refactoring)
- Optimizing resource usage
He argues that no matter what change is made to the code, we must always maintain other behavior that we do not intend to change. He states:
Behavior is the most important thing about software. It is what users depend on. Users like it when we add behavior (provided it is what they really wanted), but if we change or remove behavior they depend on (introduce bugs), they stop trusting us.
The main contribution of this book is the Legacy Code Change Algorithm:
- Identify the targeted legacy code:
- Identify change points for the target change or new code addition.
- Find test points where the behavior of the code can be sensed.
- Get targeted legacy code into test harness and cover with tests:
- Break dependencies (very carefully and often without sufficient tests) and get the targeted legacy code into a test harness.
- Cover targeted legacy code with (characterization) unit tests.
- Add new functionality with new tests (usually following the Test Driven Development (TDD) process).
- Refactor tested code to remove duplication, clean up, etc.
Step 1 defines the targeted subset of legacy code that must have tests which depend on what needs to change, what can be sensed, and where dependencies can be broken. After unit tests which cover the targeted code have been implemented in Step 2, it should have close to 100% coverage. Without full coverage, it is difficult to know if existing behavior is preserved. Any refactorings in Step 4 is safe to perform once the targeted code is sufficiently covered with tests. Refactoring is critical to improve the clarity and maintainability of the code. WARNING: The refactorings must not extend outside code that is sufficiently covered by tests!
The most challenging part of the Legacy Software Change Algorithm is getting the targeted legacy code into a unit test harness and covering it with tests which (in more detail) includes these steps:
Identify change points: Find out where in the legacy code you want to make a change or add new code. Targeted changes should be done in small iterations so this should hopefully just be a single function or a few functions and hopefully only a single class if possible.
Find test points: Find out where in the code you can sense variables, or call functions, etc. such that you can detect the behavior of the code you want to change. You may need to add “sensing” variables to help see what you need to see in a unit test.
Break dependencies: Dependencies need to be broken for one of two reasons: Sensing and Separation. With Sensing, one must be able to inspect the behavior of the code that we can’t otherwise see. While Separation is needed to allow the code to be run in a test harness outside of the production setting. Actually breaking the dependencies involves applying minimal refactorings with careful hyper-sensitive editing. (There are special dependency-breaking refactorings defined in this book to help with this critical task.)
Cover legacy code with unit tests: If you have the specification for how the targeted legacy code is supposed to work, then write tests to that specification. Otherwise, write “Characterization Tests” to see what the code actually does under different input scenarios. NOTE: When the official specification differs from the actual observed behavior of the code, go with the actual behavior for because that is what users actually depend on. (Differences between specified/desired behavior and actual behavior can be addressed in later iterations if one desires breaking backward compatibility.)
Finally, another major contribution of this book is in detailing the strategies that can be used in the various steps of the Legacy Code Change Algorithm which include:
- Faking Collaborators: Needed to get targeted code into a unit test harness and drive unit tests.:
- Fake Objects: Impersonates a collaborator to allow sensing and control.
- Mock Objects: Extended Fake Objects that asserts expected behavior.
- Seams: Ways of inserting test-related code:
- Preprocessing Seams: Preprocessor macros to replace functions, replace header files, etc.
- Link Seams: Replace implementation functions (program or system) to define behavior or sense changes.
- Object Seams: Define interfaces and replace production objects with mock or fake objects in a test harness. (NOTE: Prefer object seams to link or preprocessing seams!)
The Legacy Code Change Algorithm is applied in many small iterations over and over again as pieces of the legacy software are changed. Over time, these small incremental refactorings can result in significant improvements to the quality and sustainability of the software and can even perform major (beneficial) architectural changes. In fact, at some point, the software may have improved to the point where there is enough strong testing that it is no longer considered legacy code!
This book is packed with practical examples that show nearly every trick there is for refactoring nasty code to break dependencies and getting code into a unit test harness. After reading this book, you should be convinced of the need for unit testing and TDD.
Martin, Robert C. Agile Software Development (Principles, Patterns, and Practices). Prentice Hall, 2003
After Code Complete (2nd Edition), this is the next book that I would most highly recommend. While Code Complete (2nd edition) covers object-oriented design, I feel that Martin’s book does a much better job of covering the essence of object-orientation. In my opinion, the greatest contribution of this book is in chapters 7-9, and 20. In these chapters, Martin defines eleven different principals of object-oriented design; five of these are related to individual classes, and the remaining six are related to collections of classes (i.e. packages). These eleven principles are:
General Object-Oriented Design Principles (i.e. The S.O.L.I.D. Principles**):
1) SRP (Single Responsibility Principle): Classes should have only one reason to change.
2) OCP (Open-Closed Principle): Software entities (classes, modules, functions, etc.) should be open for extension, but closed for modification.
3) LSP (Liskov Substitution Principle): Subtypes must be substitutable for their base types.
4) ISP (Interface Segregation Principle): Clients should not be forced to depend upon methods that they do not use. Interfaces belong to clients, not to hierarchies.
5) DIP (Dependency Inversion Principle): Abstractions should not depend on details. Details should depend on abstractions.
Package Cohesion Principles:
6) REP (Release-Reuse Equivalency Principle): The granule of reuse is the granule of release.
7) CCP (Common Closure Principle): The classes in a package should be closed together against the same kinds of changes. A change that affects a closed package affects all the classes in that package and no other packages.
8) CRP (Common Reuse Principle): The classes in a package are used together. If you reuse one of the classes in a package, you reuse them all.
Package Coupling Principles:
9) ADP (Acyclic Dependencies Principle): Allow no cycles in the package dependency graph.
10) SDP (Stable Dependencies Principle): Depend in the direction of stability.
11) SAP (Stable Abstractions Principle): A package should be as abstract as it is stable.
These principles distill a great deal of object-orientation know-how down to short acronyms like OCP (Open-Closed Principle). The other chapters that describe many design patterns are also very useful like chapters 13-17, 21, 23-29. Some of these design patterns are the same as given in the well known book Design Patterns, while others are new (at least to me). Even with those patterns that are the same as in Design Patterns, Martin gives them more context and helps to really flesh them out. This is great stuff.
Disclaimer: This book is poorly named. While the introductory chapters discuss Extreme Programming (XP), the remaining chapters of the book have little to do with XP specifically and are only mildly related to Agile methods in general. In fact, the discussion in chapter 20 on packaging issues (while it contains great material) runs contrary to more modern Agile approaches that use continuous integration (see Continuous Integration). Unless a reader is specifically interested in Agile methods, I would suggest that they just skim through chapters 1-6. I suspect that the majority of this book was written well before the Agile angle was decided on and the title was mainly a sales ploy to take advantage of the hot new term “Agile”. Also, this book has many examples; some are helpful but most (at least for me) were beating a dead horse (i.e. I already got the point). For other readers, the examples may be more helpful if they do not understand the points in the text.
** The acronym “S.O.L.I.D” for the five general object-oriented design principles was coined after the publication of the book “Agile Software Development”. In this book, the principles were listed in the order “S.O.L.D.I.”.
Evans, Eric. Domain-Driven Design. Addison Wesley, 2004
This is a more advanced book on software engineering analysis and design. The main focus of the book is on how to develop a deep supple model for a domain and how to allow the software to reflect the domain model. The idea is to bridge analysis and design so that they can feed into each other in an iterative process. The book also deals with how to manage large-scale software interactions. Continuous refactoring is a major theme of the book and the approach is very compatible with Agile methods. I suspect that the core message of this book will go over the heads of most readers that are not deeply interested in software engineering. However, material like chapter 10 on “Supple Design” is more at the level of Agile Software Development and should be more practically useful to all software developers. Actually, I think chapter 10 is so good that it deserves to be read even if the rest of the book is not.
Disclaimer: This book has a large bias for IT-type domains and for programming languages like Java and Python where all memory is managed through implicit pointers/references. Specifically, the definition of VALUE OBJECTs needs to be refined for use in C++ that has true value objects. Also, SERVICES might just as well be non-member functions in C++ rather than to be shoe-horned into an object as a SERVICE. Anyway, the content in the book needs to be revised for C++. Note that Evans appears to feel that C++ is not a very good language for MODEL-DRIVEN DESIGN. One example reference is given in “Domain-Driven Design Quickly” where Evans states “Java has been the default choice of the last few years … It has garbage collection, which, in practice, turns out to be essential. (In contrast to C++, which just demanded too much attention to low-level details.)”. Notice the past tense word “demanded”; it seems clear that Evans sees C++ as the past. I don’t see this bias as a problem in adopting these ideas in a C++ environment but this bias is something to keep in mind when reading the book.
Poppendieck, Mary and Tom. Implementing Lean Software Development. Addison Wesley, 2007
This is a fantastic book about modern Agile software development. Here, the authors cover several aspects of software development that I did not find in most of the other books that I have read. One of the biggest things that I took away from the book was the importance of avoiding waste by not implementing any feature that is not absolutely necessary and/or of high priority. The idea is to find, write, and maintain that 20% of code that satisfies 80% of the desires of your customers. The whole chapter on “Waste” was excellent and everyone who does or is associated with software development should read this chapter. Another interesting topic the book covers is how people fit into the software development process and what management practices help to build strong teams and what management practices work to destroy strong teams (e.g. individual rankings and compensation). Some other interesting concepts to look for are “technical debt”, “automation”, and “cycle time”. It was also interesting to read that most mistakes that are made in software development are due to a flawed process and/or supporting tools and not due to bad developers. Therefore, we should first question and improve the process and/or our development tools to make them more mistake-proof before we point our fingers at individual people for the mistakes they make. Simply asking people to remember more or giving them a big list of things they have to do is not enough. Lastly, the “Try this” section of the last chapter “Journey” gives a great condensed summary of the whole book. If you read nothing else, read this last “Try this” section and go back in the book to look for further details and explanations.
Disclaimer: At the foundation for “Lean” software development is an analogy to the Toyota Production System (TPS) for manufacturing. As with any such analogy one can go too far (see Code Complete (2nd edition)) for a discussion of this issue) but the authors appear to be able to only take the manufacturing analogy as far as it can be usefully applied and not any further.
A.2) Recommended Software Engineering Books
This next set of books provides valuable information on general software engineering but I do not recommend them quite as highly as the books described above. It is not that these books are not excellent on their own. It is that the information provided in my most recommended books taken together covers a majority of the important information founds in the books in this section. However, many of these are still considered classics and any good software engineer (or software engineering researcher) should know these books.
- Fowler, Martin. UML Distilled (Third Edition). Addison Wesley, 2004
- Gamma, Erich, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides. Design Patterns (Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. Addison Wesley, 1995
- Beck, Kent. Test Driven Development. Addison Wesley, 2003
- Fowler, Martin. Refactoring (Improving the Design of Existing Code). Addison Wesley, 1999
- Duvall, Paul, et al. Continuous Integration. Addison Wesley, 2007
- Beck, Kent. Extreme Programming (Second Edition). Addison Wesley, 2005
- Schwaber, Ken and Mike Beedle. Agile Software Development with Scrum. Prentice Hall, 2002
- Kniberg, Henrik. Scrum and XP from the Trenches. Info, 2007
- Brooks, Frederick. The Mythical Man Month: 20th Anniversary Edition. Addison Wesley, 1995
Fowler, Martin. UML Distilled (Third Edition). Addison Wesley, 2004
A picture is worth a thousand words and a single well-written UML class diagram can be worth 10,000 lines of raw C++ code. This is the third edition of the highly popular and award winning book by Martin Fowler on the UML. This short book (just 159 pages) is more information about the UML than most anyone will need to know to be productive and communicate object-oriented designs well with others. Fowler also sprinkles in several little tidbits of great information like on “Design by Contract” about invariants, pre-conditions and post-conditions. This is a great read.
Gamma, Erich, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John Vlissides. Design Patterns (Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. Addison Wesley, 1995
This is the seminal work that really launched the patterns movement in software engineering. This was the book that I read where the “light went on” and I really got what object-oriented programming was all about. Most people in computational science have a hard time relating to the examples in the book but this is still well worth the read. In my experience, the most useful patterns are ABSTRACT FACTORY, PROTOTYPE, ADAPTER, COMPOSITE, DECORATOR, FACADE, PROXY, ITERATOR, OBSERVER, and STRATEGY. If I had to pick my four favorite design patterns, I would say they are ABSTRACT FACTORY, COMPOSITE, DECORATOR, and STRATEGY.
Disclaimer: Some of these design patterns in this book are more useful than others. First, I think the SINGLETON pattern has done great harm to the software development community since it has been used as an excuse to abuse global data (no way around it). Also, I have found little to no use for the patterns FLYWEIGHT, CHAIN OF RESPONSIBILITY, no INTERPRETER (but perhaps I will some day).
Beck, Kent. Test Driven Development. Addison Wesley, 2003
I am not wildly excited about this book but it does sharply define Test Driven Development (TDD) that has been shown to be so effective. This book describes how you can use unit (and other) tests to drive your day-to-day coding work in a way that makes you more productive in every way. For me, all of the really useful information was in the Preface, and Part III (chapters 25-32).
Disclaimer: I don’t like the way the dialog in this book is written. There are way too many examples that are used to demonstrate concepts that are abundantly clear to me in the prose text. I get the feeling that Beck is writing this book to the lowest common denominator of programmers. Therefore, I got all that I needed out of Part III; I did not need the long-winded examples in Parts I and II (but they might be more useful for some other people).
Fowler, Martin. Refactoring (Improving the Design of Existing Code). Addison Wesley, 1999
Continuous refactoring is one of the most important practices in all Agile programming methods, right up there with TDD. Without the ability to refactor, there is no DDD or incremental design (XP), or any other methodology other than a straight Water Fall method. Most of the book is a catalog; you can read the most important overview information in just a few chapters (e.g., Preface, chapters 1-4 and 13-15).
Duvall, Paul, et al. Continuous Integration. Addison Wesley, 2007
This is a recent book that covers many aspect of software management from day-to-day development, to integration, to deployment, to post-delivery maintenance. This book describes how you can keep every developers code up-to-date, get updated code constantly and constantly check in modified code without experiencing wasted time working with broken code. It also describes how to make release and deployment “non-events”. This book is very Agile friendly.
Beck, Kent. Extreme Programming (Second Edition). Addison Wesley, 2005
Extreme Programming (XP) is called “extreme” for a reason. There are some radical ideas that Beck lays out in this book. While the Values and Principles of XP are undisputed in the Agile community, some of the actual Practices are less widely used. The practices can be seen as worthy goals in many cases but apparently there is no record of any successful software project that has used all of the practices. For example, XP suggests no extra documentation at all beyond the code. The advice in Domain-Driven Design is a little more reasonable and suggests a small amount of extra documentation beyond the code.
Disclaimer: Extreme Programming (XP) is called “extreme” for a reason. Some of the practices that Beck recommends are a bit “extreme” like requiring that every line of production code be written in pairs doing pair programming. There is a general softening of many of these practices as described by Steve McConnell at http://blogs.construx.com/blogs/stevemcc/archive/2007/10/08/5-questions-on-agile-development.aspx and www.construx.com (do a local search on “Legacy of Agile Software Development” on that page).
Schwaber, Ken and Mike Beedle. Agile Software Development with Scrum. Prentice Hall, 2002
This is one of the first major books on the Scrum software development process. Scrum is primarily about software project management dealing with how requirements (i.e. user stories) are collected and how the overall structure of a software development project is put together. Scrum, like all Agile methods, structures the software development process into a set of iterations (called “Sprints” or “time boxes”) where the maximum value to the customer (represented by the “product owner”) is the goal of each iteration (sprint). Scrum is very sparse on any code-level software engineering practices and therefore Scrum is often combined with the more accepted parts of XP. If your objective is to be goal-oriented and you want to focus everyone on meeting these goals (that are constantly updated and revised throughout a development effort) and make them accountable for the outcome, then it is hard to argue against Scrum. Even for big upfront design (BUFD) method, you should consider using Scrum to drive the actual low-level development work.
Disclaimer: Even through this book is as recent as 2002, it is a little out of date with respect to the current best practices in Agile software development. One example of an out-dated principle is that idea that “quality” should be one of the variables in a software project. When defined in a certain way (e.g. how polished a user interface is) one can accept “quality” as a variable but in general, fundamental internal software quality should never be negotiable (see Kniberg’s book Scrum and XP from the Trenches). Also, some of the details of the Scrum process have been refined some in recent years (see Scrum and XP from the Trenches).
Kniberg, Henrik. Scrum and XP from the Trenches. Info, 2007
In this book, the author describes how they implemented Scrum in his software organization and he goes into a lot of the practical details of working with Scrum on a day-to-day basis. Also, this book gives some of the updated best practices of Scrum that are more recent. Lots of good stuff here.
Brooks, Frederick. The Mythical Man Month: 20th Anniversary Edition. Addison Wesley, 1995
Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. That was my primary motivation for reading this book. This book is a well-known classic on software engineering. The original edition of this book was first published in 1975 and contains the experience and insight of the author (Dr. Fred Brooks) primarily related to his leadership of the IBM Operating System 360 project from the mid-1960s! That means that in 2009 (when I first read this book) that much of the knowledge and experience contained in this book goes back almost 45 years! The first 15 chapters of this 20th anniversary edition are exactly the same as published in the original edition in 1975. There are four additional chapters with some updated information as of 1995 (when the 20th anniversary edition was published). The added chapter 18 “Propositions of the Mythical Man Month: True or False?” is a great summary of the (original) first 15 chapters. Going over these propositions, you see a great many of the ideas and foundations for modern (2009) Lean/Agile software engineering methods. It is very comforting to know that many of the principles in Lean/Agile methods have more than a 40 year history. Some of the best material in the book is where Dr. Brooks gives the essence of the joys and challenges of software in chapter 1 (i.e. 1975) and also where he identifies and discusses the essential complexities in software engineering that will never be magically solved (in the 1995 material). What is great about the later 1995 material is that it is almost 100% consistent with modern (2009) Lean/Agile methods, even though the terms “Lean” and “Agile” would not even be officially coined for another 5 years or more. All of this just convinces me that Lean/Agile methods are more consistent with the long standing wisdom in the software engineering community than the process-heavy methods of the late 80s and 90s (i.e. CMM(I) and related methods).
Disclaimer: While many of the observations and advice in this book are consistent with modern Lean/Agile, a good bit of it is not and Dr. Brooks acknowledges this in the later 1995 chapters. In particular, much of the 1975 material assumes a variation of the Water Fall method which he strongly acknowledges in 1995 is a bad way to try to develop software (see chapter 19). In 1975, Dr. Brooks was also arguing that every developer should see every part of the code. However he totally changed his mind in the 1995 update and has come to believe in interfaces, specialization, and information hiding (see chapter 19).
B) C++ Books
Disclaimer: This list of books was compiled in 2008 when C++98/03 was the current C++ standard. Much has changed with the introduction of the newer and improved C++11, C++14 and C++17 standards. However, much of the advice provided in these books still holds up in these more modern C++ standards. (And there are still billions of lines of C++ written in C++03.)
B.1) Most Recommended C++ Books
Here I list several books on C++ that I suspect will be the most useful for beginning and experienced C++ developers. I list these books in the order of relative importance and not necessarily in the order that I would recommend that a beginning C++ programmer would read them. Actually, it has been so long since I first learned C++ that I have no idea what a good modern introductory C++ book would be these days. In general, beware of C++ books written before 1998 since a lot has been learned about C++ since then. Some of the books given below were written before 1998 so be careful of some of the advice you find in them. Refer to the newer books (such as Effective C++ (3rd edition) and C++ Coding Standards) for more current advice.
- Meyers, Scott. Effective C++ (Third Edition). Addison Wesley, 2005
- Sutter, Herb and Andrei Alexandrescu. C++ Coding Standards. Addison Wesley, 2005
- Stroustrup, Bjarne. The C++ Programming Language (Special Edition). Addison Wesley, 2000
- Meyers, Scott. More Effective C++. Addison Wesley, 1996
Meyers, Scott. Effective C++ (Third Edition). Addison Wesley, 2005
The book describes the most current, best advice on how to write good C++03 code and stay out of trouble. This book is not the first book that a beginner would read on C++03 but it is probably the second.
Sutter, Herb and Andrei Alexandrescu. C++ Coding Standards. Addison Wesley, 2005
Here is a catalog of 101 items that summarize most of the C++ communities’ best practices (in C++03). The authors are well respected in the C++ community and they provide many references to other respected authorities for every item. In my opinion, some of these principles are more important than others, but on the whole I highly recommend this book.
Disclaimer: Some of the items are not appropriate for all situations or are just not quite correct in my opinion. I amend and nullify some of the items in the Appendix of the tech report “Thyra Coding and Documentation Guidelines” (see my publications list).
Stroustrup, Bjarne. The C++ Programming Language (Special Edition). Addison Wesley, 2000
Bjarne Stroustrup is the original implementer of C++ and is still highly involved in the C++ standardization process (see Evolving a language in and for the real world: C++ 1991-2006). Most beginning C++ programmers find this book hard to get through but it provides a very comprehensive treatment of the C++ language and standard C++ library (i.e., the ISO C++98 standard). In later chapters, Stroustrup also gives a lot of good advice on object-oriented design that is very compatible with everything more recent that you will read coming out of the Agile community for instance. (Note that this is essentially the same book as “The C++ Programming Language (2nd Edition)”, just with a hard cover.)
Disclaimer: Some of the advice in this book goes contrary to more recent best practices in the C++ community. For example, where TC++PL and C++ Coding Standards differ, go with the guidance in the latter.
Meyers, Scott. More Effective C++. Addison Wesley, 1996
While Effective C++ (3rd Edition) provides basic information on C++98/03, this book goes into some more advanced C++ concepts. This book describes a number of useful concepts and is a great place to look for ideas. For example, I put Item 28 on smart pointers and Item 29 on reference counting together and came up with the idea of smart reference-counted pointers that has evolved into the current Teuchos::RCP class (see paper Teuchos C++ Memory Management Classes, Idioms, and Related Topics: The Complete Reference).
Disclaimer: This book was published in 1995 (i.e., before the ISO C++ 98 standard) and some of the material is not relevant anymore. For example, much of the material in Items 32 and 35 is obsolete.
B.2) Recommended Books on the Fine Details of C++
If you really want to know the gory details of C++ and how to do crazy powerful things with it, the following books will provide a lot of in-depth information. I have not read every word in these books but I often refer to them whenever I get stuck and can’t understand why C++ is not compiling my code or my program is not behaving the way that I expect.
- Dewhurst, Stephen, C. C++ Gotchas. Addison Wesley, 2003
- Vandevoorde, David, and Nicolai M. Josuttis. C++ Templates. Addison Wesley, 2003
- Alexandrescu, Andrei. Modern C++ Design. Addison Wesley, 2001
- Ellis, Margaret, and Bjarne Stroustrup. C++: The Annotated Reference Manual. Addison Wesley, 1990
Dewhurst, Stephen, C. C++ Gotchas. Addison Wesley, 2003
The author gives a list of 99 items that describe a lot of the ways to get into trouble with C++ and how to avoid them. The fact that someone can actually write an entire book on “C++ Gotchas” is just another indication of how complex this language is and why very few people really excel in using it. (In some ways, it also exposes some of the language’s most serious deficiencies that no upcoming C++ standard can fix, and still call it C++.)
Vandevoorde, David, and Nicolai M. Josuttis. C++ Templates. Addison Wesley, 2003
Here, the authors provide a very rigorous treatment of templates that would be recommended for anyone writing non-trivial C++03 templated code. This book contains material from the basic usage of templates to very advanced techniques. This book also describes the nitty-gritty details of overload resolution of C++ functions including how templated functions fit in. This is very helpful when you are not sure why some code does not compile the way you think it should.
Alexandrescu, Andrei. Modern C++ Design. Addison Wesley, 2001
This book describes some very advanced template-programming techniques with C++03. If you are writing any type of complex template code, I would highly recommend that you have this book and know what information it contains so that you can find it when you need specific information.
Ellis, Margaret, and Bjarne Stroustrup. C++: The Annotated Reference Manual. Addison Wesley, 1990
This is a very old book on C++, the oldest that I mention in this list of references. This book was meant to provide the starting point for what would become the first official C++98 standard. What is useful about this book is that is provides very low-level details on the inner workings of C++ and gives lots of examples of how C++ compilers implement common language features. For instance, if you want to know how virtual functions are commonly implemented and why they are so efficient, there are good examples given.
B.3) Recommended Books on the History of C++ and why it has its current form
When looking at its current form, it is clear that C++ is a language that was grown (i.e. evolved) while it was being actively used to write millions of lines of code over many years. No one would set out to design a language from scratch that looks like C++98. Therefore, if you really want to know why C++ is the way it is, the following publications from Bjarne Stroustrup are very illuminating.
- Stroustrup, Bjarne. The Design and Evolution of C++. Addison Wesley, 1994
- Stroustrup, Bjarne. Evolving a language in and for the real world C++ 1991-2006, HOPL III: Proceedings of the third ACM SIGPLAN conference on History of programming languages, AMC, New York, pages 4-1 to 4-59, 2007
Stroustrup, Bjarne. The Design and Evolution of C++. Addison Wesley, 1994
If want to know where C++ came from and why most of the language is the way it is, this is the book to read. This book covers the inception, development, and growth of C++ from pre-1980 to 1993. I think to be a truly great C++ programmer and understand how to use C++ effectively, you need to know much of what is in this book.
Stroustrup, Bjarne. Evolving a language in and for the real world C++ 1991-2006, HOPL III: Proceedings of the third ACM SIGPLAN conference on History of programming languages, AMC, New York, pages 4-1 to 4-59, 2007
In this proceedings paper, Stroustrup picks up where he left off in The Design and Evolution of C++. This is an especially good read if you want some insight into the ISO C++ standardization process for C++11 and beyond.