6 Best Computer Science Textbooks

Computer Science subject has its required reading and textbooks. As with any area of study, Computer Science has a history, various processes, and enough differing opinions to fill a library. For computer science major students, I have selected some of the best computer science textbooks to simplify their academic studies and better grades in exams. While the books themselves vary dramatically in terms of contents, each book on this list is a classic and has remained a timeless addition to the constantly changing field of computer science.

Best Computer Science Textbooks

Book Name & Author Image Rating Price
Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook by Workman Publishing 9.7 View on Amazon
Computer Science Principles: The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science by Mr. Kevin P Hare 9.2 View on Amazon
Computer Science Illuminated by Nell Dale & John Lewis 9.0 View on Amazon
Introduction to Computing Systems: From Bits and Gates to C and Beyond by Yale N. Patt & Sanjay J. Patel 9.0 View on Amazon
Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach by John L. Hennessy & David A. Patterson 9.2 View on Amazon
Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold 9.2 View on Amazon

1. Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook

This Big Fat Notebook on computer science and coding makes it all “sink in” with key concepts, mnemonic devices, definitions, diagrams, and doodles to help you understand computer science. It covers computing systems, binary code, algorithms, computational thinking, loops, events, and procedures, programming in scratch and python, boolean expressions, web development, cybersecurity, HTML, CSS, and more.

It really gives an excellent birds’ eye view of the topic in a quick and easy read. And, you will be going to be ready to dive into “Scratch” after reading this to see if you can create something that will be a great ice breaker when the time comes to provide an introduction to the topic.

It explains things in simple, easy-to-understand English when it comes to computer sciences and coding. It’s simplistic enough to understand without having someone hovering, easy to learn with while not feeling like you’re reading a book aimed at middle-schoolers. The book also includes quirky little comics that are equally hilarious, memorable, and informative.

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2. Computer Science Principles: The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science

Computer science is the world’s fastest-growing field of study, and this growth is showing no signs of slowing down. As a new field, computer science can seem intimidating, but it should not be scary to learn or difficult to understand. If you have ever turned on a phone or surfed the Internet then you have used a computer and should have a basic understanding of what happens when you click the mouse or touch the screen and how fast it happens.

Computer Science Principles introduces the creative side of computing. Once you’ve made your way through this book, you’ll be editing photos, designing websites, coding JavaScript, and getting organized with spreadsheets and along the way, you’ll learn the foundational concepts of computer science. How do computers convert information into ones and zeros and send it thousands of miles in the blink of an eye? What is an IP address? What do TCP/IP, DNS, HTML, and CSS stand for? How can a hard drive store large movies and thousands of songs? How can secrets be sent in plain sight? These questions and more are answered in Computer Science Principles.

It covers essential topics like Hardware, Software, Number Systems, Boolean Expressions, Pixels, and Images, Compressing Data, Storing Data: Spreadsheets and Databases, Protecting Data: Heuristics, Security, and Encryption, Web Design: HTML and CSS, Programming: JavaScript, etc.

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3. Computer Science Illuminated

This classic textbook is designed for the introductory computing and computer science course. The student-friendly Computer Science Illuminated provides students with a solid foundation for further study and offers non-majors a complete introduction to computing. This edition is fully revised and updated, and this best-selling text retains the accessibility and in-depth coverage of previous editions while incorporating all-new material on cutting-edge issues in computer science.

The text provides a unique and innovative layered approach, moving through the levels of computing from an organized, language-neutral perspective. Key features of this book cover the enhanced content on Cloud Computing, Big Data, Smart Speakers in the home, Computer and System Security, Low-Level Programming Languages, and Pseudocode with updated examples using the Pep/9 machine.

Ethical issues at the end of each chapter have been updated to delve into current issues and trends, while new Did You Know boxes and updated biographical sketches reflect the latest information in the field. It aligns more broadly with the AP Computer Science Principles curriculum. Introductory programming chapters are available on Navigate 2 for Python, SQL, Java, C++, JavaScript, Visual Basic, NET, Ruby, Perl, Alice, and Pascal.

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4. Introduction to Computing Systems: From Bits and Gates to C and Beyond

Introduction to Computing Systems: From bits & gates to C & beyond, now in its second edition, is designed to give students a better understanding of computing early in their college careers in order to give them a stronger foundation for later courses. The book is in two parts:

(A) the underlying structure of a computer, and

(B) programming in a high-level language and programming methodology.

To understand the computer, the authors introduce the LC-3 and provide the LC-3 Simulator to give students hands-on access for testing what they learn. To develop their understanding of programming and programming methodology, they use the C programming language. The book takes a “motivated” bottom-up approach, where the students first get exposed to the big picture and then start at the bottom and build their knowledge bottom-up.

Within each smaller unit, the same motivated bottom-up approach is followed. Every step of the way, students learn new things, building on what they already know. The authors feel that this approach encourages deeper understanding and downplays the need for memorizing. Students develop a greater breadth of understanding since they see how the various parts of the computer fit together.

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5. Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach

Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach has been considered essential reading by instructors, students, and practitioners of computer design for over 20 years. The text now features examples from the RISC V (RISC Five) instruction set architecture, a modern RISC instruction set developed and designed to be a free and openly adoptable standard. It also includes a new chapter on domain-specific architectures and an updated chapter on warehouse-scale computing that features the first public information on Google’s newest WSC.

True to its original mission of demystifying computer architecture, this edition continues the longstanding tradition of focusing on areas where the most exciting computing innovation is happening, while always keeping an emphasis on good engineering design.

It includes a new chapter on domain-specific architectures, explaining how they are the only path forward for improved performance and energy efficiency gave the end of Moore’s Law and Dennard scaling. The book features the first publication of several DSAs from the industry. It offers updates to other chapters including new material dealing with the use of stacked DRAM; data on the performance of the new NVIDIA Pascal GPU vs. the new AVX 512 Intel Skylake CPU; and extensive additions to content covering multicore architecture and organization.

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

What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers? In code, they show us the ingenious ways we manipulate language and invent new means of communicating with each other. And through code, we see how this ingenuity and our very human compulsion to communicate have driven the technological innovations of the past two centuries.

Using everyday objects and familiar language systems such as Braille and Morse code, author Charles Petzold weaves an illuminating narrative for anyone who’s ever wondered about the secret inner life of computers and other smart machines.

It’s a cleverly illustrated and eminently comprehensible story and along the way, you’ll discover you’ve gained a real context for understanding today’s world of PCs, digital media, and the Internet. No matter what your level of technical savvy, code will charm you and perhaps even awaken the technophile within.

Code is a very clear explanation of how computers work, taking you from how people encode information to the basics of electricity to boolean algebra, switches, and gates, to machine language, and beyond. While you may not actually be able to build a simplistic computer from scratch after reading the book, you’ll have a greater appreciation of how much goes behind common devices like calculators and programming languages.

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