LanguagesWhat Programming Books are Developers Reading?

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Many programmers and technology professionals continuously educate themselves as technology changes and to expand their knowledge base. Many of today’s top programming languages have been popular for the past ten years (or longer in some cases), so having an understanding of each can be valuable for a developer interested in maintaining their flexibility and employability in the industry.
According to the Tiobe Index, today’s most popular languages include:

  • C
  • Java
  • Python
  • C++
  • C#
  • Visual Basic
  • JavaScript
  • PHP
  • SQL
  • Assembly language

Tiobe Index

On the day this article was written, Python had moved to second place over Java, but overall, these rankings have remained much the same over the past few years, with little changes here and there. While their rankings fluctuate over time, these languages seem to have the most popularity and longevity.

What Do the Best Selling Programming Books Tell Us?

One way to see what is likely to continue to be popular in the coming months and years is to see what books are being read on the subject matter. The real question is, are there any surprises between what people are reading and what is popular amongst the developer community?

Taking a look at Amazon, we can gain some insights into what is being read. Some books in the programming category are a bit off-topic for professional developers; this can include books that are miscategorized, such as the First Little Readers Parent Pack, as well as books that are technical but not really focused on developers, such as System Design Interview, which is an independently published book that isn’t really targeting programming. We will discount these.

Top Selling Programming Books for Developers on Amazon

If we focus on programming languages alone, then the following are the top topics and books aimed at developers, according to Amazon. This list doesn’t include interview books, gaming books, design books, or books focused more on systems. Here is the list, as of the time of this writing:

  1. Python: Python Crash Course: This book takes a project-based approach to teaching Python.
  2. Python: Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques to Build Intelligent Systems, 2nd Edition: This book focuses on using Python and Python frameworks for machine learning.
  3. Python: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python, 2nd Edition: Practical Programming for Total Beginners: Another introductory-level book teaching Python basics.
  4. PHP: Learn PHP: Basics of PHP Language: This is also an entry-level book but focused on teaching PHP. This book is also the top book for Web Programming.
  5. Python: Coding for Kids: Python: This is an entry-level book that teaches Python as well. It is focused on teaching kids using fun, interactive activities, and games.
  6. Python: Learn Python in One Day and Learn It Well: Another entry-level book for learning Python.
  7. Python: Grokking Algorithms: While this is a book focused on algorithms that can be used for multiple programming languages, the examples are done in Python.
  8. Scratch / Python: Beginner’s Step-by-Step Coding Course: Learn Computer Programming the Easy Way: This book says it focuses on coding in three different languages, including Scratch and Python. The third area of focus is web development, which could be considered HTML and JavaScript.
  9. JavaScript: Eloquent JavaScript, 3rd Edition: A Modern Introduction to Programming: This third-edition book states that it is a deep dive into JavaScript.
  10. Python: Learning Python, 5th Edition: Another book for learning the Python programming language.

In looking at this list, you can see that, when it comes to programming languages, Python has the focus of a lot of developers, along with a handful of web development topics sprinkled into the mix. If you continue down the bestseller list of books, you will find more Python books as well as more HTML, JavaScript, and CSS books. If I were to list the top 20, a C book, a PowerShell book, and an SQL QuickStart Guide would also make the list, sprinkled in between more Python books. Strangely, what is missing from the list are topics like C#, C++, and Visual Basic.

Final Thoughts on What Developers are Reading

Clearly, Python is a topic getting a lot of attention, which aligns with the Tiobe Index to a degree. Comparing the two lists, I would expect to see more books covering C#, JavaScript, and Java. It should be noted that this list is based on Amazon rankings which regularly change. Regardless, with so many Python books dominating the list, it is clear that a multitude of developers believe it is important to know Python and add it to their developer toolset, even if it is not their primary language.

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