Best Programming Books – For Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

What books do the best programmers read to stay up-to-date with the latest in the continually changing environment of software development? How do they know which books are really worth their time, and which are nothing more than simple side pleasures?

To some, the best programming books are those that can be easily referenced when they’re stuck in the code. These types of reference materials are, to be certain, some of the most valuable books to have on hand. The internet, however, is often a more easily accessible reference guide in situations like this.

So, what kinds of programming books exist? Beyond reference books, many books help people, like me, understand how programming works at a higher level. Programming is not just about the code, but it is also about what the code creates and how that creation will be used.

Almost anyone can find a snippet of code, copy it, and paste it into place. With luck, it will function properly on its own. Whether or not that code can be created to work with specific intentions will depend on how well the programmer understands the code’s language and syntax.
I’ve found that the best books are those that blend introducing new, concrete knowledge with examples with more abstract ideas that must be addressed while programming.

From foundational books to reference books, from career guidance books to efficiency books, there is a huge variety of content about programming available to programmers who are ready to do more.

Are you one of those programmers? I know I am. Today’s list, though, was not created by me.

It was curated by the ideas, thoughts, and knowledge-base of the amazing CEO Library community. Experienced developers and programmers shared their insight into what are the best programming books, and this is what they recommend:

Best Programming Books

Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass

I love the poets. Poetry is kind of like programming–it’s densifying very abstract concepts into a medium that allows interpretation. People can make the work their own and have better, more creative answers in life. Really anything that helps us reflect a bit more interests me.

Whitman’s also an interesting character, a total entrepreneur. He self-published 35,000 copies of Leaves of Grass. He was publishing it during the time of the Civil War and it’s an edgy, questioning book. It questions racial equality, sexual equality, gender equality, all in one work. And he kept changing it until he died–adding to it, editing it, and republishing it. Most people read the last version but I think the first version is actually the best.

The efficiency of every line in that poem, much like great programming, is stunning.

Jack Dorsey
CEO/Twitter
Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms and Source Code in C

Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms and Source Code in C

[One of the five books Dominic Steil recommends to young people interested in his career path.]
Dominic Steil
CTO/Dapps Inc
Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture - by David Kushner: - This book simple proves that both John Carmack and John Romero were geniuses who influenced the whole technology industry. It also proves that anything is possible if you are smart and hardworking.
Michal Ptacek
Founder/Officelovin’
Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment

Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment

I tend to jump from book to book and may switch if I am interested in some new topic. This is a pleasure for me (which I also do benefit work wise from too). It’s quite a random list because I have eclectic interests (or just scatterbrained most likely) on tech business, AI, general global economy, geopolitics, rising Biotech economy & history. I'm basically 15% to 50% into all these books.
Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups
Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

I'm going to start reading Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick this week. I used to go to 2600 meetings back when he was arrested for wire fraud and other hacking related shenanigans in the mid 1990s. I'm fascinated by things like social engineering and language in general. In the end, I just want to be entertained by his stories. For someone who is into computer programming, a book like this is pretty close to porn!
Nick Janetakis
Founder/NickJanetakis.com
An Autobiography

An Autobiography

One specific book that had a big impact on me when I was young and studying in France was "An autobiography" by David Ogilvy. Turns out this guy was a successful chef at 20, and a loser at 25, and again a successful person at 30 and then a loser at 35, and then he founded "Ogilvy & Mather" and became successful again at 40.

It's a short book, I read it in one night. Turns out, doing things your way may be difficult sometimes, but if you keep doing what you think is right and learn from your mistakes and successes, everything will be alright in the end. I was wondering whether to stay in France and settle for a developer job (though I did not like programming very much) or return to Romania and start something on my own (I did not know what exactly). I made the right decision to return.

Bogdan Iordache
Co-Founder/How to Web
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering

[From "The Everything Store", written by Brad Stone] “An influential computer scientist makes the counterintuitive argument that small groups of engineers are more effective than larger ones at handling complex software projects. The book lays out the theory behind Amazon’s two pizza teams,” Stone writes.
Jeff Bezos
CEO/Amazon
The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

I probably have recommended The Art of Learning and The 4-Hour Body, I'm not kidding, more than any other books.
Bryan Callen
Co-Host/The Fighter and the Kid
Scrum and XP from the Trenches

Scrum and XP from the Trenches

Many, but here’s a short list, for both entrepreneurs and team leaders:
  • The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Scrum and XP from the Trenches by Henrik Kniberg
  • ReWork – Jason Fried
Mircea Scarlatescu
Co-Founder/123flori.ro
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

On the other side of things, which is a bit more like inspirational and a bit more tactical, it would probably be Rise of the Robots. Focuses all on the rise of artificial intelligence. Has some really interesting pieces on how people are disrupting in a bunch of different verticals for like ED Tech, health, 3D printing, and a bunch of other areas, and the impact that that has on jobs in the future. I love those two books at the moment.
Matthew Barby
Global Head of Growth and SEO/HubSpot
The Mind Doesn't Work That Way

The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way

This critique of the computational theory of mind and the pan-adaptionist tradition is clearly so honest that it goes after the ideas promoted by Fodor's own 1983 watershed book "The Modularity of Mind". In brief the essay is an attack on massive modularity by saying that there are things after all that escape the programming (encapsulation and opacity are key: how can we talk about something OPAQUE? We know nothing about a few critical things...).

Granted the book is horribly written (that is Fodor's charm after all) but his argumentation is so ferocious that he ends up loud & clear.

The man is critical of his own ideas, and of the current in thought that he he helped create --one may use Fodor-1 against Fodor-2. Perhaps persons I hold in highest respect are those who go after their own ideas!

Bravo Fodor. Even if I do not agree I can't help admiring the man.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Flaneur
Training for Climbing – The Definitive Guide to Improving your Performance

Training for Climbing – The Definitive Guide to Improving your Performance

The books that I am reading now are targeting the 3 categories of development mentioned before: personally, professionally and spiritually. The title describes everything that there is to say about them and from my experience the results so far from these books are amazing.
Tudor Teodorescu
Founder/Transylvania Uncharted
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

As a general rule, most new memoirs are mediocre and most business memoirs are even worse. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is an exception to that rule in every way and as a result, was one of my favorite books of the year and favorite business books ever. I started reading it while on the runway of a flight and figured I’d read a few pages before opening my laptop and working. Instead, my laptop stayed in my bag during the flight and I read almost the entire book in one extended sitting. Ostensibly the memoir of the founder of Nike, it’s really the story of a lost kid trying to find meaning in his life and it ends with him creating a multi-billion dollar company that changes sports forever. I’m not sure if Knight used a ghostwriter (the acknowledgements are unclear) but his personal touches are all over the book—and the book itself is deeply personal and authentic. The afterward is an incredibly moving reflection of a man looking back on his life. I loved this book. It ends just as Nike is starting to turn into the behemoth it would become, so I hold out hope that there may be more books to follow.

Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction

Right now I am reading: and
Antonio Eram
Founder & CEO/NETOPIA mobilPay
Getting Real

Getting Real

I find it difficult to say I have a favorite business book, there is no perfect book in my opinion, each has its own elements to take away, and each will inevitably have elements that don’t apply to you or you disagree with. Getting Real by 37Signals is undoubtedly a book I refer back to and recommend to others. [...] was an important book for me, the ideas were defying conventional wisdom and teaching. I’m not a fan of large multi national businesses and the focus on corporate transactions, so to read something that aligned with my small business beliefs and focused on simplicity was gratifying. It was the kind of book that I read thinking, ‘yes, this is what I’ve been thinking all along, but never been able to vocalise’.
Gary Bury
Co-Founder/Timetastic
Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds

Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds

If you know someone who thinks they're a victim of their circumstances, inspire them with this book.
Simon Sinek
Best-selling Author
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed On Your Own Terms

Personal development book with many interesting insights, written in terms programmers will love and understand. Approachable and not geeky in any way though.
Michael Herrmann
Founder/Terminerinnerung
Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works

Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works

For business, I've read Influence by Robert Cialdini 3 times, and Traction by Gabriel Weinberg twice, so if number of times read indicates favor, then those are it. There are a whole bunch of others, like The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, Confession of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, and Running Lean by Ash Maurya, that I've also enjoyed and recommend to people.
Ola Olusoga
Co-founder/Populum
The Innovators – How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The Innovators – How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

This book, to be read and re-read, is a historical and extremely well documented history of the digital revolution, carrying insightful surprises along the way.
Isabelle Ohnemus
Founder/EyeFitU
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

For the fellow tech nerds among you, here are a few resources for learning about angel investing, founding tech companies, or picking the right startup to work for.
Tim Ferriss
Author & Entrepreneur

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