Best C++ Books for Beginners and Advanced Level in 2021

by  ramya
Updated: Jan 17, 2021
26 min read

If you want to learn C++ or programming in general, you are at the right place. This article covers the best C++ books available out there in the market and provides guidance to help you select the right book.

Over the last few days, we have reviewed many C++ books and shortlisted a few for your quick reference. Some of these books are best suited for students and beginners and also refer to the part of the university curriculum, few others act as a quick reference to new C++ features, and the rest help you master advanced level C++ concepts.

You will notice that there are ample resources available online to learn C++ but it is always good to have a reference book handy. From a coverage perspective, while we have covered the latest books like Modern C++ Programming Cookbook, we also have all-time classics like Object Oriented Programming in C++ by Robert Lafore.

Looking for university recommended C++ textbook then books such as C++ Primer Plus from Stephen Prata and A tour of C++ by Stroustrup Bjarne are among the preferred options.

On the other hand, there are newly published books like C++ Crash Course by Josh and Learn to program C++ by building games that are fast becoming popular among developers with a little bit of prior experience.

So do spend 10 minutes and go through the details of various books mentioned below to pick the one that suits you the best –

Best C++ Books for Beginners

If you are beginning to learn C++, then you need a book that covers the ground rules. Moreover, you need books that are beginners friendly. One such recent book is C++: Programming Basics for Absolute Beginners by Nathan Clark.

Through this section, we will check some of the best C++ books for beginners that are simple to read, thorough, focus on basics, and teach using ample code snippets for hands-on experience.

C++: Programming Basics for Absolute Beginners

Nathan Clark (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017)

C++: Programming Basics for absolute beginners is a complete learning package for C++ learning enthusiasts.  The book makes coding in C++ extremely simple and easy to understand. Not only will you find code samples but will also see a lot of step by step explanation here.

The book starts by providing an elaborate overview about C++. Explaining the basics of C++, the book lays a strong foundation to start learning C++. With the very second chapter you can start writing the first C++ program. Each of these programs have a detailed step by step explanation.

The book provides a good introduction to basic C++ program structure. Through the book you will learn more about C++ compilers, how to use these to compile C++ code, editors used for C++ coding. The initial few chapters give a good background to C++ eco-system. This is especially useful if you are completely new to C++.

Not only this, the book also covers capabilities of C++ along with benefits and limitations of C++. One of the key highlights of the book is the section covering tips on how one can minimize bugs and errors. Finally, there is a good amount of information shared about how to keep your C++ code secure and prevent hacking.

As a bonus, last chapter covers sample C++ libraries. Additionally, the book covers several coding demonstrations. The book is available in Paperback and Kindle format.

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Starting Out with C++ from Control Structures to Objects 9th Edition

Tony Gaddis (Pearson, February 2017)

The book Starting Out with C++ from Control Structures to Objects is one of the simplest C++ books. Being simple, this is one of the most recommended books for students to learn programming in general along with C++.

Author Gaddis ensures that students understand the why and how of a program’s logic before diving deep.

The book gives a brief introduction to computers and programming. This is with the assumption that readers are completely novice to C++. Next, you will read a detailed introduction to C++. Further to this, each chapter introduces a new concept with several working examples.

The book covers expressions, decision making, loops, file processing, functions, arrays, vectors, and several other basic features. Next, the book starts with more advanced topics such as pointers, sorting arrays, searching, advance file operations. The next section of the book covers classes, inheritance, polymorphism, functions, exceptions, templates, STL, linked lists, stacks, queue.

These topics are finally followed by recursion and binary trees. The book covers the fundamental features of C++. Additionally, the book has several case studies with solutions. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Modern C++ Programming Cookbook

Master C++ core language and standard library features, with over 100 recipes, updated to C++20, 2nd Edition Paperback

Marius Bancila (Packt Publishing, September 2020)

The book Modern C++ Programming Cookbook is all about getting up to speed on advanced C++ learning. All the latest in C++ is available in the book. Through the book, one can learn in detail about C++20 along with how to use these features.

To begin with, the book covers learning the fundamentals of C++. This covers modern C++ features such as the use of auto, type alias, scoped enumerations, inline namespace, etc. These topics give a detailed overview of how one can use these features. Along with this, the focus is on optimizing code by using specific features more frequently.

The book covers a good explanation of how to effectively utilize numbers and strings. Following this, you will learn more about functions, the use of lambdas, fold expressions, and similar advanced topics. To add on, the book explains well about preprocessing and compilation along with iterators, standard library containers.

Over here, one of the key highlights is the final few sections that cover files, streams, more about general-purpose utilities, threading, and concurrency. That’s not all, the book also has an elaborate section covering performance tuning, error handling, optimizations of C++ code. If you need a book to learn more about common design patterns such as factory patterns in C++, then here is a perfect book. With patterns, the book explains pimpl idioms and testing frameworks such as Boost. The final chapter of the book covers all about the C++20 core features. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Beginning C++ Game Programming

Learn to program with C++ by building fun games

John Horton (Packt Publishing, October 2019)

The book Beginning C++ Game Programming is all about effectively using C++ to develop some classic games. With this, the book covers commonly used C++ libraries and Visual Studio 2019. Not only this, the book teaches us to think like a game developer.

The first chapter gives a brief overview of C++ and Visual Studio. Over here you will learn all about setting up your environment and directly deep dive into creating games. The games covered here are-

  • Timber
  • Pong
  • Zombie Arena
  • Thomas was late
  • Space Invaders++

This covers SFML, creating your own sound FX, more about using specific C++ constructs in game development. Along with this, the book teaches you to customize backgrounds, adding visual effects. A lot of gaming concepts and C++ features are interlinked and explained through the book.

As you progress through the book you will learn more about collisions, sound effects, ways one can optimize the game code. Each of these games is explained step by step covering each new topic gradually. Thereby making small attempts to finally provide the complete game creation.

With ease, the book covers topics such as STL, HUD, File IO, more about design patterns that can be useful in-game.

Finally, the book covers a lot about how one can write better running gaming applications along with tips about debugging. The book is a treat to read for C++ gaming enthusiasts.

With each game, you learn a good amount of new C++ features more specific to developing gaming applications. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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C++ Primer Plus

Stephen Prata (Addison-Wesley Professional, October 2011)

C++ Primer Plus is a well-articulated book. This is one of those books that focus on students as well as advanced C++ developers. Additionally, the book covers C++11 and beyond with a good amount of code samples.

The first chapter is all about introduction to C++. Here you will read more about C language followed by C++, object-oriented programming and C++ standards. The next chapter also overs basic concepts around cin & cout in C++, code formatting, return value and more. Following this, you will learn in detail the data types in C++ along with compound types, memory allocation, pointers and dynamic structures.

In subsequent sections, the book introduces loops, relational expressions, logical operators, branching statements, functions in C++, recursive calls, and typedef. Moving on next, you will read more about reference variables, function overloading, namespace, memory models, objects, classes, working on memory allocation in detail.

The next part of the book focuses on more advanced topics and object-oriented programming concepts. Some of these topics are – class inheritance, multiple inheritance, template class, friend classes, exception handling, string class, standard template library, etc.  

The last few chapters of the book cover input, output, and handling files in C++. Finally, you will learn more about the new C++ standard features such as smart pointers, lambdas, and similar features. The book is slow-paced and introduces each new concept gradually. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Best C++ Books with Latest C++ features

Most C++ professionals look for books that cover the latest C++ standards specifications. This section lists books that cover C++ new features and talk about modern programming techniques.

C++17 STL Cookbook

Discover the latest enhancements to functional programming and lambda expressions

Jacek Galowicz (Packt Publishing; 1st Edition, June 2017)

C++17 STL Cookbook, as the name suggests is all about adding weight to your already existing C++ knowledge. The book aims at exploring C++ code using the latest C++ features.

Through this book, you will learn not only the new C++ features but also how they help in solving problems. The first chapter gives a complete overview of the new C++17 features. From here on next you will learn all about STL containers. Further to this, the book covers iterators, lambda expressions, STL algorithm basics, advanced use of STL algorithms.

Once we have learned STL, the next focus is on strings, streams, classes, regular expressions. Additionally, the book explains advanced topics such as utility classes, concurrency, filesystems. The book has ample working examples to simplify the understanding of new C++17 features.

However, the book is suitable only for experienced C++ developers. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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A Tour of C++ (C++ In-Depth Series) 2nd Edition

Bjarne Stroustrup (Addison-Wesley Professional, June 2018)

A Tour of C++ is yet another book from the creator of C++, the legendry Bjarne Stroustrup. With no second thoughts, this is an extremely elaborate book. Owing to the level of detailing, the book is easy to read and learn new C++ features.

The book has a good combination of C++ basics with advanced features and covers C++’s new features from C++17 and C++20 specifications. This includes features like uniform initialization, concurrency, improved containers, lambda expressions, move semantics, and a lot more.

Organization of Content

To begin with, the book introduces C++ covering topics such as functions, types, scope, constants, pointers, arrays, reference. The next chapter covers all about user-defined types.

Next, the book covers error handling, classes, operations, templates, generic programming. Post this is a chapter that explains library, STL, strings, regular expressions, stream operations, and containers. Further to this, the book gives a walkthrough on algorithms, C++20 concepts, utilities, numerics, concurrency.

The last chapter covers the history and compatibility between C and C++. The book gives a simplistic view of some of the most complex C++ features. Due to this, the book is good for beginners as well as experienced developers. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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C++ High Performance

Boost and optimize the performance of your C++17 code

Björn Andrist, Viktor Sehr (Packt Publishing, January 2018)

The book, C++ High Performance gives a different perspective on code optimization. If you work on enterprise-level C++ applications, then this is a good book to read. Moreover, the book covers all the performance issues you might encounter in C++17 code.

You would learn about developing applications that scale on multiple core machines, work on clusters of machines and across CPU registers.

Three key aspects covered include concurrent programming, memory management, STL containers, and SIMD use for performance improvement in C++.

Organization of Chapters

Starting with a good introduction to C++, the book goes on to explain modern C++ concepts. A lot is spoken about auto-type detection, lambda functions, dynamic values with std::any, optional values with std::optional. Next, the book covers how you can measure code performance.

Once you have learned this, there are other topics such as data structures, iterators covered. Further in the book, you will learn STL, memory management, metaprogramming, compile-time evaluation, few real-world examples.

With this, the book moves on to cover more complex topics. Included in these are topics such as proxy objects, lazy evaluation, concurrency, parallel STL, executing STL algorithms on GPU, Boost compute. As mentioned earlier, the book covers advanced topics and is suitable for experienced C++ programmers. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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C++ Concurrency in Action 2nd Edition

Anthony Williams (Manning Publications, February 2019)

C++ Concurrency in Action clears a lot of concepts and misconceptions around concurrency. The book is extremely detailed and focuses simply on C++ concurrency. Making this a more concise book to learn more about threading.

So, the book does not just jump into advanced concepts directly. At the very beginning, you will learn more about what is concurrency, why one should use it, and multithreading in C++. There is enough introduction to these concepts before getting to actual code.

The next section of the book covers more about thread management, identifying threads, sharing data between threads. Few topics worth noting are sharing data using a mutex, protecting shared data between threads, concurrent operation synchronization.  With concurrency, you will also learn more about the C++ memory model, use of locks, lock-free data structures, and similar concepts.

While the book has a good set of examples and introduces each new concept gradually, the book also explains how to design concurrent code. Through the book, you will explore more about advanced thread management, interrupting threads, and thread pools.

Finally, not to miss the section that covers testing and debugging multithread applications. This provides tips on finding multithread bugs and fixing these. The book is available as an Audible Audiobook and in Paperback format.

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Functional Programming in C++

How to improve your C++ programs using functional techniques 1st Edition

Ivan Cukic (Manning Publications, November 2018)

The book Functional programming in C++ gives a complete walk-through about the practical aspects of C++. This includes C++ coding along with tools commonly used in C++. All of this is put together focusing on the functional programming aspect of C++.

The book starts off by providing all details relevant to functional programming. A lot is explained about functional thinking, how C++ has evolved as a functional programming language etc. Further to this, the book covers STL, writing higher-order functions, and more details about function objects.

As you progress through the book you would get a better perspective about different areas of functional programming. Along with this you can explore concepts such as function pointers, call operator overloading, lambdas, and similar topics. More on this cover, how functions can be reused and creating new functions from existing ones.

Through the book, readers will be able to grasp concepts such as functional data structures, lazy evaluation, range operations, monads. All these topics are in great depth accompanied by a number of working samples. Finally, in the book, you will learn using functional programming for concurrent systems and more about how to test and debug the code. The book is available in Paperback format.

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Best C++ Books for Quick Reference

Sometimes all you need is a book that is fast-paced. A book that quickly covers concepts and is a good reference book. Here is a section that is dedicated to quick reference C++ books.

These books are to a certain extent in-depth but at the same time are quick. However, in no way are these books confusing.

C++ Crash Course: A Fast-Paced Introduction

Josh Lospinoso (No Starch Press, September 2019)

C++ Crash Course is a book that focuses on intermediate and advanced level C++ concepts The book is suitable for seasoned C++ professionals.

This is a fast-paced book from Josh and brings in a good amount of sample code and exercise.

Part one of the book introduces core C++ features. You start by learning bootstrapping C++, debugging in C++, data types, arrays, pointers, objects, run time, and compile-time polymorphism. Post this the book covers expressions, statements in detail followed by functions. With this, you come to the end of the first half of the book.

The next part of the book covers C++ libraries and frameworks. This includes unit testing, mocking frameworks, smart pointers, data structures. Further in this book, you will learn more advanced concepts. This covers containers, Boost graph library, iterators, Boost string algorithms, Boost tokenizers, streams, file systems.

After this, the last section of the book explains various algorithms in C++, concurrency, network programming with Boost ASIO.

Finally, there is a section that provides various examples and tips for writing robust C++ code. As mentioned earlier, the book gives a good grasp of basics as well as advance C++ features. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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C++ in One Hour a Day, Sams Teach Yourself 8th Edition

Siddhartha Rao (Sams Publishing, December 2016)

This is a detailed reference to C++ standard specifications including C++ 17 and beyond, suitable for absolute beginners in contrast to the previous book which is mainly for experienced developers.

C++ in One Hour a Day gives a holistic view of every concept in C++. The book is packaged to introduce each new concept through each chapter.

As mentioned in the title, the book is structured to make it easy for readers to learn a chapter a day, no prior programming experience is required.

The first chapter of the book introduces C++ along with a detailed background of the language and programming in general. In the next chapter, you will learn to write the first C++ program.

The third chapter is all about data types, constants while the fourth chapter covers arrays and strings. The fifth chapter explains expressions, statements, and operators.

Post this you will learn in detail about loops followed by functions. Going on next it is all about pointers and references. With this you will learn more about classes, functions, objects, inheritance, polymorphism, operator overloading, casting operators.

The next few sections of the book speak about advanced C++ features. This section covers an introduction to macros and templates. Over here you will learn in detail about STL and lambda expression.

With a lot explained about STL, there are other topics as well covered. Some of these topics are – smart pointers, streams, exception handling, synchronization.

The book is extremely detailed but is well articulated to cover each topic individually. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Accelerated C++

Practical Programming by Example 1st Edition

Andrew Koenig, Mike Hendrickson, Barbara Moo (Addison-Wesley Professional, August 2000)

Accelerated C++ is all about learning C++ using practical examples but is quite old now. The book is detailed and covers some of the most basic C++ features. The book is very good but I would recommend this only for learning programming basics and OOPs in general. If you want to learn C++ specifically, then grab a recently released book that covers the latest C++ specifications.

The first chapter covers working with Strings followed by loops. After the first chapter is a practical exercise for computing students’ grades. On the same example, more concepts such as organizing programs, data organization, using iterators, data structures, split functions are covered.

Following this, you will learn more about library algorithms, associative containers, generic functions, defining custom data types. Explanation of these concepts is done using an example. Next, you will learn abstract data types, more about objects, dynamic binding, memory management. The final chapter covers the next learning steps. As you notice, the book is all about learning C++ basics. The book is available only in Paperback format.

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C++ Pocket Reference

Kyle Loudon (O’Reilly Media, June 2003)

C++ Pocket Reference makes a lot of complex C++ concepts easy to refer to. The book is compact and acts as a quick reference guide for C++ features. Owing to this experienced programmers can refer to the book to glance through some of the C++ features.

Sometimes, you don’t want to scroll through google results but just refer a book, this is the one for that.

Again, Use this book only for reference. If you are a beginner or new to C++, go for one of the recently published books like A Tour of C++ by Bjarne Stroustrup.

The book gives a quick walk-through about header files, system files, starting a C++ program, and termination. Following this is a list of commonly used preprocessor directives, more details about data types, compound types, pointers, and a pointer to members.

Moving on, you will learn type conversion, comments, identifiers, reserved words, operator symbols, expressions, variable scope. With this, the book also covers variable declaration, statements, namespace, structs, classes, constructors.

Following this, the book covers inheritance, overloading, template functions, memory management, runtime type information, exception handling, and streams. With this, the book is a good reference for C++ syntax and popular libraries. Further, it is all about simply having a quick guide for C++ basics. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Other Best C++ Books of All Times

If you already know C++, then you need a book that covers more advance C++ features. Clearly, you do not want to spend time relearning all the basics all over again.

The C++ Programming Language, 4th Edition

Bjarne Stroustrup (Addison-Wesley Professional, May 2013)

The C++ Programming Language is all about knowing every single detail around C++. Having written by the creator of C++, this is one of the most elaborate books for C++.

The book starts by introducing C++ along with its history. After this you will learn C++ basics with a sample Hello World code, classes, namespace, exception handling. With this the book covers topics such as classes, templates, containers, algorithms using C++, streams, libraries, concurrency.

Not only this, but the book also covers lot more details. Further in the book you will learn data types, declaration, pointers, arrays, structures, enumerations, statements, expressions, operators. Post this the next sections cover functions, function overloading, macros, concrete classes, constructors, operator overloading.

There more advance topics included in the book. Some of these are – derived classes, abstract classes, templates, generic programming, metaprogramming, STL, memory management, allocators, utilities. Additionally, the book has details about regular expressions, locales, numeric, concurrency, threads, standard libraries.

The book is massive and explains a lot of concepts. As a result, this is a good book for readers curious to learn all about C++. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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C++ Standard Library: A Tutorial and Reference 2nd Edition

Nicolai Josuttis (Addison-Wesley Professional, March 2012)

The book C++ Standard Library covers additionally used libraries that are built over core C++. There is a lot of explanation provided about the C++ libraries. Moreover, the book covers C++11 features.

Initial chapters of the book cover who should be reading this book, history about C++ and language features. The features covered are – templates, exception handling, namespace, type bool, new operators, and initialization of constant static members.

Also, the book covers header files, standard exception handling, allocators, commonly used C++ utilities. The book explains STL in extreme detail including STL containers, STL iterators, STL function objects, and STL algorithms. Through the book, you will also learn more about stacks, queues, bitsets, priority queues, strings, numerics, and file handling.

With this, the last few sections of the book cover internationalization and allocators in depth. The book clearly is created keeping in mind advance C++ users. Additionally, the book covers specific topics but explains each concept in detail with lots of sample examples. The book is available in the textbook, hardcover, and paperback format.

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Effective Modern C++

42 Specific Ways to Improve Your Use of C++11 and C++14 1st Edition

Scott Meyers (O’Reilly Media, December 2014)

Effective Modern C++ focuses completely on C++11 and C++14 features. The book is one of the suitable choices if you know C++ and want to explore new C++ features introduced in version 11 and 14 of C++.

The author Scott Meyers focuses on practical ways to apply modern features and concepts of programming like lambda expressions, concurrent programming, and move semantics.

Author also focuses on how to write scalable, maintainable, efficient and portable industry grade programs in C++.

The book starts with introducing deducing types. This includes template type deduction, auto type deduction, decltype, viewing deduced types in IDE. Overall, the book covers a total of 42 different features. Next, you will learn why to choose auto over explicit type declaration and similar such features.

Subsequently, there is an elaborate section covering modern C++. Some of these topics include why to prefer nullptr, alias declaration over typedefs, scoped enums, const_iterators, constexpr usage. Post this, the section covers all about smart pointers in detail.

This covers the first half of the book. The second half of the book covers understanding std::move, std::forward, alternatives to overloading on universal reference, reference collapsing. The next set of topics cover lambdas in greater depth, all about concurrency APIs. Finally, you will learn some code tweaks to optimize your code.

The book gives a simplistic view of new C++ features. With several code examples, the book is a treat to read for new C++ beginners. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format

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C++ All-in-One For Dummies 3rd Edition

John Paul Mueller, Jeffrey M. Cogswell (For Dummies, August 2014)

C++ All-in-One For Dummies is a 6 books consolidation. Each book is unique and focuses on only specific concepts within C++. The book starts with very basics and moves to explain some complex C++ features.

The first book covers all about an introduction to C++. Covering topics such as system setup, storing data in C++, use of functions, pointers, working with classes, and basics about few advance C++ features. The second book in the series covers all about objects and classes including the use of UML.

The third book in the series covers fixing problems. So here is where you will learn how to inspect code, detect bugs, and fix them. Following this, the fourth book in the series explains advanced programming concepts. Some of the topics covered are arrays, pointers, reference, data structures, constructors, destructors, standard library, lambda expressions.

Book five of the series is all about file operation, while the sixth book covers standard library in depth. Along with this, you will also learn to build original templates, automating applications with make files and similar topics. Since the books are well segregated and focus on a specific concept within C++, it is easy to learn. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback formats.

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Object Oriented Programming in C++

Robert Lafore, Waite Group (Sams, December 2001)

Object-Oriented Programming in C++ provides well-curated content. The book starts from bare basics and moves along to slowly explain complex concepts in C++. This book helps readers in learning C++ irrespective of the level of knowledge.

The first chapter provides a big picture about OOP along with differences in C and C++, and UML. Post this, the second chapter covers the fundamental concepts required to start coding in C++. Moving on the third chapter speaks about loops, decision making, statements, controls, etc.

Further to this, the book covers structures, functions, objects, and classes. More details are included in topics that cover strings, arrays, operator overloading, pitfalls in operator overloading, UML class diagrams.

In the next sections, the book covers inheritance, pointers, virtual functions, streams, templates, exceptions, STL, and in detail about object-oriented programming. In the final few sections, you will learn about project setup, debugging, and similar practical concepts. Each chapter contains practice questions. As a result, with each chapter, you will get a clear view of where you are proceeding. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Beginning C++ Through Game Programming

Michael Dawson (Cengage Learning PTR; 4th Edition, June 2014)

Beginning C++ Through Game programming makes learning C++ more interesting. This is a good book for readers with minimum C++ knowledge and enthusiastic about creating their own games.

With the first chapter itself covering games, the book is extremely engaging. The first chapter covers working with Visual Studio, working on sound FX, reusable template, and similar intuitive topics. Post this, in the second chapter, you will learn variables, operators, and decision trees. Note that these concepts are explained using game examples.

Next, the book covers strings, loops, enumeration, switch, functions all such concepts by creating games. Further to this you will learn collision and making the game playable. Going forward the book explains more about arrays, classes, collision detection, layering views, implanting HUD, sound effects, file IO. The next section of the book covers topics such as inheritance, polymorphism, sound specialization, extending SFML classes, and in detail about building particle systems.

While the book is not very complex, it caters to a specific audience. The book is completely game development-oriented. The book is available in Kindle and Paperback format.

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Final Thoughts

C++ is an extremely portable language and is used in several enterprise-level applications. Each C++ developer has a different learning requirement.

Here we have covered multitudes of best C++ books. Each of these books are unique and cater to specific audience. Be it C++ performance, a beginner’s guide, learning advance C++ or new C++ features, you will find a book that suits your requirement.

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