Best Java Books for Beginners & Advanced Programming

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 Updated on 
November 7, 2020
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Learning becomes easy and fun when you have a good book with you. In this article, you will find brief reviews on the best Java books available in the market. This article will also provide guidance on how to select the right book for your skill level, taste, and style.  

It is worth noting that different books have different objectives, some books are meant for absolute beginners who have zero coding experience and want to master java programming. While other books target more experienced developers who want to learn a specific skill set. Ex: concurrency, multi-core processing, lambda functions, functional programming, spring boot, test-driven development, etc. and more.

To make it easy for you, we have marked and categorized books as either book for java beginners, intermediate level, books that cover new java features, and the ones that teach specific skills.

For example, Effective Java and Think Java are two very good books for beginners, with no coding experience, to understand the fundamentals of Java programming.

Modern Java in Action on the other hand is a book dedicated to the new features of java that brought Java back into the league of modern programming languages. The book covers functional programming concepts, streams, and a lot more.

If you want to grab a book for web development in Java, then Microservices with Spring Boot is a great option.

Let us get to the details.

Best Books for Learning Java: Beginners Friendly

This is the first section and focuses more on java books for beginners. Most of the books included in this section cover the latest java specifications including Java 9, 10, and Java SE 11.

You will find only a couple of books like Head First Java that still teach java programming using older Java releases and is pending an upgrade.

The simple reason to keep these oldish books is that authors have covered Java fundamentals in a very beginner friendly way with a key motive to teach programming and computer science in general. Also, some of these books continue to be recommended by university professors and are still part of the curriculum.  

I would emphasize that selecting the right resource for learning is key to save time and understand the depths of any programming language.

You might want to jump directly to Best Java Books for Intermediate and Advanced programmers.

So do spend 10 minutes and go through the details of various books mentioned below –

Effective Java

Bloch Joshua (Addison-Wesley Professional, December 17)

effective java

Effective Java written by Bloch Joshua is one of the best java books for beginners who want to learn programming as a profession. It is simple to understand, comprehensive, and covers the latest features of Java including functional programming paradigms.

Starting from the first chapter, the book covers java introduction and basics and moves on to chapters that cover more about objects, methods, classes, interfaces, generics, Enums, and annotations.

Towards the second half, the book gets into advanced java usage and covers topics like threads, generics, comparator, executor APIs usage, exception handling, concurrency, serialization, and more.

Talking about the advanced java features, this book thoroughly covers recent additions in Java, such as lambda functions, streams, functional interfaces, reactive programming.

The author provides a solid explanation of every concept and that is what makes it beginners friendly. The books also come in handy for developers preparing for the core java certification.

It is worth noting that Java has changed a lot over the last few years and brings in new features with every release.

However, even the experienced professionals stick to the basics and earlier ways of coding even while using an advanced Java version. This book influences students and learners to move away from age-old ways of coding and adapt to new and modern programming techniques.

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Java – The Complete Reference (11th Edition)

Herbert Schildt (McGraw-Hill Education, December 2018)

complete java reference

Java – The complete reference is one of the first books to cover Java SE 11 and new features introduced in Java 9 and10 in detail. As of writing, it is available only in Kindle edition and the paperback is due in Jan 2021. You can register now for early delivery though.

The latest Java 11 features are well covered and used in actual code samples provided in various chapters of the book. Another good thing about this book is that you can download the source code of all examples and run locally.

Organization of the Chapters

Getting to the details, the first two chapters provide a walk-through of java history, followed by an introduction to Java in its current form. The next chapters cover basic topics such as data types, arrays, operators, control statements, classes, and methods.

Fast forward a few chapters and this book introduces you to inheritance, multi-level hierarchy, interfaces, package, exception handling. Towards the end, you get to know about multi-threading, enumerations, autoboxing, and annotations.

The last few chapters are completely focused on GUI programming in Java, concurrency, streams API, regular expressions, Swing, JavaFX, Java Beans, and Servlets.

It is worth noting that while this book covers all the basics and core java libraries, it is also a good option to learn building GUI applications. Libraries like spring, JavaFX, and core concepts of GUI programming are well covered in the book.

Getting to the more advanced topics, the book has a complete chapter dedicated to IO, applets, generics. The book also has a chapter covering lambda expressions, java library, memory management, collections, java inbuilt classes, NIO, event handling, basics of socket programming.

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Core Java Volume I – Fundamentals (Core Series) 11th Edition

Cay Horstmann (Pearson, September 2020)

core java volume 1

Another good book for java beginners that covers core java in-depth with a lot of illustrations and real code examples that work too.

Also, being one of the latest published books (as of writing), this book covers Java SE 9, 10, and 11 specifications.

The book covers basics including data types, object-oriented concepts, collections, functions, loops, etc. as well as advanced topics like lambda expressions, functional programming concepts, concurrency to illustrate uses of multi core processors.

It is worth noting that this book is among the most recommended books by university professors and for that reason popular among students and beginners.

Organization of Chapters

Horstmann starts off with a brief introduction to Java and covers history and misconceptions about Java. The next chapter covers Java environment setup, JDK details, and setup, JShell, command-line tools and ensures that you are all set to start coding.

The next few chapters cover the fundamentals of Java including data types, objects, classes, and jar files, etc. From the subsequent chapter, you would learn concepts such as Inheritance, autoboxing, enumeration, and reflection.

The later part of the book is dedicated to more complex Java concepts with chapters dedicated to interfaces, lambda expressions, inner classes, proxies, exception handling, assertions, and logging. Following this, you would find a complete chapter dedicated to generics and yet another chapter dedicated to collections.

There is more to this book, where the subsequent chapters cover GUI, more about Java interface toolkits, event handling, and Swing. The last chapter is completed dedicated to concurrency, threads, and synchronization.

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Think Java: How to think like a computer scientist

Allen B. Downey, Chris Mayfield (O’Reilly Media, December 2019)

think java

A perfect book for entering the world of computer science and programming in general. The entry-level book is one of the simplest books for java beginners with a core focus on learning programming along with Java fundamentals.

This is also one of the top recommended books for university and high school curriculums. Chapters are organized in a way to cover learning material for a week or of a typical computer science class.

At the very beginning, the book introduces you to a simple Hello World program, followed by data types, array, collection, classes, loops, variables, operators, void methods, internal Java classes, conditional operators, methods, String, an array of objects, an object of arrays, an object of objects and similar concepts.

Flip through chapters and book covers more about java concepts, java graphics, includes details about computer science, code formatting, debugging, and other basic programming concepts. Anyone with zero coding experience can read through this book.

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Head First Java: A Brain-Friendly Guide, 2nd Edition

Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates (O’Reilly Media, January 2009)

head first java

Millions of students have read and learned java from this book. Though this book is not regularly updated, it is still a great option to set a strong java foundation. Java enthusiasts label this book as an encyclopedia for Java.

While many new features have been included in Java, the basics of programming in Java is an absolute must for java programmers. The basics never change and that is what this book focuses on.  

The first few chapters give insights about Java coding, objects, variables, primitives, operators, java library, java methods, to name a few topics. That is all in the first half of the book.

The second half of the book covers topics such as polymorphism, constructors, wrapper classes, exception handling. Having read the initial few chapters, you can get a good understanding of Core Java basics.

The last few chapters cover GUI, Swing, serialization, IO operations, multithreading, basics of socket programming, collections, generics. There are sections dedicated to teaching more about code deployment, distributed computing, basics about servlets, and EJB.

For Java professionals looking to refresh their basics, this is a good book, though it does not cover much about advanced Java topics or real-world scenarios.

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Best Java Books for Intermediate and Advanced Level

Here on we will cover books that are helpful to understand intermediate to advanced level Java concepts.

It is also important to understand that not all developers require to get into advanced level concepts. These are typically required if you want to take programming as a profession or working on a project that requires knowledge of advanced programming techniques.

Modern Java in Action: Lambdas, Streams, Functional and Reactive Programming

Raoul-Gabriel Urma, Mario Fusco, Alan Mycroft (Manning Publications, November 2018)

modern java in action

The key focus of this book is on the most recent java features including lambda functions, streams, functional programming paradigm, reactive programming techniques, and much more. Authors provide ample examples of how to uses these features to build modern applications.

Reading this book, you will also understand that java is evolving at a fast pace where more features are added with every new version and that some of the old features get deprecated.

Organization of Chapters

Chapter one starts with the fundamentals of Java SE and also includes Java SE version 11. Subsequent chapters cover the most advanced and recently included features of Java. Apart from the latest features of Java, this book also covers other intermediate to advance level topics like collections, refactoring, debugging, date API, etc. and more.

While you would find dedicated chapters on lambda expressions usage, writing multithreaded programs that run on multi-core processors, streams, and asynchronous programming.

Authors have also dedicated a few chapters to the functional programming paradigm and teach how you can use both functional as well as oops paradigms in java applications.

And in the end, you get a good comparison between Java and Scala. Scala is fast becoming the language of choice for functional programming and runs on JVM, so it is worth keeping an eye on that.

Professionals working actively on the latest versions of Java can make the most out of this book. I would easily classify this one as a good book to read in case you are planning to prepare for a Java certification.

It is worth noting that, authors do not go too much into the basics and may not be suited well suited for absolute beginners.

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Java performance: In-Depth Advice for Tuning and Programming Java 8, 11 and Beyond

Scott Oaks (O’Reilly Media, February 2020)

Java Performance, written by Scott Oaks is all about robust performance tuning of java code, run time environment, and the overall architecture in general. The book covers various topics like analysis of how a Java application behaves on the underlying JVM.

java performance

The author covers compiler behavior, “Just in time (JIT)” compiler, JVM behavior, garbage collection, performance tuning, performance testing, ways one can solve performance issues, memory management, and ways to tackle memory leak issues.

Along with application-level performance, tuning the author gets to the database performance tuning as well.

Organization of Chapters:

The first few chapters cover java introduction, performance testing in Java, Java performance toolbox, JIT compiler, and use of JDK and other tools to monitor application performance. This sets the tone for the complete book. Following this is a chapter focusing on garbage collection, heap memory, native memory.

The author has dedicated few chapters to multi-threaded performance, setting up your application to run on multi-core processors, best practices on server-side, tips for database tuning, etc. and a lot more.

One of the advantages of this book is, it covers the latest Java versions. This is a not to miss book for experienced professionals.

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Learning Java by Building Android Games

John Horton (Packt Publishing, August 2018)

learn java by building android games

Learning Java by Building Android Games written by John Horton makes learning Java, Android, and games building exciting. The book true to its name literally teaches you to build Android games from scratch. To start with, the book includes several chapters dedicated to explaining some of the basic Java concepts.

As you start reading this book, you will gradually see an increase in difficulty level as new concepts are introduced. However, the most complex topics are simplified and put forth. One of the best reads in case you want to explore developing your own games such as Minesweeper and others.

The author provides a series of downloadable codes along with few practice examples. This is a good book to start exploring Android development.

The first chapter is all about Java android game development that includes building games like snakes clone, pong, scrolling shooters. The second chapter is all about building Hunter game. Over the next few chapters, the author explains core Java concepts in more detail with specific focus on the game.

There is a complete chapter introducing the Android canvas class, decision making, using threads to develop a pong game. The book has a chapter dedicated to Bat and Ball game, sound effects, collision effects in Android, bitmap graphics, time measurement.

The final few chapters introduce Java concepts and get into working details of the Snake game, Shooter game. The last chapter deals with advanced collision detection.

The book focuses on introducing Java concepts which are more relevant to game building. So, for beginners looking to deep dive into Java concepts, this might not be the right book to start. The book is simple to read and practice. The book is available as an eBook and as a hard copy.

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Hands on Microservices with Spring Boot and Spring Cloud, Istio, and Kubernetes

Magnus Larsson (Packt Publishing, September 2019)

Microserevices in java and spring boot

Hands-on microservice with Spring Boot and Spring Cloud, written by Magnus Larsson is a book dedicated to the Spring ecosystem with a focus on Spring Boot. Spring is one of the most popular Java frameworks and used in enterprise-grade applications development.

In this book, the author focuses specifically on microservice architecture for building scalable web applications and explains concepts in an extremely methodical way. You would get to learn Swagger, Open API, Spring Cloud, Spring Boot, Kubernetes, and several related concepts.

The author starts directly with a chapter completely dedicated to microservices. The next chapter covers a complete introduction to Spring Boot. The subsequent chapters focus on creating and deploying microservice followed by Open API/Swagger.

Flip a few more pages and the chapters talk about Spring cloud, deploying microservice on Kubernetes, monitoring microservice, service mesh usage, distributed tracing, access API security.

This is a great book to read and re-read for enterprise-level Java professionals working in Spring. The book provides an in-depth functional flow of each concept along with a more real-world scenario. With all this, the book very well explains security aspects to be considered in microservices development.

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Java 9 for programmers

Paul Deitel and Harvey Deitel  (Pearson, December 2017

java 9 book

Java 9 changed the game for java and brought it into the league of modern programming languages. For that reason, there was a need for a good book on Java 9.

Java 9 for programmers, written by Paul Deitel and Harvey Deitel does exactly that. Authors go beyond conventional Java coding and explore recent updates of Java 9 features along with JavaFX enhancements, Java Platform Module System, and security patches in Java 9.

The author also covers animation, graphics, JavaFX UI, and related advanced UI topics. 

All said, this book is not just Java 9 but covers everything core java also including objects, classes, inheritance, etc. so that a beginner can start off with Java too.

The author dedicates the next few chapters to Java API package, arrays, collections, enhanced for loops, enum, static methods, inheritance, interfaces, exception handling.

Moving further to more complex pieces in Java, the book covers JavaFX, regular expressions, NIO, serialization, generics, collections, lambdas, streams, recursions, JavaFX graphics, animation. A separate chapter covers concurrency, JDBC access, JShell usage, JPA.

The final chapters cover the ATM case study, Java platform module system, and a dry run on Java 9 basics with more details.

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Test Driven: TDD and Acceptance TDD for Java Developers

Manning Publications (Lasse Koskela, October 2007)

TDD java book

A lot of Java books have a basic mention of test-driven development with java, but you would not find any book covering TDD in as much detail as this book.

This book is slightly dated now but covers the fundamentals very well and is still relevant to learn TDD in Java.

The book introduces you to concepts such as user acceptance test-driven development, Junit testing, iterative development, the focus is on creating a test environment to improve application design.

This book starts by giving you a big picture of what is TDD and details within it. Next, it provides details on how you can apply TDD to swing and web application development.

Finally, the book covers a lot more about how one can build enterprise-class products with acceptance TDD. More about adopting TDD methodologies.

All said, do not expect the book to cover too much about Java basics, it requires students to be familiar with java programming. Overall a good book to read if you know Java and are looking forward to work on enterprise-level applications.

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Final Thoughts

Java is a high-level programming language and is not that difficult to learn, and for that reason, many students and beginners can self-learn java from a good book.

Also, though there are many online courses and tutorials, books are generally handy, so having a book even if you have subscribed for a training course always helps.

This brings us to the end of our review of the best java books, each book is different and teaches in a different style.

Our recommendation is that you should spend some time to shortlist a couple of books from this article, go to amazon or the publisher’s website, and check out free chapters to see if books fit your style.

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