Java Notes

My Favorite Java Books

My standard book questions

When I think about textbooks and other books, I usually ask myself some questions:

  1. Would this be a book I would buy if I wanted to learn the subject on my own?
  2. Can the book later be used as a reference?
  3. What do the Amazon reviews say?
  4. If it was used in a course, should I keep or throw it out?


The following books aren't going to give the absolute beginner a simple enough start, but if you already know about variables, ifs and loops, or know another programming language and want to learn Java, these are good books.

Head First Java by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates, O'Reilly
At first glance it looks like a book for dummies, but it isn't. It's funny and entertaining, has lots of diagrams, and is also a great Java book written by two smart Java people who helped to develop the Java Certification exam. This is a book which gives you the big picture. Amazon price $30 (a bargain)
Core Java volumes I+II by Cay Horstmann and Gary Cornell,
If you already know some Java or are a C++ programming converting to Java, this is a really good book, or set of books. Currently at the seventh edition, I've purchased at least three of the earlier editions. Amazon price: $31 for the first volume, $62 for both. Get the first and, if you like it, get the second. Useful both to learn from and later as a reference.
Java: How to Program by Deitel and Deitel, Pearson Prentice-Hall
I have mixed feelings about this, but it's better than most. It's crammed with tons of information about Java, and it is a good resource in many ways. However, the authors sometimes get obsessed with small features and completely lose sight of the big picture. This is also starting to show its age and hasn't been updated as well as it should have been. Amazon price $88 (seems a bit expensive).


Object-Oriented Design & Patterns by Cay Horstmann
This is a good, brief, book that covers everything from Java's OO language features, with a healthy bit of OO design, and many of the common design patterns. This second edition incorporates Java 5 features.

It passes all the tests. Even the one bad review in Amazon was mostly just disagreement about terminology (eg, the first chapter should have been called a brief review, not a crash course; javadoc should have been a described as a implementation tool more than a design tool). I'm not sure about the negative multi-threading comment.

Favorite Java books from JavaLobby poll

I've extracted many of the books from this list, and kept those that I like too, or added warnings to others that might be a problem. I've also put them in categories.

Java language/usage

  1. Core Java 2 (Volume I - Fundamentals, Volume II - Advanced Features) 7th Edition By Cay Horstmann and Gary Cornell.
    Great books to learn Java from.
  2. Java : How to Program (6th Edition) by Deitel and Deitel
    Quite good if you don't get lost in the details.
  3. Head First Java (2nd Edition) By Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates.
    Probably the best book for understanding basic concepts, but it doesn't cover as much of the language as others. Excellent.
  4. Java Examples In A Nutshell (3rd Edition) by David Flanagan.
    I wish it was updated to Java 5.
  5. Java Cookbook (2nd Edition) By Ian Darwin.
    Lots of good examples with discussions.
  6. Java In A Nutshell (5th Edition) by David Flanagan.
    I definitely like the first part of this book. The bulk of the remainder is something you can get from the javadoc, but still nice to have on paper.
  7. GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers and Web Designers by Jeff Johnson.
    If you're going to build a Graphical User Interface, you should have some idea about how to make it look "right". There is no Java code here, but a lot of good examples of good and bad GUI design.
  8. Programmers Guide to Java Certification by Khalid Mughal and Rolf Rasmussen.
    The earlier version I have was good. Much better than some of the certification books.
  9. Thinking in Java (4th Edition) by Bruce Eckel.
    If you're interested in delving into the details of everthing, this is a book for you, but probably not the right book to start your Java learning with tho. The first seven chapters are available for free online now, and maybe the rest will follow.
  10. Java Puzzlers By Joshua Bloch; Neal Gafter. I've just glanced at it, and did learn a few things. Perhaps I should take another look.
  11. Effective Java Programming Language Guide By Joshua Bloch. Good, but I think it's overrated. I read a lot of it in a bookstore, but didn't think it was worth buying.

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