Even though there’s a wealth of online information about Linux available on the Internet, one of the best ways to learn is still a good old-fashioned book. Well, not completely old-fashioned. Many of these Linux books are available in electronic formats. The following is a list of five Linux books that every enthusiast should read.
1. The C Programming Language
This classic guide, known as “K&R” among programmers, is a compact guide to the C language, much as the title suggests. Unlike the thousand-page tomes out there, this book, written by C’s creators, the late Dennis Ritchie (also one of the creators of Unix) and Brian Kernighan, the second edition weighs in at a comparatively slim 272 pages, including the appendices. Anyone familiar with the terse style of the manpages should know what to expect from this book. It’s for people who are comfortable programming and doesn’t waste ink explaining basic concepts.
“C is not a big language, and it is not well-served by a big book,” the authors explain in the preface.
The reason serious Linux users (who seem to turn into programmers anyway) should read this book, even if they don’t use C very much and aren’t experienced programmers, is that much of Linux is written in C.
2.Unix Power Tools
Unlike K&R, this is a hefty book by O’Reilly, one of the major technical book publishers. You don’t have to slog through the book page by page as the authors have designed the book as a series of short chapters written in a breezy style. It’s great for Unix and Linux users of every skill level to learn something new, from setting up the terminal to Perl programming.
Since the short pieces are extensively cross-referenced, you’ll find yourself bouncing around the book, almost like a paper edition of TV Tropes. It’s a fun book that you’ll learn a lot from. I’ve used the style as a model for my posts here at Make Tech Easier.
3. Essential System Administration
Aeleen Frisch’s guide is another hefty tome, thought this one deals with, you guessed it, system administration. This book deals with various Unix flavors, including Red Hat and SUSE Linux. You can usually apply the information to nearly any Linux flavor out there. Frisch doesn’t skimp on information.
Even if you’re only managing a personal computer instead of racks and racks of servers, you’re still a system administrator. This is a great book for learning how to take care of your system effectively. A lot of other people swear by UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook Edition; however, though I haven’t read it.
4. Linux and the Unix Philosophy
Mike Gancarz’s update of his classic “The Unix Philosophy” for the Linux era is a manifesto of the Unix philosophy of building small tools designed for the command line, where they can be easily scripted for efficiency. In an age of increasing software bloat, it’s nice to know that there are still people who believe in “keep it simple, stupid!”
5. The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Eric S. Raymond’s classic essay shows how the Linux economy works, even if it should have failed long ago. Raymond shows how Linux is a “bazaar” where lots of people all over the world submit code as opposed to the “cathedral” where only a select few are in charge of a software project at places like Microsoft. True to the open source spirit, it’s available for free online.
Of course, there are plenty of good books on Unix and Linux, much more than can be covered in a single post. Other than the obvious choices of looking on the Internet and in libraries, another good source for Unix and Linux books is universities with good computer science departments.
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