Debian: The biggest is
still the best.


This page is an adaptation of what used to be the "Books" section of the FAQ. As a convenience to visitors, you can order these books online (using the [Order] links), due to our association with The funds will be used to help support the continued operation of these pages. You can also get the publisher's information on most of these books through the [Publisher's Info] links.

If your local independent bookstore (like Square Books where I live) carries computer books, I recommend giving them your business (instead of ordering here).

Linux Books

There are a gazillion Linux books on the market these days. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with the books published by SSC and O'Reilly: they are two "class acts" in the Linux and Unix community. The flip side of this is that Linux users should be wary of books from PC-oriented publishers, which tend to focus exclusively on PCs. Accordingly, with a few exceptions, SSC and O'Reilly books dominate this list.

A few particular selections (many of which are on my bookshelf or desk):

Running Linux (3rd Edition) by Matt Welsh, Kalle Dalheimer and Lar Kaufman (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-469-X; $34.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This book is probably the definitive book for new Linux users. It includes extensive coverage of virtually every topic under the sun, including installation, Unix commands, Emacs, an introduction to LaTeX, X11, networking (including SLIP, PPP and Ethernet), and much more. [Financial interest disclaimer: This edition of the book includes an appendix written by yours truly.]
Linux Installation and Getting Started by Matt Welsh et al. (LDP and SSC; ISBN 1-57831-001-6; $20.00 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This book, a revised edition of Matt's original LI&GS, is also good, and has the advantage of being free (if you get it from the LDP web site), which helps if you're a starving college student like me; on the downside it covers a lot less material than Running Linux does.
The Linux Network Administrator's Guide by Olaf Kirch (LDP, O'Reilly and SSC; O'Reilly ISBN 1-56592-087-2, $24.95 US; SSC ISBN 0-916151-75-1, $18.95 US) [Order-O'Reilly] [Order-SSC] [Publisher's Info-O'Reilly]
The Network Administrator's Guide is a good companion to Running Linux (or LI&GS). The title is something of a misnomer, as it is handy even for single-user workstations connected by Ethernet or a serial link. (The O'Reilly edition is more professionally presented than the SSC edition, which is why the prices differ.)
Inside Linux by Randolph Bentson (SSC; ISBN 0-916151-89-1; $22.00 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This book is aimed at the Linux user who wants to know more about the history of Linux and the internals of Unix in general. It is also interesting because it probably contains the only copy of the "CREDITS.m68k" file that used to be distributed with the Linux/m68k kernel tree back in the dark ages.
The Linux Sampler (SSC; ISBN 0-916151-74-3; $14.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This volume is a selection of articles from the early issues of Linux Journal, including many of historical interest (nothing really about the Linux/m68k project though).
The Linux Bible (Yggdrasil; ISBN 1-883601-20-7; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This book is big; no, correction, it's huge. It includes hard copies of Linux Installation and Getting Started, The Linux Network Administrator's Guide, other LDP manuals and a selection of HOWTO's. An accompanying CD-ROM contains all these documents and more. A very cost-effective (if intimidating) way to get started with Linux.
Linux Undercover edited by Eric S. Raymond (Red Hat; ISBN 1-88172-05-3; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This book is similar in concept to The Linux Bible, except it's a hardcover and it's newer. That and it was edited by free software guru Eric S. Raymond (author of fetchmail and "The Cathedral and the Bazaar").
The Linux Encyclopedia edited by Robert Keisling (WorkGroup Solutions; ISBN 0-9644309-2-4; $49.00 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
Another LDP compilation.
Linux Application Development by Michael K. Johnson and Erik W. Troan (Addison-Wesley; ISBN 0-201-30821-5; $45.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This is a practical guide to programming in C (and other languages with C bindings) within the Linux environment; it's particularly aimed at people who already know C and/or Unix programming and want to learn more about how to get the most out of Linux.
Developing Linux Applications with GTK+ and GDK by Eric Harlow (New Riders; ISBN 0-7357-0021-4; $34.99 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A useful guide to programming GUIs in Linux, using the GTK+ toolkit. Particularly valuable if you don't want to slog through source code to learn how to code for GTK+, although a lot of the book is filled with source code for the programs (which you can download from their web site). Probably very useful if you're migrating from MacOS, TOS or AmigaOS (particularly if you've used MUI on the Amiga, as a lot of GTK+'s ideas seem to come from there).
Linux in a Nutshell, 2nd Edition by Ellen Siever et al. (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-585-8; $24.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This is a desktop handbook that contains a brief reference to virtually every Linux command, as well as sections on the bash and tcsh shells and regular expressions.
The Debian Linux User's Guide (2nd Ed.) by Dale Scheetz (Linux Press; ISBN 0-9659575-1-9; $38.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A book specific to the Debian distribution; includes the 4 CD set of Debian 2.1 for Intel (binary and source).
Debian GNU/Linux: Guide to Installation and Usage by John Goerzen and Ossama Othman (New Riders; ISBN 0-7357-0914-9; $24.99 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
Another book specific to the Debian distribution; includes disc 1 of Debian 2.1 for Intel (binary only). It is also available in Debian's unstable branch as the debian-guide package.

Unix Books


TCP/IP Network Administration, 2nd Edition by Craig Hunt (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-322-7; $32.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A useful guide to operating a TCP/IP network of any size. This edition includes more Linux-specific information.
DNS and BIND, 3rd Edition by Paul Albitz and Cricket Liu (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-512-2; $32.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The most comprehensive guide to running an Internet name server on a Unix machine.
sendmail, 2nd Edition by Bryan Costales with Eric Allman (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-222-0; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The definitive guide to using sendmail, the most ubiquitous mail program on the planet. You may also find the sendmail Desktop Reference helpful.
Computer Networks, 3rd Edition by Andrew S. Tanenbaum (Prentice Hall; ISBN 0-13-349945-6; $80.75 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A readable but fairly technical introduction to the intricacies of computer networking, starting at the hardware level and working up.

System Administration

Essential System Administration, 2nd Edition by Æleen Frisch (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-127-5; $34.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The definitive guide to administering your Unix or Linux system.
Practical Unix and Internet Security, 2nd Edition by Simson Garfinkel and Gene Spafford (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-148-8; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A comprehensive guide to almost all of the security issues facing Unix system administrators.


Regular Expressions

Mastering Regular Expressions by Jeffrey E. F. Friedl (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-257-3; $29.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
Regular expressions (regexes) are widely used in text parsing applications; most languages (including Python, Perl, sed, awk and C) include ways to use regexes. This book is probably the definitive guide to regular expressions; I never understood the things until I read it. An example of what you can do with regexes: I use custom regexes (in Python scripts) to parse the output of the United States House of Representatives' electronic voting machine for use in statistical analysis.


Programming Python by Mark Lutz (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-197-6; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The comprehensive guide to Python programming, starting from the ground up. Python is an object-oriented, interpreted programming language with excellent bindings to system libraries; it combines clean syntax with the power of Java, Perl and Tcl.
Learning Python by Mark Lutz and David Ascher (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-464-9; $29.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The "little brother" of Programming Python, this is an ideal book for learning the basics of Python.
Python Pocket Reference by Mark Lutz (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-500-9; $6.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A useful companion to the online documentation, this little white book is handy to keep around for quick reference while deep into Python hacking.
Internet Programming with Python by Aaron Watters, Guido van Rossum and James C. Ahlstrom (M&T Books; ISBN 1-55851-484-8; $34.95 US) [Order] [Author's Info]
The granddaddy of all Python books, IPwP is probably a better introduction to the language than Programming Python. However, it is slightly more Windows-oriented, and discusses the WPY GUI package instead of Tkinter, even though the latter has since become more "standard." Nonetheless a great Python book.

sed and awk

sed and awk, 2nd Edition by Dale Dougherty and Arnold Robbins (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-225-5; $29.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A useful guide to using these two common Unix text processing utilities.
Effective awk Programming, 2nd Edition by Arnold Robbins (SSC; ISBN 1-57831-000-8; $27.00 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
This is the printed manual for GNU awk, written by the current maintainer of gawk.


Unfortunately, Camel 1 (the first edition of Programming Perl) is no longer in print. It was the best Perl book out there. But here are some others that try to take its place:

Programming Perl, 2nd Edition by Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen and Randal L. Schwartz (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-149-6; $39.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
The new edition of Programming Perl; it's bigger than the first edition, but a lot of the more useful sections (like the cookbook) have been spun off. Still, if you have to use Perl, this remains the book to get.
Advanced Perl Programming by Sriram Srinivasan (O'Reilly; ISBN 1-56592-220-4; $34.95 US) [Order] [Publisher's Info]
A useful companion to Programming Perl, this book also compares Perl's way of doing things with other languages like Python.

Other Books

Note: Prices are the U.S. list [not discounted] price for the book, obtained from my personal copies or (in cases where the price wasn't printed on the cover)

Chris Lawrence <> (31 Oct 2001 at 20:29 CST)