5 Best C Books for Beginners in 2023


C is a general-purpose, procedural computer programming language invented in 1972 (a looong time ago). It is considered the base for other modern programming languages and is also known as the “mother language.” C can be considered the “parent” of other languages like C++

C was initially developed by Dennis Ritchie as a system programming language to write operating systems. C is a very flexible and versatile programming language that allows maximum control with minimal commands. 

There are great C programming books for beginners. Choosing the right book is important as it can guide your learning.

In this article, we have compiled a list of best C books for beginners through a collection of book reviews. Each book review will highlight the taste of the book, the contents covered, and how it can benefit you.

Why learn C?

Is C a good programming language to start with? It’s an understandable question. C is still a commonly-taught programming language, particularly for its historical value. The conventions in C are common in other languages.

Here are my reasons why learning C is a great investment in your future: 

  • Influence: C has been around for 30 years and has influenced many languages, not limited to obvious C spin-offs like C# or C++.

  • Beginner Friendly: It’s the basic language of a lot of advanced computer languages. Once you master C programming, you can easily learn another specified language.

  • Mid-Level: C is a middle-level language and is reasonably close to the machine. Learning C will teach you the underlying principles of computer architecture. You tend to get a better picture of advanced topics like exactly how networking works. 

  • Speed: C is wicked fast in terms of execution time. Programs written and compiled in C execute much faster as compared to any other programming language.

  • Great for Hardware: C is extensively used in Embedded Programming or micro-controller programming where C program is used to control micro-controllers. This type of programming is widely used in auto-motives, Robotics, Hardware, etc.

  • Procedural: Learning C will also teach you to write clean procedural code in an imperative paradigm.

  • Significant: The C programming language is recognized worldwide and used in a number of applications, including advanced scientific systems and operating systems.  


What Makes Best C Books?

To help you in selecting a well-structured and latest C book for beginners, we have narrowed it down to the top 10 best C books for beginners. 

Here are our criteria for the selection of books:

  • The book should contain a variety of instructional materials, including exercises, examples, questions, learning activities, and other features that promote a programmer’s engagement and active learning.

  • It must have a structured, clear, and logical progression of topics.

  • Content must be up-to-date and should thoroughly teach and explain the basic concepts of C programming language.

  • Use clear, precise, and easy-to-understand language.

  • The book should have a clear layout and must be friendly toward self-taught programmers.


Best Books on C

Books make up the primary mode of learning. With so many books out there to learn C, the readers are left confused deciding which one to buy.

Here are ten excellent C books for novice programmers:

1. Best Book for Serious Learners: C: The Complete Reference

C: The Complete Reference is another gem from Herbert Schildt and gives you full details on C99, the New ANSI/ISO Standard for C. You will get in-depth coverage of the C language and function libraries as well as all the newest C features, including restricted pointers, inline functions, variable-length arrays, and complex math. 

This jam-packed resource includes hundreds of examples and sample applications. The book gives complete descriptions of the entire C function library and provides tips on working efficiently in the C programming environment.

The book provides insider tips, hundreds of examples, and expertly crafted explanations. The book is divided into 26 chapters and covers the following concepts:

  • Data types and operators

  • Control statements

  • Classes and objects

  • Constructors, destructors, and methods

  • Interfaces, arrays, enumerations, and structures

  • Method and operator overloading

  • Inheritance and virtual methods

  • Reflection and runtime type ID

  • Exception handling

  • Delegates, properties, events, and indexers

  • Attributes

  • Multithreading and the Task Parallel Library

  • Generics

  • LINQ and PLINQ

  • Lambda expressions

  • Anonymous types

  • Extension methods

  • Named and optional arguments

  • Implicitly typed variables

  • I/O, networking, and collections

The book follows a structured approach to learning and answers all of the readers’ questions clearly and concisely.


2. Best Book for Completionists: C in a Nutshell: The Definitive Reference

C in a Nutshell: The Definitive Reference by Peter Prinz and Tony Crawford helps you to learn how to build C programs with GNU and build executable programs from C source code.

As you go through the book, you will be able to learn:

  • C language concepts and language elements, with separate chapters on types, statements, pointers, memory management, I/O, and more

  • The C standard library, including an overview of standard headers and a detailed function reference

  • Basic C programming tools in the GNU software collection, with instructions on how use them with the Eclipse IDE

The contents of the book are divided into three parts and twenty chapters. The first section covers all the important language elements like character, statements, points, memory management. The second section helps you to learn about the C standard library, and the third section teaches about the basic C programming tools.

Part I Language

  • Chapter 1 covers Language Basics

  • Chapter 2 covers Types

  • Chapter 3 covers Literals

  • Chapter 4 covers Type Conversions

  • Chapter 5 covers Expressions and Operators

  • Chapter 6 covers Statements

  • Chapter 7 covers Functions

  • Chapter 8 covers Arrays

  • Chapter 9 covers Pointers

  • Chapter 10 covers Structures, Unions and Bit-Fields

  • Chapter 11 covers Declarations

  • Chapter 12 covers Dynamic Memory Management

  • Chapter 13 covers Input and Output

  • Chapter 14 covers Processing Directives

Part II Standard Library

  • Chapter 15 covers The Standard Headers

  • Chapter 16 covers Functions at a Glance

  • Chapter 17 covers Standard Library Functions

Part III Basic Tools

  • Chapter 18 covers Compiling with GCC

  • Chapter 19 talks about Using make to Build C Programs

  • Chapter 20 covers Debugging C Programs with GDB


3. Best Book for Step-by-step Learners: C Programming in Easy Steps

C Programming in easy steps by Mike McGrath has an easy-to-follow style that will appeal to anyone who wants to begin programming in C. The begins by explaining how to download and install a free C compiler so that you can quickly begin to create your own executable programs. Each chapter builds your knowledge of C.

There are complete example programs that demonstrate each aspect of C together with screenshots that illustrate the output when that program has been executed. This book is ideal for novice programmers who have no previous knowledge of any programming language. 

The contents covered in the book are:

  • Getting started

  • Storing variable values

  • Setting constant values

  • Performing operations

  • Making statements

  • Employing functions

  • Pointing to data

  • Manipulating strings

  • Building structures

  • Producing results

  • Reference Section

By the end of this book, you will have gained a sound understanding of the C language and be able to write your own C programs and compile them into executable files that can be run on any compatible computer.


More books you may like:


4. Best Book for Total Beginners: Let Us C

The new edition of Let Us C by Yashavant Kanetkar gives a detailed explanation of C programming language concepts.

The book includes well-thought-out and fully working programming examples and exercises that would help you practice the skills learned in the chapter.

The book follows an easy-to-follow style that appeals to everyone. It begins with the basics and steadily builds the pace so that the reader finds it easy to handle advanced topics towards the end of the book. The book is divided into twenty-three chapters.

  • Chapter 1 covers Getting Started

  • Chapter 2 covers C Instructions

  • Chapter 3 covers Decision Control Instruction

  • Chapter 4 talks about More Complex Decision Making

  • Chapter 5 covers Loop Control Instruction

  • Chapter 6 covers More Complex Repetitions

  • Chapter 7 talks about Case Control Instruction

  • Chapter 8 talks about Functions

  • Chapter 9 covers Pointers

  • Chapter 10 talks about Recursion

  • Chapter 11 covers Data Types Revisited

  • Chapter 12 talks about The C Preprocessor

  • Chapter 13 covers Arrays

  • Chapter 14 talks about Multidimensional Arrays

  • Chapter 15 covers Strings

  • Chapter 16 covers Handling Multiple Strings

  • Chapter 17 covers Structures

  • Chapter 18 talks about Console Input/Output

  • Chapter 19 covers File Input/Output

  • Chapter 20 talks about More Issues In Input/Output

  • Chapter 21 covers Operations On Bits

  • Chapter 22 talks about Miscellaneous Features

  • Chapter 23 covers Interview FAQs

This book is especially suited for someone who wants to begin programming in C. 

5. Best Book for Theoretical Learners: Basic Computation and Programming with C

Basic Computation and Programming with C is written by Subrata Saha and Subhodip Mukherjee for Beginner C programmers. It provides in-depth coverage of the fundamentals of computation and programming in C language. The book assists in the understanding of theoretical concepts and their applications.

The unique approach of the book uses 'Learn by quiz’ including multiple-choice questions, with answers and explanations. It helps the reader to identify the right answer with adequate explanation and reasoning as to why the other options are incorrect. 

The book is divided into thirteen chapters and the contents covered in these chapters are:

  • Chapter 1 covers Computer history, classification, and basic anatomy

  • Chapter 2 covers the Introduction to number system and logic gates

  • Chapter 3 talks about the Introduction to system software and operating systems

  • Chapter 4 talks about the Algorithms and flow chart

  • Chapter 5 covers the Introduction to C

  • Chapter 6 talks about Constants, variables, and data types 

  • Chapter 7 covers the Operators and expressions

  • Chapter 8 covers the Input and output statement

  • Chapter 9 covers the Branching statement

  • Chapter 10 covers Loop statements

  • Chapter 11 covers Array

  • Chapter 12 covers String handling

  • Chapter 13 talks about Function

  • Chapter 14 covers Pointer

  • Chapter 15 covers Structure

  • Chapter 16 talks about File

  • Chapter 17 covers Bitwise operators

  • Chapter 18 talks about Preprocessors

  • Chapter 19 talks about the Linked list

The book can be perfectly used as a self-learning book by beginners in Computer Programming.

6. C Programming Absolute Beginner’s Guide

C Programming Absolute Beginner’s Guide, written by Greg Perry and Dean Miller, teaches basic C language concepts using clear and easy-to-understand steps.

The information on C programming language covered in this C book includes how to organize programs, store and display data, and work with variables, operators, I/O, pointers, arrays, and functions.

It is the beginner’s guide to writing C programs. This programming book has also been updated for the new C11 standard and the free, open-source tools we have available today.

Among these, you will also learn and discover:

  • Free C programming for Windows, OS x, or Linux

  • How to generate output and display it on the screen

  • Control programs by testing data

  • Use logical operators

  • Store easy-to-access information

  • Use functions to make programs easier to write

  • How to handle your computer’s memory more efficiently

  • Make programs more powerful using preprocessing directives

7.Best for ANSI Standards: The C Programming Language (Second Edition)

The C Programming Language Second Edition is a complete guide to ANSI standard C language programming. This programming book was written by C developers Brian W. Kernighan and Dennis M. Ritchie. The newest edition shows how to take advantage of operators, the economy of expression, improved control flow, and data structures offered by C programming.

In this best C programming book, you will find helpful information, including:

  • Detailed coverage of the C language

  • Official C language reference manual

  • Help with syntax notation, declarations, and scope rules

  • The latest in ANSI changes

Among the content already listed, The C Programming Language book also covers other basic programming concepts, including variables, assignment statements, loops, and functions. The book is so easy to follow that even a novice programmer can follow along and pick up this programming language.

Before reading this book, you should have fundamental programming knowledge, and it is not recommended for absolute beginners.

8. Best C Book for Advancing Skills: Learn C the Hard Way

Learn C the Hard Way by Zed A. Shaw offers practical exercises on the computational subjects you keep avoiding regarding C programming language. It is a good course for the beginner or junior programmers who are eager to advance their current skills in any language.

In this book, you will find key concepts that cover:

  • How to set up a C environment

  • Basic syntax and idioms

  • Operators, variables, and data types

  • Program control structures and memory allocation

  • Data structures

  • Debugging and defensive coding

  • Breaking and hacking your own C code

The book begins with several crafted exercises and includes a teaching video. With this book, you will master defensive programming techniques, and work through practical projects to learn to apply the new concepts the book covers.

9. Best Book for Complete Learning Experience: Head First C

Head First C written by David Griffiths and Dawn Griffiths is a brain-friendly guide providing you with a complete learning experience that shows you how to create programs using C language. This book covers a more unique method that surpasses syntax and other how-to manuals. With this book, you learn how to be a great programmer.

In addition to basic programming concepts, you will learn more about the following:

  • Learn the secrets of C coding gurus

  • Learn how to avoid mistakes

  • Play around in the C Library

  • Learn how variadic functions can help you become more flexible

  • Learn how to use the compiler

With this book, you will also learn the latest in cognitive science and learning theory so you can craft a multi-sensory learning experience. The format of this book is described as visually rich and is not as text-heavy as some of the other C programming books we have covered.

10.Best Book for More Advanced Students: Expert C Programming: Deep C Secrets

Expert C Programming: Deep See Secrets was written by Peter Van Der Linden. This book is best suited for more advanced programmers who want a deeper understanding of more advanced tips and tricks. If you are a professional in computer fundamentals, this reference book can take your career to the next level.

Linden uses a very conversational style in this book and uses examples that he has drawn from his own personal and practical experience. Each chapter of this reference book ends with a section titled, "Some Light Relief." This is where Linden discusses topics that some may find to be more recreational.

This book will prove to be a valuable resource and includes information regarding:

  • C programmer job interview secrets

  • Computer software that blew up the space probe to Venus

  • C code for a complete BASIC interpreter

It also includes an introduction to C++ that any programmer can understand, and it covers both IBM PC and UNIX systems. In addition to learning core concepts and the practical use of program execution, the reader will also be shown how to use this knowledge and have the opportunity to dive into the folklore of C.


More Ways to Learn C

I hope you were able to find what you were looking for within these five best C programming books. I always emphasize the joy of learning programming languages above all. Only get these books if you know you will find utility and value from them.

That said, the journey of programming languages does not stop with books.

I always recommend pairing a book with a course for maximum immersion.

Here are some courses on C programming:


Udemy offers an extensive, highly-rated course, C Programming For Beginners


Coursera also partnered with Duke University to offer the Introduction to Programming in C Specialization. These are only a couple of great courses that will help you dive deep into C.

If you’re on a budget, I have compiled over 70 free coding resources. It is a great collection. Many of the resources I have tried or used myself. If you’re interested, I look forward to seeing you in that article. 👋😊


Miranda Limonczenko

Miranda is the founder of Books on Code, with a mission to bring book-lover culture to programmers. Learn more by checking out Miranda on LinkedIn.


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