4 Best Books on Observability in 2023

In cloud computing, observability refers to software tools and practices for aggregating, correlating, and analyzing a steady stream of performance data from a distributed application and the hardware it runs on. It gives the ability to measure the internal states of a system by examining its outputs.

Are you looking for the best observability books? This blog will talk about some must-read books on observability that suit your requirements.


Why Learn Observability

Here are a few reasons why you should learn observability:

  • Observability gives engineers a proactive approach to optimizing their systems. 

  • When working on complex distributed systems, identifying a broken link in the chain can be nearly impossible without an observability solution. Observability allows you to trace requests and bottlenecks through all parts of a distributed system.

  • Observability provides a connected real-time view of all the operational data in your software system, as well as the flexibility to ask questions on the fly about your applications and infrastructure to get the answers you need.


What Makes Best Books on Observability?

When looking for the best books to learn observability, one question to ask is this: what makes the best books on observability?

Here are our criteria to select books on observability:

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

  • The book is concise and easy to understand.

  • Contain exercises, examples, and practice problems for hands-on experience.

  • Engaging and able to hold the attention of readers.

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


Best Books on Observability 

When it comes to learning observability, books have become the best source for learning it. Enjoy our list of six best books on observability.


1. Best book for Linux programmers: Linux Observability with BPF: Advanced Programming for Performance Analysis and Networking

Linux Observability with BPF by David Calavera and Lorenzo Fontana helps you harness the power of BPF to make any computing system more observable. You’ll not only dive into the BPF program lifecycle but also learn to write applications that observe and modify the Linux kernel’s behavior

The book helps you in familiarizing yourself with the essential concepts used on a day-to-day basis and augment your knowledge about performance optimization, networking, and security. Here's what you'll learn from the book:

  • Write applications that use BPF to observe and modify the Linux kernel’s behavior on demand

  • Inject code to monitor, trace, and observe events in the kernel in a secure way—no need to recompile the kernel or reboot the system

  • Explore code examples in C, Go, and Python

  • Gain a more thorough understanding of the BPF program lifecycle

The book is divided into nine different chapters to show you what you can accomplish by using BPF. You can read some chapters in isolation as reference guides, but if you’re new to BPF, we recommend you to read them in order.

  • Chapter 1 gives you the introduction

  • Chapter 2 guides you to run your first BPF Programs

  • Chapter 3 covers BPF Maps

  • Chapter 4 talks about tracing with BPF

  • Chapter 5 covers BPF Utilities

  • Chapter 6 talks about Linux Networking and BPF

  • Chapter 7 covers Express Data Path

  • Chapter 8 covers Linux Kernel Security, Capabilities, and Seccomp

  • Chapter 9 talks about real-world use cases

This book is a gem for those who are new to the world of observability.


2. Best book for completionists: Kubernetes Security and Observability: A Holistic Approach to Securing Containers and Cloud Native Applications

Kubernetes Security and Observability by Brendan Creane and Amit Gupta guide you toward holistic security and observability strategy for building and securing cloud-native applications running on Kubernetes. The book gives you best practices and tools to help you as you move applications to Kubernetes.

After reading the book, you'll be able to: 

  • Learn why you need a security and observability strategy for cloud-native applications and determine your scope of coverage

  • Understand key concepts behind the book's security and observability approach

  • Explore the technology choices available to support this strategy

  • Discover how to share security responsibilities across multiple teams or roles

  • Learn how to architect Kubernetes security and observability for multi-cloud and hybrid environments

The book is divided into eleven chapters and includes the following topics:

  • Chapter 1 covers Security and Observability Strategy

  • Chapter 2 talks about Infrastructure Security

  • Chapter 3 covers Workload Deployment Controls

  • Chapter 4 talks about Workload Runtime Security

  • Chapter 5 covers Observability

  • Chapter 6 talks about Observability and Security

  • Chapter 7 covers Network Policy

  • Chapter 8 talks about Managing Trust Across Team's

  • Chapter 9 talks about Exposing Services to External Client's

  • Chapter 10 covers Encryption of Data in Transit

  • Chapter 11 covers Threat Defense and Intrusion Detection

By the end of the book, you will be able to implement these best practices for security and observability for your Kubernetes clusters.


3. Best book for serious learners: Observability Engineering: Achieving Production Excellence

Observability Engineering: Achieving Production Excellence by Charity Majors, Liz Fong-Jones, and George Miranda explains the value of observable systems and shows you how to build an observability-driven development practice. The book explains what constitutes good observability and shows you how to make improvements from what you're doing today.

Here's what you'll explore in the book:

  • The value of practicing observability when delivering and managing complex cloud-native applications and systems

  • The impact observability has across the entire software engineering cycle

  • Software ownership: how different functional teams help achieve system SLOs

  • How software developers contribute to customer experience and business impact

  • How to produce quality code for context-aware system debugging and maintenance

  • How data-rich analytics can help you find answers quickly when maintaining site reliability

The authors provide practical dos and don'ts for migrating from legacy toolings, such as metrics monitoring and log management. You'll also learn the impact observability has on organizational culture. 


4. Best book for understanding Linux kernel and application performance: BPF Performance Tools

BPF Performance Tools by Brendan Gregg is the definite guide to use BPF tools to optimize performance, fix problems, and see inside running systems. The author presents more than 150 ready-to-run analysis and debugging tools, expert guidance on applying them, and step-by-step tutorials on developing your own.

The book guides you from basic to advanced tools to generate deeper, more useful technical insights for improving virtually any Linux system or application. To help understand the observability purpose of each of the standard and BPF-specific Linux tools, the book includes helpful diagrams showing which parts of the kernel each tool addresses.

Here's what you'll get from the book:

  • Learn essential tracing concepts and both core BPF front-ends: BCC and bpftrace

  • Master 150+ powerful BPF tools, including dozens created just for this book, and available for download

  • Discover practical strategies, tips, and tricks for more effective analysis

  • Analyze compiled, JIT-compiled, and interpreted code in multiple languages: C, Java, bash shell, and more

  • Generate metrics, stack traces, and custom latency histograms

  • Use complementary tools when they offer quick, easy wins

  • Explore advanced tools built on BPF: PCP and Grafana for remote monitoring, eBPF Exporter, and kubectl-trace for tracing Kubernetes

The book explores a wide spectrum of software and hardware targets. The authoritative guide summarizes performance engineering and kernel internals that you need to understand.


More ways to learn Observability

It’s a known fact that programmers and developers are lifelong learners. These best books on observability provide a broad tour of observability from several different points of view.

If you are not really into books you can check out these courses:

If you’re interested in free online resources, we have got something for you! Check out our article for over 70 coding resources that are free online.

If you know any other great books that have not been included in the above list, please let me know, I’d love to list them here!

Finally, never underestimate your creativity and the capability to do things differently and better.

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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