12 Amazing and Essential Linux Books To Enrich Your Brain and Library

by Ramesh Natarajan on January 12, 2009

Kids Reading Book
Photo courtesy of hortongrou

I have developed the habit of reading at least 30 minutes everyday before going to bed.  I always have a technical and a non-technical book in my reading queue. I read lot of infrastructure related books — sysadmin, DBA, networking and storage. I also enjoy reading biography of famous people,  personal development and occasional thriller.

The 12 Linux books mentioned here by no means are comprehensive or authoritative list. But, these 12 Books are few of my favorites that I enjoyed reading over the years and I strongly believe will enhance your technical abilities on Linux, if you have not read them yet.

  1. Sed and Awk, by Dale Dougherty and Arnold Robbins. Sed and Awk have transformed the way I worked on Linux command line. This book is the only material you would ever need on Sed and Awk.  Once you’ve mastered even the basics of Sed and Awk, you’ll be amazed with the amount of complex tasks you can perform very quickly and elegently.  For my day-to-day quick reference of sed and awk examples, I use the  Sed and Awk Pocket Reference, written by the same author.
  2. Learning the Vi and Vim Editors, by Arnold Robbins. I’m a command-line junkie.  So, naturally I’m a huge fan of Vi and Vim editors.  Several years back, when I wrote lot of C code on Linux, I used to carry the Vi editor pocket reference with me all the times.  Even if you’ve been using Vi and Vim Editors for several years and have not read this book, please do yourself a favor and read this book. You’ll be amazed with the capabilities of Vim editor.
  3. Bash Cookbook, by Carl Albing, JP Vossen and Cameron Newham. Whether you are a sysadmin, DBA or a developer, you have to write shell script at some point.  A wise sysadmin knows that once you’ve mastered the shell-scripting techniques, you can put your servers on auto-pilot mode by letting the shell-scripts do the grunt work. To get to the auto-pilot mode of sysadmin, you definitely need to master the examples provided in this cookbook. There are few Bash shell books out there. But, this books tops them all by giving lot of detailed examples.
  4. SSH, The Secure Shell, by Daniel J. Barrett, Richard E. Silverman and Robert G. Byrnes. This is hands-down the best book on SSH. This book explains both theoretical and practical aspects of SSH.  Using SSH as an end-user is fairly straight forward . But, configuring SSH as an administrator is complex and involves a detailed understanding of SSH.  This is a must read for any system administrator. The examples in this book show exactly what needs to be done differently for the different flavors of SSH such as SSH1, SSH2 and OpenSSH.
  5. Essential System Administration, by Æleen Frisch. This is an excellent book for those who like to become a Unix System Administrator.  This book covers all the typical system administration tasks. This is a perfect companion when you are dealing with multiple flavors of Unix, as it has examples for AIX, FreeBSD, HP-UX, Linux, Solaris and Tru64.  I’ve used the pocket version of this book — Essential System Administration Pocket Reference, when I was managing multiple flavors of Unix systems at the same time.
  6. Linux Server Hacks, Volume One, by Rob Flickenger. 100 awesome practical hacks packed in one book.  Setup a Linux test bed and try out all these hacks.  These hacks are neatly grouped into different sections — Server Basics, Revision Control, Backups, Networking, Monitoring, SSH, Scripting, and Information Servers.  Once you’ve mastered these hacks, you should absolutely read Linux Server Hacks, Volume Two, by William von Hagen and Brian Jones, which has 100 Linux hacks focussed on authentication, monitoring, security, performance and connectivity.
  7. DNS and BIND, by Cricket Liu and Paul Albitz. Several years ago, I configured my first DNS by reading online documentation.  I brought this book to understand how DNS and BIND works. I’ve already upgraded this book twice when a newer edition was released. This should definitely be in your library, if you are a serious system administrator.
  8. Understanding the Linux Kernel, by Daniel Bovet and Marco Cesati. If you are a serious developer on Linux environment or a sysadmin, this is a must read. This books explains the inner workings of the Linux Kernel 2.6 in a structured and logical way. This talks about how Kenel handles the Memory Management, Process scheduling, I/O architecture and Block devices. Overall this book is a treat for geeks who are curious to explore what is under the hood of Linux.
  9. Linux Cookbook, by Carla Schroder. This book covers Linux features from both users and system administrators point of view. There are two chapters dedicated for installing and managing software on RPM-based system and Debian.  If you use RedHat, the Linux Pocket Guide, by Daniel J. Barrett is an excellent addition to your library, which covers all the essential Linux command with a sample usage.
  10. Linux Firewalls, by Michael Rash. To build a secure Linux system, you must read this book. There are quite a few books out there for iptables. But, this one talks specifically about the fundamentals of how to configure an Intrusion Detection System using iptables, psad and fwsnort. If you want a comprehensive handy reference of all the things iptables can do with specific examples, Linux Iptables Pocket Reference, by Gregor N. Purdy is the best.
  11. Linux Administration Handbook, by Evi Nemeth, Garth Snyder and Trent R. Hein. During my early days of system administration, I’ve referred this book frequently. This is pretty detailed book with close to 1000 pages and 30 chapters that are nicely grouped together in three high level sections — Basic Administration, Networking and Bunch O’ Stuff.
  12. Beginning Ubuntu Linux, by Keir Thomas and Jaime Sicam. For those who like to transition from Windows to Linux, install Ubuntu Linux on one of your old laptop or desktop and get this book. I strongly believe in spreading the news about Linux to those who don’t use it. If you want any of your loved ones or friends to learn Linux, install Ubuntu on an old laptop and give this book as a gift to them. They’ll definitely be very thankful to you.

For more Linux books that I recommend, browse The Geek Stuff bookstore at Amazon.

There are several hundreds of books on Linux. What is your favorite Linux book that is not on this list?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sean Carley January 12, 2009 at 11:44 am

Think Unix. More than any other book, Think Unix helped me understand the why’s of the unix way.

2 mk_michael January 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

DNS and BIND – I have this book in my shelf, very great compendium!

3 SathiyaMoorthy January 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm

UNIX, concepts and applications – by Sumitabha Das.

For Perl, Learning Perl, Intermediate Perl, Mastering Perl, and finally Programming Perl.

And for general Unix, this blog, and many other…

4 Kory Wnuk January 13, 2009 at 6:24 am

Linux: Rute User’s Tutorial and Exposition

Not only have I benefited from this book, but I also lend it to those who are just starting to play with GNU/Linux.

5 Gullit January 13, 2009 at 7:16 am

Ok, a book about sed and awk, other about vi/vim and even about bash, and what about regular expressions ?
Once you know regular expressions you’ll be more productive in the command line ( shell script too ),
of course the best book to learn regular expressions is “Mastering Regular Expressions”.
Great list.

6 Mike Petty January 13, 2009 at 9:02 am

“Unix in a nutshell” or “Linux in a nutshell” indispensable references.

7 mian abid November 13, 2009 at 5:22 am

very good website and articles

8 Tom March 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

DNS and BIND looks like a great book which I want to buy, but I’m not sure whether to buy this one or Pro DNS and BIND, by Ron Aitchison. Did you read that book and care to elaburate why DNS and BIND is better than Pro DNS and BIND?

Also, does someone happen to have an idea on a good book about clustering Linux servers? I’ve found a few, like The Linux Enterprise Cluster, for example, but they are all rather old (from 2002-2005).

9 Abukamel September 20, 2010 at 5:37 am

hi there i am taking the RHCE course for now
could u plz tell me the order of reading those books after completing the RHCE course?

which book to read first then 2nd , etc….
plz arrange this to me for maximum benfit from this
and thanks alot for ur help

10 Joe Klemmer October 13, 2010 at 6:20 am

I don’t think a distro specific book should be included with this list. Nothing against Ubuntu (or any other distro) but wouldn’t it be best to try and keep the list distro agnostic? Just a thought.

11 Harish Pathak January 6, 2011 at 8:58 am

Ur articles r very helpful to me.
Could u please tell me about the sudo command in linux.

Thank u.

12 chablis July 20, 2011 at 1:54 pm

help me. I search a good book on VPN, I want understand the Vpn concept and the implementation.

13 David November 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm

hmm, I wholeheartedly approve of mentioning a distro on this site. If you install it, they will come. It is probably the most friendly transition from Windoze. Then, they get linux in their blood, and they bite more people… Oh, wait :) Seriously whatever gets people souls out of the hands of M$L0th is good good good.
Open one. read a few chapters. Set it down.Grab the next closest one and repeat. If it was more comprehensible than the first, set it on top of the stack. otherwise, place it under the top book. Repeat recursively, and when the stack is complete, read the top book. When finished, repeat the process.
while (!pile is empty) {
if (!(stack_top))
else if (temp > stack_top)

14 mohsentanha April 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm

what is 10 top security book ?

15 michael August 18, 2012 at 1:20 am

hi there im new to linux so could u pls tell me some books or tutorials to learn linux

16 Francis NDANGI September 6, 2012 at 6:52 am

I’m very glad with these book…

–[Francis NDANGI from DR Congo]–

17 Rohi October 22, 2012 at 1:29 am

Thanks a lot. This site is just amazing, never see so much useful information about Linux and UNIX at one place.

18 ryan May 8, 2013 at 6:28 am

You certainly shouldn’t forget any of W.R Stevens books..a must in every ones library.

19 Brad June 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Some good choices, but as a “general” learn Linux book, I have found:
A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming
auth. Mark Sobel
indispensible for learning & understanding the CLI (Command Line Interface).

As always, Thanks for your work.

20 Lance July 1, 2013 at 5:12 am

I have found Wiley’s Ubuntu Hacks to be an indispensable book for any Ubuntu based Linux like Mint and applicable to Android.

21 Tim Burby September 23, 2013 at 12:38 pm

First thanks for the site. I refer to your stuff often, not always on purpose either but when I do a google search for some help and see your site in the returns, I’d rather read your answers, they are always clear.

I agree with everything you have included here but would like to offer one further addition. “Linux Command Line” by William E. Shotts Jr. published by No Starch Press
I’ve read a lot of these while trying to educate myself and this one is always my favorite.

22 MarkD October 9, 2013 at 11:48 am

Red Hat Certified Technician and Engineer by Asghar Ghori. I like it because it is organized around topics, so I can find “what command do I need to do x?” Mine is written for RHEL5 and full of my scribbles for the RHEL 6 differences. The Administration Guides on the Red Hat website are very good also.

There is another Red Hat Certification Guide by Jang that is also excellent and is written as more of a tutorial.

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