12 Best Computer Networking Books for Beginners & Experts in

12 Best Computer Networking Books for Beginners & Experts in

I have read tens of books (both in ebook format and also hard copy textbooks) in my networking professional career over the last 18 years.

In fact, all of my preparation for my Cisco and other IT certifications was based on book studying (in addition to hands-on practice of course).

computer networking textbooks

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Personally, I believe that having a hard copy book in your hands and reading it from start to finish by taking written notes along the way, is one of the best ways to memorize and learn the material.

In this article I will list and review some of the best books on computer networking for both beginners and expert professionals.

The field of TCP/IP networking is evolving with new technological advancements and, in my opinion, it currently undergoes a transition from purely hardware to more software-based networks.

For the reason above I have also included books in the list (see towards the end) that focus on next generation networks, SDN, and automation/programmability.

When I first wrote this article, I intentionally didn’t include any books related to Cisco certifications because that time was a transitional period for Cisco exams and certifications.

After the dust has settled, there are now some great Cisco books worth mentioning for professionals looking to earn Cisco certifications, so I have included some recommended options in the list.

You will find mostly some great books which teach both the fundamentals and more advanced concepts in computer networking that will surely be very valuable for professionals.

Let’s get started:

This book is organized into the network layers of Internet Protocol Stack which is the base of all computer networking (together with the OSI model), therefore it offers a very good structure and learning experience.

Written by two University professors (James Kurose and Keith Ross), the book is mostly suited for beginners and for university students in computer science or engineering majors.

Even if people who don’t have any knowledge about networking will find the book easily accessible and comprehensible.

Although currently there is a newer 7th Edition of this book, its much higher price tag compared to the 6th Edition is not worth the extra money.

Also, the newer edition does not include that much extra material so I would recommend the cheaper 6th Edition just to save you some money. Although it is an older book, you will still learn the fundamentals of networking which is the basis for more practical material.

As I said above, the book is called “Top-Down Approach” because it starts at the Application layer of the Internet Protocol Stack (top layer) and works its way down to the Physical layer (bottom layer) of the stack. The other layers examined include Transport, Network and Link layers.

The above structure makes sense a lot in the pedagogical perspective since the whole computer networking functionality is based on this protocol layered structure.

Most useful for:

To summarize, I belief this book is a great choice for beginners or university students to acquire a comprehensive knowledge in computer networking fundamentals.

Unlike the previous book above, “Network Warrior” book is much more practical and the examples described in the book are taken from real world networks and from the experience of the author.

The practical examples and configuration samples you will find in the book are taken from actual Cisco networking equipment so the book will be very helpful to Cisco network administrators that are actually working in the field and want to get the job done.

Some of the topics covered in the book include:

  • Switches, VLANs, trunking, Link aggregation etc
  • Routers, routing protocols (RIP, EIGRP, OSPF, BGP), redistribution etc
  • Cisco devices configuration (4500, 6500 multilayer switches, 3550, 3750 etc)
  • Cisco Nexus discussion and configuration.
  • MPLS
  • ACLs, authentication, NAT etc
  • Firewalls (ASA etc)
  • Wireless
  • VoIP
  • QoS
  • IP design
  • IPv4, IPv6
  • Etc

Most useful for:

To summarize, this book is great as a practical reference for professionals already working with Cisco networks. Although it is an old book, most of the concepts, configurations and technologies are still valid to this date.

This book is published by Cisco press and is one of the best-selling textbooks providing deep understanding of IP routing protocols.

It is geared towards more advanced professionals and is focused on Interior Routing protocols (IGPs) for both IPv4 and IPv6.

It is considered as the defacto standard for all network engineers who already have experience with Cisco IOS routers and who want to prepare for the CCIE Routing certification.

Most useful for:

If you are a Cisco networking engineer working mostly with Layer 3 routing devices, this book is the bible of Layer 3 IP communications. Please note that the book covers only Interior Gateway Protocols (IGPs). If you want to learn also BGP, please see the next book below.

This is a continuation of the previous book above and covers exterior routing protocols (such as BGP) and also more advanced IP routing concepts.

In fact, it covers many concepts required for taking the CCIE exam and offers expert-level instruction on network design, deployment, support etc for managing complex networks.

The book is heavy weight on BGP, such as BGP and routing policies, scaling BGP, multiprotocol BGP etc. Other topics include NAT44, NAT64, multicast protocols etc.

The author (Jeff Doyle) is a CCIE veteran with vast experience in IP design and networking and is considered one of the best authors in Cisco press books.

Most useful for:

Advanced routing engineers who want to prepare for CCIE or want to learn everything about BGP (e.g people working in ISPs or big corporations). This book is 1100+ pages and is considered the bible of Exterior Routing and BGP design in networks.

This is one of the most recent (8th edition at the time of this writing) and updated textbooks in this list about computer networking that covers a wide range of topics for both beginners and for seasoned professionals.

This 1000+ pages book is one of the cheapest options in this list which provides so much value compared to its price.

The book is structured in 10 mini-books and covers a lot of recent and up-to-date technologies such as Cloud services (Amazon, Azure etc), Windows 10, Linux, Windows Server 2019, Office 365, general networking topics, virtualization, routing, switching, wireless, security etc.

It is one of the most thorough and all-in-one books out there and I recommend it as a great reference for any professional.

Most useful for:

For beginners who want to get an overall understanding of multiple topics in networking. Also, for experienced professionals who want to have a reference book for their job.

It is not focused only on core networking concepts (like routing etc) as the previous books, but covers also general IT systems and networking for Windows environments, Linux etc.

If you bought the other “For Dummies” book above, then “Cisco Networking All-in-One For Dummies” is a nice complementary option for professionals that started managing or supporting Cisco networking technologies.

This book is practical and technical in nature and offers actual Cisco configuration commands and examples that you can implement and use in your network.

Similar to the previous book above, the content is split into 6 mini books with each one divided into chapters and sections.

Each one of these chapters and sections focuses on a specific task/knowledge. Therefore, you can easily navigate the book back and forth according to the task or feature that you want to investigate or implement.

The 6 minibooks cover the following topics/themes:

  • Overview of networking
  • Internet Protocols
  • Switching
  • Routing
  • Wireless
  • Security

Most useful for:

For professionals that support, manage and design networks running over Cisco infrastructure (routers, switches, wireless, firewalls etc).

This is the only vendor-neutral certification related book in this list. I have included it here because CompTIA exams teach concepts that are universal and are not specific/bound to a certain vendor only.

The book is for the latest Network+ (Exam N10-008) and covers topics in general networking, cabling basics, ethernet networks, TCP/IP basics, routing, wireless networks, virtualization and cloud computing, network security, network management and monitoring etc.

The author (Mike Meyers) is the leading authority in writing CompTIA exam books and has authored several best sellers in this field.

Most useful for:

Mostly for people who want to study and prepare for the CompTIA Network+ exam. Even if you don’t want to take the exam, this book will be really valuable for beginners who want to acquire extensive knowledge around computer networking in a vendor-neutral approach.

Ethernet switches are the backbone of any LAN network. You also find them everywhere and in every corporate network.

As a networking professional you must learn LAN switching technology and this book will help you with that endeavor.

The book focuses strictly on LAN switching and covers in-depth all related concepts and topics such as foundations of LAN switches, advanced LAN concepts, loop prevention, VLAN concepts, multicast, security in LANs etc.

Although this book is old, the fundamentals of LAN switching technologies do not change much over the years, so the book is still relevant in today’s LAN networks.

Most useful for:

You will benefit most from this book if you already have a few years experience in networking and LAN management. The book goes in-depth about switching technologies so you must have some prior experience.

Mostly suitable for network designers, professionals managing and operating corporate LAN switch infrastructure or Value-added Resellers of networking equipment.

As I have mentioned at the beginning of this article, the book list I have compiled here includes also textbooks that look at the future of networking.

The “Network Programmability and Automation” book from O’REILLY Media is one of these books that teaches a next-generation concept for network engineers.

This concept is about automating the management and operation of hardware-based networks using software tools, programming, Application Programming Interfaces (API) etc.

The book covers topics such as Python (used to create useful scripts to automate networking tasks), Linux, IT automation tools such as Ansible, SDN concepts, working with Network APIs, Integration concepts etc.

Keep in mind here that the new Cisco certification exams after their 2020 updates, include a lot of programmability and automation topics. This is another reason that modern network engineers must shift their mindset into more software-based concepts and automation.

Most useful for:

If you are a hard-core traditional network engineer already managing and monitoring your infrastructure with the CLI, this book will help you make the shift to a more efficient and more productive management and operation.

If you fall into the group above, you don’t need any previous knowledge in software development or programming.

Continuing our reviews of books about next-generation concepts, this book deals with the SDN Model (Software Defined Networking) which seems to be the new era in computer networks.

The book includes the history of SDN, how software was used to forward and route packets in networks, how an enterprise will benefit from SDN or not, how SDN works, the OpenFlow specification, SDN in data centers, SDN applications, NETCONF and much more.

If you are a network designer or architect, this book will help you understand and explain to top-management the benefits or risks of integrating the SDN model in your existing network environment.

Most useful for:

The book offers a very good overall understanding of SDN concepts and OpenFlow which will help professionals who are already experienced in IP networks to acquire an overall knowledge of SDN.

As mentioned at the very beginning of this article, I decided to include also books related to vendor-specific exams.

Since most of the people visiting this website are Cisco professionals or people interested to pass Cisco exams, I couldn’t ignore one of the most popular and useful networking certification which is Cisco CCNA.

The theory and knowledge required for the newest CCNA 200-301 exam is covered fully in this comprehensive library which actually includes two books:

  • CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 1
  • CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 2

Instead of paying double the money to buy the two books above separately, you can buy this value-priced Package Library. 

Most useful for:

This is a Cisco-approved self-study resource for people preparing for the Cisco CCNA 200-301 exam. Along the way in studying these books, you will learn key fundamental networking concepts which will be helpful in your whole career as network engineer.

Please note that this library is very detailed and can be overwhelming for total beginners in networking.

ccna lab bookLast but not least is my own Practical Lab Guide which comes as PDF electronic Lab Book and includes also 42 downloadable Packet Tracer labs based on the official CCNA 200-301 Cisco exam blueprint.

I admit that the above Lab Book alone will not help you pass the exam by itself. It is however a great companion resource with practical labs which should be used together with other material such as the Cisco Cert Library mentioned above.

If you want an affordable Lab preparation guide for the practical aspects of the CCNA exam, then my Lab Guide Book here will be very helpful, even for people that just want a refreshing in fundamental practical Cisco networking concepts.   



Final Words

Of course, the book list above is not a comprehensive list of every computer networking book out there.

However, I have tried to collect and present the best ones in my opinion that will help most beginners just starting out in networking and also experts that want to advance their knowledge and skills even further.

To summarize, here are my book suggestions categorized according to your experience and knowledge level.

Best Books for Beginners

Best Books for More Advanced Professionals

Best Books for Cisco Professional Experts

Best Books for Next Generation Networking Engineers

For CCNA 200-301

Please let me know in the comments below if you have other book suggestions that you liked so that everyone will benefit from your own personal experience.