When I started my career in computer networking, I wish I knew the best books for Network Engineers. Many people think that nowadays books are obsolete since everything can be googled in few seconds, but online information is sparse and often not reliable.
From my experience, there are plenty of differences in studying with books vs online article. With a book, the content structure leads the reader from the introduction to the conclusions, optimising the flow for an effective reading. Online articles are a great way to quickly check concepts and details, but they are not the way to learn complex topics such as networking.
I strongly believe that having the right book for a topic is fundamental to cover all the details and be prepared for the unexpected! In this article I want to introduce the best books that helped and supported my career in networking, I hope you’ll get to read at least some of them.
CCNA Routing and Switching 200-120 Official Cert Guide – Wendell Odom
CCIE Routing & Switching – Wendell OdomIf you are taking the challenge to the next step, CCIE will definitely keep you busy for a while. After having fun with CCNA and CCNP, this certification will get your hands dirty with the real stuff. Uncountable hours of lab are required to pass the exam, but first you need to start from the written part. This book covers all the topics in the CCIE blueprint, written by the Cisco guru Wendell Odom. Don’t expect to be an expert just after reading this book, but it definitely provides a solid ground to develop your knowledge up to the IE level. It includes “Do I Know This Already” quizzes open each chapter and allow you to decide how much time you need to spend on each section. Foundation Topic sections present detailed overviews of all exam objectives. Key Topic icons allow you to identify and quickly review the most important exam topics. Foundation summaries reinforce key exam concepts with review exercises and important tables. Super recommended!
Routing TCP/IP – Doyle Carrol (2 volumes)The TCP/IP protocol runs the Internet as we know it, but it’s still a bit of a mystery for many people. This book is truly a bible for TCP/IP and BGP-4, explaining the protocol inside out. This is a Cisco branded book, but really covering the protocol from a platform independent point of view. Ithe book content allows to master the operational components, configuration and troubleshooting of BGP-4. Understand the IPv4 and IPv6 protocols. master the NAT configuration and deployment. This is more an operation book rather that a theoretic one, so really for engineers who want to get down to the hands on stuff!
TCP/IP Illustrated – Richard Stevens (2 volumes)All the truth about TCP/IP. This is a unique book from a top notch author, illustrating the TCP/IP protocol with hands on example. Instead of going through the RFC, Stevens uses popular diagnostic tools to show the protocol in action. This provides a much greater understanding of the TCP mechanisms such as connection establishment, timeouts, sliding windows, retransmissions and fragmentation. The books are organised in a stacked way, starting from the OSI Link Layer up to the Application Later. The protocols are referenced using several popular implementation such as Sun OS, Solaris and BSD. This two books are a must have for whoever needs to deeply understand the real world of TCP/IP, not just the stuff in the RFC’s!
IP Routing Fundamentals – Mark SportackIP routing is the basic of internetworking, and any Network Engineer should know the inside out. This book is a comprehensive guide on all the routing protocols (RIP, IGRP, EIGRP, OSPF) along with IP addressing (classfull and classless) and CIDR/VLSM. This is the essential background for network engineers who wants to work on core routing. Definitely a book to keep on the shelf of any NOC center, a reference for all the routing protocols explained with simple words.
Computer Networks (5th Edition) – Andrew S. Tanenbaum
In this masterpiece, Andrew Tanenbaum explains how computer networks work from the inside out. The book is well structured and goes in great details over each layer of the ISO/OSI model, from the physical medium used in networking (both historically and currently) all the way to the applications including emails, WWW, and media protocols (VoIP, streaming, video-on-demand). Each chapter also presents how key principles apply to real-world scenarios.
The 5th edition, published more than 20 years after the first one, includes (finally) a chapter dedicated to network security. Once considered a separate field, nowadays security must be traversal and its concepts applied at any level.
Data Communications and Networking Paperback – ForouzanThis book is used in schools to help future network engineers understand the basics of data communications, networking, and the protocols used in Internet. This books present complex topics in a very simple and easy-to-read form, including over 800 illustrations. The latest edition includes the latest technologies as well as rewritten sections with clearer explanations.
Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach (6th Edition) – Kurose and RossWritten by two university professors, this book covers all of the essential material (like the previous books) but with a more relevant and entertaining tone. The last edition was released just 2 years after the previous one, assuring that all the latest technologies and applications are well covered.
It’s full of practical examples using hands-on tools (such as Wireshark, the popular network protocol analyzer) and programming languages (Java).
It’s a book that push the reader to try out things to facilitate the learning.
Internetworking with TCP/IP Vol.1: Principles, Protocols, and Architecture (4th Edition) – Douglas E. ComerThis is the all-time best-selling TCP/IP book, still a reference for many senior engineers out there. However, of all the TCP/IP ‘bibles’ out there, this one present a rather academic and theoretical approach. For this reason, we would not recommend Comer’s book for someone that is just starting with this topic – but rather for the someone that wants to dig deeper in the subjects.
TCP/IP Network Administration – Craig HuntLike any O’Reilly’s books, this guide is technically accurate and fundamentally sound! This is the book that lots of network administrators can’t live without.
It guides you to setup, running and troubleshooting a TCP/IP network. After laying the foundations of the ISO/OSI model, it presents tutorials on configuring the network services (DNS, Apache, Sendmail, Samba, PPP, and DHCP) as well as comprehensive chapters on troubleshooting and security.
Compared with the previous books, this is much more hands on and offer a practical command reference.
New to networking? Get a great foundation with the Data Communications and Networking (Forouzan) and Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach (Kurose and Ross). A great complement to that is Computer Networks by Tanenbaum.
Then take a deep dive into the OSI layer-3 reading IP Routing Fundamentals (Sportack), followed by TCP/IP Illustrated (Richard Stevens) and move into Routing TCP/IP (Doyle Carrol) to master the theories behind.
When you are ready to get your first certification, gets your head down on the CCNA Routing and Switching Guide (Odom), and when you feel going above and beyond, it’s time for the CCIE Routing & Switching (Odom).