"So your appetite for information on C++ remains unsated. Fear not, there's more -- much more. In the sections that follow, I put forth my recommendations for further reading on C++. It goes without saying that such recommendations are both subjective and selective, but in view of the litigious age in which we live, it's probably a good idea to say it anyway.


There are hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of books on C++, and new contenders join the fray with increasing frequency. I haven't seen all these books, much less read them, but my experience has been that while some books are very good, some of them, well, some of them aren't.

What follows is the list of books I find myself consulting when I have questions about software development in C++. Other good books are available, I'm sure, but these are the ones I use, the ones I can truly recommend.

A good place to begin is with the books that describe the language itself. Until the ANSI/ISO standard is finalized and becomes generally available, most programmers make do with these, and unless you are crucially dependent on the nuances of the official standards documents, I suggest you do, too.

The Annotated C++ Reference Manual, Margaret A. Ellis and Bjarne Stroustrup, Addison-Wesley, 1990, ISBN 0-201-51459-1.

The Design and Evolution of C++, Bjarne Stroustrup, Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 0-201-54330-3.

These books contain not just a description of what's in the language, they also explain the rationale behind the design decisions -- something you won't find in the official standard documents. The Annotated C++ Reference Manual is now incomplete (several language features have been added since it was published -- see Item 35) and is in some cases out of date, but it is still the best reference for the core parts of the language, including templates and exceptions. The Design and Evolution of C++ covers most of what's missing in The Annotated C++ Reference Manual; the only thing it lacks is a discussion of the Standard Template Library (again, see Item 35). These books are not tutorials, they're references, but you can't truly understand C++ unless you understand the material in these books.

For a more general reference on the language and how to apply it, there is no better place to look than the book by the man responsible for C++ in the first place:

The C++ Programming Language (Third Edition), Bjarne Stroustrup, Addison-Wesley, 1997, ISBN 0-201-88954-4.

Stroustrup has been intimately involved in the language's design, implementation, application, and standardization since its inception, and he probably knows more about it than anybody else does. His descriptions of language features make for dense reading, but that's primarily because they contain so much information. The chapters on the standard C++ library provide a good introduction to this crucial aspect of modern C++.

If you're ready to move beyond the language itself and are interested in how to apply it effectively, you might consider my other book on the subject:

Effective C++, Second Edition: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs, Scott Meyers, Addison-Wesley, 1998, ISBN 0-201-92488-9.

That book is organized similarly to this one, but it covers different (arguably more fundamental) material.

A book pitched at roughly the same level as my Effective C++ books, but covering different topics, is

C++ Strategies and Tactics, Robert Murray, Addison-Wesley, 1993, ISBN 0-201-56382-7.

Murray's book is especially strong on the fundamentals of template design, a topic to which he devotes two chapters. He also includes a chapter on the important topic of migrating from C development to C++ development. Much of my discussion on reference counting (see Item 29) is based on the ideas in C++ Strategies and Tactics.

If you're the kind of person who likes to learn proper programming technique by reading code, the book for you is

C++ Programming Style, Tom Cargill, Addison-Wesley, 1992, ISBN 0-201-56365-7.

Each chapter in this book starts with some C++ software that has been published as an example of how to do something correctly. Cargill then proceeds to dissect -- nay, vivisect -- each program, identifying likely trouble spots, poor design choices, brittle implementation decisions, and things that are just plain wrong. He then iteratively rewrites each example to eliminate the weaknesses, and by the time he's done, he's produced code that is more robust, more maintainable, more efficient, and more portable, and it still fulfills the original problem specification. Anybody programming in C++ would do well to heed the lessons of this book, but it is especially important for those involved in code inspections.

(One topic Cargill does not discuss in C++ Programming Style is exceptions. He turns his critical eye to this language feature in the following article, however, which demonstrates why writing exception-safe code is more difficult than most programmers realize:

""Exception Handling: A False Sense of Security,"" C++ Report, Volume 6, Number 9, November-December 1994, pages 21-24.

If you are contemplating the use of exceptions, read this article before you proceed. If you don't have access to back issues of the C++ Report, you can find the article at the Addison-Wesley Internet site. The World Wide Web URL is http://cseng.aw.com/bookdetail.qry?ISBN=0-201-63371-X&ptype=636. If you prefer anonymous FTP, you can get the article from ftp.aw.com in the directory cp/mec++.)

Once you've mastered the basics of C++ and are ready to start pushing the envelope, you must familiarize yourself with

Advanced C++: Programming Styles and Idioms, James Coplien, Addison-Wesley, 1992, ISBN 0-201-54855-0.

I generally refer to this as ""the LSD book,"" because it's purple and it will expand your mind. Coplien covers some straightforward material, but his focus is really on showing you how to do things in C++ you're not supposed to be able to do. You want to construct objects on top of one another? He shows you how. You want to bypass strong typing? He gives you a way. You want to add data and functions to classes as your programs are running? He explains how to do it. Most of the time, you'll want to steer clear of the techniques he describes, but sometimes they provide just the solution you need for a tricky problem you're facing. Furthermore, it's illuminating just to see what kinds of things can be done with C++. This book may frighten you, it may dazzle you, but when you've read it, you'll never look at C++ the same way again.

If you have anything to do with the design and implementation of C++ libraries, you would be foolhardy to overlook

Designing and Coding Reusable C++, Martin D. Carroll and Margaret A. Ellis, Addison-Wesley, 1995, ISBN 0-201-51284-X.

Carroll and Ellis discuss many practical aspects of library design and implementation that are simply ignored by everybody else. Good libraries are small, fast, extensible, easily upgraded, graceful during template instantiation, powerful, and robust. It is not possible to optimize for each of these attributes, so one must make trade-offs that improve some aspects of a library at the expense of others. Designing and Coding Reusable C++ examines these trade-offs and offers down-to-earth advice on how to go about making them.

Regardless of whether you write software for scientific and engineering applications, you owe yourself a look at

Scientific and Engineering C++, John J. Barton and Lee R. Nackman, Addison-Wesley, 1994, ISBN 0-201-53393-6.

The first part of the book explains C++ for FORTRAN programmers (now there's an unenviable task), but the latter parts cover techniques that are relevant in virtually any domain. The extensive material on templates is close to revolutionary; it's probably the most advanced that's currently available, and I suspect that when you've seen the miracles these authors perform with templates, you'll never again think of them as little more than souped-up macros.

Finally, the emerging discipline of patterns in object-oriented software development (see page 123) is described in

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, "