Books I recommend for Birkbeck MSc Computer Science students

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I thought I would list some of the books – other than the set texts – that I think new students (for 2011/12 intake) to Birkbeck ought to read. Sadly, for me, I didn’t really read any of them until the second year – but they are still useful.

This is will probably be an ongoing series.

For C++/programming

Not a book about C++ at all – and very hard going – but Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs will teach you a lot about computer programming and the fundamentals of computing.

For Fundamentals of Computing

Has to be The Annotated Turing: really a fantastic book, well written as both an exposition of the subject matter and of Turing’s landmark paper.

For operating systems

I would like to recommend The Design of the Unix Operating System: but you may find it hard to get copies of it (though there are few in the Birkbeck library). The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD Operating System might do instead but is close to being out of print also. Understanding the Linux Kernel is much cheaper but I think is far too complex as an introductory text.

A cheap and cheerful alternative might be Lions’ Commentary on UNIX with Source Code – which is close to 40 years old, somewhat rudimentary and describes an even more primitive version of Unix than “The Design of…” but does have sources that make it clear how the OS really works.

I won’t recommend a book on UML or the UP because I hate them both and have yet to find a book that doesn’t make that worse.

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