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7 Best Books for Competitive Programming

Last Updated : 11 Jan, 2023
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Do you have a dream to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics of Programming (ACM ICPC)? Do you want to ace your career with Google Kickstart or want to win a prize amount of $20,000 to become a world champion in Facebook Hackercup or Google Code jam? Then you have to be an out-of-the-box problem solver. These are some most famous global algorithmic programming contests where programmers from all around the world put their coding skills to solve real-world problems with the power of thinking, creativity, collaboration, innovation, and the ability to perform under pressure.

Best Competitive Programming Books


Competitive programming is nothing but a sport where your code needs to beat others. So only solving a problem is not enough – you have to solve it in the most optimized way with the minimum time complexities and auxiliary space. Now if you want to code like that then you have to master the fundamentals and should learn in-depth concepts of every corner of programming, data structure, and algorithms. Only a good book can teach and guide you to become a Better Programmer. 

Here are some outstanding books which not only teach the syntax and semantics of programming languages but also help you to think, organize, and become a good problem solver, which is indeed the most important lesson for a coder. Also, if you want to lead the charts of competitive programming then get yourself enrolled in the Competitive Programming – Live course and enhance your problem-solving skills in one place only. 

1. Introduction to Algorithms By Thomas H . Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson: 

This book is the Bible of Competitive Coding, a beautifully written, comprehensive textbook that covers all the modern algorithms in-depth. It is a fully organized and definitive introductory book on the design and analysis of algorithms accessible to all levels of readers. Most books on algorithms available in the market are either rigorous and incomplete or cover huge material without rigor but this book is a rare example that uniquely combines both rigor and comprehensiveness. The first half of this book gives an effective method to study algorithms and the second half is focused on more advanced readers and curious students with compelling material on both the possibilities and the challenges in this fascinating field.

  • Every chapter is well organized and best for self-study.
  • Pseudocodes are designed to be readable by any beginner-level programmer.
  • Elementary explanation without sacrificing depth of coverage or mathematical rigidity.
  • Vastly used as a research reference in algorithms and commonly cited as a reference for algorithms in published papers(10,000+ citations).
  • Bestseller programming book with half a million sold copies during the initial years.

2. Competitive Programming 3 by Steven Halim:

This is a hardcore Competitive Programming book specially designed for the booming International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) and ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), a must-have for every competitive programmer. From an ordinary coder to one of the world’s finest competitive programmers, mastering the contents of this book is very necessary. It contains a collection of relevant data structures, algorithms, and programming tips written to be more competitive in these competitions. This book is such a treat for those who love problem-solving with programming, and those who want to go for interviews with big IT companies.

  • Gives you a strong lower bound of problem-solving paradigm in computer science.
  • Covers a wide variety of problems, many of them known to the community for featuring popular Online Judges.
  • Explaining each algorithm with some example problems leads to a deep understanding of a pragmatic approach.
  • Specially focused on the practice with some sample exercises for each topic for a better grasp.
  • A masterpiece to guide any passionate algorithmic problem solver.

3. Guide to Competitive Programming by Antti Laaksonen:

This is an easy-to-follow, ideal reference book that presents a comprehensive introduction to modern competitive programming. It mainly focuses to learn algorithms through competitive programming to encourage the design of algorithms that work in real-world problems. This book also improves the debugging skills of a programmer and influences the thinking required to solve problems competitively. The book contains many tips and tricks which can be very useful for any competitive programmer.

  • Describes how to write efficient algorithms to process large data sets quickly,
  • Provides in-depth concepts on data structures of the C++ standard library,
  • An efficient algorithmic design technique for dynamic programming optimization and graph algorithms,
  • Easy and nice description of Advanced algorithm design topics like bit-parallelism and amortized analysis,
  • Specialized in trees, and geometric algorithms, and discusses mathematical topics for competitive programming,
  • Containing a broad range of topics of various levels of difficulty, this book is suitable for both beginners and more experienced readers.

4. Programming Challenges by Steven S Skiena:

This is a well-written competitive programming book for self-study, teaching innovative courses in algorithms and programming, and for international competition. International programming contests are the best way to improve your algorithmic and coding skills and for this reason, this book uses programming competition-type problems to motivate the study of algorithms and includes more than 100 programming challenges with the necessary theory and key concepts for approaching them. All the interesting problems in this book are well structured by topics to gain a concrete understanding of both algorithmic techniques and advanced coding topics.

  • A large no of quality programming problems suitable for self-study
  • Online judging at
  • Suitable to prepare for major programming contents like ACM ICPC, IOI, and Topcoder Challenges.
  • Contains quality concepts in brief on key elements like number theory, geometry, dynamic programming, and graph algorithms,
  • Programs are written in popular programming languages like C, C++, and Java.

5. The Algorithm Design Manual By Steven S Skiena:

It is one of the best-selling classic books which reveals the mystery behind designing algorithms and analyzing their optimized efficiency. It’s not only the primary textbook of choice for algorithm design courses but also the best practical reference guide to algorithms for programmers, researchers, and students which provides straightforward access to combinatorial algorithms technology. This book also provides many short tips and tricks for designing and analyzing computer algorithms with a catalog of algorithmic resources, implementations, and an extensive bibliography.

  • Online support for lectures with completely updated lecture slides, audio, and video.
  • Updated links for the very best algorithm implementations available in C++, and Java,
  • Contains the most popular algorithmic problems that arise most often in practice,
  • Provides unique problems from real-world applications,
  • Suitable for all levels of readers with complete guidance.

6. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin

This book is best for people who want to gain insights into software development and code cleaning. If you are preparing for competitive programming then Clean Code is a good choice due to its step-by-step explanation of writing, cleaning, and refactoring codes. The book also has ample practical examples that the person can use to learn and practice in day-to-day life. The book is divided into 3 parts, the first one has principles, patterns, and practice for writing proper codes. The second part has numerous case studies regarding the complexity faced during writing codes. The third part is a kind of payoff that contains the list of heuristics and “smells” collected while creating new case studies. This book also helps in:

  • telling difference between good and bad code
  • creating good functions and classes
  • way of implementing complete error handling

7. The Pragmatic Programmer

The book is written in a way that every time you read there is something new to learn. Since 1999 the day of its creation the book has helped its readers to learn and develop better software and made them better programmers. The Pragmatic Programmer is a good choice for someone who is looking forward to competitive programming as it has everything from becoming a skilled developer to a full-fledged programmer. The book gives you a glimpse of fascinating analogies, classic and modern anecdotes, and thought-provoking examples in order to make learning a more interesting and fun process. 

  • The book covers a comprehensive range of programming
  • Helps in software, career, and personality development of the reader
  • Will help you in fighting rot software and avoid duplicating knowledge

Here’s a complete guide to Competitive Programming.


The most important thing is to learn the core fundamental concepts and practice a lot. You can select any one of these books and start learning and start coding. The best thing about these books is that they will keep you motivated during your journey toward a good competitive programmer. So don’t stop keep learning, keep chasing, and most importantly keep practicing.

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