Benjamin Semah | 05 May, 2023

14 Best System Design Books in 2024 | Beginner to Advanced

 

How do companies build complex and large-scale applications with millions of users, like Facebook, Instagram, and Gmail, to handle large amounts of traffic and data? The answer is system design.

System design is the process of identifying the requirements of a business and its end users and finding the optimal way to design a system for this. This can include defining the architecture, components, interfaces, and how to handle data.

So whether you’re a system design beginner, an experienced developer looking to broaden your skills, or interviewing for a role involving system design, we’ve found the 14 best system design books you need to read in 2024.

Featured System Design Books [Editor’s Picks]

Title: Introduction to System Design: How to crack System Design interviews and Understand how your favorite tech products work

 

Author: Shivam Singh 

 

Pages: 142

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Title: Clean Architecture: A Craftsman’s Guide to Software Structure and Design

 

Author: Robert C. Martin 

 

Publisher: Pearson

 

Pages: 432

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Title: Systems Analysis and Design

 

Author: Scott Tilley

 

Publisher: Cengage Learning

 

Pages: 576

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Things to Look For in a System Design Book

  1. Real-world examples: The best books on system design include designs of actual products, including information on the trade-offs and decisions the engineers had to make.
  2. Relevant terminology: This is important, especially when preparing for interviews, as you must clearly explain terms during an interview.
  3. Diagrams & Illustrations: These can make system design concepts less abstract and help you to visualize concepts better.

The 14 Best System Design Books

Book

Summary

Pages

Introduction to System Design

Brief introduction to system design

142

Clean Architecture

System design guide from ‘Uncle Bob’

432

Systems Analysis and Design

Practical system design

576

Head First Design Patterns

Tried & tested system design patterns

669

System Design Interview

Great for interview preparation

320

System Analysis and Design

Foundational skills for CS students

464

Modern System Analysis and Design

Comprehensive guide to modern development processes

528

Hands-on System Design 

Focus on scaling software applications

220

Designing Data-Intensive Applications

High-level overview of data management tools

611

Understanding Distributed Systems

Links theory & practice for back-end engineers

344

Fundamentals of Software Architecture

Engineering approach to software architecture

419

Building Microservices

Learn to design modern microservices

612

Software Engineering at Google

Insights on Google’s engineering culture

599

Cracking the Coding Interview

#1 for software engineering interview prep on Amazon

687

Interested in designing video games? Check out: 

The Best Game Design Books

1. Introduction to System Design

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Author: Shivam Singh

Publisher: N/A

Pages: 142

This is one of the best books for system design interviews. It provides a closer look at how popular apps are designed, including Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Dropbox, and Pastebin.

The primary audience for this book is software engineers, but founders, product managers, and venture capitalists will also find it useful.

Features

  • Great for beginner software engineers
  • Excellent material for interview preparation
  • Relatively short system design book

2. Clean Architecture

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Author: Robert C. Martin

Publisher: Pearson

Pages: 432

This book is a must-read for aspiring system designers and software architects that want to learn how to avoid typical design and architecture pitfalls from the renowned ‘Uncle Bob’.

A contender for the best book on system design, this will teach you how to write clean, readable code that is scalable. You will also learn how to use tests to improve the efficiency of your system.

Features

  • Third book in the Clean series by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob)
  • Shows how to integrate an AGILE methodology into system design
  • Includes sections on testing

3. Systems Analysis and Design

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Author: Scott Tilley

Publisher: Cengage Learning

Pages: 576

This is another popular system design textbook among CS students that provides a practical overview of the traditional and emerging system design trends.

If you’re looking for the best book for system design, this is a solid choice to learn via real-world examples of cloud computing and mobile applications. You’ll also cover object-oriented programing and AGILE methodologies and their role in modern system design.

Features

  • Real examples of system design for the cloud & mobile apps
  • Includes images & illustrations to visualize concepts
  • Includes exercises to help you practice

4. Head First Design Patterns

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Authors: Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Robson

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Pages: 669

If you’re looking for software design books with tried and tested system design patterns, this is for you. Drawing on the experience and best practices of successful system designers, this is one of the best systems design books for beginners. 

Being one of the ‘Head First’ series, you can expect engaging imagery and imaginative approaches to teaching the best design patterns, why and when you should use them, and how to use them. 

Features

  • Ideal for system design newcomers
  • Focuses on object-oriented principles behind design patterns
  • Presents lessons in a fun & engaging manner
  • Includes lots of images to explain concepts

5. System Design Interview

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Author: Alex Xu

Publisher: Independently published

Pages: 320

System design interviews can be nerve-wracking. This book will help you prepare and be confident when approaching your next system design interview by getting an insider’s perspective.

You will learn a simple 4-step framework designed to help you solve system-design interview questions. You’ll also practice designing systems for real-world apps like YouTube, Google Drive, a notification system, and more.

Features

  • Great guide to prepare for system design interviews
  • Includes 16 interview questions & detailed solutions
  • Contains diagrams explaining how systems work
  • Insights on what interviewers look for in successful candidates

6. System Analysis and Design

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Author: Alan Dennis, Barbara Wixom, Roberta M. Roth

Publisher: Wiley

Pages: 464

This textbook is often assigned reading material for many computer science students. You can learn about essential system design concepts using a project-based style to simulate a real-world workflow.

This book will equip you with the foundational knowledge you need to grasp system analysis and design principles. 

Features

  • Academic approach to learning system design
  • Case studies with in-depth explanations
  • Great choice for computer science students

7. Modern System Analysis and Design

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Author: Joseph Valacich,Joey George

Publisher: Pearson

Pages: 528

This book is a comprehensive and practical guide to modern development processes for systems design. You will learn how to design and implement effective systems with the help of in-depth guides on the techniques and tools you need to do so.

As an intermediate-level book on system design, you’re expected to have programming experience in at least one language before you start.

Features

  • Great choice for computer science students
  • Practical approach to system design
  • Sections for system planning, analysis, and design

Want to boost your programming skills? Check out The Best Programming Books

8. Hands-on System Design 

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Author: Harsh Kumar Ramchandani

Publisher: BPB Publications

Pages: 220

This book begins with a chapter on the fundamental principles of system design before diving into in-depth lessons on essential concepts like networking, scaling databases, design patterns, and more.

This book also uses practical examples for systems design for a video streaming website, an image hosting app, a website like Twitter, and more.

Features

  • Real-world problems with step-by-step solutions
  • Illustrations of building scalable applications
  • Great reference book for interview prep

9. Designing Data-Intensive Applications

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Author: Martin Kleppmann

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Pages: 611

Data is the lifeline of modern applications, and developers today have access to many tools for storing and processing data. This book covers the pros and cons of using relational databases, NoSQL datastores, distributed systems, and more to help you make informed decisions on choosing the best tools to manage your application’s data.

Features

  • High-level overview of data management tools
  • Insight on distributed systems & Big Data
  • Includes theory & practical applications
  • Covers best practices & principles for working with data

10. Understanding Distributed Systems

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Author: Roberto Vitillo

Publisher: N/A

Pages: 344

In the era of Big Data, distributed systems have become essential. If this is something you need to design, this book is an excellent choice for learning the fundamentals of building scalable distributed systems.

This book is divided into five parts covering communication, coordination, scalability, resiliency, and testing. It also includes a section on the anatomy of a distributed system. 

Features

  • Suitable for beginners
  • Ties together theory & practice
  • Ideal for back-end engineers

11. Fundamentals of Software Architecture

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Authors: Mark Richards, Neal Ford

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Pages: 419

With this book, you will get a truly comprehensive guide to Software architecture. You will learn about architectural patterns, characteristics, components, and more.

The book contains architectural software examples in popular languages like JavaScript, Java, and C#. And it’s also filled with diagrams to help you to visualize the concepts you’re learning.

Features

  • Short quizzes (with answers)
  • Focuses on software architecture patterns
  • Charts with star ratings for each architecture
  • Section on soft skills like team management, negotiations, and more

12. Building Microservices: Designing Fine-Grained Systems

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Author: Sam Newman

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Pages: 612

The ability to divide larger apps into smaller sub-services that communicate via APIs has led to a vast growth in the use of microservices. This book will get you up to speed on the essential considerations for designing, building, and managing microservices.

You will learn the difference between traditional monolithic apps and microservices. The author also provides clear descriptions of the challenges you may face when designing microservices, including ways to overcome these.

Features

  • Real-world case studies
  • Section on building scalable microservices
  • Covers solutions for modeling, integrating, testing, deploying, & monitoring

13. Software Engineering at Google

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Authors: Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck, Hyrum Wright

Publisher: O’Reilly Media

Pages: 599

It’s no secret that Google powers some of the world’s most complex and largest applications. The book peels back the curtain of system design and engineering at Google. 

Divided into three parts; the first covers Google’s unique software engineering culture. The second and third parts cover the processes and tools Google engineers use for system design. The book also explores how time and scale affect engineering.

Features

  • Authored by experienced Google engineers
  • Sections on unit testing and larger-scale testing
  • Great choice for developers at large companies

Interested in software engineering? Check out The Best Software Engineering Books

14. Cracking the Coding Interview

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Author: Gayle Laakmann McDowell

Publisher: CareerCup

Pages: 687

As possibly the most famous book on software interview prep, this book's author draws from her work experience as a software engineer at Google, Apple, and Microsoft.

If you’re preparing for interviews with system design questions, this book is a valuable tool for learning how to spot subtle hints and details in interview questions. Moreover, this can be applied to technical and behavioral interview questions.

Features

  • Ranked #1 in Job Interviewing books on Amazon
  • 189 real interview questions (with solutions)
  • Insights on hiring processes of big tech companies

Conclusion

Learning system design can benefit software developers and engineers alongside other IT professionals like product managers, consultants, founders, and more. These skills can give you an edge in any role involving decision-making for system design.

We have found the 14 best system design books to help you get started. Whether a beginner or a professional with years of experience, these books will help you grasp the key features of systems design and software architecture.

Interested in learning more about design? Check out:

The Best Design Books

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Do You Read in System Design?

You will learn to build efficient and scalable software by learning how to plan and make decisions that influence how software is built. You also learn various approaches to tackling problems and their trade-offs.

2. What Are the Best Resources to Learn System Design?

Focus on books written by experts who draw from their wealth of knowledge and experience. Any of the books on our list are a great starting point. 

3. Does System Design Need Coding? 

You don’t need to write code when designing systems. System design is the process of identifying essential system requirements and finding the optimal way to design system components, including architecture, components, interfaces, and data handling.

4. How Can I Get Better at System Design? 

Learn from the best by picking and reading a book from our list. You can also explore technical blogs from companies you admire to get insights into design decisions taken by their engineers. 

Excellent system design skills come with experience, so keep designing and building your own systems.

 

By Benjamin Semah

Benjamin is a software developer and technical writer for Hackr.io. He is adept at working with the JavaScript MERN stack (MongoDB, Express, React, Node.js), as well as with TypeScript, Ruby, and Rails. As a self-taught developer, he loves learning about new technologies and sharing what he learns through writing. His writings have been featured on platforms like freeCodeCamp and Scrimba.

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