Are you looking for a good book on HTTP? Then you’ve come to the right place. HTTP is one of the most important things a web developer or administrator should understand.
Learning the HTTP protocol will give you a deeper understanding of the web’s architecture and enable you to create even better websites and web applications that load faster and are more secure and reliable.
We’ve curated and reviewed the 10 best HTTP books to read in order to improve your skills as a web developer or simply find out how the internet works under the hood. Check them out below.
Disclosure: This article includes affiliate links that may provide a commission to me at no cost to you if you make a purchase through them.
Table of Contents
- What is the Best Book to Learn HTTP for a Beginner?
- Best Overall: HTTP: The Definitive Guide HTTP: The Definitive Guide
- Best for Complete Novices : HTTP Essentials: Protocols for Secure, Scalable Web Sites
- Best Bang for the Buck: What Every Web Developer Should Know About HTTP (OdeToCode Programming Series Book 1)
- Best for Web Developer: Http Developer’s Handbook
- Best Comprehensive: The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference
- Best Pocket Reference: HTTP Pocket Reference: Hypertext Transfer Protocol
- Best HTTP 2 Book: HTTP/2 in Action
- Best Quick Read on HTTP/2: Learning HTTP/2: A Practical Guide for Beginners
- Best for HTTP Programming: HTTP Programming Recipes for Java Bots
- Best for Networking: High Performance Browser Networking: What every web developer should know about networking and web performance
- What is HTTP?
- What is HTTP 2?
- What is HTTP Used For?
- Why is HTTP Important?
- It’s A Wrap!
What is the Best Book to Learn HTTP for a Beginner?
Best Overall: HTTP: The Definitive Guide HTTP: The Definitive Guide
With 600+ pages packed with information about the HTTP standard, rest assured that HTTP: The Definitive Guide has all the details you’d like to know about this protocol. It describes the what, the why, and the how of HTTP and the core web technologies.
It even describes the interrelated technologies such as TCP connection, web proxy, caching, web robots, and more. The reference appendix is also a very convenient addition.
Despite the sheer details, the book is easy to read thanks to the logical presentation and the clear language complemented by illustrations and examples.
Authors: David Gourly and Brian Totty
- Very in-depth coverage of HTTP
- An excellent technical reference book
- Written in a concise and readable manner
- Chapters are presented in a logical way
- Uses detailed illustrations and examples
- Kept light, interesting, and entertaining
- The book is quite big, thus takes some time to read
- Although the content is still valid today, the book could use a modern edition
We absolutely recommend HTTP: The Definitive Guide for all technical professionals. From web developers, site administrators, multimedia designers, to performance engineers.
Best for Complete Novices : HTTP Essentials: Protocols for Secure, Scalable Web Sites
Even though HTTP Essentials: Protocols for Secure, Scalable Web Sites has been around for quite a while now, it remains relevant to this date and is one of the highest rated books on HTTP. The best thing about it is that it offers a complete documentation and explanation of the protocol in a straightforward language you will find easy to understand.
The book will bring you up to speed on all aspects of the protocol including operation, message formats, web servers, security technologies, acceleration techniques, and compatibility between versions. It also provides great guidance on how to implement HTTP 1 to build reliable, secure, and scalable web sites.
Author: Stephen Thomas
- Comprehensive reference guide to HTTP
- Explains HTTP in a simple way
- Clear and readable language
- Nicely organized structure
- The book is quite old, but packed with timeless information
If you’re after a comprehensive but easy to follow book for learning HTTP, HTTP Essentials is an excellent read that covers all aspects of the standard.
Best Bang for the Buck: What Every Web Developer Should Know About HTTP (OdeToCode Programming Series Book 1)
What Every Web Developer Should Know About HTTP is one of the best written books on the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It will equip you with fundamental knowledge on this standard in a clear and precise manner.
Among the topics covered include status codes, HTTP headers, parallel and persistent connections, proxy servers, caching, cookies, and authentication protocols.
Author: K. Scott Allen
- Great guide for new web developers
- Compact but still comprehensive
- A quick read you can breeze through quickly
- Well organized and readable
- Uses simple easy to understand terms
- Being a compact book means that it’s short in details
A great read for anyone creating and configuring web apps or seeking to understand how the internet works.
Best for Web Developer: Http Developer’s Handbook
As you can infer from the name, Http Developer’s Handbook is geared towards web developers. It starts by offering an excellent overview of HTTP that will deepen your understanding of the protocol.
It also covers software architecture, application security, state and session management, and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). At the end of the book, you will be well versed with the subject and empowered to make even better web sites and applications.
Author: Chris Shiflett
- Excellent and informative overview of HTTP
- Concise and easy to read and understand
- Plenty of examples and flow diagrams
- Offers insights into best practices
- Make a great HTTP reference book
- A concise book, does not provide sufficient details on some topics
Are you a web developer and looking for a good HTTP book to advance your expertise? Http Developer’s Handbook is the book for you.
Best Comprehensive: The TCP/IP Guide: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Internet Protocols Reference
The TCP/IP Guide is a very comprehensive encyclopedic reference on the internet protocols. It details the core TCP/IP protocols and applications, and boasts full coverage of PPP, ARP, IP, IPv4, IPv6, IP NAT, IPSec, Mobile IP, ICMP, RIP, BGP, TCP, UDP, DNS, DHCP, SNMP, FTP, SMTP, NNTP, HTTP, Telnet, and much more.
The best thing is that the book is very easy to read and understand. Complex concepts are simplified in a conversational level language anyone can understand. Use of illustrations and tables also make the information easy to grasp.
Author: Charles M. Kozierok
- In depth guide to TCP/IP protocols
- Excellent introductory and reference guide
- Well-organized and well-illustrated
- Easy to read, conversational writing style
- Handy for beginners and seasoned professionals
- The book is large at over 1,000 pages and not for the faint hearted
If you’re very serious about learning the internet protocols and looking for a detailed read, you can’t go wrong with the TCP/IP Guide. Highly recommended to anyone in CS, IT, Dev, ISP, networking, or just a web nerd.
Best Pocket Reference: HTTP Pocket Reference: Hypertext Transfer Protocol
HTTP Pocket Reference gives a concise yet good overview of HTTP. It’s also the best HTTP book for a refresher of the standard or to keep in the pocket for quick reference to the headers and status codes.
The author does a great job of covering HTTP in a short book. He even explains client request and server responses, caching, and more.
Author: Clifton Wong
- Concise and clear, with no fluff
- Compact pocket friendly size
- Makes a great refresher on the protocol
- Handy reference that’s convenient to carry
- Short book that does not go into details
If you’re looking for a straight to the point overview of HTTP, a refresher on the topic, or a pocket reference, the HTTP Pocket Reference won’t disappoint.
Best HTTP 2 Book: HTTP/2 in Action
Not only will HTTP/2 in Action explain what HTTP/2 is all about in the clearest way, it will also teach you how to use it effectively to take the quality and performance of your web apps to the next level.
You will learn HTTP/2 concepts including frames, streams, push, and multiplexing and the impact they have on websites. It also doesn’t skip advanced topics like flow control and dependencies. The book even has insights into the future of the standard.
It takes a practical approach with tips you can implement right away, insights into the best practices, and real world examples.
Author: Barry Pollard
- Excellent introduction to HTTP/2
- Takes a practical approach
- Offers ready to use tips and best practices
- Features life-like examples and case studies
- Written in plain language
- Organized in a logical sequence
- Assumes you already know HTTP 1
If you’re looking to learn how to make the most of HTTP 2, there’s no better resource than HTTP/2 in Action. It offers practical advice and leaves no stone unturned. A must read for web developers and IT administrators.
Best Quick Read on HTTP/2: Learning HTTP/2: A Practical Guide for Beginners
Take a quick dive into Learning HTTP/2: A Practical Guide for Beginners and learn everything you need to get started with the latest version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
Although it’s a short book with 130 pages, it tells you all you need to know about Http 2 in a very readable style. From the HTTP 1.0 and 1.1 weaknesses HTTP 2 fixes to how to use it to improve website and application performance.
Authors: Stephen Ludin and Javier Garza
- Excellent short overview of HTTP/2
- Compact but with good coverage of the topic
- Highly readable with clear explanations
- Practical approach with lots of tips
- Concise book that you can go through fast
- Assumes familiarity with HTTP 1.0 and 1.1
- A small book that doesn’t go into great detail
A good book to start with if you want to better understand how HTTP/2 works. It’s however, not detailed enough for someone seeking detailed information.
Best for HTTP Programming: HTTP Programming Recipes for Java Bots
HTTP Programming Recipes for Java Bots will show you how to write HTTP bots in any coding language. The only prerequisite is that you know Java, as the examples are Java based. It includes techniques of writing and good practices and offers programming recipes you can use.
It covers HTTP and HTTPs communications, authentication, HTTP forms and requests, and more. It even touches on how to use the Heaton Research Spider to create spiders that will crawl websites.
Author: Jeff Heaton
- Great for both beginner and intermediate Programmers
- Teaches skills you can use with any language
- Very well written and to the point
- Easy to understand examples
- You have to know JAVA in order to benefit from the book
HTTP Programming Recipes is a great book for both beginners and seasoned programmers looking to learn how to write HTTP programs.
Best for Networking: High Performance Browser Networking: What every web developer should know about networking and web performance
High Performance Browser Networking covers what every web developer should know about the network and offers performance optimization best practices.
It has clear explanations of TCP, UDP, and TLS protocols, wireless and mobile network, HTTP, HTTP 2.0, client-side network scripting with XHR, and even WebRTC.
Author: Ilya Grigorik
- Great resource on network performance
- Makes for easy and interesting reading
- Offers just the right level of detail
- Both introductory and go-to reference
- There’s still room for more details
Essential reading for anyone doing web development and looking to optimize performance. Also great for anyone wondering how the browser works under the hood.
What is HTTP?
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s a client-server protocol that’s used to fetch and transfer information over the web.
In simpler terms, HTTP is the language of communication between web browsers and web servers.
What is HTTP 2?
HTTP/2 is an upgraded version of the HTTP protocol. It was developed by the HTTP Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force and released in 2015.
Compared to HTTP 1, HTTP 2 is faster in performance and loading speed and supports multiplexing (you can request multiple files simultaneously). HTTP 2 is also binary thus more compact and less prone to errors.
What is HTTP Used For?
HTTP is the protocol that makes the Web tick. It’s the foundation for all the data transfers on the web.
Whenever you visit a website, HTTP is the standard that establishes a connection with the server the website is hosted on and relays the text and images on your browser.
Knowledge of HTTP is crucial when developing websites and web applications and also in the development of APIs that use HTTP as their transfer protocol.
Why is HTTP Important?
Being the primary protocol that powers the web, HTTP is a very important aspect of the internet. It’s a must have skill for web designers and developers, networking professionals, site administrators, IT professionals, and more.
Knowing the nuances of HTTP helps web developers develop high performance websites and web applications and also makes debugging easier.
It’s A Wrap!
Understanding HTTP is crucial for web developers and administrators. The best HTTP books reviewed here are the go to for anyone interested in learning more about this protocol.
Simply pick the one that offers the kind of information you’re looking for and you will be on your way to being a rock star web programmer or a more savvy internet user!
Mike is the creator of Go With Code and a coder at heart 🙂