A Testing Bookshelf

Over the last 8 months and countless video calls, eagle eyed colleagues (and viewers of news programmes) have been spying on other’s peoples carefully (or carelessly) curated bookshelves, so I thought I’d recommend some of the books I’ve found useful.

Testing basics

Foundations of software testing is a comprehensive guide to the foundation certificate syllabus and is useful even if you don’t intend on actually taking the exam, but just want to brush up on test techniques, common terminology and test organisation. If you are interested in gaining the certification, the book is an invaluable study aid as it includes sample questions with each chapter, and a full length sample exam paper.

Essential content: The sample exam at the back

The official BCS textbook for the ISTQB exam, but not as good as Foundations of software testing – not a bad book to have as a counterpart though and you may find it useful when studying for the exam.

Practical testing advice

A relatively old book (2001 vintage), but still highly regarded even now. While it largely pre-dates agile testing, it’s full of practical advice for testers at all levels.

Essential content: Pearls of wisdom such as “Lesson 11: You don’t assure quality by testing”, “Lesson 31: A requirement is a quality or condition that matters to someone who matters”, “Lesson 66: Never use the bug-tracking system to monitor testers’ performance”, “Lesson 105: Don’t mandate 100% automation”, “Lesson 169: Ask for testability features” – honestly, go buy it!

Another old book, predominately focused on testing desktop applications but the content and concepts are still relevant today when applied to modern web applications

Essential content: Chapters 4-7 on test fundamentals, 10 & 11 on translations and usability, and chapter 14 on website testing (for nostalgia)


Slightly old, but still very much essential reading, Agile Testing covers the organisational challenges of moving to agile as well as the practicalities of testing in an agile environment.

Essential content: If you’re involved in an agile transformation then everything! – if not, then everything from Chapter 6 onwards: Part III – The agile testing quadrants, Part IV – Automation & Part V – An iteration in the life of a tester

A condensed and updated version of Agile Testing, with a lot of content packed into a small space.

Essential content: The entire book – buy it now!


Big, but a very well structured book to get started with Java development.

Old, but still relevant (shell commands and shell scripting hasn’t changed much over the years), and I still find myself dipping in when I can’t find an example on Stack Overflow.

This book is written in a very different style to other programming books, focusing on implementing a single project and walking the student through the entire process rather than covering all the facets of a language without actually applying any of it in a practical way. The downside is that it doesn’t cover variables, types, expressions and operators and so if you don’t already know the basics of Javascript you will need a companion book – like…

A concise guide to JavaScript syntax – useful for beginners and experts alike.