One of the things that I used to do a few yeas ago was that whenever an employee started we would give them a personal copy of Steve McConnell's Rapid Development, as well as a copy of Microsoft Secrets.

The reason that we gave them these books was so that they would a) have a good knowledge of software the software development landscape (Rapid Development) and they would also know all about the daily build and smoke test practice (Microsoft Secrets, Chapter 5).

I want to start this practice again, with more testing focused titles, and I am looking for recommendations on what book to give.

Titles that come to mind are

The Art of Software Testing ... this is a bit too much Computer Science-ey for new starters.

How we Test Software at Microsoft ... Alan's (et. al.) book is great, but a bit too focused on specific topics, I am after something more general.

Maybe Lessons Learned in Software Testing, or Testing Computer Software come to mind.

If you could only give one book to a tester to teach them about testing, what would it be?

  • 3
    Would this be better converted to a community wiki? It seems that it will have a lot of different answers without one specific one emerging as "THE" answer. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 15:25
  • Instead of handing out one book to teach them about testing, you might be better off handing them a Syllabus of books that can help them expand their understanding of testing. Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 21:40
  • @ckenst Sure, in reality you wan't to be widely read on both tester and non-tester topics, but this was meant to be a fun question. Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 1:52
  • @BruceMcLeod good point. =) Commented Jun 5, 2012 at 16:26

14 Answers 14


If I wanted to hand out one book to every tester entering my team, it would be Lessons Learned in Software Testing.

In fact, I do hand out that book to everyone on the team! I don't always agree with all the points in the book. But I've found that it covers a wide-enough range of topics that it makes for great conversation around what we do, and the thinking behind why we do it that way.

  • I have used this as an introduction to people just getting into QA, more because its readable and while many examples are "out there" a few seem to resonate with some people.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Sep 1, 2011 at 14:04

If I had to recommend one book to teach "about" testing it might be Testing Computer Software which as Ethel points out is a bit dated, or Software Testing by Ron Patton.

But, if I had to recommend only one book to teach "how" to test (or how to think about test designs) it would be Testing Object-Oriented Systems: Models, Patterns, and Tools by Robert V. Binder. (Like Myer's book this is "Computer Science-ey" as well, but software testing is a role in the computer science field after all).


Just one book? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. It talks about different meanings of quality, about analysis and synthesis, and about the diagnostic process. There is a wonderful passage about writer's block that is as relevant to testers as to students in a writing class.

  • A good book, but does it teach anything about testing? As a book for "a tester to teach them about testing", I don't think I'd recommend this one. Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:26
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    @Joe Frankly, I do not believe any one book will teach you about testing. Perhaps many books. Or perhaps life experiences and no books. I doubt Pirsig appears in the IT section of Barnes and Noble. He did not write about about programming languages, operating systems, debuggers, or message protocols. However, he wrote a great deal about a way of thinking about the diagnostic process. I believe that is very relevant to testing. (The book is also a good read, so the reader is likely to finish it -- something one cannot say about most technology books.)
    – user246
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 13:59

That would depend on their skill, IMO, but I think you've identified the best books already.

'Testing Computer Software' is, IMO, best for total novices, though I feel it's getting older and have been looking for something more up-to-date to recommend. 'Testing' is too strongly tied to slower software development life-cycle models like waterfall in the later sections on documentation, and makes references to paper bug reports and other arcane and ancient processes. However, it's still the best book I've seen for the basics like boundary testing, equivalence classes, white box / black box, areas of testing, and so forth.

I tend to recommend 'How We Test Software at Microsoft' for testers with some experience already, because I think the challenge for skilled junior testers and mid-level testers is to get themselves thinking about the different ways they can approach a problem, and I think "How We Test" gives enough of a variety of techniques to help get people's minds churning. Applying new techniques is a great first step towards thinking critically about the best way to test, like senior testers need to be able to do. This might pair well with 'Agile Testing', which fills a similar niche - or even be replaced by it, depending on your company's development style. I like the combination of the two; they show very clearly how testing approaches can be very different and still get the job done well. Both are geared towards testers who use some level of automation in their testing; I think there are some good books on exploratory testing that could be useful for manual testers at this stage of their career, but I don't know what they are.

'Lessons Learned in Software Testing' is my top pick for upper-mid-level to senior testers, closely followed by 'Beautiful Testing'. 'Lessons' is great for moving people from testing as their boss directs to thinking themselves about what the best way to test is, and why. 'Beautiful Testing' is great for going more in-depth into a variety of experienced testers viewpoints on specific topics, which gives a good feeling for the variety of skills that make up a truly great tester - from techniques to communication. 'Lessons' wins for me mainly because it covers more ground and offers more pieces of wisdom, although with less depth.


Lessons Learned in Software Testing is a good choice but If I could include 2 books I would also add Agile Testing: A practical guide for Testers and Agile Teams by Lisa Crispin.

  • I'll second both of these - great reads
    – DuncN
    Commented Sep 25, 2011 at 20:35

Depends on the skill level & background of the tester who is starting and maybe the direction you'd like to encourage them to go in.

'Lessons Learned' is a good one as it covers a broad range of topics and while some of it may go over the head of the novice tester it is still an excellent source of information and a resource you can return to time and again as your experience grows. It has aged reasonably well, in my opinion.

I was going to say 'Perfect Software (and other illusions about software testing) - Weinberg' would be a good one for a more experienced tester, but that one also has good content that a novice tester would benefit from.

The 'only 1' constraint makes me think books that cover a wide range of topics would be a higher priority. These fit quite well. If you're looking to groom a specialist, then perhaps something more specific to their field would be more appropriate.

Thanks for asking the question. It reminds me I have a long book list that I have been ignoring for far too long.

EDIT: Rikard Edgren's effort 'The Little Black Book on Test Design' looks like one I will be making a must read for my new testers. It's a very handy read in and of itself, and the number of similarly handy references that it cites makes it a work that I think will come to be greatly appreciated in fairly short order.

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    Perfect software would be good read also to anyone working with testers.
    – Edu
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 22:26

Beautiful Testing - Leading Professionals Reveal How They Improve Software

This book gives a wonderful glimpse into the thoughts of leading testers like Lisa Crispin, Alan Page and many others on how beautiful software testing could be.


For one book, depending on my mood, I'm inclined to suggest either Weinberg/Gause's 'Exploring Requirements', or Copeland's 'Practitioner's guide to software test design'. Not a book, but the Black Box testing course materials at testingeducation.org are also a possibility. As others point out, you'd probably be doing testers a disservice by only pointing them at one book.


I've found the book 'Perfect Software (and other illusions about software testing) - Weinberg' a good starting point for anyone to understand software testing.


Many of the ones I would recommend to people just entering the field have already been mentioned but for someone who has some experience I would recommend Software Testing in the Real World by Edward Kit. It's over the head of many junior testers but I found it has some pearls of wisdom when I am getting into a new position and starting a team. The grounding helps me usually get my feet.


If you want to teach people from the complete beginning, I would recommend Software Testing: An ISTQB-ISEB Foundation Guide by Peter Morgan, Angelina Samaroo and Brian Hambling.

Software Testing: An ISTQB-ISEB Foundation Guide by Peter Morgan, Angelina Samaroo and Brian Hambling

It is primarily used for teaching software testing foundation for ISTQB certificate, but it is also helpful as an information source for people who want to have overview in this area.

  • This is the basic overview stuff which starting tester would be already familiar with. I think the question is more about what to give to starting testers to introduce them well to testing in practice. Otherwise not a bad starting/overview book. Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 9:15
  • Is there anything in particular you like about this book? Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 18:42

It would be "Software Quality Assurance, From theory to implementation" by Daniel Galin.


I would strongly suggest the book "Software Testing: A Guide to Testing Mobile Apps, Websites, and Games" by Mark Garzone. It covers all aspects of testing such as manual testing, test cases design, automation testing, exploratory testing and performance testing. The book discusses tips, techniques, and tools for the every day tester needed to accomplish their job. It also includes advice on how to be a better tester and test manager. See here http://www.amazon.com/Software-Testing-Guide-Mobile-Websites/dp/1503046796



On top of all the other excellent suggestions, I would like to add one title which I personally feel , I have learnt much from in software testing.The book is dated in lot of terminology but the core ideas are still very much relevant and will be for long time.

The irony is, I rarely see this one suggested in any testing book recommendations although [imho] this one deserves to be on top shelve of the books on software testing.

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