Recommended TeX and LaTeX Books (and other printed resources)

I have written this page in order to help both the beginning and more advanced TeX/LaTeX user choose books and other printed resources. (For the difference between "TeX" and "LaTeX" see this TeX FAQ.) I have organized the books into Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced sections. I denote books I especially recommend by the symbol Recommended.

This list by no means includes all worthy books on TeX/LaTeX, rather, it includes only those books that I have used and am familiar with.

For more information on a book's contents, as well as pricing and other people's opinions, I provide a link to the book's amazon.com listing. Note that this is solely for information and that I get no commission on books sold through amazon.com's site, and I am in no way endorsing amazon.com.

It is easy to find those books that focus on LaTeX: just look for the word "LaTeX" in the title. The rest deal with more general TeX issues. I also have a list of other TeX/LaTeX printed resources with shorter descriptions that may be useful. Please also visit my business site at www.macrotex.net. Adam H. Lewenberg


Cover of "A Gentle Introduction to TeX" by Michael Doob. RecommendedA Gentle Introduction to TeX  by Michael Doob (ISBN: none) pages: 97.
Level: Beginning
I have used this venerable guide as the basis for TeX classes I taught over the years and I have yet to find an introductory guide to TeX that I like better. It covers all the basics in a lucid and entertaining fashion and even includes exercises at the end of each chapter. And it is free! Where to get it: To download the pdf version, go to the CTAN and search for "gentle.pdf".

Cover of "Formatting Information: A beginner's introduction to typesetting with LaTeX (formerly "Beginner's LaTeX")" by Peter Flynn. Formatting Information: A beginner's introduction to typesetting with LaTeX (formerly "Beginner's LaTeX")  by Peter Flynn (ISBN: none) pages: xxiv+247.
Level: Beginning
This free manual was originally written to accompany a two-day short course teaching the basics of LaTeX, covering enough to enable the novice to start creating her own LaTeX documents. It covers all the basics, but is a little light on mathematics which it defers to other LaTeX books. Unlike other guides, it has information and recommendations on TeX editors and development environments. A pleasant surprise is the section on installing new PostScript fonts, a FAQ on the TeX newsgroups. If you are new to TeX/LaTeX and want to see what is involved in getting started, this is a nice way to do it. Where to get it: Go to CTAN and search for "beginlatex".

Cover of "First Steps in LaTeX" by George Gratzer. First Steps in LaTeX  by George Gratzer [1999] (ISBN: 0-8176-4132-7) pages: xx+131.
Level: Beginning
For those who need to write papers with large amounts of mathematics or specialized mathematical symbols, the AMSLaTeX package is a necessity. The book First Steps in LaTeX is a very good introduction to using LaTeX for the newcomer with an emphasis on using the AMSLaTeX packages. This book is essentially the first chapter of the author's Math into LaTeX along with tables at the back of the book for the most commonly used LaTeX and AMSLaTeX commands. If you want a quick start to typing math papers, this book will get you going in short order.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX 2e" by Oetiker, Partl, Hyna, Schlegl. RecommendedThe Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX 2e  by Oetiker, Partl, Hyna, Schlegl [2008] (ISBN: none) pages: xiv+139.
Level: Beginning
This guide is a sort of LaTeX-version of the Gentle Introdution to TeX: it covers everything you need to start building a LaTeX document. It is free and actively maintained. It does not include exercises, but it makes up for this with many useful tables. It even has a chapter on customizing LaTeX and a rather useful bibliography. It is available in many languages other than English including German, Italian, French, and Japanese, although some of the non-English languages are not as up-to-date as the English-language version. Where to get it: To download the pdf version, go to the CTAN and search for "lshort.pdf". (Available in many languages other than English including German, Italian, French, and Japanese, although not all language-versions are current.)

Cover of "The LaTeX Companion, second edition" by F. Mittelbach and M Goossens with Braams, Carlisle, and Rowley. RecommendedThe LaTeX Companion, second edition  by F. Mittelbach and M Goossens with Braams, Carlisle, and Rowley [2004] (ISBN: 0-201-36299-6) pages: xxvii+1090.
Level: Intermediate
LaTeX is composed of a central core of commands and then many, many, many packages. Where can you find out about these packages? In The LaTeX Companion. If you want to learn how to change the running heads, or set complicated tables, or change the fonts used, this book will tell you. If you need to hack (i.e., reprogram) any of the LaTeX classes or styles, get this book. This book is indispensible for the casual or serious LaTeX style writer. The long-overdue second edition is nearly twice the length of the first edition with many updates and additions among which are an expanded bibliography and index and a section showing the same text set in a variety of different font families.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "The LaTeX Graphics Companion, second edition" by Goossens,  Mittelbach,  Rahtz, Roegel, and Voss. The LaTeX Graphics Companion, second edition  by Goossens, Mittelbach, Rahtz, Roegel, and Voss [2007] (ISBN: 0-321-50892-0) pages: xxxiv+976.
Level: Intermediate
While TeX has no native graphics component there are a large number of packages and tools that have been developed to fill this gap. The LaTeX Graphics Companion describes many ways to incorporate graphics and color into a LaTeX document. These include the standard graphics packages for including graphics files, Metapost, pstricks (using the power of Adobe's PostScript language), xy-pic (very good for arrow-theoretic diagrams), and specialized packages for chemistry, physics, engineering, music, and chess, to name only a few. If all you need is to include a few of EPS figures, then this book may be overkill, but for those who want drawing tools more powerful than a simple graphics editor, this book will prove quite useful. Note that all the packages and programs described in the book are freely available and without cost. The Second Edition nearly doubles the length of the original. It drops the chapters on PostScript fonts and drivers (but the authors have made the excised chapters available online). It more than triples the coverage of Metapost to 163 pages. I would have liked to see some coverage of tools that generate EPS files that can be included in LaTeX (e.g., xfig, GIMP, Adobe Illustrator).
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "Tex for the Impatient" by Abrahams, Berry, and Hargreaves. RecommendedTex for the Impatient  by Abrahams, Berry, and Hargreaves [1990] (ISBN: 0-201-51375-7) pages: 357.
Level: Intermediate
(UPDATE: this book is now available for free download; see the "Where to get it" at the end of the review.) More reference than exposition, I wore out a copy during my TeX formative years. Each concept and command is explained in a separate entry with many helpful examples. Imagine a stripped-down and simplified The TeXBook. Where to get it: the freely-downloadable PDF is currently available at ftp://tug.org/tex/impatient/book.pdf.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "The LaTeX Companion" by Goossens, Mittelbach, and Samarin. The LaTeX Companion  by Goossens, Mittelbach, and Samarin [1994] (ISBN: 0-201-54199-8) pages: xxx+530.
Level: Intermediate
(UPDATE: the second edition of this book is now available; I have left this review in case anyone runs across the old edition.) LaTeX is composed of a central core of commands and then many, many, many packages. Where can you find out about these packages? In The LaTeX Companion. If you want to learn how to change the running heads, or set complicated tables, or change the fonts used, this book will tell you. If you need to hack (i.e., reprogram) any of the LaTeX classes or styles, get this book. One warning: the current edition is 1994 so some of the material is out of date; nonetheless, this book is indispensible for the serious LaTeX style writer. (Chapter 8 of the original printing had some problems, so it is available as a pdf download; my thanks to b. beeton for this information.)
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "The LaTeX Graphics Companion" by Goossens,  Rahtz, Mittelbach. The LaTeX Graphics Companion  by Goossens, Rahtz, Mittelbach [1997] (ISBN: 0-201-85469-4) pages: xxv+555.
Level: Intermediate
(UPDATE: the second edition of this book is now available; I have left this review in case anyone runs across the old edition.) A perennial complaint leveled against TeX is that it has no built-in graphics component. While this is true, this fact may have contributed to the very rich variety of other tools that have been developed to meet this need. The LaTeX Graphics Companion describes many ways to incorporate graphics and color into a LaTeX document. These include the standard graphics packages for including graphics files, metapost, pstricks (using the power of Adobe's PostScript language), xy-pic (very good for arrow-theoretic diagrams), and specialized packages for chemistry, physics, engineering, music, and chess, to name only a few. If all you need is to include a few of EPS figures, then this book may be overkill, but for those who want drawing tools more powerful than a simple graphics editor, this book will prove quite useful. Note that all the packages and programs described in the book are freely available and without cost.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "Math Into LaTeX" by George Gratzer. RecommendedMath Into LaTeX  by George Gratzer [2000] (ISBN: 0-8176-4131-9) pages: lv+584.
Level: Intermediate
(Update: There is a new edition with a slightly different title. I will review this edition shortly, but in the meantime here is the Amazon link.) A complete exposition on using LaTeX and AMSLaTeX to compose documents and books. Topics include a quick introduction, creating bibliographies, marking up an index, including EPS graphics, and a very thorough presentation on typesetting mathematics including using all the neat AMSLaTeX alignments. There are extensive symbol and command tables in the appendices and even some information on customization. If you want to focus on getting the paper written rather than tinkering with LaTeX in order to change its appearance, then this book is probably the only one you will ever need.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "The TeXbook" by Donald Knuth. RecommendedThe TeXbook  by Donald Knuth [1986] (ISBN: 0-201-13447-0) pages: ix+483.
Level: Intermediate
The creator of TeX, Donald Knuth, wrote this, the original TeX manual, which many consider the best-written technical manual for any piece of software, ever. It contains a complete description of the TeX language as well as much good advice on typographical style. The appropriateness of this book for the beginner has been the subject of much debate on Internet news groups. When I learned TeX during the 1980's there were not many other sources around, so I was forced to learn from it. As such, I learned TeX in a much deeper way than I might have otherwise. For the person who would rather write than program and wants a TeX introduction, there are better alternatives. But if you really want to understand what makes TeX tick, short of going to the TeX source code, there is no other choice than The TeXbook.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "LaTeX : A Documentation Preparation System User's Guide and Reference Manual" by Leslie Lamport. LaTeX : A Documentation Preparation System User's Guide and Reference Manual  by Leslie Lamport [1994] (ISBN: 0-201-52983-1) pages: xvi+272.
Level: Intermediate
The seminal book on LaTeX by the author of the LaTeX macros. While it is possible to learn LaTeX from this book, I have found it more useful as a reference after learning LaTeX from another source. It does have a very nice exposition on indexing and BiBTeX as well as a complete reference section on all the LaTeX commands. A useful book for the serious LaTeXnician.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "A Beginner's Book of TeX" by R. Seroul and S. Levy. A Beginner's Book of TeX  by R. Seroul and S. Levy [1991] (ISBN: 0-387-97562-4) pages: xii+282.
Level: Intermediate
While this book does have an extensive "index/dictionary" in the back giving a short explanation of most of the plain TeX commands, it's strength is in explaining the fundamental TeX concepts such as glue, penalties, and boxes. I particularly like its explanation of baseline and how to change it. Many examples illustrate the explanations. If you find The TeXBook too dense, this book may be more to your liking.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Cover of "TeX by Topic: A TeXnician's Reference" by Victor Eijkhout. TeX by Topic: A TeXnician's Reference  by Victor Eijkhout (ISBN: none) pages: xiii+273.
Level: Advanced
(I am not as familiar with this book as the others on this list, but I include it because the price is right: FREE.) The TeX language is explained in topic order starting with the input processor, character codes all the way through to tracing and errors. Originally published by Addison-Wesley, the book went out of print and the copyright reverted back to the author who, on Christmas Day 2001, decided to make it freely available (although the author does accept donations if you find the book useful). Where to get it: To download the pdf version, go to http://www.eijkhout.net/tbt/.

Cover of "Tex Unbound : Latex and Tex Strategies for
Fonts, Graphics, & More" by Alan Hoenig. Tex Unbound : Latex and Tex Strategies for Fonts, Graphics, & More  by Alan Hoenig [1998] (ISBN: 0-19-509686-X) pages: xiii+580.
Level: Advanced
Fonts are a tricky business. While TeX works nicely "out of the box", many TeX users want to use different fonts than those that come with the public TeX distributions. There are several packages for using different font families, but if you find that you need to do some custom font work, you will find much to help you in TeX Unbound. Topics include setting up a PostScript font to be used in TeX, creating an underlined font from an existing font, and creating new math fonts. I particularly like the side-by-side comparisons of the same mathematical text in a variety of text and math font faces. A thorough explanation of font encodings and font naming make this book a must for any serious TeX font hacker.
More information about this book at amazon.com

Other books on TeX/LaTeX

LaTeX Primers - A Tutorial  by The Indian TeX Users Group [2004] (ISBN: none) pages: 155.
A Plain TeX Primer  by Malcolm Clark (ISBN: 0-19-853724-7) pages: 481 (amazon.com info).
The Latex Web Companion: Integrating Tex, Html and Xml  by Goossens and Rahtz (ISBN: 0-2-0143311-7) pages: 524 (amazon.com info).
Tex in Practice (4 volumes)  by Stephan V. Bechtolsheim (ISBN: 038797296X) pages: 1860 (amazon.com info).

Other lists of TeX/LaTeX books

TeX-related Publications A less-opinionated listing of TeX-related books and documents grouped by level of TeX expertise or subject area; hosted at the AMS's (American Mathematical Society) web site.


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