Best Hacking Books in 2023 – The Definitive List

Welcome to your definitive 2023 guide on the best hacking books. Our thoroughly curated list encapsulates not only the latest releases but also timeless masterpieces that have the potential to shape you into a seasoned hacker. These selections, each scrutinized meticulously by my team and often part of my personal library, have been essential companions on my hacking odyssey.

Revisiting these books to craft this guide has reignited their worth, and I am thrilled to share the fruits of our extensive research with you.

If you desire a genuine, in-depth review of the best hacking books, sidestepping the commonplace Amazon reviews mash-up, you’ve landed in the right place. We’re dedicated immense effort to ensure this article serves as a reliable compass for your hacking journey.

While some of the included books may date back a decade or more, rest assured their core principles remain as relevant today as they were at the time of publication. No book on this list is obsolete; even older editions offer invaluable insights often overlooked in newer texts. So prepare to delve into these classics and uncover their enduring wisdom.

Table of Contents

The Best Hacking Books in 2022

Below you will find my favorite Hacking Books in 2022. Here is a quick overview to help you navigate:

BookLevelWhere to buy
The Hackers Playbook 2Beginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Buy on Biblio
Buy on Kobo
The Hackers Playbook 3Beginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Buy on Biblio
Real-World Bug HuntingBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Buy on Biblio
No Starch Press
Hacking APIsBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
No Starch Press
RTFM v1Beginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation 2nd EditionIntermediateBuy on Amazon
No Starch Press
The Web Application Hacker’s HandbookBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to HackingBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
No Starch Press
Kali Linux RevealedBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Kali Training
Ghost in the WiresAllBuy on Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Advanced Penetration TestingAdvancedBuy on Amazon
Black Hat Python, 2nd EditionIntermediateBuy on Amazon
No Starch Press
Hacking mit Metasploit, 3rd EditionBeginner-AdvancedBuy on Amazon
Bug Bounty BootcampBeginnerBuy on Amazon
Buy on No Starch Press
Ethical Hacking CoursesAllTCM Academy

1 – The Hacker Playbook 2

The Best Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorPeter Kim
PublisherCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 20, 2015)
LinkAmazon, Kobo

The Hacker’s Playbook 2 occupies the top spot on my list. As my first hacking book, its impact was instrumental in setting my foundation in hacking. Ideal for beginners, it delicately balances pace and depth of information, guiding readers on how to establish a lab and familiarizing them with the toolbox of a professional penetration tester.

This book is best described as a “Penetration Tester Guide,” setting it apart from its successor, the Hacker Playbook 3, which serves more as a “Red Team Guide.” I will shed light on this distinction further down the article. Though both versions are commendable, I’d advise beginning with the second edition; its content is more accessible to novices before graduating to the third edition.

2 – The Hacker Playbook 3

Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorPeter Kim
PublisherIndependently (Mai 2, 2018)
LinkAmazon, Biblio

The Hackers Playbook 3 is the natural evolution of its predecessor, The Hackers Playbook 2. This is easily in the top 3 of my favorite Hacking Books of all time. I have read both books, and the third one even tops the second one by a notch.

In Hacker’s Playbook 3, Peter Kim expertly navigates readers through all phases of a penetration test. The book assists in setting up your pentesting environment and methodically leads you through the entire pentesting process: Reconnaissance, Web Application Exploitation, Network Compromise, Social Engineering techniques, Physical Attacks, evasion of Antivirus and Intrusion Detection Systems, and, crucially, Exploitation.

What sets this book apart is its excellent introduction to Web Application testing. It includes a vulnerable web application that instructs readers in current, relevant techniques. The book covers various attacks, such as NodeJS, SQL Injection, and advanced XSS techniques. Having received rave reviews from my peers, it’s highly recommended for beginners.

This book served as an invaluable resource for me, so much so that I revisited it multiple times to hone the skills it teaches. Peter Kim proves to be an exceptional educator.

It’s important to note that Hacker’s Playbook 3 is more intricate than its predecessor. The techniques presented are more advanced, underscoring the benefit of engaging with the second edition prior to delving into this one. It also provides a comprehensive comparison between the roles of a Red Teamer and a Penetration Tester, an intriguing perspective for readers.

Lastly, the ability to communicate your findings to clients is essential in the realm of cybersecurity. Hacker’s Playbook 3 also excels in teaching this critical skill.

3 – Real-World Bug Hunting

Best Hacking Books in 2020
LevelBeginner – Intermediate
AuthorPeter Yaworski
PublisherNo Starch Press (July 09, 2019)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

The latest addition to this guide. If you have been following me on social media or in general at all in the past few months, you know that I am mostly doing Bug Bounty Hunting and educating myself in this area at the moment. This book is very new (it was released in 2019) and up-to-date. Peter is a seasoned security professional who tries to give people with zero knowledge in this area an entry point – and I think he achieved this. This book easily makes it in my Top 3 of my favorite Hacking Books of all time.

This book is very well written and goes in-depth into all the important topics regarding Web Application Security / Bug Hunting. After covering Bug Bounty Basics, it takes you through all of the most common Web Vulnerability Types out there, like:

  • Open Redirect
  • HTTP Parameter Pollution
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery
  • HTML Injection
  • Carriage Return Line Feed Injection
  • Cross-Site Scripting
  • SQL Injection
  • SSRF
  • XEE
  • RCE’s
  • IDOR’s

…and a lot more. After a detailed explanation of every vulnerability, type follows some actual reports of real vulnerabilities that were found with the Hackerone Bug Bounty Program, including information on how the bug was found, where it was found, and how much it paid. Seeing this kind of information makes the whole thing a bit easier to understand, as you see actual examples in the wild.

Another captivating section awaits you towards the end of the book: Discovering Your Own Bug Bounties.

This segment delves into various aspects, from Reconnaissance and Application Testing to Automation of your testing process and more.

The book’s final section addresses Report Writing, an essential skill to master. Peter excels at simplifying complex topics, making them more accessible and comprehensible. His years of experience are clearly evident throughout the book, reflecting his expertise and dedication to the subject matter.

If you want to get started with Bug Bounties and don’t want to dive into a behemoth that is the Web Application Hacker’s Handbook right away, this is your book. I highly recommend this book for any beginner, any day.

4 – Hacking APIs: Breaking Web Application Programming Interfaces

LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorCorey J. Ball
PublisherNo Starch Press (July 12, 2022)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

Looking for a Hacking APIs book is not an easy feat since there are not that many books on the subject. Hacking APIs is a relatively new topic but becoming increasingly popular as more and more companies make their APIs available to the public. There are a few Hacking APIs books on the market, but only a handful are worth reading.

The Hacking APIs book by Corey J. Ball is an excellent book for those looking to get started in the world of API hacking. The book is an excellent resource for beginners and provides a good overview of the basics of API hacking.

The Hacking APIs book covers topics such as setting up your development environment, working with HTTP requests and responses, and using Burp Suite to test APIs.

Hacking APIs is a crash course in online API security testing that will have you ready to penetration-test APIs, cash in on lucrative bug bounty schemes, and fortify your own APIs. This book is exceptionally well-written and easy to understand. It’s a great introduction to the world of API testing. It does a fantastic job of explaining the tools used for API security testing.

I felt like I had learned everything I needed about API security by the end of the book.
The author does an excellent job of explaining what you need to do during each step of the process, including how to use each tool correctly and how each device should be used in conjunction with other agencies.

In addition, I loved the fact that the book includes practical examples of API security testing. These examples helped me understand how each tool works and how I can use it to test APIs. Overall, I highly recommend Hacking APIs to anyone interested in learning about API security testing. This book is an excellent resource for beginners and provides a good overview of hacking APIs.

The only downside is that this book doesn’t cover as many topics as some other books on this topic (such as OWASP’s Testing Guide). However, it still covers all of the basics, so you won’t miss anything important if you’re just starting out with API testing.

That can be a problem if you’re looking for more advanced material, but if you’re just getting started, Hacking APIs is a great place to start. It’s like an effective sampler of what hacking APIs have to offer.

Hacking APIs is an excellent book for those looking to get started in API hacking. The book is an excellent resource for beginners and provides a good overview of how hacking.

If you’re looking for more broad information on hacking in general, I recommend another book since this one is only focusing on APIs. Overall, this is an excellent introduction to this field for anyone who wants to learn about it. The Hacking APIs book by Corey J. Ball comes highly recommended by me.

This book covers a variety of topics. Some of the things you’ll learn are:

  • API user and endpoint enumeration using different fuzzing techniques.
  • Working with Postman to help discover data exposure vulnerabilities.
  • How to perform JSON web token attacks to break API authentication.
  • Chaining multiple API attacks together to perform NoSQL injections.
  • How to attack GraphQL APIs

5 – RTFM: Red Team Field Manual v1

Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorBen Clark
PublisherCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 11, 2014)
LinkAmazon, Biblio

The Red Team Field Manual is a must-have when it comes to Hacking Books. This is not a book you use to study. This is a Red Team Reference Guide. This guide contains the basic syntax of commonly used Linux and Windows commands. It also includes Python Scripts and Windows PowerShell tips.

I personally always take this book with me when I am on an assignment or on any hacking-related trip. I have a lot of personal notes and additions to it as well. For the price, I definitely recommend picking up a copy. Put it under your pillow while you sleep, and carry it with you at all times.

This book is not so much about learning things rather than looking things up, but regardless, some of the things covered in this book are:

  • Common Windows Commands
  • Common Networking Commands
  • General Tips & Tricks
  • Hacking Tool Syntax
  • Web Applications
  • Databases
  • Programming Tips
  • Wireless Hacking Tools

6 – RTFM: Red Team Field Manual v2

LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorBen Clark, Nick Downer
PublisherIndependently published (July 11, 2022)
LinkAmazon, TheRTFM

The Red Team Field Manual v2 is the direct successor of the first version. It has been completely reworked, adding more than 290 new commands and hacking tricks to your repository. All of these techniques have been updated to work against modern systems.

They also included a whole section specifically for macOS (not included in the previous version).

The authors also improved the format of the book a lot compared to the v1. It is a lot easier to read than the previous one, and information can be found quicker. We loved the v1 of this book, and the v2 is a great evolution of it.

We highly recommend adding this book to your collection and having it close by at all times. Once you learn how to use it, it can definitely help to improve your hacking workflow! Great little companion.

7 – Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition

Hacking Books
AuthorJon Erikson
PublisherNo Starch Press (October 1, 2007)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

You will probably have a hard time finding a Hacker / Cybersecurity specialist who would not recommend this book. Hacking: The Art of Exploitation is a true classic when it comes to Hacking Books. The only downside is it was updated in 2008 for the last time. The good news is that most of its content is still relevant and valuable today. This book helps you to build a solid foundation of theory and technique that will translate very well to modern hacking tools.

This book has it all. You will learn a bit about Programming, Exploitation, Networking, Shellcode, Countermeasures, and Cryptology. Frankly speaking, I still recommend this book today.

Be aware, tho, that this book is geared more toward advanced users. I would not recommend picking up this book as a first book. You should be familiar with or have a basic idea of Assembly before starting this book.

Some of the things you learn in this book are:

  • Working with the C programming language, assembly, and writing shell scripts.
  • Using format strings and buffer overflows to corrupt system memory.
  • Inspecting processors and system memory using debuggers.
  • Avoid IDS systems.
  • Gaining access to servers with port-binding or shellcode.
  • Redirecting network traffic and hijacking TCP connections.
  • Intercepting wireless traffic using FMS attacks.
  • How to run fast brute-force attacks utilizing a password probability matrix.

8 – The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws

Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorDafydd Stuttard, Marcus Pinto
PublisherNo Starch Press (October 7, 2011)
LinkAmazon, Oreilly

So far, all books have cut into the topic of Web Application Hacking as a separate section. This book is dedicated to the topic. The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook is one of the best books out there when it comes to Hacking Books for Web Application Testing. The book was written by the guys who developed Burp Suite, the most popular Web Application Testing framework out there.

If you get a book that was written by people who developed an actual Web Application Testing framework, you can make your best bet on the value you find in it. This is a behemoth of a book with 912 pages. It was last updated in the year 2011, so the content is still very relevant today.

Nowadays, you have to know about Web Application Security if you want to work in Cyber Security. So many companies use Web Applications, and many of them have flaws because they were poorly developed or not updated. The Web Application Hacker’s Handbook helps you to understand common flaws and how to exploit them. You won’t believe how many Web Application flaws you will find in the real world.

That being said, if you are serious about working in Cyber Security, you will or should not be able to avoid this book. This book takes you through Web Application Security step by step, from the beginning until you eventually grasp the topic. Highly recommended addition to your Ethical Hacking Books collection.

This book covers a lot of different topics. Some of the key concepts you will learn are:

  • Leveraging cloud architectures and social networks to find exploits for applications.
  • Utilizing the latest HTML technologies to find sophisticated XSS attacks.
  • How to use injection exploits, XEE (XML external entity), and HTTP parameter pollution attacks.
  • Breaking encrypted session tokens.
  • How to exploit REST frameworks, HTML5, CSS, and JSON to gain access to applications and to compromise users.
  • How to exploit CSRF tokens and CAPTCHAs.
  • Utilizing cutting-edge browser features to gain access to sensitive data across domains.

9 – Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking

Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorGeorgia Weidman
PublisherNo Starch Press (August 1, 2014)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

This book was written by security expert, researcher, and trainer Georgia Weidman. Penetration Testing: A Hands-On Introduction to Hacking teaches the fundamental skills that every penetration tester needs. You will build a virtual lab with Kali Linux and a couple of vulnerable virtual machines, and you will run through multiple scenarios in this environment. Tools like Wireshark, Nmap, and Burp Suite are being used in this book, amongst many others.

You will learn how to crack passwords, how to hack wireless networks by brute-forcing with the use of wordlists, you will learn a bit of web application security, you’ll learn about the Metasploit framework, how to bypass antivirus software, and how to take control of a virtual machine to compromise the network. This book, much like Hacker’s Playbook 3, is an excellent first read for people interested in learning Cyber Security.

Some people love the explanation skills of Georgia and swear by them. Some people I know personally also used it as a preparation for the OSCP test. This book has a lot of step-by-step going on, so very easy to understand, even for beginners.

Caveat: Unfortunately, several people have reported that parts of the labs and the external materials in the book are no longer available. So only buy it if you know what you’re looking for! You can follow the author’s Twitter account as she is currently working on the second edition of the book!

10 – Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution

by Raphael Hertzog & Jim O’ Gorman

Kali Linux Revealed
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorRaphael Hertzog, Mati Aharoni, Jim O’Gorman
PublisherOffsec Press (June 5, 2017)
LinkAmazon, Kali Training

First things first, this is not one of the Ethical Hacking Books that teach you penetration testing. This is a book that teaches you Kali Linux. Kali Linux, formerly known as Backtrack, is by far the most popular penetration testing distribution out there. Therefore, it just makes sense for you to learn it. Although I do not recommend Kali Linux for beginners, if you do decide to go for Kali Linux anyway, I highly recommend reading Kali Linux Revealed.

In this book, the Kali developers themselves will take you on a journey through the operating system and help you to maximize your use of Kali Linux. You will learn all the fundamentals of Kali Linux, you will learn Linux basics and concepts, and you will learn how to install Kali Linux in all kinds of different scenarios (Laptop, Desktop, Server, Virtual, etc.). On top of that, you will learn how to configure packages and how to keep your Kali installed updated the right way.

They even take you through things like deployment in large enterprise networks and very advanced topics like kernel compilation, the creation of custom ISO files, and encryption. This is why I rate this book Beginner-Advanced. You can definitely learn something new from this book, no matter where you are coming from.

Don’t get distracted by the Amazon ratings. Some people clearly can’t read and complain that there are no pentesting tools taught in this book, which never was its intention in the first place. That being said, if you work with Kali, pick up this book. It will take you to the next level and keep you secure in the long run. You can also check out my article to at least do the bare essential steps after installing Kali Linux as a beginner.

11 – Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Ghost in the Wires
AuthorKevin Mitnick
PublisherBack Bay Books (April 24, 2012)
LinkAmazon, Barnes & Noble

Now one could argue if this fits in the category of Hacking Books or not, but for me, it definitely does. Ghost in the Wires is a book by one of the most well-known hackers there ever was: Kevin Mitnick. So, why would I recommend this book? Because it is a Hacking Book by definition. This book tells the real story of Kevin Mitnick, a computer Hacker that had his prime between the years 1979 and 1995, when he finally got arrested by the FBI after being on the run for several years.

Kevin hacked his first computer system at the age of 16, and from there on out, there was no way back. This book does very well in explaining how a Hacker’s mind works and what drives them. It gives you an in-depth look into the Hacker’s mindset, and that is exactly why I found this book to be extremely valuable. I don’t know how much exaggeration is going on in this book from Kevin’s side, but most of the stories he tells seem to be pretty legit and in the realm of possibility, especially because many of them were confirmed either by the Fed or by his former friends/foes.

I devoured this book in no time. I had so much fun reading it that I blazed through it within a week, which is very unusual for me.

That being said, don’t only focus on learning. Focus on the fun as well, and this book definitely is fun! A must-read for every wannabe Hacker!

By the way, Kevin has worked as a very successful security consultant since the year 2000. He consults Fortune 500 companies and… the FBI(lol). As you can see, he has grown up and works as an ethical hacker now.  He also published a couple of other books on stuff like Social Engineering and how to stay safe on the Internet. I won’t list them here because I haven’t read them yet, but you find them in my Amazon Store.

12 – Advanced Penetration Testing: Hacking the World’s Most Secure Networks

Advanced Penetration Testing
AuthorWil Allsopp
PublisherWiley (March 10, 2017)
Pages 288
LinkAmazon, Wiley

I had to include at least one more advanced book in this Hacking Books list to satisfy everyone. But no, really, Advanced Penetration Testing has gained a lot of traction lately. It covers ATP (Advanced Penetration Testing). This means it teaches you real-world techniques far beyond the usual Kali Linux tool. You will learn how tools actually work and also how to write your own tools from start to finish.

This helps you to better understand how the tools you use actually work, giving you an edge over anyone who is just able to use out-of-the-box tools.

It also covers a little Social Engineering. A lot of more advanced folks have recommended this book to me.

This would be a good book to pick up after you finish working through the Hacker’s Playbook and the Web Application Hacker’s Handbook. But really, be aware, this is for advanced people only!

13 – Black Hat Python, 2nd Edition: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters

Black Hat Python 2nd Edition
AuthorJustin Seitz, Tim Arnold
PublisherNo Starch Press (April 14, 2021)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world, used by millions of coders for everything from web development to machine learning. For those seeking to learn how to use Python for hacking and other nefarious purposes, Black Hat Python is an essential resource. Written by Justin Seitz, a highly-experienced Python developer and security researcher, this comprehensive book guides you through the full range of Python-based offensive hacking tools and techniques.

Whether you’re looking to develop automated penetration testing scripts, create malware, or find vulnerabilities in web applications or networks, Black Hat Python will teach you everything you need to know. If you’re serious about mastering ethical Hacking through Python, look no further than Black Hat Python.

14 – Honorable Mention: Hacking mit Metasploit, 3rd Edition

Best Hacking Books
LevelBeginner – Advanced
AuthorMichael Messner
Publisherdpunkt.verlag GmbH (October 3, 2017)
LinkAmazon, Oreilly

Now unfortunately for everyone not speaking German, Hacking mit Metasploit isn’t for you, except you can translate it. I want to mention it here because it is, hands down, the best book on Metasploit that I have ever read. The author, Michael Messner, is a developer with the Metasploit team and continuously contributes to the project.

He has in-depth knowledge of the Metasploit framework and has a great way of teaching you all the things you need to know about Metasploit.

I want to mention it there for everyone who is capable of speaking German, and I wish that there will be an English release of the book one day for all of you to enjoy.

15 – Bug Bounty Bootcamp: The Guide to Finding and Reporting Web Vulnerabilities

AuthorVickie Li
PublisherNo Starch Press (December 7, 2021)
LinkAmazon, No Starch Press

The Bug Bounty Bootcamp is a hacking book geared towards people who are interested in learning the ins and outs of Bug Bounty hunting. The book is geared towards beginners (even with no prior experience in Web Application Security) who want to get started in the field of Web Hacking and Bug Bounties.

The book covers everything from choosing your first Bug Bounty Program to writing reports and how to act professionally in this fast-moving industry. You will also learn how to set up your own web hacking lab and how to utilize proxies to capture traffic.

In later chapters of the book, you will learn more about some of the more common web application vulnerabilities like SQL injection, XSS (Cross-Site Scripting), template injection, and how to bypass certain common protective mechanisms.

Another interesting part of the book is that you learn how to chain together multiple vulnerabilities to maximize the impact (and reward) of your findings. This was by far my favorite part.

On top of that, you will also get something extra that is usually not covered in most of the other Web Application / Bug Bounty hacking books out there: an introduction to hacking mobile applications.

Some of the other topics covered in the book are:

  • Source Code Reviews
  • Finding Vulnerable APIs
  • Automating Your Hacking Process

While having some prior experience with hacking or web hacking, in general, is helpful, I found that it is not required to follow along with the book. Vickie did a great job of assuming no prior knowledge so that even beginners could follow along with the content.

Both my team and I really liked the Bug Bounty Bootcamp. This is Vickie’s first book, and she did a great job with it. We recommend it to anyone interested in getting started with Web Application Security or Bug Hunting.!

  • The Bug Bounty Bootcamp is a hacking book geared towards people who are interested in learning the ins and outs of Bug Bounty hunting, specifically geared towards beginners with no prior experience.
  • The book covers everything from choosing your first Bug Bounty Program to writing reports and how to act professionally in this fast-moving industry.
  • In later chapters of the book, you will learn more about some of the more common web application vulnerabilities like SQL injection, XSS (Cross-Site Scripting), template injection, and how to bypass certain common protective mechanisms.
  • Another interesting part of the book is that you learn how to chain together multiple vulnerabilities to maximize the impact (and reward) of your findings.
  • On top of that, you will also get something extra that is usually not covered in most other Web Application / Bug Bounty hacking books out there: an introduction to hacking mobile applications.

Ethical Hacking Courses

Since publishing this post, I have gotten a lot of questions from people who prefer video content over written content. Since I have gone through a lot of Ethical Hacking Courses, I want to share my favorites with you.

My favorite Ethical Hacking Courses are the ones created by Heath Adams, who is more widely known as The Cyber Mentor. No course that I have taken online has advanced my skills more than his excellent Practical Ethical Hacking Course, hands down.

Some other great courses are:

  1. The Practical Ethical Hacking Course – Heath Adams
  2. Linux 101 – Brent Eskridge
  3. Windows Privilege Escalation – Heath Adams
  4. Linux Privilege Escalation – Heath Adams

There is also an option to get access to all courses for around 30$ per month. I can’t recommend TCM Academy enough.

Where To Buy

You can find all of the books in this article on my Amazon Store. If you buy through this store, I get a small commission from your purchase which greatly helps me out keeping the bills paid. Thank you!


This guide should provide you with a clear roadmap on which hacking books to delve into and the ideal sequence to approach them. Despite technological advancements, I strongly believe that learning from books retains its invaluable charm. It remains my preferred method due to the structured and methodical progression it offers, which aligns with my learning style.

I invite you to share your favorite ethical hacking books in the comments. I’m always eager to explore new suggestions and may incorporate your recommendations into the list. Don’t forget to bookmark this article and revisit it periodically; I’ll be consistently updating the list as time progresses.


Which book is best to become a hacker?

The best book to become a hacker largely depends on your current knowledge level and specific areas of interest. However, a highly recommended starting point is “The Hacker Playbook 2” by Peter Kim.

This book provides a comprehensive guide to penetration testing and hacking, covering a range of topics from setting up your testing environment to advanced exploitation techniques. It’s written in an accessible manner, making it suitable for beginners and more advanced readers alike.

Ethical hacking is a vast field, and no single book can cover all aspects. It’s advisable to read multiple books and resources to gain a broad and deep understanding of the subject.

Can I learn hacking from books?

Absolutely, books are a great resource to learn hacking, particularly ethical hacking. They provide structured and detailed information on various topics such as penetration testing, network security, cryptography, and more. Books like “The Hacker Playbook” series, “Hacking: The Art of Exploitation”, and “Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide” are excellent resources. However, it’s important to remember that practical experience is also crucial in this field.

Alongside reading, you should practice your skills in a safe and legal environment, such as a virtual lab or through platforms that offer ethical hacking challenges. Always remember, the knowledge gained should be used responsibly and ethically.

What do hackers study?

Hackers, particularly ethical hackers, study a wide range of subjects to understand and exploit vulnerabilities in systems. Here are some key areas:

Computer Programming: Knowledge of programming languages like Python, JavaScript, C++, and PHP is essential. Understanding how software is built helps hackers find and exploit vulnerabilities.

Networking: Understanding how data moves across the internet, including the intricacies of TCP/IP, routers, switches, firewalls, and other networking hardware and protocols, is crucial.

Operating Systems: Hackers often specialize in one or more operating systems (Windows, Linux, macOS) to understand their vulnerabilities and exploit them.

Cryptography: This involves studying how information is encrypted and how to decrypt it without a key.

Web Technologies: Knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and server-side programming languages, as well as how web servers and browsers interact, is important for exploiting web-based applications.

Databases: Understanding SQL and how databases work is necessary for launching and preventing SQL injection attacks.

Software Engineering: Understanding the software development process can help hackers find vulnerabilities in the code.

Cybersecurity Frameworks and Tools: Hackers need to be familiar with various tools used for penetration testing and vulnerability scanning, such as Metasploit, Wireshark, and Burp Suite.

Social Engineering: This is the art of manipulating people to give up confidential information. It’s a non-technical kind of hacking, but it’s just as important to understand.

Remember, ethical hackers use this knowledge to help secure systems and networks by identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

20 thoughts on “Best Hacking Books in 2023 – The Definitive List”

  1. Your website is one of the best i have ever seen and it is awesome , clear and easy to understand . Keep it going MAN , you’re helping a lot of people !!!

  2. What do you mean by several people reported that parts of the labs and the external materials in the book are no longer available in book number 7?

  3. So im about to ramp up my Pen Testing career path. Just got down with Linux+ n starting Sec+ from there im going to work on hacking certs. Ive been loosing the excitement for hacking since i started school so im looking for books to spark my joy again to stay motivated… I have added your amazon store and site to my page. I was wondering if you could possible do an article on book to read in the correct order from beginning to advanced?? Also if you could do an article on any insite you have for a best path to follow for quickest career building. Im a lil late in the game to be getting started 32. so i could really use a boost LOL

    • There is no particular order in which you should read anything first, or any best path. The best path is the path you are most interested in. Also, there are no shortcuts. 32 is not late.

      I started programming with 34 and I see no reason why it would be too late.

      The best day to start was yesterday, the next best day is today. Keep it up.

      • Stefan, I’m not sure if you still look here but I am wondering why you didn’t add the 1st Playbook here. I just find it interesting to add part 2 and 3 but skip the 1st.

        • Hey Chris, of course I do!

          That’s simply due to the fact that I did not read the first one and I only wanted to include books that I have actually, at least partly, read (unlike other articles out there.)

          If you have an opinion on the first book, gladly let me know!

          • I’m currently in the process of reading the first one. Once I am completed with it I will give you an update to what my thoughts are on it. So far it has been pretty good. It is very well laid out just like I’m sure the 2nd and 3rd book are as well.

        • If you are interested, here is a post from the actual author of the series that relates to your question:

          Peter here (author of the THP series), I can chime in as well (thanks u/misconfig_exe for letting me know). So, I think everyone has it pretty much on the dot. My first book was really just a collection of notes from my 10 years of pentesting. I loved to teach and my friends/students were always asking for my notes. So I didn’t really expect to sell any (other than to my students and maybe my mom…) and published it myself for kicks (no copy editors or anything like that). Fortunately, it sold really well and people seemed to like the format. So I took a step back and worked on book two. I really tried to clean two up, add a lot more on real world pentesting examples, lots of PowerShell, some labs, and took a lot of the advice I received from the community on what they wanted.

          So… three years later and years of running Red Teams (which I state is definitely different from Pentesting in the book), I come out with the third installment, which is almost all new content. Again, the biggest request was more hands on labs. So included in the book is a NodeJS vuln web app, lateral movement VMs (3 VMs), and a custom THP Kali image with all the custom tools. Also, I included a lot of custom code to do Red Team “stuff”. This included tools for cloud attacks, recompiling Metasploit/Meterpreter to get around AV, examples of how to use C to get around AV (keyloggers, droppers, etc), how to be stealthy on the network and most importantly, how to live off the land.

          Now back to the question, if you are pretty proficient in pentesting, go straight to 3. If you are pretty new on the topic, 2 will definitely help fill in some gaps (skip book 1). Of course, you can always reach out to me on twitter @hackerplaybook if you have additional questions. Let me know if this helps!

          Lastly, I love our amazing security community and I’m so glad I can be a part of it! I’d love to give away some free copies of book 3, so I’ll randomly pick out three comments from this post by the end of Sunday and give away some books. Thanks everyone and keep breaking everything!


  4. First I’d like to thank you for that list. It was very helpful in choosing my first books – I just ordered both written by Peter Kim. I was also considering RTFM, but instead I went for Operator Handbook: Red Team + OSINT + Blue Team Reference by Joshua Picolet. Any thoughts on that one? It was published recently, so I suppose you didn’t have a chance to look at it yet, but I’d appreciate your feedback about it if you ever have a chance.

    • Hey Michal,

      haven’t looked at it, but you can’t go wrong with a Peter Kim book. Let me know how the other books are once you have finished them 🙂

  5. I would also like to add another great book for dummies which is titled, “ABCD of Hacking: The Beginner’s guide” by Shashank Pai K. Start with this book and I bet you would never repent as this book explains from scratch, in layman terms with intuitive examples.


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