A career as a Cisco network engineer means dedicating yourself to continuing personal development. Even when you pass your Cisco CCNA, you will discover that there are a large number of gaps in your knowledge. Sure, you know how to write an access list and do some basic routing and switching. You know a little about wireless and network security but not enough to carry out any major tasks.
Whether or not you decide to take more exams, such as voice, wireless, security, design, and so on, you are still going to move outside your comfort zone and areas of understanding as your network grows and you encounter various scenarios. For this reason, I have put together a list of 12 books I recommend to every Cisco engineer. These books will give you a broad knowledge of internetworking technologies and increase your confidence and ability to install, configure, and troubleshoot a Cisco network.
I could have written a list of over 50 books, which is about the number you need to read to pass your Cisco CCIE. However, we can perhaps be a little more conservative. The below list consists of the books I would expect to see on the shelf of most serious Cisco engineers. Don't think you have to read each one from cover to cover. It is often enough to dip into them when you need to learn a specific topic. Otherwise, you may find you read a book and then quickly forget what you learned.
I've left off non-Cisco books. I might create another list for these soon, but I wanted to keep this post on-topic for Cisco engineers only. Also, some of these books are out-of-date now but still considered necessary as part of your collection because much of the information is still relevant.
I've made the images and titles clickable in case you want to read more about them on Amazon. For some insane reason, Cisco Press make their Kindle versions the same price or even higher than the printed version!
This book is an absolute must for every serious Cisco engineer. Jeff has a great talent for explaining complex subjects in an easy-to-understand way. Although the book is on the reading list for the CCIE written exam, Jeff covers all the foundations of internetworking such as IP addressing, VLSM, routing principles, and a lot more.
Jeff Doyle uses simple case studies and diagrams to explain subjects such as these:
- IP addressing and VLSM
- Routing protocols
- Configuration and troubleshooting exercises
I highly recommend Routing TCP/IP if you want to better understand internetworking. There is a second volume, which I also recommend, covering BGP, NAT, and IPv6.
“Wait a minute,” I hear you say. “I don't want to jump into CCIE level books yet.” I felt the same way, but what if I told you that this book will actually explain things to you far better than many of the CCNP books you can buy?
I slugged through all the CCNP books for years until I started my CCIE preparation. When I read Karl Solie's book, everything seemed to fall into place for me.
In this book, Karl covers all the below theories, but he applies them all to example networks with hands on labs and solutions. I can't recommend this book highly enough for its clear explanations and great labs covering:
- Ethernet switching
- HDLC and PPP
- RIP, EIGRP, OSPF
- Access lists
Although it hasn't been updated in a few years, and it is not suitable for the current CCIE exam, it covers many of the fundamentals you need to know. Every subject is labbed up multiple times, which is a rarity in most IT guides.
This is a must have book for every Cisco engineer.
Karl uses the same style that worked so well in Volume I. This time he covers advanced Ethernet switching, route maps, policy based routing, QoS, and BGP.
This is more CCNP/CCIE level stuff if you were going to use it at work, but remember that networks are becoming increasingly complex. You may well be expected to configure your network to prioritize traffic for voice, video, or multicasting.
This book covers these topics:
- Advanced Ethernet Switching
- Configuring route maps and policy-based routing
- Multicast routing
- BGP theory and configs
This book would be very useful to you if you worked at an ISP or for any company who uses BGP on their networks or needs to adopt QoS or policy-based rules for their network traffic. Don't let the fact it's aimed at CCIE candidates put you off.
Oh c'mon. You knew one of my books would be in the list somewhere right?
Written by me, a CCIE, and two dual CCIEs, Cisco CCNA in 60 Days is an Amazon best seller which breaks every item from the CCNA syllabus into manageable chunks. You read the allocated lesson for each day, take the exam, do the lab, and then review it again the next day before progressing to the next lesson.
This book is organized into ICND1 for 30 days and then ICND2 for the next 30 days, so you can take the one or two exam route. It’s helped thousands of students prepare for and finally pass their Cisco CCNA exam.
Part motivation guide, part technical study guide, and part lab guide, this book will get you up to and beyond CCNA level. It also comes with a code which gives you free access to $400 worth of lab videos and exam questions via www.in60days.com
This book is a nice introduction to routing concepts and IP protocols, with plenty of explanations and diagrams to assist your learning and understanding. Mark covers internetworking basics, IP addressing, and LAN segmentation.
Consider this book as a foundational read if you are not quite ready to chew on the heavier books listed in this article.
The topics covered are as follows:
- IP addressing and subnetting
- IP Protocol versions
- Routing basics
- RIPv1 and v2
- EIGRP and OSPF
- Growing the network
This book is a great introduction to IP routing, and I would recommend it to CCNA level engineers before progressing onto the more advanced CCIE level books.
If you could carry only one book with you out in the field then this is the one. It features a huge amount of configuration commands for IOS routers and switches.
If you find yourself stuck as to which commands you need to enter or trying to figure out rarely used commands, then this is the book you would dip into.
This is probably not the sort of book you would read cover to cover, but certainly one you would want close to hand. The authors presume nothing of the reader and so present all of the commands and the various combinations you can use.
The book covers VLANs, QoS, access lists, security, routing protocols, and performance tweaks. It’s been updated since the first edition to include these topics:
- Voice troubleshooting
- VPNs, security
This is a great book to own.
This was the must have CCIE study book before Karl Solie wrote his. It is no longer in print, but you may be able to get an old copy from eBay or Amazon marketplace. This book is crammed full of easy-to-follow hands on labs, most of which require only three routers.
When it was released, it was essential reading but now it is a bit out-of-date. I would rate it as a good CCNP level book now, but the best thing about it is the explanations followed by the hands on labs written in easy-to-follow steps.
I really wish these guys would release an updated version. The best part is that they build your knowledge up in six levels until you are eventually doing BGP and QoS.
You learn these skills:
- Frame relay
- RIP, EIGRP, OSPF
- Access lists
- Route maps
I highly recommend this book to you.
This is another CCIE level book, but this covers everything you need to know about switched network design, operation, and configuration.
It's written in a very friendly and informal style so you feel as if the subjects are being explained to you by a person who is more concerned with you understanding the subjects rather than trying to show off their level of knowledge (as we all find in many IT books).
You learn these skills:
- High-speed LAN technologies, LAN segmentation, bridging, the Catalyst command-line environment, and VLANs
- Cisco Catalyst design, configuration, and troubleshooting techniques
- STP and troubleshooting common STP problems
- Trunking concepts and applications, including ISL, 802.1Q, and LANE
- How to utilize Layer 3 switching techniques for maximum effect
This book is far more than any CCNA would need, but you only need to dip into the parts relevant to you and your particular needs. I recommend this book if you want to improve your confidence around switching and Ethernet design and configurations.
Many of the topics are out-of-date (it was written in 1999), but it’s still an essential foundation book for Cisco engineers. You will find this book particularly helpful if you are studying for the CCNP SWITCH exam.
Lee offers a practical guide to implementing IPsec, the IOS Firewall, and IOS Intrusion Detection System. Also included are advanced routing principles and quality of service features that focus on improving the capability of your network.
A good briefing on cryptography fully explains the science that makes VPNs possible.
Rather than being another routing book, this is a guide to improving your network's capabilities by understanding and using the sophisticated features available to you in Cisco's IOS software.
You learn how to do the following:
- Understand VPN security concepts
- Deploy quality of service technologies
- Find out how IPsec technology works and how to configure it
- Learn how to set up a router as a firewall and IDS
- Gain efficient use of your IP address space with NAT and VLSM
- Solve real-world routing problems with redistribution, route filtering, summarization, and policy routing
- Enable authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) security services with RADIUS and TACACS+ servers
It’s another great book for your Cisco collection.
At some point, you are going to have to troubleshoot your network. This book will make your job a lot easier.
With a troubleshooting plan and an understanding of common networking problems, along with how to resolve them, you will be a highly sought after engineer.
You learn how to do the following:
- Understand and overcome common routing problems associated with BGP, IGRP, EIGRP, OSPF, IS-IS, multicasting, and RIP, such as route installation, route advertisement, route redistribution, route summarization, route flap, and neighbor relationships
- Solve complex IP routing problems through methodical, easy-to-follow flowcharts and step-by-step scenario instructions for troubleshooting
- Obtain essential troubleshooting skills from detailed case studies by experienced Cisco TAC team members
- Examine numerous protocol-specific debugging tricks that speed up problem resolution
This book is part of the CCIE Professional Development Series by Cisco Press but please don't let that put you off.
Cisco network design engineers are a rare breed. They are responsible for taking a customer brief and turning it into a robust and scaleable network diagram that is passed over to the implementation team.
While reading this book, you will find you have many “ah ha” moments when you discover why protocols and services are configured the way they are. If you choose to mix hands on certification with design knowledge, you will find you have become far more confident and knowledgeable than your fellow engineers.
Cisco CCDA simplified covers the following:
- The OSI model
- Network design methodology
- The Cisco enterprise architecture model
- Enterprise LAN and data center design
- Enterprise WAN design
- IPv4 and IPv6 addressing and transition
- Designing with OSPF, EIGRP, and BGP
- Network security design
- Voice and video design
- Wireless design considerations
This book is highly recommended.
We all know that IPv6 is coming, but many engineers are trying to ignore that fact! IPv6 isn’t that hard to understand, and after reading this book, you may agree that, in fact, it is easier to understand than IPv4!
This book covers IPv6 from a Cisco perspective and shows you how to do the following:
- Understand how IPv6 overcomes IPv4’s key limitations
- Compare IPv6 with IPv4 to see what has changed and what hasn’t
- Represent IPv6 addresses, including subnet addresses
- Enable IPv6 on router interfaces using static, dynamic, EUI-64, unnumbered, SLAAC, and DHCPv6 approaches
- Improve network operations with ICMPv6 and Neighbor Discovery Protocol
- Configure IPv6 addressing and Access Control Lists using a common topology
- Work with IPv6 routing tables and configure IPv6 static routes
- Compare, configure, and verify each IPv6 IGP routing protocol
- Implement stateful and stateless DHCPv6 services
- Integrate IPv6 with other upper-level protocols, including DNS, TCP, and UDP
- Use dual-stack techniques to run IPv4 and IPv6 on the same device
- Establish coexistence between IPv4 and IPv6 through manual, 6to4, or ISATAP tunneling
- Promote a smooth transition with NAT64 (Network Address Translation IPv6 to IPv4)
Because IPv6 is now part of the CCNA syllabus, it’s essential you understand it. This book will cover all you need to know plus much more.
Did I miss any off? Let me know your favorites with a comment below. And please share and ‘like' this post if you feel it will benefit others.