Best Books For Learning Akka From Scratch

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Diving into any framework can be quite intimidating. Something like Akka requires not only knowledge of Java but also the actor model for concurrent application development.

This isn’t something that everyone can learn from YouTube. Free tutorials are helpful but they don’t always take you far enough.

That’s why I’ve collected the absolute best Akka books for teaching yourself from a complete novice through to more advanced development. Each book targets a different experience level but they’re all great for building your confidence with Akka.

Best Akka Intro Book

Most books in this list could be considered intro books, but they vary based on experience level. For complete beginners I’d recommend Learning Akka since it’s quick, straightforward, and teaches a good mix of theory and practice for working in the Akka environment.


Effective Akka

This is one of the shortest books on the market teaching you the fundamentals of Akka development and the actor model. Effective Akka is only 74 pages long but it works well as a quick intro to Akka from a very trusted source.

The author Jamie Allen works with the team that originally created Akka and Scala. He shares plenty of inside info and teaches the actor model in a way that just makes sense.

I feel that much of this book follows a theory-based approach to learning where you’re understanding how apps should work and how they run with Akka. You’ll learn about the intricacy of actors and concurrent programming with basic rules for Akka development.

I’d only recommend this to newer devs who just want a brief flash of Akka. This book will leave you wanting more by the end. However it’s detailed enough to be worth its value and the writing style speaks directly to less-experienced developers.


Learning Akka

Building a distributed application is never easy. Java and Scala make it a tad easier but Akka is really the best toolkit you can use. And Learning Akka is one of the best books you can get to help you learn this toolkit from scratch.

This book written by Jason Goodwin explains all the fundamentals first before diving into code. You’ll learn about concurrency and the actor model along with how it all connects into Akka development.

Most chapters introduce a step-by-step example to help you understand the inner workings of Akka before finally putting it all together with exercises. These little exercises teach you about fault tolerant applications along with self-healing Akka apps.

Concurrent programming is the real challenge and most of this book covers the workflow in great detail. I’d recommend this to anyone with some prior Java knowledge but zero knowledge of Akka or concurrency.


Akka Essentials

What I like most about this book is how it gently introduces the Akka toolkit from afar. You’ll start by learning about Java concurrency and the problems faced by Java developers. Then you’ll apply solutions with Akka to see how they can help you scale projects and build app with less code.

Akka Essentials is a beginners book with 330 pages in total. It’s aimed towards programmers and server architects who want to build on top of Akka for concurrent distributed app development.

You’ll learn how to properly scale an application and how to build a codebase that’s easy to extend. You’ll also learn about fault tolerant app development techniques and basic unit testing for Akka projects.

The author shares a few handy tools and 3rd party libraries towards the end. But most of the book focuses solely on Akka. The actor model is a big topic and there are many practical exercises but you’ll mostly learn through a mix of theory and code.

If you’re already comfortable with Java and want to move into Akka for scaling larger applications then Akka Essentials will help you get started.


Applied Akka Patterns

If you want a more advanced book on Akka development then Applied Akka Patterns could be right up your alley. This book covers popular Akka strategies and best practices for building concurrent applications from scratch.

The authors oscillate between theoretical tips in between technical workflows and exercises. Each chapter is full of code snippets to help you build and learn from project work.

With over 300 pages this is definitely a sound learning resource. However it does expect some knowledge of Akka and/or concurrent application development. Most of these lessons build upon the foundations of Akka to help you scale projects and optimize their behaviors.

If you like getting your hands dirty and want a practical approach to Akka development then this book is for you.


Reactive Programming with Scala and Akka

Sample work is the best way to learn when it comes to programming and technology. That’s why Reactive Programming with Scala and Akka is so valuable to anyone moving into this area.

Reactive programming is best learned through practice, and this book really takes practice to a new level. The author covers fault tolerance and techniques for building distributed applications with this methodology in mind. You’ll practice many different features and eventually build a fully functional shopping cart application from scratch.

Before picking up this book you will need experience with Scala and you should feel comfortable building your own apps. But you don’t need any prior knowledge of Akka.

If you’re ready for real practical Akka development on top of Scala then I’d recommend a copy of this book. The author does an excellent job explaining each topic and the code snippets are very easy to understand.


Reactive Web Applications

Here’s one of the best reactive development books on the market. Reactive Web Applications by Manuel Bernhardt teaches Akka along with Play as two of the best concurrency libraries for app development.

Early chapters explain all the fundamentals of these toolkits along with the basics of asynchronous applications. Chapters switch between theory and practice by explaining the key features of reactive programming like concurrency, actors, and distributed systems.

You then put these features into practice with live sample projects using Java & Scala.

I would classify this book as an intermediate-level title because it does get pretty detailed. However you really just need basic programming knowledge rather than Play/Akka knowledge.

I recently did a full review of this book if you want to read more and see if this could be a valuable teaching tool.


Reactive Messaging Patterns with the Actor Model

The goal of every app developer is optimization without any loss in quality or performance. Reactive Messaging Patterns with the Actor Model teaches the typical Akka and Scala model of app development with common solutions for optimization.

The author Vaughn Vernon has a special interest in distributed computing and messaging for app development. He frequently gives talks on these subjects at major tech conferences and this book is one of his best works in the area.

You’ll learn all the basics of actor environments and what makes them tick. You’ll learn why they’re so important to Akka development and what makes them valuable to the distributed app dev workflow.

Vaughn covers a lot of fundamental topics using practical examples to educate readers about reactive development. He does talk about dev patterns but also covers best practices and solutions to common problems you’ll likely face throughout the lifecycle.

I’d recommend this to intermediate-level developers who want a bigger picture of reactive messaging and distributed development with Akka.


Reactive Applications with Akka.NET

If you’re comfortable working on the .NET platform then you’ll be excited to learn about the Akka.NET library for programmers. This allows .NET devs to build concurrent and distributed applications with a much more comfortable framework.

But just because you already work in .NET doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time moving to Akka. That’s why I recommend Reactive Applications with Akka.NET as an intro guide for existing .NET developers.

This book covers reactive app lifecycles and how these applications get created. You’ll learn about the fundamentals of the actor model and how these apply to Akka.NET development. And each chapter works with practical lessons to help you come to terms with Akka.NET in the real world.

In just under 400 pages you can go from a complete Akka .NET newbie to a professional in all areas from configuration to concurrency and unit testing.

However you absolutely need some prior experience working with .NET(preferably C#) and you should already feel comfortable building custom .NET applications from scratch.


Mastering Akka

Moving beyond the basics we have Mastering Akka for anyone that wants to up their game to a new level. This book introduces the detailed topic of domain-driven design using Java and Scala as teaching tools.

The book comes with 360 pages covering more advanced topics like multithreaded app development and distributed databases on top of Akka. If you’re already familiar with this toolkit then you’ll know distributed development is very common.

However the domain-driven design model is somewhat unique and it’s a big area of focus in this book.

I’d recommend this title specifically for Akka devs who already feel comfortable working with Java, Scala, and the basics of Akka. You’ll learn through many different exercises and it’s one of the best books to further your app development workflow.


Akka Cookbook

How could I wrap up this post without the best problem solving resource for Akka devs?

The Akka Cookbook is the definitive guide to solving major Akka problems and common pitfalls in the development workflow.

You’ll find dozens of recipes for building reactive applications on Scala/Java. This includes 3rd party extensions and even platforms like Lagom for microservices.

This cookbook pushes you far beyond the typical Akka development cycle into more complex solutions for detailed problems. Custom routing and multi-user authentication systems are both covered in great detail.

If you’re serious about Scala & Akka development and want to jump into the great abyss then I would highly recommend keeping a copy of this guide on your bookshelf.

The recipes are incredibly valuable and the best practices you’ll learn by studying the code snippets are even more valuable in the long run.

There is no single best book or single best path to follow to learn Akka. Programming is tough and it just requires hard work. But when you’re getting started it’s important to match your study materials with your current skill level.

For complete beginners I’d recommend Learning Akka as an easy intro. If you’re willing to push yourself then Reactive Programming with Scala and Akka can be even better.

Just be sure that you’re comfortable with Java/Scala and are willing to put in the effort. Once you understand the basics of distributed app development you’ll have a much easier time grasping the more detailed features of the Akka toolkit.

Author: Alex Turner

Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.