Reading List

Table of Contents

1. Intended audience
2. Scope
3. Acknowledgedments
4. Feedback
5. How to use this guide
6. Core
6.1. Fundamentals
6.2. UNIX/Linux track
6.3. Microsoft Windows track
6.4. Soft Skills
7. Normative literature (a.k.a. Best Practices)
8. Advanced Study

1. Intended audience

  • Anyone who wants to be a System Administrator,
  • Novice System Administrators just getting into the field,
  • Junior System Administrators who want to make sure their foundation is solid for advancement to more senior levels,
  • Intermediate/Advanced/Senior System Administrators advancing to more senior levels,
  • Trainers and Educators of Systems Administration

2. Scope

This is a guide to the professional literature of the field of System Administration.

This document does not include practice exercises. However, practical experience is essential to success in the field. The student is encouraged to practice.

3. Acknowledgedments

Thanks for help in compiling this list to: Jonah Sinowitz, Eric Sorenson, Mark Burgess, Shahab Shawn Sheikhzadeh, Willard Dennis, Kyrre Begnum, david t. klein, Avleen Vig, William van Hevelingen.

4. Feedback

Comments welcome! Email the editors at or join us in the ops-education group.

5. How to use this guide

The materials should be studied and practiced in sequence.

Core contains essential reading - the fundamentals of the field.

Normative literature attempts an overview of normative literature - publications that lay out the norms of the field, or what is generally agreed upon (i.e. best practices). Norms and standards are essential for professionalization.

Advance your knowledge using the Advanced Study list.

6. Core

6.1. Fundamentals

Burgess, Mark. Principles of Network and System Administration, 2nd ed.. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2004. Print.

ISBN-13: 978-0-470-86807-2


This is a introductory college text, written by the creator of a well-known configuration management tool (CFEngine) while he was teaching Systems Administration at Oslo University College in Norway.

Limoncelli, Thomas A., Christine Hogan, and Strata R. Chalup. The Practice of System and Network Administration: Volume 1, 3rd ed. Addison-Wesley, 2016. Print.

ISBN-13: 978-0-321-91916-8

A comprehensive overview of the practice of system administration. Written by system administrators for system administrators. (Volume 1 of 2.)

Limoncelli, Thomas A., Christine Hogan, and Strata R. Chalup. The Practice of Cloud System Administration: Volume 2. Addison-Wesley, 2014. Print.

ISBN-13: 978-0321943187

6.2. UNIX/Linux track

User Basics

Smith, Roderick W. Linux Essentials Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2012. Print.

An introduction to Linux and Open Source.


Elsner, Tobias et al. Linux Essentials: The LPI Introductory Programme Darmstadt, Germany: Linup Front, 2012.

An alternative introduction to Linux and Open Source. Courseware for LPI Linux Essentials program. Free for non-commercial use.

Shotts, William. The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction First Edition. San Francisco: No Starch, 2012. Print. (Electronic version, 2016.)

Shotts, William. The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction Second Edition, 2016.

A complete introduction to the Linux Command Line. We have started to recommend this book instead of the dated "The UNIX Programming Environment". Available in PDF and print versions.

System Administration

Nemeth, Evi et al. Unix and Linux System Administration Handbook, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.

"This is a comprehensive guide to the care and feeding of UNIX and Linux systems. The authors present the facts along with seasoned advice and real-world examples." — Pat Parseghian

Fifth edition coming August 2017:

Frisch, Æleen. Essential System Administration, 3rd ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2002. Print.

The FreeBSD Documentation Project, The FreeBSD Handbook Online: 2013.

Solter, Nicholas A., Jerry Jelinek, David Miner. OpenSolaris Bible Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009.

Supplemental reading

Additional Resources for Basic Training,204,203,200_.jpg

Kernighan, Brian W., and Rob Pike. The UNIX Programming Environment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984. Print.

Chapters 1 - 6 introduce a new user to UNIX. If you want to make sure your fundamentals are fully established, go back to the source, the origin of UNIX.

Text Editors

Robbins, Arnold, Elbert Hannah, Linda Lamb, and Linda Lamb. Learning the vi and Vim Editors: Text processing at maximum speed and power, 7th ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2008. Print.

vi is a standard UNIX text editor, and vim is it’s modern incarnation.

Stallman, Richard, et al. GNU Emacs Manual. Boston: Free Software Foundation, 2013. Online.

GNU Emacs is the "the extensible, customizable, self-documenting, real-time display editor."

Configuration Management

Zamboni, Diego. Learning CFEngine 3. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2012.

Krum, Van Hevelingen, Kero, Turnbull, McCune. Pro Puppet. New York, NY: Apress, 2013.


PostgreSQL: Up and Running

High Performance MySQL

PostgresSQL 9.0 High Performance

Programming Languages

Learning Perl

Automating System Administration with Perl

Learning Python

Programming Python


DNS and Bind

Backup and Recovery


The Smallest Sendmail Book

6.3. Microsoft Windows track

Windows Server

Tulloch, Mitch. Training Guide: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2012.


Stanek, William R. Windows Server 2012 Pocket Consultant. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2012.

Active Directory

Desmond, Brian; Joe Richards, Robbie Allen, Alistair Lowe-Norris. Active Directory, 5th Edition, Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2013. Print.

Generally accepted as the best book on Microsoft Active Directory, which is Microsoft’s implementation of LDAP + Kerberos.


Kouti, Sakari and Mika Seitsonen. Inside Active Directory: A System Administrator’s Guide, (2nd Ed.) Boston: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004. Print.

An older classic on AD, goes into the internals.

PowerShell (modern Windows command line)

Jones, Don and Jeffery Hicks. Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Greenwich, CT: Manning, 2013. Print.

"This book is a tutorial designed for busy administrators. Just set aside one hour a day for a month and you’ll learn all the practical techniques you need to make your job easier and your day shorter. This totally revised second edition covers new PowerShell 3 features designed for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Experience with Windows administration is helpful. No programming experience is assumed." The first edition (Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches) covers PowerShell v2.0.

Websites with good Windows admin content

6.4. Soft Skills

Soft skills are increasingly recognized as essential to success in system administration.

Hard skills
Working with technology.
Soft skills

Working with people. This includes communication (including writing RFPs, presenting, etc.), project management, time management, persuasion, leadership, cooperation, business alignment, learning how to learn (and teach), etc.

  • Time Management for System Administrators by Tom Limoncelli
  • A Sysadmin’s Guide to Navigating the Business World by Burgess and Rowland, USENIX Short Topics on Systems Administration, 2010 (ISBN 978-1-931971-81-2)
  • OpsSchool "Soft Skills" page

7. Normative literature (a.k.a. Best Practices)

Literature describing norms or standards

#26 Modern Infrastructure Engineering with CFEngine 3 Mark Burgess and Diego Zamboni

#25 Enterprise IPv6 Deployment: Experience Report from Google Haythum Babiker, Irena Nikolova, and Kiran Kumar Chittimaneni

#24 Cloud Computing with VMware vCloud Director John Y. Arrasjid, Ben Lin, Raman Veeramraju, Steve Kaplan, Duncan Epping, and Michael Haines

#23 A Sysadmin's Guide to Navigating the Business World Mark Burgess and Carolyn Rowland

#22 Job Descriptions for System Administrators, 3d Edition Revised Tina Darmohray

#21 Foundation for Cloud Computing with VMware vSphere 4 John Arrasjid, Duncan Epping, and Steve Kaplan

#20 Running the Numbers: System, Network, and Environmental Monitoring Daniel V. Klein and John Sellens

#19 Configuration Management with Bcfg2 Narayan Desai and Cory Lueninghoener

#18 Deploying the VMware Infrastructure, Second Printing John Arrasjid, Karthik Balachandran, Daniel Conde, Gary Lamb, and Steve Kaplan

#17 LCFG: A Practical Tool for System Configuration Paul Anderson

#16 A System Engineer's Guide to Host Configuration and Maintenance Using Cfengine Mark Burgess and Æleen Frisch

#15 Internet Postmaster: Duties and Responsibilities Nick Christenson and Brad Knowles

#14 System Configuration Paul Anderson

#13 The Sysadmin's Guide to Oracle Ben Rockwood

#12 Building a Logging Infrastructure Abe Singer and Tina Bird

#11 Documentation Writing for System Administrators Mark C. Langston

#10 Budgeting for SysAdmins Adam Moskowitz

#9 Backups and Recovery W. Curtis Preston and Hal Skelly

#7 System and Network Administration for Higher Reliability John Sellens

#6 A System Administrator's Guide to Auditing Geoff Halprin

#5 Hiring System Administrators Gretchen Phillips

#4 Educating and Training System Administrators: A Survey David Kuncicky and Bruce Alan Wynn

#2 A Guide to Developing Computing Policy Documents Edited by Barbara L. Dijker

8. Advanced Study