Book List

or ... Recommended Reading


Recent discussions on a couple of the Hercules related lists prompted me to add this page to my site.  Although I think it probably is possible for someone with absolutely no background in MVS - user, operator, application programmer, or system programmer - to find enough information on the Internet to learn how to install and utilize MVS 3.8j under Hercules, it would certainly be easier if you avail yourself of some published books.  And please note that I am only addressing the use of MVS 3.8j (although OS/360 MFT and MVT are close enough that they are included in the blanket MVS).  I have no experience to make a judgment about VM or Linux/390 and barely enough to remember how to spell DOS/VS.

My personal library has evolved over the years as the shops I was working in evolved, so that when I discovered Hercules in 1999/2000, what I had on my shelves at home was way too advanced for MVS 3.8j.  Not to say it was all completely useless, but I was frequently frustrated by receiving responses informing me that operands I was using on the MVS console and in JCL were not valid.  I embarked upon several road trips to visit (sort of) nearby university libraries in search of ancient textbooks that were more relevant to our vintage MVS.  I remembered particular titles that I had once owned, but had purged from my shelves when I thought I would no longer need them.  I also knew titles that I had access to when working at a particular shop, although many shops only maintained IBM supplied manuals in a central library and it was up to individual programmers to have their own "cubicle" libraries.  Then there was the circumstance where I was trying to make changes in areas where I had never had to "poke" before, so I was looking for unknown books that would help guide me in (to me) unexplored territory.  I found quite a few treasures on some of these library explorations; came home with reams of photocopies and almost wore out a hole punch putting them into binders.  But I also discovered titles that I was later able to purchase from used book dealers, and have once again a shelf of relevant books for my Hercules/MVS activities.

These are the most useful books I have acquired, and utilize almost constantly, with Hercules/MVS 3.8j:

JCL, utilities, and general dataset management

System/370 Job Control Language (2nd edition) by Gary DeWard Brown (tan cover)

This second edition was published in 1987, but still is almost 100% accurate for MVS 3.8j.  Sadly I owned the 1st edition (it has a green cover), but disposed of it when I bought the 2nd edition.  The 1st edition would be perfect if you can find one of those.

OS JCL and UTILITIES: A Comprehensive Treatment by Michael Trobetta and Sue Carolyn Finkelstein

This was published in 1983 (copyright of 1984) and is really great for their sections on each of the utility programs.  There are later editions of this that are not as useful, and I know that because I lived across the street from a Borders bookstore in 2000 and they had one on their shelves, which saved me the error of buying it simply for use with Hercules/MVS.

VSAM - Concepts and practical usage of VSAM objects

VSAM: Access Method Services and Programming Techniques by James Martin

This was published in 1987 and is what I reach for when I have VSAM questions.  I have a tiny complaint with the organization, in that the AMS commands are not ordered the way I think. 

VSAM Performance, Design, and Fine Tuning by Jay Ranade

Also published in 1987, this is more of a tuning and "under the covers" book.  It is part of the Ranade series, which means it has that reputation behind it.  There was another book that was sort of the "basics" companion volume that I wish I had, alas.

Debugging - where to look when those ABENDs occur

Application Debugging: An MVS Abend Handbook for COBOL, Assembly, PL/1, and FORTRAN Programmers by Robert Binder

Published in 1985.  I have to admit, I found this one in a university library and their copy looked like it had never been opened (but it had been dropped at some point and the binding ripped away from the spine of the book).  I checked it out and was sorely tempted to report it lost and just pay them for it.  Luckily I was able to find a used copy to buy.  My copy doesn't have the ripped spine but does have minor cover wear, so you can't accuse me of doing what I was tempted to do.  If you can ... get this book!  In addition to excellent ABEND resolution guidance, it has control block layouts and dump reading flowcharts.  I wouldn't tackle a dump without having this on my desk.

MVS system programming, and answers to the how, why and where questions

P/390 (and R/390) OS/390: New User's Cookbook SG24-4757-00 by Bill Ogden, Martin Ceron, Mark Worboys, and Mikko Markkula

IBM Redbook published in July 1997.  Yes, I know it is way beyond MVS 3.8j chronologically.  But this was one of the first books I had the opportunity to get (on eBay, no less) and it does have some directly applicable information.  After all, OS/390 was MVS first and the P/390 (and R/390) are installations of OS/390 on personal computers running under hardware emulation via OS/2. Update [07/2008]: I found that this is now available for download in PDF format from:

MVS Systems Programming by Dave Elder-Vass

Originally published in 1993.  And again, yes it is much later than our MVS, but will answer lots of questions.  It was out of print for years, but with the advent of Publishing On Demand, it is available again.  You can even read it online if you want - visit - and search for the title or author.  But it is much easier to handle if you buy a printed copy - it is over 500 pages and the size is 9 by 12 inches.

Assembler Programming

IBM Assembler: An Intuitive Approach by Robert W. McBeth and J. Robert Ferguson

This is what I grab for first when I have basic assembler coding questions. 

IBM 370 Assembly Language with ASSIST: Structured Concepts and Advanced Topics by Charles J. Kacmar

I got this because of the ASSIST macro coverage.  You do know that there is a package available in one of the files sections with the ASSIST macros, don't you?  And I do find other topics that I sometimes end up in this book researching.

Advanced Assembler Language and MVS Interfaces: For IBM Systems and Application Programmers by Carmine A. Cannatello

This is an excellent book if you want to learn good assembler coding style.  It also has a lot of useful information for coding programs to utilize MVS control blocks.

COBOL programming

Fundamentals of Structured COBOL Programming (3rd edition) by Carl Feingold

This edition was published in 1978.  I actually had a copy of this book in 1973 when I started my first job.  If you do anything with the MVT COBOL compiler, you will soon learn that it is antiquated, and it takes a book from this time period to cover the "features" of this compiler.  Of course, when I started out we were using COBOL D (which we referred to as DOD - Department of Defense - COBOL).

FORTRAN programming

A Simplified Guide to FORTRAN Programming by Daniel D. McCracken

Published in 1974.  Likewise, our FORTRAN G/H compilers are quite ancient.

A Guide to FORTRAN IV Programming by Daniel D. McCracken

Published in 1965.  Hey, now we are almost going too far the other direction.  Still was very useful in refreshing my memory on FORTRAN coding.

PL/I programming

PL/I Structured Programming (2nd edition) by Joan K. Hughes

This edition was published in 1979, so it is a bit beyond our PL/I.  Remember that these compilers we are using are actually from MVT, so they are even older than MVS 3.8j.  Still, I have been able to use a lot of what is in the Hughes' book to write some PL/I programs that would compile.


Anyway, these are what I would recommend as "must have" titles.  I never pass up a used bookstore or a library book sale.  I have also had great luck buying used books through, which was the source of several of the titles listed above.  If you are interested in pursuing Hercules/MVS 3.8j, even as a hobby, I would recommend you start building a shelf of good reference books.  

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This page was last updated on January 30, 2015.