Chances are, if you're a hacker, your professional interests overlap a little with your choice of books: you might enjoy reading the lines of code in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, or stretching your mind's boundaries with Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
I must admit that I'm enough of a geek that, in my free time, I even sit at home and read technical books The C++ Programming Language from end to end. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I'd like to avoid such things. Please, no recommendations for (albeit great) books like Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment. I want to hear about books that you'd even recommend to non-programmers.
Though I'm loathe to stereotype all hackers, there seems to be a few very popular genres of books that appeal to the techonolgy-minded. No scientific evidence, of course, just what I've seen from my friends both off-line and on:
Why I'm Asking
- Science Fiction (Asimov, etc.)
- Technological Thriller (Crichton, Preston & Child)
- Fantasy (Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Weis & Hickman)
I've always had my own preference for reading, which aligns very closely to what I've written here. When Cryptonomicon first came out, I heard enough press on it on that other site, and in general, so I decided to check it out. Of course, I loved it, and wanted to read more.
Recalling Stephenson's name on the book list at the end of the Jargon File, I started reading from there, beginning with Hofstadter's magnum opus. So far, I've been very pleased with each of the books on the list. If you like any of the books that you've seen so far, chances are you'll like the books on their list.
By posing this question to the community, I hope we can assemble a much larger list of fiction and non-fiction for everyone to try. I'm going to run out of books on the Jargon File's list soon!
I've read plenty of books in the thriller genre, but I'm just getting started to get into fantasy and sci-fi. I'm going to stick to what I know best and recommend the best thrillers I've read so far:
Stephen King's The Stand. Considered by many of his fans the be his finest work. If you think all of King's work is B-grade horror-- ghosts and ghoulies and blood and guts, you're in for a great surprise. This book is very unusual compared to his other books, as it leans firmly towards the science-fiction side, rather than horror. Witness the apocalypse caused by a super-flu, and the aftermath of those immune.
For an encore, try The Dark Tower. Though incomplete at four volumes of a planned six or seven, it's an amazing read at a much larger (!) scope. If you're patient with it, it even begins to dovetail with plot of The Stand; one might even loosely consider it a sequel. King also starts to branch into the fantasy realm with this work. Describing this one is difficult- the Dark Tower itself, stands at the nexus of all the parallel universes, the story details one man's quest to reach and understand it.
Probably the best techo-thrillers I've ever read is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Relic. (If you saw the movie, that doesn't count--it was awful.) Computers, DNA sequencing, viruses, musems, and the tunnels underneath New York City all provide for a great monster story.
For an encore, try Riptide which is probably the closest legal alternative to crack there is. Everyone who I've lent it to had their life stop for a few days until finished. It's a modern tale of pirate treasure, computers, cryptanalysis, and mechanical engineering, patterned after the legend of Oak Island.
All of Preston and Child's book are this good, and along similar themes. If you like one, you'll like them all (which is not true for King!)
So now, to you: what do you recommend?