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Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Technology Books and Novels? 175

It can be a nonfiction book, or a fictional narrative where technology plays a key role. I recently started to read 'The Rise of the Robots' by Martin Ford. It talks about how robots are threatening mass unemployment more than they ever did before. I also found Andrew Blum's 'Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet' quite insightful. I would like to read 'The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers'.

What are some of your favorite tech-centric books? And which book are you currently reading, or recently finished?
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Slashdot Asks: What Are Your Favorite Technology Books and Novels?

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  • by fatnlazy ( 587266 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:23PM (#52873033) Journal
    along with his follow-up Freedom.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Neal Asher's Polity/Cormac Series starting with Gridlinked.

  • I like reading physics books. Many, if not most, are predictable to one degree or another but once in a while someone actually tries to resolve some of the most common and egregious physics problems. Frank Close and Lee Smolin come to mind.
  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:30PM (#52873093)

    IMO modern sci-fi has been "dumbed" down to just action flicks. Originally, "classic" Sci-Fi dealt with the _social_ issues and problems that technology created. We got some amazing stories.

    Everything by:

    * Isaac Asimov -- especially Foundation series.
    * Robert A. Heinlein
    * Arthur C. Clarke

    Is A+.

    There are also plenty of Feynman videos on YouTube. Fascinating just to listen to him. He's the true skeptic -- an open mind and willing to _explore_ issues.

    Buy why limit this to just novels though?? For modern decent sci-fi TV would include:

    * Continuum
    * Firefly
    * Fringe
    * Lost
    * Star Trek: The Next Generation
    * X-Files

    Isn't that the whole point of good Sci-Fi -- to light our imagination with possibilities?

    Not the "Time Travel' Deus Ex Machina so much modern sci-fi crap resorts to.

    • by Punko ( 784684 )
      Science Fiction (to me) has always boiled down to deal with the question "what does it mean to be human?".
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Science Fiction (to me) has always boiled down to deal with the question "what does it mean to be human?".

        That pretty much describes all good drama, too. To me, science fiction is any story that uses an alternative setting that is different from our own so that it can deal with the question above in a way that makes people think rather than causing them to have a knee-jerk reaction that makes them stop thinking, as it would if the same story were set in the present universe and at the present time.

        Addition

    • I particularly agree with your mention of Isaac Asimov in general, and his Foundation series in particular.

      Recently I've been working on an extended project that involves reading a lot of quotes about science from a lot of people. The result of filtering through almost 10,000 quotes is a resounding +1 for Asimov. And G.K. Chesterton.

    • by XXongo ( 3986865 )

      IMO modern sci-fi has been "dumbed" down to just action flicks.

      Modern sci-fi is not entirely dumbed-down action flicks; you just have to be a little choosy and spend some time looking. I loved the book The Martian, which has a lot of technology in it (the movie was a bit dumbed down compared to the book, but not entirely). A little older, I also liked Mars Crossing, another sci fi novel about Mars with a lot of realistic details.

      Other than those, check out the revelation space series by Alastair Reynolds, an astrophysicist who writes mostly space-opera material, but

      • by Strider- ( 39683 )

        I loved the book The Martian, which has a lot of technology in it (the movie was a bit dumbed down compared to the book, but not entirely).

        My only problem with "The Martian" is that the premise for him being marooned on Mars (at least in the film) is completely bogus. Mars has 1% of the atmospheric pressure of earth, there's absolutely no way that a dust storm could cause anything like the effects it had in the movie. It certainly could not lift rocks, never mind knocking over a rocket.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I haven't seen the film but I was thinking something along those lines last night looking at some images of a rocky cliff on Mars from Curiousity. All those sharp edges instead of the worn rounded rocks seen in places with a lot of blowing sand on Earth.
        • <quote>

          <quote><p>I loved the book The Martian, which has a lot of technology in it (the movie was a bit dumbed down compared to the book, but not entirely).</p></quote>

          <p>My only problem with "The Martian" is that the premise for him being marooned on Mars (at least in the film) is completely bogus. Mars has 1% of the atmospheric pressure of earth, there's absolutely no way that a dust storm could cause anything like the effects it had in the movie. It certainly could not
        • The author (Andy Weir) acknowledged that the dust storm wouldn't have had the effects it did. He said he had to have a way to strand Watney, and chose a dust storm as the only plausible way to do so. Also, the ending scene you mention actually did have issues with too much atmosphere, that was the whole reason that the MAV didn't reach the right speed and missed the rendezvous.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      I'd also add "The Expanse" to this list, both the TV Series and the novel series, and don't forget the new Battlestar Galactica.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        "The Expanse" on TV has excitement but they should have got someone who has at least heard of the Apollo space program to look over the script. "We've only got two hours of air in this fucking enormous space" and a few other bits where plot depended on physics being wrong was a bit annoying at times.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      Isn't that the whole point of good Sci-Fi -- to light our imagination with possibilities?

      That's true of all fiction. The problem with science fiction is that its fans lose track of the "fiction" part and start thinking what they read is real or possible.

    • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @06:59PM (#52875315)
      I'm nto sure why you want to look at cheesy dumbed down action shows that make a mockery of sci-fi and and then ask why TV is excluded.

      Take a look at the Honor Harrington or Lost Fleet series. They try vey hard to get the physics perfect, but it's all about the human/social issues. The Troy Rising trilogy by John Ringo is also excellent and very much about the people.
    • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

      * Isaac Asimov -- especially Foundation series. * Robert A. Heinlein * Arthur C. Clarke

      Is A+.

      I read them as a child. I recently started rereading some of them and noticed/remembered a couple of things...

      Heinleins politics were questionable in some places and awful in others. Despite, for example, Startship Troopers, Red Planet and Number of the Beast approvingly showing un-admirable traits, I enjoy them and recommend them to all.

      Asimov wasn't so political but he did seem to unwittingly subscribed to US "Manifest Destiny" and rarely considers any other parts of humanity except, perhaps, a British

      • When I read Starship Troopers, I took it as mostly a parody. I don't think that he was seriously glorifying the military mindset offered in the book.

    • IMO modern sci-fi has been "dumbed" down to just action flicks. Originally, "classic" Sci-Fi dealt with the _social_ issues and problems that technology created. We got some amazing stories.

      You might enjoy 2312 from Kim Stanley Robinson.

      You might enjoy the previous books from the Red Mars trilogy as well, but I've been having some hard time with them. I'm definitely recommending 2312, but somehow, at least reading them in this order, I feel that the trilogy feels like plethora of extras in a good movie. A history of sorts, of how the stage for 2312 was built.

      Iain M. Banks also would fit the 'light our imagination with possibilities' theme. Perhaps not so much with social issues.

    • "IMO modern sci-fi has been "dumbed" down to just action flicks. Originally, "classic" Sci-Fi dealt with the _social_ issues and problems that technology created. We got some amazing stories."

      All is not lost. Neal Stephenson still lives.

  • The Adolescence of P1.
    • One of my favorites. I would like to find a new copy, though. Mine is a paperback given to me by a friend back in the early 1980s. I have to be very careful when I read it now.
  • Nonfiction (Score:5, Informative)

    by cecurry ( 4252485 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:31PM (#52873109)
    - Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder - What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff
    • by brausch ( 51013 )

      I loved the Kidder book. I was a customer of Data General during that time and the book captured the development of the MV-series beautifully.

      • Soul of a New Machine is possibly also the best book available on managing programmers.
      • My fourth grade teacher brought in Reader's Digest magazines for her class and had them in back for anyone who wanted to read them. I read Soul of a New Machine and liked it so much that I found the real book in the library and read it. I then had to get my EE degree so 'that I could do something similar with my life. Almost twenty years later I was randomly wandering around the bowels of my factory taking a break from a years long death march project and there behind a glass window in the corner of a comp
  • Stephensons (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 101percent ( 589072 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:32PM (#52873123)
    With the introduction of things like "every student gets an ipad" and young people literally not even owning a laptop, I think Stephenson's In The Beginning was the Command Line is probably his most valuable work that becomes more precious every year.
    • And it's still available for free (in a zipped TXT file!) here [cryptonomicon.com].

      His image of the various vehicles representing OSes is indelibly burned into my brain, as is his vision of Apple as a sort of free-thinking "commune populated by sandal-wearing, peace-sign flashing flower children" that turns out to be a facade, run by a bunch of control freaks who want to dictate your every move. (And before some Apple defenders get ready to attack me, note that Stephenson insults just about everybody in the essay. But th

  • If you're just looking for something to read that is technical, the folks at Palo Alto have put together a good list of books as "canon" for the security industry. Worth a look anyway.

    https://www.paloaltonetworks.com/threat-research/cybercanon

  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:38PM (#52873199)
    Although his later works (such as Anathem) felt like they went off the edge of the world, Cryptonomicon combines a clever story, a prescient look at the emerging internet age, and some thoughtful nods to encryption schemes, all in a decent story. IMHO one of his best, and a good all-round sci-fi yarn...
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Reamde is great. He totally overcomes his inability at pacing, and this story of a problem that just keeps getting worse and bigger is his first "page-turner" since Snow Crash.

    • +1 for Cryptonomicon. It's magnificent.

    • When does it effing start? I read 330 pages in AND NOTHING HAD HAPPENED YET! I gave up!

  • SICP is still around and is now under a Creative Commons license.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:42PM (#52873235) Journal
    Martian Chronicles are at the top of my list. Maybe not exactly realistic, but a great read.
  • Love the approach of having a geek, socially dysfunctional girl kick the butt of the CIA or other high profile criminals / businesses with so much ease, and being so resourceful. Even though everything is not always totally realistic, I like the storyline. And I'm still looking for a way to transfer a few million from an oversea crook to my own account that I opened under a false ID too...
  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:45PM (#52873269)

    https://www.amazon.com/Way-Thi... [amazon.com]

    Originally published in 1988, it was one of the books that sparked my interest in engineering and science as a child. The illustrations were both fascinating and informative without being too technical, and at times funny.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:46PM (#52873273) Homepage Journal

    Cliff Stoll's account of how he tracked the CCC hackers is a very good read.

  • by ControlsGeek ( 156589 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:47PM (#52873291)

    Tracy Kidders book is most memorable.

  • Also, The Wages of Destruction. Best analysis of why Germany did not have the economy to win WW2, and how they tried anyway. That and mismanagement of the Luftwaffe and the DRG. Examples of how stupid leaders can pull a country down a black hole.
  • Two of my favorite books that I've read this year were about Bell Labs (The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the great age of American innovation) and the history of Intel (The Intel Trinity).
  • Richard Stallman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 101percent ( 589072 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:53PM (#52873353)
    Stallman's Free Software, Free Society if you're too lazy to connect to gnu.org/philosophy. Say what you will, but rms is simply a legend and too important to overlook whether or not you agree or disagree with his views.
  • by recharged95 ( 782975 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @02:56PM (#52873385) Journal

    Chaos [amazon.com]

    One of the inspirations for me in pursuing education in Chaos Theory (and applications of course).

  • "Dark Matter", Blake Crouch - this is really not time travel but Many Worlds of quantum physics, played out in fictional drama. Didn't really care for it. Technical parts were so-so, but mostly, too many "bad guys" ( won't give a spoiler ) kills necessary plot climax.
    "Timeline" Michael Crichton - One of my favorites. Enough tech to properly suspend disbelief, coupled with good midieval historical content and great plot line. Movie sucked but book is a must-read.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its still Mythical after all these years and ten major releases of Microsoft Project.

  • By John L. Heilbron. Fascinating history and he's not afraid of using a little math - which alas too many are.
  • Creepy futurism buried in intense action:

    https://www.amazon.com/Drift-Wars-Brett-James/dp/0985086424/

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @03:29PM (#52873677) Homepage Journal

    Basically daunted by the topic, but I read a lot of books. Started with classic SF such as Heinlein and Asimov, but trying to pick the best is an overwhelming challenge. I do see mention of those two above, but Iain M Banks seems to be missing. His Culture books are ultimately optimistic about the future in the same way that Star Trek is. Too well written to dismiss as space opera, though grandiose enough.

  • The Expanse series (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kethinov ( 636034 )

    I didn't think good sci-fi was getting made anymore until I came across The Expanse [wikipedia.org]. The novels are terrific (especially the 5th novel) and Syfy's TV adaptation is surprisingly good as well. Both are worth a look.

    The premise is a near-future sci-fi setting with as little magic tech as possible. Almost all sci-fi tech in the story consists of reasonable derivations of current technology. Newtonian physics in space is respected. There's no inertial dampeners. There are no relativity-busting star drives. Gravi

  • by gsliepen ( 303583 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @03:31PM (#52873697)

    By Douglas Hofstadter.

  • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @03:32PM (#52873703)

    It's a unique work regarding tech because of its absence. The entire society could have incredible technology, but they choose not to. It's Amish, for lack of a better way of describing it. They know it exists, but they decided that they didn't want it. With only a few exceptions. Dibs and dabs of incredible tech such as interstellar travel and sheilding technology and poison snoopers, but for the most part they eschew the rest and try to develop people rather than machines. A totally unique approach to technology in the future. What if it gets bigger than we're comfortable with, and we simply decide to do away with it for our own good? I think Frank Herbert was the first person to really explore that question in depth.

  • Silver Metal Lover, by Tanith Lee. Human and android fall in love and deal with that, and regular life in a typical urban setting. Lots of social-issue philosophising underneath the solid characters and romance.
  • just came out.
  • My favorite book

  • I really enjoyed Eric Drexler's seminal work, "Engines of Creation," even if he was off the mark about timelines and how nanotech would evolve. Philip Ball's "Designing the Molecular World" is enlightening too.
    • I really enjoyed Eric Drexler's seminal work, "Engines of Creation," even if he was off the mark about timelines and how nanotech would evolve.

      His second book, Nanosystems, has a lot more realism in it.

  • by A10Mechanic ( 1056868 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @04:13PM (#52874011)
    When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth, by Cory Doctorow. It has an interesting take on the chaos of something catastrophic happening, and the human condition. That's as far as I can go without spoilers...
  • GPL and its sequels LGPL and AGPL by GNU
  • by LordHighExecutioner ( 4245243 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @04:26PM (#52874119)
    Don't be fooled from the innocent aspect [amazon.com]: as it has been pointed out by the first reviewer, this book gives through allegories a dramatized explaination of UNIX networking. Highly recommeded! This nice book has been reviewed here on Slashdot [slashdot.org] some time ago.
    1. Read The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.
    2. Read Computer Lib/Dream Machines by Ted Nelson
    3. Read Godel, Escher, Bach... by Hofstader
    4. Go to college and learn enough math to read The Art of Computer Programming by Knuth
  • It is the story of the developer of the checkers program that beat the world champion and the story of the matches between them.

    A very interesting read.

  • by hambone142 ( 2551854 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @04:45PM (#52874255)

    An entertaining book on Richard Feynman's pranks and interests.

    • by elistan ( 578864 )

      An entertaining book on Richard Feynman's pranks and interests.

      Yep, that along with What Do You Care What Other People Think? and Tuva or Bust!. Plus James Gleik's Genius about Feynmen. I also liked Gleik's Chaos and am currently reading his The Information.

      For fiction, I like Alastair Renolds' House of Suns and Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep.

  • True Names [wikipedia.org] is an amazingly prescient work.

    It clearly presents full-blown world-wide Internetworking, Virtual Reality, A.I. agents, hacker/cracker cabals, cyberwarfare, and a number of other important concepts (one of which I won't mention to avoid a major spoiler) - as the fundamental and necessary background for a rollicking good story.

    Published in 1981!

    Vinge, considered a seminal work of the cyberpunk genre. It is one of the earliest stories to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace, which woul

  • “A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System The Early Years (1875-1925)”.

    Teaser available here. [telephonecollectors.info]

  • by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @07:14PM (#52875413)
    All the IPv6 books from O'Reilly & Associates. Also, an old favorite of mine - Unix Haters' Handbook
  • Iain M. Banks

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @08:31PM (#52875869) Homepage Journal

    And not literary sophistication, right?

    If we're talking pure joy of tech, for me it has to be EE Doc Smith's SPACEHOUNDS OF THE IPC [gutenberg.org], originally published in Hugo Gernsback's AMAZING STORIES in 1931.

    Now remember for readers in 1931 radio was high tech. Ever build a crystal radio set? Did you wonder what the point was? Well if you were a kid in the early 20s, with a wooden plank, a spool of wire, and a hunk of galena, you could build yourself the most advanced, high tech communication instrument on the planet. When the story was published in 1931, the hottest new tech was the vacuum tube radio. This took a few more premanunfactured parts -- the vacuum tubes obviousl, but still if you were ambitious and clever with your hands and could solder wires and cut and bend sheet metal, you still could build the most sophisticated communication receiver on the planet.

    The story takes place in a high tech future that seems plausible for someone in '31. There is regular spaceliner service between Earth and Mars. Interesting side note -- these spaceliners operate by a kind of remotely broadcasted power, and use that to power their reactionless drives. If you were *very* sophisticated at the time, you would realize this avoids all the rocket equation related implausibilities of ships that have to carry the reaction mass to maintain constant acceleration. The ships are guided by beacon stations (radio of course!), but the station keepers have been getting sloppy, so the line sends their best computer (a *person* of course!) to pin their ears back.

    The liner is attacked by an alien spaceship, cut apart, and towed in pieces to Jupiter.It is built in many small airtight compartments (like an OCEAN liner) so most of the people are still alive, including our hero who is stuck in small piece with a beautiful (yay) rich (double yay) girl. He manages to escape (I forget how), and they crash on Ganymede, which turns out to be just like Earth but with lower gravity.

    Now here's the problem: the line is building a new supership; if they only knew everyone was being held at the moons of Jupiter they could rescue them. But as far as they know the liner just disappeared.

    So what our hero and is lovely, plucky helpmate must do is something familiar to every red-blooded Depression era nerd: BUILD A RADIO SET! Only they've got nothing; they've got to work their way up from paleolithic tech all the way up to (their) present, figuring out how to smelt metal, blow glass, generate electricity, and reverse engineer the very latest high tech vacuum tube.

    This kind of story represents a way of imagining the future of tech that we we never be able to believe in again; one in which a single heroically brilliant nerd can really master everything from banging the rocks together all the way up to the very cutting edge. You can imagine the hero of this book figuring out how to melt silica and blow glass, but you couldn't imagine him improvising a chip fab.

  • My favorite new tech book is Rationality from AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky:
    https://intelligence.org/ratio... [intelligence.org]
    (or as a usable but not always perfect TeX document: https://github.com/jrincayc/ra... [github.com] )

  • by AntiSol ( 1329733 ) on Monday September 12, 2016 @10:20PM (#52876331)

    The Commodore 64 User's Guide - taught me my first programming language.
    The Commodore 64 Technical reference guide - a riveting sequel.

  • Which is also science and passion.
  • In non fiction, Horowitz & Hill: The Art of Electronics. I got the third edition recently (the only edition I own) and it's just fantastic! Mackay's information theory and inference book is also a great fireside read. Despite it's many detractors, I've always been partial to numerical recipes as well. All those three are great books in a conversational style aimed at technical types but without assuming any particular expertise in the field.

  • Spook Country by William Gibson (fiction)
    Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin (non-fiction)

    also...
    Under A Green Sky by Peter D. Ward, Ph. D.
    This one is paleontology, non-fiction about the greenhouse effect and the Permian extinction. A good read!

  • The Books by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson make for good technology novels and giving some insights into the present and near future.
    From Gibson I'd recommend the Bridge Triology [wikipedia.org] and the Neuromancer/Sprawl Triology [wikipedia.org].

    From Neal Stepheson I'd recommend Snow Crash [wikipedia.org], The Diamond Age [wikipedia.org] and Reamde [wikipedia.org].

  • I try to update this regularly.

    * The Hyperion series by Dan Simmons is AMAZING. I think my favorite.
    * The Martian by Andy Wier. MacGyver on Mars. What's not to love? Actually pretty technically accurate, near-future Mars mission goes bad, one crew member is left for dead and stranded.
    * Peter Watts writes some good hard scifi...the Rifters series is pretty awesome, dealing with psychologically damaged people whose trauma makes them adapted for deep-sea work, and Blindsight, which has a crew led by a genetica

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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