A few years back we had people walking around with their noses in books, bumping off door frames and looking for missing pages of a one that’s falling apart. Fast forward to now, we have people reading their Kindles in buses, and upending their workspaces looking for that charger they used a few days ago. Whether you belong to the former or latter, one thing’s for sure, bet you love to curl up on the sofa with a strong cup of coffee and a good book.
While your cushion-and-coffee book sessions can be conducted with any books, we generally agree that we shouldn’t be falling asleep in the middle (aka, please don’t be boring). For the techie nerds, this proves a bit problematic, as all the books (How to code 101, anyone?) tend to be just a tad too theoretical. As a techie reader who loves cushion-and-coffee sessions myself, I found myself a few choices that provide the perfect program for your coffee.
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
For those not familiar with Dan Brown’s work (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons) his complex storylines and plot twists would serve well in overclocking your brain. Digital Fortress, his techno-thriller novel published in 1998 is no exception. While being somewhat of an oldie, it still draws in readers like a good old classic should, with promises of a digital world being unfolded.
The best part about the book is, it’s not all fiction with no fact. While it’s hard to differentiate between the two, Digital Fortress is based on a solid foundation of very accurate factual theories. Readers who delve into this book come out with knowledge of key theories like encryption, and slightly more complex details like how a rotating cleartext works (if that sounded like gibberish to you, give this book a try).
The book primarily deals with government surveillance of a citizens’ “private” digital data, and the ethical implications of the technology and how it is used. Readers will find themselves questioning just how private their online lives are. And with the revelations about the NSA, they would also question whether this book is actually fiction as well.
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
Twitter seems like a perfect start-up success story. A group of young programmers with big hearts and bigger ambitions building up an $11.5 billion company from a failing podcast company. Today Twitter boasts more than 200 million active users and has affected business, politics, media, and other fields in innumerable ways.
While the title sounds like the usual “how we started this company” story, Hatching Twitter is far from a normal narrative story. It is to date one of the most realistic depictions of the initial struggle of a startup that readers can find. One can arguably say it’s a bit too pessimistic, but the fact remains that it’s not over glorified and struggles are not hidden.
Bilton’s take on the startup story leans more toward the emotional side rather than the technical, which serves to make it stand out more. While the technical details can be found anywhere, the emotions, the atmosphere, the environment, the backstabbing, betrayals, paint a different picture from what readers are used to. In short, this is one of those books that describe how humans deal with the starting and success of a big company.
The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon by Steven L Kent
Did you know Pacman was originally called Puck Man? And that the only reason it was changed was that the developers realized how easy it would be to substitute the P with an F? The Ultimate History of Video Games reveal the entirety of the journey of the gaming industry, from something played alone in a basement to a culture that plays tournaments worldwide. And it does so while dropping bits and pieces of information we never knew we needed to know.
This book is a must-read for every gamer out there, with the range of the book varying from arcade and television to PC and mobile devices. With solid research backed up with personal interviews of a lot of well-known names, readers can go in depth on how the video game industry developed.
What sets this apart from other books is the friendly and humorous writing style that Kent employs. While most books/blogs/videos about the gamer world can be a bit daunting to a person who is unfamiliar with the community, Kent’s narrative style makes it appealing to hardcore gamers and the casual reader alike.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Another tech thriller that gained traction, Daemon embodies one of the underlying fears of modern society, what would happen if a program got out of control? As the Chicago Sunday Times states,“Daemon does for surfing the Web what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean.”
Sounds intriguing? Wait, there’s more. While at first glance Daemon is all about gamers and programmers and other techies, as the plot unfolds readers find themselves drawn into social and economical explorations brought on by these tech trends as well. The story is fast paced, with twists and turns and tangles here and there to keep the reader just wanting more. You’re definitely going to need more than a few cups of coffee with this book.
The fast-paced storyline is backed up with solid theories, and most importantly, the very real possibility in everyone’s mind of a takeover by technology. Suarez takes the rather mainstream concern out of the readers head and gives it a whole new take.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
One of the more conventional biographies in the list, this book, published in 2015, deals with Elon Musk’s life from his childhood to PayPal, on to Tesla and SolarCity. Vance spiced up the story by getting interviews with multiple people, including Musk himself, people close to him and people present in key points of his life.
While offering a lot of insight into Musk’s life, the regular tech nerd can also be satisfied with the insight it delivers on green energy and space launches. Vance addresses a key question using Musk’s story: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? The resulting book is an insightful window into the changing world of technology.
Vance also has a unique writing style that was quite possibly one of the factors that aided the success of this book. The simple, enthusiastic writing style, combined with flashes of occasional random details in Musk’s life (such as the nanny manager for his five children) serve to put this book apart from the “boring biography” shelf.
So those are the recommendations for any good old-fashioned tech-themed cushion-and-coffee you might want to have. Do you agree with the picks? Have something better? Do let us know in the comments!