Happy first day of summer! There's something about long, lazy hot afternoons that beg for a little downtime with a good book. And yes, I know, when it comes to laying on a beach or killing time on a plane; the trashier the book, the better. However, it doesn't all have to be James Patterson or Nora Roberts. Here are my summer picks in geek-lit.
1. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - 25th Anniversary Edition, By Steven Levy. This has always been a classic must-read for every techie. Now it's a must-read for two reasons; the original book and the update from author Steven Levy (long-time tech writer for Newsweek). Levy revisits the original "Hacker Ethic", for example that all information should be free, and how that debate rages on today in light of issues like file-sharing on the Internet.
2. The Soul of a New Machine, By Tracy Kidder. Originally published in 1981 at the dawn of the PC era, what better time to read it than now at what some people call the eve of the PC era as touch screens and mobile devices appear to be taking over.
3. Microserfs, By Douglas Coupland. And you thought Coupland's one contribution to humankind was the term "Generation X" (his other big book)! Microserfs, I remind you, was an article in Wired Magazine in 1994 and expanded into a novel in early 1995 just before Windows 95 rocked our collective world. Microserfs argueably predicts the bursting of the tech bubble and even more visionary; the format itself is eerily blog-like, written as journal entries by the main character in his laptop.
4. The HP Way, By David Packard. The writing is dry to say the least. The story is more than a little self-serviing. But who cares? In my humble opinion, Hewlett Packard's way of managing its people was nothing less than revolutionary in the history of corporate culture. Early HP did a lot more than invent oscillators and high-end calculators. Thank HP for business casual dress, open door policies with the boss and Friday beer busts with colleagues after work. HP institutionalized openess and flexibility. HP was a flat organization, before flat was cool.
5. The Cuckoo's Egg, By Clifford Stoll. There are plenty of other tech books I could have put in the number five slot ahead of this one. I don't care. This has to go on the list, if for no other reason Cliff Stoll pulled off the unthinkable. He managed to write a page turner of a book about computers that reads like a Dan Brown novel. But, his really is a true story. Cliff Stoll is very likely the smartest human being I have ever known (even smarter than David Packard, see #4, and he was a genius!). Stoll, who I would describe as a modern day Einstein right down to the mad scientist flyaway hair, chronicles his real-life adventure of stumbling onto and then tracking down a Soviet spy working for the KGB who had hacked his way into the computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Cuckoo's Egg came out in 1989 the year communism fell in Eastern Europe.
And here's one more that perhaps will become a tech classic...
The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, By Nicholas Carr. Just out this month in hardback, I believe the title is self-explanatory. Carr, who asked and answered the question "Is Google making us stupid?"in a long-format article for Atlantic Monthly, is back blaming the Internet for the un-educating of Homo Sapiens.
Feel free to add to the list.
Meantime, you're welcome to follow me on Twitter @oricchio