10 Best Books About Computer Science Update 05/2022

Every topic, including Computer Science, has its own set of necessary readings. Computer Science, like any other field of study, has a history, processes, and enough conflicting viewpoints to fill a library.

We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Must-Read Books for Computer Science Majors for this category. The publications on this list cover everything from industry icon biographies to book-length love valentines to the first computers to how-tos. While the books on this list differ greatly, each is a classic that has remained a timeless addition to the ever-changing area of Computer Science and reflects the love that any successful Computer Science major should have for his chosen ability.

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

As any busy college student knows, our lives are constantly constrained by a lack of time and space — how much can we get done in a day? What is acceptable to leave undone over the course of a lifetime? What level of messiness and disorganization is acceptable? Author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths describe how simple, yet precise, algorithms like those used by computers can also untangle important human questions in their book Algorithms to Live By. The two explain everything from how to have better gut feelings to knowing when to leave things to chance, dealing with an overwhelming number of options, and figuring out how to best communicate with others in fascinating chapter after fascinating chapter.

The Soul of a New Machine

Tracy Kidder

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder is one of the few must-read histories of computer science. Kidder’s masterpiece, first published in 1981, is still one of the most highly acclaimed computer books ever written. The drama, comedy, and excitement of the early years of computers are meticulously recounted in The Soul of a New Machine, at a period when there was only one business attempting to introduce a new microcomputer to the mainstream market. Computer Science majors will also appreciate the go-for-broke approach to business, which is only mentioned briefly here but is still practiced by many high-tech companies.

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Nick Bostrom

What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence, as Hollywood has speculated for years? Will we be saved or destroyed by artificial intelligence? Author Nick Bostrom attempts to answer this and other questions in Superintelligence by laying a foundation for understanding humanity’s and intelligent life’s future. He leads readers on a fascinating journey that starts with reflections on humanity and ends with the sometimes horrifying future of intelligent life. Superintelligence is a must-read for anyone striving to excellence in the field of computer science because of Bostrom’s essential topics and themes that revolve around morality.

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Steven Levy

Steven Levy’s “Hackers,” which is still regarded mandatory reading by some, was written long before the term “hacking” had such a bad connotation. Everyone from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates (before they became the superstars we know today) is among the titular hackers, as are the lesser-known Slug Russell and Lee Felsenstein, all of whom played key roles in the creation of the personal computer. While Hackers is primarily a history of the industry, Computer Science majors will appreciate the charmingly optimistic Hacker Ethic, which includes noble ideals like “Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not by factors such as degrees, age, race, sex, or status;” “Computers have the potential to improve your life;” “Every piece of information should be available for free;” “You can make art and beauty on a computer,” and “You can make art and beauty on a computer.”

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Charles Petzold

What do flashlights, the British invasion, black cats, and seesaws have to do with computers, asks author Charles Petzold in his novel Code? Petzold’s response is a fascinating look at how humans use language and build new ways to communicate with one another. Code is a terrific approach to better grasp — and appreciate — today’s world of PCs, digital media, and the Internet, with its brilliant pictures and connections to familiar items and events.

The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution

T.R. Reid

T.R. Reid’s novel The Chip revisits the microchip’s development, which sparked the electronics revolution. While the race to develop the first chip was heating up among the major tech firms, Fairchild Semiconductor employee Robert Noyce and Texas Instruments’ Jack Kilby took it upon themselves to develop their own versions. The result was a protracted legal struggle about who invented the microchip first. Despite the fact that the book was written just as Noyce was becoming known as the industry’s statesman and fifteen years after Kilby got the Nobel Prize for Physics, Reid chronicles the entire scenario in great detail.

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

Computer Science majors are likely to be familiar with Google’s self-driving cars and their hundreds of logged hours, as well as IBM’s Watson, which easily defeated the top human Jeopardy! players. Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT explore the driving factors behind digital innovations like the Google automobile, as well as the resulting reconfiguration of our lives and economy, in their book The Second Machine. The Second Machine Age provides a not-so-pretty vision of how enterprises and professions of all kinds will need to adapt — or die — while simultaneously imagining the dazzling personal technology and near-boundless access held by the future.

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson

Following the huge success of his biography of Steve Jobs, bestselling author Walter Isaacson wrote The Innovators. Isaacson’s meticulously researched and detailed book details a number of people who have contributed to the computer and the internet throughout history. Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s; Vannevar Bush; Alan Turing; John von Neumann; J.C.R. Licklider; Doug Engelbart; Robert Noyce; Bill Gates; Steve Wozniak; Steve Jobs; Tim Berners-Lee; and Larry Page are among the noteworthy names on the list. The Innovators will go a long way in providing Computer Science majors with both a dose of history and a smidgeon of encouragement to follow in such brilliant footsteps, thanks to its fascinating profiles.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Donella H. Meadows

The “essential primer” for taking systems thinking out of the domain of computers and equations and into the real world has been termed this small but important work by the late Donella H. Meadows. Meadows links some of the world’s most pressing issues – war, famine, poverty, and environmental degradation — to system failures, claiming that, like a system failure, they can’t be remedied by repairing one piece of the puzzle without addressing the others. Thinking in Systems provides Computer Science majors with a fascinating look at the world in everyday language, demonstrating firsthand why and how their chosen major may be the first step toward developing proactive and effective solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.

The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture

John Battelle

If you’re looking for something on the internet, odds are you’ll utilize Google after thinking to yourself, “I’ll Google it.” John Battelle’s book The Search details how Larry Page and Sergey Brin challenged rival search engines, particularly Yahoo!, to build Google into what it is today. Google’s database of intentions — the storehouse and utilization of human curiosity, desires, and exploration — will prove to be the driving force behind the future of technology, according to Battelle’s thesis.

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