Fiction has been one of my favorite things to read for most of my life. As a child and young adult, I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve always been interested in reading stories.
In the last few years, I’ve been more interested in nonfiction, with a focus on books that looked at how technology affects both people and the world as a whole.
In response to the huge amount of information that technology has made available to us, the format in which I read has changed from print to eBooks and now to audiobooks. This is the subject of one of the books on this list.
With embedded, pervasive computing that adds intelligence to even the most common things and experiences there will be a lot of talk about what that means, both good and bad, for the people who use it.
There are a lot of different books on this list, from people who are excited about our future robot overlords to people who are worried about whether what we’re giving up is worth what we’re getting in return.
Most recently read backwards:
The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu Kindle | Audible
The Master Switch, a book by Tim Wu about Net Neutrality, was a strong contender for this list. In this new book, he talks about a very important subject: the history and possible future of the Attention Economy. He talks about the history of marketing and advertising, and he says that there will always be a balance between useful and intrusive tactics that marketers use to get our attention, make us want things, and help us find things we need.
Digital Cosmopolitans: Why We Think the Internet Connects Us, Why It Doesn’t, and How to Rewire It by Ethan Zuckerman Kindle | Audible
What does Zuckerman say isn’t what everyone thinks about the effects of globalization or how symmetrical and widespread it really is? This has been easier for people to feel in atoms than it has been for bits. Ambitious, far-reaching, and even a little weird.
Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art by Virginia Heffernan Kindle | Audible
Following Susan Sontag’s and Marshall Mcluhan’s studies of photography and TV, Heffernan looks at how the internet has changed the way people live their lives. This is how you look at everything from animated GIFs to Twitter to Tumblr: by taking the position that the internet is art, no matter how crude the forms it takes.
Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity — What Our Online Lives Tell Us about Our Offline Selves by Christian Rudder Kindle | Audible
Rudder used data from OkCupid users to find out how people act in real life and how they act online. This book is quick and fun to read, and it shows how people act in real life and how they act online.
The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism by Arun Sundararajan Kindle | Audible
When Uber and Airbnb were first thought up, they were very different from the norm. In a very short time, they have become commonplace ways of living. Sundararajan, an NYU economics professor, talks about how the dominant players in the sharing economy, start-ups in the space, and other players and ideas will affect the wider socioeconomic picture. Sundararajan predicts how it will all work out in different ways.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson Kindle | Audible
An unfortunate and long-lasting side effect of unmediated communication and public, pseudo-anonymous platforms like Twitter is the mob mentality that they tap into, help spread, and amplify. Ronson looks at it from a lot of different angles, including interviews with people who have been victims of online mobs and people who have been involved in them. He tries to figure out if this is something that society has always done or if it’s something that technology has made us do.
The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian Kindle | Audible
Christian has a unique background. He is a poet who also has degrees in Computer Science and Philosophy. Put these skills to good use: In 2009, he took part in the Loebner Prize, a competition to see which Artificial Intelligence chatbot was the “Most Human Computer.” He was a human confederate. It also gives a prize to the person who is “the Most Human Human.” The author is very good at pointing out the bigger picture in a way that is both fun and clever.
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee Kindle | Audible
The two MIT professors start by looking at self-driving cars. They look at past and present trends to see how autonomous technology will affect the work force. As a society, we should think about how to prepare for a world that is likely to be very different from the one we live in now.
Virtual Worlds by Benjamin Woolley Kindle
This book was written in 2011 before Virtual Reality went through a renaissance. It’s still a seminal work on the subject. Woolley gives historical and philosophical context to VR, and he makes a case for why VR is different from other technologies and how much of an impact it will have on our lives in the future.
Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technologyby Howard Rheingold Web | Amazon
This is the most detailed history of computing that I’ve read so far. Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace built a machine called the Difference Engine in the Victorian era. Alan Turing and John Von Neumann did a lot of work on computers in the 1940s, when technology caught up with the ideas behind the machine and made them a reality. Before ideas come to fruition, it’s interesting to see how long they take to grow.
Interface Culture: How the Digital Medium — from Windows to the Web — Changes the way We Write, Speak by Stephen Johnson Amazon
One of my favorite books on this list because it looks at the subject from a completely new angle and shines a light on so many ideas that have been forgotten or left behind. Though it was written in 1997, it may be more relevant now than it was then. Programmers and coders are the true artists and artisans of our time, according to the PBS show How We Got To Now. That because User Interface and Experience design is becoming more important, it is likely to have a bigger impact than even the most well-known paintings, photos, novels, or films. This is because it is becoming more important. Totally amazing, but you can only get it used as a book.
Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground by Kevin Poulsen Kindle | Audible
In my opinion, Michael Mann’s Blackhat is one of the most underappreciated movies of the last few years. If you agree with me, then this book is right for you. True to form, Mann’s film is very well-researched and shows some of the most realistic hacking and social engineering this side of Mr. Robot, which is a popular movie. In interviews with the cast and crew of the movie, they said that Kingpin was the main source for both the story and making the movie as real as possible, which Poulsen confirmed in an interview. Equal parts fascinating and scary.
We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson Kindle | Audible
In a way, Anonymous is a good example of how technology can be used to get people together for a common goal, even if it’s more like herding cats than setting up an army. To the extent that it’s possible, this book opens up about some of the people who were important in the early days of Anonymous, many of whom were caught and prosecuted. This helps us understand how things got started, how much we can do online, and how easy it can be to break down these kinds of online lives. Wired’s “The Untold Story of Silk Road Part 1 | Part 2” is a great book to read together with this one. It has a lot of the same players and is a great companion.
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis Kindle | Audible
Lewis has a unique way of writing and speaking that has worked well in many of his other books. In this book, he shows how pioneering companies like Silicon Graphics and Netscape came to be, as well as the man behind them, James Clark. A look at the first dotcom boom and bust as well as how companies from that time set the groundwork for, and are models for, today’s start-ups is what this book is all about.
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly Kindle | Audible
Kelly’s more recent book, “The Inevitable,” could have been on this list, but “What Technology Wants” is more meandering and thus more thought-provoking. It covers a lot of the same ground, but in a more embryonic form, which makes it more interesting. It thinks of technology as a living thing, not just a bunch of servers and cables. So, in order to figure out what it needs to do and what the likely consequences will be for us, Kelly does this:
You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier Kindle | Audible
Lanier, an early VR pioneer, has always thought about how technology and humanity should work together. In this book, he asks tough questions about how Web 2.0 was built and how algorithms play a role in our lives.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle Kindle | Audible
Turkle’s book is split into two parts, the first of which is about how robots, specifically adult care robots, have and will play a role in our lives. As a starting point, she looks at how important communication apps, like Instant Messaging, Video Chat, and Facebook, have become in the world and how this has changed our relationships in the real world, too.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell Kindle | Audible
Given how big the video game industry is and how important it has become in our culture, there aren’t many books about it. David Kushner has made a business out of it, and his books Masters of Doom and Jacked are both good. But they cover the business. Bissel’s goal with Extra Lives is very different from what he wants to do with the project. he thinks of himself as a video game player, and he’s a big fan. It’s a personal account of how his addiction changed his life. It talks about the pain and pleasure of living in virtual worlds and getting lost in their stories.
The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay Johnson Kindle
In this book, Johnson says that how one reads may be even more important than what one reads. How do we choose what to read, watch, or listen to in a world where there is so much to choose from? A lot of people read this book to learn how to be more critical of the media. It tells people to stay away from clickbait and focus on primary sources, and it tells them to think about how they read what they read.