Interesting Readings Message Board › 50 Books Every Geek Should Read
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“Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson
Here’s all you really need to know about Snow Crash: First, it’s awesome. You can’t argue with a sci-fi world where the Mafia runs the world’s greatest pizza delivery operation, and delivery men drive heavily armored vehicles to ensure that they make good on Uncle Enzo’s guarantee to the customer. You just can’t. No. Stop. Seriously. Don’t even try.
Second, it invented the term “metaverse.” SecondLife, the Metaverse Roadmap Conference… really pretty much everything about the 3D web wouldn’t be the same without Snow Crash.
“Neuromancer,” William Gibson
What Snow Crash was to 3D worlds, Neuromancer was to Cyberspace. In fact, the terms cyberpunk, cyberspace, jacking in, etc. are all straight out of Neuromancer.
“I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov
1. A robot may not harm a human or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey all orders given to it by humans, except where this would conflict with the first law.
3. A robot must preserve itself, except where this would conflict with the first or second law.
Asimov invented both the three laws and the word “robotics,” and “I, Robot” was one of the first stories to make serious use of both of them. Sadly, the fourth law: “A robot must not allow Will Smith to appear in a movie about it (and screw the first three laws if they get in the way)” was cut by Asimov’s editor.
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams
A few geek culture infractions can be tolerated… Forget the name of that big waddling robot in Star Wars (it’s Gonk), and we’ll let that slide. Tell us you haven’t gotten to Snow Crash yet, and we may just confiscate your geek card for a while. But we’ve got to draw the line somewhere, so here it is: If you’ve never heard a line of Vogon poetry, heard tell of a substance that tastes “not quite entirely unlike tea,” or learned what number is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, I’m afraid we’ll have to destroy your geek card entirely.
Anyway, if you haven’t read Douglas Adams’ classic comic sci-fi series, don’t panic. Just do us these couple favors: First, don’t let anyone know that this happened. And second, grab yourself a copy of Hitchhiker’s immediately and start reading. If you can get through the first three chapters without laughing out loud at least twice, we’ll give you your money back.
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick
‘Cause it’s Blade Runner. And ’cause Philip K. Dick does trippy dystopic fiction better than anybody.
“Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card
Every geek starts out as just a smart little kid. And Ender’s the smartest of them all. Faced with attack by an alien race, the nations of the earth draft the best and brightest children of a generation and send them to Battle School – an orbiting station where they fight zero-g laser tag battles and learn space combat and command while other kids are going to kindergarten.
Ender’s journey isn’t just about saving the world and learning military and leadership strategies. It’s also about growing up as a smart kid.
“The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells
Because you don’t get any more classic than the novel that coined the phrase “time machine.”
“Microserfs,” Doug Coupland
“Generation X” is the book that made Coupland, but it’s “Microserfs” was where the author truly got inside the heads of a generation of coders. ‘Serfs follows Daniel Liu and a group of his friends at Microsoft as they leave the Redmond giant and head to Silicon Valley to form a startup of their own. It captures the spirit of the time (the dawn of the multimedia era) perfectly, and if you’ve ever worked in IT or software development, you’ll feel like you’ve known all of these characters – hell, you might even be one of them.
“Flatland,” Edwin A. Abbott
“Flatland” might just be the coolest thought experiment ever. Imagine a two-dimensional world, populated with living geometric figures. How would they interact? What would happen if they met a three-dimensional being? That’s “Flatland.” Sure there’s some Victorian society social critique in there, but that kind of thing happens when you’re reading sci-fi from 1886.
“1984,” George Orwell
Honestly, pretty much everyone should read this one, but the omission’s even more glaring if you’re in tech. If we have to tell you what 1984’s about, you’re going to Room 101.
“Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley
The antidote to every shiny, optimistic, how-cool-is-the-future sci-fi novel, “Brave New World” warns of what we might lose while gaining so much from technology.