The best IT books of all time
How we compiled the list - and the ones that didn't make it
By Maxwell Cooter and John E Dunn | Techworld | Published: 11:04, 11 February 2010
The idea for the ten great technology books came about when we were discussing what books we'd like to read on the iPad - that blend of new media with old media.
Go to list of best 10 books here
That got us thinking about how many great books there had been about information technology and how much we'd enjoyed reading them. From there, it was a small step to compiling our list of the greatest.
We set the ground rules early: no computer manuals (although we might return to that subject later) and no science fiction, even though there's a close correspondence with this genre and technology fiction - particularly in the work of Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick and William Gibson.
That still left us with plenty to choose from and our choice cover a wide range of styles and topics from novels and journalism to essays and manifestos. Our choices also cover a range of eras: from the Forties to the Noughties and were published over the last three decades.
Of course, there are plenty of books that we'd like to have included. - but the nature of such lists mean good candidates are often excluded. Several nearly made it on to the list - some because we'd already selected a book close in subject matter or in style.
Here's a short list of the also-rans. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder is a classic read and would be on a lot people's lists. Kevin Kelly's Out of Control is a masterly distillation of thinking on IT and biology, Glyn Moody's Rebel Code and the Open Source Revolution, Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web, John Naughton's A Brief History of the Internet and Kevin Mitnik's The Art of Deception, the guide to fooling some of the people some of the time, also came close.
We considered Michael Wolf's Burn Rate too. It was something close to home for both of us as we were working at CMP when the book came out - and CMP personalities were lampooned without mercy in the book. We shied away from the casualties of the dot.com crash: Boo.Hoo by Ernst Malmsten, Kajsa Leander, and Erik Portanger told the sorry tale of the biggest failure but we thought that was too far removed from most techies' experience while Phil Kaplan's F***d Company was great fun but read more like a hastily pulled-together compilation (which it probably was).
There seem to have been very few novels that capture the ethos of IT. We picked the most famous but Po Bronson's The first 20 million is the hardest is a good airport read too, and Michael Frayn's The Tin Men is a funny account of the early days of computing - we couldn't think of any others without going down the sci-fi route.
There weren't any good biographies or autobiographies that we could think of. Andrew Hodges' superb book on Alan Turing wasn't quite techy enough and several more verged on the hagiographic. One notable omission is probably I,Woz by Steve Wozniak but neither of us had actually read it.
And that's the limitation of the list. Between the two of us, we've read a vast number of books on technology but we haven't read them all. So, this is where we throw it open to you. Please use the Comments box at the bottom of this blog or under the 10 Selected. Remember, no manuals or science-fiction book - there are still plenty of others to choose from.
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