Leadership

75 must-read geek books

Atlas Shrugged

This gallery of fiction and nonfiction books every geek should read is a compilation of recommendations from TechRepublic members, contributors, and editors. (You can also view the recommendations in list format in this Geekend post.) If you want to recommend a geek book to the TechRepublic community, post the title in this discussion.

Atlas Shrugged, recommended by Edmond Woychowsky as the ultimate geek book, discusses how modern "geeks" hold the weight of the heavens upon their shoulders like Atlas in the Greek myths. Ayn Rand's tenets are in total contrast to modern business theories (for instance, there is no "I" in team) and suggest that certain individuals are irreplaceable. Edmond wrote, "I find the concept of a world that demands the fruits of geek labor, yet belittles the geeks themselves strikingly familiar."

This book is sure to spark a memory or two in your mind and stimulate conversation, which Edmond's original TechRepublic post did.

Image courtesy Amazon.com

196 comments
mdgabriel
mdgabriel

There are a lot of books on this list that I have read and/or own. There's quite a few that I would strongly dispute belong on this list for a variety of reasons, many of them already eloquently espoused by others. At the risk of catching rotting vegetation in the face, here's what I'd like to see added to round out the list to an even 100: 76. The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury 77. The Lensmen series E.E. ???Doc??? Smith 78. Tau Zero Poul Anderson 79. Riverworld trilogy Philip Jose Farmer 80. The Deryni series Kathleen Kurtz 81. Venus, Inc. Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth 82. Gateway Frederik Pohl 83. Berserker Fred Saberhagen 84. A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr. 85. The Genesis Machine James P. Hogan 86. Dorsai! Gordon R. Dickson 87. A Case of Conscience James Blish 88. Black Easter James Blish 89. Cities in Flight James Blish 90. Retief at Large Keith Laumer 91. The Sector General series James White 92. The Mouse That Roared Leonard Wibberley 93. Flatland Edwin Abbott 94. Shockwave Rider John Brunner 95. Childhood???s End Arthur C. Clarke 96. The City and the Stars Arthur C. Clarke 97. The Andromeda Strain Michael Crichton 98. The Art of War Sun Tzu 99. Gulliver`s Travels Jonathan Swift 100. The Stainless Steel Rat Harry Harrison I leave it to others to agree or disagree. However, I think the key issue here is that we all have the ability to be literate, learn about a wide range of viewpoints and concepts, and vigourously debate them without emotional or physical harm inflicted. Isn't that the truest sense of being "geek"?

heathuser
heathuser

You will have to search author's comments to believe how many include him as an inspiration to write SF and Fantasy. Anyone remember Telzy, Trigger, or The Witches of Karres?

bkaplanr
bkaplanr

Was rather astonished to see how many I *had* read rather than how many not - though couldn't do Vulcan salute to save my life!

RealGem
RealGem

Carl Sagan's Cosmos is a huge one for me, and I've read about half of what's on the list above, so how far off could I be?

abkepkep
abkepkep

Imre Madach - The Tragedy of Man

monkesez
monkesez

What about the wonderful Kate Wilhelm, most notably her award-winning "Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang"?

dburjorjee
dburjorjee

I think you've missed a few very good ones. A for Andromeda by Fred Hoyle, and Airframe by Michael Crichton.

Tharg
Tharg

Pah! Where is de Selby!?

sermic
sermic

list form please.

lists
lists

I stopped reading this list at #1 Atlas Shrugged - one of the worst books ever written - the philosophy expounded in there is of total selfishness.

marine_1033
marine_1033

Excellent book!! Fountain head is just behind this book. What I didn't see was the 5000 year leap? This is a must for everyone, should still be in schools.

gjansen
gjansen

If Alexander Stepanov (STL) can ready Dante in Italian, and Richard Gabriel can recommend reading Robert Frost etc. to tune up one's prose, I think the geek lists can step up the difficulty level a bit. As for Ayn Rand, I have not read her, less out of ideological animus than because philosophizing is to novels as chlorine is to pond life. If you had to pick 50 pages out of War and Peace to rest Tolstoy's reputation on, would you pick it from Austerlitz & Borodino, or all that historical philosophizing at the end?

DesertJim
DesertJim

"Who Invented the Computer" by Alice Rowe Burks, just so you know where the first electronic programmable computer came from and when.

Mike Karp
Mike Karp

This list is just plain silly. Why Ayn Rand? We really need a right-wing misanthrope? Robt Heinlein? Super author, but renowned for his lack of understanding of both science and technology. And, umm... No Asimov? Most embarassing of all: NO RICHARD FEYNMAN?????

timothy.lagerstrom
timothy.lagerstrom

I definitlely agree, it was awesome to see ringworld. An addition I would make is Neverwhere. Also Chaos Theory. As an additional thought, anything by David Eddings or Peirs Anthony are must reads.

jan
jan

Here is a 'cut&paste' of all suggestions I have found in the first 140 posts. For the real geeks :-) ~~~ As I noted in the earlier discussion, Bruce Campbell's "If Chins Could Kill" is an absolute hoot. He documents his travels through the entertainment system, including details of "Evil Dead", "Brisco County", Herc and Xena, etc. The second edition I had featured an update to the original, but I don't know if he's added any 'Burn Notice' material. Good, funny stuff. Please tell me there isn't anyone reading this discussion that hasn't already read "Hitchhiker's Guide". Harry Potter is overrated. It's a great starter drug for early teens, but there's nothing there that hasn't been done dozens of times before. Get your kids Pratchett's "Tiffany Aching" books instead. Better yet, go back to L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time". "1632" Really? There are so many better examples of military SF: anything by Weber or Drake leap to mind. Oops, there's 'Starship Troopers', the mutha of all military SF novels. Four books from the same series? I haven't read 'Serpentwar', but I can't believe all four deserve a place at the expense of any mention of Discworld, Xanth, or Pern. 'Shannara' is for people who think Harry Potter is as good as it gets. I'd suggest Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" (TANSTAAFL!), and Gaimen and Pratchett's "Good Omens"? Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, by Terry Jones. High-Tech thrillers of Daniel Suarez!! Daemon and Freedom Heinlein's The Number of the Beast Anne McCaffrey's Pern Books The Dunes Saga No Charles Stross?? Stephen Baxter? Iain Banks? Stross gets you to near-term yet cutting edge ideas on computing technology, e.g., "Halting State". And geek, you HAVE to think space opera -- I'm definitely down with Alastair Reynolds, but for techno-geeky science-based, Baxter's Xeelee stuff (Ring, Timelike Infinity, etc.) and the granddaddy himself, Banks' Culture novels ... I mean, c'MON!! Sedgewick's "Algorithms" The CRC Handbook of Physics and Chemistry Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "The Black Swan" George Friedman's "The Next 100 Years" Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon Simon Singh's The Code Book Lucifer's Hammer, The Door into Summer, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Rendezvous with Rama, Tau Zero, Jem, Tales of Pirx the Pilot Time Enough For Love, and Notebooks of Lazarus Long If there's any one book that screams it's absence, "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the one. Niven and Pournelle's 'Lucifer's Hammer' could bump any one of about 40 books on this list, and I'd recommend it over Niven's 'Ringworld'. Lucifer's Hammer is a good book to read. It has information about how to plan for a major disaster as well as an interesting read. By the same authors, Footfall, is about an attack and invasion by aliens who look like pachyderms. Brin's Sundiver, Startide Rising and Uplift war are also fun to read. These are stories of interaction between humans and intergalactic civilizations. Gordon R. Dickson's 'Alien Art' is a great sci-fi novel that explores our own self-centrism and asks us to look outside the norm. It's a fun read as well. Many of Stephen King's books could be listed but The Stand for certain Italo Calvino - "Cosmicomics" and "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller" Stanislaw Lem - various Frank Herbert - "The Dosadi Experiment" John Varley - "The Ophiuchi Hotline" And for the love of "god", lose the wacko sociopathic Ayn Rand Without V for Vendetta, I would not call this list as full for geeks The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, Laurence J. Peter, Raymond Hull Body by Science, John R. Little, Doug McGuff The Story of Ping, Marjorie Flack Everything You Know is Wrong, Lloyd Pye The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn Outliers : The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins here's another suggestion for the list: it may be a primarily a chick read, but girl geeks will totally get Diana Gabaldon's Voyager series. The sci-fi element is time travel through the mystical standing stones of Britain, but the detailed panorama of history -- and historical interconnections woven throughout the series -- is fascinating. What on earth? I must admit half the list was good? But not one single book of Terry Pratchett? Alex Beshers series - Rim, Mir and Chi about the evolution of the internet and cyberspace. "The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, by Laurence J. Peter is an interesting read on how corporate America works as well. The book is still relevant." Jennifer Government by Max Berry The Lost Regiment by William R Forstchen Legacy of Aldenata Series by John Ringo Looking Glass series by John Ringo Kris Longknife series by Mike Sheppard Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove the Berserkers series by Saberhagen. These were written in the second golden age of SciFi, and seem to have been tapped for countless ideas in movies. Havoc by R. J. Pineiro How could you leave out The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein Peter & Hull - The Peter Principle Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand Meditations, Marcus Aurelius Discourses, Epictetus Letters from a Stoic, Seneca Individuals and their Rights, Tibor Machan Persons, Rights,, and their Moral Community, Loren Lomasky Essays, Michel De Montaigne The Selfish Gene, Richards Dawkins Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss Ringworld, Larry Niven Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert Heinlein Roman Blood, Steven Saylor Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs The Incarnations of Immortality, Piers Anthony. No David Eddings or Terry Pratchett? Shhhurely some mistake. The Laidoff Ninja by Craig Brown and Javed Ikbal Could 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' be a contender for the list? Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano would be my addition. I also wonder if Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and The Next Wave should be considered. Where is the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King? In my opinion, there are some missing works here, for example: "Martian Chronicles" (Bradbury) and "When Gravity Fails" (George Alec Effinger). And for Comics: "V for Vendetta","The leage of extraordinary gentlemen","The Dark Night Returns" and "Kingdom come" E. E. Smith - The Lensman series Spacehounds of the IPC The Laidoff Ninja by Craig Brown and Javed Ikbal Could 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' be a contender for the list? Absolutely should be Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano would be my addition. I also wonder if Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and The Next Wave should be considered. I am a small "l" libertarian and still say "Atlas Shrugged" changed my life, along with Murray Rothbard's "Libertarian Manifesto". To who ever added Epictitus, most excellent!!! I would add John Stuart Mill, John Locke Aristotle (esp. "On Politics"), and Hereclitus. I would remove all the Middle Earth crap and replace them with "Gormenghast" by Mervyn Peake. Ringworld I found very tedious. Lucifer's Hammer I enjoyed, whie The Mote in God's Eye, I also found dull. Additions: James Blish: A Case of Conscious Chtistopher Alexander: A Pattern Language Heinlein: Moon... yes! Michael Moorcock/Gene Wolfe -maybe?? your move. ALL of James Tiptree, Jr. All of Jim Thompson Mickey Spillane Zelazny: off "Amber" add "Jack of Shadows Samuel R. Delaney: Dhalgren (!!!) Gore Vidal: Messiah See, what is the "list" supposed to represent anyway? Technical competence? Solid grounding in the Western Canon? Add "Zen and the Art of Archery" and most Kurosawa films. Ah well,those more enlightened may have a go. Oh let's not forget all Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, "A Man in Full" (crash and burn baby, and the collected works of L. vBeethoven and the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis! Tertium Organum by P.D.Ouspensky. It will stretch your mind... Where is Jack Vance? Jerry Pournelle?

FlatAffect
FlatAffect

Where is Jack Vance? Jerry Pournelle? All I can say is, this Feist guy had better be good.

egibboy
egibboy

Tertium Organum by P.D.Ouspensky. It will stretch your mind...

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

It is sooo stupid not to just have a text list, regardless of the link provided. It is as much a pain to do a link hunt as it is to fish through a gaggle of images.

senigma
senigma

Must read? Don't think so. A few are fun reads, but most of this list just isn't compelling and a few, like the Rand book, are wastes of trees.

Salax
Salax

Too Many Raymond Fest, c'mon if you follow the same idea you can get all the works of Asimov, Bradbury, Niven, K. Dick, Tolkien and get a 200 book list just from them. In my opinion, there are some missing works here, for example: "Martian Chronicles" (Bradbury) and "When Gravity Fails" (George Alec Effinger). And for Comics: "V for Vendetta","The leage of extraordinary gentlemen","The Dark Night Returns" and "Kingdom come".

daniel.camera
daniel.camera

Where is the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King?

Alzie
Alzie

Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano would be my addition. I also wonder if Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and The Next Wave should be considered.

berniebj
berniebj

Could 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' be a contender for the list?

abc123a
abc123a

The Laidoff Ninja by Craig Brown and Javed Ikbal

andre
andre

Of the 75 books listed here, I have at least 60. Geek is me!!

Gabriel G
Gabriel G

geek books yes, but A LOT of crap.

jgeorge12001
jgeorge12001

Asimov and Clarke: somebody is weird. Two quibbles: 1) The Asimov text says, "Isaac Asimov (Dr. Isaac Asimov in the Star Trek universe) is certainly on that list." I don't understand this; Dr. Asimov's Ph.D. in Biochemistry does not just exist in the Star Trek universe, and was in fact earned decades before the original series. 2) The Clarke book, Profiles of the Future, is described as a novel. It's non-fiction, as the description makes clear. Geeks at least know enough to use terms correctly, I'd have thought. I would have limited the Feist list to at most one or two titles, but that may just be me.

tirvine
tirvine

No David Eddings or Terry Pratchett? Shhhurely some mistake.

slw1948
slw1948

My list is a bit different and well worth mentioning. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand Meditations, Marcus Aurelius Discourses, Epictetus Letters from a Stoic, Seneca Individuals and their Rights, Tibor Machan Persons, Rights,, and their Moral Community, Loren Lomasky Essays, Michel De Montaigne The Selfish Gene, Richards Dawkins Dragons of Eden, Carl Sagan The Art of the Personal Essay, Philip Lopate Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss Ringworld, Larry Niven Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Robert Heinlein Roman Blood, Steven Saylor Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs The Incarnations of Immortality, Piers Anthony.

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

How could you leave out The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein? The number two character is a computer, for crying out loud. Much, Much better than Starship Troopers

MATECH
MATECH

This list is a trap... They're forcing you to click through the images, thus, increasing their SEO relevance... Dirty trick!

frank.reeves
frank.reeves

Havoc by R. J. Pineiro fantastic www.book

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

Why Things Always Go Wrong, by Laurence J. Peter is an interesting read on how corporate America works as well. The book is still relevant.

Dknopp
Dknopp

I think I have read just about all of the fiction listed and some of the non. OF course like everyone I have some additions, but the only one I will say are the Berserkers series by Saberhagen. These were written in the second golden age of SciFi, and seem to have been tapped for countless ideas in movies.

vpv
vpv

Jennifer Government by Max Berry The Lost Regiment by William R Forstchen Legacy of Aldenata Series by John Ringo Looking Glass series by John Ringo Kris Longknife series by Mike Sheppard Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove

azbat
azbat

Others to add (besides Pratchett as mentioned above - some should be in there!) .... Alex Beshers series - Rim, Mir and Chi about the evolution of the internet and cyberspace. Also ... Cryptonomicon ... more so than Anathem which I noticed was mentioned.

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

It has poor character development, an over simplistic plot, and is poorly written. From a review that I read, and wholeheartedly agree with: "Hopefully none of you have wasted your time with what I like to call a 1169 page door stop. This book is honestly worthless. In it the protagonists are all flawless hero's in the mold of a capitalist superman. Everything that they touch generates profits, and they can solve problems that would take a team of mortals weeks all before lunch. The antagonists are all, if you've ever watched the old cartoon "Wackey Races", pretty much capitalist Dick Dastardlys. Everything that they do, is firstly for evil reasons, even if being good would result in better fortunes for themselves, they choose evil, and of course this all backfires on them. Naturally the heroes are for Republican economic ideas, and the bad guys are for socialism." The author of the review is correct. It's main use should be as a doorstop!

bnelson
bnelson

I concur, Feynman rules!

jimw
jimw

I could not have put it better myself ! But what about Fred Moody's "I sing the body electronic: a year with microsoft on the multimedia frontier".

stevieg
stevieg

Greetings, all, I am not sure if the books are for general reading, edification, both,or something else. I am a small "l" libertarian and still say "Atlas Shrugged" changed my life, along with Murray Rothbard's "Libertarian Manifesto". To who ever added Epictitus, most excellent!!! I would add John Stuart Mill, John Locke Aristotle (esp. "On Politics"), and Hereclitus. I would remove all the Middle Earth crap and replace them with "Gormenghast" by Mervyn Peake. Ringworld I found very tedious. Lucifer's Hammer I enjoyed, whie The Mote in God's Eye, I also found dull. Additions: James Blish: A Case of Conscious Chtistopher Alexander: A Pattern Language Heinlein: Moon... yes! Michael Moorcock/Gene Wolfe -maybe?? your move. ALL of James Tiptree, Jr. All of Jim Thompson Mickey Spillane Zelazny: off "Amber" add "Jack of Shadows Samuel R. Delaney: Dhalgren (!!!) Gore Vidal: Messiah See, what is the "list" supposed to represent anyway? Technical competence? Solid grounding in the Western Canon? Add "Zen and the Art of Archery" and most Kurosawa films. Ah well,those more enlightened may have a go. Oh let's not forget all Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, "A Man in Full" (crash and burn baby, and the collected works of L. vBeethoven and the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis! bye, s ipsa res locitur

GDoC
GDoC

But definately intellectual. It is a wonderful construct that I read for the first time as a school assignment back in 1970. I've read it again and again as my own knowledge of the world has grown, and have gained from each reading.

GDoC
GDoC

Though the Incarnations of Immortality Series is a wonderful read, I think one of his more "geeky" reads would be "Bio of a Space Tyrant".

emitretsam
emitretsam

Definitely add the Incarnations of Immortality and also the "Apprentice Adept Series" - Split Infinity, Blue Adept, Juxtaposition; these are a mix of fantasy & sci-fi/technology all in one. Some others for consideration: Robert Heinlein - "The cat who walks through walls: a comedy of manners" and "I will fear no evil".

Bambam9668
Bambam9668

Anything by Saberhagen would have been a good addition

GDoC
GDoC

I've read this book at least a half dozen times, and still can't figure it out! Every time I think I've got it, I find out I'm mistaken! Great read for the last 35 or so years!

brennan
brennan

I found this list rather tedious, and agree with stevieg - although I am not a libertarian. I would like to have seen shorter lists like "10 best books for geeks about the IT workplace" which would have Dilbert, Fred Brooks, Soul of a New Machine etc. And various other categories such as science fiction, fantasy, best books for kids of geeks, most useful reference books (Code Complete FTW) and so on. I find the inclusion of Ayn Rand rather insulting to the notion of 'geek'. I know some geeks like Rand, but then just as many (or probably more) like Ghandi or Bertrand Russell (who are diametrically opposed to arrogant selfishism, sorry I mean objectivism). This list is rather pubescent imnsho. No classics of philosophy (apart from Pirsig, who is still a bit of an outsider), no classical literature, the only romantic work is (rather inevitably) Frankenstein. Not a bad book, but sheesh. This list really makes geeks out to be exactly the kind of juvenile, narrow-minded nerds they so often complain to be regarded as. Better - get hold of "500 Essential Cult Books" which is basically what this list is trying to be in some half-assed fashion. Yes "500 Essential Cult Books" includes "Atlas Shrugged", but it also includes a few hundred others which remove the skew from the picture.

stevieg
stevieg

Hey, Brennan, Thanks for your support. While we may disagree on some issues political I totally support our disagreement and am glad to see that you understand my general complaint with the list. In fact you stated it with far more eloquence than I. It didn't occur to me that the list is generally jejune and seems to assume very slight literary familiarity on the part of "geeks". A term I totally abhor by the way and never use even a humorous or ironic sense. bye, s