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.
J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular books in the fantasy genre and has captured the hearts and enriched the imaginations of millions of geeks and non-geeks. The story about a young Hobbit who inherits a magical ring and must carry it to the volcanic mountains of Mordor where it must be destroyed contains all of the essential elements of a great work of fantasy and literature. The Lord of the Rings is a must-read for everyone.
Perhaps the only novel written in sync with a movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey is Arthur C. Clarke's and Stanley Kubrick's joint masterpiece. After a mysterious, ancient monolith discovered on the moon sends a signal toward Saturn, the crew of the Discovery is set to investigate what is out there. Equipped with the latest in computer technology, HAL 9000, the crew embarks on their mission, only to later realize that HAL 9000 was created too much like the human mind.
Neal Stephenson's cyberpunk novel Snow Crash is set in the not-too-distant future, when the Mafia controls pizza delivery, and the United States is a patchwork of corporate city-states. The book's title is the name of a drug that lead character Hiro Protagonist's best friend blows his mind on.
Another popular book by Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead is the story of a struggling architect; however, it's really about the strength of the individual, good and evil, and fascism. Though it was written during World War II, it is still relevant today.
This geek book was recommended by TechRepublic member mudpuppy1 in the discussion about Atlas Shrugged.
Imagine what would happen if, when you graduated from college, an engineering firm hired you, coerced you into working excessive overtime, and exploited your naivete about the way the workplace is supposed to function. Author Tracy Kidder witnessed this during his visit to Data General in the 1970s and wrote about it in his book, The Soul of a New Machine. Now, almost 30 years later, the book is still relevant to today's geeks.
This geek book was recommended by TechRepublic member JackOfAllTech in the discussion about Atlas Shrugged.
Ever since the late 1950s, hackers have been trying to bend the rules, take risks, and find unorthodox ways to solve problems. Author Steven Levy chronicled those brainiacs in his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which he recently updated for the book's 25th anniversary edition.
This geek book was recommended by TechRepublic member JackOfAllTech in the discussion about Atlas Shrugged.
Brave New World is a look into a utopian future where humans are pharmaceutically controlled to serve the ruling order. Author Aldous Huxley tells the story with a 1930's point of view of the future, but it's still astonishingly relevant.
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
Actor Bruce Campbell is probably best known for his role as Ash in the film Evil Dead, but he has also appeared in a multitude of movies, TV shows, and video games. In this memoir, he describes his experiences as a self-proclaimed B-movie actor.
H.P. Lovecraft's horror novel Shadows Over Innsmouth has inspired many authors to revisit the New England town where the original story took place to once again scare readers. The book pictured above contains several spin-off novels, as well as the original.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy merges traditional science fiction with a comedic story and crazy characters and scenarios. This modern science-fiction novel by Douglas Adams is a must-read for anyone who considers themself a geek.
Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man is one of his most popular works. This collection of stories merge science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The title story is about a man whose tattoos come to life in their own stories.
A stimulating look into the way the human mind works, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid uses examples from Kurt Godel, M.C. Escher, and Johann Sebastian Bach to examine how life, thoughts, and technology are linked.
Show-Stopper! is the tale of the creation of Windows NT 3.1 in the early 1990s. Author G. Pascal Zachary also looks at programmer life behind the Microsoft facade and describes how working on this project destroyed some team members' lives.
What would you do if you discovered a hacker on your network? What if you realized that hacker was tapping into resources at universities, defense contractors, and military bases? In The Cuckoo's Egg, Cliff Stoll recounts how he found, tracked, and eventually captured a hacker in action.
Every IT pro has used Google, and yet, I doubt many of us know how Google got its start and what went on behind the scenes at the company. In The Google Story, authors David A. Vise and Mark Malseed give you the complete inside story.
The Road Ahead is Bill Gates' analysis of the computer revolution as seen just after Windows 95 was released. His predictions were so far off (things happened much faster than he predicted) that he had to re-release this book less than a year later with accelerated timelines.
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
Wikipedia and its related sites have changed the world of information management. In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, authors Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams look at how Wikipedia has changed the way we collaborate on and share information. The authors also examine how businesses can use wikis to efficiently publish and manage information.
Co-founder of Apple Computer and quirky technologist Steve Wozniak tells his story in iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon. From the creation of the PC to the founding of Apple to his many other projects, Wozniak keeps the reader engaged in an entertaining story.
What geek library would be complete without at least one work from Jules Verne? Perhaps Verne's most famous work, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is an adventure story about a French writer who embarks upon a mission to discover what the mysterious "whale" really is. He is soon captured by none other than Captain Nemo, a wealthy man who has turned his back on society.
Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? tells the exploits of Rick Deckard, an android killer in a post-nuclear San Fransisco where most humans have emigrated to Mars. Deckard's task is made harder by the fact that the androids he's supposed to kill look and act like humans. The novel Blade Runner is based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
Some authors are required reading for any good geek, and Isaac Asimov (Dr. Isaac Asimov in the Star Trek universe) is certainly on that list. Set in the far-distant future, Foundation (and the subsequent tales) is the story of the Galactic Empire run by humans who have all but forgotten Earth. Brilliant mathematician Hari Seldon has calculated that the Galactic Empire will collapse within 500 years, leaving a new Dark Age. Seldon has a plan, however; he will create the Encyclopedia Galactica: the largest-ever collection of human knowledge. The only problem is that it will take generations to complete.
Harry Potter is a series that geeks and their kids can enjoy. The story is based around a group of pre-teens (to begin with) who are endowed at birth with magical powers and who must use those powers to fight evil for the good of the world.
When a comet shower blinds most of the world's population, the few humans who can still see must try to rebuild civilization while fighting flesh-eating plants called triffids in The Day of the Triffids.
Another must-have for geeks and their proto-geek children, the C.S. Lewis fantasy classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (as well as the rest of the Narnia series) is a tale about a group of children who stumble into a magical world via a wardrobe. The children then band together to rid this magical world of the evil Witch and her followers.
For readers who are new to H. G. Wells, The Time Machine is a good starting point. It's an epic tale about time travel, humanity, and technology in a future world where the human race has split into two sub-races. The time traveler must help to save the weaker, more child-like of the races from the stronger, more animalistic race. Wells also manages to put a great hook on the end of the story by (spoiler alert) having the time traveler suddenly leave his "normal" time to go to who knows what time period.
The only sci-fi/fantasy part of this book is in the very beginning when the town of Grantville, WV is teleported to 17th century Germany; the remainder of 1632 discusses how 1,000 or so "up-timers" manage to survive in "down-time" Germany. Perhaps the most intriguing part about this book is that the reader community is not only allowed to contribute to the canon of the story, but actually encouraged to expand and develop the new universe. There are collections of fan sequels and spin-offs, as well as tomes penned by the original author and many other authors. It's definitely unique.
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five follows Billy Pilgrim who, after being abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, becomes unstuck in time. We read about his long stay on that planet, as well as his time in a POW camp in Dresden, Germany, which is based on Vonnegut's own experiences.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
An engaging twist on the classic The Wizard of Oz, Gregory Maguire's Wicked looks at the original from a slightly skewed point of view. If you enjoy this book, be sure to check out Maguire's other, similar works.
As much as conspiracy theorists would like us to believe otherwise, there is no credible evidence that humans have ever made contact with - or even detected - aliens. However, if we did, the story could go something like Carl Sagan's Contact.
One of the most popular sci-fi books of all time, Dune is about a desert planet called Arrakis that is the source of Melange, which is a powerful drug and powers interstellar travel. This is the battle between the two Houses that are vying for control of the planet.
I, Robot is the source of the Three Laws of Robotics (not to mention the fourth: the Zeroth law) and perhaps Isaac Asimov's most popular work. I, Robot is a series of tales about robots who have gone mad, robots who read minds, robots with a sense of humor, and more robots.
In the entertaining read, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert Pirsig uses the story of a father and a son taking a cross-country motorcycle trip to illustrate how we can unify technology with artistry.
Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible
Another very popular Arthur C. Clarke novel, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible considers how humanity will develop by focusing on the limits of what is possible rather than what is near in several realms of technology. In recent editions of the book, there are comments from Clarke in which he says developments happened much faster than he expected.
Starship Troopers may be Robert Heinlein's most famous novel -- perhaps because there's a movie with the same name. In the book, Juan Rico signs up for the military and is sent to fight in a war with a mysterious alien race that none of the soldiers seem to know much about.
Although Where the Wild Things Are is a children's book, it is still enchanting to many grown-ups. The main character, Max, is sent to his room without supper after causing a ruckus in his wolf suit. Fortunately for him, a forest grows in his room, which allows him to continue his wild adventure and meet all sorts of Wild Things.
In World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is a follow up to The Zombie Survival Guide, author Max Brooks presents stories about zombie attacks throughout the world. This collection may be enough to convince you to gather some weapons, pop a Phalanx or two, and wait for the zombie incursion, especially if reports from contributor Nicole Bremer Nash have any credibility.
TechRepublic Senior Editor Selena Frye recommends Little, Big. She says: "John Crowley's fantasy masterpiece about the world of faery subtly intersecting with the 'real' world won the World Fantasy Award for best novel in 1982. His writing often defies easy categorization, incorporating elements of fantasy, history, and mysticism along with realistic story lines and characters. Crowley teaches fiction writing at Yale and is also a recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. Along with Little, Big, check out his Aegypt series, early science fiction (The Deep, Engine Summer), and recent novel about Lord Byron and his daughter Ada Lovelace."
Another recommendation by Selena Frye is this novel by China Mieville. From Selena: "I'm sure I've never read anything quite like The City and the City. That someone could conceive of such an intricate, psychologically and philosophically rich world, and then set a first-rate mystery-thriller into it leaves me rather slack-jawed. Is there such a genre as the existentialist noir crime novel of ideas?"
One of TechRepublic Senior Editor Mark Kaelin's picks is Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. Here's Mark's synopsis: "Despite what you may have heard our children are not being destroyed by the technology, although they are learning differently."
In Jay Garmon's review of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, he writes: "What sets American Gods apart and earned this book so many accolades is that Gaiman goes out of his way to write his novel the hard way, ignoring all the easy Dickensian/Dean Koontz tricks that could have easily shown up in a book like this. Along the way, Gaiman celebrates the unique elements of Americana that simply don't exist elsewhere–the roadside attractions and hidden worlds that thrive only in the corners of a nation built around highways–while avoiding the easy icons of New York, Los Angeles, and the other major cities we're used to seeing on TV."