Reading can be inspiring. It’s no coincidence that almost all of the high achievers are also avid readers. And by that I don’t mean speed readers they usually curate a short list that closely match their interest areas and they read the best or the most original.

I personally know many people that have been inspired while reading and I myself experienced the phenomenon while reading many books including Masters of Doom from this list.

John Romero working on Quake next to John Carmack's computer

Photo Credit: John Romero

So, since a carefully picked book can be the beginning of something amazing we’ve created a carefully curated list that might inspire computer programmers, coding enthusiasts, coding professionals, newbies and veterans alike.

I’ll try to focus in fiction or non-technical books. And as usual only bringing you the best!:

1- Masters of Doom (An epic tech story)

This book deserves the top in this list. It does an exceptional job capturing the journey of a developer team and especially two partners with the same name: John Carmack and John Romero.

There is every delicious ingredient in it that makes a tech related story enjoyable and inspirational: computers, friendship, coding, gaming, development, design, growth, success, romance, drama, failure. etc. etc.

The true-story book investigates the idea that the journey of Johns, their team and game development company id Software transformed the pop culture and pioneered the game industry with inventive ways.

David Kushner did a phenomenal job with this book and he totally nailed it after 5 years of research on the topic. Don’t just take our words for it, accuracy of the book is confirmed by John Romero on Quora. Both main characters of the book are alive and active today. In fact John Romero is known to be an active Quoran frequently contributing to relevant discussions there.

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture is also recommended by serious tech leaders such as StackExchange founder Jeff Atwood. He has an extensive post about this book on his blog, it’s a great read and you can check it out here.

Jeff Atwood himself is very motivational and inspirational especially in the computer programming scene. Similar to Two Johns he pioneered and transformed the coding industry. So you might wanna benefit from check out his articles on his blog. He always writes about such cool stuff.

Masters of Doom

Anyway, moving on.

2- Snow Crash (A Neal Stephenson Novel)

Yet another classic. Snow Crash is very likely to blow your mind and leave you impressed for a lifetime. Some say Snow Crash to books is what Matrix is to movies.

Philosophy, theology, cognition, relations and everything revolving around computers. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s set in an interesting environment such as future America.

If you’re looking for a fictional book around computers and coding, it probably doesn’t get better than this.

Author Neal Stephenson is coming from family background of scientists and mathematicians and he studied physics and geography himself. Also serving Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company you can imagine where the depth in his work coming from.

We’re proud to introduce such high quality and relevant material to our audience. If you haven’t read Snow Crash yet, grab yourself a copy and enjoy the ride.

Snow Crash

Author Neal Stephenson: Perfect blend between scientist and literaturist

3- Neuromancer (The book that influenced Matrix)

A book from one of the founding fathers of cyberpunk literary genre, we’re talking about another pioneer that likely changed the course of history here.

William Gibson now aged 72 and living in South Carolina started exploring computer related futuristic dystopia before it was cool, in fact probably before it existed. Today we’re blessed with a plethora of productions in this genre from Matrix to numerous cool indies on Netflix.

In fact Matrix was heavily inspired by Neuromancer which tells us hints about how something like Matrix came to existence at all.

William Gibson is a real literary master for creating something like Neuromancer that became the Bible of Cyberpunk genre.

Many people think if you’ve seen the Matrix movies before this will create an even crazier than expected experience since you can visualize and elaborate on the imaginary Neuromancer scenes.

Also, if your mother tongue is not English you might want to get ready for a heavy literature product that mandates attention to detail and descriptions, some of the factors that make the book so legendary. You can still have a great time by aligning your expectations or reading/watching some more primer material on the internet about the book.

As legendary and as visionary as it all is this quote from the author might give you a hint about the book and if you decide it’s heavier than you require right now that’s perfectly fine too.

In an era where Elon Musk’s Neuralink venture recently announced and demonstrated successful brain interface on pigs and heavy discussions about ideas like “transhumanism”, “becoming cyborg” and “posthuman” are taking place this classic is definitely inspirational for any programmer. Although if you’re looking for something more practically related to coding we have those suggestions down the list as well. Here is a quote form the book:

“The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games… Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.”

Neuromancer Vintage Book Cover

ps: Neuromancer movie is in development process right now. To be directed by Tim Miller who also directed Deadpool, Neuromancer will be a huge test for the famous film director since it’s a cult with global following and very high expectations. The film is expected to come out sometime in 2021. Either way, we’re in a treat (or disappointment) so it’s a great sci-fi classic to read in 2020-2021.

Since, the book inspired and influenced Matrix movies, and Matrix is such an insane production at every level from Cast to Directing to Animations to Soundtrack, the two will definitely be compared at some point but at film level it’s really hard to compete with Matrix. We will see.

Here is the IMDB page for the future production.

4- Prey (Jurassic Park, Replace Dinosaurs with AI)

Does the idea of reading an Artificial Intelligence preditor-prey type sci-fi from the author of Jurassic Park interest you? Then keep reading.

Prey is a great novel about micro controllers going wild in a bad way. It touches multiple science disciplines such as material engineering, nanotechnology, algorithms and computer science.

As a cool side-effect you will be educated to be more cautious about dangerous tech which might be something that we all need in this era of super fast pace tech development in civilization history.

Michael Crichton takes us on a tech adventure on Nevada desert.

5- The Pragmatic Programmer (High Standard Programming Habits)

Here is a non-fiction book that directly elaborates on coding practices. This book has fantastic tips about stepping-up your professional coding game. It’s something that everyone could benefit from to gradually become a great programmer. Potentially boring but useful.

However, let’s talk about the paradox the book brings about. The concepts can seem trivial or boring to the beginner coder and make things more complicated. So beginners will likely have a hard time internalizing the concepts included here however great they are. Advanced programmers with experience will likely find most of the points provided in the book “old news”, things they’ve already learned through experience.

Still, the book is so well written and the points are so valid that The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master remains a classic in the programming world. Maybe take it as a reference book that you might take a look to see if something attracts your attention every now and then in your programming journey.

6- Ender's Game (Another Techy Classic)

Another brilliant book Ender’s Game is seriously creative and innovative. Don’t wanna give too many spoilers but just know that main characters are super intelligent children with children’s naivete.

Ender’s Game is another very unique classic that will broaden your horizons. Also as a bonus everything revolves around computers hence it’s placement in our restrictive list.

Ender’s Game was made a movie and received overall very good criticism with around 6.6/10 point on IMDB. If you like movies based on books then it might be a must-watch for you. You can check out the movie here.

7- The Phoenix Project (An IT Novel)

7- The Phoenix Project

Would you believe it if we told you there is a novel about IT operations in a company? It’s The Phoenix Project.

Although it might disappoint from the literary perspective The Phoenix Project is a brilliant book for IT crowd.

Delivery, deadlines, pressure, innovation, automation, software development, IT leadership and it’s not even non-fiction. Wow.

In this day and age it’s probably something everyone should read, IT or non-IT. But as a coder it’s definitely very appealing since some of the topics such as automation, software development and IT management are great topics to discover for most programmers.

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project IT Book

8- Microserfs (Irony, reality, humor, tech, programming)

Microserfs is a sarcastic fiction work about coder lifestyle. It doesn’t necessarily apply to every experience or person however, there are so many brilliant tech world references that you might feel you were left out before reading Microserfs.

Coding is a consuming field and we really get so absorbed in the computer world. This book points out these realities in genius ways. It probably won’t make you change your mind or put you off the coding track so enjoy the original Silicon Valley lifestyle that’s portrayed with excellent humor.


9- The Design of the UNIX OS (Operating System Fever)

A masterpiece if you’re into operating systems or you might get into them after reading this book.

It’s a well written tech oriented book that really makes one appreciate what’s going on in the computers we use for hours every single day. It will give you an opportunity to get your foot in the door of operating systems from so many interesting aspects such as design, structure, user, etc.

With a philosophical twist, this UNIX system break down offers a very interesting read for the right audience.

The Design of the UNIX OS

10- Hackers and Painters (Big Ideas From the Computer Age)

In this book, Paul Graham touches very interesting subjects in coding.

How to make wealth through coding, why coders should think and act more like painters, good and bad attitudes regarding coding are surely very interesting and thought provoking dimensions in such a technical profession.

I think coders (and scientists and engineers alike) too often face the risks of becoming way too mechanical during the process of technical formation that takes years. So, a book like this is extremely welcome to excite a coder’s thoughts.

With that being said, there are some obselete/irrelevant views of point that you can and probably should navigate around while reading this book. So, like a productive bee feel free to suck the nectar parts of this book and hop onto the next flower.

Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters

11- The Emperor's New Mind (Computers, minds and physic laws)

Wow! So, do you fantasize about AI at human intelligence level one day? Something that’s self aware and relates to its environment the way we humans do.

Then my friend, this book might be highly interesting to you. Written by famous modern day mathematician Roger Penrose who by the way worked alongside with Stephen Hawking it’s not necessarily an easy read for everyone.

However, substance in this book is the frontier knowledge about understanding intelligence and will surely help any aspiring AI engineer/coder acquire sophisticated perspectives on the matter.

Penrose interestingly suggests we need laws deeper than quantum mechanics to understand the way mind works. From the book’s description:

He is among a growing number of physicists who think Einstein wasn’t being stubborn when he said his “little finger” told him that quantum mechanics is incomplete, and he concludes that laws even deeper than quantum mechanics are essential for the operation of a mind. To support this contention, Penrose takes the reader on a dazzling tour that covers such topics as complex numbers, Turing machines, complexity theory, quantum mechanics, formal systems, Godel undecidability, phase spaces, Hilbert spaces, black holes, white holes, Hawking radiation, entropy, quasicrystals, the structure of the brain, and scores of other subjects.

It’s crazy to think about how little we understand what we carry between our ears, brain, and how it works. Maybe we should talk more about this parallel to the AI aspirations in tech society today.

The Emperor's New Mind

12- Computer Networks (Bible for Networks)

12- Computer Networks

As the name suggests this book is about computer networks. The thing is it does what it does best. If you’d like to understand computer networks and/or acquire deep level knowledge in this topic, this book is almost a must.

Author Andrew S. Tanenbaum is a Physics Phd yet he manages to write in super clear language while elaborating a highly technical topic to a very complete level.

13- The Manga Guide to Databases (Princesses, fruits and databases)

As soon as you start to understand Programming in a deeper sense you start to realize the importance of databases and knowing how to use them.

Wheter it’s finance, sports, medicine, science, research, game development or social media, there is always data involved. Database is where you keep them in an insanely efficient manner. Databases have their own syntax but luckily you don’t have to learn a whole lot, it’s pretty straightforward and repetitive. Design of databases is where you need expertise which comes with some database practice.

Anyway if you’re interested in databases, this cute book by Mana Takahashi does a great job teaching them with the assistance of Anime characters. Who said databases have to be colorless and boring.

It’s a genius approach not only in a programming and computer science sense but also from the pedagogy perspective.

The Manga Guide to Databases

The Manga Guide to Databases

14- Clean Code (A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship)

If you get into corporate level software development you might want to check out this bestseller in software testing. This will be a smart move for people who are looking to be employed at tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber, Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, Amazon etc. as well since high quality coding has a crucial impact in the running and continuous development of these companies on a daily basis.

15- Quantum Computing Since Democritus (Edge-cutting & Thought-provoking)

So, here is something seriously intellectual. Author Scott Aaronson is a Quantum Computing Theorist. In this book he discusses and elaborates topics like complexity, logic, quantum computing, quantum states, cryptography and time travel.

This book should be a treat to anyone looking for some serious knowledge that might inspire big futuristic ideas. You might need a STEM background either by education or practice to be able to fully grasp the concepts discussed here although author is known to employ an entertaining and informal language.

Well, we hope you enjoyed the list and discovered something new. Books inspire and literally change people’s lives. Almost every self-made and highly accomplished person turns out to be a heavy book reader. So, there is definitely a message there.

Happy reading!

We have a similarly well-crafted coding music list if you’d like to discover interesting music ideas as well.

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