Who doesn’t enjoy listening to a good story. Personally I love reading about the people who inspire me and what it took for them to achieve their success. As I am a bit of a self confessed tech geek I think there is no better way to discover these stories then by reading a tech biography.
My bookcases are filled with good tech biographies, they remind me that anyone can be a success. So even if you come from an underprivileged part of society, you aren’t the smartest person in the room or maybe you even served time in the penal system. The same message shines through in these tech biographies. All it takes to succeed is a good idea, a little risk and a lot of hard work and any geek can become a success.
Top 10 Tech Biographies
01. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Very well written book, with captivating style. You just don’t want to stop reading. You simply don’t realize how fast you are reading. The book is an excellent read. It’s a great story of what kind of a pioneer Steve Jobs was (as well as how difficult he could be to work with).
Every geek will love this truly inspirational tech biography.
02. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick
This book was more exciting than most fiction books I can think of. Kevin is the perfect anti-hero; it’s hard not to read his story and find yourself rooting for him at times. The story itself is very well written, and shows a lot of maturity and reflection.
This is not Mitnicks first foray into writing and it equals his previous works.
03. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson
If you, like me are besotted with an IQ less than 160 you’ll probably need to reread this to grasp it all. This even though I worked a long time in high tech electronics. I have to admit not being a genius though. Sad Turing’s life was cut short.
His torment was so awful and unnecessary the product of hate and bigotry etc.
04. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon by Steve Wozniak
Interesting look at the mind and personality of a creative introvert. His description of the excitement he went through leading to the after hours invention of the personal computer in his cubicle at HP was fascinating, particularly since his supervisors couldn’t see the value in it.
While Steve Jobs is every designers hero, Steve Wozniak is every engineers.
05. One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com by Richard L. Brandt
“One Click” is especially well researched and effectively captures the excitement of the amazon experience. If you love Amazon and want to know how it evolved then this is one of the best books on the subject.
Jeff Bezos is every online entrepreneurs hero. I loved this book, easy to read and yet full of interesting facts about building an eCommerce empire.
06. The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich
The book is fast paced and well written. However, there is a good degree of technical jargon in the conversations that are portrayed. You do not need a background in computers to understand it all, but it would probably help.
We all use Facebook and it’s interesting to learn how something so simple as a website can become such a part of everyone’s life so quickly.
07. Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft by Paul Allen
The interesting thing about Paul Allen is that you will be amazed, and astounded how anyone this naive could end up so successful. He readily admits that he has been taken in time and time again by incredibly horrible investments (you’d think he would learn from his mistakes!).
A great read if you are a Microsoft fanboy (like me).
08. The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley by Leslie Berlin
As a rule a biography about a technology founder is usually regurgitated press releases or a hagiography, or offers a disconnected set of technical “here’s what he invented.” This book is an exception to that rule.
Leslie Berlin is one of the few authors who’ve managed to write a tech biography that does justice to the technology, history, context and personal life of the subject.
09. Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds
This book is a great look into the history of Linus and Linux, at least as he remembers it. It is not authoritative, it is not serious. You get a large taste of Linus’ personality, which most Linux users will never get to experience in person. You end up wanting to take Linus out for a beer, and to discuss the Finnish religion of “sauna”.
A great story that shows how you can take the idea of ‘free’ and make it profitable.
10. The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis
This is a great summary of how Jim Clark progressed in his life to start and grow several billion dollar companies including Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon (now WebMD), and myCFO.
The stories in this book are unusual and amazing.
These ten tech biographies will feel at home in the book collection of any geek. I always learn something new from every book I read and these are no exception. Do you know of any other geek biographies that should of made it on this list? Let me know by adding a comment below.