Great Reading for budding computer scientists

Whatever you ultimately do, reading widely is important. This is especially true for computer scientists as computer scientists have to engage with other subjects because it is so interdisciplinary. There are lots of brilliant books to read. Fiction can be just as good as non-fiction. Here are some of our absolute favourites in computer science, STEM more widely, and touching on other subjects too.

First of all read cs4fn magazine and the related cs4fn booklets (its why we write them). Also we will just mention we wrote a book you could consider “The Power of Computational Thinking” using the normal cs4fn games, puzzles and general fun to explain what computational thinking (and Artificial Intelligence) is all about.

Use this as a sixth form reading list, but why wait till then? Get your library to get them all. Get reading.

Non-fiction Computer Science

  • The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman
    • How do you design to  make things easy to use. This matters whether you are designing normal things or computer-based interactive devices
    • anything by Don Norman is worth reading
  • The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, Clifford Stoll
    • the story of tracking down some of the earliest hackers who released a worm
    • put your hacking skills to good use not bad
  • The Code Book, Simon Singh
    • A history of cryptography
  • Threads across the Ocean, John Steele Gordon
    • This is a fascinating history of how the first global network was created laying transatlantic telecommunication tables long before the internet age.
  • Creation, Life and How to Make it, Steve Grand
    • This discusses the game Creatures which is the original game and how to write artificial life programs
  • Artificial Life, Steven Levy
    • Could a machine ever be alive?
  • Godel, Escher, Bach, an Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas R Hofstadter
    • This is a massive book but the classic that anyone interested in computing ought to read to understand what computer science is really about – it won a Pulitzer Prize, the mark of outstanding non-fiction.

Non-fiction Not quite Computer Science (but it is really)

  • Critical Mass, by Philip Ball
    • A mix of physics, social sciences and computer science.
      How computational-based physics gives new ways to think about the social sciences
    • Read the linked cs4fn article
  • Does God Play Dice?,  Ian Stewart
  • Anything and everything by Martin Gardner
    • Its supposed to be recreational maths but most of it is fun computer science (and his books were a big inspiration behind cs4fn )

Fiction Computer Science

  • Going Postal, Terry Pratchett
    • The best way to find out how networks really work and the protocols that drive them.
      Set in the magical world of Discworld, this is the story of the Clacks,
      a global telecom system based on semaphore towers.
    • Read the linked cs4fn article
  • The Culture Series, Ian M Banks
    • This series is set in a universe controlled by benevolent Artificial Intelligences (‘Minds’). They explore a wide range of consequences of current technology, from pervasive computing to virtual hell. Some of the books include significant horror (not all aliens are nice).
    • Read the linked cs4fn article inspired by the book Surface Detail
  • Everything by Neil Stephenson
    • Some of his books include adult themes but all are brilliant. He envisioned virtual worlds long before they started to become reality. He invented the word avatar now used widely.

More of our resources, including linked classroom activities can be found in our resources section.

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