10 Terrific Tech Tales for You!

If you are looking for a great Summer read, think tech books. You don’t need to be a geek to enjoy fun tech tales, there are plenty of tech stories written in plain English that will captivate and inspire you.

To get you started with reading  tech stories, here is a list of some of my favorites. They are all written in plain English for everyday people and don’t use geek speak. The stories are fascinating and could make you an even bigger fan of tech…

Non-Fiction

FREE: The Future of a Radical Price

If you’ve ever wondered how Google became such a profitable company by giving away its services for free, check out FREE: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson. Imagine if you had to pay each time you used Google search. Even if the cost were 1¢, you’d be less likely to search on a whim. Would Google be more profitable if it charged for its searches? If you run a business can you afford not to give away things for free?

Anderson takes a fascinating look at the economics of free and how the concept of giving things away is shaping our world. The book also reminds you of a time when much less was given away for free.

Ironically, this book is not free.

Where’s My Jetpack

While The Wonder of Tech may lead you to think that we are living in the midst of advanced technologies, Where’s My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson questions why we’re even not more advanced. Flash Gordon, Epcot, World’s Fairs, Star Trek and even The Jetsons envisioned personal technology that included robots, jetpacks and other advances.

This book explains what happened to past promises about the future and why the 21st century hasn’t brought us the innovations we expected. What is particularly fascinating about this book to me is that some of the inventions Wilson writes about, such as self-driving cars, have become a reality since this book was written.

Ironically, Where’s My Jetpack is not available as a Kindle book.

Ghosts in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

If you think all hackers are evil, Kevin Mitnick will change your mind. In Ghosts in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, you will learn about the concept of “ethical hacking” and how ethical hackers are actually helping to protect people, governments and corporations against thieving hackers.

Ethical hackers are tech’s answer to secret shoppers who are hired by companies to evaluate stores’ customer appeal. Companies and governments hire ethical hackers to try to infiltrate computer systems and expose vulnerabilities that could be exploited by evil hackers.

This book reads like an thriller novel, but Mitnick’s story is real. He explains his hacking in plain English so you don’t need to be a techie to enjoy or understand his gripping account of how he became an ethical hacker. He also includes more complex descriptions of his hacking for techies who may be interested, but even these explanations are well-written and easy to follow.

If you want his story to continue after you finish reading the book, you can follow him on Twitter @KevinMitnick.

The Irregulars

You may think of Roald Dahl as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach and Ian Fleming as the author of James Bond novels and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but after you read The Irregulars by Jennet Conant you will regard these men very differently. Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming were sent to the United States by Britain to be spies during World War II in order to help persuade the US to join the Allied Forces in battling Germany.

Dahl, Flemming and other British spies who were stationed in Washington, DC during the war were supplied with advanced tech gadgets to help collect information and then deliver it to the British government. The story follows Dahl’s journey from being a fighter pilot in the RAF stationed in North Africa to a British spy in Washington. The book reads like a James Bond novel, even though it’s a work of non-fiction.

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better

Rising prices for gasoline may seem like dark clouds on the horizon, but $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner will show you the silver lining. If you’re thinking there is no way that higher prices to fill your tank is a good thing, this book is for you.

Steiner envisions what our lives will be like as gas prices rise to different heights. As someone who lived in the UK where petrol prices are much higher than in the US, I was fascinated by Steiner’s predictions, many of which are already true in Europe. Higher gas prices mean fewer vehicular deaths and more incentive for companies and governments to develop transportation technology that could improve our daily lives. This book won’t make you cheer when prices at the pump rise, but it may take away a bit of the sting.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

The film that won the Academy Award for Best Film in 2012, The Social Network, was based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. This book may or may not belong in the non-fiction category of this post as much of the book is admittedly based on speculation.

This book is intended to chronicle the story of Mark  Zuckerberg starting Facebook, but Mezrich never interviewed Zuckerberg for the book, so many scenes start with a disclaimer that the information is purely speculative. If you’re a fan of The Social Network film, this book will show you which parts are based on fact and which are based on fiction.

Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future–and Locked Us In

How has society been changed by the rapid adoption of personal technology in our every day lives? If you’ve been wondering about this issue, check out Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future–and Locked Us In by Brian X. Chen. Chen, a New York Times tech reporter, takes a balanced approach as he analyzes how the iPhone and other developments in personal technology have materially altered the way we live.

The book examines whether the advent of smartphones and the ability to search for information have actually made us smarter or dumber. The book also discusses the impact of technology on our privacy and predicts how our lives will continue to be affected by technological advancements in the future.

The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug

The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug by Thomas Hager isn’t technically a story about personal technology, but it is an enthralling story of technology that affects our personal lives. The Demon Under the Microscope chronicles the discovery and development of sulfa, an antibiotic that pre-dated penicillin. The book discusses the obstacles that scientists overcame, including acceptance of the basic premise that medicines could cure illness.

This book makes you appreciate how far medicine has advanced in the past 100 years and how different our world would be without those advancements. After you finish reading The Demon Under the Microscope, I suggest you check out Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock. Although Charlatan isn’t a tech book, it entertainingly illustrates how the acceptance of medicine was impaired by scammers.

Fiction

Daemon

If you’re looking for a high-tech, fast-paced story, check out Daemon by Daniel Suarez, a tale of tech gone wrong. When 34 year old computer gaming genius Matthew Sobol dies unexpectedly, the computer programs he put in place in the event of his untimely death get activated and the result is international mayhem. The novel is a tech thriller, but is written in plain English for both techies and non-techies to enjoy.

Cell

If you believe that cell phones will lead to the end of civilization, you may want to avoid Cell by Stephen King as nightmares are sure to ensue. I won’t reveal spoilers, but let’s just say you will think twice before answering your next cell phone call.

Bottom Line

For fun summer reading, check out these terrific tech tales. Whether you’re a fan of fiction or non-fiction, there are plenty of stories to keep you entertained, no geek speak required!

Do you enjoy great stories? Have you read any of the books I listed? Do you have any favorite tech books you can recommend? Let us know in the Comments section below!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I have a Jetpack, it’s a plug-in for WordPress! You might like to correct your spelling of Ian Fleming; just in case someone searches for it. There is an it’s is at the end of that bit too. I know, i’m turning into an editor!

    These books do sound good, I must eventually get a eBook reader; when I have time to read more books that is. I am thinking about writing a blogs about technology and it’s relationship to science. I need to do a bit of research and remember my technology! It would be one more subject to write about!
    Mike Maynard recently published this awesome post..Friday the 13th | Unlucky?My Profile

    • says

      Hi Mike, When did Ian change his name? ;-) Thanks for watching my back.

      If I had to choose just one of these books for you, I would pick The Irregulars. Perhaps you already knew about Roald Dahl’s service as a British spy, but this story is intriguing.

      That would be great if you could add tech topics to your blog. Isn’t it about the only topic you haven’t covered yet? The bredth of your knowledge continues to amaze.
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..IFTTT- Tech to Make Your Life Easier!My Profile

  2. dadblunders says

    Carolyn,

    I love your list of books! I have read the Stephen King one a few years back. It kept me on the edge of my seat and at the same time, in typical King fashion, scared the pants off of me.

    I really want to read 20$ per gallon and wheres my Jetpack! if I could only find the time to read some….lol

    Aaron

    • says

      Hi Aaron, Yes, all three of those books are great. Where’s My Jetpack is short, under 200 pages. But it’s a fun read, especially as tech keeps changing.

      I’m a big fan of audiobooks. I prefer to listen to audiobooks in the car instead of the radio so I get a lot of books read that way.

      I hope you enjoy the books, Aaron! :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Sealed with a Kiss, Send a Camper Your Love!My Profile

  3. says

    Wow! What a list Carolyn!

    To be very honest I hardly get time to read fiction or non-fiction, or just about anything at all due to the tight schedule and with kids at home. But yes, there was a time I was heavily into reading and from the list I think it was just Stephen King that time.

    Never have I read any tech kind of books so far, but your list does make me re-think about getting back into my hobby now.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful list with all of us. :)
    Harleena Singh recently published this awesome post..Why Do Children Get AngryMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Harleena, Yes, it’s tough when you’re writing a blog to find time to read. But I’m such a fan of books that I feel something is missing in my life if I’m not in the middle of a good book. I don’t only read tech books and there are some other amazing books that I would recommend that aren’t tech books. But as this is a personal technology blog, I need to stay on topic! :-)

      I hope you find the time to get back to reading soon, Harleena!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..IFTTT- Tech to Make Your Life Easier!My Profile

  4. says

    I see some that might be quite interesting indeed; I’ll make sure to put them on my ‘list.’ I have a couple in the hoppa from previous ‘must read’ or ‘favorite’ book lists I still need to get to.

    I did get my first e-book from the library that I downloaded on my Kindle; pretty cool, huh?
    Bill Dorman recently published this awesome post..Oh look, the Kreativ Blogger Award!My Profile

  5. Hajra says

    Hi Carolyn,

    My tech disability stops me from picking up any tech book! I find them just too much at times! LOL!

    But if it is a tech based thriller then I am intrigued and do end up picking one. I have read the Accidental Billionaires and yes, it was a good read. Some of the titles here are interesting. Will definitely pick them up if I get a chance.

    Hope you are having a lovely day!

    • says

      Hi Hajra, I don’t consider you as being tech disabled, lol. You run your own blog so you must know a quite a bit of tech!

      Yes, I included quite a few thrillers here, including some non-fiction ones. All of these are interesting stories that happen to have a tech aspect. I hope you enjoy them, Hajra!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Hands-On with the Microsoft SurfaceMy Profile

  6. says

    “If you believe that cell phones will lead to the end of civilization”… Now there’s a tantalizing premise.

    I actually believe civilization has not begun. We’re getting there. For the moment, civilization is a gossamer web tossed over a volatile mix of tribalism and militarization. I also believe that technology can play a meaningful role in civilizing us — because technology, much as the civilizing impulse, is based on rules.

    Ethical hacking, for instance, is a gesture towards that distant ideal of civilization. Which is why, of all the books you mention, that’s the one that interested me the most. I’m going to check out some more reviews and see whether it fits into my current reading agenda. Thanks for this, Carolyn.
    Bell recently published this awesome post..Gaius Breckinridge, Professional PessimistMy Profile

  7. says

    I LOVE books and I love to read:) And I spit my beer (yes, I’m drinking beer this Saturday evening) when I read your sentence “Ironically, this book is not free.” That made my LOL.

    Thanks for these suggestions. I’ll be checking them out. Cheers! Kaarina
    Kaarina Dillabough recently published this awesome post..The dirty little secretMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Kaarina, Sorry about the beer. ;-)

      Yes, these are all great stories where tech is an element. I have read other books where tech was an element but the stories weren’t so hot. These are some of my favorite stories! I hope you enjoy them. :-)

  8. says

    I also love reading material that has a techy feel to it. I am not a nerd or geek,I just enjoy reading the newest updates to what I love, technology. Thanks for sharing these great resources!

    • says

      Hi Robin, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! I haven’t read Digital Fortress, but I greatly appreciate the recommendation. Stretching is a great idea. A tiny relation to tech is all we ask. :-)

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your suggestion with us, Robin!

  9. Jasmine says

    I have not been reading for a long while. Some of these books definitely look interesting. Where’s My Jetpack … haha, isn’t this the WordPress plugin? :)

    • says

      Hi Jasmine, You’re right, Jetpack is a plugin for WordPress, but the book discusses transportation devices, not WordPress plugins, lol! :-)

      I hope you enjoy the books, Jasmine!

  10. Aditya says

    Hey Carolyn,
    Interesting list of tech books …..!!

    Although i am not much into the reading stuff but to be a good blogger one has to read as many information from everywhere and if its about technology then how can one take a step backward and ignore it.

    I love to read about the hacking stuff,so reading “Ghost in Wires” will surely help me understanding the real and reel hacking.

    Thanks for providing this tech savvy list of novels.Will try to find out some time to read other books too.

  11. says

    Google entered the search market at the right time with the right strategy and an excellent algorithm. It was not a strenuous journey for them because they started it by being a simple search provider and grown to the search engine giant. It’s a great example how a small tech business can achieve big things keeping things simple and adding new features on a periodical basis from the experiences learnt.

    • says

      Hi George, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! You’re right, Google’s story is amazing and a big part of it was having the right algorithm at the right time. FREE also explains a lot about Google’s philosophy in trying to grow, which is very different from many other companies’ philosophies. Media companies are struggling with the concept of free content versus paid content. There is not a clear path right now to monetization which is very different from the past.