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December 1, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:41am

10 brilliant Christmas books for tech and business execs

Give this list to your kids, partners, parents or whoever and get what you want on Alan Turing via Peter Thiel with a dash of Anonymous and Eric Schmidt,

By Jimmy Nicholls

As you wind down from another busy year in the IT industry, the festive season is an ideal time to reflect on what has happened, as well as prepare for the future. That in mind CBR has prepared a reading list for the enterprising computing executive, with plenty to suit every taste.

1. Spam Nation by Brian Krebs

Brian Krebs originally made a name for himself as the cybersecurity reporter for The Washington Post, but since he moved on from the newspaper his profile has only grown, leading one IT executive describing him as one of the leading sources for breach discovery in the world.

Thus in his first book Krebs lays out the industry he’s been investigating for the best part of 13 years, combining research and interviews to describe the nature of spam, botnets and distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in minute detail.

2. Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter

Another book by another tech reporter, Countdown to Zero Day chronicles the story of Stuxnet, perhaps the most important virus there has ever been. Discovered in an Iranian nuclear facility back in 2010, the malware is thought to be the first digital weapon found operating in the wild, with the capacity to cause nuclear centrifuges to fail.

Drawing on her role working for Wired, Kim Zetter, charts the history of the virus from its development in the US to its deployment in the field. For those with an interest in defence, war or cybersecurity it is a worrying omen for the future.

3. Alan Turing by Andrew Hodges

The autumn’s successful release of The Imitation Game has brought to public attention the life and legacy of Alan Turing, the British computer scientist who helped break the Enigma machines that Germany was using to encrypt messages during the Second World War.

It has also been a boon for the Andrew Hodges, whose 1983 biography of the man served as the basis for the film’s screenplay. Those wishing to find more about Turing would be well advised to find a copy, re-released to coincide with the launch of the film at cinemas.

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4. Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

As one of PayPal’s founders and an early investor in Facebook, Peter Thiel must know something about getting a business off the ground, especially since he is now worth £1.4bn, according to Forbes.

Zero to One lays out some of Thiel’s insights from his years at the heart of Silicon Valley, in a series of short essays. Though useful for those starting a career in IT, many of the lessons could equally apply to any industry, making it a useful read for anybody looking to make it in business.

5. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman

Anonymous has acquired a reputation as a group of pranksters and campaigners, most recently seen attacking the Ku Klux Klan in the wake of protests over the shooting of black youth Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Yet Gabriella Coleman, who has spent several years investigating the group, has turned up a more complicated picture of the febrile hacking collective, which eschews hierarchy while still impacting international politics. If nothing else the book is a testament to the terrific or perhaps terrifying power of the internet.

6. The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson achieved notability in tech publishing through his biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, but this volume takes in the whole gamut of innovators in computer science, from Alan Turing to Larry Page.

It is always a challenge to outline an array of characters over such a length of time, resulting in a summary style that may leave some readers wanting more. However those hoping for a whistle-stop tour of the computer industry will be well served.

7. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Despite its work in making information more accessible for billions of people, Google as an organisation has often appeared enigmatic, and some might even argue opaque. This book by executive chairman Eric Schmidt and SVP of products Jonathan

Rosenberg a chance to shine some light on the firm which is doing much to shape the world.
Many of the maxims the pair come out with are the sort of self-help boilerplate one would expect from such a book, but it would be hard not to glean something from insiders at one of this century’s great business success stories.

8. The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett

Much has been written about the dark net, and much more misunderstood about the service that is often advertised as the home of perverts and criminals, especially in an age where spooks and police increasingly stigmatise privacy.

In this book Jamie Bartlett seeks to dig beneath the surface of the web and uncovers some of that ugliness, whilst finding alongside it political activists and computers scientists dreaming of a better world.

9. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is one of the two men behind Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm based in California. The other half, Marc Andreessen, is like Horowitz and veteran of Silicon Valley, and in this book the latter lays out his lessons for building a successful company.

The result is part biography and part self-help book, with Horowitz serving as inspiration and tutor for his readers, poring over dilemmas such as whether you should fire your friend and how to deal with intelligent but difficult employees.

10. How to Build a Billion Dollar App by George Berkowski

The software industry has been one of the great money-spinners in the tech revolution of Silicon Valley, making the fortune of companies from WhatsApp to Angry Birds, and also Hailo, where author George Berkowski was once head of product.

If his pedigree is somewhat less impressive than the likes of Peter Thiel and Eric Schmidt, his advice is perhaps more direct, forming something of a step-by-step guide to building a company from scratch and taking it to the big time.

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