It’s hard not to be a techie these days. With the pervasiveness of gadgetry in our everyday lives, our brains are crammed with “Gb,” “BIOS,” and “OLED.” Chances are good that now, more than ever before, the stories of the men and women who paved the way for today’s technology, and the people who are now exploiting those works in new and fascinating ways, will appeal to more than just students who are early adopters. If you consider yourself at all tech-savvy, here are the 20 best biographies you’ll want to check out.
1. “Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker” by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon
Kevin Mitnick was the Frank Abignale of computer hacking. This fascinating story is his account of his incredible run from the Feds while cracking into the databases of such big names as Sun Microsystems and Motorola.
2. “Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire” by James Wallace and Jim Erickson
The landscape has changed since Bill Gates stood atop the computing world, but this exposé is still a fascinating look into the life of one of the most driven, most powerful, and most feared men Silicon Valley has ever seen.
3. “iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It” by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
You probably wouldn’t be reading this in front of a personal computer if not for “The Woz.” Techies will love this story of a computing pioneer who had the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist.
This is the only authorized biography of the iconic Apple co-founder, written by gifted biographer Walter Isaacson. To avoid biasing the story, Jobs didn’t even look at the manuscript before it was published, and it shows in this gripping story of an amazing innovator.
5. “Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond” by Nancy Conrad and Howard A. Klausner
Nothing is more high-tech than NASA. In this entertaining read, the screenwriter behind Space Cowboys brings to life the story of the real “Space Cowboy,” larger-than-life astronaut Pete Conrad.
Few are familiar with the true story of a man history has forgotten: Nikola Tesla, the true inventor of the radio. This incredible biography by Margaret Cheney describes in moving detail how one of the finest minds in history dreamed of changing the world.
If your favorite piece of tech is your high-def TV, you can thank Philo T. Farnsworth. Schatzkin’s book has great insights into how the inventor of the television made his breakthrough at the amazing age of 14.
Asimov is remembered as being one of the best sci-fi writers of all time and the man who created “The Three Laws of Robotics.” But as you’ll learn in this bio, he was a brilliant man who wrote more than 470 books on topics across the spectrum.
The fascinating life of the mathematician who broke the Nazis’ Enigma code was also a pioneer in the development of the computer. His experiences in and after the war, coupled with his trials as an openly gay man in a close-minded time, make for a terrific bio.
With detailed descriptions of NASA technology and training, including the Space Shuttle, Tom Jones’ memoir of life as an astronaut after the Challenger explosion is custom-made for techies. And for all the technical parts, the emotional and psychological aspects of the job still shine through.
11. “The Engelbart Hypothesis: Dialogs with Douglas Engelbart” by Valerie Landau, Eileen Clegg, and Douglas Engelbart
Probably without realizing it, you got to this website courtesy of Doug Engelbart. This great bio of the inventor of the mouse reveals the genius behind a visionary inventor and problem-solver.
Much has been made about his membership in the Nazi party, but this book paints the portrait of an American hero whose primary interest lay in space, not the political arena. It’s an excellent story of a complex man.
13. “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: *God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison” by Mike Wilson
Co-founding a software company has made Larry Ellison one of the richest (and most tabloid-worthy) men in America. Wilson starts with a catchy title and keeps that momentum going throughout the book.
The worlds of techies and video game fans are inextricably intertwined. You’ll definitely want to hear this account of the legends who brought you two of the greatest games of all time, Doom and Quake.
Jobs had Wozniak; Gates had Allen. This book is the Microsoft cofounder’s candid retelling of his journey, with priceless looks at just how a successful tech company is born.
James Bond had some of the coolest gadgets in movie (and literary) history. Now get the story behind Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, himself a one-time intelligence officer, and the real-life people who inspired one of Hollywood’s longest-running heroes.
Are you into audio tech? If so, you won’t want to miss Carpenter’s funny tale of her adventures running her own FM radio station from her house. It’s a light, easy read you’ll have trouble putting down.
Based on the journals of the creator of Prince of Persia, this bio is a first-hand account of a simple Apple game that became a huge hit on Xbox and Playstation and even spawned a big-budget Hollywood film.
With dexterous storytelling, Hargittai delves into the lives of five historic scientists, including John von Neumann, the inventor of the modern computer. It’s required reading for anyone wanting to be an informed tech junkie.
20. “The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World” by Randall E. Stross
The story of America’s most well-known and celebrated inventor is in good hands with writer Randall Stross. To be a good techie or just learn a little important history, there’s no better place to look.
This article was first posted on Online College.