The best books for cryptography apprentices

Jean-Philippe Aumasson Author Of Serious Cryptography: A Practical Introduction to Modern Encryption
By Jean-Philippe Aumasson

Who am I?

I started learning cryptography in the early 2000s with books borrowed from my university’s library, and with information I could find online. Since then I’ve practiced cryptography for 15 years in a variety of contexts: as an academic researcher, while working on my PhD; as a cryptography engineer for software and hardware pay-TV systems; as a consultant for private and public sector clients; as a vulnerability researcher in my spare time; as a code auditor for cryptography projects; as a start-up founder in the domain of IoT security; and as CSO (chief security officer) of a fintech start-up. I live in Lausanne, Switzerland, and besides crypto I enjoy literature, rock climbing, and playing classical guitar.

I wrote...

Serious Cryptography: A Practical Introduction to Modern Encryption

By Jean-Philippe Aumasson,

Book cover of Serious Cryptography: A Practical Introduction to Modern Encryption

What is my book about?

This practical guide to modern encryption breaks down the fundamental mathematical concepts at the heart of cryptography without shying away from meaty discussions of how they work. You’ll learn about authenticated encryption, secure randomness, hash functions, block ciphers, and public-key techniques such as RSA and elliptic curve cryptography.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Foundations of Cryptography: Volume 1, Basic Tools

Why did I love this book?

If you want to compose or play music, you need to know some basic music theory: notes, scales, chords, and so on. Likewise, solid cryptography knowledge requires understanding its foundations: concepts such as one-way function, pseudorandom generators, computational hardness, secure encryption, and zero-knowledge proofs. Goldreich’s books are the best starting point for those who want to delve into cryptography theory.  

By Oded Goldreich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Foundations of Cryptography as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cryptography is concerned with the conceptualization, definition and construction of computing systems that address security concerns. The design of cryptographic systems must be based on firm foundations. This book presents a rigorous and systematic treatment of the foundational issues: defining cryptographic tasks and solving new cryptographic problems using existing tools. It focuses on the basic mathematical tools: computational difficulty (one-way functions), pseudorandomness and zero-knowledge proofs. The emphasis is on the clarification of fundamental concepts and on demonstrating the feasibility of solving cryptographic problems, rather than on describing ad-hoc approaches. The book is suitable for use in a graduate course on…

Book cover of The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography

Why did I love this book?

This is the first book I read about cryptography, and one that got me excited to study this field more seriously. If you’re not mathematically inclined, or if you are and want to learn the history of cryptography, you’ll love The Code Book. Well documented, clearly written, the book retraces the evolution of cryptography from ancient ciphers to public-key cryptography through historical events where cryptography played a major role, including the famous case of the Enigma encryption machine during WW2. Singh doesn’t shy away from explaining ciphers’ internal mechanisms, in a way that is accessible to lay readers and does not make experts cringe.

By Simon Singh,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Code Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his first book since the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logisitical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy.

Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable…

Book cover of Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems

Why did I love this book?

One of the books that I open at least once a year, and which I always recommend to students and mentees. Security Engineering isn’t a book (only) about cryptography, yet one about a topic that a cryptographer should know well: security engineering, or the design, implementation, and testing of systems that must be reliable in hostile and adversarial environments. Cryptography is indeed often just a small, yet critical, component of larger security systems. A good cryptographer must therefore not limit themselves to their field, but understand the risks, practical constraints, and functional needs of the environment where cryptography is integrated. Anderson’s book is the undisputed reference in that space.  

By Ross Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Security Engineering as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now that there's software in everything, how can you make anything secure? Understand how to engineer dependable systems with this newly updated classic

In Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems, Third Edition Cambridge University professor Ross Anderson updates his classic textbook and teaches readers how to design, implement, and test systems to withstand both error and attack.

This book became a best-seller in 2001 and helped establish the discipline of security engineering. By the second edition in 2008, underground dark markets had let the bad guys specialize and scale up; attacks were increasingly on users rather than…

Book cover of Quantum Computing Since Democritus

Why did I love this book?

I’ve been fascinated by complexity theory and quantum computing since I started studying cryptography. Not only because of the intellectual depth and rich history of these disciplines, but because of how they relate to cryptography: complexity theory brings the foundational security assurance, while quantum computing destroys part of that security. Aaronson is one of the world-leading researchers working at the intersection of these two fields, whose research and blog I’ve been following for many years. I was thus delighted to find his witty, funny writings turned into a comprehensive book, touching on topics as diverse as logic, computability, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, which are all valuable to cryptographers.

By Scott Aaronson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Quantum Computing Since Democritus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written by noted quantum computing theorist Scott Aaronson, this book takes readers on a tour through some of the deepest ideas of maths, computer science and physics. Full of insights, arguments and philosophical perspectives, the book covers an amazing array of topics. Beginning in antiquity with Democritus, it progresses through logic and set theory, computability and complexity theory, quantum computing, cryptography, the information content of quantum states and the interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are also extended discussions about time travel, Newcomb's Paradox, the anthropic principle and the views of Roger Penrose. Aaronson's informal style makes this fascinating book accessible…

Book cover of Real-World Cryptography

Why did I love this book?

Although David is a friend, I only recommend his book because it’s great, both in terms of content and presentation. Real-World Cryptography is today’s reference book about cryptographic tools and applications: Modern schemes such as the SHA-3 hash function and the Noise protocol framework, end-to-end encryption protocols, cryptocurrencies’ cryptography mechanisms, as well as emerging techniques like fully-homomorphic encryption and multi-party computation; Wong’s book delivers a practice-oriented, accessible introduction, enriched by many visual illustrations (including original comics strips!), and exercises (with their solutions). 

By David Wong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Real-World Cryptography as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you're browsing the web, using public APIs, making and receiving electronic payments, registering and logging in users, or experimenting with blockchain, you're relying on cryptography. And you're probably trusting a collection of tools, frameworks, and protocols to keep your data, users, and business safe. It's important to understand these tools so you can make the best decisions about how, where, and why to use them. Real-World Cryptography teaches you applied cryptographic techniques to understand and apply security at every level of your systems and applications. about the technologyCryptography is the foundation of information security. This simultaneously ancient and emerging…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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