The best books on hackers and hacking

Who am I?

Jeremy N. Smith is the author of three acclaimed narrative non-fiction books, including Breaking and Entering, about a female hacker called “Alien” and the birth of our information insecurity age. He has written for The Atlantic, Discover, Slate, and the New York Times, among other outlets, and he and his work have been featured by CNN, NPR, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and Wired. He hosts The Hacker Next Door podcast and lives in Missoula, Montana.


I wrote...

Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien

By Jeremy N. Smith,

Book cover of Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien

What is my book about?

This taut, true thriller dives into a dark world that touches us all, as seen through the brilliant, breakneck career of an extraordinary hacker, a woman known only as Alien. When she arrived at MIT in the 1990s, Alien was quickly drawn to the school's tradition of high-risk physical trespassing: the original hacking. Within a year, one of her hallmates was dead and two others were arraigned. Alien's adventures were only just beginning.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Journal of the Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery & Pranks at MIT

Jeremy N. Smith Why did I love this book?

The Journal of IHTFP (look up that acronym!) is a delightful introduction to the original hacking scene at MIT, where hacks were elaborate, extremely clever student pranks—handing out colored cards at a Harvard-Yale football game to spell MIT rather than BEAT YALE when raised by eleven hundred Harvard fans, for example, or sneaking a power supply, multi-piece wooden frame, and the outer metal parts of a Chevrolet Cavalier atop the school’s Great Dome, so it appeared that the building was mounted by a real police cruiser, complete with flashing lights and boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts. The oversized book includes numerous photographs. Now out of print, it has been replaced by Nightwork by T. F. Peterson, which includes more recent hacks.

Book cover of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Jeremy N. Smith Why did I love this book?

Hackers is a classic account of the computer revolution, centered on the pioneering tinkerers, gamers, social theorists, entrepreneurs, and other explorers who made military and corporate technology personal. These are not hackers in the criminal sense most people understand the term today, but men (and a few women) like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and others far less famous. Their interwoven biographies are brilliantly researched and reported, underpinned by what Levy calls a common “hacker ethic” whose tenets dominate our economy, politics, and culture today.

By Steven Levy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Steven Levy's classic book about the original hackers of the computer revolution is now available in a special 25th anniversary edition, with updated material from noteworthy hackers such as Bill Gates, Mark Zukerberg, Richard Stallman, and Tim O'Reilly. Hackers traces the exploits of innovators from the research labs in the late 1950s to the rise of the home computer in the mid-1980s. It's a fascinating story of brilliant and eccentric nerds such as Steve Wozniak, Ken Williams, and John Draper who took risks, bent the rules, and took the world in a radical new direction. "Hacker" is often a derogatory…


Book cover of The New Hacker's Dictionary

Jeremy N. Smith Why did I love this book?

The New Hacker’s Dictionary is the foremost compilation of the first fifty years of hacker lore, combining hilarious anecdotes and definitions to illuminate a hugely-influential but wildly-misunderstood culture more similar to beer-brewing monks than black-clad criminals. Though last updated in 1996, the technology, terms, and theories explained within still underlie the modern Internet, making this dictionary a dual cultural and architectural blueprint for anyone interested in how computing got to the present moment—and how to build a better future.

By Eric S. Raymond,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Hacker's Dictionary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This new edition of the hacker's own phenomenally successful lexicon includes more than 100 new entries and updates or revises 200 more.

This new edition of the hacker's own phenomenally successful lexicon includes more than 100 new entries and updates or revises 200 more. Historically and etymologically richer than its predecessor, it supplies additional background on existing entries and clarifies the murky origins of several important jargon terms (overturning a few long-standing folk etymologies) while still retaining its high giggle value.

Sample definition

hacker n. [originally, someone who makes furniture with an axe] 1. A person who enjoys exploring the…


Book cover of We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

Jeremy N. Smith Why did I love this book?

We Are Anonymous, along with Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman, explores the politics and personalities of the best-known real-world hacktivist group, Anonymous, how it rose to prominence and power, its impact and influence, and the government machinations that ultimately turned members against each other. Its pages reveal hackers at their most human—brilliant, idealistic, vulnerable, and conflicted.

By Parmy Olson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Anonymous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A thrilling, exclusive exposè of the hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec.

We Are Anonymous is the first full account of how a loosely assembled group of hackers scattered across the globe formed a new kind of insurgency, seized headlines, and tortured the feds -- and the ultimate betrayal that would eventually bring them down. Parmy Olson goes behind the headlines and into the world of Anonymous and LulzSec with unprecedented access, drawing upon hundreds of conversations with the hackers themselves, including exclusive interviews with all six core members of LulzSec.

In late 2010, thousands of hacktivists joined a mass digital…


Book cover of Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker

Jeremy N. Smith Why did I love this book?

A famous hacker’s real-life story, told from his own perspective, Ghost in the Wires explains how criminal hackers think and act and the diverse techniques they use, no keyboard necessary—all, in this case, with little motive beyond a compulsion to explore and exploit. The hacking community has no bigger characters than Kevin Mitnick and no better first-person accounts of the art of “social engineering,” or human hacking—manipulating people (including, in Mitnick’s case, the FBI and other would-be pursuers) to your own advantage.

By Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ghost in the Wires as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this "intriguing, insightful and extremely educational" novel, the world's most famous hacker teaches you easy cloaking and counter-measures for citizens and consumers in the age of Big Brother and Big Data (Frank W. Abagnale).

Kevin Mitnick was the most elusive computer break-in artist in history. He accessed computers and networks at the world's biggest companies -- and no matter how fast the authorities were, Mitnick was faster, sprinting through phone switches, computer systems, and cellular networks. As the FBI's net finally began to tighten, Mitnick went on the run, engaging in an increasingly sophisticated game of hide-and-seek that escalated…


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Book cover of The Twenty: One Woman's Trek Across Corsica on the GR20 Trail

Marianne C. Bohr Author Of The Twenty: One Woman's Trek Across Corsica on the GR20 Trail

New book alert!

Who am I?

I married my high school sweetheart and travel partner, and followed my own advice to do graduate work, and started my career working for the French National Railroad in New York City, mapping itineraries for travelers to Europe. Travel means the world to me and if I don’t have a trip on the horizon, I feel aimless and untethered. I worked in book publishing for 30 years and dropped out of the corporate rat race to take a gap year abroad. I wrote about our “Senior year abroad” in my first book Gap Year Girl. I returned to the US to teach middle school French and organize student trips to France. 

Marianne's book list on by women about outdoor adventure

What is my book about?

Marianne Bohr and her husband, about to turn sixty, are restless for adventure. They decide on an extended, desolate trek across the French island of Corsica — the GR20, Europe’s toughest long-distance footpath — to challenge what it means to grow old. Part travelogue, part buddy story, part memoir, The Twenty is a journey across a rugged island of stunning beauty little known outside Europe.

From a chubby, non-athletic child, Bohr grew into a fit, athletic person with an “I’ll show them” attitude. But hiking GR20 forces her to transform a lifetime of hard-won achievements into acceptance of her body and its limitations.

The difficult journey across a remote island provides the crucible for exploring what it means to be an aging woman in a youth-focused culture, a physically fit person whose limitations are getting the best of her, and the partner of a husband who is growing old with her. More than a hiking tale, this is a moving story infused with humor about hiking, aging, accepting life’s finite journey, and the intimacy of a long-term marriage—set against the breathtaking beauty of Corsica’s rugged countryside.

By Marianne C. Bohr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Great for fans of: Suzanne Roberts's Almost Somewhere, Juliana Buhring's This Road I Ride.


Marianne Bohr and her husband, about to turn sixty, are restless for adventure. They decide on an extended, desolate trek across the French island of Corsica-the GR20, Europe's toughest long-distance footpath-to challenge what it means to grow old. Part travelogue, part buddy story, part memoir, The Twenty is a journey across a rugged island of stunning beauty little known outside Europe.


From a chubby, non-athletic child, Bohr grew into a fit, athletic person with an "I'll show them" attitude. But hiking The Twenty forces her to…


4 book lists we think you will like!

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