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.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

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

By Brian M. Leibowitz,

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

Why 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 Now out of print, it has been replaced by Nightwork by T. F. Peterson, which includes more recent hacks.


Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

By Steven Levy,

Book cover of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution

Why 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.


The New Hacker's Dictionary

By Eric S. Raymond,

Book cover of The New Hacker's Dictionary

Why 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.


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

By Parmy Olson,

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

Why 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.


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

By Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in hackers, artificial intelligence, and machine learning?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about hackers, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

Hackers Explore 8 books about hackers
Artificial Intelligence Explore 100 books about artificial intelligence
Machine Learning Explore 31 books about machine learning

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Little Brother, Border Hacker: A Tale of Treachery, Trafficking, and Two Friends on the Run, and Olivia Twisted if you like this list.